Gold bots: A real issue

There was a thread about this, but with all of the XIGNCODE drama, it got overlooked, so i wanted to start a new one, specially for our new Community Manager @KitTeaCup to be aware of this.

Its already common knowledge among veterans of the MMOS that when a game gets too popular, or when it first launches, bots are bound to be present, spamming every single chat with their websites.

The issue is real this time. The last team of EME, when Treeshark was in office, did a wonderful job getting rid of the gold selling bots in TERA. Now they are back, and with a new team at EME, and a new Community Manager, is time to step up, and get rid of the bots once and for all.

For the knowledge of @KitTeaCup , This gold selling bots been here for months already, without sign of anything to stop them. Cautious players know how to deal with them: Block and life continues, but it has gotten to a point where for every blocked gold bot, 2 more spawn, and now the block lists is full of nothing but gold bots (the limit is 120, so you can guess how serious is this already) Players struggling to make gold in game will find the bots offers tempting and will fall for it, without realizing that this is RMT, and is prohibited not just in TERA, just about in any MMO. Using the services of this bots means pretty much your credit card info getting stolen, so its very dangerous. Plus they are such a cancer, spamming every 5 seconds their malicious websites on the Area and Say chat.

Usually they limited to Velika only, since thats the place where they can find more victims (new players) but now they are spreading to other places, like Lumbertown and Crescentia.

Here is one of those bots in action:
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EME staff @Denommenator @seandynamite @SingleBear @CobaltDragon and specially to our new CM @KitTeaCup Please, this is a real issue and must be dealt with promptly. No one likes a game filled with bots, so you would be doing a favor not only to yourself, but to us the players, in getting rid of em. Treeshark team managed to drive them out of TERA, so we expect the new EME team, to do the same, and possibly, a permanent solution.

Thank you.
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Comments

  • I can tell you they are exceedingly aware of this problem. (We are sending them lists of spammers every day now.)

    The main problem here is that the bots got smarter, and the old techniques that kept the game bot-free from years ago (like country bans, IP reputation checks, level restrictions on chat channels, etc.) no longer work. Whack-a-mole doesn't work either, because they just pop up as fast as they're killed. Text filters don't work because they change the text slightly as soon as it's implemented.

    It's obvious that no one likes games filled with chat spam, but I'm honestly not sure how to solve this problem (other than if people would just stop buying from them, but clearly that's hopeless considering how pervasive they are across all MMOs I've played).
  • allofspaceandtimeallofspaceandtime ✭✭✭✭✭
    could there possibly be a way for eme to file a complaint with the fcc against these websites that the gold scammers are using and have them shut down? would that put a huge decrease in the scammers or are they using different websites? I guess even if they used different websites, maybe eme could file a complaint against all of them and possibly have them shut down due to them breaking the law. @KitTeaCup , @Denommenator , @seandynamite , @SingleBear , @CobaltDragon
  • I can tell you they are exceedingly aware of this problem. (We are sending them lists of spammers every day now.)

    The main problem here is that the bots got smarter, and the old techniques that kept the game bot-free from years ago (like country bans, IP reputation checks, level restrictions on chat channels, etc.) no longer work. Whack-a-mole doesn't work either, because they just pop up as fast as they're killed. Text filters don't work because they change the text slightly as soon as it's implemented.

    It's obvious that no one likes games filled with chat spam, but I'm honestly not sure how to solve this problem (other than if people would just stop buying from them, but clearly that's hopeless considering how pervasive they are across all MMOs I've played).

    <joke>Run off enough of the player base with xigncode so that gold bots are no longer profitable. Could that be EME's plan?</joke>

    More seriously though, did gold bots become significantly more numerous since xingcode was added? Pre-xingcode, they just seemed like a minor nuisance to me.
  • ZoknahalZoknahal ✭✭✭✭✭
    Creating Awareness by having system messages placed right in the middle of the screen of new players, from the time they step into noob island, to the time they step in Velika, would be a fair bandait solution.

    Other than that, If eme as a company cannot deal with the bot problem, then filing a complain would be an option, and i would assume, a very expensive option.

    Was gonna suggest that they could create a custom way to detect the bots. This bots, in order to avoid being kicked out by the server for being AFK, automatically enter their malicious websites every 5 seconds, and i have seen one bot change channels constantly to avoid being kicked out too. IT does not help that there is now a way for "Unethical" players to avoid being kicked for being afk, because im sure those bots would use it too.

    And yes, i have noticed that before xigncode, the bots stayed in Velika, and now they are spreading everywhere after the xigncode introduction.
  • Zoknahal wrote: »
    Creating Awareness by having system messages placed right in the middle of the screen of new players, from the time they step into noob island, to the time they step in Velika, would be a fair bandait solution.

    Other than that, If eme as a company cannot deal with the bot problem, then filing a complain would be an option, and i would assume, a very expensive option.

    Was gonna suggest that they could create a custom way to detect the bots. This bots, in order to avoid being kicked out by the server for being AFK, automatically enter their malicious websites every 5 seconds, and i have seen one bot change channels constantly to avoid being kicked out too. IT does not help that there is now a way for "Unethical" players to avoid being kicked for being afk, because im sure those bots would use it too.

    And yes, i have noticed that before xigncode, the bots stayed in Velika, and now they are spreading everywhere after the xigncode introduction.

    Some sort of captcha maybe. Maybe have it pop up every so often if not in combat. Probably would be too annoying a solution for the players, though.
  • I wonder if a reduction in the player base caused the bots to spread out from Velika to try to compensate.
  • could there possibly be a way for eme to file a complaint with the fcc against these websites that the gold scammers are using and have them shut down? would that put a huge decrease in the scammers or are they using different websites? I guess even if they used different websites, maybe eme could file a complaint against all of them and possibly have them shut down due to them breaking the law.

    It's impossible because these aren't reputable law-abiding companies to begin with, and the only people with the authority to shut down websites on a global scale aren't going to do it for this form of "minor crime." Even if you did shut down one website, they'll just pop-up another one instantly, and their bot army will start spreading the new URL. You'd have to arrest the masterminds, but I assume there are plenty of unscrupulous people who will take their place.

    My hope would be for better reporting and blocking tools that are easier to use and bypass the limits of block lists, but it's not really a fix at all.
  • The problem channels are say, area, and global if I understand right. Maybe add a captcha to allow sending messages to those channels. If the captcha is passed, the result would be good until it times out. Its possible the captcha protection may also need to be added to whispers in case bots start trying to mass whisper.
  • KillerPenguinsKillerPenguins ✭✭✭✭
    RandomElin wrote: »
    The problem channels are say, area, and global if I understand right. Maybe add a captcha to allow sending messages to those channels. If the captcha is passed, the result would be good until it times out. Its possible the captcha protection may also need to be added to whispers in case bots start trying to mass whisper.

    this won't help, they have live humans watching the bots just in case.. one guy is probably watching hundreds bots on 10 different games *shrug*
  • This is one of the problems with a free to play game.

    Personally, I just don't want to see spam filling up public channels.

    I would introduce multiple levels of subscription:
    - The first level would be totally free to play with limitations. An example limitation could be frequency, number, and channels that could be posted to. How about post access to only a newbie channel and what would be considered as the free to play/spam channel? Maybe they could see other channels but not post to them. This account level could also limit how much money you could have, even go so far as to disallow trading and broker selling.
    - The next level could require a one time or annual fee ($5-10) which would allow the current level of free game play. Bot makers wouldn't upgrade to these accounts to spam since they would be quickly banned and prove to be very unprofitable. Ironically, the bot makers would be doing EME a favor as everyone would upgrade to at least this level.
    - There would be other account levels.

    The above wouldn't stop the gold selling but at least I wouldn't see it.

    One thing that could be done about gold selling is to add it to the store but I don't know how that would change the game. Although not exactly the same thing, people are already exchanging EMP for gold.
  • CGWHXE93RA wrote: »
    This is one of the problems with a free to play game. [...]

    FWIW, even that won't help. Even subscription games have problems with bots (perhaps even larger problems in some cases). If you make them pay money, they just use stolen credit cards to spin the accounts around, because it's not like they care about eventually getting banned by the time the chargeback comes through.

    And yeah, even having an in-game feature to directly "buy gold" doesn't help either; other MMOs with that also have bots. Some people are apparently so conditioned to seek out these scammers that they do it regardless of perfectly allowed in-game mechanics.
  • CGWHXE93RA wrote: »
    This is one of the problems with a free to play game. [...]

    FWIW, even that won't help. Even subscription games have problems with bots (perhaps even larger problems in some cases). If you make them pay money, they just use stolen credit cards to spin the accounts around, because it's not like they care about eventually getting banned by the time the chargeback comes through.

    And yeah, even having an in-game feature to directly "buy gold" doesn't help either; other MMOs with that also have bots. Some people are apparently so conditioned to seek out these scammers that they do it regardless of perfectly allowed in-game mechanics.

    I disagree. It may not completely remove the spam but would introduce a significant hurdle to spamming. How about adding a wait period? I'd pay $10 and wait a week to not have to see all that spam. Heck, I'd pay $50 and wait a month. Another enhancement could be a flagging feature that is automated as opposed to requiring screenshots. How about notices in game that gold selling/buying is a bannable offense? If you're caught buying gold (i.e. receiving gold from a gold seller's account), your account will be banned, no recourse, no exceptions.
  • ZoknahalZoknahal ✭✭✭✭✭
    Another solution, altho i do not think it would be the best, would be like how Digital Extremes regulates the chat in Warframe. Instead of having a real person regulating the chat, they have a bot with a really sensitive chat filter.

    The moment the bot detects a word not being used correctly, it immediately kicks that player from the chat, and bans him. The ban can last up to a week. This keeps every public chat tab, free of spam, profanity, derogatory remarks and racial slur. The downside? lets just say you just wanna use the meme "Its a trap!" The bot will detect the word trap as something completely different, and will proceed to automatically ban from the chat said player.

    the bot also proceeds to delete anything that is not related to that specific chat tab, for example, you cannot post trading messages in the public chat, the bot will simply delete it and send an automated message sending you to the correct chat tab.
  • CGWHXE93RA wrote: »
    CGWHXE93RA wrote: »
    This is one of the problems with a free to play game. [...]

    FWIW, even that won't help. Even subscription games have problems with bots (perhaps even larger problems in some cases). If you make them pay money, they just use stolen credit cards to spin the accounts around, because it's not like they care about eventually getting banned by the time the chargeback comes through.

    And yeah, even having an in-game feature to directly "buy gold" doesn't help either; other MMOs with that also have bots. Some people are apparently so conditioned to seek out these scammers that they do it regardless of perfectly allowed in-game mechanics.

    I disagree. It may not completely remove the spam but would introduce a significant hurdle to spamming.

    Unfortunately, because they use stolen cards, it's not a hurdle at all. I play another rather-well-known subscription MMO that has restrictions on trial accounts and only paid accounts can spam chat... and they've been fighting a major gold seller spam problem for years. It's sad, but it doesn't work.

    CGWHXE93RA wrote: »
    How about adding a wait period? I'd pay $10 and wait a week to not have to see all that spam. Heck, I'd pay $50 and wait a month.

    Won't work either because they'll just have an army of bots in waiting for however long it takes. And besides, preventing new players from chatting entirely for a week/month has a pretty drastic impact on their ability to get help when they're new, so it's a bit like throwing the baby out with the bath water.

    CGWHXE93RA wrote: »
    Another enhancement could be a flagging feature that is automated as opposed to requiring screenshots.

    This I think they should do. Could add a "Report as Spam" feature in the menu that automatically sends all the needed info for review. Could possibly even have it where a certain number of reports results in automatic-muting, but have to watch for abuse potential here too.

    CGWHXE93RA wrote: »
    How about notices in game that gold selling/buying is a bannable offense? If you're caught buying gold (i.e. receiving gold from a gold seller's account), your account will be banned, no recourse, no exceptions.

    I personally agree with this as well. I think it should be very visible and clear that any purchases from third-party gold selling sites will result in permanent banning of all your accounts across all EME games, and that should be aggressively enforced until the word finally gets out that it's a death wish to try it.

  • This I think they should do. Could add a "Report as Spam" feature in the menu that automatically sends all the needed info for review. Could possibly even have it where a certain number of reports results in automatic-muting, but have to watch for abuse potential here too.
    Must have at least 10 reports for a temporary mute. Mute lasts a day or until the player gets unmuted by support.
    Does not work in battlegrounds, instances or on players in the same raid/who have been in your raid in the last hour

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