I've run in to more than a few farmbots in my day -- often in Winterspring, while farming Timbermaw reputation. The furbolg you had to kill to gain favor with the Timbermaw also happened to drop good coin and runecloth, making them lucrative targets for farmers. The bots (characters controlled by a computer program of some sort rather than a human being) were always easy to spot. They'd follow a set circuit around the area, taking down targets one at a time. When the area was empty, they would return to a spot near its center and spin around in circles until they managed to target a fresh spawn -- and then they'd begin running an identical circuit. Depending on the particular farmbot, sometimes I could game their system and let them farm reputation for me. See they've targeted something? Assist them and use an instant attack to tap it before they can -- back when I was doing my reputation farming, the farmbots didn't have seem the intelligence to notice if something had been tapped after they've targeted it and sent in their pet to attack. (They were, of course, always hunters.) A real person would certainly be annoyed by this behavior, but the farmbots would simply continue their cycle.
However, a post up on Kinless' Chronicles makes me wonder if the farmbots have managed to get smarter. Kinless noticed an orc hunter constantly (from 4AM to 4PM, server time) mining thorium in the Eastern Plaguelands. That information alone simply screams farmbot to me, but there's more to the story that makes me wonder. On one encounter with this suspicious hunter, Kinless decided to follow him along his farming route. The hunter dismounted in Hearthglen and started to fight the elite guards there. Figuring that anything worth this much effort to an obvious bot must be wealth indeed, Kinless ventured inside to see what was there. And inside? He found not a single thorium vein and he barely made it out alive. But in his chat box, our friendly farmer was kind enough to wave him farewell before mounting up and leaving. Kinless explains the quandary:
This is a live player, with brains, who does nothing but farm mineral nodes across Azeroth. (I later noted him in the Barrens, Winterspring, Burning Steppes.) He does nothing but farm, and plays round the clock, and does not own the expansion. He's certainly not funding a main, or a twink, since he's got no time. And it's a live player since he played that little trick on me.
This isn't possibly an entertaining way to play the game, so what's happening here? Is it an improved intelligence bot? (Now with new player-baiting technology!) Or are we seeing live players out farming for real world profits? Unless we can get them to start answering whispers, we may never find out.