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The purpose of this blog is for my personal use. It serves as my personal diary as I investigate Chinese internet/gaming companies for investment purpose. If you have any comments or disagreement, please give me feedbacks.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

SNDA's AION review – part 3. Bot, Bot, more bots

One can find part 2 of my review on AION here:

http://chinese-net-gaming-stock.blogspot.com/2009/06/sndas-aion-review-part-2-strengths-of.html


Bots are automatic programs that a user can use to control an in-game character without the user’s presence. Why would one use bots?


A regular user can use bot to level up fast. One has to eat and sleep some times. When he is away, he could use bot to kill monsters and gather experience, etc. But regular users are not really the main culprit. The ones that are impossible to block are the profession gold farmers. If somebody wants to farm gold, he could just have his computer running 10 bots and having all ten of them killing monsters and collect in-game items and experience points. He then sells them to regular players for real money.


Bots are bad. They don’t interact with normal user. It might take items from you after you killed a monster. An area with lots of bots can give one a feeling of a town full of zombies. Worse of all, a game with a lot of bots can cause severe inflation of in-game economy.


Bots were everywhere. There were the times when you cannot go to any land area outside the abyss without seeing bots dominating everything in sight. Bots in chains are so easy to spot too, they have targets on mobs before they appear on screen, they almost always have blue gear or are 5+ levels above the monsters they are killing, they get stuck on the most basic terrain obstructions any normal player would jump over.


The worst part about it is you could be killing a monster, have it down to like 40% health, then they come and start attack and somehow get the kill reward and loot.


I even found one stuck in a tree trying to kill monsters. I left and came back two hours later and the same bot was still stuck in the same tree.

The following is a video where 3 bots got together to farm gold:

http://media.17173.com/aion/zt/aionwg.shtml


On 4/29/2009, SNDA updated the servers with "GameGuard" an anti-botting program. After that, it definitely helps. A lot of bots are gone. But a week later, a lot of bots come back.


Out of three servers that I have access to, one is full of bots while two others have very few bots (they are there, just very few).


But what is nProtect GameGuard? nProtect GameGuard is an anti-cheating rootkit developed by INCA Internet. It is installed alongside many Asian massively multiplayer online roleplaying games (MMORPGs)s such as AION, Lineage II, 9Dragons, Cabal Online, Phantasy and Ragnarok Online to block malicious applications and common methods of cheating.


Many hackers attempt to find ways to compromise GameGuard in new ways. nProtect GameGuard constantly updates itself and provides new protection against the latest threats. Even though it boasts such effectiveness, but hackers can break or bypass GameGuard faster than it gets updated. Thus, it renders the system quite useless, especially from the number of sites out there utilizing 'bot' programs to flood the game to farm the in-game currency & rare items, which are then sold for real money. Such sites and 'bots' have been known to be up and running again, having bypassed GameGuard, within an hour of its latest update.


In Lineage II, Cabal Online and Ragnarok Online, GameGuard is usually bypassed in a matter of hours after an update. In 9Dragons situation was ever worse - in spite of GameGuard's constant updates, Vietnam players continued to hack the game which resulted in the blocking all of Vietnam IPs.


On some games such as MapleStory, the game itself does a hash check of the GameGuard revision currently running and will exit if it does not match the hash on the server side.[citation needed] This is a security measure from nProtect GameGuard to ensure that GameGuard has not been hacked and nProtect GameGuard should update to the latest version under normal circumstances. But it can be easily compromised with packet software, such as Russian PacketHack which is designed for packet interception and hacking on net-driver level.


NCSoft’s game always have trouble with bots. The possibility that AION will be bot free is very low. Therefore, the question is not whether it can remove the problem. The question is really if NCSoft and SNDA can manage its bot problem and minimize its impact.


Now, a few more pictures:








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