Automation and Scripting - An investigation into further abuses of BGS and Powerplay

What is it these supposed bots are doing that is having some effect on the BGS?

Because as far as I know, you either have to shoot another ship, complete a mission, deliver cartographic data, or otherwise perform some service for a faction to have any effect on the BGS. Pretty sure any Combat-Bot is not only going to have little luck even against NPC's. Missions - I just don't see anyone scripting something to run back and forth between stations and accomplishing anything after even a short time, as the galaxy is in continual motion.

So shine a light here - what exactly are they doing?
Okay that's a fair question.
And we're immediately into that thing I'm doing which is asking:
What is the botter doing? and How are they doing it?

So in my particular instance - I am trying to run a macro that gets screengrabs of the traffic every half hour.

The main problem is that I don't know how far down in the menu the Traffic Report will be.
And I can't be sure how many "pages" the traffic report will run to.
And both these things change periodically.

So my macro currently has variables for [TrafficMenuItemPos] and [TrafficNumPages] and they are timestamped so if they're too old, the macro will prompt for new values.
But what I think I should be able to do is to use an Optical Character Recognition program to look at the last screen grab in the screenies folder, and if it doesn't have the "End of Traffic Report" marker, then to call another macro that opens each menu item in turn (and scroll down) until it DOES find an "End of traffic" report marker, and then set the [TrafficMenuItemPos] variable accordingly.

So then I will be able to select the one particular menu item that I am looking for.

It's a kludge, but it should work.

Reading a menu?
Yeah - it's going to take me a couple of weekends to get it working reliably.
But, I'll have lots of time over the Christmas break, so I expect I'll have a base capability in the new year.

JTrinity says that she thinks that mission selection is done by hand because it's hard and requires decision making, and then the automation only kicks in to fly the routes.

I don't see it that way.
For me - the very first thing that I have to solve is menu reading.
My coding skills are garbage, but already I can see the logic flow that I would use to make decisions,
and what parts of the screen grab that I would have to interrogate to make the selection.

The autopilot - that's the thing that looks intimidating to me. And there are proof of concept demonstrations of that already.
Which - as I keep saying - listen to the Lave Radio podcast episode 216 from about the 58 minute mark, and Braandlin has linked to the Proof-of-concept autopilot video above so thanks mate.


Are these bots combat capable?
Well, again I ask myself how would I do it?
If I had autopilot working, then I assume I can orient to a selected target, and can navigate to the CZ.
I would operate in winged pairs.
The target I would select would be the wingmate, and I would fire a healing laser at that target.
The rest of the weaponry would be turreted pulse lasers set to Fire At Will.
Cash in every 20 minutes.

In fact - thanks for getting me riled up and answering your question.
I was wondering where the bot fleet was redeployed since Sunday.
They weren't redeployed anywhere - they're still in Gateway, they're just not leaving the system, so they're not showing up as traffic.
How do I know?
- I don't.
- I'm guessing.
- It's circumstantial.

But I'm glad I left my monitor guy there.
 
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Okay that's a fair question.
And we're immediately into that thing I'm doing which is:
What is the botter doing and How are they doing it.

So in my particular instance - I am trying to run a macro that gets screengrabs of the traffic every half hour.

The main problem is that I don't know how far down in the menu the Traffic Report will be.
And I can't be sure how many "pages" the traffic report will run to.
And both these things change periodically.

So my macro currently has variables for [TrafficMenuItemPos] and [TrafficNumPages] and they are timestamped so if they're too old, the macro will prompt for new values.
But what I think I should be able to do is to use an Optical Character Recognition program to look at the last screen grab in the screenies folder, and if it doesn't have the "End of Traffic Report" marker, then to call another macro that opens each menu item in turn (and scroll down) until it DOES find an "End of traffic" report marker, and then set the [TrafficMenuItemPos] variable accordingly.

So then I will be able to select the one particular menu item that I am looking for.

It's a kludge, but it should work.

Reading a menu?
Yeah - it's going to take me a couple of weekends to get it working reliably.
But, I'll have lots of time over the Christmas break, so I expect I'll have a base capability in the new year.

JTrinity says that she thinks that mission selection is done by hand because it's hard and requires decision making, and then the automation only kicks in to fly the routes.

I don't see it that way.
For me - the very first thing that I have to solve is menu reading.
My coding skills are garbage, but I can see the logic flow that I would use to make decisions,
and what parts of the screen grab that I would have to interrogate to make the selection.

The autopilot - that's the thing that looks intimidating to me. And there are proof of concept demonstrations of that already.
Which - as I keep saying - listen to the Lave Radio podcast episode 216 from about the 58 minute mark, and if you watch the twitch stream you'll see the demonstration of proof-of-concept autopilot.


Are these bots combat capable?
Well, again I ask myself how would I do it?
If I had autopilot working, then I assume I can orient to a selected target, and can navigate to the CZ.
I would operate in winged pairs.
The target I would select would be the wingmate, and I would fire a healing laser at that target.
The rest of the weaponry would be turreted pulse lasers set to Fire At Will.
Cash in every 20 minutes.

In fact - thanks for getting me riled up and answering your question.
I was wondering where the bot fleet was redeployed since Sunday.
They weren't redeployed anywhere - they're still in Gateway, they're just not leaving the system, so they're not showing up as traffic.
How do I know?
- I don't.
- I'm guessing.
- It's circumstantial.

But I'm glad I left my monitor guy there.
I'd think a simple test here would be a combat wing, a very specialized combat wing. A pair of Enhanced Thruster Imperial Couriers outfitted with 3 medium, long range, force-shelled cannons and a third loaded with a pair of flechettes and a missile rack should do.

Let the force-shell iCouriers push the healing ship out of range while the flechette-loaded ship takes apart those turrets, leaving the bot group broken.

Odds are, there's no programming to compensate for this, which means a human or two would have to be involved.

Another possibility to make an impromptu Turing test of this would be to simply interdict and cripple the healing ship if it is using some manner of auto-pilot.
Again, the odds of programming against such an eventuality has to be pretty close to zero. Blow out the FSD and thrusters and leave it that way.

Seems to me, at least, it should be extremely easy to take down ships operating by macro and perhaps some 2nd rate coding.

Some station guerilla tactics might also answer some questions - wedge them in the mailslot and see what happens. Or engage them at the edge of the no-fire zone, and cripple them without destroying them.

If, by some miraculous course of events, these suspect ships prove to be able to counter tactics like this, than one of two things must be true:

1. They're not actually bots.
2. You're up against a Skynet-level AI, in which case, all is lost.
 
It looks to me that dna decay was simply musing about how he might automate a combat aytopilot should he wish to.

I do not believe that there is any indication that combat capable autopilot bots are operating. The suggestion is that autopilots are able to operate cargo delivery missions en masse. And given the circumstantial evidence that seems credible.
 
I think, however, this does serve to illustrate exactly why the BGS is the way it is, what I have described as "meaningless", in terms of its overall impact on gameplay. Skip the pitch - I get it, for some people the BGS is their only reason to go on living - not "meaningless" in that way, but rather in terms of it does not alter game play itself. Federation ships are not turned away from Imperial stations. Imperial ships are not fired on without warning in Alliance space. At most, the availability of beer as a legal commodity is impacted, based on who controls which stations. But that's really it. Everything else is merely in peoples' heads - and that's perfectly fine. In fact, it's ultimately desirable. Having one faction or another "in charge" of a station generates no income for anyone. It gives no one any power over anyone or anything else. And that, in and of itself, matters a great deal.

Why? If controlling a particular station gave someone some advantage, some benefit, beyond mere "bragging rights", then things like this suspected botting really would matter - because it would be giving some advantage to someone who isn't actually doing anything.

As it stands, aside from some bloodshot eyes and a lot of moist tissues, if the Legion of Bots took control of every station, in every system, throughout the entire galaxy, it would not change the way the game plays. We'd still be able to run our missions, trade our cargo, sell our exploration data, shoot at each other, shoot at flying artichokes - just like we already do, day after day, and no one would actually notice anything was any different.

-

@Dacey:

I very much appreciate the time and effort you put in to answering, or at least trying to answer my question. We've butted heads quite a few times, largely because we simply engage in very different play styles. I'm really not quite sure what these "traffic reports" are really going to show though. Number of, and type of ship passing a particular station in a 24 hour span? Nearly 100% certain a portion of that data is ultimately "made up" - NPC's simply coming and going. Even deep in the heart of permit-restricted Federal or Imperial space, you can almost always count on a few odd ships - Federal ships in Cubeo, Imperial ships in Sol, that are not player ships passing through. So I'm not sure that traffic reports of "3 Imperial Clippers passed through here in the past 24 hours" is really an indication of anything - unless there are actual sightings (by human eyes, include screenshot) of these ships on a regular basis.

Of course, it's also possible this is the work of a group of high-school drop outs with nothing but free time too. It's just too hard to say for certain from what I can tell.
 
Regards:

In the computer security department, where I collaborate as a security consultant, we have had similar cases of bot that performed automated tasks illegally.
A study of the case was proposed by means of techniques; that in any case we believe put an end to these practices, although we continue with bot tracking software to improve security.
It is clear that I can not help you directly but if you indicate to Frontier what parameters and policies we have created or data profile, to detect the possible abuses of bot
 
I don't have any specialist knowledge in coding. I am just a gamer and a windows user, without any professional interest or ability in anything PC related. Still I learnt how to make a working macro for a pip-manager and a macro for auto-collecting powerplay-goods every 30 minutes. I did this within a few hours with free macro-software. Latter I consider cheating and I didn't use it, apart from testing, I just wanted to see if this is possible and it easyly is.

So if I, as total coding dilettant can do this simple things, I can imagine that coding a trading bot will be very possibel for someone interested or educated in coding. Coding a turret-boat sitting in a combat zone will be even easyer, like DNA explained. I also don't question the motivation. If it is possible there always will be some people doing it.

Automation of gameplay elements is clearly against the Eula and Frontier should at lest try to stop it. I think they could at least try to have NPCs recongnice a unmoving healing-turret boat target and send some NPC that can deal with this, if it were bots.
Chances are Frontier already are aware and doing counter botting and the whole talk here is just paranoia. Generally I had the impression my gameplay could have been hampered by botting in powerplay several times, when faced by ridiculous numbers in some expnasions or counter expansions by some playergroups. I won't call them out now, since I have no prove and it could well have been a very dedicated player group that was shipping ten thousands of tons of pp cargo and investing hundreds of millions for fast tracking. I doubt it, and I suspect they at least used "auto-loading macros"...

How ever. It's a game. I usually tend to not take it that sirious. But I quit this aspect of powerplay partly because of this. Maybe I was just disheartened by being helpless against a superior player force and I am salty. But the possibility of them using bots is not unlikely.
 
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I think, however, this does serve to illustrate exactly why the BGS is the way it is, what I have described as "meaningless", in terms of its overall impact on gameplay. Skip the pitch - I get it, for some people the BGS is their only reason to go on living - not "meaningless" in that way, but rather in terms of it does not alter game play itself. Federation ships are not turned away from Imperial stations. Imperial ships are not fired on without warning in Alliance space. At most, the availability of beer as a legal commodity is impacted, based on who controls which stations. But that's really it. Everything else is merely in peoples' heads - and that's perfectly fine. In fact, it's ultimately desirable. Having one faction or another "in charge" of a station generates no income for anyone. It gives no one any power over anyone or anything else. And that, in and of itself, matters a great deal.

Why? If controlling a particular station gave someone some advantage, some benefit, beyond mere "bragging rights", then things like this suspected botting really would matter - because it would be giving some advantage to someone who isn't actually doing anything.

As it stands, aside from some bloodshot eyes and a lot of moist tissues, if the Legion of Bots took control of every station, in every system, throughout the entire galaxy, it would not change the way the game plays. We'd still be able to run our missions, trade our cargo, sell our exploration data, shoot at each other, shoot at flying artichokes - just like we already do, day after day, and no one would actually notice anything was any different.
In some ways you are correct. The impact of the BGS on the wider game is not as explicit as we might wish. But then in some of the examples above the imperium and the feds are not @ war. in fact they expend a LOT of energy getting close to war but not actually starting one.

However the BGS is the mechanism that decides who owns what system and what assets and what state they are in and ultimately what missions are generated. So yes, it does affect you, but i agree its subtle and not in your face. Given the scenrios and BGS update in 3.3 I expect the influence to increase not reduce, but it will still be background.

ED is a kind of subtle game in many ways - it really does allow you to engage in certain types of gameplay and ignore others. But in a game that is deliberately designed without a narrative and which is marketed on the basis of "blaze your own trail" then the ability to set your own goals and find your own way is important. So, choosing a faction to support and setting goals to expand it into an other system is as legitimate a goal as earning a billion credits, buying a conda getting a thousand kills, unlocking guardian tech or any of the other things players do and enjoy.

A lot of players engage in the BGS because the system interests them or because they have an affinity for one of the factions or simply because thats the station the call home. But all of them because they enjoy it. Its a game - it provides fun. So if engaging in the BGS isn't for you thats fine. It does not however mean that you get to dismiss the players that enjoy this playstlye as meaningless.

And botting does matter. Because it has the capacity to destroy the fun for all those people. And their enjoyment is just as meaningful as yours. The bots impact on the BGS is we believe incidental, because they are earning credits to invest in PP. Again that might not be something you care about but some players do. Running missions to a CG is no harder than what they already do, again you might not care about that either, but the stats suggest a lot of people turn up to them every week. And if it is possible to run bots undetected for these tasks then they will only get more sophisticated. So while it is doubt full that they will have full-on combat abilities at some point they may get sophisticated enough to impact on something you DO care about.
 
I don't have any specialist knowledge in coding. I am just a gamer and a windows user, without any professional interest or ability in anything PC related. Still I learnt how to make a working macro for a pip-manager and a macro for auto-collecting powerplay-goods every 30 minutes. I did this within a few hours with free macro-software. Latter I consider cheating and I didn't use it, I just wanted to see if this is possible and it easyly is.

So if I, as total coding dilettant can do this simple things, I can imagine that coding a trading bot will be very possibel for someone interested or educated in coding. Coding a turret-boat sitting in a combat zone will be even easyer, like DNA explained. I also don't question the motivation. If it is possible there always will be some people doing it.

Automation of gameplay elements is clearly against the Eula and Frontier should at lest try to stop it. I think they could at least try to have NPCs recongnice a unmoving healing-turret boat target and send some NPC that can deal with this, if it were bots.
Chances are Frontier already are aware and doing counter botting and the whole talk here is just paranoia. Generally I had the impression my gameplay could have been hampered by botting in powerplay several times, when faced by ridiculous numbers in some expnasions or counter expansions by some playergroups. I won't call them out now, since I have no prove and it could well have been a very dedicated player group that was shipping ten thousands of tons of pp cargo and investing hundreds of millions for fast tracking. I doubt it, and I suspect they at least used "auto-loading macros"...

How ever. It's a game. I usually tend to not take it that sirious. But I quit this aspect of powerplay partly because of this. Maybe I was just disheartened by being helpless against a superior player force and I am salty. But the possibility of them using bots is not unlikely.
You make a number of good points about how easy it is to create simple bots.

However the issue that frontier has is that the ones we have seen are keystroke emulators. So they play by reading the screen and mimicking key presses. They don't alter any game code. So the only way frontier or anyone else can spot them is by their behaviour. ie doing the exact same things over and over. Finding them automatically means long periods of surveillance, event logging and pattern recognition and only frontier can do this.
 
Motivation is an easy one to answer:
- Because they can and it gives them "Power"
- Intellectual challenge (this actually interests me too, but I'm not about to impact someoe else's game to scratch that itch)
- REVENGE (AEDC has shaken a few groups of late, plenty of aggrieved people wanting to stick one to us)
- Shake up the status quo (PP is stagnant and needs a big poke, FD won't poke it, so some turn to bots to knock Mahon down a peg)

Lots of potential motives there, I'm sure there are plenty more. You only need to read posts on this forum to see how angry some people get.
 
Greetings commanders, some tin foil hattery ahead and I’ll caveat that I’m not a hugely active participant in the forums, so chances are this has been said before and widely denounced, but is there any chance that what is widely seen as malicious player-created bots is actually an Fdev creation to drive fluidity in the BGS / Powerplay mechanics? From a cursory glance at the threads, it’s going after the more active groups (or is it that the more active groups are more alert to such incursions?) but that could be a misguided attempt on the Dev side to keep those active groups engaged.

Better yet, what if what you’re seeing (or not seeing in PG / Solo) is an attempt to develop the asked for enhanced NPC behaviour. Something that has npc’s reacts with the game mechanics in a semi-credible way. A rudimentary Turing test of their own making if you want will. They have the BGS data. They gave the combat AI for power play. Launching it through faux player accounts would mean a live AI test against an active player base, that can be shut down individually rather than changing the AI behaviour of all NPC’s throughout the game

Come the paid content next year, fdev then role out “next gen NPC behaviour” as one of the livestream features.

Or maybe I should just take the pills like the doctor ordered...
 
I don't have any specialist knowledge in coding. I am just a gamer and a windows user, without any professional interest or ability in anything PC related. Still I learnt how to make a working macro for a pip-manager and a macro for auto-collecting powerplay-goods every 30 minutes. I did this within a few hours with free macro-software. Latter I consider cheating and I didn't use it, apart from testing, I just wanted to see if this is possible and it easyly is.

So if I, as total coding dilettant can do this simple things, I can imagine that coding a trading bot will be very possibel for someone interested or educated in coding. Coding a turret-boat sitting in a combat zone will be even easyer, like DNA explained. I also don't question the motivation. If it is possible there always will be some people doing it.

Automation of gameplay elements is clearly against the Eula and Frontier should at lest try to stop it. I think they could at least try to have NPCs recongnice a unmoving healing-turret boat target and send some NPC that can deal with this, if it were bots.
Chances are Frontier already are aware and doing counter botting and the whole talk here is just paranoia. Generally I had the impression my gameplay could have been hampered by botting in powerplay several times, when faced by ridiculous numbers in some expnasions or counter expansions by some playergroups. I won't call them out now, since I have no prove and it could well have been a very dedicated player group that was shipping ten thousands of tons of pp cargo and investing hundreds of millions for fast tracking. I doubt it, and I suspect they at least used "auto-loading macros"...

How ever. It's a game. I usually tend to not take it that sirious. But I quit this aspect of powerplay partly because of this. Maybe I was just disheartened by being helpless against a superior player force and I am salty. But the possibility of them using bots is not unlikely.

In my department we have not only blocked macro of letter pulsations, we have also been able to detect if it is a real PC keyboard press, or a macro that presses the characters or combination of character.

In any case the techniques to detect begin to operate in controlled environments.

original: En mi departamento no solo hemos bloqueado macros de pulsaciones de letras, tambien hemos podido detectar si es una pulsacion de un teclado de pc real , o una macro que pulsa los caracteres o combinacion de caracteres.
En cualquier caso las tecnicas para detectar empiezan a funcionar en ambientes controlados

In my department we have not only blocked macro of letter pulsations, we have also been able to detect if it is a real PC keyboard press, or a macro that presses the characters or combination of character
 
It looks to me that dna decay was simply musing about how he might automate a combat aytopilot should he wish to.
I do not believe that there is any indication that combat capable autopilot bots are operating.
Why would you not equip a bot for combat capability?

Did you miss all the SDC videos on “Healies for Feelies”?

The Alliance has a huge capacity to grind.

And usually when there’s a chance to give the Alliance a kicking, you get fun times pew pew in open.
Usually a bunch of Hudson and Aisling CMDRs show up and there’s a bunch of toe to toe PvP.
You know Fun. The reason to have a BGS war in the first place.

But not this time.

Just Alliance CMDRs flogging away.

The call went out, and we all turned up and we all did work.

And we got smashed out of the ballpark.

It’s the new paradigm.
You take a large and well organised group, and squash them like a bug.

https://youtu.be/IURhW-uB4ME
[video=youtube_share;IURhW-uB4ME]https://youtu.be/IURhW-uB4ME[/video]
 
Why would you not equip a bot for combat capability?

Did you miss all the SDC videos on “Healies for Feelies”?

The Alliance has a huge capacity to grind.

And usually when there’s a chance to give the Alliance a kicking, you get fun times pew pew in open.
Usually a bunch of Hudson and Aisling CMDRs show up and there’s a bunch of toe to toe PvP.
You know Fun. The reason to have a BGS war in the first place.

But not this time.

Just Alliance CMDRs flogging away.

The call went out, and we all turned up and we all did work.

And we got smashed out of the ballpark.

It’s the new paradigm.
You take a large and well organised group, and squash them like a bug.

https://youtu.be/IURhW-uB4ME
Yep, if you were to catch these builds in open though. They would die so fast. Like under 10 seconds.

JUST BLOCK THE BEAMS SCOTTY!

Ummm, router configuration and combat logging are different things....
You're right. That is something thats usually detectable in other games and you can be banned for that too. Its not that the tech doesn't exist. It just needs to be implemented. There are still people that try to get around it. And when it happens they are detected and banned. Its a process but its around.
 
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