Friday, February 9, 2018

CCP's War On Bots: Nyx Bot Math

I often say that one of the best places to find information about botting and illicit RMT is the EVE Online sub-Reddit. Unfortunately, sometimes sorting the wheat from the chaff is difficult. For instance, the income numbers for the botted Nyx supercarriers destroyed in Omist last month seem a little on the sensational side. For example, in the initial Reddit thread on 11 January, SvaraEir (quoted in the PCGamer article linked above) posted an estimated monthly income of between 1.1 trillion and 2.6 trillion ISK. Those numbers surprised me considering other posts of his I read, but everyone picked up on the higher figure.

A series of posts made by Reddit user nubicci on 2 February left me shaking my head.

nubicci - Yea, but in the meantime, the dude is making 8000$ per month.

If ccp is even doing what you assume, which would be the best case scenario.

Sadly I believe that the reality is a lot darker, and ccp just doesn't care, because in 15 years of playing this game, if I learned anything is to always expect the worst from the company that makes it.

And I have to say that Ive yet to be dissapointed.

nubicci - 10 nyx bots make 2 trill+ per month.

Russian isk buyers pay 3.5-4$ per bil on most rmt websites.

Even is ccp is using the guy as bait, (which I really doubt lol) he still makes money, and rmt'ers (resellers) who specialize in selling mmo currencies are prepared for it, and them losing throwaway chars to ccp bans, is part of a cost in rmt operations.

These people don't play the game, they just resell ingame currencies, so ccp cannot hurt them in any way that they didn't already expect.

The only person who gets hurt is the players that play fair, and people who buy isk from resellers.

JeronicaEVEIs that using 250m+ ticks?

nubicci300m per hour per nyx

I just have to question some of nubicci's facts. For instance, at the time nubicci typed his posts, the Nyx botter was in no position to bot. Of the 8 Nyx bots who died, 6 had already biomassed. The status of the characters was:

  • DLS (CEO of Ukranian Soviet Socialistic Republic) - Last killboard entry - 14 January.
  • WsD - Joined P I R A T on 14 January. Currently active in the Jita area.
  • Alexa Shepard - Biomassed
  • Dorithur VII - Biomassed
  • iskbear - Biomassed
  • Jessie Wind - Biomassed
  • Solci - Biomassed
  • terokrit - Biomassed

In addition, Ukrainian Soviet Socialistic Republic lost its rental space in Omist when the corporation was kicked from Kids With Guns Alliance on 25 January. According to zKillboard, Kids With Guns Alliance began destroying Ukrainian Soviet Socialistic Republic infrastructure on 26 January. The alliance also began to failscade with the news of the loss of the Nyx bots, going from over 80 members on 14 January down to 46 this morning.

Let's assume, for argument's sake, that the botter had a backup bot farm and is busily botting away with supercarriers in another remote null sec constellation. Is a figure of 2 trillion ISK/month a realistic amount? Fortunately, CCP Quant publishes a monthly economic report. Since January had way too many interruptions. looking at the December Monthly Economic Report might shed some light on the matter.

According to the December MER, players collected 1.567 trillion ISK in NPC bounties in Omist in December 2017. The 2 trillion ISK/month figure is not only high, but not possible given the statistics supplied by CCP. Even the 1.1 trillion ISK/month estimate seems high. Kids With Guns Alliance has 2300 members. Would a 2300 character rental alliance really only pull in 450 billion ISK over the course of a month? That doesn't really seem probable.

So how much does someone running 10 botting Nyx make in a month? To answer the question, I need to explain my math. The first assumption involves how long the botter runs the bots. In a Reddit thread discussing a group of possible botting Rattlesnakes in RO-AIQ, SvaraEir made the following observation about botter behavior:
"Just because I personally know that system, I can say yes; he shows up to turn it on usually between 0300-0900 (6-10h a day, but closer to the lower end of that, and taking at least a couple days off here and there every week is how most botters avoid being completely fucking obvious)."
Botters don't just stick to those guidelines to avoid appearing as obvious botters in local. In 2011-2012, CCP instituted an automatic bot detection system that resulted in botters having to end the practice of 23/7 botting. I'm not sure why SvaraEir didn't use these assumptions when calculating how much 10 botting Nyx make in a month, but they track closely with advice I've seen on botting forums, so I will use them. For a 30 day month, I'll assume each bot runs 8 hours a day for 22 of the 30 days in the month. According to these assumptions, I will use 176 hours per bot, or 1760 botting hours for the amount of time. Those people claiming the over 2 trillion ISK/month figure use 7200 botting hours.

Next comes how much a bot makes per tick. A tick is EVE terminology for how often players are paid for the bounties they collect from the game for killing NPCs. The figure is currently 20 minutes, so three ticks is the equivalent of one hour. I will use nubicci's figure of 100 million ISK/tick, or 300 million ISK per hour.

Using any information from nubicci at first glance seems dubious, which is why I went in search for corroborating sources. I found one in an article on INN. Noted Goonswarm FC Asher Elias also estimated that the Nyx bots were making 100 million ISK ticks.

The math at this stage is fairly simple. The number of hours the bot runs multiplied by the ISK/hour gives the amount of ISK earned in a month. The result is 528 billion ISK in a single month.

I'm still not sure that amount is correct. As Asher pointed out in his article, the bot software used by the Nyx botter wasn't very good. The truth is, finding a commercial EVE bot that can handle the new fighter mechanics is between hard and impossible. Now that we have an example showing that bots can control fighter squadrons, expect to see some emerge onto the market by the end of the year at the latest. But until then, I have to assume that the Nyx bot isn't nearly as efficient as a human. So for the bottom end of the range, I will go on the assumption that the bot is potentially only 60% as efficient as a human. With that assumption, the low end of the range the botter could make in a month is 316.8 billion ISK. If I do a little rounding, the botter's income was approximately between 320-530 billion ISK per month.

Now comes the fun part of writing this post, because I get to say, "I told you so." For years, I heard people, mainly from null sec, complain about high sec because that was where they believed all the botting occurred. When asked, I would always say the majority of the botting in EVE Online occurred in null sec. I held that opinion for two reasons. The first is that null sec is where the money is. The second is that botters are less likely to have players report them in null sec than in high sec. The fact that I read this type of logic on the botting forums helped solidify my thinking on the subject.

I know that while 320-530 billion ISK is not as sexy of a headline as 2 trillion ISK, even the lower amount I calculated is not insignificant. I could point out that the lower estimated range made up 20%-33% of all NPC bounties collected in Omist in December 2017. I could discuss how the botter could afford to purchase a keepstar in a month. Or point out the small to mid size supercapital fleet (depending on your definition) that would fund. The ISK could even purchase a large, if not full 255 ship, faction battleship fleet. But I think those comparisons don't quite display the potential impact of an active 10 Nyx botting fleet on the EVE economy.

Instead, I will compare the ISK faucet the botter opened up compared to the regions housing the major high sec trade hubs. The lower end of my estimate is a bit higher than the total amount of NPC bounties collected in Domain (316 billion ISK) and Sinq Laison (313 billion ISK) in the month of January. The high end of my calculations is almost the amount of NPC bounties collected in The Forge (582 billion ISK). When the difference in time is accounted for (January has 31 days), the Nyx bot farm only earns 1 billion ISK per day less in NPC bounties than all the players in The Forge combined. In other words, a pretty significant spigot for one player to open.

I know that at the recent CSM 12 summit held in January, CCP Peligro stated that the big source of ISK and skill points on the black market came from accounts accessed due to hacking of other websites. I also realize why CCP would prioritize preventing the hacking of accounts over a major modernization of efforts against botting like we saw in 2011-2013. Still, botting does have a negative impact on not only the economy, but players' perception of the game.

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