Please note that the views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Editorial Panel. The author of this article does not encourage or endorse the use of macroing software.
Every player is brought up to believe – in the words of Mod MMG himself – that ‘bots are bad’. From the community to the economy, it would seem that bots have had an adverse effect on almost every aspect of the game we love. But in order to truly understand the consequences of botting, especially when it has become so widespread in recent months, it’s important to look at this issue objectively and without hyperbole. In this article I aim to do this, and to propose my solution to the issue of botting.
Bots affect RuneScape in several ways; they have direct economic affects – by radically increasing supply of the raw materials they harvest or the product they produce (which decreases the profits that real players could potentially get, as illustrated by the picture below) – , they have social affects – where players feel their achievements have been devalued because others have put no effort was put into acquiring their wealth or stats –, and even coerce some players into feeling that they have to resort to participating in illicit activities in order to effectively compete with players that bot. The latter is particularly damaging, as it encourages more players to bot, thus exacerbating the problem.
Bots, depending on the type, are generally perceived to be bad due to the supposedly adverse effects they have on players, directly or indirectly. In order to find a solution, it’s important to acknowledge why players bot. Firstly, there are the cliché reasons where a player simply wants more money (either to trade in the real world or for personal use), or where a player simply wants higher stats for a skillcape. Then there are players who enjoy playing RuneScape, but are sick of the endless chore that RuneScape has become – they just want to play RS without having to devote essentially thousands of hours, equivalent to hundreds of days’ worth of gameplay in order to meet the real challenges of the game (eg, PvP, MH, Dungeoneering, etc). Why shouldn’t a game be fun, instead of being repetitive and mundane? Reiterating what Racheya said in her article ‘Boredom’; I do feel that many skills in RuneScape don’t alleviate boredom, but instead, cause it.
It appears that, in order to effectively manage the bot epidemic, there is a much greater problem that needs fixing – the mechanics of RuneScape’s core gameplay. This is no easy task, given that such a change may alienate players who enjoy the ‘grind’ in RuneScape. There are also technical issues associated with such changes; it’s likely to require a vast amount of time and expense, which JaGex may not have at this point in time due to so many resources being tied into anti-botting activities (although a significant proportion of the player-base believes that they’re inefficient and fail to catch many obvious bots). I feel that the Dungeoneering skill is the right step forward, but it’s insufficient by itself – we need an overhaul of the game and combat mechanics of the skills. However, rewards for Dungeoneering could have been better implemented.
The concept of removing botting via detection systems is obsolete and ought to be revised – it’s like trying to treat the symptoms of a nutritional disease without treating its cause, ie an exercise in futility. Even Andrew Gower (former Lead Developer and one of the founders of RS) himself had previously admitted that ‘Every time JaGex doubles their efforts, bot scripters will quadruple theirs, and it may reach a point where macroing becomes undetectable’ – an inevitable prophecy seemingly drawing ever closer to reality. Even the most sophisticated, radical systems will almost always have loopholes, and to implement them is likely to harm gameplay, which could potentially be a PR disaster.
Given the magnitude of bots there are today (in the tens, possibly hundreds of thousands), in almost every location, it’s unreasonable and irrational to expect JaGex’s detection system to be an all-inclusive solution to the bot epidemic. Though I’m not suggesting that the detection system should be scrapped altogether – it is an important instrument in the bot removal process –, it shouldn’t be the primary method.
JaGex has also famously pursued the legal approach (most notably against RSBots), claiming that the script makers are violating copyright laws. But this proves to be ineffective, as there are many legal loopholes that a scripter could use, and the cost of pursuing legal battles is astronomical. The result of the legal battle against RSBots had merely forced them to change their name on copyright grounds. Furthermore, it doesn’t stop unofficial amateur scripters from coding for themselves (such as with Java).
Goldfarming and real-world trading knows no boundaries, regardless of trade limits. During the trade-limit era, real-world trading merely changed from selling RuneScape gold to selling RuneScape items that are normally unattainable in the Grand Exchange due to the flawed price update process. By re-implementing trade limits, it’ll harm gameplay in another form – a compromise that’s likely to be undesirable. It may be possible to reduce the demand for RuneScape gold by reducing the reliance upon it. By having more untradeable items players will be forced to work for their items instead of buying their way to success.
Although making RuneScape a downloadable game may work as a solution against Reflection and BCEL/Injection botters (which constitutes a majority of botters), whereby the bot platforms draw data from the game code itself. It would be unwise to do so, as it’s likely to alienate a great many players. Much of RuneScape’s appeal and success has been due to the game’s format - an easily accessible browser game that allows for multitasking - and low system requirements.
I acknowledge that the solutions I propose may be ambitious, radical and probably extravagant; however, such a system is necessary to manage the issues we face today. It’s clear that JaGex’s ‘sophisticated detection systems’ have failed to materialize, and if we want to keep free trade, urgent action will need to be taken. If the issue of botting continues to persist, it’s not unlikely that many more players will quit out of a loss of confidence, and disdain towards, the game.
It’s us or them, take your pick.