Why Is EVE PvE So Easy To Bot?

(Jin'taan) #1

This is a copy of my article on INN
_

It’s an unfortunate fact that bots are a loathed part of every multiplayer game I’ve played. From idlebots in Team Fortess 2 farming items and ruining team balance, through leveling bots in League of Legends gumming up the 3v3 queue, to mining macros in Runescape. But it seems botting is something that uniquely effects EVE Online, and as a result of that it’s something that is rallied against at every turn, as we saw with the relentless finger-pointing over who harbors the most bots over the past few weeks.

This comes down to the fact that not only do bots generate an advantage for their user, they also serve to lessen the advantage other players get for the same amount of work, as both bots and players produce by and large the same thing. This means players have to deal with bots devaluing the work they themselves put effort into doing, which is understandably a frustrating thing to feel, as it can mean the difference between being able to play as an Omega instead of as an Alpha for players with limited time availability.

Something I’ve noticed in those other games about the bots however is that they were significantly worse than players. Idlebots were easy to kill after the game was over, LoL bots were free wins to the point it was boring, even Runescape bots could be tripped up if they were hogging one specific spot. This contrasts with EVE, where players typically complain that bots are nearly impossible to catch, which is something that clearly contributes to the perception of bots being a problem within the community.

Given that other bots perform so poorly vs players, and bots in EVE seem to perform so well, I am going to dive into a little bit about why I think this is the case. But to give a brief overview of my main conclusion – EVE doesn’t have a botting problem. It has a game design problem.

HOW DO BOTS MAKE ISK?

There are a lot of bots for different purposes in EVE, and whilst Intel bots and DPlex bots are problems, they aren’t nearly as widespread or as economically impactful as the big four;

Mining bots Market bots Mission bots Ratting bots Unfortunately I don’t have a great deal of experience with the first three, and I hope other people can pitch in with their own expertise on those subjects, but for now I’m going to focus in on ratting as an income source. Ratting is also the main way in which bots add raw ISK to the game directly, which causes everyone else’s ISK to be worth less, so it’s also one which impacts every single player by effectively raising the price of PLEX.

Ratting bots are also a lot easier to find, as they have to spread over a wider range of systems than the other three, which can be centralised in one particular location. In fact I’d wager most people who have even simply roamed Nullsec believes that they’ve encountered one, regardless as to whether or not that is what happened, which is symptomatic of the overall problem.

Bot accounts can be trained on a large scale as alpha clones, or injected up to being at what the person running these bot accounts believe is an optimal skillset. These fresh accounts can then be applied to corps with access to Nullsec, either by purchasing rental space, or simply joining a corp/alliance that has existing access to Nullsec that’s good to rat in and an open doors policy.

These bot accounts are then placed in a ship such as a VNI or a Gila, as those are the most cost effective ways to make ISK in the game currently, especially considering that they can be piloted by Alphas and still rat using the same strategies as an Omega pilot. This is done by simply warping from site to site, dropping drones, and killing ships in a pre-determined order that matches the known spawnlists of said anomalies.

If an unknown pilot enters local – or a local that the bot has access to via a relay – it will immediately pull its drones in and warp off, then wait for a set amount of time, before warping back to the site and continuing.

WHY IS THIS A PROBLEM?

I don’t know about you – But that doesn’t sound any different to how I fly a VNI or Gila myself.

Bots are able to do everything that a player does in order to maximise their efficiency and safety whilst ratting, because almost all of it simply relies on the ability to press buttons in the right order, as fast as possible. Due to the mismatch in optimisation between PvE fits and PvP fits, there’s no reason for the PvE ship to engage a PvP ship (as it will lose), and there’s no reason for a PvP ship to engage in PvE (it will suck at it).

The static spawn lists that contain no tackle that can’t be easily dealt with or avoided means that there’s absolutely no thought required in running the content either, which means running anomalies boils down to a simple binary operation of ratting when local is clear, and getting safe as soon as possible when it is not. Money is even transferred directly into your wallet for every single rat you kill, meaning that even if you are caught, you retain all of the money you made so far. The cherry on top of this is that bots are always paying perfect attention to local, unlike players who can focus in on watching Netflix in their other screen for half a minute too long and end up getting caught, they’re able to warp off the tick you enter local every time.

Currently one of the few ways to deal with bots that exposes the sheer lack of decision making that it was necessary to program the bots with is using log-off bubble traps in their safespots, which I demonstrated in a video tutorial last year. As you can see, once you’re able to lay your hands on a ratting bot, it’s almost trivial to take out.

The way in which I was able to do it also demonstrates how poor bots can be when compared to players in terms of decision making. In that particular video I had logged my Sabre off in front of those same VNIs as they sat in the PoS, then simply waited for the NPC/h deaths to go back up on Dotlan, logged in and killed the one I was able to catch. A player would almost certainly never do that, and would at the very least consider changing systems/safespots.

This shows the main advantage players should be able to leverage over bots, their ability to adapt and make better decisions based on the information they’ve been given. However, as we explained above, the best way to keep yourself safe whilst ratting is simply to not get caught in the first place.

WHAT CAN CCP DO ABOUT IT?

Not as much as I’d like. I doubt CCP is going to entirely strip and replace the anomaly system in the foreseeable future, so I wanted to take a look at a fix that I think could be done with CCP’s existing structure and technical limitations. I also think it’s something that would be of benefit to the health of the game in general, regardless of it’s impact on bots, which I think is an important thing to consider—Penalising regular players to own the bots isn’t a good strategy long-term in my opinion.

But that’s only one option. There are others, and they have their downsides as well.

ELIMINATING RENTING This has been bandied about, but there’s a problem: it’s basically impossible. There are just too many ways to transfer value in EVE. Eliminating rental fees just means you move the payout to market fees and fees to join the ‘rental’ group. Or to get onto the ACL. Or any one of a number of other ways to pay. Yes, all of these things can be tracked, but at the same time, they can take enough forms that anything that includes ‘you do X and we don’t kill you’ can be the de facto rental agreement.

To give a recent example of just how hard it can be to draw the line on renting, many reading this article will remember how Sort Dragon was mocked as a ‘renter’ after paying the Imperium for an end to his last war with them. Whilst that was not entirely serious, can we expect Team Security to understand the nuance of a large amount of ISK being transferred not as rent, but as part of diplomatic tribute – Or conversely, that the pomp of something like this wouldn’t merely be used to cover up the now ‘banned’ renting practice.

MAKE THE ALLIANCES DO IT This runs into problems, too. For this, we’ll just go through some points:

As recently noted by Elo Knight, for many years the leader of Black Legion’s various forms, Alliance leaders do not have tools to monitor for botting activity that Team Security has. In addition, most bots do not rat 23/7. They’re not that obvious. As such, all accusations will have to be done based on hearsay and suspicion. So rather than reporting this to CCP, Alliance leaders are now forced to immediately kick upon suspicion. This is because, as CCP Peligo’s reddit post indicates, the wallet impacted is the main Alliance bill wallet. If the wallet is empty when a bill become due, all Sov will drop.

This, in turn, means an end to open door recruiting policies, realistically. People who wish to rent will set up alternate ‘client’ alliances (ala B0T/PIBC) which are not run by the same people as the parent alliance to protect their sov. And that means that this actually achieves nothing: the ‘alliance leaders’ being given the responsibility aren’t actually anything of the sort. As such, this mainly impacts large alliances, without impacting alliances which contribute more bots overall to the ecosystem.

And then there’s the metagame: weaponised botting. Using VPN, groups can put ‘rental’ corps into their enemies renters, then bot up a storm. CCP then punishes the targets of the meta-scam. CCP gets meta’d. The initial community reaction from the masses will be great—most players only look at immediate intentions and don’t think of the bigger picture. But in the wake of the Brisc Rubal episode, does CCP really want to step into that pitfall when organized groups use Team Security to wage their wars for them?

ANOTHER IDEA:

The TL;DR is simple – Remove a significant percentage of bounty payouts from all NS anomalies, but add a guaranteed spawn at the end of each anomaly, which holds the equivalent ISK in Overseer Effects.

I’m always hesitant to add numbers to ideas this early on, so let me know what you think the breakpoint of percentage would be there, but adding a physical component to the rewards that ratting provides would have a number of positive effects;

Firstly, it will give an immediate option of a reward for players who are able to push a PvE player off of a site, regardless of their ability to catch the player. As someone who has hunted nullsec ratters (both botting and not), there’s nothing more frustrating than seeing a VNI enter warp just as you land, knowing your work has been for nothing. Adding a potential reward for the intruding pilot if the site is near completion, by allowing them to get a reward that the PvE pilot helped them work towards. Currently the total reward for a Sanctum is only 40m, so this reward is unlikely to be a huge motivating factor for older players, but it will provide a way for players who specialise in hunting bots to gain an income even if they fail to secure a kill.

This also has a number of knock on effects to the way PvE plays out. It adds an effective “upper limit” to how fast you can clear sites whilst still making sure that you have 100% ISK retention, as you’ll need to stop to collect the Overseer’s Effect in each anomaly unless you wish to use MTUs or alts to pick it up. This in turn then makes defending these systems and stopping hostiles from getting inside them more valuable, as it allows you to better make ISK if there’s an active defence force keeping hostiles away from your system, as them entering the system will leave any MTUs or unlooted Overseer wrecks easy to be probed and looted, taking a percentage of your hard earned ratting ISK for themselves—If they can get it back to Hisec!

I’m curious to see what you think of this suggestion, and with a wider lens the problems more generally outlined, as I want to be able to give CCP direction and feedback on how they can let us – EVE players – do what we do best;

Exploit predictable behaviour for our own gain.

5 Likes
(Maekchu) #2

The game is so easily bot-able, because the PvE content is easily solved and does not require much interaction.

A lot of PvE content, can be cleared by just having enough tank and dps. No more interaction is required. It’s part the fault of eve’s simplistic combat system and it’s part CCP’s fault for not updating PvE content that has already been solved many years ago.

Add on top of that, an immediate and accurate intel system, where you only have to check for changes in local number to know when to dock up. Makes it so, that it is harder for players to punish botting, i.e. afk gameplay. It requires the bot to be badly written or do some unexpected reaction to something.

To make PvE content hard to bot, it needs to contain interaction that cannot be easily reproduced over different sessions. Make that random spawns, varied npc actions or some other variables that require players to make decisions on the fly.

My guess is that CCP knows this, but it’s just too hard to implement or it just doesn’t appeal to many CCP devs as a task to do. So it’s something that gets bumped down in the priority list.

2 Likes
(Mac-Gregor) #3

Why EVE is so easy to bot? Because CCP want’s it to be so.
Solutions are simple. Make activities in game more attention demanding.

Try running few DED sites in caldari hisec. When you will be pissed enough because someone stole your loot in last second come back here and share your thoughts.
Physical item is not a solution especially when it only create isk like blue loot and is easy to be manipulated in price or lost due to ganking. Imagine all that freighters pinatas filled with pure isk… It remember me old good times when people moved plex in shuttles.

2 Likes
(Rivr Luzade) #4

That would necessitating the removal of Sov. Which is something I would be very much in favor of. Sov is annoying and useless and serves no purpose any longer. Make all null sec NPC null sec and we are done with removal of rental space. People can just live in stations and have fun there and exert their influence over an area without having to worry about their holdings.
The reason why renting exists is because small groups want to have a system or two for their own to make ISK but they cannot deal with everything that goes with it, in other words the sov part. These people also do not want to be a mere worthless number in a sheet in a mega blob alliance like Goons. For obvious reasons. Without sov but NPC null like areas, more people can just live in null sec, make ISK, be in space, be able to use their space and be available for interaction with other people.

That show just how little the person understands ratting and botting. There are bots out there which fly through lots of different systems and solve exploration riddles on a daily basis. Does this person really think that it is so hard for a bot to create bookmarks of predefined NPC and then fly to these bookmarks later on to collect the OPE? This is laughable.

No, you do not need to stop. You rat for an hour or two and then collect the OPE after the ratting session. Or you have another character collect them for you. Personally, I rat for 2 hours per day and only collect escalations, faction spawns and other goodies after these 2 hours. You also do not need an MTU because you warp directly to the NPC wreck. Which in turn also means you do not make yourself attackable by hunters. And all this this is easily botable.

And before someone says: Abyss. People run these, especially the easy to multibox frigate holes, reliably and without losses already. These things are not bot-proof if they are not multibox-proof.

3 Likes
(Rivr Luzade) #5

Why Is EVE PvE So Easy To Bot?

Well, because it is easy. And it repeats the ever same pattern. Is that a problem? I do not think so. When it comes to PVE, what I want is to make ISK so that I can do other things with the ISK like PVP, industry or other activities. What I do not want from PVE is that it requires me to replaces ships over and over and over again, which would cut massively into my income. Not to mention that it is a wholesome pain in the back to do so, especially if you live on your own in a remote area like Stain, Curse or even Syndicate. It requires tons of time and frustrating things to get replacements, for instance, into your mission systems if you do not want to be part of a larger group and instead want to enjoy these activities on your own as a change of pace from other group activities. It is already bad enough that other users hunt you but that is perfectly fine because EVE is not instanced … Oh wait. :innocent:

However, if solo-like PVE, such as missions, also starts to kick you in the head on a regular basis, the whole point of these things falls apart. If I have to spent an entire day to get a mission BS back into Curse or Stain (yes, that requires 4-5 hours of flying around in cynos and JF), why am I even doing it?

Not to mention that tougher NPC are in any way bot-proof. Just look at the useless FOBs, they can be run with minimal effort although the AI responds dynamically to what you bring on field. The only reason why no one bots them are the utterly low ISK rewards. If you got unlucky and got a 20 Caracal spawn, your ship is toast and the income of nearly 50 FOBs went down the drain (assuming you run them with 2 ships and thus get 20M each).

Funny thing here: Astero bots regularly setup courier contracts containing a ton of value in items and get that stuff delivered reliably. They also only die very rarely. In other words: Even if you turned direct ISK ticks into collecting OPE to deliver to a low sec station, you are not harming bots because they can still do it better than users, as described above.

1 Like
(Scoots Choco) #6

Have you considered getting good and not losing your ships?

(Rivr Luzade) #7

Have you considered injecting reading comprehension? :innocent: What you quoted is based on the assumption that missions or anoms were turned into something that is supposed to kill you regularly, like Absyss, FOB, or even Incursion AI, as opposed to be farmed for ISK by the EVE users.

From my personal experience, I have not lost a single ship to mission running in a long time even though I do it on a regular basis. And I want to keep it that way because I run them in areas that are hard to reach. I simply want to enjoy a bit of massacre without tidi and childish smack in local before I have to go back to exactly this.

1 Like
(Scoots Choco) #8

You know what they say about making assumptions~ :slight_smile:

(Tipa Riot) #9

This iterates on my proposal to replace bounties with tags. Good direction, I’m in full support.

1 Like
(Rivr Luzade) #10

I do. That is why my assumptions are based on the OP’s post’s insinuations, CCP’s dumb ideas for recent PVE with harder NPC that also focuses on removing people from the cluster while they do it (locked gates for Trig Invasions, even more instancing) and demands for harder AI that regularly show up here or on reddit or other sites.

(Jin'taan) #11

In which case, I will be able to bring my hunter into system and collect all the OPEs by killing those MTUs, depriving the bot of income. As I linked in the article, I have actively hunted and killed bots in nullsec, as it’s a practice I detest and it is one of the few solo activities I truly enjoy.

I am aware of the other bot types, like Explo bots, and those will need their own solutions to be make their own sources of income vulnerable to interdiction in a long term. I’m also aware botters will, inevitably, find a way around any possible solution - It’s the nature of bots - But I want to propose something that ;

A) I know from my time on the CSM CCP has the technology to implement currently, seeing as they have implemented a similar feature already by adding the Titan/Super/Dread spawns to anoms

and

B) Will have a positive impact on the combat ecosystem of regular players, instead of punishing all players to own the botters, as has been suggested previously.

(Tipa Riot) #12

@Jin_taan The only point which I see problematic with your version, is the ease of collection. You don’t need an MTU or longer stay in the site, just bookmark the only relevant wreck and collect later in a cheap and fast ship in seconds (you can’t probe wrecks). You can also stop at any time before the final spawn, without giving the hunter anything to do.

This means, warping out is not penalized, which IMO is the key to fight bots.

2 Likes
(Ember Fireheart) #13

Because drone’s require no micro to use.

(Jin'taan) #14

Yeah, this is a good point - It’s what I tried to do with this mechanic and whilst it doesn’t quite work, I’m glad you picked up on it.

There’s also no reason CCP couldn’t make these specific wrecks probable, as all wrecks have a different Type ID in the client, but that’s beside the point. I hope you can help think of some alternate ways in which this could be achieved, as it’s an important topic of debate IMO.

(Tipa Riot) #15

My proposal is to just replace bounties with tags, you have to collect. Then a hunter can either kill you, the MTU, or steal the loot. This is also a well proven system, it is already working in WH and for missions against empire factions.

2 Likes
(Mac-Gregor) #16

If you want to make people running anomalies more vulnerable to attack. Easiest idea that came to my head is to make them stay longer at site/wreck. You can make that by putting mini game like exploration to collect loot, make opening wreck longer etc. Forcing them to stay there and be easy target.

But my biggest concern is that you want to nerf pve/bots and everything you take give to pvp people. This not even near balancing stuff.

(Dread Saboteur) #17

Do you remember the old drone alloy bots they had no issue collecting the loot turning the isk payout into an item does nothing the botters solved this nearly a decade ago.

When we talk anomaly bots we gota know our enemy and their potential.
Yes most bots are VNI now and some gila however if we were to nerf those two ships to the ground nothing stops the bots using ships like the raven apocalypse typhoon Dominix etc so we need an all-encompassing choice

(Maekchu) #18

That is not necessarily true. However, it requires understanding of what problems computers can easily solve and what problems are not trivial. There is also the question of harder problems, requiring more resources from the bot makers, thus creating a higher barrier of entry.

As it is now. Most PvE content is really just too trivial. Most of it can be solved with a simple rule-based approach. Set rules are easy for the computer to follow, that is literally what they do.

But yes, another approach is to make it easier for players to punish afk gameplay, such as not making the payout automatic and safe. I’d applaud more ways for solo/small gank pilots to hunt for targets. Seems however, like there is a lot of pushback on making eve more dangerous.

(Dread Saboteur) #19

I propose messing with the npc agro timer-can’t dock or tether and larger penalties to fit a cloak onto a non cloaky oriented ship like hugely reduced lock range

(Rivr Luzade) #20

You didn’t quite read what I wrote: You do not need MTU to collect the OPE. Since you need to bookmark MTUs, which “bots” already do, it is not necessary to drop an MTU to collect the OPE because bots can just bookmark the OPE NPC.

Considering A: The dreads and carriers are being blapped by supers in one or two volleys. I hardly think these things hold any relevance against bots.

Considering B: Personally, I cannot stand these spawns. They are a waste of time and do not add anything to the combat experience besides “you can’t deal with them anyway, so you either waste time by waiting for someone to come help you or you just get the anom done quickly and move to the next”.

1 Like