Game talkA brief history of botting

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Mar 252008
 

It’s funny to see how the old debates sometimes just don’t change — they just move from being flamewars on forums to being flamewars couched in more polite language, as in the case of the Blizzard vs WoWGlider lawsuit.

The issue of running bots or enhanced clients is very very old. MUDs originally were played via vanilla Telnet. Vanilla Telnet is extremely annoying, because there’s no separate input bar from your output. Given that writing a vanilla Telnet client is very easy, it was not long before there were dedicated clients that wrapped Telnet with additional functionality. The best known of these were TinyFugue and TinTin, and today it seems like zMud is still retaining dedicated users.

Clients weren’t just used for the sake of the input bar, of course. They offered up some interface niceties that made play easier: client-side scripting, automapping, and lots more. They could be set up with triggers to react to text sent from the server, and automatically send back a command. This allowed people to build simple scripts to “autohunt,” for example. “Hunt” was a skill which told you in which direction a given monster might be; you were supposed to manually move to the next room. With autohunt, you simply typed “autohunt fisherman” and after a few screenfuls of spam, you were at your target, with no further intervention.

Similarly, you could trap all messages that a party member was hurt, and autoheal them. You could bypass the typing and reading speed that was critical in combat and have instant reactions — getting up instantly every time you were knocked down.

The net result was a “bot.” In fact, when I first met Rick Delashmit (lead programmer of UO), he was running three separate characters at once, where two of them were simply thoroughly scripted bots. One of them was named “Mirror” because whatever you did to him, he did back to you.

This botting behavior was declared illegal by the mud we were playing. But mud clients themselves were not commonly illegal, because everyone realized that playing on vanilla Telnet was not just a handicap, but incredibly frustrating. Everyone’s advice to a newbie was “get a client,” followed by the lengthy caveat that a given mud had specific rules about what was permissible. In other words, the third-party tools were seen as something that added invaluable interface enhancements, but that also afforded a bit too much power.

Often these caveats were cultural, and not hard and fast rules. On LegendMUD, autohunt was not illegal. But we as builders made a point of having “deathtrap” rooms that had severe penalties that happened to lay on common autohunt paths. Entry into these rooms did things like eat all your equipment. Players who overused autohunt were liable to forget that some routes went through these rooms.

If the use of triggers mostly made play more convenient, then why were game admins opposed? Well, it meant, fundamentally, that players were more efficient, and the game had been tuned to a given player efficiency rate. A higher efficiency meant that the game ran out of content faster on several different axes — not only did players finish the levelling process faster, but at any given moment, there were fewer monsters left alive, and therefore less for everyone else. The social pressure for everyone to bot could get quite intense, as nobody likes being worse at something than everyone else.

The issues raised by problems like these echo through the filings in the WoWGlider case. The above paragraph could be taken verbatim from Castronova’s expert report, for example.

In addition, however, there are interesting arguments made about whether WoWGlider is effectively violating copyright by inserting itself into the network stream and client memory space (btw, this little article has resonance for the bit on copying in memory), whether it is marketed as a tool for “gold farming” which therefore violates the EULA, and so on.

And yet WoW has a UI system that permits massive efficiency improvements on the part of players. Many of the most popular mods are things that would unquestionably have been called cheating even by the most ardent TinTin++ advocates.

Botting isn’t going to go away. Even truly dynamic environments will not reduce the ultimate attraction. After all, in our real lives, we build up incredible amounts of technology for the sake of convenience and efficiency. In the end, the question is cultural.

What we can say is that each world should be able to set its own cultural boundaries. We just need to be careful what legal precedents we establish in the process, lest it cost us the virtual equivalent of answering machines and spam filters.

  48 Responses to “A brief history of botting”

  1. A brief history of bottingPosted on March 25, 2008 by Raph

  2. client is very easy, it was not long before there were dedicated clients that wrapped Telnet with additional functionality. The best known of these were ones like TinyFugue and TinTin, and today it seems like zMud is still retaining dedicated users.(more…)

  3. Raph’s Website »A brief history of botting

  4. , botting has been with us since the very dawn of massively multiplayer games, in MUDs — text-based Multi-User Dungeons. Raph Koster — Ultima Online developer, Star Wars Galaxies architect and CEO of game-development-for-the-masses Areae –brings us back to the days of yorewhen MUDs first met botters — and how they dealt with it. It’s a stirring tale of autohunters, deathtrap rooms, trigger phrases, healbots and the devs who loved them. Read | Permalink | Email this

  5. , botting has been with us since the very dawn of massively multiplayer games, in MUDs — text-based Multi-User Dungeons. Raph Koster — Ultima Online developer, Star Wars Galaxies architect and CEO of game-development-for-the-masses Areae –brings us back to the days of yorewhen MUDs first met botters — and how they dealt with it. It’s a stirring tale of autohunters, deathtrap rooms, trigger phrases, healbots and the devs who loved them. Read | Permalink | Email this

  6. My personal opinion is that bots are fine…but I do think there should be some way to determine if a character is in ‘bot’ mode or under the influence of a ‘bot’…I think the smart system does this can then go the extra step and give regular players (ie. not bot-influenced players) the ability to re-program a bot when they run into them…

    Something like that would keep the world free for people to do/play as they like…but it would make them consider the downside before doing anything that might be unfair to other players…

    I think it’s that last bit that has been traditionally missing in many games; there has been very little to no downside to ‘boting’…which of course means that ‘boting’ becomes required to keep up…

  7. Personally, I’d like to see NPC hirelings and pets with commands more. I liked it in UO. I know the bot issue gets allot more complicated with scripts though. But if a game offered the scripts, then the playing field would be even, or pretty much so anyways. The only problem I see is the lag issue. But bots just seem like something that’s fun to play with.
    I’m not concerned with forcing players to be social. If the game setting is good, it’ll happen naturally. The forced socializing doesn’t work well anyways. People come and go and few guilds stick together. So I don’t see bots as counter productive to social activity.

  8. If more folks were actually writing their own bots instead of just buying someone else’s, it could probably be leveraged into a game concept… an MMO corewars.

    Heck, it feels like a great idea to me anyway, but then I’ve always loved coding games like that.

    It’d have to be much more complex than corewars, of coz… if I were doing it, I’d probably make it tanks in a fully 3D environment where arcing shots and predicting movement and such were important.

    This is actually starting to sound like a heckuva lot of fun. heheheheheheheh

  9. I find botting to be offensive in WoW and other MMO’s. It DOES break the idea of achievement resulting through personal effort. Would we be ok with people who buy medals at a second hand store being able to take benefits aimed at real war veterans? The principle is the same.
    However~!!!!
    I do like the idea of messing around with bots! As I recall, the old Star Fleet Battles board game had you write out several commands at a time, then they were played out. The attempt to predict and outwit your opponents was the superb fun that lies at the heart of PvP gameplay.
    I think a game space devoted to creating bots and turning them loose in the world would be very very interesting, especially if there was an ‘ecology’ to the activities of the bots. For instance, when you harvest node of X, you leave behind a pile of Y. All of these ‘elements’ are useful in ways that are defined by the game and by the users who are coding the bots. The ongoing evolution of bot intelligence and survival strategies (and their counters) would be something to watch with amazement.

  10. Nuther thought..
    SWG had built in botting in the form of the resource harvestors. In this case, the botting was great because it was part of the gameplay and gameworld, not imposed on it as a cheat from outside.
    So for rules of botting:
    – needs to be within the game design and available to all players
    – should require gameplay and ingame assets to function persistently. For example, the SWG harvesters needed fuel, had limited capacity and would eventually take wear and tear damage (I think…).
    – should be a logical part of the fictional universe.
    Hypothecally speaking…
    If Blizzard wanted to introduce the idea of botting to WoW (beyond the pets already available) using the rules noted above: hiring peons to do some work for you would be pretty cool. They would be subject to the dangers of the world. Can you imagine leading a work party of peons out into the wilds to do harvesting, having to protect them from predators while they work? You would have a Boss reputation based on how well you protect your workers, the worse the rep, the more you have to pay to get more to come work for you.

  11. I feel that if the mechanics of the game are so mundane and mechanical that it can easily become scripted, and if the grind is so fundamental to enjoying the game, but is itself not enjoyable and people willingly bypass it… Then there is something wrong with the mechanics of the game. Really: What does it say about the fun factor of that aspect of your game if people go out of their way to not play it?

  12. Neat tidbit of history Raph. MMO’s are beyond me sometimes – it’s entirely hypocritical of the games makers, and like Graham said, perhaps the gameplay determines whether the bots would be useful or not.

    I mean, what kind of bot could do Puzzle Pirates for instance? (It’d need some good AI to do the minigames and suchlike I bet).

    But if it’s simple clicking, choosing, grinding, then Graham’s point is very true.

    Some people no doubt use bot techniques (or get stuff off those that do) to get past the boring bits. Someone who wants to be a high level (and therefore meet up with their hight level friends and fight high level bosses in high level parties) can get more levels faster with a bot, then they’ll do it. Once they hit the highest level, they’d obviously not have anything more to gain from it.

    Then again, you’ve got dodgy practices since most are pay-per-month, if someone can finish all the major content (or level past it) that they decide to play for only half a year (since they get board) instead of a year (doing it “properly”) it’s highly questionable, especially if the year is 50% boredom!

    Interesting stuff, it’s certainly nothing legal issues will solve easily. Needs a philosophy, and I doubt either party are neutral enough to have a good philosophy on the problem.

  13. What we can say is that each world should be able to set its own cultural boundaries.

    Who exactly is the ‘world’ that gets to set its cultural boundaries? The designers? The players? How many of the players?

    I can’t quite put my finger on it but there is something about that statemnt that I find very troubling.

  14. Wombaticus wrote:

    Would we be ok with people who buy medals at a second hand store being able to take benefits aimed at real war veterans?

    Speaking of medals, you can actually buy “collections” in EverQuest II. Collections reward experience, status, and items. I levelled one of my characters to 36 by turning in only collections I bought through the auction system.

  15. @Wombaticus and cliff

    There was an old PS1 game that involved building and programming your mecha to do battle that I loved and of course sold like crap because only a programmer could love it :)

    Armored Core Formula Front for PSP is somewhat simplified but similar and sold much better (in Japan at least).

    I find it somewhat odd that those games are on consoles since it would seem that the PC would lend itself more both in terms of interface and the userbase having a programming mindset.

  16. Who exactly is the ‘world’ that gets to set its cultural boundaries? The designers? The players? How many of the players?

    I can’t quite put my finger on it but there is something about that statemnt that I find very troubling.

    The designer gets to decide directly but it ultimately comes down to majority player opinion as each generations relative marketshare shapes policy for the next. It’s the market at work.

    To a degree this comes down to a lot of the same issues as RMT. You’ve got a murky moral argument about fairness, damage to the in game economy, enforcement issues, and general player dislike.

    Quick, run and hide before Prok swings by and tells us we have to free the oppressed bot proletariat.

  17. JuJutsu: I am also worried by that statement precisely because I agree with it. It is a cultural thing. The culture should get to pick the rules. However, WoW, with 8 million or so players, is not a mono-culture. Attempts to treat it as such by decreeing a game-wide “no bots” irks one the same way as Parker Brothers taking away my Monopoly set because I keep putting $500 in free parking. My local “culture” of monopoly players disagree with the game designer.

    Most Muds were small enough, and put enough resources behind, building a culture which let them make such assertions. WoW, in many ways, grew too quickly for any top down culture to be impressed on the players, so we should be unsurprised that different people have radically different ideas what is “playing the game” and what is “cheating”.

    It is tempting with computer games to think Code==Law so there is no need to worry about people playing your game “wrong” – you simply can’t put $500 on free parking if the code doesn’t allow it. This is blind to human nature – soon you have players voluntarily transferring money to the player on Free Parking to achieve the same effect. In UO, one past time was to use Vas Rel Por to teleport dragons out of the dungeon so we could fight them using only wrestling moves.

    This is why I find myself pro-botting and pro-RMT with respect to World of Warcraft like worlds. Not because I think there is some right to impose botting and RMT on all games – it should be admissible for people to build bot free and RMT free games. But, because the way to build those games is to also build a culture that supports that behaviour. You can’t just decree what your players should be – you have to nurture and guide them. (And maybe sometimes realize what they are doing is better than you planned and adapt)

  18. JuJutsu: Who exactly is the ‘world’ that gets to set its cultural boundaries? The designers? The players? How many of the players?

    Ultimately the investors.

  19. I think JuJutsu’s unstated point is that it is the culture that should set the boundaries if they are cultural in nature.

  20. I’ve considered botting before. I’ve considered having a program run my character through some auto-piloting or some mindless slaying of critters (like a /follow without needing someone to follow) so I can focus on talking to people over guild chat.

    But then again, I never was one to enjoy the UI Modding of WoW. I saw the mods and felt instinctively, in my gut, that it was cheating. Automatically picking up items from a corpse? Seeing the aggro flag up in pure text? I wondered what it would take to erase the 3d graphics and have everyone render as a rectangle, colour coded to thier class and what spells and abilities they’ve cast before.

    Maybe the problem for me was that the game presented a great many things I considered utterly un-fun. Grinding was unfun. Fishing was fun when I could talk to my friends. Exploring was fun, but retreading the old paths was boring and the flight paths were expensive.

    Ultimately, if you’re going to allow people who want to achieve more or kill more (which is what the UI mods seem to do best) to customise some aspect of thier playing experience, you may as well let people customise thier entire playing experience.

    As for botting Puzzle Pirates, I’m pretty sure it’s doable. I’m no speed demon at Carpentry or at Gunning, but I got boards cleaned in a minute or two, keeping Good to Excellent ratings (with the occasional Incredible). And I watched some people clean up boards in seconds and was deeply worried about how they actually managed to move thier mice hands that fast. They’re only classic puzzles after all

  21. Yeah, I know that, so I joked, but… unfortunately. It makes sense.

    For a large system which recruits broadly you can’t have a single culture. SO this issue can’t be entirely cultural. The designers do shape and effect what boundaries can exist (and co-exist), and they have to do so in response to the owner’s ideas about business models, subscription models, public image and what not.

    A single broad world can’t have cultural boundaries, because there are no proper inter-world boundaries. Designers can try to reshape the global culture… I don’t think they can do so without being rather violent…

    The alternative is to recruit selectively and let the players be co-owners. You know. The narrow socialist world where people follow a shared vision…

  22. 80% of the fun of warcraft was making one button mashers. Around lvl 30 I was getting bored but then I figured out how to make the lua addons, 2 lvl 60’s later I went from working with circuit board data at work to making a rails database for work, 2 more 60’s later TBC came out and one button mashers were broke. I’m working with circuit board data again at work again and instead of making huge improvements in my rails database I’m just keeping it functional. cliff may have inspired me to learn how to create actual bots though, that might just key up my coding interest enough to stop messing around with circuit board data and get back to making database improvements and hugely elaborate cad macros for work.

  23. I mean, what kind of bot could do Puzzle Pirates for instance? (It’d need some good AI to do the minigames and suchlike I bet).

    Well, there’s AIs that play Puzzle Fighter — after all, it has a single-player mode. Sword fighting is Puzzle Fighter. So you could easily bot that and do quite well, I think.

  24. The problem with comparing botting to buying veteran medallions IRL is that IRL veterans are being rewarded for doing something that they did for another reason. Someone who didn’t fight does not deserve the rewards we give those that did, because we do it in appreciation of what was done anyway.

    In games, the parts that can be botted are typically “grinding”, i.e., actions that are done for no other reason that to reach the reward. The botting player and non-botting player will have the same impact on the world, one just didn’t have to be mentally present while doing it (ignoring for the time being that the botter will probably be more efficient too). The only thing that gets people offended is that they had to work for something that others got “for free”.

    Or rather, speaking for myself, I get offended when someone gains an advantage on me by breaking the rules. If botting was allowed, and I [i]chose[/i] not to do it, I couldn’t get offended by someone who did use a bot. When botting is disallowed, I (being of lawful stupid alignment) cannot do it, so it goes counter to my feeling of justice that someone does use a bot, gains an advantage, and is not caught and punished.

    But this all falls back on games having a reward structure that makes content available based on “achievement” (typically level), and achievement being measured only in time spent. I.e., you want to maximize your leveling speed in order to unlock the content you already paid for. Which is again caused by the the company’s profit depending linearly on time spent :)

    The problem with allowing botting is both that it means unattended play, and that it is more efficient play. Unattended play means that the player does not build attachment to the game, which I would guess is bad for retention. Being more efficient, it will also mean that people not using a bot will feel stupid, which will mean that everybody will do it just to stay competitive or to keep up with everybody else. At that point, you might as well add an “easy button”.

    Consider then the way EVE does skill-training (which is basically how you level). It is completely passive and based on real time, not played time. There is no way to bot it, since it is not related to user actions at all. It is the logical equivalent of a use-based skill training system where everybody was botting all the time. The actual game is what you do with those skills in the meantime, and where you earn money and buy equipment – the other axis of achievement. (I’m sure they have auction bots though :)

    I guess the conclusion is the same as always: people make bots for parts of the game that they don’t enjoy doing themselves. If bots are outlawed, only outlaws will have bots, but if outlaws aren’t punished, the sense of justice in the law abiding citizens is hurt.

  25. Raph>Well, there’s AIs that play Puzzle Fighter — after all, it has a single-player mode.

    It used to be the case that Puzzle Pirates ran its puzzles on the client, rather than on the server. If it’s still like that now, people who wrote bots would themselves be at a disadvantage against people who hacked the client or modified the datastream.

    Richard

  26. Sorry, I brought up the example through not thinking, despite me knowing there was a singleplayer mode. Although I recall that it doesn’t get you the “Good prizes” at all.

    I meant that it’s a game which a bot usually won’t play as well or as fast as a player unless it’s basically got deep AI functions – puzzles generally are human only really human solvable, and Puzzle Pirates also has lots of co-op things that’d fail with bots. Accidental really, but it does remove the need for bots (since also the puzzles are sometimes why people play, since they’re likely more fun then clicking on a monster. A lot.).

    I’m sure there are other better examples. Second Life for instance – bots in it rarely serve too much of a purpose, since there isn’t any “game” for money there. Natural barriers to bots are more interesting then complaining about bots in grind-like games is all, since it wasn’t covered much in your original post. I just don’t have the experience of MMO’s to write about them myself, heh.

  27. But then again, I never was one to enjoy the UI Modding of WoW. I saw the mods and felt instinctively, in my gut, that it was cheating. Automatically picking up items from a corpse? Seeing the aggro flag up in pure text? I wondered what it would take to erase the 3d graphics and have everyone render as a rectangle, colour coded to thier class and what spells and abilities they’ve cast before.

    First off, Blizzard views UI customization as legal to an extent. Over the years a number of hooks and functionalities have been turned off. Still, UI customization is popular and widespread enough in WoW that a common library has been established for elements, the Ace/Ace2 system. Before it became widespread, my UI memory usage was surging up towards 30MB and was dragging down performance, now I’m under 15MB using the same functionalities since a number of mods are calling upon standardized libraries and thus have a smaller footprint.

    When Blizzard was ripping the most abused UI functionalities out of their interfaces, looking back now it seems they were reducing it down to the point that it would only allow what was allowed to begin with, but perhaps hidden slightly. Splashing ‘AGGRO’ across your screen in big red letters isn’t cheating because I can look at what my target’s target is and know that if I see me there, I should run very fast! The same with Scrolling Combat Text and ArcHUD (my 2 absolute favorite mods), I’m taking data that spins by in the combat log so fast I can’t comprehend it and placing in my main focus area (center screen) with colors representing damage types and whether they are incoming/outgoing. I’m only accessing data that everyone else has the same level of access to, only communicating it through visual communication instead of text (that number in combat text that jumps out and is displayed with larger font? thats a crit, yellow is specials, white is autoswing damage, green is heals, etc).

    Where they draw a distinction is specifically in automating fuctions they view should require user input, which is why auto-decursing and similar functions have been disabled without the use of 3rd party systems like Glider.

    So there’s a distinction to be made between customization of how the UI communicates information to players and scripted AI that allows unattended gameplay or reduces the need for players to give input to reach a desired outcome. Holo-grinding and macro-tainers come to mind as primary exhibits of where that road leads. Unattended gameplay in Alterac Valley in WoW was a major concern to players for a long time. Their prevelance lead to 2 impacts on other players’ enjoyment of the battleground. The direct impact was teams with 1/4 or more of the participants AFK in their starting tunnels hampering their ability to accomplish objectives. The indirect impact is that the Devs take the global honor gains into account when determining honor costs for PvP gear and other risk vs. reward balancing. Then you add onto that the quaint defense of ‘being at the computer watching TV and pressing the spacebar once in a while is ok, I am participating in the battleground, just in a way you may not like’. So in the mind of the average non-participant, negatively impacting your game experience while riding the coat-tails of your efforts is valid gameplay.

    When the performance bar gets raised in response to player efficiency increases as a result of unattended or script-assisted play, it amounts to an endorsement of such activity. You are effectively demanding that the portion of the playerbase that doesn’t use them either get on board or accept inferior performance. Leaving the situation alone results in boredom setting in sooner (one could argue if unattended play is rampant enough, boredom may be the cause, not the effect), which while at first may appear to make it a self-correcting issue, leads to lower player activity levels. Well, actually there already were lower activity levels, since a character running on glider’s only interaction with you is tagging all the mobs you needed for this quest. Attended players tagging mobs I need at least offers the possibility of grouping to share kills with.

    I’d also distinguish automated activity from unattended play. Automated activity can actually enhance amount of social activity. I don’t see arguments against loading your Sim up with a queue of activities to perform (make food, eat food, use bathroom, wash hands, watch TV), and this frees your hands up for chatting! Unattended automated activity, on the other hand, seems to inherently limit the social interaction possible with that character.

  28. I’m sure there are other better examples. Second Life for instance – bots in it rarely serve too much of a purpose, since there isn’t any “game” for money there. Natural barriers to bots are more interesting then complaining about bots in grind-like games is all, since it wasn’t covered much in your original post. I just don’t have the experience of MMO’s to write about them myself, heh.

    Doesn’t Second Life get botted drastically in order to increase “dwell”?

  29. Wasn’t there a problem with land-purchasing bots in SL? Maybe I’m thinking of another VW or thats a far-too-simplistic understanding of the problem…or maybe I’m totally wrong?

  30. Does it? Heaven knows Raph, I’d be the least viable person to say. Funny if it did though, I checked up on it, and it ranks the popular places by visitors or something – I guess bots would be perfect for that! :)

    Bots will be an issue, but like I said, it might be need a more philosophical judgement then a legal one to sort it out, especially since it varies so much game to game (or should that be MMO”X” to MMO”X”, heh).

  31. Does it? Heaven knows Raph, I’d be the least viable person to say. Funny if it did though, I checked up on it, and it ranks the popular places by visitors or something – I guess bots would be perfect for that!

    Ah, indeed. Let me fill you in, since my question was rhetorical. :) In short, people get paid by land owners to just sit on their land, in order to drive up traffic rankings. At first, they just sat in chairs. But that didn’t look good. So now they have pose balls that turn them into janitors, dancers, or whatever else fits the context of the space. So you go to the plot of land and get paid to scrub the floor as a bot.

  32. So now they have pose balls that turn them into janitors, dancers, or whatever else fits the context of the space. So you go to the plot of land and get paid to scrub the floor as a bot.

    So people are actually being paid to play NPCs now.

    I see something good in this. Hehe

  33. Doesn’t Second Life get botted drastically in order to increase “dwell”?

    “Camping” is how it’s normally refered to. The newbie spots will give you an “Anti-afk” program so you can stand or sit at what supposed to be a popular spot and then go to bed or work or what-have-you. Then the person who wants the high-trafic score rewards you either dirrectly with cash-per-hour or indirrectly with random cash or items. One important side effect is that it makes any “popular” spot laggy (if I can use that in the current slang meaning).

  34. I’m all for players ‘hiring’ each other’s skills, such as gathering hides to sell to a crafter instead of because some NPC said so.

    I’m all for players ‘hiring’ NPCs to do tedious tasks like be available for potential sales or slow gathering of their own.

    This is a freaky amalgamation of the two that really makes you question some paradigms. I feel quite out of my depth :9.

  35. One perspective that doesn’t get enough airtime is the effect that bots have on the in-world (and real-world?) economy overall. Shaking the faith the ‘residents’ have in the economy essentially causing hyperinflation, run on banks, etc. Picture widespread & well known bot use on poker sites and you get the idea.

    Regardless of your stance on the issue, this is going to come to a head as platforms add HW virtualization, and there will be virtually no way to tell whether the whole platform is a ‘brain in a jar’.

  36. In short, people get paid by land owners to just sit on their land, in order to drive up traffic rankings. At first, they just sat in chairs. But that didn’t look good. So now they have pose balls that turn them into janitors, dancers, or whatever else fits the context of the space. So you go to the plot of land and get paid to scrub the floor as a bot.

    Hahaha, oh, man. That’s good – I do know that Second Life has almost zero bot support (last year when I was checking it out, it could barely have any I/O with a client thing, making even the simplest of NPC’s really difficult). Glad it’s come round full circle and basically PC’s are NPC’s. :)

    Interesting part of the “economy” of a virtual world by Rik and kim’s descriptions too. The lag part is funny as well, hehe :)

    Linden Labs could solve it by removing that part of their algorithm (how else could you measure it though? and players who act like bots are, to a server, sending the same data (although not necessarily the same frequency/amount) as a human), but who knows what it’s used for or how abused it actually is – and it doesn’t seem like they care, I’ve seen no “Linden Labs Sues People” story yet – I wonder if it’s mentioned in their ELUA.

    Blizzard do like the legal wranglings, they certainly have the money to go to court (although they claim copyright infringement – that’s worrying if they win if you read into what the bot does, since it supposedly doesn’t infringe copyright by my reckoning), but it’s a tough problem to argue that bots are inherently bad if they let the players get by the boring bits like “janitoring”, (or goldfarming, although ain’t those mainly done by humans?) and have fun when they want to as several people have said.

  37. @Wombaticus,
    Your explanation as to why you’ve got issues with botting leaves me feeling kinda… uneasy. It’s really not as simple as all that, and that you’d compare people getting medals for risking their *lives* in real world combat to the sorts of advancement that you can get out of a MMOG bothers me. They’re not even remotely comparable. Virtual fame and benefits in a game aren’t even remotely comparable to things like Veteran benefits for people who’ve had to face things that are emotionally and physically scarring.

    No, this is more like people being able to go to the store and buy a trophy that says “I am the Monopoly Master!” without them ever having played a game of Monopoly. It’s silly, they haven’t earned it, but it’s also meaningless for the most part. It’s not like advancement in a MMOG really takes all that much personal effort or skill. It’s just about going through the time sink hoops often enough and long enough. If anything, the amount of effort a normal person is required to go through to make enough money to buy a stack of gold is much more difficult than actually obtaining that stack of gold. It just takes less time.

    But the real reason why it’s not as simple as all that is that MMOGs are not *just* about the advancement game. They’re also about a lot of other stuff. If the advancement game takes precedence over any of the social, exploration, or competitive aspects of the game, and for anyone attempting to play in one of those other areas, skipping the advancement game may simply mean that they get to play the game they want to, rather than the game they’re forced to. In those cases it’s not about gaining benefits that they don’t deserve… it’s about playing a game that they find fun instead of one that they don’t. MMOGs are ostensibly supposed to be about entertainment, not about work. Advancement can become work if it gates you in ways that are unfun. Not to say that there aren’t issues with botting or RMT if they’re not handled correctly, but they’re not born out of some sort of abhorrent concept, even if they can be twisted to become one.

  38. It’s not like advancement in a MMOG really takes all that much personal effort or skill

    Right. It’s all about the timesink. When I hit level 70 it means I’ve invested the time to hit 70. If you can hit 70 without investing the time but just downloaded a bot then it’s meaningless as an achievement.

  39. […] the window. I think it wants something. Source: BrokenToys – Lum Categories: Bloggers 18:32 A brief history of botting It’s funny to see how the old debates sometimes just don’t change — they just move from being […]

  40. @Ric
    The achievement invested in hitting level 70 isn’t really achievement.
    It’s payment. You pay, using one of the highest value currencies (due to its rarity): Personal free time. Attention. Eyes. It’s the currency that the games require you to pay in order to pay back in access to new content and abilities.

    Most people think that they already paid for that content with money when they bought the box, and some might resent having to pay twice, even if they don’t realise what the actual resentment is.

    So in fact you pay twice to play the game: In money to get access to the game itself, and in time to get content (either through levels or through in-game currency).

    For someone with little free time and some free cash, it’s obvious to look for a way to convert free money directly to access to content. This brings us gold-selling and leveling services.

    For someone with little free time and no free cash, the choices are fewer. You have to generate “time”. This is where unattended botting comes in. It creates “free time” by simulating player attention.

    As long as the goal is what drives the player, not enjoyment of the journey, I fully understand the urge to use a bot to get to the goal faster. Unattended botting is the extreme example, but any technical aid that increases your rate of progress is really doing the same thing, only to a different degree.

    Maybe it’s the curse of MMORPGs that they want to restrict access in order to have something to pay back as rewards. I would love to hear an idea for a MMO that gave all content away from the start (no leveling, no acquireing abilities through “work”, only configuration differs between players), but that would still be able to keep people playing. Or perhaps it exists and is called Second Life. Or Quake.

    /L

  41. I think a distinction needs to be made between bots that automate tedious tasks and bots that enhance player skills or abilities. Otherwise I think we have two overlapping discussions on two very different sorts of game impacts and effects.

    The former doesn’t personally bother me to any great degree, though I see how it harms things (potentially). The latter is the sort of thing that can ruin a game for me.

  42. I think a distinction needs to be made between bots that automate tedious tasks and bots that enhance player skills or abilities. Otherwise I think we have two overlapping discussions on two very different sorts of game impacts and effects.

    The former doesn’t personally bother me to any great degree, though I see how it harms things (potentially). The latter is the sort of thing that can ruin a game for me.

    They have almost identical effects in terms of tuning and balancing. In fact, they are basically the same thing in a strict mechanical point of view. The end result of the former is accomplishing the latter, and the end result of the latter is sometimes to make everything into the former.

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  44. They have almost identical effects in terms of tuning and balancing. In fact, they are basically the same thing in a strict mechanical point of view. The end result of the former is accomplishing the latter, and the end result of the latter is sometimes to make everything into the former.

    Hm, I can see how they would be the same from that point of view, and I agree that they end up amounting to the same thing in the long run. I do think there’s an experiential difference between the two, however. If I were going to refine the distinction, I think it would be between things a person can and cannot do without mechanical aid. The latter represents a greater emotional grievance to me, as it more directly represents a barrier to my enjoyment (“Dude, quit trying. You’re not going to win, he’s using an aim-bot.”).

    Both types of botting lead to an arms race, of sorts, but the latter feels more absolute in terms of haves and not haves. To me, anyway. Tell me I can’t win, and I’m just going to walk away.

  45. Just heard that in South Korea recently, a judge ruled against botfarmers on the grounds that

    ‘auto hunting Bots dismantles in-game system that is designed for real human play, and it let down the other player’s fun, and it make game server overloaded. So the degree of its unlawfulness exceed that of Bots like Speedhack or GhostMouse.

    Using autoBot leads to the publisher’s financial loss. and the more autoBots spreadinf, the more RMT flourishing, the less the order of game keeping.

  46. Interesting. I find myself agreeing with that ruling. It would be fascinating if botting was determined (in a legal context) to be a form of vandalism here in the states, as that’s what I read that ruling as stating.

    I think a valid legal argument could be constructed to that effect. The game company is offering a product/service whose value is being damaged by abusive activity. Not to say there aren’t counter-arguments as well, of course.

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