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The Ethical Costs of Winning the War on Botting and RMT — Our Consequences

Rich Richman here. The opinions expressed in the article are my own and do not represent any group, corporation, alliance, or entity except myself.

In my previous article I discussed the failure of CCP to combat botting and RMT in EVE Online, detailing the systems in place which made their fight a frustrating uphill battle with odds and favours stacked against them.

In this article, however, is a look at the other side of things. A persistent and consistent fight against “Real World Trading” by Jagex and it’s results. Proof that a victory over the RMT and botting menace is possible.

Recently, one of the biggest providers of botting in RuneScape has been shut down. Perhaps this time for good. Powerbot – once known as RSBot – would be permanently closed on 3rd October 2020 midnight.

This shutdown is a war that has raged on in RuneScape for around one and a half decades.

And if Jagex can do it, so can CCP.

Let’s turn back time to 2001: the release of RuneScape classic.

Jagex’s battle against botting stretches back decades to the days of the original RuneScape classic where it’s grind and difficulty resulted in early cheating and macroing such as autoclickers. This botting situation would only further progress into it’s successor “RuneScape 2” when it was released in 2004.

Back then, the laws and regulations for video game cheating and macro/bot programming was less defined. The original popular bot “RSBot” operated for around half a decade until it was shut down in 2010. It’s owner, Quaters, would drop his flag after a lengthy lawsuit which was only achievable when Jagex managed to find a charge that would stick; copyright infringement – the terms “RS” and the icons the bot used.

From this, RSBot’s source code was released to the world and spawned several bots, some of which we will cover in the article.

RSBot’s community would rebrand to “Powerbot” led by an enigmatic individual known as Paris. Other bots emerged over the years, notably Impsoft’s RSBots.net known as Nexusbot, RSBuddy run by Jacmob, and Runedev Infinity led by Bobbybighoof.

Jagex’s crusade against botting and real world trading (RWT) did not stop here.

In 2012, Impulse Software Mark and Eric Snellman would release a statement that they were dropping their flags. A lawsuit incurring damages of over $1 million US Dollars and a court judgement in favour of Jagex sent one of the most advanced bots into the dirt. RSBots.net/Autofighter/Nexusbot/Impulse Software breathed its last.

Nexusbot was known to be one of the most advanced bots available. Its unrivaled customer support, near undetectable reflection based injection systems, and advanced scripting made its premium scripts the number one choice for RuneScape cheaters.

Mark Gerhard (then CEO and CTO) would sign-off on an announcement on January 27, 2012 announcing their victory over the Snellman brothers’ botting empire.

RSBuddy (now a legitimate and legal RuneScape game help tool) was once a botting giant run by the genius of Jacmob and his team. After the bot nuke of October 2011 (known as Clusterflutterer), Jacmob approached Jagex with a functioning bot the following month. Soon afterward, Jacmob would be hired by Jagex in 2012 to use his botting expertise to fight botting.

For two years, Jacmob worked closely with Mark Gerhard and instituted massive sweeping changes such as the Bot Watch system. By now, the systems in place effectively made botting infeasible. Detection was automatic, swift, guaranteed, and reliable.

Salvaging the RSBot code, Runedev Infinity (later known as Infinity and Lazygamerz.org) spawned the only open source and free RuneScape bot. Due to it’s open source and free nature, it was never subject to lawsuits.

After the bot nuke of 2011, the decision was made to retire Infinity for good as the botting and RWT community was known to be one of the most toxic communities both in-game and out of game.

These programmers are sophisticated, capable, and more than a match for the game developers.

Keep in mind, these bots are incredibly advanced: capable of evading hidden, automatic detection systems, and random events designed to soft lock bots and prevent them from functioning. It was a cat and mouse game to implement systems to fight this; a fight Jagex was losing. A fight we know CCP is losing.

The level of intelligence the bot reached was staggering in hindsight. “Dungeoneering” – a random procedural generated puzzle based raid – was touted as unbottable and released in April 2010. By the end of the year, two bots were programmed with intelligence and automation capable of solving dungeons and memorising up to 64 different rooms, easily capable of outdoing a regular player.

And now, in 2020, we would see the last of the old bots be brought down.

One less bot available. One less community for them to congregate.

And it doesn’t stop here. Jagex has constantly been fighting RWT sites, bringing down giants Arcus Gold and Bogla gold.

These battles however come at a cost. Each lawsuit costs money and time of which could have been spent elsewhere. But it’s a battle whose cost is worth it to Jagex.

A cost that CCP Games should consider investing their time and money into.

Because with each battle, it gets easier.

Just like in a game, each battle comes with experience. Experience which has made it easier for Jagex to fight their menace. And with each victory comes precedent. Precedents in lawsuits for the future.

Facts: The RWT community is toxic and dangerously linked to organised crime, hacking, and exploitation.

RWT has been used by exploitative prison wardens to line their pockets with cash.

RWT artificially damages the game by affecting the game’s inflation, resources, and gameplay. This undermines the cost of RuneScape Bonds (Jagex’s version of PLEX) and steals money from the developer – money that would have been used to improve the game.

To pay for RuneScape membership, RWTers frequently used stolen and fraudulent credit cards in order to reduce overhead costs. Jagex would later be forced to return the fraudulent purchases and explain to their payment processors.

In an interview with Markeedragon, the then “King of RWT”, he detailed how RWT groups would hack, phish, and steal accounts in order to obtain gold to sell.

RWT happens in countries where the minimum wage is low enough that gold farming is a viable alternative. Historically it was China and Russia, however with the rise of wages and living standards it has become a less attractive option.

Today, a large provider of RWT in RuneScape is Venezuela whose shattered economy and rampant inflation has made RWT one of the top employers for it’s impoverished citizens.

Venezuelans of all ages ranging from teen mothers to the elderly have farmed gold to support themselves and their families. These groups would even band together to hold down lucrative PVP spaces in order to farm gold similar to how RMT linked renter alliances function in EVE Online.

A mere days work gold farming in RuneScape will easily reward more than a fortnight or month of working for many Venezuelans, which puts a human value on the war against RWT.

Is winning a war on RWT worth the survival of a human life?

Each minute spent fighting RWT and botting is a minute not spent on other aspects of the game.

I say yes. It is worth it.

Because this affects our beloved game – EVE Online – in the exact same way. And not just EVE, but our brothers World of Warcraft, RuneScape, and more are fighting the same battle every day.

Our prices of minerals, ships, and modules are artificially affected by RMTers farming and proliferating assets.

The experience of our game compromised by groups compliant with this kind of activity.

The price of PLEX is undermined, and those who support CCP are punished and forced to spend more whilst rulebreakers are rewarded with plenty.

The values of our battles and ships – the blood, sweat, and tears – are compromised.

How can we say our battles are worth thousands of dollars when RMT threatens the legitimacy and integrity of everything we stand for?

Fighting botting and RMT is necessary for the future of EVE Online.

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