Saturday, May 2, 2009

AFK Gaming...

“AFK (Away From Keyboard) gaming is a technique used typically by multiplayer online role-playing gamers, but also can be theoretically used by any other game genre. AFK gamers use software, either in the form of a bot or a game's built-in macro system, to continuously do a repetitive task for them, over and over. It also gives the player a significant competitive edge against other players.”

I am an AFK gamer.

I started cheating (yes, it’s cheating) in online games way back in Ultima Online. I had two cheats I would use; one was for mining and the other was, I think, for leveling up my spell crafting. Forgive me, Ultima Online was, for me, far more years ago than I care to remember. The program I used was something simple, I don’t even remember it’s name. Essentially it allowed me to record a combination of keystrokes and then play them back. It even recorded how long the pause between each stroke was so that I could replay the strokes in real time! It wasn’t efficient, nor really effective, but it was better than nothing and certainly better than sitting there being bored all night.

My next cheat was for EQ2. EQ2 had a crafting system which would popup a little icon that you needed to match up with a spell. At random intervals this icon would appear and you’d have about 5 seconds to respond to the popup. I guess the game developers thought this would curb cheating, because if you didn’t answer the popup correctly you took physical damage and, yes, you could even die from crafting. EQ2 came out a long time after Ultima Online and I had grown as a programmer since then, so instead of just using a ghetto macro program I actually wrote my own. I wrote a program that looks at the computer screen and makes deductions about what is going on. Using this tool, I was able to answer every pop up that EQ2 generated at me and so I never took damage when I crafted using this agent. This was a big deal, at the time, because it essentially made me “invisible” to the Witch Hunters. These are the people who would send you a tell to make sure you were at the keyboard. They’d send me a tell and when I wouldn’t answer they’d stare at me for awhile. But while they did they’d notice that I was actually answering the popups and so they’d leave me alone.

Well, most of them anyway. I still got a few tells. Angry tells from people saying they’d reported me and cursing at me (I assume) in some language other than English. I never once received a tell from a GM, and I never once got banned for any length of time.

Just to give you an idea of how prolific my cheating in EQ2 was – they had a website which tracked how many items you’d made. When I quit that game my toon had the highest number of items created, not by 1,000, or even 10,000. I had over 2 million more items created than the second placed person. How did I not get banned?! I KNOW people reported me as a cheater – I got numerous tells about it. But still I was not, nor have I ever been in any game I’ve cheated in, banned.

And I guess that’s how I justify it to myself; if I get caught then all my effort is for nothing. The way I play is not for everyone, because few people have the skill I have and few people are willing to take the risk I do. But MMO’s have a saying – without risk, there is no reward. AFK Gaming offers the highest risk and the greatest rewards.

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