A similar rather elegant solution has been put into place to combat botting by CCP Sreegs and his security team. It's a pity that it isn't going to work.
It's probably no secret by now to those tracking such things that Rote Kapelle is in the midst of a little road trip. Our travels lately occasionally take us into DRF borderland space. I and some other RK members have some experience with these regions from previous visits, but it's been kind of amusing listening to some of my alliance-mates who aren't familiar with these regions getting their first tastes. Typical intel from a roaming fleet scout through The Kalevala Expanse sounds like this:
"Nighthawk-Exequror on scan-- no, they're POS'ed up. *beat* Next system's empty.""Why Exequrors?" one of our FCs asked. I explained that even a completely unfit Exequror holds 900m3 of cargo, one with cargo expanders carries double that or more, and aligns and warps in six seconds. The ship's low cost and small sig seal the deal. "Welcome to Bot-Land, gentlemen," I added. A year ago, Ravens were more typical, but Ravens are slower to align, slower to warp, easier for enemies to bubble. These days, Tengus and Nighthawks are preferred.
"OK, two Nighthaws, two Exequrors on scan, no, they're gone now."
"Tengu-Exequror on scan. POS'ed up."
"Drake-Exequror on scan. Wrecks on scan. OK, they're gone."
What's the elegant solution? Not banning bot accounts. That's a sledge-hammer. It's an effective sledge-hammer, and it needs to be used a lot more. But no, the scalpel is this line in the devblog:
From now on, and this current wave is included, characters who receive a warning such as this will have the characters locked to the account. This means that once you've received a warning for botting your character transfer privileges have been revoked in perpetuity.And that's quite clever! But it's not going to work, except for CCP. Here's why.
Today, getting into an effective Tengu takes a character with about nine million skill points. Nighthawks take about double that, but they bring some pretty significant advantages over a Tengu. They're cheaper, of course, but a four-BCS Nighthawk does about the same PvE DPS as a Tengu and its cargo bay is almost twice as big. For a ratting ship firing missiles continuously, that's not insignificant. A Tengu bot account takes six months to train, and a Nighthawk bot account takes a year.
Until recently, suppose you botted in your Nighthawk account. You hit the first or second warning and find your account banned for some number of days. The next smart move by a lot of botters was to put that account on the character bazaar. Sell it and pocket the ISK. Meanwhile, if you're smart, the day your Nighthawk bot went on-line, you started training a second Nighthawk pilot on another account. As you bot, you keep training the first botting character with useful general skills and pay for the account with PLEXes bought with the proceeds of botting. CCP catches the first Nighthawk bot? Big deal. Sell it, finish training the new one (if it's not done already), start botting again. Start training a new backup. The sold character nets several billion ISK. Waste not, want not.
Only now, that isn't going to work. Now you can't sell the character. It's locked to that account. On paper, it's a great move. So why won't this elegant solution actually work? Two reasons:
- this solution will keep the existing bots in space longer; and,
- it's attacking a side business of botting, not the main business.
Until the change above, CCP catches a botting character, character X. Character X is banned for some period of time. Character X stops botting, and is sold on the character bazaar and presumably goes on to have a nice EVE career in someone else's hands. Meanwhile, the botter starts up again with character Y. Now, CCP catches a botting character, character X. Character X is banned for some period of time. Character X can't be sold, so what's the obvious solution? Keep botting with character X! Why not, right? There's nothing else to do with character X now that he can't be sold. Character Y can spend the additional time training (or maybe botting while character X is banned). One character X is available again, character X bots more, eventually gets banned for a longer period of time, bots yet more, then gets banned permanently. Only then does the botter start up full-time again with character Y.
Net result: character X will be used for more botting tomorrow than he will be today, and CCP will have to wait longer before they can start the work of trying to detect character Y. CCP makes either the same money, or more money because both characters X and Y continue buying PLEXes during the interim period.
But Jester, the botter loses several billion ISK from the lack of proceeds from selling character X, right? And sure, that's true. But honestly, that's a side business. Character X is likely having no trouble making several billion every week from botting. The pay-off for the character sale was a nice bit of gravy representing an extra week or three of botting, that's all. As long as the rate of this player losing botting accounts remains low (which seems likely), losing that ISK can be accepted as a cost of doing business. The primary beneficiary of this is honestly going to be people whose business is training and selling characters on the character bazaar. With fewer bot characters being listed, supply will go down, probably resulting in higher prices for the remaining characters. CCP obviously benefits from that, too.
So, the idea of locking characters caught botting to a single account is an elegant solution. And it was probably worth doing. But as a solution for botting, unfortunately it isn't going to work. What's needed is an elegant solution that addresses the problem, not the symptoms.