Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Poe's Parting Shot On Botting

In EVE Online, players who wish to disparage the reputation of those with whom they disagree often play the "bot" card.  The usual form is an accusation that the player/corp/alliance either is involved in botting and RMT or actively encourages it and profits from the activity in the form of rent.  So in true New Eden fashion Poetic Stanziel threw in this tidbit in his post declaring he is leaving EVE Online...
"I also found out one of the big reasons why Sreegs left CCP (and it wasn't just about the money.) CCP were unwilling to take the War on Bots as seriously as Sreegs wanted. He could have banned another 10K accounts, but CCP nixed those plans. CCP wants to walk a fine line, the appearance of being tough on botters, while still needing them for the bottom line. Banning 10K accounts would have been a substantial hit on that bottom line. EVE probably needs some amount of botting, to keep the economy in check (because real people don't want to mine), but it's a hypocritical stance, especially given their recent TOS changes. They have all these rules and they enforce them unevenly. Gotta keep the botters, but let's get rid of those nasty scammers."
I had planned on ignoring this as a post from a bitter vet, but then yesterday the robo-blogger and CSM Vice-Chairman Ripard Teg posted a reply to Poetic's announcement that included this paragraph...
"Next easiest is Poe's accusation that CCP Sreegs left CCP because CCP wouldn't let him fight the war on bots his way.  I can tell you from experience that I'm occasionally sent stuff by readers that is unsubstantiated rumor presented as fact.  I've learned not to trust anything that's single-sourced and to go out and look for backing evidence.  Too many of you charming people love to troll bloggers into publishing something that isn't true for me not to be pretty careful.  Even so, I've had to issue a few retractions over the years.  Am I saying that's what happened here?  Let's just say that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."
So my response as someone who follows CCP's anti-RMT/anti-botting efforts?  Would Team Security have banned more bots if CCP followed the man formerly known as CCP Sreegs' thoughts on the EULA and taken a harder line against cache scraping and Inner Space?  At least in the short term, yes.  Would it have gotten up to 10,000 bans?  Possibly, as the hardcore practitioners would take the bans as a cost of doing business and just "rinse and repeat" as long as players keep buying ISK.  But was not wanting to anger a lot of players a main reason for the security chief's departure from Reykjavik to the hostile climes of San Diego?  As Ripard wrote, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

Of course, Poetic's claim insinuates that CCP under Stillman isn't taking botting and RMT as seriously or acting as aggressively as Darius JOHNSON would.  I'm sure this guy on the Questor forums would disagree...
"Well, I hope it's safe to say that latest patch mess has settled down already... and that banwave is over. This time I've lost 18 accounts out of 30 - every last account that was actively botting before patch (thanks godness, "backup" ones - on skill training - weren't touched). Each of them was on its own proxy, hardware info faked by RG, and so forth... though, I think I understand how did they catch me. It should be simple, actually. Account has high and stable online -> patch comes out -> RG and bots are broken -> online goes down to zero -> go figure... account HAS to be bot-using!"

Gray, Questor forums, 13 September 2013
But this is only anecdotal evidence.  How about the main prize, which is impacting the grey market trade in ISK?  Has CCP's efforts slipped in that regard?  Regular readers know the answer, but let me put up a graph from information I've compiled since the end of July.

That's right, the median price of ISK from the RMT sites I'm tracking is on par with the USD cost of purchasing 2 PLEX from CCP or a full price 60-day EVE time code from one of the approved sellers.  And that lower figure of the median price of ISK sellers (after deduping for sellers who have multiple sites)?  I'm glad to say that RMT giant IGE raised its price for ISK yesterday from $24.87/billion ISK to $30.60/billion ISK.  That pushed the median price for the ISK sellers to $30.30/billion ISK.  And as you can see on the chart, on 8 September the "official" cost of ISK was $31.74/billion ISK.  That looks like a pretty serious effort to me.

That's my .02 ISK on the matter.  I threw this together rather quickly.  Perhaps I really need to do an in-depth post soon and not wait until the end of the year like I originally planned.


  1. What I would like to know what your best guess is regarding the monthly / annual volume of ISK sold to these RMT sites, collectively. How much ISK is sold to these RMT sites on a regular basis?

    I firmly believe the null sec cartels are heavily involved in it, because NO ONE goes to the effort and time they do to increase their ISK flows without some kind of real world benefit.

    So do you or anyone else, have a rough handle on what the worth is of the annual RMT market? I also believe that a good chunk of it never sees the light of day as cartel members can sell of plexes to other members, and exchange real cash outside of the game.

    1. That's a really good question. Researchers back in the 2000-2006 era used to be able to get some fairly rough estimates because of eBay sales. We might get some idea if CCP releases how much in ISK and assets have been seized over the past 2 months plus the amount of ISK and assets on those permanently banned.

      I'll have to look into compiling more statistics to look into the subject. I have a couple of ideas.

  2. I just found out that you use bots to write your articles. You sick son-of-a.... ;)

  3. CCP would only need to target accounts making big money through botting to produce a graph like the one above. Rules lawyers, of course, would be quick to cry inconsistent enforcement and to call that unfair, but who cares? The rules lawyers *always* say that. CCP has a clear interest in not letting other entities undercut the price of ISK too much, and they can achieve that without nabbing 100% of the botters.

    And as you say, some botters are probably just doing the jobs the rest of us don't want to do, making valuable contributions to a healthy economy without getting conspicuously rich.

    1. Looks like I definitely need to write an article on why this would be a very bad idea for a game company to do.

  4. I can see a scenario where CCP would not take additional steps against botters in order to not "anger a lot of players". Not because botters keep the mineral market in check or other such fairy tales, but simply because at some point anti-botter measures would catch more honest players in false positives than actual bots. The woe around cache scraping and its effects on EVE Market sites is a good example for this delicate problem.

  5. I think you overestimate the link botting and RMT. Sure, every RMT-er bot. But many, - and I'd dare to say most - botters don't RMT.

    I think the typical botter is a player who wants to play for free or wants himself a supercarrier or just wants to fund his PvP by mining without... mining.

    I have no doubt that CCP hunts and bans the RMT botfarms if they can. However I have a feeling that they are shy of banning Joe Nobody who runs one account only, play normally but runs a mining bot on his retriever alt every day an hour or two.

    1. They don't ban those, at least not immediately. They warn them. They also warn their alliance directors.

      I'm guessing that it's mostly older players who bot that way, just because CCP didn't care for so many years.

    2. @Dersen - Really? I find that hard to believe. That would be a huge departure from what CCP has stated.

    3. Personally I don't care if people are botting for themselves or botting for RMT, they are ruining the game for other people.

      Reducing the price of minerals - therefore putting legit miners out of pocket
      Reducing the price of lp items - therefore putting legit missioners out of pocket
      Reducing the price of items on markets - therefore putting legit 0.01 isk marketers out of pocket.

      All these people should be beaten with sticks until they apologise