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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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Chasing shadows

Let's talk about a different sort of PvE, shall we?  A little bit of market PvE.  I call it PvE and not PvP because I wasn't fighting another player.  I was fighting a bot.  Here's the battle report.

We'll start with this:

At the time this screenshot was taken, I was attempting to buy Oxides.  Oxides are a PI product which is one of the things I don't produce enough of to run my PI factory planet.  It's a raw material.  Since I don't have enough of it, I place market orders in the smaller markets to pick up the amounts that I need.  Without these sorts of raw materials, I can't turn the raw materials into products that I want to sell.  Without that, no ISK for PvP ships for me.  So it's something that I have to worry about.

At the time this screenshot was taken, Oxides were costing me 5100 ISK to buy per unit.  You can see my buy order receiving sales at 0046 on April 8 and 0008 on April 11.  In the intermediate time, though, I notice that I'm always, always second-highest buy order.  It doesn't matter how early I get up and change the order, how long I babysit it, or how late I'm up.  Within a few minutes, the buy order I set to the highest price is behind a much larger order at 0.01 ISK higher.  That's a sure sign that you're dealing with a market bot.

Clients with red numbers represent people selling me Oxides.  Clients with green numbers represent me selling Oxides.  I've hidden the client names, but note the four red client boxes.  In each case, I buy one unit of Oxides from the lowest Sell order and then immediately sell it.  On two occasions in this screen-shot, the person I bought it from and the person I sold it to were the same person... the bot.  This is a mistake right here.  Most market bots are smart enough to at least use two different EVE clients for their buy and sell orders.  This guy, not so much.  First, I use the new reporting system to report him as a bot.

Then, I decide to have a little fun with him.

His buy price (and mine) is 5100 ISK.  His sell price is 6300 ISK.  How close can I get them?

The red dot represents the bot.  The green dots are me.  I create multiple Buy orders for Oxides, slowly escalating the price.  5103.79.  A second order at 5303.79.  Then a third, smaller order at 5500.  A few minutes after I produce a new order, the bot beats that order by 0.01 ISK.  Then I escalate more slowly.  I move my original order to 5853.79.  He beats it, going to 5853.80.  I create another small order at 5853.81.  He beats it again.  I move another small order to 5903.78.  He beats it.  It's 1547 EVE time.  I confirm again that I'm still dealing with the bot, and I am.

Notice that the bot's Sell price is down from 6300 ISK to 5999.88 ISK.   More on that in a second.

I call this technique "laddering", by the way.  A human would never fall for it, but bots always do.  I make the bot climb the ladder.  Meanwhile, I'm using some of my stockpile of Oxides to also drive the Sell price down.  I beat his Sell price by a couple hundred, wait for him to beat it, then create a second Sell order a couple of hundred below that, which he also beats.  Using the exact same technique, I can get the bot to reduce its Sell price closer and closer to its Buy price.

Here's a critical bit.  I now move my smallest Buy order, 1000 units at 5750 ISK per unit, a bit higher than the bot.  The bot beats it again, going to 5923.79.  A trick I like to use when laddering is that once I have the bot buying product for the price I want it to buy for, I'm going to "remove the lower rungs of the ladder".  But critically, I'll leave the "top rung" in place to keep the bot's Buy price high.  In this case, I've driven the bot's Buy price from 5100 to 5923 on a 7000 unit order.  I've cost the bot-running player an additional six million ISK.  That's a pittance, of course, but this is just a demonstration.

Meanwhile, as I said, using the same techniques I've pulled the bot's Sell order to 5999.88 ISK per unit.  The bot is now making a "profit" of 76 ISK per unit, down from the original profit of 1200 ISK per unit.  I toy for a while with trying to get the bot to buy Oxides from itself by closing this gap to 0.01 ISK, but the bot doesn't bite.  I close the gap to about 25 ISK successfully, though.

It's dumb enough to accept a profit margin of less than 1%, but not quite dumb enough to buy Oxides from itself.  ;-)  Oh well.

Here's the fun bit.  I cancel my Buy orders for 1865, 1905, 3000, and 10000 Oxides, leaving only the single buy order for 1000 Oxides right below the bot's order.  The "top rung of the ladder" is in place and keeping the bot from lowering his Buy price.  I don't need all those Oxides; the purpose to all of those lower rungs of the ladder was to keep the bot climbing upward.  At this point, it's time for me to go to work, so I don't get to see the thrilling conclusion.  But by the time I get home, I have 1000 Oxides in my Deliveries hangar and the Buy price of Oxides is back down to 5100 per unit, so I can safely assume the bot bought all the Oxides it "wanted."

Total cost to me of this little endeavor: 850,000 ISK.  That's 1000 units of Oxides at the difference between 5923 ISK per unit and the 5103 that I wanted to pay, plus a few market taxes.  But I've inflicted six million ISK of damage on my opponent.

That's about an 85% efficiency.  I'll take that.  And I got a blog post out of it.  ;-)

Anyway, I'm making jokes about all of this, but the annoying fact of life is that bots are competing for the raw materials for industry and then immediately reselling them on the market instead of using them.  As a result, players who actually want to build things with those raw materials are getting cut out of the loop or have to accept markedly higher prices for the raw materials.  Or they have to set up market bots themselves in order to compete.  This is one of the reasons why the prices of everything are a little nuts right now.  Bots aren't only impacting mining and PvE, they're affecting everything that you buy on the market.

Sooner or later, the industrialists are gonna get fed up chasing shadows and give up.


  1. The most annoying thing is that these are the easiest bots to catch and CCP has only done it once*, but it was marvelous when they did do it. You could actually have your orders filled for a short time.

    I fear we won't be hearing about bots being caught for awhile. I imagine this will continue.

    *I've played for 2 years

  2. i cannot begin to stress how much of a pain in the ass it is to get some materials at buy price in jita these days

    minerals, PI materials, ice materials....

    i hear ya, stupid bots will not leave your orders alone
    when i want to just put a few buy orders down and do incursions while they fill...instead i get overcut by 0.01 isk - 50 isk per time and one after the other

    ive had some orders sitting till the weekend to be filled....

  3. Thanks for the info. Now I can have some fun toying with market bots. One question though , does this technique only work is small market?

    1. No, it works in Jita, too... somewhat. You'll get humans with large stockpiles of various materials that will see that the Buy price is escalating and will fill your Buy orders. But they'll probably fill the bot's order too in the process.

      So as long as you're careful with your Buy quantities, you can make this technique work.

  4. Nicely done, Jester. This is *exactly* how you fight a market bot.

    By compressing the buy/sell prices and ruining the profit margin, you'll find that the bot trader will soon move on to botting something else, with a higher profit margin.

    BTW - you can also use the margin trading "scam" to raise the buy price, without actually buying anything. The bots are unable to distinguish between the "scam" prices and the real prices, so they keep outbidding by 0.01 until they reach their programmed limit.

    Also, keep in mind that the bots are usually only running at or within a few jumps of the major trade hubs. They are rarely running region-wide, or at the smaller hubs. So, you can squeeze the bot's profit at the major hub, while still picking up the stuff you need - at more reasonable prices - outside of the hub.

    Since you probably don't want to run all over the region to pick up your scattered goods, just use courier contracts. I usually wait until I've accumulated a few million ISK worth of goods at a station, then create a courier contract to ship it to a central pickup station, convenient to me. For high sec courier contracts, 1% of the value of the goods is usually sufficient to get your contract picked up and delivered, within a day or so.

    I do this sort of market PVP (or PVE, if you prefer) in 7-8 of the empire regions, with great success at beating the bots.

    1. Yeah, I use this technique to do various things. This was just a demonstration that I could blog about and would be easy to understand. I could do it over a couple of hours without other players interfering with what I was doing.

  5. Funny that you defeated the bot and then claim that players "they have to set up market bots themselves in order to compete." The idea that ANYONE can beat the bots the way you did never crossed your mind?

    One point: you don't need a ladder, one order you update is enough. Let's say the original buy is 5100, sell is 6000. You set up your buy order in the evening at 5200, the bot moves above you. You check on it in the morning before going to work and set it to 5300. The bot matches. In the evening you check again, move to 5400. Soon you reach the point when the order of the bot is fulfilled and you get your item too. Same for selling.

    One more thing: you did cause 6M opportunity cost to the bot, but did not really harm it. It still made 25 ISK profit on an item.

    Let me tell you how can you finish such bot in a way that it never comes back. This is exactly how I make my almost-a-plex-a-day after cleaning up such bots.

    You don't decrease the sell price, but keep increasing the buy price. The bot will keep elevating its buy price. For example the sell price remains at 6000, buy is pushed up to 5975 (the bot wants 25 between them). For that price every living body in the region will sell to the bot, so he is full of items.

    Since the buy orders (his and yours) are fulfilled, next time you log in, you find his buy order at 5100 again and he is selling the items (the ones he bought for 5975) for 6000.

    NOW you push down the sell price by undercutting the bot, decreasing your sell price (in an off-hour when no one accidently buys yours). The bot matches you. Down to 5125. You do it in a few days and the botter goes for greener pastures.

    1. Yep, I agree. As I say above, this was just a demonstration. It was a rarely-needed item in a small market, where I could play with the numbers without being interfered with by other players.

      BUT the fact that I was dealing with a bot in such a small market indicates that the bots are everywhere.

    2. "One more thing: you did cause 6M opportunity cost to the bot, but did not really harm it. It still made 25 ISK profit on an item."

      No, pretty sure the bot lost some isk on this, albeit very little. 25 profit per unit is way less than the taxes to set up buy and sell orders.

  6. Krixtal IcefluxorMay 16, 2012 at 5:16 AM

    I have given up.

    While waiting for my accounts to shut down, I am trying to move some units of Amarr fuel Blocks in Rens. Been lowering the price to lowest everyday for 3 weeks.

    They are still there. I doubt they will ever actually sell.

  7. Wouldn't PLEX for snitches mean you came out 500 mil isk ahead?

    1. I'm not convinced that program is real.

    2. Shouldn't you try at least? :)

      Also, hey, nice to see my CEO posting here.

  8. You could have made a very good profit from this AND annoyed the botter...

    Instead of laddering both BO and SO prices, just lower the SO price until its almost BO price. Then buy it.

    With the botters stock now bought by you, simply sell it at the former price point, probably without the bot-competition.

    1. This may be a little fishy. There is some chance that this would work:
      - lower SO as much as possible
      - buy it
      - raise BO price as much as possible
      - sell everything

      But there is also some chance that the bot have been programmed to not fall for it.

      You may want to try it on an order with a small total value and, if it works, immediately do it on another order from the same bot with a much bigger value.

  9. Jester,

    Keep us updated if this player gets banned or not.

  10. I know that many people have been asking for years now for access to the non-FiS aspects of EVE, like the Markets, outside of EVE. EVE Gate is one possibility. But that would enable widespread market botting on epic scales! I sure hope that CCP never gives in to that request.

  11. Great write up!

    This isn't just with raw materials, as a cheapskate who buys most of their stuff with buy orders I've long suspected a few bots are working the ship markets too.

  12. Nicely done. I typically don't buy something at its lowest price because of the bots. Humans usually work in whole numbers so I look for the sell order with the .00 ending. I routinely pass up marginally cheaper prices because I don't want to patronize bots. If we could teach everyone to do that we could rob the botters of profit routinely. But that's a tall order to fill, no pun intended.

    One thing I'd love to see is a "we retain the right to refuse service" capability in the market. It'd let me decline business to those with whom I don't want to do business. That'd be far to hard to implement I sure but I can dream.

    1. "routinely pass up marginally cheaper prices"

      unless you are buying in different station buying for a slightly higher price just gives the higher price to the sale with the lowest price.


      10,000 trit - 5.00
      10,000 trit - 3.99

      if buy 1000 trit for 5.00 the market will be

      10,000 trit - 5.00
      9,000 trit - 3.99

      and the seller of the 3.99 isk trit will actually recieve my full 5000 isk

    2. Not sure if I can dig up the petition, but the inability to choose to buy from someone with a higher price in the same station is a FEATURE, with the rationale being that it is a brokerage system.

      (...something like that)

    3. It's an anti RMT feature (sell cheap item for billions on market to transfer isk).

  13. "bots are competing for the raw materials for industry and then immediately reselling them on the market instead of using them"

    I do that too, as a trader, and I am not a bot.

  14. Sometimes I follow such laddering myself.. (including larger steps) and I am not a bot :) So I am not 100% sure that's the bot you encountered. Depending for how long you played with him.

    The difference though is that I am playing market PVP for 30 mins per day max.


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