How Diablo 3 Auction House Botters Got Rich

How Diablo 3 Auction House Botters Got Rich

news-d3ah-botters-richFascinating and very long article by a self-confessed Diablo 3 Auction House botter, talking about how he made over 100k Euros in a year, entirely through buying low and selling high on the AH and RMAH. The article is huge and goes into great detail about everything, including the scripts he used, the multiple machines he had running, and how easy it was to avoid Blizzard’s very lacking anti-botting measures.

The botter’s first attempts were by using a very simple script to scan Auction House listings, one item at a time, and automatically buy ones with stats that exceeded his set parameters, and with a price below his maximum value. This required him to know which items were powerful, what the best stats on them were, how much they’d sell for on the RMAH, etc. It took a lot of work and daily updates to the search scripts, but with millions of players using the AH, many of them without a clue about the actual value of their items, it was shooting fish in a barrel.

I remember in these months I used to search a lot for rare rings or rare amulets. What still comes to my mind is a criteria searching for rare amulets with more than 7 critical hit chance and more than 50 critical hit damage and buying any that cost below 1 or 2 million gold. I sold amulets with these criteria on the RMAH (Real Money Auction House), for tens and sometimes even 100+ euros. Stuff like 7+ crit chance, 50+ crit damage and a high main stat like strength or intelligence + vitality was considered pretty good back then. Trifectas ( crit chance + crit damage + increased attack speed) was even more rare and expensive.

Another popular thing I remember botting the old fashioned way was Chantodo’s force wizard sources. These were great because almost no one seemed to know that the property “Arcane power on critical hit” was actually rare and very valuable. So you could just adjust your bot to search for chantodo’s force sources with arcane power on crit and above a specific damage, choose the minimum price under which the bot would buy any item it found, and you were good to go.

That was the very earliest version of the system, which was active in late 2012. The technology was quickly improved and with better coding his bot became able to search many types of items at once, all with different selected stats and minimum values in them, with different pricing criteria, and he figured ways to keep it refreshing constantly, so it would scan literally every single gold item sale that appeared within seconds of it going on the market.

On January 1st I started selling those sweet sweet presents. And the results were staggering. The money started flowing in immediately. Before, I was searching for 1 variation of 1 single item, for example any Mempo of Twilight with Critical Hit Chance, below the price of 1 million gold. Now, I could search for 100 different variations of Mempo of Twilight, plus hundreds of variations of all other worthwhile items. In the first days though, I only had one bot account, which I was using to bot some legendary items in the “armor” category. Even with this small sample of all possible items though, it was soon obvious to me that I had to buy a very powerful PC which could run more than 1 diablo window, and would also search the Auction House which much higher FPS (Frames per second).

He also made a fortune buying items that people mislisted in gold instead of RMT. That seems impossible, but the article has literally dozens of screenshots of spectacular items listed at 150 or 200 gold, when clearly the seller meant to list them at those prices… in EUROS! And no, the conversion rate of Diablo 3 gold to real money wasn’t exactly 1-to-1…

First I bought one more account and started using 2 accounts which were botting for legendary Armor. Why another one botting the same subset of items? Take another look at the screenshots above. See those failed transactions with red exclamation marks? You only really saw those when you were botting. What those really mean is that me and another buyer, or many other buyers, were trying to buy an item at the exact same time, the fraction of a second after the item was first showed as available on the AH. In reality, this happened when several bots tried to buy the same item and sent requests at virtually the same time. They all sent valid buy requests, but in the end only 1 person can get the item, so the others received the “failed” notice.

It is easy to conclude from this information that once bots and botters figured out that the faster you search for an item, the bigger your chance of getting it is, it was practically impossible as a normal player to make a great trade. You could still make some good flips, but the really great bargains, the items which you bought for a price hundreds of times less than their real price, were only for AH botters.

Low latency was a must, and he used two different ISPs in case of outage. He was entirely on the EU server to start, but eventually bought more machines and expanded to the US server. That was tougher, since while there were many more players and thus more trades, his latency from Europe made his bots slower, and thus US-based botters kept beating him on the best buys by milliseconds.

The article goes on and on about technical details of the botting, how many machines he was running, how he changed items between accounts and never got bot banned, etc. A bit about gold selling is interesting, in terms of knowing the system to take advantage of it and all the normal users.

There was a clever little trick however, with which you had a good chance to sell gold at the RMAH’s gold floor and get a great deal. You did that by putting many smaller auctions (5X200 million gold instead of 1X1 billion for example) each at least 10 seconds after the other and timing all of them to finish at a time which was a peak time for people playing the game and buying(6-10PM at working days or weekends).

The idea behind that was that gold selling in RMAH worked on the basis that if many people are selling gold for the same price, the one whose auction is closest to ending is the one that’s first in line to sell his gold should a buyer come. That is why, in this case where the gold floor price in RMAH was higher than the actual price of gold, your only chance of selling gold through the RMAH was in the last 5-10 seconds before your auction expired. Before those last few seconds your auction had 0% chance of selling even a small part. That’s why it was obligatory not to cancel your auction but wait for it to expire, and that’s also why we saw so many people complaining in those times how “gold doesn’t sell” and “I waited for 12 hours and didn’t sell anything so I’m cancelling my auction.”

How about Blizzard’s security? Not a real deterrent.

Let’s talk about Auction House botting and bans first for a bit. I’ve actually written down the dates and times of the last few banwaves of Auction House bots before the AH closed down in March 2014. Here they are:

  • 3 October 2013 – around 8:44 PM CET (Central European Time)
  • 6 November 2013 – sometime during the night.
  • 19 December 2013 – 10:40 PM CET
  • February 25, 2014 (Tuesday) – Patch 2.0.1 hits + a banwave hits right after the US maintenance ended during the day.
  • …Blizzard’s policy in Diablo 3 was (and still is) to ban in waves or so called banwaves, meaning that even if a botter is caught after a few days of botting he is only flagged and will be banned on a later date as selected by Blizzard along with many other flagged botters. You can see from my information that in the last several months Blizzard banned AH bots on average less than once per month. That means that even if your account was flagged after 1-2 days of botting 24 hours per day, your account would be left free to bot for a few more weeks before finally being shut down.

    Rampant gold/item farming bots (the ones running around in the game collecting stuff) left unchecked for months plus a severe lack of meaningful gold sinks ruined Diablo 3’s economy.

    It’s amusing since this guy is actually angry at Blizzard for doing such a poor job of banning cheaters, banning botters, and providing gold sinks in game. Now part of his annoyance is admittedly that the game economy crashed because of this which cut into his item selling profits. But he also feels the game’s popularity and longevity was greatly reduced by the problems with the economy, with gold dropping in value by a factor of over 1000, and with players generally feeling that cheaters were prospering.

    Someone listed this Mempo for just 127m?
    Someone listed this Mempo for just 127m?
    Of course all this is in the past now, with the AH shut down and trading effectively ended by all the item DiabloWikibinding, which is why I’m posting all about it here. But it makes me wonder about the whole Auction House thing, especially with the Real Money competent.

    So now that you know how Diablo 3 Auction House Botters Got Rich, how differently might the AH have worked if Blizzard had been properly geared up for it? Not just in terms of the game working better and providing meaningful gold sinks, but what if Blizzard had hired a bunch of financial computer security people and been prepared for the massive botting that the real money would attract? If they’d had sophisticated anti-botting tools (instead of just Warden eventually flagging accounts that ran 24/7 for a week), if they’d been active with hundreds or thousands of bans every few days, if they’d blocked users and IP blocks to stop people creating a dozen accounts just for trading, etc?

    We don’t know and we probably never will. But you’ve got to think some other gaming company will try out a RMAH, and hopefully will have learned lessons from Blizzard’s effort in Diablo 3. Do you guys think the AM and RMAH could have worked? Or are you glad it failed in predictable fashion, just since you hate the whole idea of super-convenient trading and what it does to monetize every aspect of what should, in your opinion, be a game of seeking and finding?

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    21 thoughts on “How Diablo 3 Auction House Botters Got Rich

    1. Regular trading between friends is what got screwed over as a result of all this auction house, botting, hacking, stealing items, and 3rd party site business.

      So yes, this all ruined it for the legit player.

      The common sense solution to all this was somewhere in the middle, instead we got the two extremes and the player base pays the price.

      Good job blizzard, you still don't get it.

    2. Blizzard should pursue legal action against this clown.

      Violating the ToS and fraudulently making profit from Blizzard's IP is NOT justified by inadequate cheating safeguards.

      • Legal action would be very hard for them to take. Real money trading was completely allowed and botting, while against the rules of the game, is not a crime. Despite what the game companies want you to think, clicking Agree does not bind you into a legal contract in any way, shape, or form. The TOS is not a recognized legal document, the only thing Blizzard is allowed to do if you violate it is ban you from their servers, something they are completely within their rights to do for essentially any reason as the servers are basically considered private property that you're just paying to rent. Other than that though there really isn't much they can do.

    3. I wish you could trade items with people that were already on your friends list before said items dropped. I couldn't even give rubies to my friend when he started out in HC.

    4. Great read. Very, very interesting. I am surprised that the banning of bots was so dang lax (but Blizz probably didn't complain about its cut of his sales).

      I have to applaud the fellow. He was able to use a video game to make his life much, much better. Making more than Bulgaria's professional athletes? That is crazy. He did it all on his own, too. Mark Cuban needs to hire this guy. He did cheat the game, but why not if they are going to let you? For 100k I would have no problem doing it. To all the haters, he also correctly points out in his article that Blizz is 100% at fault for letting this go on.

      • I don't know that I admire him, but when you consider that Bliz got at least 15% of all those RMAH sales, amounting to tens of thousands of Euros, this guy clearly contributed more to their bottom line than all the rest of us added together.

        • I don't think that's fair to say. The people contributing are the ones buying the items, who would have bought items from anyone and for a better price if they weren't being flipped. He didn't really contribute anything other than the accounts he bought.

    5. What is curious is that 100k euros of transaction was unseen. Are Blizzard cops the same as those working at the head of BNP Parisbas?

      • Why would the police necessarily care? The money is coming from a large company who would be able to trace all of the relevant transactions when asked. Just because he got a lot of money, doesn't mean he's automatically suspected of fraud, or anything that the authorities would be interested in. Ebay traders would probably be higher on their list to investigate as a matter of course.

    6. I must admit that he did a very good job, that took a lot of clever moves to actually make that much profit.

      Of course botting sucks and have a negative effect on a game, but you can't really blame him. Always knew the RMAH was a very bad idea and Blizzard finally came to that conclusion also.

      RoS is a much much better game because of that decision, it's actually back to being a game instead of a business.

      • I think I'd argue that AH botters like this guy didn't really cause that many problems for other players. After all, he was just buying items that players listed and reselling them for higher prices. Not hacking accounts or anything, and if he hadn't been the one to snap up items listed at a fraction their sales price, someone else would have.

        Compare to people running bots that played the game 24/7 picking up all the gems and gold and items and flooding them into the AH. They are the ones who wrecked the value of gold and gems and materials.

    7. I don’t have a problem with what he did, just how he did it. I made well over $500 on the RMAH using the same basic method but I did it all manually. Buy low, sell high. Oddly enough the things that sold for me on RMAH were things that people could have bought gold on the RMAH and saved money buying the item on the Gold AH instead. Things like low quality gems. It amazed me how many of those I would sell. Stuff that drops frequently in game and has almost zero value to a player he has bypassed the level requirement of that gem with at least one toon. I sold hundreds of those and scratched my head every time. I often wondered if it was some sort of botter out there buying the gems on RMAH when I posted them at the minimum and everyone else was 20%+ higher.

    8. "But he also feels the game’s popularity and longevity was greatly reduced by the problems with the economy." Nah bro, you didn't ruin anything, it was all Jay Wilson's fault.

    9. I hope he saved some of that 100k if he "accidentally" gets flagged by the Bulgaian IRS

      Yay know, just routine flagging. No connection

    10. That was an interesting read, but for him to complain about other botters was laughable. They were all cheating the system. His profits did come from those who knew no better and those who had too much disposable income. However, Blizzard could have easily combated AH botting by limiting the amount of auctions an account could win/sell in a day. Unfortunately, it appears that it was not their priority to stop it, since it was making them money.

    11. Good for him, I said from the day it was announced that the RMAH/GAH were both horrible ideas and Blizzard was just trying to put a stream of revenue in that they knew existed from D2 via eBay and RMT elsewhere because people buy crap in games. This was the only way they were going to allow trading, rather than the good ol' lobby we had in D2 (which for many of us was easily over half the fun of the game). You had social interaction, the opportunity to make new friends, and a place to hang out when you didn't feel like killing Meph another 200 times.

      I knew lots of people that worked the RMAH like fiends. Many of them were botting their asses off, too. I made a total of $0 from the RMAH. Now that it's all gone for them, who's still playing? Me, of course.

      Since they decided to remove this, they removed trading entirely so that nobody makes money off the game or has fun trading either. The AH "didn't feel very Diablo", and neither does the lack of trading entirely!

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