From the Cold Planes to the Throne of Destruction expansion packs, the original Diablo II had a constant problem on its hands: bot accounts. These script-driven machines would accurately teleport to the perfect location on the map and hit all of their targets while picking up loot along the way.
The result was a compromised multiplayer experience that deteriorated the game’s loot drop mechanics. Online marketplaces offering virtual items for real-world currency only exacerbated matters. Although Blizzard has attempted to squash the problem, there’s no telling whether it will persist in the upcoming Diablo II: Resurrected.
Let’s see how we got here, what’s been done about bots, and what could be done moving forward.
D2JSP and Diablo II Botting
2002 brought us the Winter Olympics, the eventual FIFA World Cup champion Brazil, and the online community D2JSP. The website lets you buy and trade Forum Gold, which could, in turn, be used to trade for goods and services across various online games and users.
D2JSP eventually became one of the more prominent online trading posts for in-game items, though its roots derive from the mechanics and gameplay of Diablo II. However, the website incurred collateral damage by clearing the rise of power players and bots.
Because you purchase Forum Gold with real-world money, Forum Gold had real-world value. That means anyone with deep enough pockets could show up and buy items instead of grinding for them in Diablo II.
Of course, sitting around and grinding for loot isn’t exactly everyone’s definition of a good time. That’s where bots come in since all you’d need to do is run a script, sit back, and watch them rake in the items.
It wasn’t just D2JSP users who used bots; however — Paul Taulborg, the website’s founder, distributed a bot through D2JSP that would fill the website with items. From there, Taulborg would put up the items for sale and watch the money come in.
Enough people downloaded the bot to affect Diablo II leaderboards and player-versus-player (PvP) matches. Not only did bots devalue the game’s Ladder system, but they also took away some of the feelings of playing with others. What’s the point of playing when you’re likely to encounter bots that grabbed all the items on a map before you could get to them?
Things got to the point where bot lobbies were easy to come by. Bots in these lobbies could teleport to bosses on a map and clear them in a matter of minutes, with users able to party up with bots. To this day, you can still join bot lobbies and automatically get waypoints, for example.
What’s Blizzard Doing Differently in Diablo II: Resurrected?
When publisher Activision-Blizzard announced Diablo II: Resurrected earlier in 2021, people were understandably excited. The original was a critical and commercial success, so revisiting the game with a new coat of paint would excite any Diablo II fan.
Then again, the issue of bots understandably created some concern. During the Diablo Q&A panel at BlizzConline in February 2021, principal designer Rob Gallerani addressed the issue head-on.
During the panel, Gallerani confirmed Diablo II: Resurrected will use Battle.net instead of its own online tool. Gallerani admitted that bots would not completely go away, but using Battle.net will significantly cut down issues prevalent in the original Diablo II. These issues include the aforementioned bots, item duping, and even toxic in-game behavior.
Gallerani also confirmed Diablo II: Resurrected will make some changes to how player trading will work. The game will let you link items to other people in chat. This should make the process of putting your gear on the market much easier and smoother than before. This should also encourage more in-game trading instead of relying on websites like D2JSP.
The game will also let you compare items for trade with what your character currently has equipped. This should help cut down the number of purchases made because a player thought a specific item was better than the one their character has.
Although Gallerani didn’t mention ban waves, Activision-Blizzard uses them to control the influxes of bot use in its games. Why ban one account after another when you can ban a swath of them in one go and use fewer resources in the process.
Ban waves can be effective, but they’re not a perfect solution.
Bot users can use online trading posts to repurchase the game at a lower price using Forum Gold and the money they’ve collected. From there, bot users can create a new account or acquire a new serial number. In that sense, banning bot accounts can be a cat-and-mouse game at times.
We’ve already seen this happen with World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and Call of Duty titles. All three series also use Battle.net, so the same circumvention strategy has been observable across the board over the years.
Lastly, Activision-Blizzard attempted to have its own in-game trading area in the form of Diablo III‘s Real Money Auction House (RMAH). The idea was to allow players to profit off of sales of in-game items directly. Activision-Blizzard would receive a slice of the sale, meaning all parties would benefit.
Unfortunately, the RMAH eventually became dominated by bots. More significantly, it quickly became a pay-to-win mechanic for players not wanting to grind for loot. Given all of these issues, Activision-Blizzard shuttered the RMAH only months after its release.
There Isn’t a Perfect Solution
Would I like to see people lose money for using bots? Yes, it would be a fitting punishment. Then again, tracking down each offending account and issuing financial penalties would be time- and resource-consuming on Activision-Blizzard’s part.
Unfortunately, there isn’t one perfect solution for bots. If that’s enough to make you uneasy about buying and playing Diablo II: Resurrected when it comes out, I won’t blame you.
I’m not convinced that in-game efforts with the new trade-focused chat system will work, but that’s because of my years of experience dealing with bots in Diablo II. That said, it’s too early to know if Activision-Blizzard’s efforts will pay off in Diablo II: Resurrected.
Here’s hoping the black market forums and bots don’t ruin the game’s experience like it ruined Diablo II.