Does Diablo 3′s DRM Work? An Interview with A Botter
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To say that gamers were a little upset over Blizzard’s always-online requirement for Diablo 3 is like saying your typical 12-year-old Call of Duty player is a little immature, or that South Koreans are a little into StarCraft. While Blizzard tried to sell fans the idea that the need for a persistent internet connection was in their best interest, many have come to view it as draconian DRM that punishes paying customers.
Diablo 2 saw the proliferation of a number of exploits, map hacks, and bots, and Blizzard assured us that D3′s always-online requirement would result in a more secure environment. While map hacks, cracked servers, and item duplication (“duping”) exploits — which do exist — are presently less common than they were in D2, the game is still young, so stating “Mission accomplished” may be a little premature.
But there’s one EULA-breaking activity that has been in no way deterred: botting, which has been around since the game was in beta. Arguably, D3′s DRM wasn’t designed to prevent botting, but apart from duping, botting — or its effects — is one the most visible EULA-breaking activities to Diablo players.
To learn more about botting and Blizzard’s response to botters, I spoke to JD from OwnedCore.com, one of the biggest Diablo 3 and World of Warcraft hacking/botting websites.
Botting carries a certain stigma in the community. Some players see it as a form of cheating — a way to acquire loot without putting in the work. But is paying for a bot any different from paying $250 for a fantastic item off the Real Money Auction House (RMAH), apart from the fact that Blizzard condones one of those activities?
JD explained what, exactly, a bot can do:
“What do most people hate about Diablo 3 — apart from the terrible patches? Farming. Nobody wants to spend their entire day doing the exact same thing so they can end up with a large amount of gold or a couple of gear pieces. So these bots take this work out of your hands. They’ll follow profiles that allow them to kill the same group of mobs over and over again and collect loot.
“The best bot out there is called DemonBuddy, which doesn’t just have the most functions; it’s also by far the safest bot out there. It explores random dungeons, which at the time of this writing, no other bot does.
“There are also bots made exclusively for playing the Auction House which, when used correctly, can make a person a lot of money or gold.”
Many people can be sympathetic to a desire to want to use a product however the consumer likes — the consumer paid for it, after all. Who is the manufacturer to dictate how you must sit in the chair it sold you?
Were D3 a singleplayer game, the community wouldn’t take issue with botting. However, one argument that some players level against botters is their effect on the in-game economy, which consequently impacts most other players in some way. What, exactly, is this effect that bots have? JD explained:
“You can compare bots to a lot of people doing a lot of hard work. While demand will stay the same, the supply of gold and gear will keep going up. For players, this is a sword that cuts both ways. They’ll get cheaper gear from the auction house, and the RMAH gold prices will drop, but they’ll have a more difficult time selling their own gold and gear.
“Botters are kind of killing each other by botting as much as we currently do. The more we do it, the more the prices will drop, which means we make less money from selling our gold. Botting gives us a unique opportunity to play two roles: the peon, and the overseer. Since we don’t have to do hard labor anymore, we can spend our time selling stuff on the auction house, while getting supplied by ourselves.
“A dumb botter might just sell his items or gold without thinking of ways to make it more profitable. A smart botter will let his bots do the work, while setting up a good plan to make more money from the supply they give him. These are the scary botters, if you look at how they impact the economy. Not only will they bring the supply up, but they will actually impact the prices manually as well.”
One of the gravest accusations leveled against botters is that they are the reason for increasingly aggressive DRM schemes. Again, botting is one of the most visible EULA-breaking activities, which makes botters easy scapegoats.
I asked JD if he believed bots have a negative impact on a game’s community. He said:
“Not entirely. Of course we are cheating the system to get an unfair advantage, and people will talk about this in a negative way, but that’s kind of where it stops. The problem is that in some cases, a game developer will make a mistake, and we’ll be blamed for it. The DRM system for example, is Blizzard overreacting to people cracking the game. That entire DRM system isn’t made for botters, it’s made so people will have a more difficult time playing the game without paying for it — which worked to a certain extent.
“However, the community is blaming us for this change, and accusations like those will ruin a game’s community. We’re all trying to enjoy the game; we just enjoy it by making money from it.”