Does Diablo 3′s DRM Work? An Interview with A Botter
Blizzard’s most public response to botters is periodic “ban waves.” Over the course of a few weeks, the developer compiles a list of accounts determined to be botting, then bans all those accounts at once. I asked JD how much one of these ban waves sets back a botter.
“Easy calculation. The price of the game plus the amount of time your bot needs to push you to level 60 again. Or, you use an exploit from OwnedCore, and then it’s only the price of the game plus somewhere between a couple hours and a day. You might have to throw some more money at the game by buying some Gold find/Magic find gear.
“Banwaves are annoying, but if you manage your gold/gear well, you’ll be fine. By the way, an account will generally have paid for itself by the time you’re banned, so even the financial part of the problem isn’t really a problem.”
How difficult is it to create a bot that won’t get caught by Blizzard? JD explained:
“First things first, you need a team of very skilled programmers to even understand where to start. They’ll have to know how to reverse the game to find out how Warden (Blizzard’s anti-cheat system) scans for things. If you have a team of people that have experience with creating a bot for World of Warcraft, you’re in luck. Warden for Diablo 3 is basically a stripped version of the World of Warcraft one. This means that the developers will already know what to look for, and how to bypass it.
“Then you need to make sure that you keep up to date with every Warden/Diablo 3 update that comes out, to make sure your bot isn’t detected by Blizzard — which obviously would result in a ban.
“All in all, you’ll need a team of extremely skilled programmers with a rare skillset, so to answer your question directly: really quite hard.”
With a decade of experience fighting bots, as well as more powerful DRM mechanisms, one might expect Blizzard to have stamped out botting since Diablo 2. Since this is clearly not the case, I asked JD if botting is at least more difficult now then it was a decade ago. He said:
“One the one hand, Blizzard has gotten a lot more experience with creating anti-cheat systems, so you’d think that botting in Diablo 3 is harder than it was in Diablo 2. On the other hand, the bot developers have had a lot of time to experience Warden and other anti-cheat systems.
“I think that for the botters, it’s become a lot easier — Step 1: Download or buy a bot; Step 2: Open bot and game; Step 3: Run bot. For programmers, however, I think creating the bot is more of a challenge now than it was back then.”
While D3 may not make it more difficult for players to use bots, it certainly has given players greater incentive to use bots: the RMAH. Just how profitable can a D3 bot be? JD replied:
“That depends on a lot of things: Your gear, the amount of time you have your bot run, the profile you use, the gold price, the gem prices, the gear prices, the amount of bots you run, etc.
“A good botter could make thousands a month with just botting, buying and selling well. It’s a difficult thing to get into completely, though. You need to get the accounts, the bots, the gear… It’s quite the investment, but then again, the return can be insane.
“The private sellers are already making a lot of money from just botting gold, and then selling it on OwnedCore. I have my own techniques that are making me a decent amount of money every month. I couldn’t live off it, but it has paid for a holiday.”
Some cynics raise an obvious question: If Blizzard gets a cut off every RMAH transaction, why would they want to stop botters? Every dollar a botter makes is a few more cents in Blizzard’s pocket.
I asked JD if he believes Blizzard profits from botting. He said:
“We buy a lot of Diablo 3 copies, so they may be profiting from us. We’re selling a lot of things on the RMAH and they get a decent cut from it, so they are making SOME money from us. I’m just not sure if they’d be making more money without us, since they’d be getting a cut out of higher gold prices.”
Is Blizzard, then, doing all it can to stop botters? JD said:
“Blizzard has been suing bot developers left and right, so I do think they’re trying to push us back quite a bit. I wish them the best of luck though; they won’t win. There are too many of us, and too few of them. We’ll always have private bots that they won’t catch.”
Does D3′s DRM work? That depends. From the consumer’s perspective, I can’t see how the pros outweigh the cons, given map hacks, duping, exploits, botting, account theft, and scamming tricks still exist. If the only activity the DRM actually prevents is the honest customer’s ability to play the game offline, I doubt the community will ever see it as being justified.
From Blizzard’s perspective, it depends on whether or not the monetary gains outweigh the community hostility and negative publicity the DRM garnered. Blizzard made its money with D3 — there’s no doubting that — but there’s a little something called “goodwill” that can’t be measured in dollars and cents.