In order to compete in today's environment, many RMT operations are moving away from human gold farmers and relying on automated software solutions, more commonly referred to as bots. But with some games vulnerable to such techniques as speed, flying, and teleport hacks, today's gold farmer no longer needs to post an avatar at resource nodes, waiting for the next spawn and discouraging actual players from trying to compete for the valuable item.
In the above half-minute clip, a fed up Wildstar player sat at a resource node spawn location and waited for bots to teleport to the spot and attempt to harvest the node. The technique is one way for a gold farmer to monopolize the content without physically occupying the zone. The bots go around in a pattern or a track looking for resources. If they find them, the take the resources. If not, they blink away to another location.
An elegant way to attempt to avoid the notice of regular players, although for those who can't get the resources they need to advance in crafting, an extremely frustrating experience. If the bots are successful enough at escaping detection, players could even begin complaining about the spawn rates, thus causing issues for the customer support staff and taking up time from actual problems with the game. But at this stage in the industry's history, players know to look for bots. And in 2014, new releases were plagued with bots.
Perhaps the game that experienced a condition most similar to gold farmers taking over valuable territory in 2014 occurred in Elder Scrolls Online at launch. In that game, bots literally took over public dungeons to the point players could not complete the content.
In the above video, a player gives a tour of the Wansalen dungeon that is overrun by bots. While players can kill random NPCs, actually killing bosses looks almost impossible.
But sometimes players can figure out a way to beat the bots. Below is a video showing the frustration of a player, even though she figures out a way to finally complete her achievement.
The reason for showing the third video is to show how RMT-related activity increases the use of server resources. The user, in beating the bots in killing the NPC, had to spam commands to the server. If the bots are also constantly spamming commands that don't do anything, then the servers are definitely getting hit with a lot of load.
But how much can inefficient bots really affect a game's infrastructure? Back on 22 June 2009, CCP conducted an anti-RMT operation called Unholy Rage that banned 6,200 paying EVE Online accounts in a single day. In an unusual move, the Icelandic game company released a lot of information about the operation, including the effects on the Tranquility shard, home to all of EVE's players outside of the People's Republic of China.
|From CCP's Unholy Rage Developer's Blog|
The company immediately noticed a massive drop in server load:
"Now, that is a beautiful graph if I ever saw one. Check out that purple line representing average CPU Per User. This clearly shows the very disproportionate load the RMT type accounts imposed on our system. While the number of accounts banned in the opening phase of the operation constituted around 2% of the total active registered accounts, the CPU per user usage was cut by a good 30%. That is a whole lot of CPU for the rest of you to play with, people."The developer's blog also pointed out the effects on those systems with the highest concentrations of bots:
"Load issues for certain solar systems that were hubs for RMT activity have also dramatically altered. Anyone who has travelled to Ingunn in the past can testify that this particular solar system was well clogged up with haulers and shuttles running missions pretty much 23/7. Here's a little graph showing the population in Ingunn before and after June 22nd.
|From CCP's Unholy Rage Developer's Blog|
"Clearly, the state of Ingunn has improved so dramatically that one can hardly recognize it as the same system. The same is true for many other systems previously chock full of macro miners and mission farmers."So real money trading can cause behavior, including hacking and botting, designed to maximize the amount of virtual currency gathered for sale. The gold farming activity can affect the play of players though the monopolization of content, like resource nodes or even valuable NPCs that spawn in the open world that are required to progress through the game. Also, poorly written bots, as the data from CCP demonstrates, can indirectly affect the game experience of players by using an inordinate amount of server resources. For game companies, reducing this type of negative behavior is beneficial both for the smooth running of their virtual worlds as well as keeping their customers happy.