Scams & Bots

Scams: those have been around for as long as humans became “civilized.” Various Saturday-morning cartoons have spoofed them from time to time and entire television shows are dedicated to them – Catfish: The TV Show being one.

When the Internet was nothing more than a conglomeration of online forums and message-boards, with only a select few knowing about it or even interacting on it regularly, online scams seemed to be few and far between. After everybody and their mother, grandmother, and great-grandfather’s dog suddenly had access to the World Wide Web, the scammers followed and online scams became the new threat.

As scams became as obvious as Doctor Stanley’s Snake-Oil Cure-All and his wife’s genuine imitation pearls, they ‘evolved’ to circumvent security programs and firewalls. One must always be aware of the means others use to scam people online, and there are many. In this post I speak specifically about ‘bots’ and the ways that they are able to mimic a real person.

For lay-people, a ‘bot’ may or may not be a hijacked computer: one that has been programmed and coded to do specific things without the knowledge of the user. Bots are quite common in MMOs, and my online game is no different.

In the halcyon days of The Elder Scrolls Online, bots were everywhere and incredibly obvious! The in-game bots were of three different types: spam-bots, ‘train’ bots, and ‘collector’ bots. The spam-bots are almost always seen at dolmens or in delves, right on the spot that the boss will spawn at, and they are always using the same ‘ultimate’ move over, and over, and over again.

Spam-bots may or may not be accompanied by the ‘train’ bots. The name is self-explanatory; you might see a ‘train’ of four or five characters running in a circle. The train runs…well, like a train! You have the ‘engine’ doing the main action, then the bots in the train do the exact same motion / action as the ‘engine’ does, only a nanosecond or three later. These types of bots farm bosses for loot, and / or nodes for materials.

The ‘collector’ bots are the most difficult to see, as they have been programmed to do one thing: collect a certain material from a certain node. In-game, there are materials which are valuable to the crafters who make armour, weapons, and other things for their friends and / or guild-mates. The collectors basically ‘farm’ these nodes unfairly, flying through the air at hyperspeed, or sliding underground out of sight, taking the nodes and everything on them and making it impossible for the regular player to harvest these materials fairly.

During the evolution of TESO, the programmers / code-writers behind the bots have evolved as well. The bots are currently as big an issue as they were when the game was first launched, but a bit more difficult to spot. It isn’t impossible, but it takes a bit of observation on the part of any player who spies them. The sad thing is that they can’t be reported on anymore, and even if you do report them the likelihood of them being removed from the game is slim to nil. Customer service is no longer of importance to Zenimax or Bethesda, which seems to happen when a game has become overrun with bored time-wasters who are less interested in playing said game and more invested in trying to spoil it for others.

Thankfully, those types are easily duped and distracted. They will move on to their next target sooner or later, leaving the adults to have our fun.

Patience is a good thing.


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