Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Guest post on bots

NOTE: Another great bit of info from the AH thread at maintankadin. A user there has created a nifty spreadsheet to help you figure out what mats you need for the enggy pets from raw materials, to how many you have or need, and now many you times you need to craft. It's publicly editable so double check it after you download it. Link. Credit goes to Rodos of maintankadin.

Aloha all! Today's entry is a pseudo-guest post by Chunes over at maintankadin. And for those of you who are unaware, Maintankadin is hands down the greatest reference site for any paladin tank bar none. This entry is more of an edited together conversation in the auction house thread that started there but I'm posting it as it is an important topic for AH players to consider.

I spoke with Chunes and got their permission to string together a fist full of their comments on the subject of botters. This also includes a few comments that were made in response to their writing as well. Since it is somewhat long I'll give my take on it all tomorrow. Though you should expect that from me by now. Enjoy!

I think bot farmers are a necessary evil due to the resource distribution in the game currently. There are several variables at play:

- Server demand (which in itself is a function of total server wealth, profession distribution, profession capacity etc.)

- Absolute resource inflow (thought of as roughly what the AH would look like if all resource nodes spawned there, rather than out in the world and thus were available instantly for anyone to just acquire)

- Material movement cost (the other half of bullet two, resources don't spawn on the AH, they spawn in the world, so someone has to bring them to market).

The problem with the resource model in WoW is that it's not really sustainable unless you have a dedicated farming caste, be they robots, sweatshop workers or just bored white kids. In the real world if there was significant demand for whiptail, a smart person would buy some whiptail seeds, buy some land and *farm* acres of whiptail. That's not possible in WoW, so the result is that people have to pay pretty exorbitantly for an herb because the supply is so inferior to the demand AND because the acquisition cost (i.e. what the farmer values his time at) is so high because let's face it, these resources are pretty fucking scarce when you factor server population into the mix.

The balance to this is a dedicated farming caste that literally does nothing but farm for hours on end. It's the most efficient way to go about getting reasonable quantities of goods to market, but it's also against ToS. Problem is, most the botters do so for personal RL gain, so they don't really price their goods strategically. They just charge 85-95% AH price and continue to cause a supply drought because who can afford 200 stacks of whiptail at 200g per? Not many people.

If the farmers were smart, they would realize that the material cost for a lot of crafted items is pretty high compared to wrath materials. Sell your mats at lower prices, move more and get more income overall, rather than try to maximize your unit price profit margins at the expense of slower sales.

I'm having this very discussion with my farmer this week. He's trying to hold fast at .75 market value for his goods and I simply can't move them fast enough at that price. He doesn't seem to understand that I could supply him probably 300k/week in sales if he sold to me cheaper at higher quantities. At high cost points though, best I can do is 200k or less AND he moves less product. How does that make any sense?

TL;DR - farmers are a necessary evil due to the availability of materials and the high material costs for crafted goods.

(Later on they responded to a reply from another poster which said this.)

"You, of course, have a vested interest in saying this. It is like hearing an agribusiness spokesman proclaiming that subsidies help the small farmer.

To throw basic economics back at you, if people could make money gathering, then there would be more gatherers. That's the basic supply/demand curve that is disrupted by the illegal practice of botting."

(This was Chunes' response)

I don't think that's necessarily true. Farming can be immensely profitable right now even despite the farmers. Just tell me how much whiptail, jasmine and heartblossom are going for on your server right now and tell me you couldn't make 1kg in less than an hour farming them. That's more than you could make farming NR herbs for much of wrath.

A good chunk of the problem here is that the activity of farming materials in wow is not widely accepted as the pinnacle of fun in gaming. Granted, people farm to relax, listen to music, watch TV on the side, what have you, but I have not encountered a single person that enjoys picking whiptail more than being in a good group downing bosses or killing stuff. That's a generalization of course and I'm sure there are people out there that just live to farm, I just haven't met many of them.

Profitability doesn't motivate a lot of people to farm, otherwise I think we'd see much lower prices than we do. A stack of heartblossom goes for like 3k on a friend of mine's server. 3 thousand gold for 20 flowers. Yet there is still a shortage. I know for a fact you can gather at least 5 stacks of that shit in a few hours time. That's pretty damn good g/hour, yet normal people still aren't flocking to farm it. Sure the bots may have a part to play in that by limiting availability of pickable nodes, but I think it has more to do with the fact that farming in and of itself is a very un-fun activity for most people, so they don't do it.

(The next comment made was this)
"So, basically, the bots farm excessively. Normally, they would put that on the AH. This would depress prices and allow crafters to create items more affordable to other characters. Instead, they are selling the gathered material in bulk to a small number of crafters. This creates an artificial scarcity that benefits the farmer and their partners. The crafter then produces goods for far cheaper, having a great cost advantage, than other crafters can - yet able to maintain prices at a sufficiently high level to maximize profit while driving out competitors who cannot match your advantage.

I fail to see how this benefits anyone but the crafter and the farmer, who are both taking illegal advantage and gaming the system. The only ones benefiting are you and those like you. Do not pose it otherwise. Monopolistic business practices benefit no one but the monopolists."

(To which he replied with:)

Well, by your logic, open world pvp should not be allowed because it can pretty severely detract from the enjoyment of the game for the poor guy getting corpse-camped for half an hour. However I don't operate on any sort of altruistic platform. I'm in this game to have fun for me, not for my customers, not for the shmucks in /2, but for me. If that means fucking other players, as long as it's profitable, I'm down. It's called being a goblin for a reason.

I'm not trying to dress my situation up as just. It's not. I have a very clear advantage over the average player because of the business I engage in and I have no illusions about that. It doesn't change the fact that until blizzard finds a way to penalize not only the botters, but also their direct customers, the botters will always resurface after a banwave and the cycle will continue. The only way to drive them out of business is to restructure the resource acquisition setup in the game (and by virtue of that, the entire fucking economy) so that it's not profitable to them (in any capacity, in game or out) to engage in automated farming.

Let me clarify one thing, I do not endorse speed/xyz farming. Varying shades of grey, I know, but my farmer uses a pretty discreet bot that just flies his toons around, above ground, at normal max speed and just automates the normal process. Still against ToS, but in reality he has no advantage over any other human farmer other than the fact that he can AFK for hours and do other things while his robots farm for him. So his impact on node scarcity is exactly equal to Xlegolasx the level 85 nelf hunter who is on christmas break and has nothing better to do with his time than farm nodes in uldum.

As for overall economy impact I would argue against your tirade against my supposed monopolies. Unlike my competition, I actually TRY and deflate my server's economy for one simple reason: raw materials and crafted materials alike are too expensive to be of any economic good right now. It doesn't matter if I can get a hojillion herbs at .75 AH price if that same AH price is already 400% higher than it should be in order to move at a decent rate. So I sell flasks, glyphs, raw gems etc. at a pretty good discount, but still above my costs in hopes that I can get people to buy my stuff, rather than the expensive raw mats (which more often than not now go for more than the crafted pieces themselves).

This dries up demand for raw materials and lets the supply stagnate a bit. Prices deflate and people can actually afford to buy things more regularly, which translates into more potential market, more bandwidth and more income overall. I did this with flasks in wrath. While people were selling 20 or 30 flasks at 20-25 per, I would bomb the market with 8g flasks. I made money hand over fist for a while, but only because I was able to get my herbs at about a quarter of the market price for them. You know what happened? the prices of herbs deflated to about double what I was paying for them, rather than quadruple.

Check in tomorrow to hear my take on all of this.

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. If you disagree that's fine, but please be polite and at least attempt to be constructive.

  2. The guy who said botting isn't an advantage is silly. That guy can go play on a second account or hell go have a life while still gathering as if he was doing himself? How is that not an advantage? Sounds like he's a bit biased since he's directly benefiting from said botting. I'm sure I'd be in favor of bots too if I had a pocket farmer giving me mats at a fraction of ah cost. I agree that mats are too scarce and too expensive right now. It would be nice if blizz could implement a system like star wars galaxies where you could have mining rigs even if all materials were the same you could still go by densities only. Herb growing units could be placed in optimal growth locations etc. Regardless of how its done we need more resources with less mindless gathering required.

  3. Botting for farming is an advantage, however, I am glad that they are in the game. Try to imagine the game without those one or two people who post pages of raw materials at a cheap price at a time, the AH would be completely empty for the most part, therefore causing raw material prices to stay high, and produced materials even higher.

    As far as blizz changing the gathering system, I wouldn't count on it anytime soon.

    At least bot farmers can benefit the entire economy on a server by a small scale or large depending on if they sell on the AH or to only a few crafters. People who bot on the AH, only benefit themselves, and that is where I would draw the line.

  4. If a farming bot is posting exclusively on the AH and everyone has the ability to purchase all you do is eliminate the need for anyone to have a gathering craft. You cannot compete with a BOT.
    As soon as the bot supplies a single production player a large quantity of raw mats heavily discounted then there is no reason to PURCHASE from the ah to craft for sale... you can't compete with the player buying from the BOT.
    Not only do you discourage farming, but you also discourage production. How can this be good in any way?
    What's the difference between flying around herbing or mining vs. standing at your mailbox milling and prospecting, then crafting?
    Are you that much more "crafty" because you chill in one spot for hours crafting or are you botting that part of it too?

  5. @ Dale
    The not having an advantage is referring to not being able to gather more nodes than you in a set amount of time. This doesn't include bots that are somehow running under ground where players aren't able to of course.

    @ Leggo
    I completely agree, botting the AH is a lot different that bot farmers.

    @ Anon
    You're right that you can't compete with somebody supplied directly by a bot. The issue I'm wanting people to look at is not the production, but the supply itself. A server simply needs such a large amount of ore/herbs that it really isn't feasible for players to be able to supply that much on their own. I'll be going over this in depth in the coming days.