just like most of players who visit forums (or aren’t completely oblivious to the game), I heard of bots before. In case someone completely oblivious to the issue is reading this: a “bot” (shortcut of “robot”) is a program, that controls the player character so the player doesn’t have to. Bots appear in many games and there are many types, but in online gaming they are almost universally illegal.
In World of Tanks terms, bots are programs, that play instead of the human being – not to reach any stellar results of course, but to “grind” – in other words, to play and earn credits/XP, so the player doesn’t have to. Just like everywhere else, their use is strictly punished and uncovered botters will have their accounts wiped, or they get permabanned outright.
At least, such is the theory.
In this article, we will explore the issue and uncover the incompetence of Wargaming to actually get rid of them (and the steps Wargaming EU took to cover up the entire matter completely). But obviously, I am neither a programmer, nor an expert on this matters. That’s why I need help – someone really skilled in hunting bots.
Meet St0rmshadow. St0rmshadow is an esteemed member of the German EU community. Between 2001 and 2004, he was the vice leader of anti-cheat admins for ESL in Counterstrike, he was also a PTS member and between May and November 2013, he was a Community Contributor on EU forums, until he got kicked out for being too vocal about Wargaming EU not doing anything about the bot issue. He specializes in uncovering bots and ran a long-term program in the German community (since 2012), analyzing replays one by one, using various tools, to uncover players using bots and getting them banned. And let me tell you, he got really good at it over time. As I mentioned, he ran bot recognition thread on EU forums, until he got shut down by Wargaming staff (this is all that’s left of it). Right now, he runs the same program on private forums. But before we get into that, let’s talk about bot capabilities.
What a bot can do
When you say “bot”, most of us imagine a tank, that just stands in a corner, turning his gun around and occasionally shooting into the wall. Until today, I actually thought exactly that. I mean – we all saw idiots going into map corner and just camp there, doing nothing. Obvious bots, right? Unfortunately, by talking to St0rmshadow, I learned that bots can do much, much more. In fact, a good bot can be better player than 90 percent of all the noob players.
There are 8 types of widespread bots, ranging from very simple to quite complex and nasty, according to St0rmshadow. There are more, but some were simply discontinued. Please note that these bots are NOT some “Robin Hood” software, you have to buy them, since they require constant upgrades. Also, currently, no bot can operate artillery other than in TD mode. These eight are:
Tankleader – the best known WoT bot with 100 thousand (!) licenses in EU alone (this was confirmed via the bot forums themselves). It is continuously developed (to work with map changes etc.) and it can do a lot of stuff, including:
- using map pings and chat orders
- can move around and shoot enemies, it uses a “smart” system aimbot (weakspots) and as a result, it makes more XP and money than most noob players (!)
- has multiple profiles, making its behavior less predictable and harder to detect
- it is possible to recognize by several distinct features, such as gundrop right after the countdown and by backing off a few meters when encountering unforeseen obstacles, such as other players (after backing off, it turns slightly and goes forward again)
- it is very widespread, making its development very profitable, users pay via subscription mechanism
- currently, a very advanced beta version is being developed (Version C), which is almost unrecognizable from a regular player (we’ll look at an example later).
This is how a “standard profile” Tankleader avoids unforseen obstacles (you can see the JT 88 movement back and slightly forward over again, a replay of this “action” can be seen here)
In other case, there was a bot with deactivated movement – it just stood there and reacted only when enemies came close.
Overall, Tankleader is the best system there is for now. There are others though.
Mbot – easily recognized and simplier bot variant. Unfortunately, it is available for free, but it is quite distinctive. Online versions usually also contain some sort of malware. Otherwise, it can move and shoot also.
Dnive/Dniwe – this one comes for free with Warpack (but that costs you 7 Euro per month). In connection with other Warpack software, it is deadly, it cheats and earns a lot of credits and XP. On tier 10 tank, it can score even around 3000 damage.
WoTEx 3.2 – new type of bot, very intelligent (no gundrops, starts right away), it’s free and hard to discover, but it is not stable. Yet.
VBot – quite a dumb bot, that just goes across the map with gun pointed up and fires randomly, or gets stuck somewhere fast. It loses more credits than it makes, but it’s for free.
WoTBotPro – another easily recognized system, it has problems with rotating the turret and often does it in “twitches”, or just back and forth very fast. This software is also paid by subscription. It can however create income.
VipBot – functioning bot, that however (intentionally) contains a trojan, that allowes its creators (or whoever’s out there) access to your computer.
RazorBot – alpha version, very dumb, just moves around
Alright. These are the basics. Some of them sound harmless and funny? Well… meet alpha version of the Tankleader C, recently caught by St0rmshadow
(video by Banelord)
As you can see, this is a prototype version of the bot and it is not yet perfect, but that will change. It can be recognized for exmaple by the gun aiming always in one weird direction (you can see that clearly when he goes downhill). This was no “closed test” by the way, this was a real botter (this guy) – check out his stats, 6 day interval, average 178 battles per day. A clear bot.
This thing can shoot accurately, move like a real player, is precise and deadly. When the turret rotation bug gets fixed, it will be uncrecognizable from a real (although bad) player. And there are 100k of these suckers around…
What Wargaming does against this and how they detect bots?
Short answer is: nothing.
According to St0rmshadow, the entire “we scan for illegal soft” is bullshit. They don’t. They might make some CRC checksums for mods, but as for external software, they rely only on “too many games in too short a time = bot”. Needless to say, this is completely pointless. Advanced bots like this cannot be recognized and if you are careful about how much you use it, they can’t detect anything.
St0rmshadow explained, how utterly and blatantly incompetent the Paris office is, when fighting bots. They do nothing. There is no automated bot detection, they don’t even know that it is simply possible to uncover a bot without the botter’s replay: you can download a replay from one of the people in the battle and then use replay freecam (legally) to check the botter out. According to St0rmshadow, noone does that. The king of incompetence of WG EU office seems to be a guy called “Decept1on”, who is formally responsible for the bot issue, who wasn’t even aware of the freecam option, when he spoke to him (it’s the same guy by the way involved in the Dakillzor case, for those who know).
Actually, Wargaming EU works directly against bot hunters. Check this out. As I wrote earlier, St0rmshadow is no longer a community contributor, because he got kicked out. This is an internal Wargaming letter by Alexis “Aodheus” Cretton, regarding this issue.
Just a short email to remind you all once again about our Community Contributors program & support given to their activities. As I hope you all know, Community Contributors should be selected with extra care, and our support only given to those who are truly promoting and supporting positive aspects of our games.
For this reason, this responsibility falls into a Community Managers’ role rather than a Community Coordinators’. That being said, we also know some teams, like the German team, are currently lacking a Community Manager.
While I don’t mind and am actually supportive of any initiative to support our German contributors, I’d like to make sure you guys always check with other Community Managers regarding new contributors or any new activities undertaken by a contributor.
For example, we came across this program today which is a perfect example of an activity a contributor should not do, and that we should not ever support nor promote:
(link to deleted St0rmshadow’s thread about bot hunting)
I would very much appreciate if this could be looked into so that we can not only shut down this program but also explain why we do not and cannot support such activity. If there are any doubts regarding this last point, feel free to ask me and I’ll explain the issues I see in this.
Thank you very much,
Other this this guy using the same greeting at me (ugh), you can clearly see that Wargaming is not interested in supporting bot hunting. I am sure they will moan about naming and shaming and all, but the cold hard truth is, there are bots out there, that have been uncovered, convicted and mass-reported and they are still running around. This guy ran for thousands of battles (7000 according to St0rmshadow) with a bot, was reported many times and only recently he was not permabanned – no, his account was just rest. Another blatant case is this guy – account created on 19.1.2014, he already has 2237 battles.
At this moment, botting is viable and safe way of “playing”, at least on EU server.
So, are you shocked? I know I was (not by WG EU incompetence, that comes as given, rather by the numbers). Or perhaps you are not surprised at all? Lots of things make sense, don’t they. If there are 100k accounts using the first type of bot out there, who knows how many of these things are really out there? 200k? Half a mil? Suddenly, all those unheard desperate cries for support, “camping” teammates and other screwups make more sense, don’t they?
It is clear that something has to be done. Other games solve this issue differently. World of Warcraft actually has a tool, that scans the active memory for bot programs. Botters are swiftly and permanently banned (within hours) – this strict system was implemented as a response to an insane plague of bots (some of you might remember the “underground miners” and other stuff) and Blizzard managed to stem the tide by draconic punishments.
It would be wise to implement such a tool also. It is absolutely clear that manual checking (along with the legendary WG EU staff clumsiness) will not help in any way to change the situation. Strangely enough, according to St0rmshadow, other servers do not have this problem on such a scale, so it IS possible to fight it. By the way, for Russian viewers, St0rmshadow and his Russian colleague made a Warpack presentation. Unfortunately only in Russian.