Today I was invited to a panel discussion about cheating and botting at Quo Vadis Berlin. With me on the panel were Marian Härtel, a lawyer who represents a major botting company, Robert Maroschik, who makes cheat tools (for single player games, admittedly) and Arne Peters from the ESL.
We all quickly agreed that cheating in single player games is not an issue for anyone, so the rest of the discussion revolved around online games. Our respective roles in that were pretty clear and what followed was not very surprising.
The pro-botting/pro-cheating faction mainly made the following arguments:
- players are cheating and even paying money for cheats, so there is a demand
- there is no proof that bots are actually hurting online games; they might even improve retention by helping players over the worst grind
- the legal situation is complicated
- game developers should learn from bots/cheats where their game is lacking
- shouldn’t we cooperate rather than fight?
I honestly think that those arguments are pretty silly.
Let’s talk about cheating first. Cheating in online games is pretty much the same as hacking. In a cleanly designed online game the server has authority over everything, so cheating is only possible if you find a vulnerability in the server code. Such errors are hopefully quickly discovered and fixed.
Which leaves botting. Our community hates bot users. Just like cheaters. That is honestly all the reason we need to fight this. Albion Online is a competitive game and our players expect a level playing field. Are bots hurting that premise? Absolutely. The question whether there can be a “good” bot is similar to the firearms discussion in the US. Sure, guns can be used for good and bad, but if you legalize guns you have to live with the fact that innocent people get shot. A lot. It is still a crime and the parties responsible will likely go to prison but that is what will happen. Bots are the same. Yes, there may be legitimate uses for bots, but there is a thin red line where botting becomes cheating and bot uses will constantly cross it. That is why banning bots completely is pretty much the only choice we have.
The fact that players use bots also does not mean that the game is lacking. Player are very good at spoiling the game for themselves. The main reason to use cheats and bots is to outdo other players. Cheating is only fun if you cheat on somebody.
So can bot developers help us developers? I do not think so. If I wanted to add a particular feature to my game I am perfectly capable of doing that myself.