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Spotting and Killing Goldfarming Bots [Updated Details 5/13]

Tamriel is being invaded by Soul Shriven ghouls, soulless and mindless beings who are working the greedy will of Molag Bal. They have no thoughts, they feel no pain, and the best thing we can do is work together to eradicate them and send their broken husks back to Coldharbor.

What is a bot?
A bot is an automatic 3rd party program that plays the game for you. You can program them to have simple commands like run 50 feet, click right mouse, turn right, run 50 feet, etc, to more complicated things such as ressing and x/y coordinates. They are used by goldfarmers to automate their gold production while saving them costs on employees. Bots aren't bright to any degree.

What is a goldfarmer?
A goldfarmer is a person who earns gold in game to sell it for real world money on their own websites. It's against the TOS (Terms of Service) of just about all MMO's out there. Goldfarmers aren't above stealing credit card numbers or using keylogger hacks to steal your account passwords and use those accounts to run bots or spam in zone chat. Going to goldfarming sites is a good way to get hacked and your identity stolen. Generally, they are based out of China (this is based on actual studies, people, not racism. To totally prove my point here's Wikipedia.)

Below are tips for spotting bots, and finally, the only option we have towards killing them. If you're dealing with bots, always, ALWAYS, report them first.

Even if you don't want to farm bots (because it can feel like a 2nd job that we're paying to do instead of being paid to do) you can report them. Have a copy/paste message ready for the report dialogue box and you can report a bot in less than 20 seconds. For the rest of you who are twisted like me and derive amusement and catharsis from inventive ways of destroying those who deserve at least a mote of torment, tips are given further down.

Bot Signs:
Unless the name is complete garbage, I generally rely on a handful or more factors to decide whether a player is a bot. Below are the common characteristics of bots.

- Player's name is gibberish (i.e. fdgghfg, kkukk, or an fesfesfesffs) with no caps or uses Chinese Pinyin (i.e. xiao, zhong) with occasional caps.
- Player is naked or has starting gear
- Player doesn't respond to /say or /whisper
- Player is standing at a resource node (jute in particular) with other similar players
- Player is a Templar spamming the light spear attack. Apparently the only bot program these people have is for spamming that one attack
- Player is teleporting with hacks around the zone
- Player is up in the air running around
[Update 5/8] - I've seen higher level bots, 35-40 range, that are all sorcs, but they run the same route and spam pattern as other bots, generally in a line as well. They make it incredibly difficult to finish quests.
[Update 5/13] Higher level bots, mid-30's, are commonly sorcerers running together spamming AOE attacks. They run in long lines like their lesser Templar counterparts. The ones I've seen are in Eastmarch and elsewhere.
[Update 5/13] Dragonknight bots can also be found, high-30's to 40's. These in particular are camping uniquely named quest NPC's that are needed to be killed for quests. These quest mobs are designed to spawn faster if more characters are around, and there is no diminishing return on their loot. Once you complete the quest most of them (but not all) are no longer accessible, but before you turn the quest in you can kill them over and over for decent gold and items. Piles of these bots camping the quest NPC's can make it annoying to complete the quest, since these bots are spamming basic attacks repeatedly, even when no mob is there, and the quest NPC dies in a second. Reporting a mass of these bots is extremely troublesome because they pile up on each other. The ones I saw were in Eastmarch as well.
[Update 5/13] Coldharbor bots have been known for a week or more. Low level's are using a higher level ally to move to Coldharbor, where you can get a quest that awards somewhere between 200-300 gold for just talking to someone. Chains of characters are running from point A to point B, getting the gold, mailing it off, and then logging. They are deleted and a new character is made, to do it again. It's bringing in tons of gold to goldfarmers. Reporting them is difficult as well, as they are moving and stacking up in one spot.

Bots might:
- Jump on occasion to avoid going AFK
- Have their bot programming make them pause, turn, and jump occasionally to mimic an actual player- the only difference being that the bot will do the same thing over and over in a cycle, whereas a player is likely to be willy nilly with their jumping.
- Dig through their inventory to avoid going AFK
[Update 5/8] - Return to their node of choice after you knock them back every minutes or so. Not all bots, however, but generally at least one on a node appears to run back.
[Update 5/8] - Suddenly come alive and defend themselves. This is seen most often in jute farming, where a bot technician will use one of the characters to kill the mob harassing their bot herd. The bot of choice generally doesn't have different gear than the other bots, but I bet if we continue to harass their bots they will require more manpower to guard their bots which means less revenue for them (not that they pay their goldfarmers much anyway).
[Update 5/8] - Have names similar to normal players and higher levels. I believe these are hacked and stolen accounts. The highest level I've encountered so far farming Jute in stonefalls was level 25, the rest were level 3-9. These high level characters are being run on the same bot script as the other bots, so they are easy to distinguish.
[Update 5/13] - Sit at a quest NPC and spam basic attack unending, even when there is no enemy there.

Bots do not:
- Open chests (thanks to random number generator involved with tumblers, smart move Zenimax)
- Avoid death (they will fight til they die and have no self-preservation programing)
- Do not appear to be in Cyrodiil, yet.
- Ask you to stop or go away (at least, not yet). If a player expresses disdain at what you're doing, they're most likely an innocent player and you need to back off immediately. Always resort to caution if you try to instigate trouble with the methods further below.
- Communicate in any shape or form, unless it's to spam zone chat. I haven't even gotten them to respond to me by using pinyin (in past MMO's I could sometimes start up conversations with the poor, lonely *** running the goldfarmers. It was pretty easy to report them then because they'd often admit they were goldfarming, having no idea what a TOS was).

Bot Behavior

Pretty simple: Repetitive. They sit there all day grabbing a node as it respawns, or they run the same path through an area killing the same mob over and over. When multiple bots are in one area, they're all trying to grab the node or they are all following in a line, since the 3rd party program controlling them uses the same x/y coordinates to run the bots. If a bot dies, it tends to revive immediately and resume it's farming. If it's a higher level that requires soul gems to res, it is programmed to use the wayshrines to get back to the location or will simply teleport back with hacks.

Bot Guardians: Harass and kill enough bots and an actual goldfarmer might teleport in a higher level character (I fended off a few level 11's guarding level 3's) to physically kill any mobs threatening their herd of bots. Since there are so many bots in the zone, these players cannot actually guard all of their bots at once, and won't be around for long. These bot technicians probably check every hour or so to see how their programs are doing, and to make sure everything is going smoothly.

Bot Launderers: Bots will trade and mail items automatically to laundering bots that will either sell to vendors or store for later. This is based on observed behavior of bots. Some bots hang out at the vendor all day, others check their mail on a repeat pattern out on the field while surrounded by jute farmers.

Behavioral update 5/8: Now some bots who are farming NPC mobs will run to and hunt down any other NPC that approaches them, defending the herd. These bots ensure that mobs with AOE's do not stay alive long enough to cull the herd. It seems that only one or two bots in a bot cluster will do this. This is rather disparaging, because it means that programmers are updating and improving upon the bots scripts. If action isn't taken against them, they will eventually reach the point of World of Warcraft bots, which would respond to tells and other simple forms of communication based on how players interacted with them.

Behavioral update 5/13: If you're watching a group of bots, look for the one that checks their mail. There's usually one or two, and they're shipping off the collected loot and gold to somewhere else.

How to Kill Bots

Warning: Harassing and Killing bots probably walks the gray area of the TOS. Sure, they don't know English, and aren't there anyway to report you, but still, always rely on caution. Not even the Morag Tong get away with murder in plain sight.

Monsters are your friends: Monsters with AOE attacks can be dragged over to nearby bots and if you're strong enough to shed off their attacks, those monsters can kill bots within their killzones. You need mobs with AOE attacks though, as other mobs will just focus on you. Most bots are really low level, 3-9, and though they regen health comparatively fast, 4 AOE hits from a Betty Netch can knock them all back far enough from a node so that they can't farm them and kill them eventually. Since the bot's programming has no sense of self preservation, they will stand there and allow themselves to be killed. Some bots have enough programming to run back to the node on occasion, however.

Some attacks that work are archers with cone arrow and AOE circular attacks, charge attacks, fire breathing attacks, and AOE swipes such as the Betty Netch. The Bull Netch with their AOE poison is perfect for this. If you kill bots, chances are they revive right there, and you can sit there and watch them die over and over. Sometimes bots will wake up and desperately start running to safety and that is very amusing.

Bonus points are using AOE knockback attacks to send bots into the lava. Some don't have enough sense to get out again and res in the lava and die over and over.

Bot Killing Diagrams:


Non-Lethal Bot Prevention Methods

Killing Mobs
- The chains of bots killing NPC's aren't smart enough to deviate far from their path. If you learn their pattern you can kill the NPC's before they get to them, or chain them to you, knock them out of the bot's path before the bot hits them, etc. The downside to this is that the lower level mobs tend to spawn really fast, and you're probably not slowing the bot farming machine very much. You're also preventing other players who might be questing in that area from getting the mobs they need, but you can help them out by being vocal about what you're doing and by inviting them into your group.

Holding Resource Nodes
- When a resource node with 3-5 bots around it spawns, you have a second to try and grab it. If you do get it, don't loot it, you can stand there and they can't loot it, since it doesn't respawn until the loot window closes. The downside to this is that it requires your own character to stand there holding the node, and the bots in low level areas are generally crowding 5-10 nodes in a single area. With so many bots in the field, the impact you're making isn't much. Doing this also prevents other, actual players from gathering that node (but honestly I have yet to see a shortage of Jute in the field, even if some players are trying to use it as an excuse to ramp up Jute prices in zone chat, the sly ***).

Words and suggestions to Zenimax: If you want to deal with these bots you need a 24/7 hour staff. There are bots all over the place at night, and if you're only working 9-5 you're missing the nightmare as they creep out at night.
Edited by Sariias on May 14, 2014 4:15AM
  • knaveofengland
    the best way is report them show screenshots nothing else a player can do ,
    so all we get is more posts about bots ,
    the way forward is report to eso not the forums that's the way foward
  • reggielee
    i have recently seen the vendor bots, crowds of them standing around one vendor interacting with them, going into their inv(now i know its mail).. they stand there all day in soul shriven cloth. i reported them.

    one gm can pretty much clear out a whole field in a few minutes, shutting down these bot farms. do this enuf times then it becomes not so easy for them to make money in this game and they move onto the next one. its not hard to do this despite the large area to cover. Have one employee for a couple of regions each. I can mount up and ride the whole area myself in a short time and see the bots, ban away and then pop into dungeons and see what is happening there. This last patch cleared out alot of bots, at least in the area i was in there were none. even the dungeons were empty of them. it was such a relief to just play the game and enjoy it like it was intended.

    the latest problem are player made bots, these are for leveling and gold farming, have real names etc. they are definitely bots as they run in patterns, get hung up on obstructions and dont move away and farm repeated mobs for hours and hours.

    tbh, i stopped spending time worrying about them, this games balance was ruined on day one by cheaters. I now play my game solo, avoid pvp and stopped crafting to make money.

    i seriously wish they would reset cheaters accts back to starter status or ban them as its not the farmers driving this but the arse hats that give them money. they say they do it but just read all the web sights where the cheaters are relieved they got away with whatever exploit they were using in each ban wave.

    Mama always said the fastest way to a man's heart is through his chest.
  • Soloeus
    Lately, I have seen a lot of bots in Coldharbour protected by a guardian who isn't AFK; one said "Hi" to me when I was reporting him, so I asked the person their favorite race, class and ability and "I don't know". Couldn't use more than 2-3 words in english, not from a translator program either (correct grammar, use of apostrophe, etc).

    This means that American Botters are finally jumping in.

    They are usually NOT afk, only run 1-2 accounts at a time, and in different parts of the game, usually with real names. You can still identify their automated behavior however if they think they are being watched, they tend to turn off the bot and play normally until you appear gone.

    Lastly, I saw someone in my guild with a jibberish "botter" name (2 of them) and it turns out they are nephews of the guild leader and they don't really care about their names.

    American Botters often have names like Sk8rX or other "Leetspeak" names, actor/celebrity names, and FEMALE names. I don't know why this is, but it holds true in every game I have played.

    American Botters also are part of networks where all their friends are also botters so unlike Chinese Gold Farms or Brazilian Bot Nets, there is a constant cycle of communication. This means that if Botters think you suspect them, they will attempt to prove they aren't a bot; normal players don't care if you think they are a bot, but many botters will try to persuade you into not reporting.

    American Botters also have good english, without bad grammar. That is, if you see them in zone chat, they have bad grammar; meet the same guy in the field and he has perfect grammar.

    EDIT: In vet zones, sometimes normal players will follow bot troops because they clean the way to-from quests, example: The Lost Village. I saw several non-bots following a Bot Troop just because they couldn't handle the monsters at V1.
    Edited by Soloeus on May 8, 2014 3:31PM

    Within; Without.
  • 7788b14_ESO
    Not so simple. Of course nothing is written in stone. One youtube interview of a gold seller had a Chinese gold seller educated in the U.S. who found it more profitable then his original major in college.

    Also there was a long discussion on botting in a L2 forum about how regular players get mistaken for bots because when they grind mobs it's repetitive and they don't have chat up and have headphones on listening to their music which makes them unaware of whispers and any chat attempts. Most game legalize doesn't require that a player respond in chat especially to other players.

  • Sariias
    Even so, if you watch a bot for a few minutes, it will repeat the same pattern. A player isn't likely to do that because a player isn't running on numbers, and will deviate from the course. Bots don't. When they all run in a single line like a clan of Tusken Raiders, it's pretty obvious what is going on.
  • Creepsley
    well there is a steady stream from the maincity in coldharbour wayshrine to the first quest taker there, not much we can do there, and heck if i know what they are getting since they go away after getting to that first quest giver.
  • drschplatt
    Couldn't use more than 2-3 words in english, not from a translator program either (correct grammar, use of apostrophe, etc).

    Doesn't this describe about two thirds of most MMO communities? Ah, the vast mystery of their/there/they're!

    Foräois - Imperial Sorcerer of Ineptitude.
    Widoch - Nord Dragon Knight of Ignorance.
    Billy Bob - Dunmer Templar of Chicken and Noodles.
    Blades of Vengeance
  • Sariias
    Updated and added more observations.

    Add a second diagram, for clarity.
    Edited by Sariias on May 14, 2014 4:16AM
  • Marricus
    Soul Shriven
    Bot hunting sounds fun, will give it a go. Maybe ZOS could give loot prizes for confirmed (screenshot) bot kills or bounties in gold :).
  • zaria
    Sariias wrote: »
    Even so, if you watch a bot for a few minutes, it will repeat the same pattern. A player isn't likely to do that because a player isn't running on numbers, and will deviate from the course. Bots don't. When they all run in a single line like a clan of Tusken Raiders, it's pretty obvious what is going on.
    For groups its very easy to see the diference between the farming groups like the wolf farmers in the dungeon next to the EP starting town and the bots who are farming.
    Bots are typically all of one class using one ability, tend to run faster than normal and in row.
    Players spread out more and use all sort of abilities.

    someone in good gear and higher level farming an node then it pops up is probably an player chatting with guild.
    if you do something weird like pushup on top of node he will react.
    Again someone just standing where is likely away from computer but only bots can farm and be afk at once.

    player run bots is not an huge problem yet but it will probably be more common in the future even after they have stopped most of the gold farmer.
    so far mostly ignore it unless obvious.
    Grinding just make you go in circles.
    Asking ZoS for nerfs is as stupid as asking for close air support from the death star.
  • Hordedog
    Soul Shriven
    Dragging archer mobs to the bots is a great way to take them out. Archer mobs tend to use two different AoEs in their attack cycle, so they're a good bet usually. Just stand in the midst of the bot herd, wait for the red AoE indicator to appear on the ground and hop out of the way. Rinse repeat and watch the auto-res'ing begin. >:)
  • Sariias
    Yes, archer mobs are great because they can use AOE's a lot faster than other mobs. The poor Betty Netch's AOE attacks are pretty slow and a low level player heals a lot of the damage dealt before the Betty swipes again.

    Bull Netches still reign supreme. Their gas AOE is quick to use, and covers a wide area. The real benefit is that you can avoid most of the damage the Bull Netches deal by simply staying out of range. I definitely choose arches if I don't have any Bull Netches in sight.

    Another great mob are fire mages. With their AOE fire artillery attack, they can stack on an area and burn Bots down fast.
    Edited by Sariias on May 15, 2014 3:25PM
  • adamrussell52_ESO
    You can tell bots in this game because a group of them run around on autofollow even though there isnt an autofollow in the game mechanics.
  • morningrits
    Soul Shriven
    Bots are everywhere and and the problem is being taken care even if it takes a day for a GM to show and check it out. I found a bot farming an aspect rune. It was level 10 without armor in Cyrodil in hide and its timing was would start gathering the rune before it finished spawning. After watching it for a couple days everytime I went by it I started sending in reports asking for someone to come out and check it out. It took around 16 hours but they eventually responded and removed it so keep reporting them whenever you find them and it will be taken care of.
  • AngersRevenge
    saw my first VR ranked bots the other day (VR3). They might have been hacked accounts but they where clearly bots. All of them were templars spamming the same ability running in the same path. I mean the exact same path. If one of them some how got off the path they went right back to the same spot they lost the path and started running the path again. Funny thing is part of the path the bot programmer messed up and they would all turn around walk 2 steps then continue on. Kinda funny seeing 3 guys do it all at the same time. It was in Glenumbra running around the little pond at north of Baelborn Rock area. Yes, they, all 3, was reported.
    A true warrior never reveals his heart. Until the axe rips it from his chest.
  • SadisticSavior
    Love the trained AOE idea. I am going to try this in game.
  • Ohioastro
    There are players who use scripts too. I'd bet real money that the higher level characters exhibiting automated behavior are simply players who want more cash / resources / whatever and who simply program their characters to move around in an automated way. There is no reason why all of these have to be gold farmers, after all.
  • OFC_it
    Ohioastro wrote: »
    There are players who use scripts too. I'd bet real money that the higher level characters exhibiting automated behavior are simply players who want more cash / resources / whatever and who simply program their characters to move around in an automated way. There is no reason why all of these have to be gold farmers, after all.
    If you can't beat them, Join them.
  • Sariias
    Ohioastro wrote: »
    There are players who use scripts too. I'd bet real money that the higher level characters exhibiting automated behavior are simply players who want more cash / resources / whatever and who simply program their characters to move around in an automated way. There is no reason why all of these have to be gold farmers, after all.

    They're still botting, and still part of the problem. letting them go just helps justify goldfarmer botting.
  • Barbara73
    I get accused of being a bot all the time when running around gathering mats on many occasions I have had people go to zone chat and encourage others to report me for being a bot. Usually, that's when I teach them words that bots can't spell, you know those with four letters involving their mothers. I think some are overly concerned with bots.
    Not Every Player Is a Guy FFS
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