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

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...
That's an interesting suggestion, but would require quite a bit of theater from FDev Support, as they are engaging with us on the topic, and of course this has been going on in the PP community for some time, and account were temporarily banned in the past. It's a possibility, but would be downright cruel if this turned out to be the developer.

Moreover, FD would be able to do this without actual flying bots, but just through data.
 
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.
No, no - don’t misunderstand - I do realize the reasons folks put so much time and energy into BGS play. It might not be MY idea of a good time, but that fine. And I certainly get that botting is detrimental to those doing this the right way.

My point is, this particular avenue aside, nothing here would leave the game in an unplayable state. And that is why this aspect of game play has only the most minor and subtle effects.

And yes, I also know how system states influence things like missions and signal sources. But something that is glossed over here is this:

The Holy Order of A has control of the only large station in system B. This makes people happy, especially those who support The Holy Order of A. When they are in a Boom state cargo is plentiful and all is right in the universe.

The Discord of C however, has other plans, and ousts the Holy Order of A. The system plunged into a week of bloody civil war. Millions of NPCs and one newbie commander lose their lives, and The Discord of C claws their way to victory. On the next system state tick, there is a Boom in the system, cargo is bountiful and profits are high. Just as it was under the old regime.

The phrase “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” echos through my thoughts for some reason. But as I said, this does keep anyone or any group from breaking the game. If you missed it years ago this happened in EVE when Goonfleet merged with Band of Brothers, and brought the game to a virtual halt. These sorts of things happen in other games as well. It may be all well and good when entirely human-generated, as this typically IS part of normal game play. When it’s not, companies usually react quickly and harshly. Elite, however, is different. It protects us from ourselves, by specifically not letting any of us actually reshape the galaxy in any significant way.
 
here's a few points to ponder...

I've been coding since '79. My first forage into gaming code was in MuDs. Originally in the MudLib, the library of objects that make a mud be a mud, and ultimately into the actual Mud Game Engine. Obviously nothing as sophisticated as todays engines, but for their time, they were cutting edge.

What did they have in common with todays genres? Players!

So during that time, I was also the MudLib archwizard on arguably the biggest free online Mud of the time (Ancient Anguish), and besides all the code and themes and balance and gameplay, one thing stands out; Players have not changed a bit.

Some players will happily play what is put in front of them, Some will try to take max advantage of what is put in front of them (that's me) and some will try to cheat what is put in front of them.

Here's an example; I spend my time jumping from system to system, I look for the fastest, most economical, time efficent way. Another player types looks to automate the entire process, even if it means breaching EULA.

This whole botting thing is the latter of those player types. And you will never beat them. They are way too many, and way to committed. And there-in lies another problem. A developer can only do so much to alleviate a given a circumstance (sure I rail on Devs all the time, but thats mostly frustration) the bot creators have all the time in the world, they have lots of resources and they're skill-base is honed to cheat the system, and ultimately they see it as a challenge. And tell a bot creator they cannot do something, and they'll go to hell on earth to prove you wrong.

I saw it on MuDs, I saw it on Everquest, Wow, GW1, GW2, and umpteen others. Ultimately, unless you have the resources to stop them, you lose.

Fdev's Elite Engine, is barely up to the task of doing what it already does. It's net code is decades old and ripe for abuse.

In closing, the question was asked; How do you read the menus for the missions?

Why bother reading them when they're given to you in a data stream.... See? You need to think differently. Everything that goes on the screen, came across the wires. Get it at source and you beat the middle man. Someone is going to scream, Ben you idiot! It's all encrypted dumbo! yeh.. right.. I'd get banned if I posted in public some of the things I know.

The 'only' way to beat these bots is to cath them online, in the act, and terminate the account right then and there. Any thing less is futile.
 
Daft thing is some of the loopholes could be turned to FDevs advantage. How many players would jump at the chance to have an advanced autopilot that could pilot a ship from system A to system x via b,c and d. No clever action, just launch jump, jump.... dock, and all the risk of interdiction and or some other as yet not included added content. That the AI can’t deal with. Would give Truckers and explorers an option for the really long haul journeys.

For example I had an exploration route picked out but due to a mishap on my part had to jump back to the bubble for repairs I couldn’t do in the field. Been putting off finishing it due to the 3kly I have to travel through systems I have already seen, just to pick up where I left off. Advanced auto pilot would work there and would be worth the interdiction risk once outside the bubble.
 
here's a few points to ponder...

Common sense from somebody who clearly is a coder who knows his er.... 'stuff' snipped.....


The 'only' way to beat these bots is to cath them online, in the act, and terminate the account right then and there. Any thing less is futile.
I'd modify that slightly...

The only way to beat them is to accept that you never will. You put practical measures that don't impinge on legitimate play in place server-side to catch them and you do it quietly, saying nothing. Those that you do catch are simply gone. Without fanfare or fuss and without the kid gloves of shadowbans, just accounts terminated and done. But you accept that it's like catching rats on a dockside. You never get them all.
 
I know one challenge no bot writer can ever face, because they will fail, because they are too weak and incapable:
Never write another bot.
 
They wouldn't be combat logging in this case, they simply wouldn't connect to any other peers at all.

That said, I wonder if "RelayViaServer" still works and could be used as a way to get past this...
Oh if you're being an intelligent cheat (oxymoron, there, but wth) you don't fail to connect - you connect badly. So badly that any peer thinks your network pipe would be outclassed by a damp piece of string. Nobody will be instanced with you, because adding you would totally tank the instance health and FD's netcode wouldn't do it. RelayViaServer would still be a potential workaround but by throttling bandwidth to ED's servers too - down to the levels that you monitor during a solo session - and then doing it even further for peers, plus causing spikes of packet loss in the "right" places you can be happily in "virtual solo" mode when the game thinks you're in open and relaying via servers.

If you're smart enough to do this you've probably got the basic wit to avoid easily detectable patterns too. FD could probably get "reliably suspicious" but certain enough to terminate an account? That's a pretty high bar because the bad PR from banhammering false positives would be horrendous.



ETA: As I hit post I realized there was an even better way. Run your bots in pairs, winged up and with one just following the other in navlock. Now BOTH ends of the comm channel you need to fiddle with to mess up the instancing mechanics are under your control. Once they are in the same instance tank the comms between them to the point that instance is really unhealthy and nobody else will be added to it. Reliably detecting that or trying to work around it would be a seriously non-trivial task, particularly if you periodically and randomly handed off the "lead" role between the two (or more) bots.
 
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My sympathies and respect to the OP.

Can't rep multiple times.

My question is this. If a readily accessible bot were written to grind credits, do you think FDEV might pay attention?

Gold rushes seem to be the only thing they care about...
 
They'd probably send a cease & desist notice to whoever hosts the readily accessible bot, and that would be it.

I have come to believe that FD simply doesn't collect enough telemetry from users to be able to really distinguish a bot from someone using Voice Attack or virtual-keyboard scripts that drive HOTAS systems. It may require adding something to the game client or log more data. But all of that would cost money and resources.

The increased Daily Active Users metric of mass credit grind botting on the other hand, may be attractive to the bean counters...

I hate to sound this cynical, but unfortunately, months of interaction with Frontier Support where we need to tell them where the bots are, they say "thanks" and then nothing happens, doesn't make me very hopeful something is going to change until the costs of not dealing with it are made substantially higher to Frontier.
 
They'd probably send a cease & desist notice to whoever hosts the readily accessible bot, and that would be it.

I have come to believe that FD simply doesn't collect enough telemetry from users to be able to really distinguish a bot from someone using Voice Attack or virtual-keyboard scripts that drive HOTAS systems. It may require adding something to the game client or log more data. But all of that would cost money and resources.

The increased Daily Active Users metric of mass credit grind botting on the other hand, may be attractive to the bean counters...

I hate to sound this cynical, but unfortunately, months of interaction with Frontier Support where we need to tell them where the bots are, they say "thanks" and then nothing happens, doesn't make me very hopeful something is going to change until the costs of not dealing with it are made substantially higher to Frontier.
That's why these sorts of things get hosted in places like Czech Republic, where they use C&D's for toilet paper. They can send all they want, and nothing happens.

Thing is though, if these operate in Solo, there's not a thing anyone can do about it - except Frontier. They can push these into Shadowban land, where all their efforts have no impact on the BGS, or simply terminate these accounts. None of us can do that.
 
my faction have been under attack by 120 cutters in solo for weeks now, we even know which faction is doing it, but we are getting smug and smirk from them and cant do anything about it
 
my faction have been under attack by 120 cutters in solo for weeks now, we even know which faction is doing it, but we are getting smug and smirk from them and cant do anything about it
120 cutters ? it is a bit too much. Maybe there is same accounts multiple times jumping in...

Anyway, I understand AEDC concerns about bots but in PP, the healing2feeries shared by DNA-Decay has the same destroying effect than botting (for all weaponized expansions). you can turret boat peacefully in PG/solo . And nothing is done also. I would just that people think also about others than just what is in front of them.
 
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
This is has almost powerful as bots for weaponized powers. Should be banned.
 
This is has almost powerful as bots for weaponized powers. Should be banned.
Actually I will be very interested to see if the new beefed up CZs have any effect. The CZ ships are now engineered. I wouldnt expect them to overcome the healing, however it may be possible that the weapons knock the healers our of alignment while the player is AFK.
 
Actually I will be very interested to see if the new beefed up CZs have any effect. The CZ ships are now engineered. I wouldnt expect them to overcome the healing, however it may be possible that the weapons knock the healers our of alignment while the player is AFK.
That and the CZs shut down after the kill bars have been filled for either side, forcing the player to reset the instance.
 
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