A look at Jagex's historical and current stance on macroing
Note: I started working on this article on June 30th, and wrote a significant portion of it on July 13th. 3 days later Jagex made yet another announcement. I hope it isn't redundant or irrelevant. Included at the end of the article are links to Jagex's announcements (where available), and the primary text for forum posts.
Over the past decade, Jagex has struggled to keep up with rule breaking. About every two years they make a news announcement over a battle won in the war waged against macroers or real world traders; that they've upped their armaments and have released new and improved technology in detecting cheating, along with strong warnings that cheaters will be banned. Jagex seems to be doing an about-face right now, although they haven't trumpeted it or paraded it around. Instead, their new policies are hidden from view, much like a stain on a person's undergarments.
If you browse through the news archives, you will find that there are many posts in the "Customer Support" section, all dealing with cheating. The earliest posts are strongly worded and read as if Andrew Gower himself typed them, and that he took personal insult that someone would try to cheat his game. The posts usually detail the number of accounts caught, sometimes including a public shame list, and always remind everyone that members are not exempt from action taken against their accounts. Probably my favorite post of the bunch came January 2nd, 2004 with two golden nuggets: a list of 100 macroers banned, and a quote saying:
"Many of those 957 were high level, and 284 of them were members. They are banned anyway, we don't want you as customers! You are not welcome in RuneScape if you cheat."
As the years have gone on, Jagex seems to have maintained their stance on cheating. Unfortunately their news announcements became less specific; from giving exact numbers and several names, to just listing off a few players' total levels along with their in game time. In their second to last announcement on botting (June 11, 2009), Jagex made no mention of how many accounts they were about to ban, other than "thousands;" they made no mention of who was getting banned (only to say that there were no immune botting programs and that anyone botting will be banned). That announcement was met with much skepticism here on the Tip.It forums. The only good part of the post was that Jagex still had their no-nonsense policy.
That all changed a year and a half later. In a couple of forum posts, Jagex undid nearly a decade of hard work against cheaters. Sometime in December, Jagex announced to player moderators that they've begun a new strategy to combat bots - experience rollbacks. They later made it official with another forum post visible to all players on February 18th, 2011. On February 2nd, 2011, Jagex introduced Banned Account Reinstatement. Once again, this major announcement came not through the typical news post, but instead with a change in the Knowledge Base and a forum post. This change in policy was huge.
Before their new punishment strategy, a player who cheated would have their accounts linked together and banned all at once. Jagex got rid of their biggest macro deterrent. Instead of having a scorched earth policy against cheaters, a player's hard work and sacrifice (their "precious" time spent macroing) would be negated along with a little off the top; they'd still have their account and other side accounts. From reading forum accounts, it seems Jagex picks 5 random skills and halves experience in each of them, while also removing all stackable items in a player's bank (only on the offending account).
From other players' descriptions, Jagex implemented a three strike policy (unconfirmed). That is to say that the first macroing offense will be a 14 day ban, the second offense will be a 30 day ban, and the third will be a permanent ban. That's to say, permanent until a ransom is paid. If Jagex decided that your account should be banned, they'd give you another last shot - buy it back. Not only are they being very lenient in their policy with cheaters, they're also shamelessly trying to further profit off them.
If Jagex introduced the Banned Account Reinstatement several years ago it would have made much more sense - players couldn't change their names, and they might want the name for an identity's sake. Wiping a player's stats but allowing them to keep their name or buy it back would give them about the same punishment as banning their account altogether, other than the name change. Now, an account's name means very little because of name change. Also, the XP rollback and three strikes as a policy is a complete joke compared to their "we don't want you was customers!" stance in 2004.
On July 16th, 2011, Jagex reminded us that they were "keenly aware" of these issues in RuneScape and that they were "united in fighting" with us. In the vaguest announcement to date, Jagex said they were also focusing on gaining access through legal means to lists of people that bot from the bot writers themselves. While the approach is different than the ones they've taken in the past, the announcement didn't gain much traction with their player base. Partly the reason for this was that everyone knew Jagex didn't permantly ban players anymore, but they were also still disillusioned from the failed Bot Busting parties.
I hope that in two years from now, when Jagex releases its next announcement, it will be one of success. They'll describe how they removed the nonsensical three strikes policy, describe how their old scorched earth policy works better, describe how they removed the Banned Account Reinstatement program, announce they've won several lawsuits against major bot and goldselling companies, and give the names of the top 100 players in each skill that have been permantly banned for botting. This is one announcement that we can all look forward to.
- 12-Dec-2002 - Cheating scum banned
- 02-Jan-2004 - More cheating scum banned
- 12-Jan-2006 - Nearly 5000 RS-classic accounts banned
- 19-Jan-2006 - Over 15000 RuneScape accounts banned for cheating
- 01-May-2007 - Bots and real-world trading
- 11-May-2007 - Bots and Real-World Trading Update
- 11-Jun-2009 - Macro-detection systems update
- 16-Jul-2011 - Fighting the bots - An update
- KB: Banned Account Reinstatement
Jagex Mod Mark H, Forum Post:
Quick find code: 250-251-685-62305961
As you know, Jagex has a strong track record of dealing with people who cheat whilst playing RuneScape.
We'd much prefer to invest all our efforts in developing the game, adding new and exciting content and supporting our awesome community.
We spend a huge amount of time, effort and money on tackling the cheating issue and the people involved. We and the genuine players are greatly frustrated by the activities of cheaters and the knock on effects it creates.
We don't think it's necessarily fair that genuine player's membership fees have to be used to combat cheating. So why not make the cheaters pay for the trouble they cause instead of legitimate players footing the bill.
In some situations we may now charge cheaters to get their account back.
You can rest assured that this does not give people a license to break the rules. The decision will be entirely at the discretion of Jagex. We may just decide to ban the account without any further options being made available.
If we decide to do anything different to banning, aside from a substantial stinging rollback penalty to XP and wealth, there may now be a real world cost dished out to cheaters.
We will always be on the side of the genuine players who enjoy our game and play fairly. As always legitimate players need not worry, it's only the cheaters that need to be concerned.
The RuneScape Team
Forum post on XP rollbacks
Quick find code: 250-251-986-62414807
Recently, you may have noticed some discussion from players about people 'losing XP' or having their 'stats rolled back'. We have been trialling the use of rolling back accounts in addition to bans as part of our ongoing focus on cheaters.
Just so it’s absolutely clear. There is no XP loss bug in RuneScape, there never was, our system security is rock solid, and any player who does not cheat has absolutely nothing to be concerned about.
Genuine players are entirely free to continue to enjoy the game and their account will not be adversely affected in any way.
Based on the questions we’ve seen, Community Management have spoken to our Investigation Team, and we are now in a position to share the following:
Have Jagex gone soft on cheaters?
We’ve never been soft on cheaters! By rolling back accounts in addition to bans, we now have even more tools to tackle those using macro scripts to gain an unfair advantage over genuine players. Whether we issue a permanent ban, or roll back an account, both are severe measures which hit cheaters where it hurts.
Are these people really cheating – what if you make a mistake?
In all cases, we are confident that a macro offence has been committed whether we issue a ban or rollback an account. Every single person who claims they have been unfairly banned or unfairly rolled back knows exactly why this action has been taken against their account.
Why did you tell people to submit a bug report when they experienced XP loss, if you knew it was actually Jagex removing the XP?
We advised affected players to submit a bug report for 3 reasons:
1. To capitalise on the confusion in the cheating community and make cheaters think they had used a dodgy macro.
2. To be certain the player did not have any other problem which was unrelated to anything we had done.
3. To have a response for the few players that were falsely claiming they had been rolled back (claims presumably made in the the hope that there was actually a bug and that we would just blindly add XP back to their accounts.)
Do you roll back accounts that have been hijacked?
When applying the roll back, we carry out all our usual hijacking checks to ensure that any action we carry out is fair.
At what point does Jagex decide that roll backs are not appropriate for an account and instead bans them?
Permanent ban offences are still issued, roll back is an optional tool at our disposal. We would prefer to not be specific about our decision making process – but we always use our judgement and deal with each account on an individual basis.
Some accounts will be banned without a roll back, the risk of losing your account through macro use is still very real.
How do you stop players from abusing the roll backs – for example using a macro on ‘Defence’ with the intention of getting it reset to create a pure account?
Let’s not forget that account rollback is not the only way we can deal with macroers – we will continue to ban as well. We have systems in place to prevent the roll back punishment being used for the advantage of those who macro, and definitely will not create ‘pure’ accounts as a result of any action we take.
What’s going to happen to all the banned macro accounts from years gone by?
At our discretion, we may allow some old banned accounts to return to game, after we have applied a harsh xp roll back and wealth removal. To request that an account is reviewed within this process, please post the account name on quick find code: 250-251-3-62411000.
I’ve seen people admitting to using a macro but claiming they have lost far more XP than they gained with the macro - why is that?
We are removing the XP that was macroed as well as some extra XP as a ‘punishment’. To be clear – we only remove XP when we feel it is the appropriate course of action, when doing so would not actually make the account desirable, and only when we are certain that a macro has been used.
What about the wealth cheaters have accumulated?
We will be removing wealth from accounts if we believe that it has been gained through macroing. In addition, any items which the account has which can no longer be used or equipped at the revised account levels will be automatically placed in the inventory and can not be used again until the appropriate requirement level is obtained.
If you know someone is ‘botting’, why not just permanently ban them?
Permanent bans have not been removed and will still be issued at our discretion – XP roll back is an additional optional tool we can now use. Macroers will still be banned if we feel it is appropriate.
Can genuine players request a roll back?
There are no current plans to roll back on request – currently we are only using it as part of the measures we can use against cheaters. However, we haven’t made any firm decisions yet about how else to use this tool, but if we can use it to help the genuine community in other ways - it’s definitely worth exploring.
The idea of pure resets has been discussed as has “back on your feet packs” for players that may have been careless with their password and hijacked. Those conversations are ongoing and have highlighted all sorts of complications.
It’s not an easy decision and we will take our time making sure we’ve debated things from every angle, our primary concern with everything we do is ”is this in the interest of the community?” If we do decide to offer roll back for situations outside of macro use - we will, of course, let you know.
Thanks for your continued support,
Community Management Jagex