On Botting and What We’re Doing About It

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Posted by: MikeLewis

MikeLewis

Security Coordinator

Next

We wanted to address some of the concerns around ‘botting’, and let everyone know what we’ve been doing about it, as well as our plans for continuing to tackle this issue.

Our monitoring of ‘bot’ activity has already resulted in over 1600 account terminations world-wide in the last week alone, and we are actively tracking the most common ‘bots’ in use, so that we can continue to eliminate them from the game. As we continue to gather information on these ‘bots’, we will be increasing the rate of account termination to remove them. Please continue to report players that you suspect of ‘botting’ – your support is much appreciated.

We are actively improving our means of detecting ‘bot’ activity in the game automatically. This includes tools for our customer support team to help them verify ‘botting’ reports and efficiently issue account terminations. Recently we have also hired a team of data specialists who will be helping us create more effective tools for analyzing reports of ‘botting.’

As a side effect, these efforts directly impact the operations of third-party gold sellers (and spammers). In conjunction with ‘bot’ removal we also take Real Money Trading very seriously and actively remove hundreds of gold spammers and sellers each day.

In short, we are fully committed to keeping this community free of bots and illicit gold sellers, and we very much appreciate your assistance in identifying and eliminating them.

Thank you for your understanding and patience as we continue to improve our ability to deal with this issue.

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Posted by: serena smith.2734

serena smith.2734

Thank you so much for this!

When the wind is so strong that you almost can hear a whisper calling your name..
This is your calling, to The battle of your life.

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Posted by: JFetch.8932

JFetch.8932

Thank you for talking to us about it.

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Posted by: Lysidian.4653

Lysidian.4653

Thank you for the update : )

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Posted by: Eochaidh.4106

Eochaidh.4106

Thank you, Mike, it is very good to hear that you are taking it seriously. And I am glad that you all are investing so much into this. Bots are a terrible plague to have in any game, we can’t let them get out of control.

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Posted by: Awkward.1286

Awkward.1286

Hurrah!
Awesome news, thankyou.

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Posted by: Masher.8051

Masher.8051

Thanks for the info, i’ve lost count on the amount of bots i’ve reported on Blacktide. I even changed servers today due to the bots i kept encountering, so far it has been easy to see who the bots are as they pretty much all teleport to every mob in the area. It is refreshing to hear that you guys are removing them as we speak.

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Posted by: Tassy.5891

Tassy.5891

I will give Anet credit where its due, at least they show some respect for their players an actually respond to us as a whole. Alot of company’s just dont give a toss. I should prolly say, for us as players it probably seems like nothing is ever happening when report bots day in day out, but if you think, theres 1 million active accounts for the game apparently.

So we dont know just how heavy the world load is. I can imagine theres a backlog of reports to get through.

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Posted by: Arsenal.2601

Arsenal.2601

Thanks for the update and assurance you’re on top of it. I’m sure we’ll all be more than glad to give the issue a rest. Nice work.

“I’m always achieving greatness!”

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Posted by: paultimate.8790

paultimate.8790

Its great you guys are getting to the core of this and patching exploits, but in the end, this will always be something in an MMO. You patch, and they circumvent and find other ways. The garbage is piling up FAR faster than its being taken out. This needs to be addressed.

How about they hire a dude per server to go through each area for 30 min, watch mapchat (esp in Orr) find out where bots are, witness OBVIOUS bots in action in open event areas for all to see, and put a temp-ban on them so normal players can AT LEAST play the game normally for a few days? How hard is this? Give me the ability to do it, I literally see more bots than real people in Orr events now.

Something needs to be done between ban waves to help the situation, becuse it will only stop for a while when exploits are patched untill they find new methods. We need a more fine grained way to deal with this in a practical way that involves them going away for a while, as a time-buffer until a more permanent solution is developed (as you’re doing now). You cant expect people to wait weeks like this every-time they find new ways around the walls and start piling up all over again everywhere.

I can literally log in right now and take a screenshot of bots in an event that have been there for WEEKS.

[Edited by CC: Removed screenkitten]

(edited by Moderator)

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Posted by: GOSU.9574

GOSU.9574

Extremely pleased you have taken the time to bring us up to date on an issue most of us find irritating at the least. Also want to thank you, as a customer, for taking the energy and money to hire people to actively address these issues.

The feedback means more to me as a customer and gamer than you might imagine.

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Posted by: Pandemoniac.4739

Pandemoniac.4739

Awesome! Thanks for the update… and for the new option to specifically report gold selling e-mails.

Don’t ever think you know what’s right for the other person.
He might start thinking he knows what’s right for you.
—Paul Williams

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Posted by: jwburks.9735

jwburks.9735

I saw my very first bot today. This player’s character was just standing there, swinging their dagger, but the enemy they were attacking was about 50 feet away. Then they would just vanish and reappear right next to the enemy, sometimes facing the opposite direction, and yet somehow they could continue swinging at the empty air, and manage to kill it. I was out in Mount Maelstrom, trying to kill spiders for venom sacs. This is where I encountered a bot, doing exactly the same thing. /report

But the sad part? This is probably someone’s hacked account. Banning them just means the hacker will use a different hacked account, and in the end, it was the player who got hacked who suffers for it.

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Posted by: deflatedcandy.8614

deflatedcandy.8614

@paultimate.8790 ^

“How about they hire a dude per server to go through each area for 30 min”

Ya, just did a quick estimate on how many employees it would take. Seems to be 29 or more zones in the game (all of them quite large btw), and about 51 servers listed on the WvW forum. Thats 1,479 employees if 1 person watch one ENTIRE zone by themselves on every server.

Oh, and even if 1 person took one server and did sweeps across all 29 zones doing 30 min. sweeps he would only make it to each zone about 2 times a day, working non-stop. This is much more viable option, but would still require a minimum of 51 employees devoted to this ONE aspect of the entire game.

ArenaNet has created the entirety of the Guild Wars 2 universe, let’s give them a little trust that they know what their options are when it comes to combating bots and gold farmers.

At the very least, thank ANet for updating us on this issue, and for spending your time and money on a TEAM specifically hired to handle this issue.

(edited by deflatedcandy.8614)

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Posted by: Amon.5042

Amon.5042

That is great to know.

Just wanted to add that I play from China and have been sometimes permanently banned from GW1 due to misunderstandings from where I’m playing. I and my wife have spent over 300USD in this game so far and would like to retain our entertainment investment without having to worry about collateral damage with game-wide purges. We’ve also been with ArenaNet for 7 years and love your creations.

Since you’re in the process of improving your anti-bot / anti-gold selling system, please also factor in accounts being played from odd places that:

a) have a considerable amount of real money purchases made;

b) the account has not been reported as hacked;

c) how long the account has been in existence.

Now, go get those silly botters.

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Posted by: BilboBaggins.5620

BilboBaggins.5620

You should let people know that they should report any suspicious people they think might be bots and not take matters into their own hands. My son fell asleep at his computer, and because he didn’t respond to some people’s whispers, they aggrod mobs and brought them to his character and rezzed him upon death so he would incur armor damage. At level 70, the repair expense is no small matter. I believe this type of activity is greifing and should be discouraged. Report someone if you think they’re a bot, let ArenaNet decide, don’t take matters into your own hands please.

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Posted by: Eridani.8317

Eridani.8317

Good to hear. I was just thinking earlier tonight I wouldn’t mind so much about all the bots and gold spammers if there was just some indication something is being done about it, and then this thread is posted

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Posted by: Xyne.9104

Xyne.9104

Good to see that something is being done about this…

Its killing off the game very fast now…

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Posted by: juiceman.2870

juiceman.2870

Yeah good to know your trying even if its kind of a never ending battle. Its a battle that needs to be fought.

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Posted by: Eleri Tezhme.3048

Eleri Tezhme.3048

They really need a “summon GM” button or something.

I have happy thoughts of a GM swooping in, giving a verbal 2 minute “clear the area!” warning so the not botted/afk-attacking players could get out of the way, and then dropping something huge and deadly on the botters.

Followed by zoning them into a holding pen that they can’t map out of while the GM locks their account. Maybe permanantly turn their armor a bright neon puce colour so we can tell who they are.

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Posted by: Eridani.8317

Eridani.8317

Its killing off the game very fast now…

Think you’re overestimating the impact it’s having to be honest. It’s an annoyance, it’s nowhere near “killing the game”.

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Posted by: jamescowhen.1562

jamescowhen.1562

Thanks for letting the community know, we appreciate it. Keep us updated on your progress!

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Posted by: Temper.7265

Temper.7265

No live,active server GMs (paid or volenteer) mercilessly banning botters with appeal only to support ?

Automated anti-bot measures ?

Support trawling thru backlogs of up to a month and beyond ?

I applaud Anet for taking time to inform and educate their player base.

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Posted by: LoreChief.8391

LoreChief.8391

We. Need. Dhuum.

We. Need. Grenth.

We need a culling.

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Posted by: SmokinBuda.1398

SmokinBuda.1398

How to deal with bots: Bring a mesmer with “Portal Entre” and lead him to his death..you can be sure both bots and people using macros are spamming the lootkey which luckily also are the interact key..so you can either lead him to a lot of mobs that will kill him or to a cliff ledge..might take a couple of portals to travel a longer distance but its hilarious.

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Posted by: paultimate.8790

paultimate.8790

deflatedcandy.8614
Ya, just did a quick estimate on how many employees it would take. Seems to be 29 or more zones in the game (all of them quite large btw), and about 51 servers listed on the WvW forum. Thats 1,479 employees if 1 person watch one ENTIRE zone by themselves on every server.

No one said per zone. And you act like it would be a huge deal to look after a zone. Do you not realize how prevention this issue is or consider the tools they have to make this task very easy? You sound as if you have absolutely no experience in this sort of moderation.

When an GM enters a zone they arnt liek a normal player that has to use WP and run around. They typically have the ability to warp from event to event and give each location known to harbor bots a moment of watch. These ‘bot nodes’ are produced by the common player that sends reports and talk about it on mapchat. These nodes are obvious, clear and in the open. It takes but a moment, to go there, look, and start the ban process from observing clear behavior of exploiting and botting. I could personally do all of Orr in less than 30 min on a rotation.

Each zone in the game harbors these bots, mostly events that when coupled with reports from that server are easily able to pinpoint these nodes of abuse. Dont act as if this is some big hard thing to do. Its at worst boring to do be on bot ban duty, but in no way is it a difficult thing to actually do given the tools GW2 has available for moderation.

Else we will start this process again after the first mass banwave hits. The garbage will again pile up and we will be back to square one in a huge mess trying to patch the new exploit ad infinitum.

Or they could do something fun like turn on a PvP flag for obvious botters, and normal players on the server can engage in PvP combat for a chance at badges and loot. Not to mention the satisfaction of offing nastie botters.

(edited by paultimate.8790)

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Posted by: Lance Coolee.9480

Lance Coolee.9480

[Edit]

What a BRILLIANT concept!

I swear on all things holy, if ANet opened a position up for a permanent bot farmer, I will QUIT my software architect job and take that up in a hearbeat.

[Edit by CC: Video removed]

(edited by Moderator)

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Posted by: Moakist.5268

Moakist.5268

This thread doesn’t tell us if the code is working as is intended? You know, when we don’t stay in an area for very long, do not farm and are just doing an event on our way to a personal story circle, and all we get is porous bone…

The Fayth – Ferguson’s Crossing

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Posted by: Luisedgm.2375

Luisedgm.2375

And you know who is the fault for all this? The players who buy gold from these botters, farmers and hackers, these are the real criminals, its just like people who buy drugs, they are the ones feeding the black market and making everyone’s else life miserable.

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Posted by: Vaerah.4907

Vaerah.4907

Yep. So many people wailing at ANET when they are the first to buy gold, to “install just this innocent macro because <place pathetic excuse here>” and so on.

Finding the bots won’t do anything but cosmetic results, they have to find the bot “minds”, not the disposable “street pushers” exactly like in RL you find the heads of the criminals not just the street villains they command. CCP did that for EvE.

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Posted by: Deimos Tel Arin.7391

Deimos Tel Arin.7391

thanks !!!

also please do make sure to ban the players who bought gold from gold sellers !!!

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Posted by: Airala.8629

Airala.8629

Paultimate – if it was such a simple matter to patrol the zones as you describe… do you not think ANet would have done that already?

I mean, seriously… your suggestion is like telling a schizophrenic to just ignore the voices in their head. You don’t think they would if they could? Are you under the impression that ANet is just sitting back and letting the botters do their thing for poops & giggles?

“Yup, let’s just let those botters run… drive the real players crazy… we can all yuk it up when they blow a gasket over our not doing anything about it! It’ll be fun to let our reputation as a developer be tarnished!”

Mind boggling. Seriously.

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Posted by: Zagdul.1502

Zagdul.1502

This thread doesn’t tell us if the code is working as is intended? You know, when we don’t stay in an area for very long, do not farm and are just doing an event on our way to a personal story circle, and all we get is porous bone…

Correct.

Because this thread is about botting, not farming.

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Posted by: Newsin.1945

Newsin.1945

Sorry, in the last week alone I have seen more botters then previously. I know its not easy but it’s getting ridiculous. Im glad there is an active approach though and keep it up. I can tell you where I and many others see bots atleast on Stormbluff Isles. In Greyhoof Medows Just south of Fort Selma at the bridge I see them ALL the time. Whats worse is there are so many Hunters with Spider Pets and Necromancers with minions that its almost impossible unless you really work at it to get hits on everything. My ranger and My Necro have no problems due to Lots of AoE and Condition Spread. But other classes there were getting bronze and silver because there were so many.

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Posted by: Cyrus.8261

Cyrus.8261

It’s good great to hear what ANet is doing about the bots, though I was never doubting a lot of work was being done behind the scenes.

What I wonder is will you also take action against gold buyers? They are the root of the problem after all. I would think a clear warning and round of bans would hit RMT much harder than only hitting the sellers, who will continue as long as it’s profitable.

When people realize there’s a serious risk to their own accounts they might think twice before buying gold, since the thought that all the gold they buy comes from hacked accounts apparently is not enough.

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Posted by: Sins.2806

Sins.2806

Botters haven’t really effected my gameplay on my server… well guess you can say they have effected the trade post.

Its nice to see you investing in more tools to detect/gather information, but the big problem is the time is process takes to complete and ban a botter.

Until these tools are fully operational and getting rid of bots on a 24hour timeframe of reported, you guys should really deploy some people in-game responding to reports of bots on server and issuing 48hour bans.

Then have your CS team ready to deal with wrongly ban accounts quickly, im not sure but i would think botters wouldn’t report there account being banned and would just change to another and wait out the 48hours and try the banned account again.

The legit players who get a ban, you guys should easy be able to look up their logs to see what locations they have been and how long to work out if they are legit or bot in a timely fashion and sort them out accordingly.

Biggest problem im seeing atm is that botters arnt to worried about bans because they know it takes you days to gather information and respond accordingly to it and issue a ban. In those few days it takes to deal with them, they have been shipping out all the gold they earned to other accounts giving you a longer trail of tracking to do.

TDLR:
Ban > Information gather will effect bots more then,
Information gather > Ban
Just make sure you have CS team ready to deal with legit players banned quickly.

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Posted by: Morrigan.2809

Morrigan.2809

Thank you for the update, it means a lot to me to see a company respond to real issues, keep up the good work.

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Posted by: Spawn.7014

Spawn.7014

Thanks for the update. Should have said this weeks ago.

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Posted by: Archer.6485

Archer.6485

Today was the first time I didn’t get any gold selling mail.

I think the banning is slowly taking effect. Thanks for your hard work

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Posted by: Jnaathra.6549

Jnaathra.6549

Thank you for the update. This makes me feel better. There are still swarms of them to be dealt with, stay vigilant.

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Posted by: tom.7468

tom.7468

wouldn’t suprise me if there would be dungeon bots as the reward items seems to be a looong grind same with karma.

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Posted by: carabidus.6214

carabidus.6214

This is my first MMO, and although I am familiar with the term “botting”, I would like to ask the more experienced players or admins how to spot a potential bot. I have seen “suspicious” activity in my travels, but I don’t want to report someone without more information. I assume these bots are not actual human players and the avatars are controlled by a computer program.

Thank you, AreaNet, for your efforts in keeping GW2 enjoyable for legitimate players!

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Posted by: Xiphoideus.3149

Xiphoideus.3149

Thank you for the news and your efforts.
Regarding our efforts in reporting bots: I reported 2 bots yesterday although there were many more present in Brisban but stopped reporting them as I feared a ban on my account as your policy states that the chat log is the main factor. I cannot see how this would work with bots but it put me off.
I understand that ANet needs to put off people sending wrong reports but you should not discourage valid reports.
So I hope the reports I send will still be looked at and those bots banned (they were standing and teleporting towards mobs for hours in the same area, so everything I read about bots fitted).
If I made an invalid report due to the lack of chat-log evidence I would like to hereby apologize for it.

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Posted by: Makovorn.1706

Makovorn.1706

A very encouraging post, thank you Mike.

The benefits of removing accounts using bots can never be underestimated. It makes me very sad when I get gold-selling mails, and rather than seeing some random-letter garbage character name, I see some names that have been given much thought … most likely a beloved character once belonging to a devoted fan and player.

Looking at the time and effort (and care) some players put into their characters, it really puts a dampener on my spirits when I see stuff like this. That is why I truly appreciate ArenaNet being so pro-active with these issues and also giving players advice on security.

Thank you, so much!

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Posted by: Mastermind.3169

Mastermind.3169

Logged in 14:59 CET, immediately got 4 gold-seller-mails all of them containing easy filterwords and patterns.

Waited 3 minutes, noticed that for once you could go 3 minutes without chat being flooded by goldsellers, never happened before during any time of day.

I logged out 15:02 CET because I knew that everything was still broken and there was nothing to do until they release bugfixes, and support still has not responded to my tickets.

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Posted by: mulch.2586

mulch.2586

Curiously no mention of banning the people who buy from gold sellers…

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Posted by: Chamone.6890

Chamone.6890

I read with interest the comments on the blog earlier this week about “hacked” accounts.

But, I really think it is not the widespread issue that you think it is.

GW2 has one of the better authentication systems I’ve seen in a game, requiring email confirmation for every new login attempt, I think that it is a strong, effective solution.
Sure, a certain number of users will have had both their email AND their GW2 account compromised, but this alone won’t explain the huge numbers of “Help, I was hacked!” support tickets I presume you’re getting from banned players.

I suspect that the majority of these players will have been banned for botting, then when you ban them, without fail they raise support tickets claiming to be hacked, and can provide all of the backup and proof that they are not a Chinese gold farmer that you need, because they aren’t…. They are the Chinese gold farmer’s CUSTOMERS.

The gold farmer does not need to do anything so difficult as hack people’s account details and email accounts to gain access to unlimited numbers of GW2 accounts, all they need to do is offer a POWER LEVELLING service.

This is where you, as a lazy player who does not want to level up to 80, pay the gold sellers to level you up to 80, normally gaining some money and items along the way. Crucially, this “service” requires you to hand over your account details to the farmer, and AUTHORISE THEM to connect to the game as you.

Once you give your details over to the farmer and authorise them, they happily run bots on your account all day long (often times only running the bot during your off-hours, for example allowing you to log in and play during the day, then running the bot overnight).

In addition to this, farmers often look for customers to “Rent” accounts from. If I were to buy a few bucks worth of gold, or I’ve just been successfully powerleveled to 80, the gold seller might approach me and say hey, if you let me use your account between 02:00 and 06:00 your time, I will pay you 2 Gold per day! Just make sure if your account ever gets banned, say you were hacked and know nothing about it!

Your GMs of course catch and ban the bots, as they are easy to detect, but almost immediately you get a complaint from the account owner, crying that he was “hacked”, and he wants his account back.

For every account like this that you restore, and little johnny gets his level 80 Mesmer back, at least half will have been used and abused for farming in this way.

So, what on earth can you do to both ban bots which ruin the economy and avoid clogging up your support queue with tickets from lying scumbags who claim to be hacked?

Well, I think the simple answer is NEVER re-instate an account that has been used for botting.

When someone is a confirmed botter, they are banned, then the real account owner goes on to appeal the ban and prove that he was the legit owner, all that should happen is that they are given a brand new, fresh account with no characters on it. You can reserve their old character names to the new account, and any gems they bought can be credited to it, but that’s it. Reset to zero.

Suddenly, getting Chinese gold farmers to level you, or letting them “borrow” your account is the least attractive option EVER. All it gets you is reset to zero.

It’s a little harsh on people that were genuinely hacked, but then you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs…

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Posted by: Jnaathra.6549

Jnaathra.6549

Do take note that this post makes no mention about action against gold buyers. So the end result here is going to be the same as all other games. The bot population will go down, but no go away. They will ban bots and the ones still making money will steal or buy new accounts. As long as buyers are allowed to exist, there will always be sellers.

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Posted by: Chamone.6890

Chamone.6890

Do take note that this post makes no mention about action against gold buyers. So the end result here is going to be the same as all other games. The bot population will go down, but no go away. They will ban bots and the ones still making money will steal or buy new accounts. As long as buyers are allowed to exist, there will always be sellers.

It’s a fair comment, and there have been attempts to ban buyers before in other games. The gold sellers simply get smart and randomly mail gold to lots of people in the game, as well as their customers.

If they ban everyone that has been sent gold by a gold farmer, then all the people they randomly sent gold to get banned as well, moral outrage and bad vibes / bad publicity ensure.

Not to mention you can buy gold via gems, so it’s a little hypocritical. Only buy gold from ME, not from THEM! Buyers could easily claim to have been tricked into visiting the gold seller site, thinking it was the gem store…

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Posted by: aphoticzone.9103

aphoticzone.9103

I am currently seeing that bots I am reporting are not being removed. Is there a huge delay between reporting them (i.e. 7 or more days) or are the reports not being properly validated? You said you are working to improve to tools customer support is using to verify bot reports. As an example (only) there is a group of about 10 bots running around on follow. They are actively interfering with the heart in the region. They are not being removed. You say you are doing things to help, but I am not seeing this take place in game. When do you predict that this better analyzing system will be in place, because I am personally very frustrated that the reports are not being acted upon?

(edited by aphoticzone.9103)