Friday, May 10, 2013

What Odyssey May Mean For The War On Bots

I've played around on Singularity, read the dev blogs, and even talked with CCP Stillman at Fanfest about Team Security's current efforts.  I still don't know what the future holds for The War on Bots but I have a few thoughts.

First, ice bots.  People are cheering the end of ice bots because they are now in anomalies instead of belts.  I still wonder at the fact that people would even bot ice considering how little profit it brought in.  If someone's paying a license fee to use bot software (and they do), then they are doing something far more profitable like mining in asteroid belts.  But I usually only deal with the top end botting software, so maybe all the bots people complain about are homemade.  After all, currently a mining bot would only perform very simple tasks.

So what's the future?  The good news is that the move from belts to anomalies will definitely kill the less sophisticated bots.  The bad news is that the increased profits will attract the attention of bot makers who actually have a clue.  The barrier to entry in this club is the scanner.  If a bot dev can read the scanner, I see no problem getting the bot to the ice.  From there getting the bot to mine is just like asteroid mining except the bot dev doesn't have to worry about changing out crystals.

The big problem for botters is that ice is no longer infinite.  That means trying to scan down the anomalies as soon as they respawn.  That will probably lead to an increase in detection and bans by Team Security offset by those who give up on botting ice.

EDIT:  I found a response from the developer of the Eve Pilot bots:

Slav2 (9 May 2013) -  "CCP bored that players prone to write petitions if they see ice miner bot, and found a way to hide these bots in anomalies.  Some home made delay based ice mining bots macros will be broken of cause, that is good for profy botters. "

In a related topic, I wonder how long high sec grav, er, I mean ore sites, will last.  If a bot can detect ice anomalies, then the software can now ore anomalies and get some better grades of ore.  I just wonder how long it will take for a bot dev to implement that feature.

Next comes the radial menus.  I think that those have the potential to cause OCR bots problems.  However, while running around SiSi I didn't see a need to use them, to that handicap will come at a future date.

Finally comes the elephant in the room: Inner Space.  I know that people claim that Inner Space, or more specifically ISBoxer, does not violate the EVE Eula or ToS.  But Lavish Software on its wiki actually lists such behavior as a feature...
"Memory Modification - A memory modification service allows Inner Space and extensions to easily and safely modify the memory of the host process. An extension can also provide a memory protection service, which protects memory modifications from any detection by the host." 
That not only describes a violation of the EVE Eula and ToS but also why so many bot developers across so many games find Inner Space such a valuable development platform.  But as long as ISBoxer remains a semi-legitimate software that doesn't attract bans by CCP, then Team Security can only automatically detect and ban Inner Space extensions known to run bots or contain game-breaking code like an autopilot warp-to-zero hack.  I can actually see Lavish Software making more money off EVE than it currently does due to the need for more sophisticated bots.  All a bot maker needs to do is create a new extension that CCP doesn't know about and the bot then only needs to worry about behavioral detection.

I really want to see how CCP handles the situation, especially since CCP is so resistant to application developers making real life money off of EVE.  The fact that Lavish Software is allowed to make thousands of dollars off of EVE every year with software that violates the EULA/ToS is strange.

I hope this post doesn't depress anyone looking for bot tears.  When Odyssey hits Tranquility I'll look a the reaction in the botting community but I really don't expect to find many, if any, tears.  I just hope I'm not reporting on bot laughter.

12 comments:

  1. The reason for the tolerance of CCP is multiboxing. CCP currently provides no multiboxing tools. So they have to either tolerate a third party multiboxing program, or ban legitimate multiboxing (when all commands are issued by a person, just copied by the tool to several ships). Banning multiboxing would cost thousands of legitimate accounts to CCP.

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  2. I can see two reasons for the non-shunning of ISBoxer. For one, if I interpret correctly the snippet you quoted (I can't get to the full page right now), the memory modification is just a feature of ISBoxer which people may or may not use. And I am very much in favor of banning botters based on what they do, and not based on which tools they happen to use (especially if those tools have legitimate uses as well).

    But that aside - if ISBoxer is indeed a preferred environment for botters, it also means that CCP Security could use the presence of ISBoxer as factor in their behavioral detection algorithms. If every aspiring botter would use an obscure underground program, or worse: write their own, CCP Security's task would be even harder.

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    1. From what I gathered from talking to Stillman at Fanfest, ISBoxer does the modification described on the Lavish Software wiki.

      I could actually agree with your point about the tool if ISBoxer was a stand alone product that could not be modified. But it is free giveaway code for purchasing the Inner Space development tool. ISBoxer is not the product, Inner Space is.

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  3. You sure are trying your best to find a reason to hate ISBoxer, lol!

    First of all, what you're quoting is not a feature of ISBoxer, it's an API built into Inner Space extension API, and secondly it doesn't do anything scary on its own! You have to first of all go find an extension (hack) that serves as the protector for the pipeline (which, mind you, does not exist!) and secondly another extension (hack) would have to then use that API. None of this is relevant to CCP's war on bots because there is no protection and no hack built into Inner Space, and secondly if someone is developing a hack they are going to develop their own protection. In other words, the work of protecting themselves is not done for them just by using Inner Space, he has to build the protection himself, and use it himself, so you're absolutely wrong about why Inner Space might be valuable to a bot developer.

    Once again, absolute FUD and utter bullshit, but at least you're wearing your agenda right on your sleeve and not hiding it.

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    1. Do you really want me to publish everything I've found out about Inner Space and how it's been used in the past? Given my well-known bias against botters and bot devs, that would explain a few things.

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    2. Cute. Go ahead, maybe you'll end up publishing truth instead of your poor interpretation of what an API is or does at some point.

      Inner Space was heavily used by World of Warcraft botters until 2008. ISXWarden implemented a memory protection service -- as described in the wiki -- for ISXWoW. Blizzard requested the termination of ISXWarden, and ISXWarden ceased to exist, and Blizzard remains unconcerned about Inner Space or ISBoxer today.

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    3. @Anonymous - I confirmed with members of CCP's Team Security that Inner Space uses techniques that are considered client modification. That includes when Inner Space is used to run the ISBoxer extension. Who do you think I'm going to believe, CCP or you?

      The only thing people are really waiting for is CCP management to make a clear decision about ISBoxer. Until that decision is made, people will not be banned for using the product. Sort of like all the cache scraping apps around.

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  4. Who bots ice? Mostly RMTers, ofc.

    They also bot rocks, missions, market trading, belt ratting, PI, etc. Pretty much anything that can generate ISK from nothing. And, they don't really spend much time analyzing which activity is slightly more profitable than another, per hour - they just bot it all.

    BTW - the "top end botting software" isn't for sale. It is used by the RMTers, exclusively, and can mimic anything a real player can do in the game. It can also simulate a player's work/play/sleep cycles, and randomize the play time, so that it cannot be differentiated easily from real players (note: the bot runs 24/7, but switches between alts on multiple accounts, to confuse anyone tracking toon or account usage).

    The latest and greatest bots can now even respond to queries from GMs, via chatbot systems. The chatbots are good enough to fool most people for a few minutes, which is more than sufficient to respond interactively to a few random queries from GMs.

    And, yes, the RMTers do have their own programmers, on staff, to keep these bots up to date, as well as write VM software for multiboxing as many clients as possible on a single computer. The ice bots have already been updated, for the Odyssey expansion.

    The only way to beat the bots would be to replace all repetitive activities with mini-games, that specifically require human intelligence to play and win. Incidentally, this would probably make activities like mining more fun for players, as well.

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  5. Just got done watching a demo of a new Tags4Sec bot. It looks pretty simple - a modified belt ratting bot, with a tractor to pull in the wrecks and loot the tags. The bot hops from belt to belt, and system to system, until it collects the specified number of tags (or any other dropped item) or runs out of ammo or needs to rep its tank, then returns to an NPC station. It drops off the tags, reloads, repairs, and heads back out again. Pretty effing amazing.

    Apparently, it can even keep an eye on local and jump out if there is a spike - although, I didn't get to see this happen.

    The most amusing thing is that it was demo'ed on Singularity. Makes me laugh to thing that botters are using CCP's test server to test their software, too. Doesn't Team Security watch Sisi as well?

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    1. A bot in low sec? That will be interesting. I'll have to watch for it. Have a link to the video?

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    2. No video available. It was a live stream, via a private server, to a small group of people (mostly RMTers, except for me), whom could be trusted not to give CCP any details. Bot developer is a Chinese programmer, who doesn't actually "play" the game - he has an account only to test his bots. I was included in the demo, because (a) we used to work together (not on bots), and (b) he knew I played EVE.

      From what I was told, bots are already in use in low sec, as well as in null sec and WHs. Apparently, the risk-vs-reward favors bot usage, throughout the game, not just in high sec - which is where I, naively, thought all bots lived. FYI - the most profitable bots are supposedly sold in null sec.

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  6. I multibox gatecamps with Isboxer and i'm not a bad guy.

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