Yes, absolutely. Counting up, I had eight max-level characters in WoW. I hand leveled someone through all the new content first (whoever my main was at the time) and the rest were mainly botted up, including my DK (no, Outland quests aren't that fun.) Most of these were created to play with friends on other servers or test the class out in PVP and Arenas. I was always content with playing a Healer in PVE -- yet another reason to have a bot on the side to bring in some cash.
When you botted, was it primarily AFK, non-AFK or a mixture of both?
Generally AFK but with some capabilities to respond via IM programs. When I was unable to monitor it for long periods of time, I'd be sure to pick something safe and low-key, to not get into any trouble.
The list of things you say your bot program allowed your character to do sounds absolutely incredible. Did your character actually do all those things with no supervision?
At the end, yes. You have to give credit to the Glider community -- there are some brilliant, dedicated minds working there for free. The biggest advancement for botting has been the addition of the intelligent pathing tool I was talking about. It has taken a lot of the clunky movement out of the botting and has allowed for a truly intelligent system that actually knows, by code, where everything is in the game. It eliminated the simple "You are at point X, go to point Y" system and replaced it with a system that knew where every texture and object was in the game.
Developing my bot's character was a little more challenging. I'm a technical person as well, with a hobby of delving into artificial intelligence, so I admit that my personal bot was probably the EVE to the normal Glider's WALL-E. It was really just about tweaking certain functions to behave more human-like. The biggest problem I always had was context. It was hard to determine exactly what the person wanted from a strictly conversational point of view. For example, someone just saying "hey" doesn't tell you much. The best approach I always found was to set everything up to be as nice and unobtrusive to people in my physical proximity. Also, botting on a class that no one wants to group with helps a lot. DKs are a perfect example.
Were you ever reported?
I don't think so. There is a botter code of conduct that is usually followed, which is: "If someone else is there, come back later" and "Don't report fellow botters." Not everyone follows that, of course. On the server I played on mainly, I knew of at least 10 to 12 botters (mostly on the other faction; those are always more noticeable), and I never reported any of them. Many deserved it, but I stuck to the code.
You mention having children. Did they ever watch your character botting? If so, were they aware that this was against game ToS?
Interesting question. My kids are young (1 and 3 years old), so they're not at a level to understand something like that. Children are very impressionable, and I try to limit their exposure to video games at such an early age.
That said, though, my son (who is almost 3) is the sole and only reason I got so many vanity pets. He has a huge vocabulary of animals, thanks to WoW (I'm ashamed to say). He loves to see all the different animals I can pull out. He's learned dragon ("day-gone"), cockroach ("roshe"), firefly ("fi-fi"), moth ("mott"), owl ("lewl") -- just from seeing my pet. He wasn't that excited to see the skunk you get for 50 pets, but he was overjoyed to see Bambi at 75.
Let's talk about your thoughts on the recent Glider decision.
The entire legal battle has been unnecessary, from my point of view. Like it or not, Blizzard makes a ton of money from bot users. Getting rid of it will either open the door to other avenues to do such (think MMO Glider with the same support structure as now but with no cost), or it'll cost them a ton of money. They've already spent a huge sum in legal fees to try and stop it. The judge in the trial is either clueless by choice or on Blizzard's payroll -- possibly both. It's opened a whole can of worms in regards to ToS and the end-user responsibility.
If Blizzard was really serious about stopping botting, they'd stop it. All they need to do is get a trained botter on their staff to jump through some bot hot-spots. Botting off and on for over 2 years, I guarantee I can spot a bot with a 99% accuracy, and so can most other bot veterans. I think this trial is just Blizzard's official action against it -- enough to make whoever cares happy -- when deep down, they know that gold farmers and botters just bring them more revenue.
As for the future of botting -- well, it won't stop here. People will always find a way. Unless Blizzard somehow gets a full rootkit on your computer, it will always be a possibility. Good thing it's not Sony running this operation, or that might be a reality.
I wouldn't rule Glider out quite yet. Even if they officially go down, I'd be surprised if the legend didn't live on. The project needs to stay closed source, but it'll still be developed in the future. The only change is users might be downloading it via BitTorrent instead of a U.S.-hosted web server. In fact, MDY losing this battle might bring in more bot users in the future, due to easier availability and cheap/no cost.
What's behind your recent decision to quit playing WoW?
Like many other PVP junkies, the latest PVP and Arena changes were the nail in the coffin. Wrath took some baby steps in order to improve PVP (like Wintergrasp and upcoming dual specs) but really failed with the latest Arena changes. In particular, the new "spooky hidden rating" system was poorly implemented and made the game a lot less fun. WoW has always been a bit of a joke of a game in regards to PVP (let's not delude ourselves), but the class balance and overall direction that WoW has taken since patch 3.0 has not been good overall. Blizzard should have followed their "Bring the player, not the class" in regards to PVP as well. At the moment, it's "Bring the Paladin, not the player" (incoming Pally hate in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...).
Of course, on the other side, the PVE aspect of the game is just stale. The treadmill progression system (raid to get loot so you can raid to get loot, ad infinitum) is a core design feature, and it's hard to get worked up about. The PVE encounters themselves can be fun but come down to learning and rerunning a specific tactic. I know playing a healer in PVE isn't the most interactive role, but playing whack-a-mole with health bars is a serious problem in the game that won't be addressed any time soon.
Lastly, Death Knights. The class, the mechanics, the lore -- everything about the "hero class" is just a bit silly. Azeroth was better off without them.
Now that you're no longer in WoW, are you playing other games?
I'm back to playing Counterstrike, Left 4 Dead and some RPGs like Fallout 3 and King's Bounty. The great thing about these is that you can play for short periods of time and have fun. An hour here, an hour there -- very hard to do in a persistent MMO like WoW. I suppose when a game starts to become a burden, it's time to rethink priorities.
I need to play and study MMORPGs for some aspects of my business. I do investment consulting in Europe for groups and companies that want to invest in the MMO field. They call me in to get my thoughts on an upcoming or proposed future title. I try to stay up to date and in touch with what people want so I can make good, sound decisions. I've even gone as far as working on some core game design and providing feedback to development teams.
And of course, I also write. I've done some work for The Escapist Magazine and 1up.com, but I mostly do stuff for Euro-based security outlets and magazines. Trust me when I say when you have to write dry stuff like that, it's a pleasure to be able to write about gaming every once in a while.
Would you have continued playing WoW if Glider had not been shut down? What about the "other ways to bot" that you mention in your article?
Me quitting at the same time the Glider case is about to close is just a coincidence. I'd have kept playing, sure -- from a personal point of view, I've gotten everything I need from Glider/botting, at least in the current state of the game. As far as other ways to bot, I'm sure they're out there. I'm not to knowledgeable on those, though, so I'd have to leave that to the experts. ;)