The practice of “botting” has traditionally been a rather large issue in Runescape. For years now the game has been plagued by players who attempt to sidestep the MMO genre’s traditional experience and item grind systems by automating the process. In effect, these players are tasking “‘bots” with playing the tedious parts of the game for them, while they go about their otherwise thrilling lives.
Unfortunately for these less-than-devoted gamers, Runescape’s creators forbid this kind of thing in their game and have recently begun taking drastic measures to cut down on the number of people who are only “playing” the game in the loosest sense of the word. In November of last year, developer Jagex unveiled new ‘bot-culling techniques that resulted in 1.5 million cheating accounts being banned from the game. This event was appropriately dubbed “‘bot nuking day” and according to Jagex it removed 98 percent of all the ‘bots in the game.
However, it seems that this mass banning wasn’t enough to drive home the message of how little Jagex cares for these ‘botters. Now, instead of working up fancy new automated systems that can be countered with a bit of human ingenuity, the developer hopes to turn the banhammer of justice over to Runescape’s legitimate player base for a bit of organized vigilanteism. “Those found to be using illegal software will be permanently banned and their account deleted — with no chance of appeal should they continue to ignore our warnings,” Jagex stated via the official Runescape blog. “As we hunt for and identify botters, you — the good citizens of Gielinor — will be the ultimate deliverers of justice!”
The really neat bit though is how Jagex plans to handle these surprisingly formal trials. According to the blog, offending players will be whisked away to an area called Botany Bay where a makeshift courtroom will inevitably declare them guilty. Actually, if Jagex detects your account is cheating, there is no real recourse — you’ll be sent to Botany Bay, and at your trial the jury of other human players will not vote “guilty” or “not guilty,” but instead will simply vote on what manner of spectacular death will be visited on your virtual self. Options include crushing, being devoured by an ancient horror and being smote out of existence by an angry deity.
Intriguingly, Jagex is offering tangible in-game rewards for people willing to sit on these juries. Join a jury three times and the company will reward your devotion to justice with a “a wieldable pitchfork of vigilantism.” Participate in three more and you’ll unlock additional character emotes. Four more trials after that and your character will be granted “the gloriously pointy pitchfork of justice.”
We have to hand it Jagex for coming up with a novel, entertaining way to deal with its cheating issues, but given the scope of the issue — estimates place the number of ‘bot accounts created daily at somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 — this method of toying with offenders before banning them seems somewhat inefficient. Then again, maybe the inherent entertainment value of sentencing your fellow gamers to die in a virtual world defined by one’s inability to actually perish might outweigh what would otherwise be an unmanageable issue. Either way, it’s heartening to see Jagex so devoted to finding a solution that works both for the company and for its devoted fans.