Fascinating 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.Of course all this is in the past now, with the AH shut down and trading effectively ended by all the item binding, 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?