Monday, December 17, 2012

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Beggar Bots: The Gold Farmers of SL (Comment of the Week)

Beggar Bot Second Life

The invasion of beggar bots (or flatterbots as they're sometimes called) throughout the Second Life grid continues to be a hot topic of conversation on NWN, and last week, reader "Zod" put forth this apropos analogy:

"Beggar bots in SL are the equivalent of gold farmers in an MMO game. Farmers usually hunt mobiles or employ crafting/resource gathering skills to obtain in-game currency for resale into legal tender. Where possible, they will utilize third party software to help facilitate these activities; regardless of whether they are against the terms of service or not. More recently, gold farmers have involved themselves in more nefarious schemes such as in-world hacking and account scamming to improve their bottom line. Second Life has always been an attractive platform for botting - especially given that no grinding or equipment acquisition is required."

That leads Zod to an intriguing (and to my mind plausible) speculation:

"[T]he recent onset of beggar bots, incessant pay for group join requests, phishing attempts posing as surveys and scripted object giveaways suggests to me that a gold farming consortium has taken an interest in Second Life.

"Eliminating farmers wholesale has proven to be ineffective since many are legitimate accounts that have either been compromised or sold. Even Blizzard, with all it's resources, has yet to quell gold farming completely. The company has however, made significant strides on reducing scam and spam attempts by placing restrictions on trial (free) accounts, vigorously monitoring their online forums and offering hardware key authentication services.

"As for solutions pertaining to Second Life, Linden Lab can adopt a few of the aforementioned ones save for account restrictions as a significant portion of the user base are non-premium members. Individual land owners have their own tools such as disallowing avatars without payment on file in their store. Each will need to make a judgment call on what restriction parameters work best for them. The most potent weapon in the battle against beggar bots is education. Having this as a forefront issue on Secondlife.com and viewer login pages will help significantly."

Good points, all, and I'm sure they'll lead to still more interesting conversation. As for Zod's final point, I'm asking Linden Lab their opinion of beggar bots, and will report back anything they say.

Image credit: SL Vanity Bots, a blog devoted to exposing SL beggar bots.

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Pussycat Catnap

Pay for group join is popping up in a lot of fashion groups. That or I didn't get out as much before.

I see them require you to pay to become a VIP shopper and start ticking up a toll of credits.
- It builds a brand loyalty based on 'get my money back.'
- But it runs the risk of the limited number of groups we can join...

I am also seeing more places with a 'pay to enter' model of business. Recently even spotted a venue requiring 100L/week to gain access to their land (and having not a single avatar inside).

Some of this might be a gold farming company. But I don't know... gold farmers have a product. What's the product here?

I've seen it posted that a person conversing with a flatterbot was told by the bot's owner that they were up to 70k L$s as of that moment, about a week and a half ago. But there are only so many folks in SL and word gets around quick sometimes. Flatterbots might not last another month or two. But it looks like it could easily manage to pay another 2-3 month's of somebody's land tier...

- And what other method is left now to pay that?

Adeon Writer

I'm fairly sure that all of these accounts are run by a singular person: The person who made the software.

Iggy

Somewhere in a shipping container far, far away, a team of farmers running these bots is on the verge of busting loose to become hundred-aires.

What's their next nefarious plan? I think my Krogers cents-off coupons are being spirited away by parties unknown.

Arcadia Codesmith

Gold farming in MMOs is tied to the dynamics of their economies. The game generates new gold every time a creature is killed or a chest plundered. After a brief amount of time, the amount of gold in circulation increases massively, and player-to-player transactions are subject to hyperinflation.

To combat this, designers put in "gold sinks", highly desirable items that cost huge amounts of currency. This takes money out of circulation and helps ease inflation.

Unfortunately, players who haven't played as long and haven't amassed mountains of treasure also want the premium items. They can "grind" for gold, hunting easily-beaten creatures over and over again. That's not only boring, but the most profitable creatures that allowed early players to amass their fortunes may have been subjected to multiple "balance" design changes to reduce the amount of gold they provide.

It makes it an attractive proposition to pay somebody else a pittance to do the boring grind. And where there is market demand, there will be gold farmers, terms of service be damned.

I think Second Life's beggar bots are a much more straightforward proposition. Since all "gold" in Second Life is acquired from other players in an essentially zero-sum economy, most of the dynamics that lead to gold farming are not in play.

The equivilent of Second Life begging in the MMO sphere is.... begging. There are few games you can play for any amount of time without some beggar hitting you up for cash and/or gear. The only difference in Second Life is that it's easier to automate.

Flame Soulis

To remedy trolls and begger bots, we just utilized a group management bot. Keeps bots from auto-joining, helps keep trolls out permanently, and we get happier customers since they can join the group far easier (We don't use auto greeters for invitations, HINT HINT!)

Hacked accounts are a whole other matter to deal with, but we rarely have to deal with that so it is far easier to deal with on an individual basis.

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