Greedy Goblin

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bots and mafia

Ganking update: don't miss the post of thenoisyrogue.

I first describe a very simple solution that would make all boting activity disappear from the game (actually it would make it disappear from all MMOs). Easy, simple and doesn't have false positives.

The same way as daily-weekly quests, dungeon and raid lockouts stop players from farming the same content day and night, simple goldmaking actions should also have a cap. Let me introduce the loot cap: there is a "loot counter" in the game. Every day (if you have an active account) it increases by 500. You can accumulate it up to 5000 where it caps to support players who play in batches. Every time you loot a monster it decreases by one. If it reaches zero, the monster no longer drops gold, vendortrash, white or green quality items. It still drops blues, epics, mounts, pets, quest items. So one can still raid or level or get rare drops if the loot counter is 0, just can't grind gold. Of course the counter is account based, so you can't just log to another char.

Such counter should be introduced for gathering. You can skin/herb/mine/extract gas/fish 500/day. You can still keep doing it to gain skill points or quest items (fishing daily) but not for loot.

Would it affect a player? 90% of the players would never have the counter at zero. The remaining HC players are going for epics or fast leveling so the loss of the gold and sellable drops of the monsters are just spare change for them. The system could be further elaborated that the automatic point increase is much smaller, like 100/day, but the player can increase it by doing activities that are hard or impossible to bot. For example, killing a dungeon or raidboss or completing quests give you points. So if you chain-instance or chain-quest, you can keep loot the trash or the quest monsters, making the counter all-time high for legitimate players.

Would it stop boting? Let's look at our friend Historyy, who happily keeps massacring the fauna of Sholozar, despite reported a long ago. In his 3 months of life he killed 190K monsters. 2000/day. With the cap, he could only loot and skin 500. That would cut his income down to 25%, therefore increasing the price of the sold gold to 400%, practically ending the goldfarming.

I just made it to prove how extremely easy it would be to stop bots. Blizzard still tolerate them so does every other MMO except those who sell gold themselves. In my not so old post I explained why Blizzard tolerates and also why doesn't do it itself. I just repeat the summary: RMT is good for the game rationally, but would make socials feel bad, so Blizzard does like every goblin when recognizes that the rationally optimal and the socially expected are mutually exclusive: lie. They do what's optimal (support RMT), and say what's expected ("we don't have RMT, evil goldsellers have and we fight them").

Why am I so obsessed by bots? For long time I did not understand it myself. Something compelled me to observe and fight against bots. Now it's clear: boting is the in-game version of organized crime. Organized crime always provides something that people want, but other people don't want them to have it. So alcohol (when banned), drugs, prostitution, gambling, smuggling (of forbidden items) and so on.

It would be very easy to get rid of the drug mafia two ways:
  • legalize drugs. There would be no customers for illegal drugs if he can buy safe drugs in the shop
  • screen the population regularly for drugs and imprison everyone who has drug in his blood. This way all customers would be in prison
Of course these are not at all easy. The socials want to "save" the drug addicts (which is impossible) so they would feel bad for both solutions. Whenever the optimal solution is blocked by socials feeling bad, some anti-social will step in and do it illegally. So the bottom line is that as long as there are socials, there will be organized crime. You can't stop it. You shall not even try, not only because you'll fail, but also because you won't solve anything if you succeed. What would happen if you could magically destroy all drugs? The potheads would use legal medication + alcohol. Or breath vapor of paints and glues. The proper action with the organized crime is looking the other way, accepting them the same way we accept the fog in autumn: annoying but such is life. So the bot solution is: act like you don't know about it, and when you buy 100 stacks of herb from one seller assume he is just a honest player selling what he farmed in the afternoon for fun.

PS: Please don't comment "organized crime often demand tribute in a sector and it's not a service like drug-selling but a pure crime". It is a service. Please notice that somehow the mafia does not collect tribute in the middle class residence area. They only do it in bad neighborhoods. Why? Because their service is security. For the tribute the mafia keeps the order. In the middle class area the police does it. However the police is ineffective against the primitive scum resident in bad neighborhoods, since the scum (unlike the middle class) only understands brutal violence. And the police cannot be brutal - because socials (who are not scum) would feel bad if the scum would be brutalized by forces under his control (via elections). Of course the scum is brutalized even more by the mafia, but the social won't feel responsible for that, so everyone is happy about himself, even if the solution is globally a bad one.


Anonymous said...

But remember! It is in Blizzard's best interest to not have the farmer selling money but force players to take longer to get the shiny expensive money sinks. They tolerate the bots only because of a cost/benefit analysis that comes out to be:

"Never anger the 'casuals', we make our money from them. To chose between NO bots and an angry annoyed customer (possibly bad publicity) OR lots of bots but never an angry player, go with the latter."

I doubt Blizzard sees RMT for gold as good for the game. They probably see it as very evil, BUT the cost of getting rid of them is higher then the evil they cause so they tolerate it. Further more, mass banning of bots always look good and can help pad those end of quarter numbers with new sales.
While I think you are badly underestimating drug addiction and enforcement problems, I believe your comparison has some worthwhile points though.

MetaManu said...

aren't the mafia the ultimate goblins?

Gevlon said...

@Metamanu: no, but pretty close

MetaManu said...

mmmh... you're right, illegal activities incur a stronger risk (prison, where profit is harder to make, or fines). Still, it usually offers more profit opportunities :)

Btw, i like very much your idea.

Carson 63000 said...

Atlantica Online has a system like that. You can only engage a certain number of fights per day before xp and loot plummets catastrophically.

Does it stop botting? No. It just means the goldfarmers need more characters to bot with, so once one runs out of "stamina" (the stat by which this counter is measured), they log off and log onto a different one.

Martijn said...

This wouldn't work. It would only stop the childs that use their mains to bot to get some gold.
The actual Chinese gold farmers as we call them would simply "hack" (keylog, phisher, whatever) another account and continue on that one. Or they would bot a new account to 80.

Nah, only the casual botters would suffer from this.

MetaManu said...

and how would they Bot to 80 if boting is prevented? pay attention please.

Using another account isn't free either and would cost the farmers. Either in real $ to buy enough accounts, either in time to fish some, but ultimately it'd raise the gold price to a non competitive amount, which i think is gevlon's point.

Hobart said...

Gevlon, I don't think your solution would work. A bot programmer puts exatly as much efford into coding a bot as is necessary. If your solution was implented, they'd code the bot smarter so that it acts more like a human hardcore farmer. (Doing the occasional quest to increase the farming cap)

If you want to cheat the system, there is always a way. Fixing it one time won't be enough. The botters will simply evolve. Thats probably why blizzard won't even start to seriously fight botting - its a lost cause.

Bobbins said...

When he reaches his cap he swaps characters.

Discriminates against heavy grinders. Doing a heavy grind may be effected

They will adapt and switch to tradeskills.

Will not stop gold farmers camping trade skills on AH. Imagine trying to make money with glyphs with 3 gold farmers camping 24/7.

Alternative - What about maximum money (gold) transfers per day that would stop large gold transfers? Say 10,000g a day.

Anonymous said...

As Martijn says this won't work on more serious botters. There are other mmos that have implemented similar things without any major result.

A few years ago I lived fairly well on botting for about 2 years (as a westerner!) and tbh I just refined my strategy to generate more g/hour and started up more accounts when they added daily limits. The thing was fully automated and even switched accounts on it's own.
The antibotting measures actually led to people figuring out more about how the servers worked and in the end they were actually positive for me...

Granted, the bots you've described so far are really stupid. I habitually report them (with varied success) just because they're so obvious. ;)

My experience is that botting must be seen as a major problem for devs to actually start caring. (Aka, they're losing a lot of subscribers.) This only seems to happen when there's a dupe hack, bots are hogging the same resources normal players desire or everyone you meet is a bot.
Bots are really only a problem if they prevent you from having fun.

But tbh, very good bots are hard to distinguish from real humans, and they'll have someone actually replying to your tells/says/emotes to fool you into thinking it's a real person.

Nerdrager said...

Since you live in hungary, you may have a more romantic vision of what's mafia.
Let me explain this to you by telling a simple story; in the 90s the italian mafia was thorn between two visions, one more militaristic and one more inclined to follow a business route.

The first went out to place 500kg of explosive under a main road where other cars were on their way just to kill an important judge (look for Giovanni Falcone, Paolo Borsellino and many others) and they succeded leaving a huge fucking crater on the road.
The most important people of that branch of mafia are now under arrest.

The other faction was far more successfull and many of them are still pulling the strings behind politics in sicily and the national parlament, we can call them goblins if you want.

The mafia as a whole is just a parasitic organization running intermediary businesses by using violence, intimidation and fear.
There's nothing romantic about it, they still practise extortion shop by shop not because they need it from a financial point of view (that income is low compared to drug traffic, pronstitution and corruption in public works for raods, hospitals, schools and so on), but because it's an instrument to keep the control on the territory like a parallel state.

I don't live in sicily or southern italy, but mafia comes where I live to reinvest its profits on "clean" activities here. That's scary.

cheesewhizz said...

One clarification.

The protection that organised crime syndicates sell is from themselves.

This is not a illegal service in the way prostitution, drugs and (in some areas of the world) gambling is. This is more akin to robbery, give us a certain amount of money each month or we will destroy your business.

As a former resident of Northern Ireland I can confirm that the IRA and protestant militias all collect protection money as well as running drugs.

It's done as a secondary income stream and to keep people too intimidated to go to the police.

Gevlon said...

@cheesewhizz: and how is it different from normal government? It takes tax from all citizens and punish you for not paying.

Upholding an "army" costs money.

If you think it's common robbery, please explain why is it completely unknown in middle class areas?

Everblue said...


The difference between a government taking your money for the army and paying protection money to the mafia is that the army protects you from external threats, whereas mafia protection protects you from the mafia.

So if you don't pay your taxes the army won't come to your house and break your legs. The army's purpose is to prevent someone *else* from doing this.

Gevlon said...

@Everblue: if you don't pay your tax, the army won't break your leg. The IRS will.

Cathy said...

I think its a cleaver idea Mr. Goblin but as others have stated, I think they will just up their game and figure a way around it.

I do hate botters. For the casual botters it always feels they are too lazy to play a video game. Sad.

I reported one guy and then saw him but again about 3 weeks later he was botting and I knew nothing had been done. A few days later he was in a VOA with me and I bite my tongue off knowing saying anything was useless.

cheesewhizz said...


It may not be different from a government. However that still does not mean that the racketeer's offer any service other than refraining to commit violence/vandalism.

Protection rackets are hardly unknown in middle class areas. The people that tend to be hit by them ARE middle class business owners.

Samus said...

It is interesting that you think it is rational for those in power to do things to placate the socials. Do you think this applies to something like welfare, to have it not for the poor but to placate the socials?

Martijn said...

This won't prevent botting. Just simply filter out the obvious bots.

Tonus said...

In middle class or low-crime areas, the Mafia still "sells protection." They simply demand that you pay them so that they do not harm you or your business (home, loved ones, etc). Extortion, in other words.

Here in the USA they also take over entire industries and unions in order to raise the cost of business by removing competition and skimming off of the top. The middle class (along with everyone else) pays for this in increased costs, as businesses that are being bullied by organized crime prefer to pass along their increased costs instead of putting themselves at risk by working with law enforcement.

What damaged the mob in the US was that it generally works as a kind of pyramid scheme. The guys at the bottom generate the revenue, most of which they then pass up the chain of command in exchange for protection from that very chain of command. It's like extorting yourself, when you think about it. This erodes loyalty over time, and after a while it became common for a low-level guy who was facing jail time to turn on his "friends" in exchange for leniency.

I think that the upper-level of the mob can be considered goblins, and their problem is that they wound up depending too much on an army of M&S, with predictable results.

Tonus said...

As for the main point of the topic (limiting loot per-day): I think that it could work to make botting and gold-farming less efficient, but I don't think it would eliminate it at all. Many botters and farmers are using compromised accounts, and would think nothing of switching once they reached their limit. It has the potential to hurt them if it can reduce their sales enough via inflation. But I don't think it's enough to stop them.

Blizzard probably doesn't see it as worthwhile. Even though most players would never come close to a 500 item limit in any given day, they would rush to the forums to scream and whine. I think that Blizzard has done the cost benefit analysis of various ways to halt botting and farming, and figured that there is little to be gained by going much farther than they do now.

Which is what a goblin would do, as you said.

Eaten by a Grue said...


I cannot believe you cannot see the difference between a mafia protection racket and the IRS. The taxes you pay go toward some community benefit - the running of the legislature, national defense, roads, schools, and so forth. The money you pay for mafia protection goes only in the pocket of the mafia, and you get no benefit at all, since if the mafia was not there, you would not need any protection.

As far as this anti-botting measure, I think it would drive up the cost of foldfarming, but why do you think it would eliminate it? People would just have to pay more for gold, and I think they would.

A few months ago, gold was $80 per 10k. Now it is $30. People bought both.

Klepsacovic said...

I'm a social who wants to save drug addicts, and I support legalization, or at the least decriminalization. They won't be saved with easy drugs or with prison, but by not living such shitty lives that drugs seem worth it. Drugs are great for socials, giving all those feelings of well-being and connectedness and feeling like they're touching the sky and talking to the spirits. Those who banned drugs in the first place were not socials, but zealots, as uncaring toward others as you, except their religion worships God while you worship wealth.

There was once a time when police did police the slums, and did a pretty good job of it (certainly not perfect). They weren't brutally violent, but instead were amicable and got along with residents. They showed that police are a legitimate authority. Then police got radios, realized they could call for backup and could more safely be brutal, and that's when things went downhill and respect was lost.

As for the brutal efficiency of the mafia, clearly just maintaining order isn't sufficient for a worthwhile society, seeing as poor areas continue to be poor. The mafia do come to some middle class areas, they're just not as obvious. They don't demand protection because the residents aren't afraid to call in the police, whereas in poor areas they are.

Governments can be voted out, mafia cannot. If I campaign against the candidate in power, he cannot break my legs, but the mafia would. Government programs can be cut, taxes can be reduced, and both of these have happened when the public started voting for it. Look at the early 90s in America, driven by public demand for a balanced budget and channeled by the Republican party into major cuts in welfare and eventually beginning to pay off the deficit.

Everblue said...

But nevertheless, you gain something you did not get before - protection from an external threat (the question of whether you get value for money is outside the point, what is important is that you get a return on your money).

Where you pay protection for organised crime you get nothing in return. You only have a downside in the transaction.

It's a clever point, but they are not the same.

Backthief said...

Gevlon please keep pushing the bot arguments. Maybe someday we will see blizzard taking some action on the game we love to play.


Gevlon said...

The mafia protection IS protection (not just extortion). The criminals can't operate without mafia clearence. The mafia stops them from destroying their "taxpayers". It's like the Lich King holding back the scourge. Someone always have to wear that helm. If the cops don't do it, the mafia has to. Or the scourge will run free.

Roboticus said...

Gevlon, I'm hoping you answer Eaten by a Grue (and other's) point that it's quite silly to not notice the difference between the mafia and the IRS, namely that the IRS gathers taxes which support schools, roads, infrastructure. I really do hope you're not that blinded by free-market euphoria to claim that governments don't provide services. Even if you think they ought not doesn't mean they do not.

And as to your botting point, as usual the commenters have provided the more interesting and accurate answers. This would not stop botters in the least for two main reasons: 1.) they would find other means to get around it via smarter bots, more accounts, switching tactics to the next lowest MC activity, etc; and 2.) Even presuming it was effective, it would just raise the price of gold. Would this hurt the botters? Depends entirely on the elasticity of demand for gold the ratio the elasticity has to overall deflation. It could quite easily be the case that this policy would be beneficial to the gold farmers in the SR.

Eaten by a Grue said...


There is a tiny grain of truth to the mafia being real protection, as I suppose they might protect you from other local criminals as well as themselves.

But largely, another poster put it well, the mafia is a parasite that feeds on honest society. Very little of what they do is to help anyone but themselves.

Anonymous said...

Here's an interesting article you might like to read if you've got some time.

"War Making and State Making as Organized Crime" Charles Tilly

Carl Lewis said...

Legalizing Drugs wouldn't eliminate the mafia. The Mafia's main business isn't selling contraband it's rigging public contracts, protection, extortion and racketeering. So gold sellers aren't the mafia. The Mafia is about protection. I.E. You do business in my neighborhood you gotta pay. same thing goes for the street level dealer, to the honest store owner. Gold sellers are Drug Traffickers they develop s system to make a product the government doesn't want you to have. in reality they are more like guys who traffic cigarettes and guns since it's ok for you to have them just in the way the government wants you to have them. Mass incarceration or Legalization would not stop the Mafia,

Weapon X said...

Careful what you wish for Gevlon.

If this new disconnected AH tool takes off, you're in a fix. Blizz have mentioned a cap on postings...

As part of fighting botting in response to posts like this, they may put a limit of say 50 auctions per day on everyone disconnected or not. Apart from bots .. who does more than 50 auctions a day?

And then you're at a disadvantage...

Anonymous said...

Can't see Blizz doing anything serious to stop this problem tbh, like a lot of other game makers [cough]CCP Games[/Cough] they are more interested in the $$$ that the subs bring in than player happiness.

Ganked History several times on my rogue always back to the same spot within seconds, same with another char called Resilence as well although this one does have a player over seeing him occasionally.

Anonymous said...

Most of the time, the mafia provides the service of protecting the neighborhood from itself.

Not much of a service, that.

Anonymous said...

I know a number of people who farm while at their IT job: "more interesting than solataire" is one comment.

An account wide cap would penalize altoholics: I have 5 alchemists now that it is the last passive income c/d. There would be a lot fewer level 68 DKs with account wide caps.

@bobbins - Until Blizzard adds a "battlenet bank" (guild bank for your account, to cut down a lot of mail volume) 10k is too low: Things like the queens neck, wand, and crafted legs/sandals (or mats) cost more than that.

I have read that an increasingly high % of RMT gold comes from phising and hacking, so perhaps eliminating almost all bots would not have a huge increase in RMT prices.

Bristal said...

An interesting parallel is that botting and organized crime (in the guise of drug trafficking) are both simultaneously reviled and utilized by the same otherwise honest citizens.

Buying a few buds from a classmate may seem totally disconnected from the REAL bad guys, but that product originated somewhere.

Same as buying a few thousand gold from an online goldseller.

I was talking to a "social" about green energy and conservation and how every single thing you do contributes in some way to the world's carbon load. So you get a "feel good" about riding a bike, buying an efficient car, etc.

But when I asked him about his marijuana habit, he saw no personal connection to US/Mexican border violence and the drug trade.

Connecting ourselves to cause and effect is highly dependent on the emotion from the outcome. Feels good to castigate other's environmental wastefulness, but connecting that nice pot buzz to execution style murders, not so much.

Squishalot said...

Actually, Gevlon, I think the biggest problem is the issues it would cause the HC players in terms of the restrictions on how/when they do things.

At the moment, HC players have flexibility - they do their daily heroic while waiting for a raid, they raid for a few hours, then they can head off and farm some mats for professions, consumables, etc.

But with your proposed system, people are going to be wasting their 'loot count' on the trash in the heroics and raids they're doing. I think there are 96 mobs or something in UK, if you chain run 5 heroics, you can't collect your profession mats, unless you do that first.

Steven said...

@Mafia "Protection" vs Government Taxes:
They are the same, yet different. To me, it seems more likely to be varying shades of grey; government being almost white to medium grey, while Mafias will fall anywhere between medium grey to almost black.

Similarities, to me:
1) Both provide accessibility. Mafia focus on contraband (in this aspect), while the government focuses on roads, schools, and hospitals. Or at least they do on the campaign trail.
2) Both provide legitimate protection from "the devil you don't"*. Germany might not have any real fear of being invaded by the rest of Europe, but they still have a standing army. No matter how the government treats them, people fear the unknown. Same goes for Mafias keeping out other Mafias, at least to some extent.

The distinction to the mafia, as I see it, is thus:
1) The mafia doesn't have any serious pretense about the majority of it's, uhh, subscribers using the majority of it's services. It's considered low/no value in the first place.
2) Local mafia restrict emigration, where as governments restrict immigration. Both make it difficult beyond the emotional decision to leave.

One other thing, that I'm not sure how to classify, is that the Government also fights off private businesses from taking advantage of the market (creating monopolies or outright lying). I just don't feel this is comparable to anything the Mafia has to do (probably as they are generally viewed more as a business than a government).

I'm sure the topic of comparing Mafias to Governments could probably go on to be a paper from someone so inclined, so here is my brief review of the subject, and how I feel they compare without applying "good" and "bad" labels to them.

Big Heals said...

I think your solution is reasonable. Low impact to non-bots, high impact to bots. I think legalization is the best bet though. Just sell gold from the blizzard store.

Anonymous said...

About how the real system works.
You talking about stuff that are way more complex than the obviously.

You spend 1000g buying shards on the AH. The person that sold the shards buy dust from the AH for 1000g. The person that sold the dust where you. And you made the dust from killing the shards.:s

Where did the money come from???

If you keep hording the gold you made from the AH you fuck up the Market. That gold you made are supose to be spent in the market! /Its advanced Trading =p

The only way to make Gold, are to kill thousends of monsters looting the Silver/Gold coins and Vendor Junk!

To kill botters!? Just be the Distributor of the Suply! Controll the market. Or make sure you BUY BUY!

Furnurgler said...

Do you honestly think that the majority of Gold that is being sold for cash comes from bots? Try hacked accounts. If you close down one avenue one will become stronger. By limiting what people can farm you are going to have an incredebily negative effect on servers economy.


Anonymous said...

That would not stop anything. A cap on how many things you can loot would only require a farmer to have 4 accounts instead of 1. This takes their operating cost from a whole 15 bucks a month to 60 bucks a month.

and extra 45 bucks a month is nothing compared to what a farmer can generate a month.

The only think this loot cap idea would do is annoy people that play a lot and are not farmers.

Anonymous said...

Since you are moderating this, I doubt it will even be seen by anyone but yourself. If you read it, that's enough for me.

If there where to be no botters, the price of almost everything on the server would dramatically increase.

The cost of enchants, flasks, food, gems, and anything else that has anything to do with end game.

Botters undercutting botters push the price down to something most people can afford. If bots just diapered, expect to pay triple what ever your paying now for most items.

That's just my two cents, block this comment if you so choose.

Botter said...

Gevlon Gevlon Gevlon.

I am a botter... I supply huge amount of herbs and ores, the auction house never run out of cheap high end herbs and ores, and I make tons of gold in the process.

Blizzard tolerate us as long as we don't sell the gold for real money, which can be done completely undetected unless someone else reported us.

Real money trade causes harmful imbalance in the game so blizzard will not tolerate it.

But botting doesn't hurt blizzard unless it uses some harmful exploits. Botting doesn't cause harmful imbalance. Might frustrate a few people who farm their raw mats themselves but its not a big deal for blizzard. And botters don't play for free, we also pay to access the game.

The bottom line is that crafters need botters. Without us the market will skyrocket and crafters will need to either harvest their own mats or buy them at inflated prices.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why there's so much animosity towards botting? Without people running bots, the auction house would never have a steady supply of mats. Without mats available on the auction house, people would have to go and grind for the mats themselves. Grinding is NOT fun. It's not even challenging. It's just boring. If I'm paying money to play the game, I don't want to be wasting my time doing boring crap. I want to maximize my game time by doing fun things.

As far as casual botting for the purpose of leveling: I absolutely hated the long grind from level 1 to level 80. After you've seen a hundred quest boxes, you stop reading and just click accept and follow the arrow to the spot.

Because you're gaining levels every couple of hours, it makes it really hard to group with friends, even if you're in a "leveling" guild. Everyone is off doing their own thing and it can be very lonely and boring.

Honestly, I didn't really start enjoying WoW until I hit level 80. Once you hit 80, it's easy to find a guild where the players all hang out on vent and voice chat and go on raids. Not lonely at all, and lots of fun!

If you have more than one toon, leveling the second one to 80 is just repetitive. Where's the harm in using a bot to grind out the levels just to get you there?

Once you actually get to level 80, if you want to actually participate in the game for real, you can't bot. There aren't any bots for raiding or guild interaction or instances (well, there might be some, but they all suck I'm sure).

The simple fact of the matter of it is this: Isn't being a goblin all about working smarter, not harder? Isn't it about educating yourself and seeing the loopholes in the system that everyone else blindly follows? I would argue that morons and idiots are the ones who don't know how to hack and never see the loopholes in the system. They would fail at botting even if they tried, because they wouldn't be able to deal with the technical challenges. Instead, they grind out their quests and waste weeks of their lives playing parts of the game that they don't really enjoy (just so they can participate in the aspects of the game that they do enjoy. They never have much gold, and they ooh and ahh every time someone on a mammoth goes by. Setting up a bot to handle the boring parts of the game is the ultimate goblin move.