I have pushed this article back for some time—two full weeks in fact. I tossed around not writing it. I thought about blurring names, and decided against it. I have finally decided to run the piece because the problem is so widespread it is impossible one will not encounter it on some level. On countless occasions I have ran into “bot” crews in both EQII and WoW. They are typically easy to spot—the names do not follow what are typical vowel/consonant rules, one toon moves, and shortly after the other four follow together (five toons controlled by one user is typically called a hydra). Most people attribute these farmers’ activities to the gold for cash business that has been booming since EQ1 if not before. There are, I’m sure, legitimate players controlling 5 toons at once–I am talking about farming the same named mobs over and over, for weeks and months at a time, without ever logging out of the game.
So, I am not writing this story to blacklist anyone. I am not trying to point fingers, demand retribution, or expose someone. In fact I have never encountered or talked to either of the people in my screenshots. That being said, I have not altered the screenshots either. I have left the decision up to the reader to draw their own conclusions. I am sure if you have played any popular MMO for a period of time, you have had similiar experiences, and have perhaps already seen some of what I am describing. The screenshots merely add some visual aides to my story. If someone feels my logic or assertions are misguided, please post a comment, but do so in a mature way, or no one but me will see it. I leave it for you to decide if these are cases of a script or not, and perhaps raise the larger question—does this type of behavior hurt the average player? By the way, framing comments in a way that seeks to “flame” me or anyone else is ill-advised. You will move to the spam list.
The Obelisk of Lost Souls was a mainstay of so-called hydras for some time (it may still be for all I know). In The Feerrott, a bot team lead by a Kerra named “Chains” farmed headhunters 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for over 6 straight weeks in 2005. I know because I was off from work and harvesting that zone like a farmer myself at the time. I recall seeing harvest bots on occasion–they would scour an area like a locust, and work all day long. Periodically, SOE would announce they had closed a large number of accounts, and these people disappeared, Chains and friends included. We had reported him for weeks before it happened.
However, recently I have noticed what I would call mainstream players engaging in what appears to be scripted behaviors. My only indication that they are mainstream players is they belong to a guild that seems legitimate, they are wearing decent gear, and have names that make sense phonetically. Upon my return to EQII, one of the first seemingly scripted toons I observed was in Sinking Sands. He stood on a certain rock, and harvested ore nodes as they popped. Nothing special with this scenario—I have farmed for long periods of time in a limited area on many occasions. Except for three things: he never moved, only pivoting to address the node he was harvesting; the toon was there all hours, in the open, for no less than 8-10 hours at a stretch (this is as long as I spent at one time in the Sinking Sands, passing him to get quests, repair, etc); and finally, after a long period of observation, the toon always struck the node with the same delay between it spawning, and his harvesting. Here he sits, though I have not seen him there of late.
The next incident occurred in Loping Plains. I came around a corner, close by the ruined spires, and found someone pet pulling mobs. I waved, and pulled the ghouls I needed to update a quest. Shortly after my first pull, his aery pet began to assist me, and he was casting spells on my mobs. I even thanked him. It didn’t take more than 4 or 5 pulls and assists to realize something wasn’t right—every time I maneuvered a mob within a certain distance, he attacked. For reference, and in case something similiar is happening on other servers, here is the exact location.
Pulling and slaying:
After roughly 15 minutes, I remembed a post from the WoW forums that had discussed a pattern much the same as the one I was now observing. Apparently a player had found a toon running a program which attacked mobs, looted, and moved on to the next target. What made that toon’s behavior suspect was the pattern of movement, and that it attempted to loot, no matter who pulled/attacked the mob first. I decided to try the same tactic that was employed in the above scenario. I pulled everything I could. I pulled and pulled and pulled. Without fail he sent his pet, then nuked. Everytime. Then, he came over to loot. Everytime. He reset, faced the same direction, and then pulled a mob (unless I had one in range). Everytime.
Here he moves to loot my kill:
Here he is at his “reset” point:
Eventually, I took to locking the encounter to see what would happen. The results were predictable; as soon as the encounter locked, the pet reset, the toon reset, he targeted a new mob and pulled.
After perhaps 45 minutes of this pattern, something changed. The toon reset, but then he turned towards me (180 degrees from where he had faced every other time), and then this happened:
At the time, I was unsure why he was pulling mobs here anyway. I am not very familiar with Loping Plains, but I’m becoming more so. I do not spend a lot of time there, but that is changing. Not 10 minutes after he logged out, this popped up, along with a friend:
I pulled, killed, conquered. However, does this type of behavior hurt we players playing the game? I found that he was a great help in getting my quest updates. But is this behavior, outside of the tradeskill instance, widespread amongst players we typically don’t think of as “gold sellers” or “farmers?” And if so, what action should be taken, if any? Are you unconvinced, and perhaps there can never be any real proof a player is running a script or “botting,” as it is called?