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Botting and the Diablo 3 Economy: Facts and Theories

Posted 21 Nov 2012 by

It seems like fan concern about the spread of bots in Diablo 3 is reaching something of a critical mass, with more and more people complaining about the problem. I read some of a huge thread on the B.net forums earlier today, but it was mostly just a mass of conflicting claims and accusations, without any real agreement on the core issues. So I’m trying to figure those out, and just get a handle on what’s going on with bots, how profitable they are, and what their effect is on the Diablo 3 economy.

This post is an early attempt at that, with a bunch of observations and a few theories about what and why and how. I’m looking for reader feedback and insight, whether you agree or disagree, since more data = more information and better ability to form a valid opinion. I’ll read over the feedback and try to form a consensus on the main issues.

Botting in D2 was about items.

Pindlebots and others did thousands of runs looking for the very valuable uniques and sets, and runes. Those were low probability drops, but eventually they’d come and the items could be sold for RMT by 3rd party sites.

Botting in D3 is about gold.

It’s easy to run a bot with a high level character in GF gear on Nightmare, MP10, with big +gold pickup radius. Doesn’t have to do anything special or even pick up any items; just kill monsters endlessly and vacuum up the gold. I’ve done some experimental runs on Hell, MP10, with about 300% GF and I easily made 200-300k an hour. And I wasn’t optimized for GF, or playing some real gold intensive area, or rushing through just to get gold, etc. So I’d assume several million a day, per account, is not at all hard for a full time gold farming bots. Obviously that’s going to add up pretty rapidly.

Read on for much more, and add your thoughts in the comments.

What does gold sell for?

I just checked via the RMAH, and 10m gold on US Softcore is $4.20. (Checked a couple of 3rd party sites and 10m gold was around $3.60, so it’s cheaper since you’re not giving up 15% to Blizzard’s cut.) Ignoring the math on Blizzard’s cut from GAH sales, a 100m item is worth about $42, a 500m item is worth $210 and a 1b item is worth about $420. The RMAH sales cap is $250, so basically anything on the GAH selling for more than about 600m is priced higher than the RMAH can go. (I’m sure the Bobby surcharge is throwing off my figures a bit, once you figure a transaction fee to turn $ into gold, and then using that gold to buy the item, so someone who actually does the math feel free to correct.)

Why is gold valuable in D3?

Gold is useful in D3 since there’s an RMAH built into the game, and thus the gold can easily be sold for real $$, without needing to do 3rd party sites. Players who want to get the best gear spend $ to buy gold, which they use in the GAH where the best gear is now 500m or more. So unlike D2, you can make money without finding items; you just sell gold. Obviously if the gold botters can sell the items also, they’re just getting their gold right back, so they can sell it again.

The gold botting is thus driving crazy price increases on top end gear, since there’s perpetually gold being generated by the botting, and the $ coming into the economy via the RMAH on gold keeps the cycle going. On the other hand, the prices for mid range and low end gear have fallen through the floor, so players can easily afford gear they couldn’t have bought otherwise. Unclear how much the botting is interacting with the v1.05 increased drop rates, which is driving the prices of everything lower since there’s so much more good gear being found these days.

Does the RMAH create the botting?

Not really. As D2 proved, black market economy would exist, but it would be somewhat more complicated, with all the hacks and viruses and rip offs and such. So players would sell items directly for $, or they’d charge $ for gold which could then be spent in the GAH.

If there was no AH at all, we’d just be back to D2 with the entire $ economy existing through 3rd party sites. That might cut down on gold botting, since it wouldn’t be as easily transferred into $, but it wouldn’t change the underlying issue, which is that people are willing to pay $ for items and will find a way to do so.

Is Blizzard Trying to stop botting?

Hard to say. Botting is illegal, a clear violation of the EULA and ToS, and any account found to be using a bot or any other 3rd party program can be deleted at once.

Is Blizzard doing that? Are they running scans to try to find botters? Most people think not.

Blizzard has announced some player bans, but the recent bunch was for players on the Asian realm using a UI-mod that had nothing to do with botting. Blizzard has announced some botting and cheating bans in D3, but the general feeling of most players is that botting is growing in prevalence, and it’s not clear if Blizzard can’t stop it or just isn’t making an effort.

Is Blizzard hurt or helped by bots?

This is the most debatable point as it relies on conjecture and hypotheticals.

More bots = more gold = higher prices in the GAH = more gold sold in the RMAH. At this point it’s basically impossible to farm enough gold on your own to pay those top prices. You can only raise that much gold by botting, or by getting lucky on a great item find which you sell (for gold that largely came from botting), or by buying it in the RMAH.

On the other hand, the sheer amount of gold is causing prices to go so high that lots of players feel the top gear is impossibly out of their price range, and that leads to frustration and players quitting. And that obviously hurts total item sales.

So botting is raising prices and spurring gold sales on the RMAH, which makes Bobby richer. However the high prices and general vibe of “people are cheating” is making some players quit, which makes Bobby unhappy.

The net result is… ? I dunno; curious to hear other opinions.

Conclusion?

No conclusion here. Just looking for input and more theories. Add those, and if you think there are some other crucial botting issues I haven’t mentioned, do bring them up.

(Originally posted in the community forum; reply there or here.)