Monday, January 28, 2013

A Tinker's Toys

It started with a simple enough question in a market channel.  "There are really market bots?"  To which several people informed the poor soul that, "Yes, there are market bots."  I was watching a trade channel and someone said they believed that CCP should allow botting for market trading.  I was stunned and asked, "What?"
"I'd like for market bots to be legal with a standardized API provided by ccp. Make people focus on the algorithms they use to update their orders and prices. Rather than on adjusting orders manually by 0.01 ISK every 5 minutes. It would make stupid trading entirely pointless or at least mostly pointless"
 The group advised him that he might want to adjust his trading habits if he thought that the solution would be a bot.  Someone asked him, "What's your problem?"
"I don't have any "problem".  I think legalized market bots would make traders think more and eliminate a part of the game that is only tedious."
"Why is it tedious?" another asked.
"Because you only work like a Machine. Updating order by some fixed algorithm. Free us up to concentrate on the fun part. On picking the right items and the right algorithms. Maybe even give us the possibility to trade algorithms. Charge fees for order modifications but remove the 5 minute limit"
A few days after this conversation, I saw a comment on Tobold's blog where he is commenting about Nosy Gamer's botting articles.  He comments on the tedious activities of MMO's that have an internal problem within their design because they can be botted and that things need to be more challenging.  I would think that people will always break things down to the smallest piece that they can.  No one has to play 0.01 ISK wars on the market and update their orders every 5 minutes.  No one is chained to that but by voluntarily placing those shackles upon their own game play they turn to CCP and point a finger saying, "Why have you done this to me?"

I said:
"There is more to do then sit there updating your orders like a machine.  If someone is doing that they made the choice to do that. it sounds more like you are suggesting "dear CCP make the market automatic for me because I obsess over it."  I then asked him, "Why would you suggest CCP accept botting into the game?" 
I was interested in his reply.
"It's frustrating to see people spend hours upon hours with menial tasks when there is so much potential for creativity and ingenuity. Mission running is stupid, too but it doesn't have that sort of potential."
 I asked:
"And you think botting will bring out creativity and ingenuity?"  
I decided to stop arguing at that point and let him finish giving me his story.  I realized, he meant what he said so I might as well find out why he felt the way that he did.  I was not going to understand it by guessing and hoping that I was right.  I asked:
"Please tell me how."
And he obliged:
"Look at algorithmic trading irl. A lot of thought goes into devising trading strategies for "bots". Crazy statistical models (often lifted from physics). Economic Models. Experience. safeguards to prevent them from getting gamed or participating in a market crash by accident."
Gevlon pointed out: "But then we could have PvP bots too and it would be a race between AI programmers"
 "I would enjoy playing that game :D. I don't expect ccp to legalize bots. But I would like them to do it :D. Just to see what happens. I think I'd enjoy the resulting game."
The rest of the conversation bot based video games and programming in general.  The pleasure of building a product and the pros and cons of using it.

I'd love to say that I understand his logic.  In a purely metaphyiscal sense, where one debates the deepest dreams and wants I can understand letting go of sense and reason for the pure burn of desire.  I would like X because of Y.  Even if X is terribly destructive I do not care because I would enjoy it even if no one else would.  It was nice to see an argument not dissolve into "everyone bots" or some such thing as they often do for their reasons.

Is the game broken because people can bot in it or would bot in it to avoid things?  People will also cheat at events that they have trained for to win or gain an edge.  The assume that it is simply a result of uninteresting activities is to look at botting as only a way to replicate the actions a player must do.  In a game like Eve, where a player does not have to do the actions the bot takes over the bot is even more of a choice to make life easier or acheive a win.  Must the market order be adjusted in the .01 ISK war every five minutes?  No. Many traders make their fortunes without ever touching these battles.

If people are pushed by their own competitive nature that is not the fault of the game.   Where does personal responsibility lay in this?  I also play blink but I do not blame blink for the ISK that I lose.  I can't agree that people 'have' to bot.  People want an edge.  People who are rich and successful will still do things to exceed their own innate abilities.  Its not a fault of the game its an aspect of personality.


  1. I think there certainly is a place for games that reward individual's coding ability and imagination. The obvious one coming up is 0x10c ( from the makers of Minecraft. In the more distant past I played a MUD which had a very detailed combat system and almost all of the serious players had some level of macros set up to block and undo opponents even as they layered on the attacks. But it also go to the point where people complained, "You aren't fighting X, you're fighting his program." The problem was one of expectation - if you go into a game expecting it to be a programming challenge with the best coder winning, that's one thing. But if you go into a game expecting to learn to be the better spaceship pilot in a grand space opera style, then you don't think that will be determined by who is the better programmer. Trying to beat older, more experienced Eve opponents is bad enough as it is. Would newbies really want to also have to climb the cliff of programming expertise?

  2. In a sense, these games already exist: Second Life, LambdaMOO, and any given text-based MU* allow for extensive scripting and automating. The first two give the access out freely; the second tend to be somewhat discerning. (I believe the superhero MMO whose name I forget also allowed a certain amount of scripting?) It certainly does attract players, and especially geeks. I've written my share of MUSHcode, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

    Critically, though, none of those had markets. As soon as you have bots interacting with bots, which is what the market would produce, you have a very heavy load on the servers 23.5/7, and there's not any place on the market for ordinary people, except to satisfy buy orders and swallow sell orders.

    Also, LambdaMOO is a non-combat environment. CCP has been wise to keep automation out, because in the environment they cultivate for EVE, automation would be a fearsome weapon, only counterable by more automation, and CCP's server farm would melt under the strain.

    I think the real problem is the absolute paucity of available products and quality levels and the non-existence of retail. With no reason to prefer one person's Brutix to another's, and no reason to prefer one kind of Veldspar to another for the countertops in the kitchen your CQ doesn't have, the only variable is price (and really, the only market is Jita), so it's no surprise that traders obsess on price. Make industry more interesting than the slightly-more-involved WoW-style crafting that it is now, and maybe things will change.

  3. Also go back to your live-blog of Stillman's presentation @ Vegas...what'd he say? Like 1% of all EVE bots are market bots? ;-)

  4. The argument used for market bots can be used for pve botting or even pvp botting.
    The issue is that while one person might think an activity is boring and needs to be automated someone else might think it interesting/entertaining.

    One person wants to allow market bots because he doesn't want to play the market. In that regard I would like a ratting bot so I can go to work and come back and have isk. (Although there would be no sense of accomplishment anymore and i'd quit the game in short order.)

    Someone else might want to pvp but since he is not good at it he needs to automate it..
    Which reminds me of someone who used to play Diablo II. What he really did was watching a bot run the game.