Macros: Taking the plunge into dark waters...
Posted by SERIAL GANKER [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 15 March 2010, 5:16 pm
In Friday’s entry, I wrote about the blurry line of fair play as it relates to custom user interfaces, exploits, and keystroke macros. Admittedly, it’s a very long-winded entry but the central theme is that all of these things are a slippery slope and what ultimately defines “fair play” is not a EULA but our own personal perceptions and our interpretation of the vagaries developers provide us.

Syncaine wrote an article today about macroing in Darkfall in which he appears to be struggling with the concept of whether to use macros to level skills. Assumed in his entry is that Aventurine is OK with the use of such macros as long as they are only used in areas that are not protected by Guard Towers. As he points out in the comments, the official line by Aventurine is:
Any macroing or disruptive skilling up within the protective radius of the towers is strictly forbidden. Offenders will be kicked. Repeat offenders will be banned.

Unattended macroing anywhere is forbidden. Offenders will be kicked. Repeat offenders will be banned.
When does macroing become botting?
A macro, by definition, is a series of actions that execute when a single command is entered. The purpose of a macro is to simplify the user experience by grouping actions. In a game like Warcraft, macros are largely restricted to slash commands (Ex: /cast Fireball). As such, these in-game macros have defined rules which prevent abusive usage such as chaining non-instant spell casts or timer delays.

Macros, however, are not limited to in-game slash commands. In fact, programs which allow people to create macros for any Windows application are pretty common. Chances are, your mouse or keyboard software offers such macro functionality for key re-mapping and chaining keystrokes. As I wrote on Friday, because such programs are common and have legitimate non-game usages, they aren’t something that a game developer can easily block or ban.

The issue is that such programs can be used in very illegitimate ways. You might not be able to chain cast or set delays in an in-game macro, but that limitation doesn’t exist in these other applications. It’s quite possible to setup a macro that points down, clicks a button, waits 60 seconds, points another direction, clicks a button to move for 5 seconds, points down, clicks button and waits another 60 seconds.

What is unattended macroing?
Read the Darkfall forums or even Syncaine’s recent entry and you’ll come away with the understanding that most players in Darkfall use the very literal interpretation that “unattended” means not at your computer.

By this definition, my above macro/bot example could wander around mining resource node to resource node as long as I was watching it run around.

In fact, such macro usage is actually what Syncaine is suggesting in order to level up a skill. Want to level swimming? Swim in circles. Want to level jumping? Stand there and hop. Want to level that spell? Stand there and cast it.

As long as you aren’t doing it in an area “protected” by Guard Towers and as long as you are at the computer to answer a “tell” from a GM, then it’s perfectly OK.


I’m sorry, but if you are “watching” your character do stuff without you actually doing it – that’s botting.

And it’s unattended.

Implied in attending something is that you are paying attention and participating in the activity. If you are not participating, then it’s unattended. Watching a macro run is not participation.

When does macroing become botting? As soon as you enter a WAIT or SLEEP command into the macro that delays an action. A macro that executes immediately upon a keystroke is not botting because it doesn’t take action AFTER you participated in the action of making that keystroke.

The moment you add that WAIT or SLEEP, you’ve just entered the realm of automated play where botters nest. Make no mistake, it is botting even if your script is simple by comparison.

If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?
This is the really tricky thing. It’s becoming clear that at least in Darkfall, the use of such macro scripts is accepted as long as you don’t do it in a protected zone and you are there to answer GM tells.

As a player, this leaves me in an awkward position that I resent. Do I jump off the bridge and start macroing? Or do I gimp myself relative to other players by watching them shortcut success?

I already know the answer: I’ll jump off. For no other reason than I feel compelled to NOT gimp my progression. And quite frankly, I resent that such action is needed on my part in order to not feel gimped.

Andrea Bargs argues that this type of macroing and Microtransactions are similar in that they offer the player a way to “skip ahead” without actually playing the game.

There is certainly quite a bit of truth to that statement and I’m certain that’s a big part of the reason I’m resentful about it. Although, I think that’s where the comparison ends. The really unethical part of the MT model isn’t the skipping of content – it’s the part where you PAY to skip that content.

I’m good at this stuff
One thing that makes this dilemma so difficult for me is that I’m good at this stuff. I mean really good at it. If you read this blog back while I was playing Warhammer, you might recall that in the process of learning the addon API, I had concerns about “button masher” style addons. Something which was possible because WAR lacked secure frames and I know of at least one publically released addon which could be configured this way.

You also might remember that I wrote (and released) an addon that attached icons over player unit heads that were visible through mountains and other terrain.

I think what bothers me here is the duality of my personality. On the one hand, I just want to play the game and have fun. On the other hand, I am fiercely competitive and willing to toe the line of acceptability to get results.

Say what you will about Warcraft, but at least the line of acceptable use is made relatively clear. In Darkfall, that line is ambiguous at best and there is a part of me that fears myself and my history of pushing boundaries.

In the past, when I felt like I pushed the boundaries too far, I released my work publically (like the Warhammer addon). The theory being more players using the advantage I provide forces the developer to address the problem. And, if I'm being honest, I think it helped with my guilt to know I wasn't alone.

In practice, I think that is just like throwing water on an oil fire. It only serves to spread the problem.

The irony is that all this makes me NOT want to play Darkfall. And yet, I’m committed for the next 3 months and genuinely enjoy the game.

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