Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

An elegant solution

A few weeks back, I praised CCP Punkturis and the rest of the UI team for a very elegant solution for dealing with the tiny, tiny overheating buttons.  Their method of simply skipping those buttons entirely with shift-click on modules is simple, it works, and it introduces a whole new paradigm for solving that problem that wouldn't have been obvious to a lot of people.

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."

"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."
"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.

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.
The only real beneficiary of this plan is going to be CCP themselves.

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.


  1. Your just angry that the only people flying nighthawks are botters. I imagine some CCP go to bed boiling with rage, at that thought.

    I personally like what they are doing and agree with the 3 strike ruls or so. Though some players do want a shame wall.

  2. Transfers from Character X to Character Y can be traced.

  3. Dude! Where's your reading comprehension?

    CCP is banning PLAYERS not ACCOUNTS.

    That nighthawk alt on the other account that you have been feeding bot-bought PLEXes to, but have never used for botting? IT JUST GOT BANNED TOO!

    Read the comments, especially on Failheap. Cos y'know, you're the analyst and all.

    1. Yep, did that. And the banning coverage is haphazard to say the least, wouldn't you agree?

    2. It could really fuck the bots if they're banning based on ISK trails vs just IP banning.

      We'll see I guess.

    3. Knowing how good the coverage is so far, would you take the risk?

  4. You seem to assume all the way through that a botter will sell their char onto a legitimate player. I know nothing about botting, but isn't it more likely that they just move the char to a different account, and carry on botting? It's difficult for CCP to tie accounts to a single player, and hence they can't come down as hard on the "new" owner for a "first offence".

    In that case, CCPs initiative is likely to help, and certainly can't do any harm...

  5. For the tengu example:
    - 6 months training
    - two plexes worth into ship/mods/skills
    - some three months botting (supposing that's the average before getting caught)
    => about 11 plexes in running costs

    For the nighthawk example:
    - 12 months training
    - one plex worth into ship/mods/skills
    - some three months botting (same assumption)
    => about 16 plexes in running costs

    The way I understand, if CCP finds a way to ban the botters before they can cover the running costs, then they will need to find a cheaper way to bot or be driven out of business.

    1. A ratting or mining bot will produce at least one PLEX worth of ISK a week. Consider that ratting in half decent systems with no upgrades using a meta3 fit drake will bring in 50M ISK/hr, the bot only has to be active for 10 hours a month to pay its own subscription. A few hours each day will pay for the bot's training or purchase in the first month.

      Bot users will no doubt attempt to start new accounts and buy alts into that account using left over ISK. It would be interesting to see if CCP would go to the extent of requiring proof of ID when setting up an account (no, I am not suggesting a Kotic/WoW style RealID system, just proof of ID to set up).

  6. A side-effect that you neglected to mention was that this stops the glut of bot characters. This reduces the noise of the character bazaar and makes the heuristics of determining whether a character is a bot a bit easier.

    1. Now THAT'S very interesting! How do you figure?

      (And I did mention it shuts off the bot characters in the bazaar... I said people who sell characters would be beneficiaries of this change because of it.)

  7. Karbox DelacroixMarch 7, 2012 at 5:40 PM

    I think the short way of summarizing your argument is that since bots cannot be sold, they will be used more intensely. If this additional use allows the botter to offset the purchase of a new toon, then while you have eaten into their margins, your greatest impact will be upon the price of toons in the Character Bazaar.

    1. Eating into the margins is a good thing, even if it doesn't stop the illegitimate RMT trade altogether.

  8. Are we not taking into account that CCP will most definitely be watching twice-warned bots with very scrupulous eyes? I'd be surprised if you got even a day of botting in as you begin your ratting with the character who has two warnings.

  9. They also need to remove the isk generated by that bot...
    If a bot account gave a player 10billion isk..10 billion should be removed from that character...even if it makes them go negative isk.

  10. I disagree with the statement that it "would not work".

    I believe this will definitely have an impact on certain types of botters. Perhaps the less serious botters.

    The serious botters will obviously work around this, as you say. But...They would do that to any countermeasure that CCP employs?

    I suppose this is a bit like marketing, define a very specific set of the "market", set that as your "target market" and then advertise to that market alone.

    It seems that this is targeting the casual player who might occasionally bot, or botters who don't RMT.

  11. Hey Jester, i agree that it is not THE solution of botting but a good step in the right direction it is non the less.
    If you caught that guy botting once it should be easy to maintain a list of "known botters" like criminals coming out of prison you no exactly that they may fall back to their old habit. Maybe they will catch them faster.

    If you attend to fan fest there might be some nice stuff from CCP Sreegs. On page 7 in Comment thread he points something out about tracking stuff to the main account and tackling the problem of face identities. If they manage to get rid of that, botting might become really bad for business.

    Maybe here are some layers around, couldn't ccp charge them for violating the EULA? The Media industries does that too right?

  12. I would love to see folks that buy RMT ISK get an eve-mail from CCP along the lines of:

    "We have records of you exchanging large volumes of ISK with a convicted RMT player by the name(s) of .... This is your final warning."


    Kill the market for RMT, then the bots are toast.

    (Anonymous 'cause I can't find my google password)

  13. I agree that CCP is attacking a side business of botting. I agree that it doesn't do as much than mnore aggressive methods. However, I don't think that a player who bots should be able to sell a character with past warnings for anything, especially botting, to another player unless the buyer has full knowledge of those warnings well before they buy the character.

  14. How does a Nighthawk deal nearly the same DPS as a Tengu?

    A Nighthawk with 4 BCS doas around 470 DPS for me, while a T2 Tengu does around 670, both ships using T2 Ammo.

    What am I missing?

    1. A 4-BCS Nighthawk does 540 DPS. A 3-BCS Tengu does 600 if you use an active fit, but most Tengu active fits require faction or dead-space gear to be cap-stable, something you don't want to give a bot. A Nighthawk can be cheaply and effectively passive fit.

      A passive Tengu fit most often uses a 5-launcher set-up which does... 540 DPS.

    2. I found what was missing for me, Commandship is only at Level 4, i really should use All V when comparing stats.

  15. I would expect that botters try to sell a account for rl money after receiving the last warning before the permanent ban.


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