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This article was written by the god Dentin, and posted on Dec 28, 08.

Bots for Alter Aeon

Alter Aeon is one of the few MUDs where bots and botting are completely legal. Part of the reason for this is that it's impossible to really tell if someone is running a bot; also to consider is that the line between a bot and a heavily scripted client is becoming increasingly vague, especially for blind users.

That said, running a bot isn't as useful on Alter Aeon as it is on other games; even after reading this guide, you may still not be able to create a bot that gains more than it loses. This is because bots must adhere to stricter rules than normal players, and bots are also actively penalized by the game when they are discovered.

Rules for Bots

Because bots aren't always real intelligent and because they can produce huge amounts of spam, they are often very annoying to other players. A bot action you might think is cute may cease being cute after another player has seen it three hundred times in a row. This is why bots have additional rules of conduct beyond those of regular players.

These rules are approximately:

  • Your bot should never automatically relog into the game. If a bot is causing a problem or has gotten itself seriously stuck, the administration may choose to kick it off the game. Generally when this happens, the gods do -not- want to see the bot return until after it has been fixed.

    At the very least, it's a good idea to ensure that if your bot is booted, it does not auto-relog: if the gods try to boot your bot and it keeps logging back in, their only recourse is to siteban you. It can take several days to get a siteban removed or reversed.

  • Your bot shouldn't spam lots of commands. This is just common sense: if your bot spams loads and loads of commands over and over, it's going to be way easier for the game to find. Doing this also wastes server processing power, which irritates the gods.

  • Make your bot context and trigger sensitive. This is directly from the rules page. Your bot should only do something if it needs to do something. It should not just run through the same list of commands over and over, in the hopes that something will get done.

    This is similar to the restriction on spamming commands above, but it's also a good idea. By having your bot trigger on only what it needs to trigger, ideally at different times and in different places, your bot will be harder to detect and will probably perform better in the long run.

  • Your bot should know how to log in properly. If you must build a bot that logs in at a particular time, or one that waits for reboots, make sure that it knows how to log in. Make sure it dresses properly, gets started up right, and doesn't accidentally get itself stuck in the temple donation room for fifteen minutes before it figures out that the green dragon is not there.

  • Don't bot in any mud school or newbie areas. The real goal of this is to keep bots away from new players, so that they aren't confused by the spam or antisocial behaviour of bots.

    Note that this includes pretty much the entire island of Sloe, as well as the Old Ralnoth mud school. Bots are allowed in the Old Ralnoth Mud University, as it is no longer actively used by new players.

    Keep in mind that this includes ALL bots, even helpful ones. Do not run heal or refresh bots in a newbie area to 'help' the newbies. If these are needed, they well be coded as NPCs and added to the areas where they are needed.

  • Don't bot at recall sites or waypoints. People hang out at waypoints, often to be social and hang out with friends. Bots can be very spammy and distracting, so they are banned from lurking at all waypoints and recall sites. Your bot can 'pass through' a recall site on its way to somewhere else, but should never park itself in a recall location or waypoint.

  • Don't run your bot in groups. Running bots as autoclerics or auto-assist hitters truly detracts from what grouping is about - real people working together to do something. This is one of the only bot rules that really separates bots from normal players. Pretty much all of the other rules are just a good idea in general, even for real players.

    If you do try to run your bot in a group, the game will automatically look for you and remove you from the group. It will also send warnings to the admin to check into the situation and figure out what's going on.

  • Your bot should be smart. Remember that dangers occur and unexpected events happen while playing; if something unusual happens and your bot dies because it gets confused, it is your fault. The admin will not restore bot-related deaths. More likely, they will laugh at you.

This takes care of most of the rules that bots should abide by. Most of these are just common sense, and most of the remainder are common courtesy. A polite, quiet, and smart bot will have a much more successful career than a badly programmed bot.

The Bot Thwacker

In the course of creating and running your bot, you may hear reference to the 'Bot Thwacker', which is a mystical part of the game that hunts for bots and penalizes them. The bot thwacker is totally automatic, and often has no interaction with the admin other than to notify them when new bots are found or penalized.

The easiest way to see the bot thwacker in action is to create a simple bot that spam casts a spell to try to improve it. If you run a bot like this overnight, you'll notice that you lose experience instead of gaining it, and the spell deteriorates instead of improving. If you turn off the bot and begin playing normally, the game will typically reclassify you as a person within a few minutes.

The bot thwacker is pretty thorough and harsh in its operation once you get its attention. It can affect experience and percentages of spells and skills, as well as reduce experience for kills and a number of other things. The best way to deal with the bot thwacker is simply to avoid it, if you can.

The exact algorithm that the thwacker uses is secret and guarded by Dentin. It is also periodically updated to deal with newer classes of bots, in the standard cat-and-mouse games that are played: bots become smarter, and Dentin has to work harder to find them. In this simple statement lies the key to building a successful bot.

Your bot will never be successful forever; no matter how good it is, Dentin will always catch up. But a smart, well coded bot stands a much better chance of being hard to find than a simple bot. Here are a few things to consider when trying to build a bot:

  • Don't do just one thing with your bot.
    Doing one thing over and over is obvious.

  • Don't just stay in one place.
    Staying in one place is obvious.

  • Don't try to do too much at once.
    Spam stacking 50 commands based on one action is obvious.

  • Kill more than one type of monster.
    This is similar to not staying in one place.

  • Go to multiple areas.
    Staying in only one area can get you flagged pretty quick.

  • Don't go AFK for huge periods of time.
    Running 5 commands at once every 30 minutes is obvious.

As a final piece of advice, I can only offer one suggestion: if the bot thwacker has you, have your bot log out and turn itself off until you get a chance to improve it. If your bot keeps playing after it's been found by the thwacker, it can easily lose more experience, gold, and practice points than it gains.

Good luck!

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