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Old 04-18-2012, 07:47 AM   #21
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Re: Botting - why?

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Originally Posted by SnowTroll View Post
It's not really possible to entirely eliminate botting, but games can at least make it less desirable by creating ways of advancement that are more fun and interactive, and if botted, would require teams of bots to take the most advantage.
Many players will happily bot through fun and interactive content if it gives them an advantage. To discourage botting without explicit rules you need to reduce the incentive, and IMO the best way to do that is non-repeatable content (because if it takes longer to set up the bot than simply complete the content yourself, it's not worth the effort).

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Originally Posted by MarshP View Post
On a related note to my OP, when does playing become automated? For example, as a low-level on Aardwolf, I've found I can wander into a place with aggressive mobs and just... wait. They'll fight and respawn and all I need do is occasionally look to my health. This is the MUD engaging in automated play, not me, right?
Yes, in that case it's part of the game. However it's worth noting that many people dislike automated combat because of that lack of interactivity. On the other hand, some muds have manual combat systems with so many options that players are required to set up scripts in order to play competitively, effectively turning them back into automated combat systems that just have a much higher learning curve.
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Old 04-18-2012, 11:40 AM   #22
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Re: Botting - why?

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Originally Posted by KaVir View Post
Many players will happily bot through fun and interactive content if it gives them an advantage. To discourage botting without explicit rules you need to reduce the incentive, and IMO the best way to do that is non-repeatable content (because if it takes longer to set up the bot than simply complete the content yourself, it's not worth the effort).
I agree that non-repeatable content is effective. However, in an open-ended PvE game it's not easy to prevent or discourage people from revisiting content (I know because I've been trying). Even if you're effective at it, some players (not just botters) will resent being forced away from grinding.

Some other things that seem to work:

* Raise the bar on 'legal botting' and even provide some utilities to make it easier. This has the dual effect of curbing some heavy botters while giving you a way to control what kind of botting most people do.

* Provide disincentives, such as a range of sanctions clearly stated in the policy. If people feel that the reward is not worth the risk because they can get caught and at a minimum rolled back, they'll probably look for other means to gain an edge.
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Old 04-18-2012, 04:01 PM   #23
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Re: Botting - why?

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Originally Posted by KaVir View Post
Many players will happily bot through fun and interactive content if it gives them an advantage. To discourage botting without explicit rules you need to reduce the incentive, and IMO the best way to do that is non-repeatable content (because if it takes longer to set up the bot than simply complete the content yourself, it's not worth the effort).
When it comes to content, that's one way to go, but you could also just make repeating content worthless or design it so that it's less of a one-shot quest-type thing and more of a means through which to introduce and access permanent features. For example: an automated quest to find a long lost spell library or an altar that recharges magic items. The first time through maybe you gain a reward for solving the puzzle, but thereafter it's just the path to a new, interesting and useful destination. But then, maybe this is exactly the type of solution you're talking about.

When I think about botting, though, I'm more worried about automation of regular advancement and creation processes, and I don't see how to take the repetition out of those activities. Unless you want players flying up through the levels or glutting the game with crafted items, there has to be a time element involved and I don't see any way that that doesn't mean some degree of repetition.

Legislating automation is a major pain in the ass. Been there. Done that. It can lead to some unhealthy player relations.

I agree that the best way around botting is making it less attractive, but I would rather dangle a carrot than wield a whip. As I've said, unless you limit game access to a custom client without scriptability, you will never eliminate botting. (And even then there are ways to get it done.) But I think if repetitive activities are fun and offer attractive advantages to interacting live, you can greatly reduce the desire to script.

One of my main goals has been to exclude stupidly monotonous stuff. It has opened up other avenues of delivery for the products of these activities and really enhanced other parts of my game.
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Old 04-23-2012, 04:39 AM   #24
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Re: Botting - why?

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Originally Posted by plamzi View Post
I agree that non-repeatable content is effective. However, in an open-ended PvE game it's not easy to prevent or discourage people from revisiting content (I know because I've been trying).
If they can revisit the content, and it's worth doing, then it's not really non-repeatable. By non-repeatable I mean things like quests which only award exp the first time you complete them, or which give special items that aren't worth having more than once.

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Even if you're effective at it, some players (not just botters) will resent being forced away from grinding.
You can provide repeatable activities as well if you wish. But if players can advance through repeatable content, they will bot. If players can grind something, many of them will bot it instead, so if your goal is to eliminate botting (which was the point I was responding to) then grinding really needs to go as well.

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Originally Posted by Will View Post
When it comes to content, that's one way to go, but you could also just make repeating content worthless or design it so that it's less of a one-shot quest-type thing and more of a means through which to introduce and access permanent features. For example: an automated quest to find a long lost spell library or an altar that recharges magic items. The first time through maybe you gain a reward for solving the puzzle, but thereafter it's just the path to a new, interesting and useful destination. But then, maybe this is exactly the type of solution you're talking about.
Yes, that's pretty much what I'd consider non-repeatable content, although I like the idea of using content to access features - some players would still create "recharge" bots, but at least they wouldn't be able to advance through botting, and they might even turn it into a service (I actually like bots that offer useful services to other players).

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Originally Posted by Will View Post
When I think about botting, though, I'm more worried about automation of regular advancement and creation processes, and I don't see how to take the repetition out of those activities. Unless you want players flying up through the levels or glutting the game with crafted items, there has to be a time element involved and I don't see any way that that doesn't mean some degree of repetition.
I think it really depends how much time you want players to spend advancing. To quote a point I made recently on MudBytes:

"Imagine a mud in which it took 1 week to create enough content to provide 1 hour of entertainment. Obviously you're going to lose the content race, at that rate you'll never keep up with the players - but you don't have to. If you spend 50 weeks developing some really cool non-repeatable content, then you've got a game where players can reach the top level in 50 hours. Then you can add repeatable and sandbox end-game content. If players decide to bot the end-game content, and it doesn't give them any advantage over the other players, then does it really matter?"

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Legislating automation is a major pain in the ass. Been there. Done that. It can lead to some unhealthy player relations.
Agreed, although it's one of those battles you can never really win. If you introduce rules and policies, players call you a tyrant and a bad administrator - and if you don't, they accuse you of being lazy and a bad administrator. But I've found the latter does at least result in much friendlier player relations.
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Old 04-23-2012, 02:13 PM   #25
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Re: Botting - why?

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Originally Posted by KaVir View Post
If they can revisit the content, and it's worth doing, then it's not really non-repeatable. By non-repeatable I mean things like quests which only award exp the first time you complete them, or which give special items that aren't worth having more than once.

You can provide repeatable activities as well if you wish. But if players can advance through repeatable content, they will bot. If players can grind something, many of them will bot it instead, so if your goal is to eliminate botting (which was the point I was responding to) then grinding really needs to go as well.
What's an example of "special items that aren't worth having more than once"? To me, it seems like an item that's not worth having 'more than once' is not worth having 'even once'. The only context where I can think of such an item existing is a game that allows only one character, with all unique eq slots, saves eq, and disallows all item trading?

"But if players can advance through repeatable content, they will bot."

To me, this statement cuts extreme in two ways. First, it make it sound like everyone will bot any repeatable content, which is simply not true in my experience. Second, it sets up a situation where, if you want to prevent botting, you have to aim at a game with no repeatable content at all. That's because if the only way to advance is via non-repeatable content, there's no point in having any other kind of content. To me, a game with only non-repeatable content is a linear game. True, no-one cares to bot these, but also hardly anyone cares to stick around after they've run through the content once.

I agree with most of your individual points but I think we need much finer strokes if we want to draw useful conclusions and recommendations. This is a complicated subject with no universal recipe and, one can argue, no solution we can point to in the real world. All you have is a bunch of levers that you tug this way and that and observe the effects in your particular game. But when you tug one lever, all the other levers shift in different directions...
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Old 04-23-2012, 04:09 PM   #26
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Re: Botting - why?

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Originally Posted by plamzi View Post
What's an example of "special items that aren't worth having more than once"? To me, it seems like an item that's not worth having 'more than once' is not worth having 'even once'.
People bot for items when those items are randomised, consumable, or sellable.

If Quest X always gives you an identical "Hat of Happiness", and it never decays or breaks, and can't viably be traded, then (assuming you've only got one head) there's no point having more than one. But that doesn't necessarily mean the item isn't worth having - it might even be the best hat in the game.

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Originally Posted by plamzi View Post
"But if players can advance through repeatable content, they will bot."

To me, this statement cuts extreme in two ways. First, it make it sound like everyone will bot any repeatable content, which is simply not true in my experience.
Not "everyone", but a significant number of players will if it gives them an advantage. Your mud has strict rules against botting (as well as rules against various competitive activities), so of course you'll see less of it if you're laying the smack down on those you catch - but I've been running highly competitive muds with no rules for 17 years, so this is a subject I'm intimately familiar with.

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Second, it sets up a situation where, if you want to prevent botting, you have to aim at a game with no repeatable content at all.
No, as I mentioned in the example scenario in my previous post "...If you spend 50 weeks developing some really cool non-repeatable content, then you've got a game where players can reach the top level in 50 hours. Then you can add repeatable and sandbox end-game content. If players decide to bot the end-game content, and it doesn't give them any advantage over the other players, then does it really matter?"

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That's because if the only way to advance is via non-repeatable content, there's no point in having any other kind of content.
Of course there is, end-game content is essential for long-term player retention. If players have nothing to do once they reach the top level, they'll quit.
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Old 04-23-2012, 04:56 PM   #27
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Re: Botting - why?

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Originally Posted by KaVir View Post
People bot for items when those items are randomised, consumable, or sellable.

If Quest X always gives you an identical "Hat of Happiness", and it never decays or breaks, and can't viably be traded, then (assuming you've only got one head) there's no point having more than one.
Assuming one head also assumes one character. No 'viable trading' of the best item of its kind in game is an equally strong assumption. At that point, I'd much rather have everyone botting than impose such limitations. That's because multiple alts and trading with other people are a big part of the fun in my game.

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Originally Posted by KaVir View Post
Your mud has strict rules against botting (as well as rules against various competitive activities), so of course you'll see less of it if you're laying the smack down on those you catch - but I've been running highly competitive muds with no rules for 17 years, so this is a subject I'm intimately familiar with.
We come from different places, and I think we're making equally valid points about how to minimize botting in different types of games. Where I raise my hand is where you make multiple assumptions to arrive at words of advice that seem to be directed at everyone. I'm just saying it's not that simple.

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Of course there is, end-game content is essential for long-term player retention. If players have nothing to do once they reach the top level, they'll quit.
If by "advance" you mean gaining levels and not alt development, then that clears up some confusion, because I took "advance" in a more general sense, which included end-game progress. That said, if there's anything harder than non-repeatable level-up content, it's non-repeatable end game content. Setting long-term goals is trivial compared to supplying people with endlessly varied ways in which they can work towards those goals. Again, I have to say that there are some extremely steep mountains to climb here.

In my view, in a truly open-ended game there's a realistic balance between repeatable and non-repeatable content. You can't give people free choice to go anywhere and do anything without giving them the choice to go to the same place more than once. You can discourage grinding and botting by providing diminishing returns, but determined botters will invest (machine) time to make up for it, and determined grinders will hate you because they invest actual time with no reward. Which brings me to one of my original points, that in the case of such a game, enforcing some simple rules against over-the-top botting can be a lot more effective (and less painful for everyone) than restricting indiscriminately in code.
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Old 04-23-2012, 06:29 PM   #28
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Re: Botting - why?

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Originally Posted by plamzi View Post
Assuming one head also assumes one character.
When I talk about non-repeatable, I mean per character. I'm certainly not proposing that only one player can ever complete each piece of content.

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Originally Posted by plamzi View Post
No 'viable trading' of the best item of its kind in game is an equally strong assumption. At that point, I'd much rather have everyone botting than impose such limitations.
Fair enough, but I never suggested everyone should impose such conditions, I was only disagreeing with the claim that "it's not really possible to entirely eliminate botting".

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We come from different places, and I think we're making equally valid points about how to minimize botting in different types of games. Where I raise my hand is where you make multiple assumptions to arrive at words of advice that seem to be directed at everyone. I'm just saying it's not that simple.
Once again, I'm not saying that such a solution is appropriate for every mud. All I'm saying is that certain design decisions make it possible to greatly reduce or even eliminate botting. The fact that you personally don't want to implement such solutions doesn't really have any bearing on whether or not it's possible.

If I claimed that mudding on an iPhone wasn't viable, I'm sure you'd disagree. If I pointed out that I had no interest in making my own mud accessable to iPhone clients, that would be fair enough, but it wouldn't have any bearing on the fact that certain design decisions can make it viable to play muds on an iPhone.

Every mud developer has their own goals, and each design decision has its pros and cons. Most problems have solutions, and they're no less valid just because some people don't want to implement them.

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If by "advance" you mean gaining levels and not alt development, then that clears up some confusion, because I took "advance" in a more general sense, which included end-game progress.
I'm using the common definition of character advancement - progression, leveling, learning, improving, whatever you want to call it. By "end-game" I'm referring to activities you perform once you've advanced as far as possible.

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That said, if there's anything harder than non-repeatable level-up content, it's non-repeatable end game content.
As I already said, I don't feel that non-repeatable end-game content is necessary; "If players decide to bot the end-game content, and it doesn't give them any advantage over the other players, then does it really matter?"

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Originally Posted by plamzi View Post
In my view, in a truly open-ended game there's a realistic balance between repeatable and non-repeatable content. You can't give people free choice to go anywhere and do anything without giving them the choice to go to the same place more than once.
Neither do you have to reward them every time they go back to the same place or repeat the same activity. By "non-repeatable" I'm referring to rewards, not actions; it doesn't matter if you kill the goblin king a million times if you only earn exp the first time you do it.

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Originally Posted by plamzi View Post
You can discourage grinding and botting by providing diminishing returns, but determined botters will invest (machine) time to make up for it, and determined grinders will hate you because they invest actual time with no reward.
I've not had a problem with players hating me because of diminishing returns. But yes, that solution only reduces botting, it doesn't eliminate it. I consider it a reasonable compromise, but it doesn't answer the question I was responding to.

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Which brings me to one of my original points, that in the case of such a game, enforcing some simple rules against over-the-top botting can be a lot more effective (and less painful for everyone) than restricting indiscriminately in code.
That's a matter of preference, and it's also sidestepping the actual question of whether or not botting can be eliminated.
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Old 04-24-2012, 03:29 PM   #29
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Re: Botting - why?

Kavir,

My best guess is that it's actually impossible to completely eliminate botting. This is an area I've invested a lot of time in, and I've seen bots that are more lively than real people who simply enjoy grinding. I've snooped bots and guessed they were people, and I've snooped people and guessed they were bots. There's just too much overlap.

That said, AA's approach has been a combination of most of the things in this thread. We have a lot of quest based once per character content, as you mentioned; but much more importantly, the code is set up with extreme amounts of diminishing returns to make botting less palatable. Botting is also explicitly allowed, so long as bots follow an additional set of rules to prevent them from causing problems with other players.

If someone writes a bot that follows the rules and is good enough to work around the diminishing returns, then so be it - I know of at least one that does this, and it's constructed so well that I do not believe I can defeat it without penalizing many real players. However, as you mentioned, nearly all bots are end-game bots. At lower levels, the game is simply too variable, and the gains drop off too quickly, to make investing in a bot worthwhile.

In summary, our setup is roughly:

1) Bots that interfere with other players or obviously damage game play are prohibited via a small set of rules, while all others are allowed. See http://http://www.alteraeon.com/arti...d_botting.html for examples;

2) The code is set up to rapidly decrease the effectiveness of most repetitive actions;

3) The code is set up to automatically identify the worst bot behaviour and subject those bots to additional penalties;

4) Most areas contain one-shot content which cannot be repeated.

I think that allowing bots and having tracking mechanisms for them has probably helped the game in general: anything that quickly and readily becomes used in a bot is something that probably needs to be changed, or at least investigated for sanity. We have found many non-obvious bugs by looking at what well known bots were doing.

Explicitly allowing bots has also been useful from an administrative standpoint: players are much more willing to adhere to a small set of 'make it legal' rules than they are to not bot at all.

I don't feel that it's necessary to eliminate all botting. The barriers we have put up are primarily to make it more difficult to construct a working, useful bot. Most people who try to create bots aren't smart enough to do this, so they give up and play the game instead. This takes care of 90+% of the potential bot problem before it even starts.

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Old 04-24-2012, 04:48 PM   #30
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Re: Botting - why?

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Kavir,

My best guess is that it's actually impossible to completely eliminate botting.
Here's an example from the thread I linked to earlier:

"Well an extreme example would be my original Gladiator Pits codebase. Combat is fully automated, so there would be nothing for the bot to do during the fight. There's no character advancement, so the bot couldn't improve you if left running overnight. And fights are always one vs one, so there'd be no benefit in running multiple bots."

There really is nothing you can bot, at least from a competitive/gameplay perspective. Now I'm certainly not saying other people should implement such a solution (I only created it that way because I was limited to 16K of source code), but the point is that there are solutions. It's not a question of whether it's possible to render botting worthless (because it is), but whether you're willing to pay the price in terms of limiting your game design (which, for the record, I'm not - but that's beside the point).

The situation isn't black and white though. Here's a less extreme example from the same thread:

"My Last City mud (long since shut down) had primarily automated combat, with each player having their own dice pool. Your dice pool would gradually refill, and you could configure where the dice were allocated (attack, parry or dodge) and customise other things (such as replacing your parry with an off-hand attack). Once you had enough dice to attack (and you could configure that amount as well) you'd attack. You still had interactive commands like "kick", but they would spend your available attack dice, so it wasn't an extra attack, it leeched off your normal attack.

Other speed-critical things in Last City were also configurable. For example Celerity (supernatural speed) allowed you to configure dodge (if someone tried to attack you, you'd automatically dodge aside, and combat wouldn't be initiated) or attack (if someone tried to attack you, you'd hit them first). In terms of character advancement, you only earned 1 exp for each of the first 100 mobs you killed, after that killing gave you no further exp - you only earned it for logging on and playing for an hour, and even that dimished over time.
"

Not really much you can bot there. A combat bot isn't going to give you any real benefit, as your tactics are all configured in advance. You could bot for exp, but that would only take a couple of hours at most and then you'd have hit your limit. The only real advantage I can think of would be creating an army of bot alts (which could also be addressed in a number of ways).
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Old 04-24-2012, 06:50 PM   #31
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Re: Botting - why?

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Here's an example from the thread I linked to earlier:

"Well an extreme example would be my original Gladiator Pits codebase. Combat is fully automated, so there would be nothing for the bot to do during the fight. There's no character advancement, so the bot couldn't improve you if left running overnight. And fights are always one vs one, so there'd be no benefit in running multiple bots."

There really is nothing you can bot, at least from a competitive/gameplay perspective. Now I'm certainly not saying other people should implement such a solution (I only created it that way because I was limited to 16K of source code), but the point is that there are solutions.
KaVir, I think you're missing the point that I, and now dentin, are trying to make. If you pick a round hole (16k 1-on-1 PvP, heavy RP), you'd be able to fit a round peg through it (say that eliminating botting is possible). But that doesn't prove that a round peg can fit through any hole.

In my game, and I guess in dentin's as well, design decisions involve trying to preserve PvE that appeals to both grinders and explorers, while discouraging exploiters to a reasonable extent. If I set it as my foremost goal to eliminate botting completely from this picture, I would have to re-balance the game completely in ways I am not comfortable with.
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Old 04-25-2012, 04:20 AM   #32
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Re: Botting - why?

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KaVir, I think you're missing the point that I, and now dentin, are trying to make. If you pick a round hole (16k 1-on-1 PvP, heavy RP), you'd be able to fit a round peg through it (say that eliminating botting is possible). But that doesn't prove that a round peg can fit through any hole.
I think perhaps you're missing my point. I'm simply disagreeing with the suggestion that pegs can never fit through holes.

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If I set it as my foremost goal to eliminate botting completely from this picture, I would have to re-balance the game completely in ways I am not comfortable with.
Which is a completely different argument to "it's actually impossible to completely eliminate botting".
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Old 04-25-2012, 11:06 AM   #33
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Re: Botting - why?

Kavir,

To clarify my position, it's impossible to eliminate botting without impacting non-bot players. For a game like AA, pretty much the only way to reliably eliminate all bots would be to encase the server in lead and sink it into the ocean.

Since we're being pedantic, I feel that both of your examples suffer the same sort of problem. I agree that they are much more difficult to build a bot for, and they are much less likely to have bots built for them, but it is certainly possible to do so. Neither 'eliminates' (zero percent probability) bots, rather both designs are less likely to have bots.

(As a side note, IRC channels also have no advancement or sense of gameplay, yet IRC bots are very common.)

Bot detection and reduction is a probability in my mind, with some features more likely to be bottable and some less likely. I also see it as a tradeoff against normal players, whatever they may be - you may be able to come up with a scenario where botting is truly impossible - but in that case, it's likely that normal playing will also be (eg. server encased in lead above.)

Human intervention doesn't even guarantee you proper bot detection - don't forget that we have bots that can pass turing tests a double-digit percentage of the time.

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Old 04-25-2012, 03:49 PM   #34
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Re: Botting - why?

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To clarify my position, it's impossible to eliminate botting without impacting non-bot players.
Such a statement is somewhat disingenuous; nearly every mud feature is going to impact players. As mud developers we have to weigh up the pros and cons of every design decision we make, and we're each going to have different goals and priorities.

If you don't consider a feature worth adding then of course that's your prerogative. But in a public discussion about mud design, I don't think it's particularly constructive to insist that a feature is "impossible" simply because you don't feel it fits your own game design.

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Since we're being pedantic, I feel that both of your examples suffer the same sort of problem. I agree that they are much more difficult to build a bot for, and they are much less likely to have bots built for them, but it is certainly possible to do so. Neither 'eliminates' (zero percent probability) bots, rather both designs are less likely to have bots.

(As a side note, IRC channels also have no advancement or sense of gameplay, yet IRC bots are very common.)
Which is why I said "There really is nothing you can bot, at least from a competitive/gameplay perspective."

Of course you could write a talker bot or something, but that's not the problem being discussed in this thread. In fact I explicitly mentioned that "I actually like bots that offer useful services to other players".

The point I was making is that there is absolutely no benefit in botting Gladiator Pits. It is physically possible to create a bot, sure, but all of the benefits of botting have been completely eliminated.
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