Bots – Bans and Appeals – An Update – OSRS – RUNESCAPE

Bots, Bans and Appeals: An Update

Following recent improvements to various pieces of Wilderness content, the discussion around bots and how we’re handling them has become an increasingly prevalent conversation. We know this topic is much bigger than Wilderness content, but with Undead Pirates on the horizon, we’d like to share information on what we’re doing to tackle these issues, as well as offer some insight into general improvements we’re making to provide some reassurance ahead of us talking about the update in more detail.

Let us get straight into it with a hot topic – “why are we updating content for bot/gold farmers?”

The answer to this is that it’s always an arms race dealing with bots. The reality is that as fast as we ban them, new bots are made. There are hundreds, even thousands, of cheaters – some independent, some organised – who target Old School. We continue to improve our anti cheating capabilities and removals, across ACT (Anti-Cheating Team), game tech, data science and legal takedowns – it’s a cross team effort. We’re constantly working to keep ahead of this race, and we’re actively working on bigger initiatives to tackle botting which we hope to be able to share more information on with you soon. Until then, what should we do?

Both our player-base and the content development team are extremely passionate about the game, and we don’t want legitimate players to miss meaningful updates because of those not playing by the rules. Sure, there are things we can do to make content harder to bot or make it ‘not worthwhile’ to bot (e.g. teleport delays, logout delays, skulling for loot, higher minimum fees) but these come at the detriment for regular players (as was made extremely clear by the Rev Caves teleport delay earlier in 2023). It’s a delicate balance for us as a content team because we still want to deliver meaningful updates that serve players from all over the game. Historically, PvP has been an extremely underserved part of the community, and we are actively working to resolve that. The positive feedback we’ve received from players has further strengthened our belief that the work we’re doing is welcomed, and we’ll continue to provide content for these players despite the struggles we face when dealing with bad actors. We owe that much to our players.

As for how we handle bots, our overall strategy consists of:

  • A team of anti-cheat specialists dedicated to stopping cheaters.
  • Using a combination of bespoke tools, data analytics models and manual investigations to detect and remove cheaters.
  • Utilising legal means to seek to remove cheating sites (bot makers, gold selling sites, unauthorised sales of accounts & merch).

To give some context in the form of data, here are some ban stats:

  • Last year we banned over 6.9 million accounts.
  • So far in 2024, each week on average, we ban over 67,000 Old School RuneScape accounts.
    • Of these accounts, 2,800 are for botting popular boss-related content.
  • Each week, around 1.5T GP is removed from the RuneScape economy.
  • Each week, around 900B GP is removed from the Old School RuneScape economy.

Now we know that you’re thinking “But Jagex, what about the HiScores? There are so many accounts that look like bots, why aren’t you doing anything?”.

This is an area we pay attention to, but our efforts can go unnoticed. As mentioned above, we regularly ban over 2,800 accounts a week for botting popular boss-related content. But how are they getting such high KC in the first place? Not all these accounts are bots. Some of them are played by hand, for many years. They might be a gold-farming alt, funding another character’s gains. Others may then go on to engage in RWT, or other illicit activities. This means that it’s not a simple case of just banning them – we must have a reason to ban a player, and we back those reasons up with data. In the end, we do get to these bad actors, but it takes time.

In addition to this, there is currently a problem with the HiScores in relation to banned accounts. We’re all aware that some of our current systems are not up to the level we require, or that you deserve. The HiScores are no exception. Some accounts that are banned are not being removed from the HiScores when they should be, and work is on-going to solve this. The anti-cheating team are working with the engine team on trying to find a consistent and enforceable way to remove these players from the HiScores so that real players can secure spots – note that this applies to all content in the game, including things like Corrupted Gauntlet. The ACT and Game Engine teams are investigating manual removal from the HiScores for accounts that have already been banned, should be banned or for any other reason should not still be appearing on the HiScores.

Anti-Cheating Improvements

We’d like to take a moment to talk about some of the areas we’re focusing on this year, and how that might impact our players. The first area we’d like to talk about is so called “false bans”.

If you’re active on social media, you’ve likely encountered players asking for their bans to be reviewed, stating that they were falsely applied. We want to reiterate that not everything you see on social media is fact. We thoroughly review bans before they’re applied, and in almost all cases, these ‘false bans’ are in fact applied correctly, with the appropriate supporting evidence to back up the action taken. Of all bans we apply, approximately 0.36% of them are quashed when appealed. So far, in 2024, only 38 accounts were banned incorrectly, and the offences removed, underlining the point that not every claim you see on social media is correct.

Most of the recent appeals we’re seeing are a direct result of us cracking down on illegal client usage. These players are consistently going against our terms of service and using these clients to either bot or gain an unfair advantage in all areas of the game. Since 2022, we have been consistently improving our methods of detecting these players, and we will continue to punish those who opt to break the rules. In the last 30 days alone, we’ve already banned over 3,000 players for this type of activity.

That said, we are not perfect. Mistakes do happen, and there are improvements that can be made, so let’s talk about how this is being handled.

Moving forward, we’ve added even further additional checks for account bans. Bans are being checked and verified before any action is taken. We hope this will continue to reduce the small volume of false positives we encounter.

Each day, the anti-cheating team review a random selection of bans that are applied for a variety of reasons. These checks are invaluable, as they help us to improve the accuracy of our detection methods and go a long way to ensure future bans applied for the same reason are correct. We are now doing more of this than ever before, with a wider range of variety to capture as much information as possible.

Lastly, we’d like to address the ban appeal system as a whole. While it serves its purpose in allowing a way for players to dispute when a ban has been applied, it doesn’t offer much in terms of transparency, and we feel that it could benefit from improvements, especially when ban appeals are denied. While we can’t share more on this right now, we can confirm that work is now underway to review how ban appeals are handled, and we hope to have more information on this later in the year.

We hope this post offers some reassurance regarding current situations and look forward to future updates from the Player Support and Anti-Cheating teams throughout 2024!

The Old School Team