Robot Stole My Profits

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Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh.

Recently I’ve been refining my “goblin skills” to fund raiding. With materials costing upwards of 500 gold per night (it was significantly more a few weeks ago), the only way to keep from going into the poorhouse was to either spam 25 daily quests or become adept at auctioneering. I chose the latter because I’m lazy and like feeling like I’m taking advantage of people.

So I came upon a laundry list of resources to help me learn auctioneering all over again. I used to goblin it up in The Burning Crusade with nothing but the Auctioneer addon. (Good God that was a pain to maintain and check. Heaven forbid you take a day off lest your data be tainted.) I now rely on columns & addons like Auctionator + Trade Skill Master, Gold Capped, The Consortium, JMTC, TUJ, and Alto’s Gold”ish” Advice Blog to get more insight and efficiency out of my time spent posting.

But all the tools, resources, and expertise in the world won’t save you from something that’s immediately-reacting and lifeless. No, I’m not talking about Paragon. I’m referring to auction house bots.

I started posting a few weeks back with respectable frequency. If you look at my posting history (below), you’ll notice a consistent level of activity with a big spike in the past week. This is me experimenting in new markets beyond Living Elements spam. Ooh, I’m getting so sophisticated!

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But lately I’ve noticed a particularly annoying trend. My niche markets (meaning there’s few sellers, so-so demand, and bigger-than-average margins) turned ridiculously competitive overnight. All my moneymakers were being spammed by some level 1’s who would relentlessly undercut my prices at all times of the day.

Thanks to the wonders of TUJ, it’s super easy to see just what was up. My normal strategy for dealing with competitors is to see when they post and what markets they’re in and work around them. To start, let’s look at my own posting patterns.

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You can see I post in a scattered way throughout the day. White blocks mean no activity. Dark blue means heavy activity. I obviously have a day job, since if I do post, it’s piddly compared to what I do towards the evening. There’s blocks of inactivity due to me going out, raiding, or what have you. Point being: there’s reasonable gaps.

Now let’s look at some of my competition. Names withheld, of course.

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Okay, now this is weird. We’re seeing people just popping into existence out of nowhere with massive amounts of auctions. 0 auctions to 200+ overnight. Might it be someone’s newly-created level 1 bank alt posting tons of backlogged auctions? It’s possible.

But then look at their posting hours. You’ll notice the long, uninterrupted, almost-daily strings of blue boxes. If these scans are accurate (and basing its accuracy on my own profile, they are), these people are spending 8+ hours a day every day posting and undercutting auctions en-masse. With no break. This screams to me one thing: Gold Farmer Bots.

Who reasonably has the ability to spend all day, save for sleeping hours, sitting AFK in front of the auction house scanning and making near-instant undercuts to auctions? A human could… but even the most serious players couldn’t keep 8 hours of persistent attention on the AH undercutting things the instant they’re reposted. They couldn’t have gapless activity from start till finish. Even professional goblins have needs and obligations (going to the bathroom, tending to kids, work, doing errands).

So what to do? I reported them! I reported one of the above “bots” to a GM, and the next day they told me it was indeed a bot and actions were taken to shut them down. If I hadn’t reported them, who knows how long they’d be harassing my auctions and destroying markets?

It’s important to realize this is not implying every hardcore auctioneer is a bot in disguise. In fact it’s extremely easy to cancel, relist, and undercut auctions en-masse on a reasonable schedule. Trade Skill Master helps tons with that. But normal people balance their auctioning around other in-game activities / real life and don’t react instantaneously. When you see unreasonable amounts of activity and god-like undercutting reflexes, I suggest hopping over to TUJ to see if something’s afoul. If so, it’s time to hit that big red “?” in your system bar and drag a GM into the situation.

I like to think that this will result in me gaining bagfuls of gold and slightly disassembling the gold-selling economy (at least on my home server). But who knows? At least my markets are back on their way to recovery.

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