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r1ft Gaming Blog

A mirror of my gaming blog at r1ft.com. The jaded game designer turned corporate lackey. Feedback is always welcome.

Author: Daedren

Confessions of a WoW Botter

Posted by Daedren Wednesday February 11 2009 at 5:03AM
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Ni hao, bitches. Now now, don't get all hasty - it's not quite that bad. I'm not here to bring you tales of epic gold farming or "Adventures in Azshara: 200 days of Genocide". Everyone has their own opinion of those kind folk who's trade involves them creating a level 1 character named "Xkabwqleoiyx" and running to a capital city - and most of these opinions fall into the region of "Wish you could stab someone through the Internet". Rest easy, I'm not one of those people. In fact, I'm a pretty normal guy - a casual gamer of such. This is my story - the story of a casual botter in World of Warcraft.

I suppose it's pantomime to account suicide writing something as open and honest as this. Honestly, that's one of the biggest motivators for me, actually - no, not the danger of it, but the apathetical sense of someone else taking care of one of my own, personal problems. My own personal problem is that when I'm so inclined, I tend to play WoW a bit too much, botting or not. *If* I did get banned for my "tales of a botter" then I'd be disinclined to ever play again - for the betterment of myself and probably everyone else around me. In any case, this is a problem of the past as I've already canceled and purified my hard drive of anything WoW related until at least the next expansion pack or in the unlikely case Blizzard ever implements a logical and *gasp* fun PVP system. I digress.

So there it is. I bot in WoW. Some will say "Who the hell cares?"; others with be confused, not really knowing what "botting" means. Yes, there are many people (made evident from the recent MMO Glider legal cases) that don't really understand what's going on. So, it'll help to clarify exactly what botting is in the grand world of Azeroth:

Botting is: A character in WoW that is controlled by a third party program. From a third party perspective, the character behaves somewhat normally (runs around, kills things, loots things, etc).

Botting is not: Paying someone else (like a company) to level, farm gold/honor or play a character for whatever reason. The company might (and probably will) *bot* your character, but purchasing levels / gold is different than botting and should not be confused.

So, how do people bot?

There are a few ways to do it, but the main way people bot is using a program called "MMO Glider" (formerly WoW Glider).  This program was created a long time ago to help alleviate some of the more tedious tasks in WoW at the time; from there, it evolved into a fully functional bot program that was capable of controlling a character in nearly every way, shape or form. Paying customers, using a monthly fee, can subscribe to the "Elite" service which allows highly modified custom classes and a lot of advanced features for the program.

Is botting detectable?

Until a few months ago, it was pretty easy to spot a bot. A trained eye could easily tell if a character is behaving normally or controlled by a program. Tell tale signs are fixed paths, jerky movements, identical attack orders, running into objects, huge stocks of "grindable" items on the AH -- all of these things are easy ways to identify a bot.

Things have changed, though. The botting community has created "smart pathing" code which basically analyzes the texture files in WoW to see where obstacles are and best pathing information. Using these advanced features along with highly modified custom classes, I've done test runs where my character actually plays *better* than me. He jumps over fences, pulls 2-3 MOBS at once, kills them, and then moves on. He does quests. He stacks his Eternal's like a good boy and heals and buffs other players when they are near by. He talks back to his friends and guildmates, politely ignores people he doesn't know, and when his bags fill up with stuff to sell, he mounts up to the nearest vendor, sells the vendor trash, mails the better stuff to a bank alt, and heads back for more tedious killing.

On a technical level, Blizzard has a little anti-third party feature of their client called "Warden". These botting programs are specifically designed to circumvent any detection like this. For the most part, if you stay up to date and follow the instructions, there is virtually no chance of being detected. Really, the only way to get caught is being reported by other players or selling gold.

Example of non-AFK Botting
An example of non-AFK botting
Two Types of Botting

Mainly, there are two different types of botting: AFK Botting and Non-AFK Botting. AFK Botting is usually ran for long periods of time in secluded areas, mainly by unguilded or "private" characters. An example of a good AFK Bot task would be to grind the Captured Firely in Zangarmarsh or one of the whelp pets in Azshara. These little pets have a .01%-.1% drop rate, meaning it can be 1-2 thousand kills before one drops. An example of a non-AFK Bot task would be killing Fire Elementals in Storm Peaks at 6 PM server time. Chances are you'll get attacked if you're on a PVP server or lots of /whispers on a PVE server. Lots of people will be around to observe your "bot like" habits, increasing the chance you'll be reported and having your account banned.

Non-AFK botting involves you usually doing something else on or near your computer, to be able to respond to /whispers or take manual control over your character in the likely event something will happen. So, you can non-AFK bot at work, or watching a movie, looking at your favorite midget porn - whatever. It allows you to do normal, non-WoW things and still do something in WoW, albeit less efficiently. AFK botting is the sort of thing you put on before you go to bed, or going to Iraq for 3 months - fire and forget. If you set up cautious anti-detection settings, the worst thing that can happen is that your character logs out.

So, why bot?

I want to say a short disclaimer to say that I'm not here as an apologist. In the WoW community, talking about botting is kind of like discussion religion or politics in the real world - you're apt to piss people off no matter where you stand. A lot of people don't care if you bot. A good portion also think it's unfair or would think negatively towards you if they did find out, perhaps even reporting you in game. That's why it's safe to stay secret squirrel about the subject to avoid any unnecessary risks as a botter. I'm not ashamed of it, and most of my good in-game friends knew I was capable of doing it, but it still wasn't a well known fact.

There are many reasons to bot in WoW; monetary reasons (selling Gold on various sites) - advancing other characters, making money for a mount / expensive item, whatever. I only did it for one reason, though: time. WoW is a time consuming game. It's really the only real currency in the game: he with the most time, wins. 98% of the items, titles or achievements in game basically come down to a time investment, where throwing sheer amounts of time at them is really the only requirement. I never sold gold to a website or leveled a character to sell it.

It's because of this I've always been defensive of MMO Glider and the botting community. I know everyone has their own reasons, but I see this little bot program as something that saved me hundreds of hours of time and allowed me to enjoy the game to its full potential. I admit that with the recent Wrath expansion, the need for money and grinding has been dramatically reduced, but the sheer amount of time I saved in TBC was well worth the $20 I spent a few years ago.

For example, some of the things I've used botting for:

  • Obtaining Aldor/Scryer reputation
  • Getting the hard, grind only vanity pets (Firefly, Whelplings, etc)
  • General kill farming: Killings tons of skinnable creatures to sell the leather on the AH - to be able to buy gems, enchants and flasks/potions for raiding. Killing humanoid creatures to get cloth to level up tailoring or sell the cloth.
  • Leveling alts.
  • Obtaining enough money for epic flying / mounts.
  • Fishing (No, it's not fun)

Of course, some of this stuff wasn't necessary. My character can perform fine in a raid without a Captured Firefly. However, things like enchants, gems and gear can make or break a raid, especially when you're in a critical role. As a healer in TBC (when raiding was actually challenging), not having the right stuff could cost the group an encounter, especially when learning the encounters and still gearing up as a raid. Black Temple and Sunwell might have been "ezmode" for hardcore raiding guilds, but as a casual player in a casual raiding guild, they were challenging and extremely time consuming. Not having the proper gear and gems/enchants just made it that much harder.

That might be a fine excuse on the cover - and honestly, it's enought to justify my reason for botting. I didn't have a lot of time to play WoW - 4-5 nights a week and 3-4 hours on average per night. Maybe sneak in during the afternoon on a weekend or something when the kids are asleep. So, with raiding 2-3 nights as week left 1-2 nights maximum where I could play without raiding, and these always went to PVP / Arena. I was left with a choice of either giving up PVE Raiding or PVP if I wanted to get everything the "legit" way. Hell, and that's only playing one character.

All that aside, though, there is another big reason to bot in WoW:

Botting is fun!

Yes, it is. Some might even argue that it's funner than actually playing the game. It's like having personal minions that can go out and do tedious tasks for you. You can see how many level 70/80's you can get (one of each class, why not?). You can see how much gold you can farm or how many vanity pets you can get. It becomes a game in itself - seeing your profiles and tasks at work, constantly improving and tweaking your classes - it's like a mini-game. If you're brave you can even tweak it enough to perform well in PVP (BG's only, of course - don't think anyone could do an Arena Bot). All in all, it's fun to advance or do things when you're asleep or at the office.

The Legal Issues with Botting

Recently there has been a lot of talk around the MMO-sphere about MMO Glider and the lawsuit with Blizzard. All in all, it's not looking good for the future of MMO Glider. I'm confident, though, that even if it does go "tits up" - another person or team will step in to fill the hole. In fact, if the MMO Glider code was distributed to the right persons (living in a galaxy far, far away) they could basically continue the legacy where the MMO Glider guys left off. There is a huge community behind them and the idea will live on. How, exactly, is what we'll find out in the next couple weeks.

So Long, and Thanks for All the Deviant Fish

In conclusion, I want to say I'm not ashamed to have botted in WoW. It allowed me to enjoy the game more without sacrificing my personal and family life. For that, I want to say thanks to the Glider guys and the community as a whole. To all the non-botters out there: next time, before you pass judgment on someone, keep in mind they might be someone like me: just a lonely gnome with not enough time on his hands.

References:

MMO Glider - Official Site

PPather (A Newb's Guide to PPather)

MMO Glider + PPather Setup Guide

PS: WALL-E is great.

Original article is here.

Fallout and Interplay: You Have Three Months to Live

Posted by Daedren Wednesday February 4 2009 at 10:29AM
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On one fateful day last year, after a late night binge of boxed wine, I decided to write something mildly coherent, uncharacteristically calm and hopefully accurate in regards to the future of a Fallout MMO - specifically, one done by everyone's favorite old school penniless game studio called Interplay. For those that didn't read it, here is a quick summary: Interplay needs 30 Million USD in venture capital by April 2009 to retain the rights of making the Fallout MMO; if they don't have it, they'll forfeit the rights to the game to Bethesda and probably have their knees broken. The 30M is to start production on the game, and an added 45M or more will be needed for the projected development budget.

One would think major investment announcements would be made by Interplay, if indeed they were, in fact, getting investors to invest in them. One would think that - but hey, who knows, perhaps they are just biding time, waiting to the last minute to tell Bethesda "We got it, bitches!" and then go swim in their vault full of money. One could also think that a financially insecure, unstable game studio of past glories long told could also be completely up shit creek and have no financial backing whatsoever, save for the paltry 1M USD they kind of got last summer - and, with the current economic situation - well, you get the point.

Interplay HQ
Interplay HQ

The Interplay website was redone last autumn, a highly needed update that vaulted the Interplay 1994-esque Geocities style homepage to something at least done in the last decade. Oh, and they now offer the Fallout Trilogy - which, according to them, doesn't include Fallout 3 and instead gives you Fallout Tactics. Ok, we get it, you're hurting for money guys. I know, let's head over to the Interplay Forums and talk about a Fallout MMO. Where the hell is the Fallout forum section? Well, it doesn't exist. Apparently those at Interplay felt the majority of Interplay fans would be there to discuss Earthworm Jim. Sprinkled around the General Discussion and "Other Classic Interplay Games" we can find the hopeful forum users eagerly talking about the possible future of the game.

Forum talk aside, Interplay is pretty hush-hush about this project. Their latest "News" is the announcement of the site redesign. The Interplay dev(s) rarely post on the forums, and when they do, it's usually in support of another Interplay title. Basically, from a public point of view, not a lot is happening on the Interplay front in regards to "Project V13". April 2009 is coming up quickly and to our knowledge Interplay has procured not even 5% of the total monetary budget to even start production on the game.

Things are not looking good for Interplay. These could be the final months of the game studio's existence. The future of a Fallout Online game might rest solely in the hands of one ZeniMax Online which I've mentioned before. Let's just hope Bethesda and company stay the hell away from the "Games for Windows" Live service thing they ran for Fallout 3. Bethesda has made some good games with the Elder Scroll series and Fallout 3, but making a MMO is (as we know) an entirely different animal. Can they do it?

What's everyone else think? Would you rather have the broke, oldschool Interplay making the game or the rich and greedy Bethesda at the helm? Neither have MMO experience, but money *can* buy anything. Well, unless you're Mythic or Funcom... ;)