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Guild Wars - where bots and players coexist in harmony

Published: 16:54, 05 June 2019
ArenaNet
Picture of the palace in Master Togo's Story in Guild Wars
Guild Wars

Guild Wars is an MMORPG that has been in maintenance mode with no official support for years, but the game's economy is fairly stable, most PvP activities are still accessible and even Auction House-like services exist - thanks to bots.

Bots in MMORPGs are generally an undesirable menace. They tend to promote real money trading (RMT), farm up more than any human player could and thus damage the game's economy or pose major annoyances in PvP.

Well, not all MMOs.

ArenaNet focused on Guild Wars 2 ever since it was released in 2012 and left a small Live Team to look after Guild Wars even prior to that. Their tenure eventually came to an end, leaving the MMO untended for years. This resulted in players chaperoning the economy themselves, and in some cases with the help of bots.

Considering Guild Wars is a 14-year-old game with no official support, the playerbase is expectedly scant. One can't simply buy as many materials as they want from a trader NPC - they have a finite supply too, so when a material becomes rare or highly sought after, it goes up in price or the vendor runs out of stock.

This is where bots come into play. Someone has to keep farming materials at least as fast as players can burn through them. This is further emphasised in Guild Wars since Glob of Ectoplasm, a high-end material, is often used as substitute currency and a way of circumventing character gold carry caps.

ArenaNet Picture of a Glob of Ectoplasm in Guild Wars Guild Wars - Hail the might Ecto

The material is also used for crafting prestige armour. When you combine the fact that players need Ectos for crafting and trading with a low player count, which causes a low farming output for the whole playerbase, the only logical conclusion is that Ectoplasm prices would skyrocket and supply would be ridiculously low.

However, Guild Wars' market still has a steady influx of Ectos, years after it was abandoned by the developers. Some are attributing this to players hoarding the rare material for years in storage and are unleashing their wealth on the market while others are convinced bots keep farming them.

While wealthy players controlling the market is a possibility, the latter is actually proven by the existence of real money trading (RMT) sites that are still selling Ectos and other rarities farmed by bots.

So far, it is evident that bots are actually keeping Guild Wars' economy fairly healthy, with the exception of RMTs. On the other hand, since Guild Wars is not exactly the most played game in the world, it's hard to imagine RMTs flourishing by selling Ectos in the game in the first place.

Still, Ecto prices fluctuate from time to time, but it never gets so ridiculously high that no one could afford Obsidian Armour or have no Ectos to trade with.

While a functional materials economy is definitely a major area where players enjoy bot benefits, it's far from being the only one.

A good example is the Chat Log bot. Guild Wars doesn't have an auction house, it's an MMO where sales are done the good old fashioned way - by spamming "WTB" and "WTS" in a hub.

ArenaNet Picture of Kamadan in Guild Wars Guild Wars - Kamadan

In this case, it happens in Kamadan, the single city where all trading is done. Since the market isn't highly populated anymore, chances are people would miss out on offers from other players if they weren't in the same instance at the time. Maybe they want to price check their items or know what is up for sale while adventuring.

Well, someone had a great idea and placed a bot that monitors chat messages in Kamadan. It's simply called Chat Log and broadcasts all messages from the trade channel to a website where players can check on what's happening in Kamadan in real time or track sales several months into the past for price checks.

ArenaNet Picture of the Chat Log bot in Guild Wars Guild Wars - Chat Log in Kamadan

Another popular bot service was the lever bot in the Guild Wars Prophecies starting area where players needed a party member to open a gate for them in order to progress a quest. With low player counts, it could become nigh impossible at times but someone planted a bot called I Pull Levers Well into the main city, Ascalon.

ArenaNet Screenshot from Guild Wars showing the legendary I Pull Levers Well bot Guild Wars - I Pull Levers Well the tiny ranger on the left

If one added the bot to their party, it would go straight to the gate lever, pull it and once the player was through, fast travel back to the city ready to open the gate for someone else. The bot became so popular that once an actual Guild Wars update removed the need for it, players started mourning its absence .

I know, I mentioned earlier that ArenaNet abandoned the game and now I'm saying there was a recent update. For clarification, it was work done off the clock by two developers, there is no official studio support in place.

Keeping the economy alive and providing services usually performed by humans is just the tip of the Guild Wars botberg. Even some PvP modes are now predominantly fueled by bots.

Jade Quarry is a bot hotspot since it is an easy source of Faction, a currency that plays a role in material and Zaishen Key trading, and would otherwise be unplayable since not enough players venture there. Players can at least farm Faction in Jade Quarry since bots don't pose much of a threat.

Fort Aspenwood is a similar activity but it doesn't have bots which results in infinite queue times.

ArenaNet Picture of a Jade Quarry match in Guild Wars Guild Wars

Heroes Ascent (HA) is another PvP mode that would be barren if not for bots. Technically, killing bots is not player versus player, but HA is the source of one of the most creative PvP rewards to grace any MMO - rank emotes that would nowadays be nearly impossible to farm without bots.

Long before cosmetic microtransactions became a thing, Guild Wars featured a pile of emotes, much like World of Warcraft. However, the latter didn't have any emotes that displayed their prestigious PvP rank like ArenaNet's MMO did. Winning in HA, known as Tombs with the cool kids, yielded Fame.

Earning enough Fame would progress players through 15 ranks. Every three ranks their /rank emote command would display a different animated creature, indicating their PvP prowess and dedication.

Having a cool HA emote these days doesn't offer much in the way of prestige though, as it merely means players persistently farmed bots, but it does offer a really cool emote and allows the game to retain that bit of functionality.

The role of bots in Guild Wars is definitely beneficial, but since they are merely scripted tools, it is inevitable someone would use them in malicious ways. 

As previously mentioned, RMTs are still persistent in Guild Wars and can often be seen in Kamadan's trade chat. While these are just a chat annoyance, others are employed by players looking to gain an edge in actual human PvP.

Guild versus Guild (GvG) is another PvP format that was highly prestigious back in Guild Wars' prime, featuring some of the highest prize pools back in the day. Now it is often reduced to players using bots to interrupt skills that have a cast time of 0.25 seconds. 

ArenaNet Picture of Kamadan chat in Guild Wars with RMTs in it Guild Wars - Kamadan Chat

Still, even without third-party bots, malevolent players found ways to bend the rules, such as using an alt account in Hall of Heroes (HoH), the final battle in Heroes' Ascent. The battle has three rotating formats, but always features three teams.

Some players tend to use a secondary account teamed up with seven henchmen, bots provided by ArenaNet, in order to reach HoH. Then, they use it to assist the fully human team of the account owner against the third team, resulting in unfair 16v8 fights.

When weighing the pros and cons of having bots in Guild Wars, there is little doubt how the scale would tip. ArenaNet have always avoided the topic but in some instances, they hinted at being aware of bot utility and are content with leaving them to coexist with the remaining players, in spite of the occasional ban wave temporarily disabling them.

ArenaNet Picture of a pile of Dervishes in expensive armour in Guild Wars Guild Wars - The amount of money spent on those identical characters indicates some botting may have been involved.

There is no official comment to support this claim, but Gaile Gray, the famed Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 community manager responded to a related thread in 2018. Her statement was that farm bots can never be a positive influence but the thread was not outright removed and the user who started the thread was not banned, which is usually the course of action for anyone discussing illegal programs (i.e. bots) in an online game.

Essentially, the response was that RMTs are bad for any game but as you can see in the screenshot above, even those are still around. The odd patch that happens from time to time tends to mess them up a little, but they always come back.

While it is unfortunate that bots are a package deal that includes RMTs and PvP cheaters, it is obvious to any player that the beneficial bots have become so integrated into Guild Wars that nothing short of full developer support and player base revival could threaten their place under Elona's golden Sun.

Guild Wars screenshots from various campaigns with new graphics

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A man with an axe running through a forest in SCUM
Screenshots from ArenaNet's Guild Wars video game, after it got updated graphics. It looked great before as well, but details for longer distances are a welcome addition. Most of the screenshots are before and after comparisons in-game.

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