I think it goes without saying that bots are an enormous issue to both the economy and the longevity of the game. I love this game and like most of you have spent countless hours into this game, and I hate to see it die. I created this post to explain in a logical manner why most of the players believe banning RMT is a probable solution to the bot issue.
First off, in order to fix the bot issue we need to understand why they exist. I believe most bots exist for the sole purpose of profit. If I spend $5 to create a bot and the bot makes me $10, I just earned $5 in profit. Picture another scenario where I spend $5 to create a bot, but this time it generates $20. I have now earned $15 in profit and have an even greater incentive to create bots. Now multiply these profits by hundreds/thousands of bots, and I can easily make a living off of these bots. Here is the relationship I want to draw from this point:
If the gross profit of bots increases, then the number of bots will increase.
Imagine another scenario where I spend $5 to create a bot, but this time it only generates $4. I have a net loss of just $1 per bot. Multiply this by hundreds/thousands of bots, and I am looking at a huge net loss. This will discourage me from creating more bots. As we can see from this example, the inverse of the first relationship I drew is also true.
If the gross profit of bots decreases (or becomes negative), the number of bots will decrease.
This is obviously an oversimplification of the true relationship between profits and bots but I hope my general point gets across. Now Lost Ark is currently a F2P game. What costs are there to maintain bots? Electricity bill for the PCs that maintain the bots is one cost I see to the game. People have also suggested adding a monthly fee or a one time payment to play the game which reduces the profit margin of each bot. As profit margins decrease, we can reasonably conclude that the number of bots will decrease.
However, I argue that altering the cost is not an effective solution to the botting issue. I believe you cannot EFFECTIVELY change the profit margins of each bot by altering the cost without hurting the general playerbase. We can see examples of this in other MMORPGs like WOW and FFXIV. Both games have a low monthly subscription fee and even a one time payment cost for each expansion, and yet they are also littered with bots (albeit not at the same level as Lost Ark, but enough to still be problematic and upset the general playerbase). I believe they face similar bot issues because the gross profit is barely affected by the low cost. You can then argue for increasing the amount of monthly subscription fee to lets say $100/month, but I’m sure a vast majority of the playerbase would reject this idea and quit the game before this idea is implemented.
Another option to hurt the profit margins of each bot is to target the revenue, aka RMT buyers. I’m sure you’ve heard many people call for harsher sanctions on RMT buyers, including permanently banning anyone involved with RMT. I share their sentiment, and I strongly believe that the number of buyers will decrease if you threaten players with permanent bans. Currently many players are under the impression that RMT buyers face no severe punishment other than a 3 day ban. CMs have even admitted that the severity of the punishments are variable and depends on the magnitude of the transaction. As a player that is interested in gearing up and progressing my character, what is stopping me from simply spending $50 to max out my character’s progression and skipping the grind? Why would I buy gold from the in-game store if RMT prices are 10x cheaper and there is no daily limit to the amount of gold I can buy? With absolutely nothing to discourage me from RMT other than a “3 day ban”, I almost don’t blame players for going the RMT route. If AGS/SG made it completely transparent that they will ban anyone involved with any level of RMT, I believe this will discourage many players from even considering RMT.
When you reduce the # of buyers, you reduce the revenue. When you reduce the revenue, you decrease the gross profit of bots which will then decrease the amount of bots in the game.
AGS/SG has made attempts at handling the bot situation directly. However, none of these attempts address the gross profits made from these bots. When they made chaos dungeon loot drops bound or removed gold reward from rapport, the number of bots actually increased. Why? The demand for gold from players was still the same. But the amount of gold that each bot can generate was reduced. To combat this, more bots were created to earn more gold to keep up with the high demand. So instead of one bot farming chaos dungeons to produce 100g, two bots were created to earn the same 100g from the guardian raid questline. There is no feasible way to fight bots effectively head-on. You can ban VPNs, add phone number verification, 2 step login authentication, etc. Bots will find a way as long as it’s profitable.
Now I will admit that actually spotting an RMT transaction is not an easy task. RMT is completely untraceable when the buyer gives money to the seller because the transaction occurs outside of the game. And the seller giving gold to the buyer mostly occurs in the Auction House (since trading gold was restricted to trusted steam accounts). This is where I suggest AGS/SG regulate the Auction House. No tier 1 or tier 2 items should cost over 10k gold. As for tier 3 items, only relic and possibly legendary accessories should be regularly sold at a high prices. Now, for an RMT buyer, they can easily overcome this limit by selling multiple items at just under 10k gold. There needs to be a GM that has some knowledge of how the game works to help regulate this market. A player gaining over 200k gold from selling multiple tier 2 accessories in a span of a week should be seen as highly suspicious similar to how my real bank would mark me as suspicious if I suddenly made a 1 million dollar transaction overnight. Not even the Argos/Valtan bus sellers are making over that much gold in a week. The only players you would hurt by regulating the market are the RMT buyers/sellers. Another suggestion may be to create a weekly roster limit to how many things you can buy/sell in the Auction House but this idea would be very difficult to implement correctly and I can foresee a lot of issues arise with this method.