Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bots: The real problem & Solution

Rounding out this week's series on bots I'll be throwing out a few ideas I have for possible solutions to the botting problems that a lot of servers are having.

One solution that people like to throw out there is "Oh well just make farming more profitable so that people do it more!" That isn't going to change much of anything because crafting will become proportionally more profitable which draws more gold and thus more bots. The reverse is also true as that will remove bots, it will also remove farmers. Aside from when people are dumping to skill up the price of materials = price of crafted items + 15% basically. Making an elementium bar go up in price will make buckles and pvp blue gear go up as well. The other possibility is to make farming more fun so that people will want to do it instead of just feeling like they have to do it.

Sadly I have no clue how they can feasibly do this without a drastic overhaul of the entire system to implement. The obvious choice is to add in a mini game to it, but then that will drastically lower the supply of materials because of the time spent playing the farming game. That will then rapidly inflate the prices as the demand is high but the supply will be much lower even with people wanting to farm more. Perhaps merge in a small scale version of Farmville or some such type farm-tycoon game where people can create mass quantities like a RL farmer does of wheat or corn. I don't know where the balance is.

One simple solution to all of this that I think could work is to lower the amount of materials needed for crafting and prospecting or do the reverse and make all nodes give up to 10 ore instead of 5. Make prospecting smash 3 ore instead of 5 and boom, tons of gems are now floating around. Make hard elementium bars need 5 normal bars instead of 10 and there's a lot more of those. Profits will sink by a good amount for everybody from the farmer to the accomplished AH baron. But the so called "cost of playing" will drop by a larger amount. The supply will go up and the demand will even out and will hopefully be at a good middle ground where everyone is happy.

Using this system it is now infinitely easier to acquire the needed materials for XYZ yourself even if you hate farming. Farmers will lose out on farming for cash, but that's what daily quests are for. You can still farm and make a buck if you want to farm and zone out, but there's better ways to make gold at the same time. Just like now. So with farming being that much less profitable the people that run the bots will be only using them to supply themselves and not the gold selling companies as it isn't nearly as cost effective as it was before. That is simply because the massive amounts that they dump onto the AH daily will not be sold because people will just farm themselves for the most part. Hell even I would if it was faster and I didn't need so damned much of it.

The real problem lying underneath everything here is a reagent overlap and material requirement. There isn't nearly as much of a demand for ore as one might think because so much gets sold and farmed. The real point there is that each player that uses it needs a lot of it. If the needed materials for each profession were cut in half you'd see a drastic drop in the "demand" for those materials and would see what the real demand is actually like. Now to explain what I mean by a reagent overlap, which I think is the more important issue here, think about what you can do with just elementium ore.

- That ore is needed to be prospected into common gems so that an alchemist can xmute meta gems.
- The common gems are needed for the JC daily.
- The rare gems are needed to improve gear which gets replaced fairly often.
- The common gems are also needed to skill up JC.
- The ore needs to be smelted so that a black smith can craft belt buckles for the server.
- The bars are also needed by engineers for just countless goodies.
- Add a few volt earth to it and you have hardened elementium bars which are needed to buy BS plans.
- The hardened bars also are needed to craft assorted epic gear

For a quick example from my world, I'm struggling to keep hardened elementium bars and belt buckles in stock. My goal is to have two stack of each and this requires me to have 560 bars or 1,220 ore and 320 volt earth. Also keep in mind that I generally sell at least one stack of buckles per week and 4 hard ele bars per day at the bare minimum but it's closer to two or more stacks of buckles and several hard bars per week on average. That's not accounting for how many other people are selling buckles and hardened bars. Nobody loves farming so much that they'll farm a thousand ore every week.

It goes on and on but you get the point. Just go to wowhead and trace what you can do with only ore in cata, the list is so long it's astounding. Now going from wow-professions, in order to skill up black smithing you will need about 708 elementium ore to get up to 525 while engineering needs around 444. And that is only to skill up so that their services may be provided. So if you want to level up BS you'll most likely have to spend an entire day farming ore. And I don't mean a day of your X hours of play time, no I mean an entire 24 hour cycle. You go on ahead and do that. Have a blast because I'm sure as hell not going to.

The fact is that while farming may be relaxing for some or a break from XYZ for others, I doubt you'll find somebody that wakes up in the morning and says "Oh goody! I get to spend the next 16 hours pretending to fly around in circles and role play that I'm a miner where the first 30 seconds are exactly the same as the hours to come! Woohoo!" And if you have ever said that and meant it... hurt yourself. A lot.

The simple truth of the matter is that in order for all players to be able to have fun using their profession bonuses, filling their gear with gems, getting crafted gear, and so forth there is an absolute shit ton of ore needed. Possibly even a metric shit ton. And trust me that is quite a bit indeed. So who is going to supply this massive demand for ore? Miners of course. But what about the herbs you need? Flasks, glyphs, and gambling cookies need a significant amount of those as well. Well the herbalists will provide them of course. Great now you just need to teach Goro from mortal Kombat to play wow so he can farm with 2 toons on 2 accounts at the same time. That just isn't going to happen.

Chunes says:

"I would add two concepts to round out the debate.

1) Gold sellers/buyers
These guys are the unseen wind that is propelling the sails of the bot farmers. If there were no RL benefit to be had from botting, none of the big bot players would even bother. There aren't any gathered statistics, but I bet my thumbs the proportion of people who bot to "cheat" so the game is easier for them vs. the people who bot in order to acquire gold to supply gold sellers is small indeed. If some way could be found to short circuit the profitability flow that a single twilight jasmine takes in order to turn into a real US dollar, then I think the bot problem would could be mitigated a little better.

This could mean addressing the availability of in-game resources. If you could literally not walk in twilight highlands without stepping on a jasmine flower, supply would so greatly outscale demand that the value of farming these flowers would drastically drop. It would also pretty much crash any gold-making potential for stokpilers and goblins though...

2) "Scarcity of Gold" for the layman
Hand in hand with the gold selling point is the very reason why gold selling succeeds in the first place: For some people, they do not have the ways/means/desire to *make* their own gold.

At present, you have a few options if you want to make some coin:
- quest for meager rewards
- farm raw materials for good to great rewards depending on to whom you can unload said materials
- do the goblin thing and be an AH entrepreneur.

The first option is pretty limited in that your G/hour scales with the level of the quest and how quickly you can complete the quest. Then there is the eventuality that you will run out of quests barring dailies. The flaw to questing for gold is that it's limited in it's ability to generate gold.

The second option is less limited in the hard and fast sense, but it still will cap out at a function of how much time you put into it and how much competition you have for the nodes you're after, be it human or robot competition. There also is the fact that unless you're a mutant, farming is not *fun*. It may be tolerable, but never something you rush home to do.

The third option is proven to be the best way to get gold, but it requires savvy and a brain to execute.

So for each of the three options, assuming you're an average, softcore, not amazing or shrewd wow player, there is a very real limitation on how much gold you can acquire in a given day for a given expenditure of energy. tl;dr - most people never have much gold, but they still want to have much gold. So they buy.

Make it easier to get gold outside of the farming/AH game and you'll see the gold seller's sales dry up.

Is it realistic to do this? Not likely. In any event it will probably just cause some pretty nasty inflation and 10000 or 100000g will be the new 1000g mark in terms of the poverty line in WoW. Still, the root of the problem with bots is the fact that they supply a dirty business which the wow playerbase itself supports, whether the admit it or not. The day gold selling becomes unprofitable is the day we'll see a lot of bots go offline. Finding the way to make it so is the real challenge and in truth, may be an unsolvable problem."

After all is said and done, I don't think that there is any real solution to the problem of bots and materials currently. There is too much that would have to be changed and reorganized to be easily implemented. Maybe I'm wrong and just haven't thought up a good solution yet. Regardless I'm sure we all agree that something should be done to patch up the issue so that it isn't as big of a deal as it is right now.

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. I've been reading your site for a while now and always like the information and writing. Thanks.

    These recent bot posts got me thinking about what you said about dailies earning money. I did a little test over the last couple of days. I did the following:

    Fishing in Uldum (I just hit 500 fishing): 558 g / hour. Spent 20 minutes fishing open water for lavascale catfish (no pools for these). I post in stacks of 4 for the recipes. Also fished up a few mudfish which sell and some volatile waters, the rest was junk. Seems like my max is to sell 3-4 stacks of 4 of the catfish so this is limited in what I can sell per day. But fishing in open water means I can stand in one place and fish. This lets me read web pages/twitter/email on my iPad without watching the screen. I just hit shift-right click when I hear the splash noise.

    Mining Uldum (I have 525 mining): 1170 g/hour I few one complete circuit according to GatherMate2 data and Routes. I have epic flying and crusader aura and it took 16 minutes to fly the route. I mined up 59 elementium, 6 pyrium, 2 gems and a volatile fire. On my server that's worth about 312g for 16 minutes of work. The downside is that I have to pay attention to what I'm doing. I think this was a lucky haul too, in previous attempts I've never hit pyrium or gems. I only saw 2 other probable miners too. I'm pretty sure I can sell all this in a day and then some.

    Daily quests for Therazane: 264 g/hour. I ran 7 dailies there in about 30 minutes (I'm a protection paladin so it takes me a bit longer to down mobs). I've done these a number of times so I'm not reading quest text or figuring out what needs to be done and I think I'm doing them at an okay speed. Again, the downside is that you have to pay attention. On the upside it's guaranteed income.

    It seems to me that daily quests aren't the greatest money makers in the game and perhaps farming beats them out. But with farming there is a limit on how much I can sell per day. I doubt I could do more than twice the fishing for example. Even crafting has it's limits. I'm making 5400 g/hour selling Dalaran pets (takes 2 minutes for 60g profit x 3 pets), but I have a hard time selling more than 1 pet a day. I make a decent 200g profit on the BS blue pvp dps gear I can craft, but still I can only sell about 1 piece per day.

    I'm also on a small - medium server which probably means fewer bots/farmers but a smaller base on the AH to sell to. I also only have 1 85 and 1 65 to work with. The idea of leveling another toon just kills me.

    I take from all this that the best way for me might be to hit all areas a little each day. Somedays I think I'd just be happy making enough to cover my consumables and repairs.

  2. Oh, and I was thinking it would be interesting to see your income split by profit levels. I wonder how much comes from 5-50g profit items, 50-500g, and 500g+ items. Are you selling lots of small profit items or a few large profit items. Just curious.

  3. Holding back the wave of supply - Musings of a wotlk goblin

    Around april/may 2010 i was buying lot of the basic farmed items from 2-3 mass sellers. Rather than post on AH we came to agreement that I would just buy anything they farmed. This could be anything from 3-6 guild bank tab of materials a day. This effectively meant AH prices remained relatively stable while i received an all you can eat buffet supply of raw mats at around 0.7 to 0.8 AH price.

    i recall taking a week off and when i came back I was told i needed to buy about 30 gbank tabs (thank god for unlimited mailbox storage) worth of materials in this case something kinda weird happened and I lost my bargaining power, i ended up paying a higher price for the raw mats maybe close to 0.9Ah price, my thinking being i had to continue the relationship with the suppliers and i could not let my competitors stock up on cheap mats.

    By not letting them flood the AH I kept prices stable and actually helped out random guy who likes/needs to farm by keeping prices stable/high.

    My Q is really what would you have done in that situation? 30gbank tabs of mats (saronite ore,titanium ore, herbs, eternals, f.lotus, some blue/green quality gems) i had enough liquid gold to afford it all but i'm not sure it was wisest choice maybe i could have called supplier bluff and stuck to 0.7ah price rather than be muscled into paying a higher price.

    i still have about hundreds stacks of northrend herbs clogging my gbanks :P

  4. @ annonymous, lots goes into a lot of theses decisions IMO. Depends on so many variables that you have to factor risks and returns for your market and server and nuances like you mass farmers. I have done well over the last several weeks of heavily influencing prices on several items in on market. DMCs. that is the only market I play. All others are side markets to support DMCs. The BOE trinket varieties. Its a high end game and a massive time sucker to mill and make inks, but if i estimate returns on it... from 1-85 and one million gold in less than 4 months played. It was a reroll toon and i am pretty silly with the way i spend gold on things, but its a near 100% profit turn around, and uses lots of mats for big returns. I am saying its less crafting time. The drawback is the capitol and patience required to play in this market. its a one month long cylce and you gamble a lot to play... but prices are holding and with over 40 trinkets to make come fair time, i will make a great return over the next month. The key IMO to any AH barron is not trying to copy Stokpile or any other, but utilize and adapt their strategies in small or large to get you business running. ther is no easy button, and there is no magic formula.

    Did you make the right choice? The question is, did you increase your capitol? If you are gold ahead of where you were, and you have mats that you could delete and still be money ahead you made a great choice. If you are even with the assets in the bank and can turn them for a profit to be gold ahead, you made a good choice. If you are down and will break even or be at a net loss, then you MAY have made a bad decision. But you may have made a position to control markets, or outlasted someone else and thats what you needed to do, control raw mats supplies to control markets or influence them so heavily that you possition yourself to a future move.. All factored together all these things are why the game can not be modeled cut and paste from someone else in a different market (or group of markets) and on a different server.

    analysis and effective use of the info is key.

  5. musings of a wotlk goblin cont.

    thanks for your reply achieve congrats on one million gold, i guess its just one of those moments i sometimes look back on and think how i could have played it better,

    I always enjoy reading this blog a lot of thought provoking stuff, /hug

  6. @ Nalenb
    I really couldn't tell you what my profit levels are as you put it. I work in every market I can but my best guess would be I sell mostly items that are in the 50-100g profit range. Large quantities of mid level sales are usually the way to go.

    @ Anon
    I would've done the same thing and bought up everything they had. It may take a while but you can move them at some point. The fact is that a massive stokpile like that is hard to come buy as are the uber farmers. Besides if you don't buy them for that price somebody else will. However I would've tried a bit more to get a lower price as they could easily dump them on the AH for .7 market value.

    @ Achieve
    You're completely write that you can't copy paste from a guide into your situation. I always try to emphasize that YMMV so people know that even though I'm doing well with it that it may not work for them. That's why these blogs are called gold "guides" as they guide you and try to give you food for thought. They're not gold "treasure maps" that lead directly to fame and fortune.

  7. I feel like I harp on this point too much, but most farming and AH trade don't generate gold, they just shift it around. Gold is coming into the game from quests, mob drops, vended items. Thus, I see g/hr from farming and AH is directly related to g/hr from quests. The farmer and the goblin are smaller in number and more efficient than the daily quest doers, so they concentrate the gold.

    Interestingly, Archaeology is now a direct-gold-injection profession, of something like a couple of hundred gold an hour. Not good money, but certainly money that wasn't in the game before 4.0.6. It might keep prices high for a little longer.