Interview with a Diablo 3 Botter
Interview with a Diablo 3 Botter
The introduction of automated processes or programs to circumvent specific mundane tasks in games is no new idea. Heck, I used to make my brother play the crappy parts of Super Mario 64 so I could enjoy the more fun and fulfilling areas. The concept of making things easier for us so we can enjoy more of the things we want is almost an inherent human instinct.
Diablo III was the first game in the critically acclaimed dungeon crawler series to feature a microtransaction (and in some cases major, with one item selling for $14,000) system, allowing players to buy and sell their gear for real money, while Blizzard takes a 15% cut of all sales. It’s a moral dilemma; while Blizzard can ban the botters, they also benefit from their existence.
Late last year, Blizzard banned “several thousand” known gold botting accounts in their ARPG Diablo III, and today we have one of those very people who were banned. A profitable farmer, this individual was able to make over $20,000 in three months and now they're giving us information about the “industry” of gold farming and what it represents.
GameArena: Hey, and thanks for your time. Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself?
Nicklas: My name is Nicklas and I live in a small town just outside of Stockholm called Hässelby. I'm 15 years old (shocking) and I like to do programming in my free time, as well as playing LoL with my friends. I have no problems in school and my life is great. English isn’t my first language, so I apologise if my answers don’t flow.
GA: So I heard about your activity with botting through a Reddit post, what prompted that?
N: I decided to make the Reddit post to inform everyone about what we do and why, people don't understand what money there can be won by botting. At first I received various hate mails and comments, but to my surprise they were quickly downvoted and people started asking real questions, I guess that's a sign people know very little about botting and are interested in it.
GA: How did you get into the idea of botting in a game like Diablo III? Obviously the inherent idea behind any ARPG is to simply farm loot and gold so it makes sense, but at what point did you think to yourself, “I’d rather automate this process than do it myself,” and why?
N: I got the idea of botting from a friend who was doing it on a very small scale and I then decided to purchase the software for myself while it was on a sale (bot programs go on sale).
GA: So you just bought the software and leaped into the fray, so to speak?
N: I started slow myself but as soon as I realized what the profit was of it and the fact that it isn't illegal (Swedish law, not Blizzard “law”), I went big time. I started doing my own scripts and sat there for 10-15 hours a day programming and making it as efficient as possible.
GA: And I am guessing you had a series of regularly occurring customers to buy the gold and items off of you?
N: Not particularly, most of my business has been within the auction house as it is safe, easy and fast.
GA: Oh, that makes sense. I forgot that the RMAH essentially provides a faceless shield. You can buy items, the seller gets the money, and no-one interacts personally.
N: The last month I've been having trouble selling high tier items (my main source of income) but I hope that will change after this banwave, and when people start coming back to the game for the PvP launch... if it ever comes. Haha.
GA: The evident profit aside [see below], the inclusion of the Real Money Auction House makes it even easier to sell botted goods; do you feel as if there’s more of a lure for players to engage in unsavoury and “illegal” behaviours like botting thanks to the financial system in Diablo III?
N: The Diablo real money auction house made it extremely easy for botters to earn revenue. You used to have to go to some fishy third-party website to do your business; you don’t have to do that at all now.
GA: So you would say that’s something that drew you in, the easy accessibility to something like the RMAH, and not having to deal with a third party?
N: I guess that's one aspect of it that made me interested, so I would say it made a lot of other people that otherwise wouldn't be interested start botting as well.
GA: On that same note, one could look at gold farming in Diablo III as producing counterfeit money. The gold farmers essentially have the means to product money out of thin air. In a real life situation that would be illegal. Do you see these types of sanctions (making gold farming illegal) ever occurring?
N: Most people do it for the money as it is very efficient with no risk and you don't have to do anything. I wouldn't say they should start pointing the ban hammer towards anyone that uses a 3rd party program as that could just be your regular mouse acceleration program.
GA: But do you think it should be illegal?
N: Well it’s not illegal in Sweden. Botters will always find a way to bot.
GA: People bot for different reasons, but most do it for the money, right? An aspect I’d like to address in this interview is something viable that Blizzard could do to get an active grip on botting. Do you think once the bots return, and they will, that the cost of gold will continually go down to a point where it’s no longer profitable or time efficient to bot?
N: Botters will always find a way to bot and at some point Blizzard will eventually stop trying to defeat them, like they did with Diablo 2. In the auction house there is a limit of how low the auction price can be, and I'm guessing it will never go below that amount if not people are willing to risk going to 3rd party websites.
GA: What can Blizzard do to combat this activity aside from ban accounts? And with the release of PvP supposedly looming on the horizon, item demand will soar again, right?
N: Since we have the PvP patch just ahead of us I'm thinking that botting will be profitable for months ahead. I can't really think of another way of effectively stopping us without hurting someone else. Well, except for banning like they are now. But they ban for any third-party program use, even macros.
GA: Well yeah, plenty of other people got banned too. Blizzard says “several thousand” but I think that sounds like too small a result. Ban waves occur semi-regularly. How many people would you guess were farming prior to the most recent ban wave?
N: I estimate it to be between 30,000 and 50,000 people botting regularly. I personally bot 24/7, but I think there’s a smaller market of casual botters; the ban wave took around 70% of that.
GA: In a way many people could rightfully believe that Blizzard is quite lax on enforcing their “no tolerance” policy on botting. People really do believe they’re being lax because it makes them money.
N: Blizzard earns a lot of money from botters because of the multiple accounts, and something special with Diablo is that they get 30% tax for every auction.
GA: And then they make money on account sales, item sales, gold sales, literally every aspect of the game, right?
N: Exactly, yeah. So that's why I believe they're doing ban waves instead of banning instant, because you're basically on their ban list once you start going 24/7.
GA: When you really think about it, theoretically Blizzard shouldn’t have to ban bots because they shouldn’t exist; people should be playing the game properly, and as it was designed to be played. People are right in saying that botters like yourself are ruining the game. How do you feel about this?
N: I know I'm doing something wrong, and that people are suffering from that, however I don't see why I should stop because of that. It isn't illegal and it’s nothing very serious. I don't believe I'm doing something criminal. I really believe that everyone would jump on the botting train if they knew how to.
GA: Okay Nicklas, thank you for your time and responses. It has been educational. Good luck with school and everything else!
N: Thank you for the opportunity!
Editor's Note: GameArena does not condone the actions Nicklas takes, but presents this interview with a botter as an informative look at a rarely talked about side of gaming - especially in the context of a game where the developer takes a cut of all auctions.
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