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

1 year on

The reports we made almost a year ago on botting and gameplay abuse were well received by the public. Many offering support and advice both in game and off game. Obsidian Ant, SagI and INN to name a few outlets reported on the issue and the community voiced its concern on a major problem that's eating into the heart of the playerbase.

FDevs silence however has been deafening.

When this thread first posted, one of the community managers reached out through a reply to the thread, asking for an email detailing our report tickets and evidence we collected. we had no response.
After contacting directly one of the community managers several times we were told, almost word for word, the same responses as the original tickets. No assurances that steps were being implemented to minimize botting or even that they were planning to.

We've heard nothing more from FDev regarding botting.

So the problem not only persisted, it spread.

BGS groups across the board stared ending operations due to attacks from unknown forces seemingly hellbent on demoralisation and destruction of PMFs. Most notably Mobius, who last year announced an end to their BGS operations due to this phenomena.
Of course. SDC took the credit, but we know it wasn't them.
https://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php/431141-SDC-Presents-Operation-Overlawd

So what now?

A group of Alliance members notibly AOS, AEDC, Aid and others have continued the work we started over a year ago to track and monitor bot activity across the populated galaxy, including the bubble and even as far as Colonia. These findings I've been assured will be made public soon for everyone to catch up on. When they're posted I'll repost here.

Will this make FDev perk up and finally address this issue? I doubt it. But we will continue to hound them until action is taken, they even consider botting in their BGS and powerplay design, or until the game dies.

Until then, BGS players, stay vigilant. We know bots are still operating. The report I discussed above will show this.
You must suspicious activity to the community so we have the best chance to collectively solve a problem the developers show no interest in solving themselves.
 
No ones asking for a name and shame. If you read the OP and my latest, the theme has always been effective antibot countermeasures and better BGS mechanics.
 
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Interesting reading, and I don't doubt it's true. Everquest and WOW were overrun with 'bots as well, doing gold farming and the like. But the end goal was selling gold and accounts online for real world cash. What are these people chasing ? BGS 5th column tactics seems a bit esoteric, especially when PP was never really mainstream to begin with. Even more so when there isn't any real benefit to the player ( aside from modules of questionable and/or niche use ) if their faction gains that week and they stay long enough

What I have a hard time comprehending is the work it took to create the bots, troubleshoot them, and then implement the BGS schemes. Seems like a heck of a lot of time, energy, and effort just to troll some people. It makes little sense to have multiple accounts ( and the money to buy them ), plus computers burning electricity, for no return. I think if there was a case to be made for how the 'bots masters were actually profiting ( selling accounts, or gold drops, or ?? ) it might make FD take another look at it. It took ( is taking ) some amount of money to implement, assuming the time was 'free'. Mining salt is valid gameplay mechanics/tactics ( Immurshun ! ). And I can see gankers and others ( Looking at SDC here ), doing it for laughs, for a while. But I have other things to do then buy multiple accounts to annoy someone I'm not even going to be able to see being annoyed.

Major kudos to the folks tracking this. But it would take very little to add a little randomness to the 'bots. Delays on the pad ( basking ), on the route ( if hop >= 5, wait 30 seconds +/- time before next hop ), varying the route ( if mission count divisible by 3, then use route 5 ). And so on in an un-ending arms race. You also can't win by banning accounts. They'll just use more, and you'll end up playing whack-a-mole until the stars burn out.

You/We need to find the real goal behind it to have a shot at stopping it. Maybe it is a few ( really good ! ) programmers doing it for laughs/salt. Maybe it's a group getting something out of it besides salt. Maybe it's a re-purposed 'bot originally designed to build accounts for sale thru a 3rd party that escaped into the wild. I just have a suspicion that there is more to this then just BGS manipulation.
 

Goose4291

Banned
Interesting reading, and I don't doubt it's true. Everquest and WOW were overrun with 'bots as well, doing gold farming and the like. But the end goal was selling gold and accounts online for real world cash. What are these people chasing ? BGS 5th column tactics seems a bit esoteric, especially when PP was never really mainstream to begin with. Even more so when there isn't any real benefit to the player ( aside from modules of questionable and/or niche use ) if their faction gains that week and they stay long enough

What I have a hard time comprehending is the work it took to create the bots, troubleshoot them, and then implement the BGS schemes. Seems like a heck of a lot of time, energy, and effort just to troll some people. It makes little sense to have multiple accounts ( and the money to buy them ), plus computers burning electricity, for no return. I think if there was a case to be made for how the 'bots masters were actually profiting ( selling accounts, or gold drops, or ?? ) it might make FD take another look at it. It took ( is taking ) some amount of money to implement, assuming the time was 'free'. Mining salt is valid gameplay mechanics/tactics ( Immurshun ! ). And I can see gankers and others ( Looking at SDC here ), doing it for laughs, for a while. But I have other things to do then buy multiple accounts to annoy someone I'm not even going to be able to see being annoyed.

Major kudos to the folks tracking this. But it would take very little to add a little randomness to the 'bots. Delays on the pad ( basking ), on the route ( if hop >= 5, wait 30 seconds +/- time before next hop ), varying the route ( if mission count divisible by 3, then use route 5 ). And so on in an un-ending arms race. You also can't win by banning accounts. They'll just use more, and you'll end up playing whack-a-mole until the stars burn out.

You/We need to find the real goal behind it to have a shot at stopping it. Maybe it is a few ( really good ! ) programmers doing it for laughs/salt. Maybe it's a group getting something out of it besides salt. Maybe it's a re-purposed 'bot originally designed to build accounts for sale thru a 3rd party that escaped into the wild. I just have a suspicion that there is more to this then just BGS manipulation.
I genuinely think you underestimate how much e-spaceships can bring out the crazy in people.
 
After playing PP for the 1st time I can understand (but not approve) that some cheaters would use bots. The 30 min wait to get more free materials that can be bypassed with payment is a horrible system that makes want to puke. I really cant understand how anybody who cares about their fellow humans could allow such a customer soul crushing game mechanic to exist in game.
This is, IMO, the epitome of the "Space Loach" era of ED development; it's just spitefully long-winded for no good reason.
 
I genuinely think you underestimate how much e-spaceships can bring out the crazy in people.
Can confirm.

I don’t care if you’re rich.
We’re all rich.

I don’t care if you’re tough.
I’ve killed Dangerous CMDRs who’ve come after me.

What counts is who governs the system.



Regarding the Bots.
I did a lot of bot watching for a few months.
Also a lot of sniffing around player groups and having forum conversations with uh “Automation Enthusiasts”.


I came up with a short list. And even a preferred candidate. Names, addresses the whole bit. Got shied off it by people who were smarter with much more real-world InfoSec experience:
“Capability does not equal culpability”

- which I concede.

And those infosec people came up with much better systems to monitor automated activity.

Left all my garbage attempts to build a bot redundant and worthless.


I still maintain that the best way to catch a botter is to understand them. To understand their challenges. To build working bots yourself.
But the total debacle that is the BGS since 3.3 has certainly reduced the bot’s scope of activity. There’s a lot of things you wouldn’t make them do now because the outcomes are unpredictable.

And I concur that the Frontier Community Management response to the issue makes a mockery of their recent “Best Community Management” award that was all over Twitter.





and yeah - I’m back in the bubble, beaches.
 
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Goose4291

Banned
Can confirm.

I don’t care if you’re rich.
We’re all rich.

I don’t care if you’re tough.
I’ve killed Dangerous CMDRs who’ve come after me.

What counts is who governs the system.



Regarding the Bots.
I did a lot of bot watching for a few months.
Also a lot of sniffing around player groups and having forum conversations with uh “Automation Enthusiasts”.


I came up with a short list. And even a preferred candidate. Names, addresses the whole bit. Got shied off it by people who were smarter with much more real-world InfoSec experience:
“Capability does not equal culpability”

- which I concede.

And those infosec people came up with much better systems to monitor automated activity.

Left all my garbage attempts to build a bot redundant and worthless.


I still maintain that the best way to catch a botter is to understand them. To understand their challenges. To build working bots yourself.
But the total debacle that is the BGS since 3.3 has certainly reduced the bot’s scope of activity. There’s a lot of things you wouldn’t make them do now because the outcomes are unpredictable.

And I concur that the Frontier Community Management response to the issue makes a mockery of their recent “Best Community Management” award that was all over Twitter.
That's why I suspect they're going to be 'only' a problem for powerplayers for the foreseeable future, as the interactions there are predictable.
 
That's why I suspect they're going to be 'only' a problem for powerplayers for the foreseeable future, as the interactions there are predictable.
A lot of people think that bots are unlikely, because they envisage all the tasks that you would have to do to build one - and it seems insurmountable.
But when you actually try to do it, there’s a ton of utilities, products, existing code modules, third party apps, smart advice, API integration, useful databases, the whole 9 yards. It is totally within reach.

As I come back into the game, I feel really conflicted about the state of the BGS.
On the one hand - I want some predictability, on the other - the chaos is helping to contain the bots.


I think Trinity pointed this out - “It’s not a problem until it’s YOUR problem”
I don’t think Frontier will really move on the issue until it’s everybody’s problem.
So not until everyone has a bot.
 

Goose4291

Banned
I think Trinity pointed this out - “It’s not a problem until it’s YOUR problem”
I don’t think Frontier will really move on the issue until it’s everybody’s problem.
Well you.could do what people did with the 1t transaction exploit and hit a preferred player group with a bot attack.

It'll be patched out in 48hrs, I'd put money on that:D
 
I'll admit I have not read this entire thread, so apologies if someone has already offered this remedy, but bots could be 100% entirely stopped with one easy step added to all Power Play interfaces in game.

Behold, the cure!

 
Interesting reading, and I don't doubt it's true. Everquest and WOW were overrun with 'bots as well, doing gold farming and the like. But the end goal was selling gold and accounts online for real world cash. What are these people chasing ? BGS 5th column tactics seems a bit esoteric, especially when PP was never really mainstream to begin with. Even more so when there isn't any real benefit to the player ( aside from modules of questionable and/or niche use ) if their faction gains that week and they stay long enough

What I have a hard time comprehending is the work it took to create the bots, troubleshoot them, and then implement the BGS schemes. Seems like a heck of a lot of time, energy, and effort just to troll some people. It makes little sense to have multiple accounts ( and the money to buy them ), plus computers burning electricity, for no return. I think if there was a case to be made for how the 'bots masters were actually profiting ( selling accounts, or gold drops, or ?? ) it might make FD take another look at it. It took ( is taking ) some amount of money to implement, assuming the time was 'free'. Mining salt is valid gameplay mechanics/tactics ( Immurshun ! ). And I can see gankers and others ( Looking at SDC here ), doing it for laughs, for a while. But I have other things to do then buy multiple accounts to annoy someone I'm not even going to be able to see being annoyed.

Major kudos to the folks tracking this. But it would take very little to add a little randomness to the 'bots. Delays on the pad ( basking ), on the route ( if hop >= 5, wait 30 seconds +/- time before next hop ), varying the route ( if mission count divisible by 3, then use route 5 ). And so on in an un-ending arms race. You also can't win by banning accounts. They'll just use more, and you'll end up playing whack-a-mole until the stars burn out.

You/We need to find the real goal behind it to have a shot at stopping it. Maybe it is a few ( really good ! ) programmers doing it for laughs/salt. Maybe it's a group getting something out of it besides salt. Maybe it's a re-purposed 'bot originally designed to build accounts for sale thru a 3rd party that escaped into the wild. I just have a suspicion that there is more to this then just BGS manipulation.
Some people will do anything.

But yeah, i'm also having trouble understanding the why of it. Powerplay, ok, some people will do anything to win (even if there is no real win in PP). But people messing with the BGS via bots... for what?

If there is a bot problem, i'd more likely be willing to believe its just people running bots with little consideration for what they are doing to the BGS but more just about automating credit gain.

Of course, i could be wrong, but with how its not really possible to see what people are up to, there might be some element of tinfoilhattery going on here.
 
I'll admit I have not read this entire thread, so apologies if someone has already offered this remedy, but bots could be 100% entirely stopped with one easy step added to all Power Play interfaces in game.

Behold, the cure!

Unfortunately that's one cure that punishes those who play fair, and its rather jarring in a game to enter a captcha just to play it.
 
Unfortunately that's one cure that punishes those who play fair, and its rather jarring in a game to enter a captcha just to play it.
I'd gladly take it as trade for improvement to the current method picking up/dropping off PP materials. I actually stopped doing PP hauling after finding my breaking point with that horrible interface.

(I'm being half serious, at best)
 
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1 year on

The reports we made almost a year ago on botting and gameplay abuse were well received by the public. Many offering support and advice both in game and off game. Obsidian Ant, SagI and INN to name a few outlets reported on the issue and the community voiced its concern on a major problem that's eating into the heart of the playerbase.

FDevs silence however has been deafening.

When this thread first posted, one of the community managers reached out through a reply to the thread, asking for an email detailing our report tickets and evidence we collected. we had no response.
After contacting directly one of the community managers several times we were told, almost word for word, the same responses as the original tickets. No assurances that steps were being implemented to minimize botting or even that they were planning to.

We've heard nothing more from FDev regarding botting.

So the problem not only persisted, it spread.

BGS groups across the board stared ending operations due to attacks from unknown forces seemingly hellbent on demoralisation and destruction of PMFs. Most notably Mobius, who last year announced an end to their BGS operations due to this phenomena.
Of course. SDC took the credit, but we know it wasn't them.
https://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php/431141-SDC-Presents-Operation-Overlawd

So what now?

A group of Alliance members notibly AOS, AEDC, Aid and others have continued the work we started over a year ago to track and monitor bot activity across the populated galaxy, including the bubble and even as far as Colonia. These findings I've been assured will be made public soon for everyone to catch up on. When they're posted I'll repost here.

Will this make FDev perk up and finally address this issue? I doubt it. But we will continue to hound them until action is taken, they even consider botting in their BGS and powerplay design, or until the game dies.

Until then, BGS players, stay vigilant. We know bots are still operating. The report I discussed above will show this.
You must suspicious activity to the community so we have the best chance to collectively solve a problem the developers show no interest in solving themselves.
Just a suggestion to you guys :

- Did you report to FD when AOS asked support from botters in order to help them win an election in Gateway ?
- Did AEDC communicated towards Allioth Council and Alliance players in general why there is no more revendication about Lave ?

Just curious here.
 
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