Wednesday, September 24, 2014

ISBoxer is Botting

In the latest Derping Through War podcast, episode 11, the hosts get to debating if using ISBoxer, a program that allows your mouse and key commands to be replicated to multiple application, is acceptable in EVE Online or not. Currently CCP has allowed this application to fall under the list of acceptable utility applications to use, like macro keys on fancier keyboards and mice.

Well, CCP is wrong. Using ISBoxer is still botting and CCP should disallow its usage.


First off, let's look at the reason that ISBoxer is currently allowed while normal botting is not.
I am a bot.
A "bot" is a pilot in EVE who is operated by a third party program operating via a script that the program follows. This is primarily seen in tasks that don't require a lot of decision making like belt ratting or mining, although some bot behaviour can be very nuanced.

CCP has been waging a war on banning accounts that use botting and any associated accounts as the activity has several deleterious effects on the game world. For one, because they can sustain operations much longer and more consistently than a human can, they can generate more resources/wealth and this impacts the economy in the long term with widespread bot use. Secondly, it creates the imbalance where pilots/organizations that utilize botting have an advantage over competitors forcing players to operate at a disadvantage or join botting themselves. Thirdly, since botting is used to amass in game wealth quickly and efficiently with the fewest humans involved, it is a common tool of Real Money Traders who can be shady and dangerous to their customers.

So CCP has rightly declared botting an exploit and bannable offence.


ISBoxer, on the other hand is not considered and exploit mainly because (1) is it human-directed therefore does not have a bot's ability to operate consistently and for long periods of time, and (2) is currently not a main tool of wealth generation so is not noticeably affecting the economy or being used by RMTers.

One example of the use of ISBoxer is a single man mining fleet where the human uses the program to order multiple mining ships to mine the asteroids. Another example is the one given in the DtW podcast where a single human operated a small fleet of ships for PvP purposes. In these cases the operated ships have to be virtually the same and the client layout of each account needs to be near exact with the same overview settings and everything, but once setup you basically operate any number of ships your computer can handle clients for as if they were just one.

Its not widespread yet but I think it will be over time as pilots move to min-max their experience as the majority almost always do in order to be competitive. Why have a fleet of 5 guys when everyone can ISBox 3 accounts easily and have 15 ships? Why mine by myself in one ship if I can increase my profit by mining in 5? And CCP says its ok.

Isn't ISBoxer just like Multi-Boxing?

Not Me.
No, its not. Multi-boxing, i.e. having multiple clients open at the same time and doing things in each of them, is different because as a human you can only really pay full attention to one at a time. I cannot give an order at exactly the same time to both clients, I need to switch back and forth and while working on one, the other is unattended and essentially vulnerable to mistakes.

One could argue that an improperly setup interface for ISBoxer can lead to mistakes as well but that is more of a mechanical setup issue and not a human mental error issue. Once perfectly setup, multi-boxing can still allow for human error, ISBoxer cannot. The number of times I've heard someone on comms say "just wait, I need to move my other ship" or "dammit, I missed warp because I was on the other client" from multi boxing players is very high. Multi-boxing is human-intensive, ISBoxing is not.

In essence, ISBoxer is just a bot that doesn't have a preset script to follow, but rather follows you.
This is why I think CCP is wrong on this issue and should change their stance. A bot is a bot is a bot. It shouldn't matter if the bot is independent or dependent on the player for their instructions, it still allows a single human to sustain larger operations over long periods of time with fewer mistakes than a human without using ISBoxer would be able to. It doesn't matter that it does not affect the economy or is not a tool of the Real Money Traders. Its a bot, and CCP should make it an exploit.


  1. Anonymous11:35 am

    " still allows a single human to sustain larger operations over long periods of time with fewer mistakes than a human without using [multi-boxing] would be able to..."

    I changed one line of your argument. The line is still true, despite limitations in human attention. Yet multi-boxing not just allowed, but encouraged, and for serious players, required. So CCP wouldn't have a leg to stand on if they tried to ban ISBoxer.

    1. As I explained in my post, multi-boxing is not the same thing, it requires far more human interaction and attention and has inherently more risk as a result.

    2. Sorry Kirith, but trying to argue that software multi-boxing is botting pretty much means most people will discredit your argument.

      ISBoxer violates the EULA, as EVE's Third Party Policies states, so you don't need to make an argument on that front. What you should have done is argue that ISBoxer has the same effect on the game as botting. That is most certainly true.

    3. Anonymous4:23 pm

      The fact that it requires more attention and has more risk is immaterial - multi-boxing still provides a similar advantage. So I guess a more refined statement of my point is simply that CCP will not ban ISBoxer on the grounds that it offers an advantage, since its a matter of increments only. Some other trajectory of argument will have to be made if CCP wants to avoid the flamewar (and they many not want to ban it at all).

  2. CCP can't afford the revenue drop from wiping out hundreds, maybe thousands of accounts.
    If they think ISBoxer does not negatively impact their bottom line (as apparently RMT'ing botters do), then they will encourage people to sign up more accounts and ISBox away.

    1. Why not? If the ISBoxers leave, then the ISK price of PLEX will go down and then the ordinary player will be able to afford to PLEX their accounts again. In turn, that means that people buying PLEX to turn into ISK will need to spend more real life money to get the same amount of ISK. That puts money into CCP's pocket.

  3. I think it is an obvious exploit. Only those who use it, defend it. Some people just have to fudge every game.

    Respect -1.

  4. I agree with you (and said as much on Reddit and FHC a couple of months ago). But you're going to get flamed to a crispy cinder. And I fear Vince's comment above is the reason why no action is going to be taken.

    1. That said, this would make a hell of a BB. Would put a lot of bloggers on the spot, though. ;-)

  5. If they could roll back time, I'm sure CCP would have preferred to have stopped ISBoxer when it first arrived on scene. They didn't, and now they're in a tough place.

    Having said all of that, the use of ISBoxer should be considered a EULA violation and treated accordingly. I have no tolerance when I see ISBoxer behaviour (which is normally quite obvious), and I tend to employ in-game actions to try to deter it.

  6. If we are going to start with external tools, keep in mind that Eve Central was using illicit tools which CCP gave a pass to. The game has a imposed limit of a regional market - yet it is acceptable to view the market across the entirety of New Eden.

    The powers of null use tools which pole the API of tower owners to maintain the spice flow. These tools are used to detect siphons.

    Oh, don't get me wrong, an obvious fleet of 15 skiffs shows up at an ice belt, does not impress me. They can kill a ice anon in 15 minutes and welcome to the 4hr clock, If ISBoxer was suddenly illicit, I am on board. But I do prefer all or none.

  7. The EULA clearly states "You may not use your own or any third-party software, macros or other stored rapid keystrokes or other patterns of play that facilitate acquisition of items, currency, objects, character attributes, rank or status at an accelerated rate when compared with ordinary Game play. You may not rewrite or modify the user interface or otherwise manipulate data in any way to acquire items, currency, objects, character attributes or beneficial actions not actually acquired or achieved in the Game."

    If anyone running keystroke broadcasting software wants to suggest that keystroke broadcasting doesn't give you an advantage over normal game play, they should turn off their keystroke broadcasting and show that they are quite capable of getting the same in-game results using the same effort.

    The reason they use keystroke broadcasting is that it gives them a huge advantage over normal gameplay.

  8. I think that's why (IIRC) EVE has kept the legitimacy of software like ISBoxer in the grey, i.e. "technically illegal, but we won't prosecute it". In order to have a leg to stand on should something (like ISBoxer) turn from a nuisance into a serious problem.

    Similar I don't subscribe to Easy Esky's "all or nothing" approach. Different tools have different effects, and for what all I know, EVE Market might have solve a problem which CCP would like to have addressed, but couldn't for :reasons: - namely New Eden wide market information.

    And if people have a problem playing a game with somewhat fuzzy borders - maybe they aren't really sandbox material.

  9. ISBoxer is an unfair advantage in ISK making and PVP.

    Two hours mining with 10 toons isn't much different than 20 hours bot mining with one.

    ISBoxer is possibly worse than botting.

  10. Anonymous6:42 am

    I haven't used ISBoxer myself and I don't think I ever will. But AFAIK it allows two modifications to the client.

    1) you can rearange the view of you clients so you only see the relevant elements instead of everything and
    2) you can multicast your input to every client.

    IMO number 1) is acceptable. I run up to 8 clients with reduced resolution to fit more on one screen so I have shorter mouse movement and less information overhead. You don't really need the overview for every client if they all linger in the same belt.
    But 2) gives an unfair advantage over "normal multiboxing". With 6 Miners on Field (+scout and hauler) it is very hard to keep focused and managing all of them. with ISBoxer, it is just one click that manages all of the clients.

    CCP has tollerated it for now but it is still a violation of EULA. So they can change that anytime. I would prefer a two stage approach where they first disallow the use of multicast, clearly announcing it with a 3 month transition time. Everyone using it within that 3 month will get a notification about his viaolation. After this time the nomal ban policy hits.
    If the 1) would get banable too I would miss it either. It isn't impacting that hard but it isn't necessary either. After all it would help to foster the career of the miner. Some may not know but there are actually people who enjoy mining most of there play time. This casual miners are discuraged by the swarms of ICE-Boxer who suck out the ice spawns within minutes.