So are you suggesting that we give potential bots the Turing test? jk
Maybe a In-game flagging system.
Trusted players are given the ability to flag another player for certain behaviors, like bot-ing
And say the flags last a certain length of time, say nine hours, before expiring
Individually the flags do nothing but say a player gets flagged five times, and all the flags are still active, the player gets banned.
Keep in mind that each trusted player can only have one active flag on another player.
The bans should double in time each time, stating short then long.
1st ban 1hour, second two hours, third 4 hours, fourth eight hours. or some other exponential progress.
The idea is to punish the player lightly at first for mistakes, and heavily if it continues. Also lighter first punishments help prevent honest player that were wrongly banned from leaving permanently.
Ideally flag could be made through the chat window
Trustworthy:/flag botgamer this is the reason
and ideally a publicly viewable log could be made, with a 24 hour delay to prevent bots from reading it.
Also ideally the trusted players would not be in the same clique or formal group, but this would be harder to do.
The idea is to let the players do their own enforcement, thus saving the developers time, while not giving too much power individuals but rather distribute it.
To further prevent abuse and save the developers time, another group of trusted players should be selected. These players would act as appeals judges with the ability to revoke set flags/bans and reset ban counters (meaning the wrongly banned wouldn't be banned for a second ban length for their first real ban.)
These appeals judges would not have the ability to flag/ban players, only revoke.
Ideally they would visit the forums on a regular basis and promptly address any concerns over a player ban.
The appeals judges would oversee the flagging players and given, lets say, a three judge recommendation, they can either recommend removing flagging privileges from a player or do so themselves (probably through another flagging system with a longer flag expiration). Any judge player action must be reported on the forums following an established form, so that it is a matter of public record. I don't think it is necessary for flagging players to report on the forum, the server log should suffice, if such a log is unavailable then they probably should report in the forum but in a locked section that is not viewable by the public (to prevent bots from reading).
The idea is that someone watches the watchmen. Or the players watch themselves watching themselves.
This system if set in place should allow for minimal developer involvement in enforcing developer established rules by making the player police themselves. Only in extreme cases where there is multiple corrupt judges would it be necessary to for the developers to intervene.
In cases of corruption of flagging players and judging players, such as blackmail or taking bribes, those offending players should have their accounts removed, meaning the characters, gold, inventory, all gone. Players should only be accepted as flaggers and judges on the condition that it is possible that they might be wrongly accused and found guilty of corruption and they run the risk of the consequences. With great power comes great responsibility.
Lesser penalties may apply for other mistakes, such as enforcing non-existent rules. In, which case a revocation of their privileges might be more appropriate.
The real key to this working is good oversight by the judges. Careful selection of those would be necessary.