Cheaters have been the primary scourge of massively multiplayer online games since the subgenre first emerged. Guild Wars 2 is no exception to this truism, and since its debut in August publisher ArenaNet has been scrambling to come up with a viable plan to prevent lazy gamers from ruining the experience for those who hope to enjoy Guild Wars 2 the way its developers intended.
The most problematic group of cheaters for almost any massively multiplayer title is undoubtedly the “botters.” These are players who use third-party software to automate their character’s in-game actions. This becomes a huge problem for MMO creators, as most of these games heavily rely on long, involved quests and item collection tasks to artificially extend a game’s potential shelf-life. What a player can accomplish in a single-player roleplaying game in a matter of minutes often takes hours in a massively multiplayer game, but by offering players periodic rewards, these otherwise tedious activities are able to release a burst of dopamine inside a player’s brain, thus keeping him or her playing (and keeping the game’s creators wealthy enough to continue development on the title and make a nice profit as well). In automating these tasks, botters effectively remove all of the less exciting, effort-filled bits of the game and instead skip right to the neat end-game content, or, if they’re professionals, they may use this technique to pick up huge lots of in-game items which can then be sold for real-world cash, either through legitimate or black market channels. These would your stereotypical “Chinese gold farmers.”
Given the effect this can have on a publisher’s bottom line (not to mention the rage other players might feel at discovering that their peers are cheating), ArenaNet has decided to publicize its recent decisive strike against the legions of botters. In a lengthy post recently added to the official Guild Wars 2 website, the game’s security coordinator, Mike Lewis, lets players know that during the month of November the company banned a whopping 34,000 player accounts due to reports of botting and other activities strictly outlawed by the game’s end user license agreement. Further, he claims that the overall population of botters in ArenaNet seems to be shrinking — though, to be fair, he also notes that this coincides with a decrease in the game’s overall player population. According to Lewis, ArenaNet monitors worldwide bot activity within its game and since October the average number of botters active at any given time has dropped from over 2,000 to “a much healthier 20.”
Lewis then goes on to thank the game’s remaining players for their efforts in reporting botters to ArenaNet before outlining the system the publisher has in place to combat this issue. Have a look:
Collecting and analyzing data is very important to us at ArenaNet. Data is the most powerful weapon in our arsenal against bots. We’ve gathered massive amounts of information about the habits of both normal players and automated bot players. We contracted a team of data specialists to help us build comprehensive tools that comb through this data and find effective ways to single out and terminate bot accounts. Automating this process has been a major focus of the ArenaNet security team, and we’re now seeing the considerable fruits of this labor.
Another way we identify and combat bots is through manual observation. Our GM staff is equipped to monitor the game around the clock and detect bots from within the game itself. We have a considerable task force assigned to patrolling the world and eliminating bots, as well as helping us continue to improve and refine our automatic detection tools.
Last but not least, we’re in a good position to monitor and investigate bot reports as they arrive from players. Aided by our analysis tools and strengthened by manual investigation as necessary, GMs are able to react quickly and efficiently to bot reports and terminate offending accounts in short order.
Whether ArenaNet is successful in its crusade against botters remains to be seen — no MMO to date has been able to completely wipe them out — but at least it has a plan and is working toward making the online title that much more friendly for those who simply want to team up with a group of friends to kill fantastic creatures. Fans can’t really ask for more, though we wonder if these efforts will be enough to stem the slowly-growing exodus the game has seen since launch.