Thursday, June 19, 2014

Wildstar's Bot War: Carbine's Opening Salvo

Ever since I heard that Carbine planned on introducing C.R.E.D.D., an in-game object similar to EVE Online's PLEX, into Wildstar, I've wanted to see how serious Carbine would take the issues of botting, hacking, and illicit RMT.  Since launch, Wildstar has experienced the initial onslaught from the gold sellers and others who wish to cheat that every game over the past few years has suffered.  Last week, C.R.E.D.D. became available in game, setting up one of the key pillars of its anti-RMT strategy.  Last night, Wildstar's Executive Producer Jeremy Gaffney made the first announcement of the Game Surveillance Unit's work to catch and ban cheaters:

We left out a key patch note the other day:
  • We’ve added additional logging and hack/bot detection into WildStar

The first round of mass bannings for hacking/botting will happen tonight.  Thousands of accounts will be banned based on log crawls and cheat detection.    We’ve already banned numerous accounts over the last weeks based on player reports and GM investigations.

Thousands of other accounts are on a watch list – we’re actually pretty sure they’ve been hacking/botting.  In the interest in limiting banning potential innocents, we will be looking at past logs and monitoring future behavior to see if it’s repeated and ban accordingly.

Now, what will happen over the next few days:
  • Some folks will post over the next few days saying they were inappropriately banned.  They’ll fall into three categories:
    • Many were actually hacking, and will stay banned.
    • Some won't know they were hacking but their accounts were compromised and have been used for gold farming. We will resolve these issues on a case by case basis.  PLEASE consider enabling two-factor authentication, this is way more common than you’d think.   https://forums.wilds...g-your-account/.
    • It's possible some weren’t hacking and were caught in the sweep by accident.  We’ll work to resolve those cases if they happen. Based on the reports, this shouldn’t be a category – but errors can happen, and in the interest of transparency, if it happens we’ll investigate and use that to refine our searches further.
  • We’ll also be further scrubbing the logs to get the next batch of folks.   And the next.
We’re also in the process of adding further click-and-report functionality to make it easier to report folks, and we’re working to automate as much of this as possible. There is no exact ETA on this, but it’s in the hopper.

After we ban the first batch, more will come back and their scripts and such will improve. Our logging will improve, and report tools will improve, and we’ll keep fighting this fight.

(An aside, from a place of honesty here - I sincerely don’t understand the player that tries to level up by AFK botting - they make instanced Battlegrounds less fun, and we’re going to ban healthy percentages of them. This wastes money and time (both ours and theirs). And pisses you, the honest player, off.  Lose-lose-lose.  That being said, I don’t gotta understand the reasons behind such actions – they’re still going to get banned, we’re going to focus heavily on those going forwards.)

(Gold farmers I hate too, but at least I can understand the reasons behind their actions. They’re trying to make money by spamming, ripping off accounts, and gold, and wasting our support/dev time, which is unethical and borderline evil but at least rational.  I really suggest not buying gold from them if you actually care about such things).

In any case, we devs have been playing a lot of WildStar too, and have been annoyed as well by farmbots starting to appear at mining nodes, and by folks mucking up battleground games by AFKbotting. Both suck, and while there will be many stages to the war against these kinds of folks, it’s a battle that has to be fought even if it’s a distraction from what we’d rather be doing - adding content, fixing bugs, and making the game better.  We'll keep doing that as well despite the distraction.

Anyhoo, this is the first wave of what I’m sure will be an ongoing battle.  I don’t guarantee perfection, but I do guarantee we’ll do our part in the fight.   As for what you can do: if you keep reporting we’ll keep banning.

Thanks -


Needless to say, some people were a little upset that Carbine decided to enforce its EULA and Rules of Conduct.  I know I read the EULA before I started playing, but after covering CCP's War on Bots for years, reading the EULA for MMORPGs is now second nature.  But one player didn't seem aware of the rules.  Either that, or didn't believe Carbine was serious:
Atra - "Doing something that will ban innocents en masse is so *cupcake* stupid. Where were the warnings of possible things that would ban innocents? Are you guys *cupcake* serious with this right now? Are you patting yourself on the backs for a shitty job done? I didn't even get banned but the shear stupidity of doing something that would just willy nilly permaban people is deserving of nothing more than you guys giving out extra free months. I am so apalled right now that such little research into possible false positive addons or other such tweaks went in before you decide to hit the big red button. Do you guys not remember the mass bannings GW2 for stupid reasons? You are *cupcake* with subscribers here not F2P peasants. Whoever OK'd this should be severely disciplined because there was a severe judgement lapse in doing this. Shame on you Carbine. Honestly this deserves nothing less than to blow up in your face and have you make ammends to innocent players who have to be without the game THAT HAS BEEN PAID FOR FOR THIS FIRST MONTH BY THE WAY. I can't even believe this is a thing."

Actually, the EULA is pretty explicit in what will get a player banned.

Gaffney also made a post on Reddit making the same announcement.  One interesting defense came from a member of a top raiding guild, spawning a thread titled, "Member of Enigma (top US raiding guild) admits that 1/4 of the guild is cheating. Only one person gets banned, and plans to get unbanned through "friends in high places". This is not okay."

An example of a macro used by a member of a top raiding guild in Wildstar.

And yes, as the image above shows, the person actually made that claim about using influence with important people in Carbine to become unbanned.  I'm pretty sure, though, that setting up a macro to perform multiple actions with one keystroke violates the EULA.

I realize that everyone claims innocence, but some people should really read what they write.  This comment from Gaffney's announcement thead made me chuckle:
brickwinchester - "Another unjustified ban here. This is the same thing that happened to me in Aion... I hope carbine handles this better. After hours of contacting ncsoft support for my Aion account all I got was my account deleted."
The same person mistakenly banned from multiple games for the same offense? 

While the above snippets from the Wildstar forums and Reddit are entertaining, what do we really know about the targets of this first wave of bans?  I tracked down that many users of a hack called Nova have received permanent bans.

Copy of a ban letter received by a Nova user

What is Nova?  Nova is a hacking tool derived from a hacking suite for World of Warcraft called WoW-Plus.  WoW-Plus died after the developer received legal pressure from Blizzard to stop his activities.  But the developer continued work and for Wildstar advertised this list of capabilities back in April:

  • SuperFly
  • SpeedHack (any speed possible, does not speed up other things)
  • JumpHeight
  • InfiniteDash
  • Teleportation
  • Object Tracking

While the official forums and Reddit are full of people wrongly banned, the forum thread for Nova has a different tone.
Lugian - "Just finished mining a few nodes, came to a crafting station and saw the yellow "you are banned" text across the screen. Oh well...."

A comment about the effort spent creating Nova
number2 - "Good while it lasted I prob would hide most of use right now until the banwaves goes away might take a while!"

montgola - "Yea I just got disconnected and then it says your account has been suspended. Was fun while it lasted!"

Tweeqit2 - "Banned.. Action: Account Closure.  Just started using it today for about an hour, minor speed hack with not much teleport use."

Flubleah - "banned - teleported everywhere, pretty much used everything DNGAF. Thanks for the good run Master, gonna move to other things, maybe read a book or something, I heard doing that is good for you or some shit.  Thanks again man."
Gaffney indicated in his posts that last night was just the first of the bans.  I expect we will see more bans leading up to the weekend.  If I see a lot of tears, I may make a second post.

NOTE: For those reading one of my posts on the subject for the first time, a note about my use of the names of the hacks.  I included WoW-Plus and included a link because development of the hack ended over a year ago.  I mentioned Nova, but did not include a link to the comments, because while Carbine has shown the ability to detect and ban users of the hack, the hack is still available.  So while the use of Google will lead people to the software and the comments, I don't want to make the process too easy for those looking for hacks or bots.  I figure anyone who is looking for Wildstar bots and hacks and stumbles across this post first will find what he (or she) is looking for within 5 minutes anyway.  That's how long it took for me to find this hack.


  1. Meh, botting and gold farming. There is one failsafe way to avoid those activities:

    Give every paying customer the same amount of resources once a day, for as long as he stays subscribed. Any resources unclaimed after 24 hours are gone. The resources can be traded with other players or are put to use by assigning them to projects. Any resources not allocated to a project are deleted after 7 days. Also, resources are lost if a project is cancelled.

    Problem solved!

  2. So, the AHK ban is interesting to me. I use a Merc Stealth Keyboard and a Razer Naga hex. The software for either of those could easily replicate the AHK script, minus the suspend command. I'm sure there are plenty of other gamers using other Razer products, or G13s, or other programmable gaming devices. Should all of those players be banned? If not, how do you go about determining who to ban and who not to ban? There isn't really any difference between what is being done in AHK here, and what can be done with the software that comes with these devices, except that one is freeware, and the other comes with $50+ products that are often co-branded with the games.

    1. They don't detect the keyboards/mice stuff because the keyboard/mice tell the computer that those buttons have been pushed. Instead of a script telling the computer the buttons have been pushed.

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  4. whether its your custom software, or software that comes with a commercial product, use of macros (multi action single click) is bannable.

    It doesn't matter if company A is branded with a game. Just because company A has software that is extremely useful in other applications, doesn't mean that it is appropriate/legal for use in this application.

    You are absolutely right, there is no difference. My hammer is a hammer. The fact that it can also be used to smash windows and grab stuff doesn't mean my local hardware store or the hammer manufacturer is condoning smash and grab. YOU are the one making the decision to do something which is clearly against the EULA. You may plead ignorance, but to be honest, use of a piece of software, regardless of its origin, to violate the EULA is bannable. Its just common sense.

  5. this is in response to Kobe... for some reason i cant get reply to another comment working... go figure

    Speeking from my WoW playing days the things that get you banned or suspended arent having the software its using it. If i have a macro programmed into my blackwidow keyboard that does 4 different things, that is a macro that will get you banned/warned in most games. The detection is stupidly easy, player does same 4 actions at some interval, but the timing of those 4 "keypresses" is much more consistent and accurate than possible with the human hand. The macro's that were legal in WoW were more or less rotating keys. If you hit the key once it did action x (say tried to use a specific trinket) the next press would do action y (perhaps a second trinket, or othe long cooldown) and then the third press would cast something that benifited from the first two actions. This could be a saving throw style heal that would be much bigger because of the trinkets etc. Ban would be a button press that did all three in order. How do you tell the difference? In the case of WoW part of it was having the macro language as part of their UI makes auditing easy when you have your users code, and there is variance in the rate of buton press. if they see the same actions occuring in the same order, with the same delays between each press... well then that is what they detect.

    At least in WoW's case they didn't care how many actions the macro chained, just that you had to press a key for each one of them. I dont know if wildstar is different, but i suspect they are similar in that regard

    1. AnEvenonEntity is incorrect.

      In WoW nobody gets banned for using macros or mods written in the in game macro language (lua) no matter what the macro does. If Blizzard decides they don't like a particular mod/macro, they simply change the macro language so that macro no longer works.

      What will get you banned is out of game macros written in autoit, ahk, etc. that automate things. Complicating matters is the fact that they do allow autoit/ahk macros for multiboxing and things like that.

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    3. Oh and those "rotating keys" you mentioned where allowed in the beginning and very widely used. That could be very easily done with in game macros. However Blizzard eventually decided they didn't like that, changed the macro language so they no longer worked and started banning people for using out of game macros and hacks to do anything similar.

      I don't think Blizzard cared about trinket macros, the problem was those type of macros were used to make 1 button combat rotation macros. The user just spammed a single button (possible had autoit or ahk spamming it too!) and it automatically cast spells in the correct order for maximum dps with no thinking required.

    4. Mox, the point was not that they would ban from within the macro language, although I do believe that some things did get temp bans at one point because people had worked to find workarounds for stated macro code use, that is they had a macro in the included macro language that used a flaw of some sort to do something macros weren't supposed to be able to do. ( my memory if fuzzy back in TBC days is when I somewhat remember hearing about a couple people finding temp bans because they used macros designed to explicitly get around some of the stated rules) At the time I played the rotation macros were considered fine, and I haven't kept up since then

      I do wish eve had a bit of a scripting language, something that could say launch or recall a specific set of drones with a key press instead of mouse actions, then again I come from VI and multiple programming interfaces where keyboard is king. Maybe scripting isn't the best word for it, but I would like to be able to interact with just about everything in the overview through keyboard commands. Its a pipe dream but one can wish

      (as an aside the reply button was broken for me on this site for a number of days, tracked down to a browser issue. that is the main reason this is so delayed)

    5. Actually in the beginning there were some bans for use of in game macros that were deemed exploits. However what was or was not an exploit was determined on a an individual case by case basis and mostly depended on the particular GM looking into the case.

      That affected a tiny number of players and it wasn't very long before Blizzard came out with the policy that nobody would ever be banned for using in game macros or mods.

      Me, I'm very happy Eve does not have a scripting language and no mods or macros. In fact for me that was a major point in it's favor and a big reason why I started playing the game.

  6. The real issue here is NC soft being involved imo. In lineage 2 some of the bots seemed to be sanctioned by NC soft. Even the l2walker bot program interfaced so perfectly with the game that it seemed like NC soft wrote it. Maybe some of the devs were just getting rich on the side, but it looked a lot like they would never ban certain bot trains.

  7. Blizzard solved the problem through the use of the global cooldown (gcd). Most actions that activated spells or abilities triggered the gcd, which prevented the use of any other spells or abilities for one second, subject to haste rating. Certain things like trinkets and racial abilities did not trigger the gcd, which meant they could be strung together in a macro either in game or with hardware. Hardware macros could conceivably be used to "time" multiple abilities around the gcd but were more of a lazy crutch than an advantage.
    If Wild star is having macro problems then perhaps they need to consider a cooldown system.

    1. If a game is having macro problems perhaps they need to consider making a better game. A game that needs to preserve the challenge of "press these keys in sequence" is a game that has no real depth or complexity to it.

    2. "A game the needs to preserve the challenge of "press these keys in a sequence is a game that has no real depth or complexity to it"

      Almost all games have an element of timing and optimizing a sequence of inputs to be successful. I guess its just your opinion that those games are not fun but this does not mean there is no depth.

  8. I still to this day have no idea why u would need to bot in WoW. I played if for like a month and had pretty much unlimited gold. Its push button get bacon, If you bot that you are either doing it for profit or hell i dont even know i still dont see why anyone ever bought gold for that game it was so easy. I'd Hope wildstar is nothing like this but i doubt ill be paying any cash to play it. I like to watch cartoons not play live action cartoons. Its pretty funny to me that ban AHK tho as this tool is normally for games that dont have a proper UI. The only way to end botting for profits is how ccp went about it. Take ppls isk. If you end up -5bil cuz you bought a bunch of isk you learn pretty quick. The botters have never really been a problem its the people that buy the virtual currency and give these guys an incentive. If you are having a problem with pvp macros u need to redesign what you are trying to do combo wise. If the shit is easy to make a macro for its getting boring ne way.

  9. No mention of Hags-club. So far the users of that one are saying it's undetected. Second ban wave has gone though and still no bans for those users.

    Don't want to spread the word on the site. But making the group more obvious helps get them shut down.

  10. Hi, here is a petition against unfair/unjust bans from Wildstar. A lot of gamers, my friends and I, have been victims of unjust bans. We can't play, we have no answers from Carbin/NC Soft ! Maybe you are in the same situation, so please sign the petition to solve this massive problem! :