DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article are the view of this author, this author alone, and not necessarily those of Tip.it.
Annoying, weren't they? Simple tasks like cutting down a Yew tree or picking Flax always got interrupted by armies of identical people. And even though you are limited to reporting one player per minute, it seemed never enough to bring peace back to whatever place you were at. The only thing that really seemed to work were the updates that Jagex themselves designed to cut down the invasion of the automatons.
There are all kinds of bots, and most of them you'll have had something to do with. Whether they've taken up your favourite training spot, ruined your prime source of income, or simply filled your screen with useless flashing text, none of it has really enhanced your gaming experience. You can avoid them if you want to, but they are at your favourite spots for a reason.
I could explore all the reasons why this is, but most of us already know that. And if you don't, do not even bother to find out because it will only serve to drag you into the dark back-alleys of RuneScape.
So, what can we do? Truth is, most of us don't even bother when a bunch of macros are hunting Chinchompas into extinction. As easy as it was to identify and then trick or disrupt bots back in the old days, they've become too sophisticated for the average Joe to do anything about it. So while those bots can be a nuisance, it's just less hassle to hop worlds.
Now, their effect on the whole economy is a double edged sword. On the one hand it lowers prices of raw materials, which makes the gathering skills less profitable and less useful. Most of us see that as an opportunity to dabble with the more exciting skills. Face it, fishing is not nearly as exhilarating as whatever you’re doing when you actually need the cooked fish.
On the other hand, it creates false supply. Knowing that most of the GP earned with these bots (or the goods bought with it) will eventually be deleted from the game, prices can undergo quite the jolt upwards, especially since large masses of bots are banned all at once. The result: more people complaining about unfair profits made.
But that does not always happen. Jagex has their priorities straight. They will work hardest on getting rid of the bots that end up costing the company money. Yes, gold farming still exists.
Not too long ago, Jagex filed a lawsuit against sites that offered to train your account, or gather money on it (while you're at work or something) in exchange for Dollars, Pounds and Euro's. Some of those sites were even less 'legit' and would end up stealing your credit card data. You can fill in the rest from here.
This is a problem that cannot be taken care of at the core, though, and therefore will always persist. As long as there is someone willing to pay for an advantage, there will be someone willing to accommodate the wish of his or her future customer. But having said sites shut down and, keeping in mind that such credit card information can only be stolen if the owner wanted to do illegal stuff with it, having tainted credit cards blocked too can be chalked up as a win, I guess.
Other types of bots that annoy me personally to no end, are less of a concern to Jagex. I'm talking about the ones that hang around the Grand Exchange, spamming my screen with stuff that no one cares about, hoping to entice ignorant newbies/nitwits into investing their money according to their wishes.
Some (not all) merchant clans do this, and that does very little damage, except when there is another bot involved. Going too fast for you? Let me walk you through the process (experienced people can skip a paragraph ahead).
A merchant clan is like an investment bank, and like everyone that has a lot of money, look out for their own money first. So they decide on an item to 'invest' in, and buy as much as they feel comfortable with. They then proceed to tell their customers to do the same, driving the price up. Can you sense where this is going? The whole goal is to sell the items when it hits a predetermined price to make a profit. But the closer to the top you are, the sooner you sell it. This funnels money into the higher echelons of the merchant clan, giving them even more power to do it all again.
Now for the bot part. Imagine a program doing all of the above for you. Creating an unfair advantage because it can put in a Grand Exchange offer a mere second after the prices have been updated, buying and selling before the fad hits.
You can quickly see where this heads to, if left unchecked. Unfortunately, the solution is one that I'm unsure whether or not Jagex wants to implement, let alone whether it is feasible on a technical level.
What if the Grand Exchange updated with every offer put in, like real stock markets? Combine that with the removal of price roofs and price floors higher than the alch-value of the items, and you will have effectively eliminated every single merchanting opportunity that takes advantage of manipulating markets, done by bot or not. Chalk up two more wins.
In the end, Jagex and the bot-programmers will always keep playing a game of cat and clockwork mouse. Jagex can't win the war, but they can win every battle, and it is therefore up to them to keep up the good work until it is no longer worth the effort for botters, or until they are no longer a threat to the continuity of the game. I am relieved that reports of confirmed false positives have also reduced to a minimum, but really, who would admit to cheating?