Lost Ark has a botting problem. This won’t surprise anyone who’s ramped up the game since its release earlier this year, whether they’re a Mokoko Seed Hunter, a Gold-Breaked Tier 3 Gear Honer, or your humble casual gamer looking to level up at their own pace and explore the world of Arkesia without haste.
Whether it’s inflating item prices on the auction house, illegal spamming in area chats from Rethramis to Papunika, or groups of berserkers dashing through quest zones without even trying to hide their dubious practices, it’s the bots. Botting, in case you’re not sure, refers to AI-controlled characters or accounts that can go out and do a variety of tasks, be it leveling up to the max, farming resource nodes, selling goods on the home Game Market and much more . Bots disrupt the economy, cheapen rewards that require a lot of farming, and generally give the games they infest a bad reputation.
Bots and cheats are not a problem that only Lost Ark has to offer; Every popular multiplayer game with a decent community has a dark corner full of exploit vendors. With Lost Ark still attracting over 400,000 concurrent players on Steam even today, the market remains ripe for those looking to make money distributing this stuff. It’s very annoying, in layman’s terms.
So I thought I’d dive into the darker waters surrounding one of 2022’s major releases to find out why the botting scene exploded so suddenly and if the steps taken by Amazon Studios staff had any impact on this issue overall, and find out You might even learn more about the current sentiment among bot sellers. All names have been kept anonymous and citations are assigned via fake aliases.
My first interviewee was a bot reseller who had advertised their services on popular cheat forums (usually used to purchase cheat software for FPS games). From there I joined their Discord server where the software was sold to prospects. For Lost Ark, as is true for most games these days, Discord acts as a great hub to find and buy this type of dubious product.
“There have been no bans since my cheats were posted,” claims “Paul” when asked if his services have been affected by the recent waves of bans. “What most people used was a Chinese version that sends too many packets to the servers, making them recognizable, even counting people’s reports,” claims Paul. “Even if there were bans, that was not a problem. The bots, doing everything automatically, transferred gold to another account, and that gold was then sold on platforms like g2g.com. There are still a lot of bots in the game, I can’t even tell if there was actually a ban to be honest.”
So, assuming we take these claims at face value, how are these bots able to dodge the ever-present eyes of Easy Anti Cheat? This hugely popular anti-cheat option for a variety of developers launches every time you run Lost Ark and constantly scans your computer for nefarious programs that are interfering with the game it’s attached to. In theory, as long as it runs alongside Lost Ark, Easy Anti Cheat should catch any nonsense.
Paul spoke about how their own software has so far gone undetected, claiming that their software “doesn’t send malicious packets to the servers while the filename changes as a background process every 0.1 seconds.” In addition, the program automatically jumps to less occupied channels to avoid manual reports from other players. Sneaky.
Another respondent, a reseller of the Chinese bot software for use in the western version of Lost Ark, whom we will refer to as “Patrick” hereinafter, also claimed that heavily publicized blocking waves had no impact on the software they provided. When asked if they were concerned about future anti-cheat measures, they also claimed that it would be fine “as long as you play like a human,” suggesting that overly obvious exploits — like speed hacking — could be used – Put you in the line of fire when it comes to account suspensions and bans.
So what can you do? If all of the above is true, it paints a bleak picture of the botting situation for players who want to play Lost Ark honestly. I asked the distributors themselves what would need to happen for them to think that times are going to be difficult, and while Patrick was unwilling to comment, Paul was more than happy to elaborate.
“In order for Amazon to put an end to all of this, they need to shut down every platform they sell in-game currency on and find every developer making bots for their games. Of course, the company has the money to do it, but will it do it? Most likely not.
“Amazon can try to ban as many users as it wants. The only real way to stop mass bots is to sell Lost Ark for money instead of giving it away for free. I have a bot that can create unlimited steam accounts for free and is creating thousands per minute.
“In that case, bots will still remain, but not as many as they are now. What would I do if this ever happened? I’ll spend money on the game – and still use the bots. Of course, I will be limited in what I can do, but there is always a way around everything.” At the time of the interview, Paul stated that he was making €300 to €500 a day.
My third and final interviewee was not a Lost Ark bot vendor, but an expert in the field who was familiar with the Lost Ark bot economy environment and how it works. They acted as fixers, provided me with links to several additional discord servers for resellers, and conveyed a very different story than my previous contacts. From what they have told me, using Lost Ark bots is not as worry-free as the resellers admit.
“All these guys are selling the same bot, and it’s packed with a rootkit and a password scraper. If you want to run it, use a virtual machine,” says Alex. “Every single reseller I’ve purchased it from has the same shit in it. There’s really only one bot on the market right now that does leveling and chaos dungeons and that’s this Chinese one these guys are selling. If you see all the berserkers in leveling areas, it’s this Chinese bot.”
And you’ll see, if you want to buy this bot, the prices will fall – and they’ll fall fast. According to Alex, prices have dropped from about $90 to $30/$40 in one month, something you can see if you scout the bot reseller accounts on Discords. Our second interviewee, Patrick, is currently selling multi-client bots for $39, a significant drop from previous asking prices. When asked why the price went down, they only replied: “You can buy from me because of that [is the] Best price now”.
Why is this happening? Are resellers constantly underbidding each other? Or have Amazon ban waves actually affected demand? According to Alex, it’s a combination of both factors.
“The resellers are just guys with Alipay/Wechat accounts who can come into the QQ group and buy from the developers,” they explain. “The more people get the bot, the more competitive they become. Let’s say the developers sell it for $10. If I’m the only guy I can charge $90 – and who gives af*ck? But now another guy finds the source and they start selling at $70 to undercut me… Well now I have to sell at $65 and so on. Not only that, but Amazon Games and Smilegate are also catching on; Detecting hacks and avoiding a kernelspace anticheat like Easy Anti Cheat (EAC) is a constant game of cat and mouse.
“If you make cheats, you need to patch a trusted kernel driver so you can run commands in kernel mode. If you can patch a driver, you can play around with EAC so that certain memory addresses can’t be read. In this case you would manipulate it so that it cannot scan the address spaces where your cheat is actually running.
“EAC notices this and changes the configuration so that the hooks live somewhere else. Now I can’t hide my cheating anymore, so we repeat the process and keep going.”
So what does that actually mean? Well, that means that the risk for the users of bots keeps increasing over time. Even discounting the claims that these bots contain malware, with the constant back-and-forth between Easy Anti Cheat and the developers of this botting software, the likelihood of players getting caught online only increases over time. To keep people happy, prices have come down and more features (like multi-customer purchase) are being added to sweeten the deal.
We have reached out to Amazon Games for an explanation, asking if there are any updated numbers on bans and what future steps they plan to take to contain the ongoing issue. The editor referred to a recent blog post that was published on April 1st – after I had conducted my interviews.
In it, Amazon notes that it has established a new tactic to limit the trading opportunities of Steam accounts with limited purchase history. While the company is confident that this will hamper in-game botting and cheating, it acknowledges that free-to-play players may be affected and encourages submission of feedback.
“While bots are still prevalent in Lost Ark and we continue our work, we can report that we have seen some improvements in the number of bots seen in game and continue to take action against those that have been able to stay says Amazon, implying a measure of success towards those who use and produce bots. I reached out to my first interviewee, Paul, to see if this would affect the business, but they didn’t respond.
The botting and cheating situation has gone back and forth between the developers and nefarious parties, with regular players getting in between. It’s clear that bots are not going anywhere in Lost Ark. In the future, it looks like they’ll come in waves, just like they’re currently doing in Warzone, World of Warcraft, and numerous other multiplayer games whose anti-cheat software has been compromised.
Perhaps Amazon could go out and be proactive, scouting vendors and slamming them with lawsuits like EA has in the past fighting Apex Legends scammers. Something that will surely be a long and expensive hunt for parties hidden in obscure forums and discord servers. Even if that were to happen, this tug of war will likely persist, with the number of scammers rising before they are crushed again. An end does not seem to be in sight for the time being. Buckle up for the long-distance riders.
https://www.vg247.com/lost-ark-amazon-may-never-win-bot-battle Why Amazon May Never Win Its Battle With Lost Ark’s Bots