Guild Wars 2 has never been notorious for botting, hacking, or just generally exploiting the game. Sure, occasionally you might see a speed hacker, or evade spammer, or teleporter show up in your reddit feed, maybe a dozen a year if you’re lucky, but generally its kept very much in check and under control by the GMs and developers. Recently though, a problem has been growing in both severity and in number with the rise of AFK farming on the new living world maps.
So, how did AFK farming come to be, and why is it only now becoming an issue in the game? Well, AFK farming has been around for a little while, and comes mostly in the form of Necromancers, Rangers and Engineers using summons (minions, turrets) or pets that guard the player whilst they AFK. Add to this the ability to put an AoE field on auto attack and you can generally take down pretty much any trash mob without being at your keyboard. With Heart of Thorns came the addition of the autoloot mastery, and whilst this has been amazing QoL, it is also the root of the AFK farmer problem, allowing people to both collect their loot whilst not at the keyboard and refresh their AFK timer, letting them be away for limitless amounts of time. It is rising in popularity now because of the new living world maps, with better drops for many expensive materials coming from almost all the mobs, as well as the ability to gain things like bonus gold, karma or exp depending on the map. It also nets players reasonable levels of Unbound Magic, the new currency, which can be used in getting ascended gear, unique account benefits and liquidated for flat gold.
AFK farming has become highly topical, cropping up on Reddit and in game chat with an increasing frequency, and has also become something Arenanet are working on directly countering. When the AFK farming spot at Lake Doric became extremely popular with Engineers, Arenanet cracked down creating new mechanics in the zone to prevent it. Like any exploit, players quickly found a way around this with a new zone to stand in not affected by this mechanic. Crack downs in game, in the form of in game bans to those caught, are becoming more frequent as well, but it can be extremely hard for a GM or developer to find people in the act and even harder to ban. A big problem comes from the fact that they must first determine if the farmer is AFK or not, and that usually comes in the form of a PM. That means that, if I were playing Xbox, and turned back to see a PM asking me if I am actively playing, I could easily just type out a reply and carry on doing nothing whilst I get my free stuff. The same applies for second monitors, putting the game in a small window, or even some extreme users creating bots to reply to messages for them (something very much against the ToS and still quite rare). Compounding the problems, overflows mean that a GM could check a map and find no one, only for another instance to have dozens of farmers, or even just other spots they don’t know to look in yet.
So, how can we help keep the game free of AFKers taking up map space and earning free monies? If you just want to get on with what you are doing as soon as possible, you can report these players with the in-game report and move on, which takes about 10 seconds to do. However, if you feel that you have found a spot or exploit that the GMs might not know about, it’s always a good idea to send in a support ticket or PM either through the official gw2 forums or reddit. Don’t make threads about it, and don’t post names and shames, as it is both against the rules for the forums and the reddit and just asking for more trouble, as exploiters will see your post before the GMs and take advantage of it if they can. Using map chat and calling someone out is also ill advised, but making note that it is happening and at a certain area isn’t a bad idea, especially encouraging more players to use the report function. With any luck, a GM might see your chat and head over there to check it out themselves. For anyone thinking they might try this out, I am telling you flat out not to, since there is a very high and increasing chance it will end in suspension of your account with severity as far as year-long or permanent account loss.
Although AFK farming isn’t ‘destroying the game’ or anything drastic like that, it’s an annoying thing to encounter, and dulls the experience of a lot of players, so I encourage anyone seeing it to at least throw a quick report and try to limit the amount of AFK farmers you see in game. For anyone baited by the title to thinking this is about the current WvW issues- I whole heartedly believe that the WvW participation system needs a rework to decay faster and be earnt in more ways to combat that rather than player attitude, as the current model simply encourages you to AFK.