Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tis The Season To Exploit And Bot

A lot of people see Eve Online as a game filled with bad people who do bad things.  When thinking of these evil acts people look at things like scamming and unconsensual PvP.  Regular readers of my blog know I define actions a little differently.  I look at things like botting, 3rd party RMT and exploits as the really bad acts.  Looking at the first days of 2013 shows evidence that bad people don't just play Eve.

The first example comes from The Secret World.  Funcom held a Mayan zombie apocalypse event to celebrate the move to a buy-to-play model and the coming end of the world.  As part of the event the top 1000 scoring players would receive a title and the top 100 would receive an in-game pet.  On 7 January that planned changed due to some players discovering a way to "exploit the mechanics and reach impossible amounts of points which in turn alters the rankings to unrealistic results."  In this example of players exploiting game mechanics all that was at stake were some titles and pets.  Funcom resolved the situation by giving all players the title and pet.

A more serious situation arose during Guild Wars 2's Wintersday holiday event.  On 3 January Massively described the exploit.
"Players were able to use a single high-level snowflake, a Black Lion salvage kit, and a bit of metal to generate effectively limitless globs of ectoplasm (which are kind of a cornerstone of the economy, as they're used in the majority of high-end items). The exploit was closed, but not before an apparently large number of people took advantage of it."
Many players are upset with the permanent bans issued by ArenaNet but this is not the first big exploit encountered in the game.  Back in August over 3,000 players were permanently banned for using an exploit for crafting high-level weapons “one thousandth of their normal price.”  ArenaNet relented and reduced many of the bans down to 72 hours but apparently the event did not deter many from taking similar actions over the holidays.

In the wake of major botting problems in addition to the previous exploit ArenaNet is taking a hard line with violators.  ArenaNet Support Liason Gaile Gray issued the following statement on the GW2 forums:
"I’ve seen the numbers, and the damage to the economy could have been substantial, if the exploit wasn’t closed down and if these people were allowed to use their ill-gotten gains. People whose accounts were terminated were the worst offenders. I’m talking a lot of ill-gotten gains that posed a significant potential impact on the economy.

"Any time you take one thing and can make two, and then four, and then sixteen… ya gotta know that’s just wrong. (I won’t quibble on the odds, but overall, that form of doubling was not outside the realm of possibility.) And to perform that action hundreds and hundreds of times? That’s call 'exploitation,' and that’s against the User Agreement, the Rules of Conduct, and all that is holy.

"I know the OP will disagree. But we’ve been more than kind, in the past, and everyone needs to own up to his/her errors and recognize: We all are part of the game economy, and those who exploit it are hurting the rest of us.

"Exploit closed.
"Worst offenders terminated.
"That’s what has to happen to make things right for all of us."
Another company taking a hard-line with exploiters and botters is Sony Online Entertainment in its new MMOFPS Planetside 2.  SOE CEO John Smedley had already declared war on cheaters using aimbots and other hacks.  Yesterday morning a patch was finally released that fixed the Sunderer crash exploit.  Apparently while SOE staff took some time off during the holidays the hackers ran wild, causing players to disconnect within certain areas.  Now that the development staff is back in the office, Planetside 2 Creative Director Matt Higby tweeted “As a side note, we have log evidence for players who were causing it and will be banning.”

Finally, another company that let its guard down during the holidays was Trion.  Included in yesterday's RIFT 2.1 Hotfix 2 patch notes was this introduction:
"While we were out for the holidays, there was a marked rise in both fishing and onslaught farming bots. We know that the vast majority of you are responsible, upstanding, and incredibly attractive Telaran citizens, but we do need to take a moment to remind everyone that automating play is a violation of the terms of service that will be acted upon.

"As of today, we’ve already shut down a few thousand accounts over the recent rise in fishing botting, and we’ve begun removing gains from others in places of extreme bot use. A good number of these botters were brought in, as is often the case, on stolen credit cards and fraudulent Rift purchases.

"That said, some folks do innocently use keyboard-assistance software while they’re at their computer. We’ve gone out of our way to make sure that differently-abled gamers are able to use the assist software that they need.

"Unfortunately, for the next week or two, until the bot situation gets back under control, use of this software may intentionally be randomly unreliable, up to causing random disconnects. We ask that you please refrain from using keyboard automation software in the meanwhile."
For those new to the dark underworld of MMORPGs, the references to stolen credit cards and fraudulent game purchases indicates that Trion busted a lot of gold farmers and/or bot accounts utilizing botting software.  The fact that the developers needed to state they need weeks to solve the situation and that those with physical ailments are affected point to some of the negative side effects that people just don't think about when discussing the subject of botting and illicit RMT.

One principle that I see when looking at botting and the illicit RMT business not just in Eve Online but in all games is that as long as players are willing to break the rules that the underworld will thrive.  This past Christmas season showed that RMTers have a lot of fertile ground to worth in.


  1. All developers can do is 1) try to cut down on the demand from players - lets face it, the botters wouldn't be selling RMT if players weren't buying it 2) try to make their MMO harder to profit from compared to the next guy and hope the RMTers move next door.

    I see EVE as making several strides in both aspects. I don't know if other MMOs are working both areas.

    1. Based on our data, EVE has definitely been the most successful when it comes to fighting botters and RMT in the past. Their 'Unholy Rage' campaign bankrupted a lot of RMT companies (they also have payrolls, server costs, purchasing costs...) and tripled the ISK price over night. I've written about that a few months back (google: EVE Online ISK Economy 2007 to 2011).

      However, given their financial problems, I don't see them pursuing this with that many resources again in the near future.

  2. Nice to see someone take a stand against botting and other "bad" activities. Keep up the good work!

    My own pet peeve is market bots which could easily be discouraged with higher costs to modify orders. Making it so modifying an order costs exactly the same as posting a new order for the same price would put and end to perpetual 0.01 ISK undercuts.

    1. Totally agree. Such a simple change.

    2. It wouldn't even have to be the same fee. just a very small fee. A fee you don't mind if you change your orders say ... (8h playtime, every 30 min check ...) 16 times a day. But if you change orders every 10 minutes 24/7 it will generate a considerable loss (144 compared to 16)

      At last we already have this 3 minute modify order barrier. else we would see the same insanity like in real life with computer programs shifting millions of $ is seconds.