So I've been gone for a while, but I heard recently about an instance of automation ending in another shrub, and it got me thinking hard about the issue. Why does our Administration care about automation? To the point that they will cull what are by definition our more plugged-in of our already low playerbase. Let's talk about it.
1. Unfair Advantage
I see plainly this being the major concern, but in practice, why? 'Unfair' requires there to be a limited number of resources, and that is not the case here. The same tools of automation (coding knowledge and mud programs) are available to everybody, and just as importantly the people who have this skill and knowledge are not stingy about sharing it - see Theo's autofisher for details. Bashing areas are plentiful, and boosts to bashing are in such high numbers its almost ridiculous. Harvesting is individually counted. Fishing might actually happen if it could be automated. The playerbase is far too small to generate a physical need the game cannot already compensate for. It is also peppered with far too many artifacts, and even more utility items (warhorn, bug coin, atlas pages/shrines), that already craft an 'unfair advantage' in the same areas of the game. The major difference I see is that coding automation can theoretically be learned by everyone, whereas artifacts and utility items can only be compensated for with equal or greater investment in artifacts and utility items (...or coding, look at that).
In the event of a game or Great Hunt, I understand very much that 100% automation is unfair against those who do not take that method, however, the way the Turkey Hunt was conducted proved very much that 1) it is possible to monitor who is AFK during a short and crucial period of time and 2) that automation is accepted as a function of our game and the issue lies with being AFK and not with the coding itself existing.
A quick and lazy mention that 100% intelligent automation is not possible or feasible. The disadvantages to being AFK and trying to accomplish something are pretty self-evident.
2. 'Play the Game'/AFKers:
One word: Ironbeard.
More words: I'm serious. Even though 85% of everybody who was online at 4:30 am on a Tuesday the last week of December was AFK, seeing that many people online made the game seem big and lively. While AFK used to be a punishable offense by shrubbing, the game has changed so much that the basis of a Holiday Promotion is to just be AFK, and I don't see why taking it one step further to be bashing or fishing -- generating activity for the game, creating a stronger character (which creates competition), encouraging 'always online' which is at least a better direction than the alternative -- is to be demonized. This isn't exactly bug-abuse, generating limitless goods by manipulating a system -- these are systems in place that have been determined as 'fair' and have been moderated to a level of 'fairness' that is acceptable to the Administration. As stated above, it has been accepted that these systems can and will be used optimally through coding and that their ability to determine how close to the computer a person is is not only imperfect, but is also largely irrelevant. If I can be playing a two-handed FPS or my guitar or be on Skype, for HOURS, while I'm bashing, who is to know or care if I was avidlt watching Imperian the whole time, or if I looked over every time I got a tell, or every 5, 10, 30 minutes, an hour? Etc, or if I risked dying and sitting AFK at Dis because I went pee? Or to a movie? Or fell asleep at my keyboard? These are all wildly different circumstances that play out the same game-side, but player-side result in very different levels of rulebreaking that cannot be quantified or proved, but can be and have been punished. For the record, I've never intentionally AFKbashed, though I've fallen asleep at my keyboard more than once.
3. Love your Playerbase
AFK Checks made me crazy when they were being perfected two summers ago. I understand that at the time Admin were trying to figure out how to do them for Great Hunts to be visible without being easily manipulated or automated. That's certainly their role as administration, however the feeling by those autobotters being tested on (on like, a normal Wednesday) that they were being tested and constantly monitored. Mens Rea aside, there *isnt* a rule about having an autobasher or using it, only about using it when I cannot actively steer. The concern, at least for me, was that I'd be looking away one of the two-times-daily I was tested, be deemed AFK and punished accordingly despite only being in tetris one inch to the left or something. It was one of many frustrations, but I found it easier to not bother bashing at all, or even being online, than it was to watch the game as actively as I felt the Administration were expecting.
The AFK rule itself is loose enough to allow for some less-than-full attention to be paid just for the sake of having players doing things and being online. I believe that anything that discourages people from the game should be identified and at least acknowledged, and this is something that has cost us at least one long-time player recently to shrubbing, anecdotal extended-period qqers in response to afk checks (myself among this pile) - and for what?
This game genre is rolling over and this game itself is already - or should already - be extending itself to gain and retain players, to encourage more consistent playing, and to bolster interest in game mechanics.
I dunno, I'm too busy to play lately, I just heard somebody got shrubbed and I thought it was pretty stupid that anyone is being shrubbed for something as benign as automation when we are still struggling to have 3 daily players in every guild. And I cared enough to write about it apparently.