|Mod Jacmob talks about the inconvenient truth of gold farming, and why Bonds are an essential part of RuneScapes future.|
As a general rule, we keep information about our anti-bot and community protection efforts closely guarded for obvious reasons, but today I’m going to give you a small glimpse into the illicit world of gold farmers and bots, and how we are Jagex have been comprehensively fighting them.
In late 2011, off the back of a significant bot nuke, knowing we are in a veritable arms race with bot developers we started development on a unique innovative system that can pick out all bot behaviours and take automatic action against them in real time. Beginning in January this year, we really accelerated our efforts when this system began an overhaul into today’s sophisticated BotWatch service. Our technology can analyse behaviour with extraordinary detail and fidelity. We can trivially identify activities such as account sharing on the same computer, as well as how the players interact with every aspect of the game environment. Throughout the last nine months, we have used this new capability and opportunity to monitor and understand detailed patterns and motives behind botting and related problems.
In the past three months we been able to permanently remove over 90% of all bots in the game – a really big milestone in our campaign against these disruptive activities. This has already had a positive impact: for example, the number of incoming macro reports has dropped from twenty thousand every day to barely over one thousand reports.
Since 1st January this year, we’ve issued 1.1 million ban offences against accounts known to be gold farmers. To put this in perspective, it’s nearly three times the number of offences issued in the last two years combined. In turn, this is over nine times more than in the first decade of RuneScape’s existence. The majority of offences applied across our systems are on member accounts, so no one is exempt from these bans! In addition, this year we have removed over 3 trillion GP worth of gold and items from gold-farmer accounts, which shows the scale of their operations is dangerously large.
While our efforts against botting and gold farming have been increasingly effective, our analyses have shown that a long-term real-world trading problem persists. Despite our successes, around 170 billion GP is currently being sold in-game every day from illicit accounts we can directly link to gold farming. We’ve also done analysis (with a wide range of different techniques) which has shown well over 40% of active players have bought gold from 3rd party RWT vendors. The scale of purchasing from gold farmers was a surprise, if not a total shock. This inconvenient truth is that no matter our actions against gold farmers, the demand which they serve is very high, and there lies a massive incentive for them to evolve and evade our attempts to completely wipe them out. It’s the proverbial elephant in the RuneScape room – while most players hate bots and gold farmers, a large proportion still buys their gold.
This is an incredibly dangerous problem that we’re determined to solve in the interest of the long-term health of the game. Perhaps most notably, in back in 2007 we took the controversial decision to remove the Wilderness and free trade. However, we’ve learned that it is not an option to sacrifice the experience of players to combat this threat (it also proved an ineffective remedy). Nor do we don’t want to remove the half of the playerbase that have bought gold (many of whom just want an occasional helping hand), and we are definitely not prepared to sell gold ourselves, as that would exacerbate the problems with the game economy. We feel that Bonds provide a better solution.
The introduction of Bonds provides a way for the community to satisfy this demand without Jagex or any third party introducing gold into the game. It ties the economy to what is valued by players by allowing the price to be set by player demand for bonds. One effect of this will be to kill gold farming businesses and the associated aspects of spam, account theft, fraud and resource hogging. The exchange of wealth for bonds will be player moderated, ensuring that in-game achievements are valued. In essence, players’ time and resources will become more valuable than ever. The gold sink for re-trading bonds will help accelerate the economy’s recovery, too.
It is only with our latest data analysis technology providing an absolute insight into every aspect of the problem that we’ve been able to understand the permanent solution that bonds brings to these problems. This is because it requires a detailed, quantitative understanding of the economic effects – considering both the in-game market and real-world value. As a result, we expect some of you will have sophisticated questions about this, which we’ll do our best to answer in our upcoming Q&A sessions.
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