Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Latest On EVE Online RMT And Bots - January 2018

The last two years in EVE Online have seen an increase in the challenges faced by CCP's security and customer service teams in combatting real money trading (RMT) and associated ills such as botting. From the introduction of skill point trading (February 2016) to the introduction of Alpha clones (November 2016) to the expansion of the Alpha clone skill set (October 2017), EVE's black/grey markets experienced growth due to either new products to sell or the acquisition of ISK becoming easier. Throw in the development of bots from new developers using modern operating systems and CCP has its hands full.

I don't want to diminish the problem in any way. To give some sort of scale to the problem, I'll bring up some numbers I collected in 2017 from a popular site that sells virtual currencies in online games, Player Auctions. While the final numbers are not in yet, and I know I missed some transactions, the site will have done between 48-50 trillion ISK in sales and sold 22-23 billion skill points last year. Add in things too difficult to reliably track, such as PLEX, characters, and supercapital-class (titans and supercarriers) ships, and the figure might reach $500,000 USD in sales for the year. More significantly, while Player Auction is a large site, players can find many more places to buy ISK, skill points, etc, on EVE's secondary markets.

Preliminary Price Data: January 1-15, 2018

CCP appeared to want to begin 2018 with a bang on the RMT front. The security team has a history of performing crackdowns against RMT operations right before an update. Looking at the price history I compiled for Player Auctions indicates some sort of mass interruption in the supply of ISK occurred at the beginning of the month. On 5 January, the price of ISK sold exceeded $5 and has continued through yesterday. On 6 January, only 5 sellers advertised ISK for sale, another indicator of a restricted supply. Cynics may point out that 6 January was Orthodox Christmas, but the presence of the holiday has never mattered before. By 13 January, the 7-day average for the price ISK sold on PA rose to $5.94/billion ISK, a rise of 29.1% over the price at the start of the year.

The hallmark of a classic CCP anti-RMT push is to follow-up the initial crackdown before a release with new detection methods introduced during the release. According to information gathered from botting forums, such a crackdown occurred.

The following comes from the forums of a series of bots called Eve Pilot, Eve Miner, Eve Hunter, and Eve Trader. These bots once were very popular with western players but now the forums mostly see posts in Russian. I tried translating the posts as best I could. I think I came close. I will list the posts with both the original Russian and my translation.


Leokrs : 10 January 2018
Вчера волна банов прошла за макроюзинг курьеров торгашей побанили, кого нибудь еще зацепило?

Yesterday, a wave of bans went for macro-trading couriers tradesmen, who else was caught?

Zloiset: 10 January 2018
3 часа назад, -18

3 hours ago, -18

Tiknel1: 10 January 2018
да,3 бана прилетело тоже за макросы

yes, 3 bans flew too for macros


Zloiset: 12 January 2018
ееее 2-я волна, сегодня банят за продажу
Итого : - 36 акков . Кстати передача через аук маленькими партиями где то 66% живых. Но тоже банится. Чет я уже даже хз как иски продавать

Eeee 2nd wave, today banned for selling
Total:-36 accounts. By the way, I was banned even though I transfer through the auction in small batches that were 66% of the living. I now even sell claims.

Update: Here's a better translation from Sarmatiko via Twitter:


Admittedly, my translation of the last entry isn't the greatest (see the above update with a better one). But I think I made my point. The bot bans began on 9 January, patch day. According to CCP Falcon, the number of banned accounts had reached just under 1000 by the time the CSM Summit began yesterday.

CCP also added some code to make the lives of botters a bit more, shall we say, interesting? Most people assume the change that affected bots involved adding the chat bubbles to the portraits in local. If I read the botting forums correctly, however, the following UI changes are associated with a problem:
NPC Bracket Colors have been reworked.
  • The color of the NPC bracket will now reveal the hostility intent of the NPC.
  • Blue indicates a friendly NPC either by nature or due to your standings with their faction. Blue NPCs may assist or aid you in combat.
  • Note: The automatic response force from Empire/Faction Police against low Security Status players will still appear to be Blue even when they are spawned as aggressive to the player. This will be resolved in a later patch.
  • White indicates a neutral NPC. These NPCs will ignore you, but may retaliate if attacked.
  • Note: The automatic response force from Faction Navy against an enemy militia target will now appear white instead of the previous 'Blue' friendly color. In a later patch they will appear Red/White/Blue depending on the Factional Warfare status of the player.
  • Red indicates a hostile NPC. These NPCs are aggressive towards you, and will in most circumstances attack you on-sight.
  • The warning message for attacking a Peaceful entity will now appear only if the NPC is not aggressive towards you.
According to a post on the forums of another older bot (H-Bot), the bot cannot handle the change. Or perhaps the bot cannot handle the UI change plus a change in NPC behavior.


Kalitarev: 11 January 2018

Hi,

I'm loss two ships in two days...How to avoid this NPC? NPC Macharial and NPC Cynabal..... why they attack me...they even are not in my overview..I also didn't attack the mining fleet..they also not are in my overview

what is going on?

Edit: Now the problem is bigger because this NPC will attack you anyway no matter what standing you have.

Also they can come on belt when you still shooting some normal NPC. H-BOT is not making another keyword check to avoid them so basically this will be a big problem - no more belt bot :(


Normally I would try to come up with a fitting conclusion, ending with a warning not to bot or purchase dirty ISK. Instead, I'll let a botter who has made botting guides make the argument for me. From the Eve Pilot forums:


innominate: 16 January 2018

So, 8 botting Nyx... Bravo to that developer for making a carrier bot, but I hope he fixes the fact that it can't deal with bubbles. I suspect that bubbles will be used a lot more often to catch bots and as proof that they are in fact bots... (Will EP ever be able to detect bubbles?)

Everyone be more careful now. The witch hunt has already started.

Obligatory, "Don't RMT people..." Sooner or later all of your accounts will get banned, along with your computer hardware identifiers.

I wonder why those accounts haven't been banned yet... To me, the only reason that makes sense is that CCP hasn't yet figured out how that much isk is getting to the buyers without CCPs detection code flagging the event. I'll bet CCP hopes that the botter is stupid enough to sell his isk to someone like a wholesaler so that CCPs detection software can be updated to see what the blindspots are. The botter should trash his bots and start over with another group instead of giving up his methods and burning their RMT wholesaler... I hope that the wholesaler knows not to buy from this guy... This incident has put every past and future RMTer at severe risk of discovery. (Not to mention the botting witch hunt that's about to happen.)



Friday, January 12, 2018

How To Spot A Bot In EVE Online

"Also since half of you cant read, IT IS YOU FUCKING JOB TO PROVE IT IS A BOT IDGAF HOW YOU DO IT BUT IT BETTER BE FUCKING LEGIT OR IM NOT FUCKING PAYING YOU. I AM DOING YOU ALL A FAVOR BUT A BUNCH OF YOU WANT TO BE FUCKING DICK HEADS."
- H0n0ur, "CCP wont end botting, so we will (player contest)"

I won't say the cries of outrage against botting in EVE Online lately make me sad. A lot of people probably think I'm dancing around, singing "Hallelujah." I'm not quite that bad. But I do enjoy the posts on Reddit. The one I'm currently focusing on is the contest on killing bots.

A Reddit member from Triumvirate. is holding a contest with 200 billion ISK in prizes for killing bots. Great so far. But as the opening quote from H0n0ur indicates, players don't seem to know how to prove the ship they killed was actually a bot. Something tells me that H0n0ur is getting a taste of what CCP goes through when a poorly filled-out bot report enters the queue.

If players really want to see a bot banned, just hitting the "Report Bot" button and entering the suspected botters name is not enough. Just like H0n0ur won't pay out without proof, CCP requires more information to take action against the botter. I imagine (but don't know for sure) that reports with a lot of good information get moved to the head of the line. Everyone likes to pick low-hanging fruit.

Before going further, I do have to tweak CCP a little here. C'mon guys, an explanation of how to use the Report Bot feature, including the information to provide, isn't on the Help Center? Are you kidding me?!

Now that I got that out of the way, I did track down the 2011 dev blog that introduced the Report Bot feature. The dev blog contained a section on how to determine if a player is a bot, or just someone AFK watching Netflix. I include the information below in the hopes that not only does it make H0n0ur's life a little easier, but makes the process of banning some bots go faster as well.



Bots are all about rules (events, states, conditions, transitions, actions) and goals! A bot reacts to events according to a predetermined limited set of rules, triggering appropriate actions in response in order to meet its goals. In a world otherwise driven by human players, most of the times this rule based behavior can be observed under close investigation.
Therefore, before submitting a report, we encourage players to perform a brief but structured investigation.
  • Observe the behavior of the player and break it down into stages of processing (States, Conditions and Actions)
    • Break down the behaviour into states
      • What is each individual phase of the activity a subject carries on ?
      • Consider each phase a "State"
      • Example of states : "Idle, Docked, Warping, Mining, Hunting, etc"
    • Break down the behaviour into conditions
      • When does the activity of a subject change ?
      • Consider each change one or several "Conditions" that has been met and a transition to another "State" 
      • Example of conditions : "if state is mining and cargo is not empty then; if state is mining and ship is targeted and enemy is not NPC then; etc"
    • Break down the behaviour into actions
      • How does the subject carry on his activity ?
      • Consider each individual operation or group of operations carried out by a subject as an Action
      • Example of an action in a certain state when a certain condition has been met : "if state is mining and ship is targeted and enemy is not NPC then warp (to safe spot); etc"
  • Try to determine if the player you are observing seems to act repetitively according to a strict set of rules (for example, executing the same steps over and over for an extended period of time)
  • Try to determine its goals
  • Challenge the rules (try to think of possible triggers that would cause it to respond in a certain way if it is truly automated)
  • Trigger events and perceive reactions (does it respond to communication? How does it react to being locked or being warped in on? Does it react the same every time, for example by warping always in the same direction before returning to the exact same spot minutes later?)
  • Finally, use your human intelligence to determine whether it is a soulless automaton or simply a fellow, single-minded player.

* Note
There are different types of bots, each type having other rules according to which they carry on their activity. Try to adapt your investigation to the type of bot you are observing.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Sumo Digital Acquires CCP Newcastle

When CCP announced an end to developing virtual reality games in October, the statement also disclosed the Icelandic game company was engaged in negotiations to sell its Newcastle studio to a third party. Yesterday, we found out the name of the buyer: Sumo Digital.

Sumo Digital is a name introduced to EVE Online players at EVE Vegas 2017 as the studio CCP chose to develop Project Nova. Project Nova is a planned first person shooter set in the EVE Online universe that, unlike DUST 514, will not connect directly to EVE Online.

In addition to working with CCP, the UK-based game developer has worked on games for Microsoft and Sony. Some of the games Sumo Digital developed include Little Big Planet 2 & 3, Crackdown 3, several of the Forza series of racing games, as well as its own IP, Snake Pass.

The acquisition of CCP's Newcastle studio is part of an ongoing expansion of the UK developer. Sumo Digital already owned two studios in the UK, located in Sheffield and Nottingham, as well as a studio in Pune, India. In addition, the game company announced in October an expansion of its Nottingham and Sheffield studios to house new art development facilities. The company also launched an IPO in December, with shares becoming publicly traded on 20 December. At the time of the IPO, Sumo Digital was valued at £145 million ($197 million). According to Reuters, Sumo Digital planned to use of the proceeds of the offering to pay off debt and as additional working capital.

Normally I would consider a chapter closed in the history of CCP. In the case of Sumo Digital, however, we will hear a lot about the company in the future.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

What Is Project Foundation?

I ran across something interesting searching for trademarks. CCP submitted a trademark for something called "Project Foundation" on 21 December 2017.


The weird thing is the description. "G & S: Entertainment services, namely, providing online video games; Entertainment services, namely, providing an on-line computer game." The title is most likely a new video game. That description is similar to the trademark for EVE Gunjack.


The possibility exists that the trademark is for a service that would replace the late Eve Gate portal. Or perhaps CCP is developing a portal that will link all of CCP's games together, similar to Activision/Blizzard's Battle.net. Still, with the gaming press speculating about whether CCP has a new MMORPG under development, an informed bet is that Project Foundation is the name of the new game. The name does follow CCP's naming convention for games under development.

Update: Looks like I was too hasty. A second Project Foundation trademark was filed for a mobile game. My guess is the trademark is to make sure no one makes a mobile game with the same name.