Community: Interview - Kuren, creator of Helpbot
  We've all used it at one point or another, or excessively for this and that. What started out as a simple tool trying to help players out by telling them small tidbits of information like helping players get around, Helpbot has turned into a full-fledged help system.      
  And what better way to honor the people of this community that bring so much to it, than put them to the grill and see what makes them tick?

Thus last night, we met with renowned hacker Malcom "Docmax" Gaviglia in one of the capital's clubs to kick back a few plumbos and let him tell us about this automated information system he has running in the corporate net.

 Docmax, Twicer & Snowfish kicking back a few plumbos

Tell us a little about yourself and who you are?

My name is Kuren, I live in Seattle, Washington, USA. I'm married and my wife also plays AO. I test software for a living. I play about 35 hours of AO a week. I have a dog and no kids. That's basically who I am.

How long have you been with us? What side do you take in the conflict and what favourite professions do you have?

I have been playing AO for 12 months now. AO is my first RPG game ever. I started with a an omni Soldier named Takrel and got him up to L 112, then I started a clan Doctor named Docmax with my wife who started a clan MA at the same time. We played for a few weeks but since everywhere I knew to hunt and everyone I knew was Omni, I just switched sides. I currently have a fixer at L 50, but other than that, I really haven't tried the other professions. I have been playing AO solid for 12 months, I powered though all the unpopular nerf patches with forced optimism. My faorite profession of all the ones I tried was my doctor. I like playing in groups and doctors are about the most group oriented prefession.

 "Information to the people"

 One of the many public Info-stations

What brought on the creation of Helpbot, and how has it progressed into
what it is today?

Helpbot started from one simple idea: coords. I was trying to find my way around Rubi-Ka as a nubi and since I knew enough PHP I made a web page where people could put in their coords and get direction and distance information. Once I saw Slicer's AO:Chat module, the basics for making a bot on, I tried to learn enough Perl code to make my first bot. After about 2 weeks of help from nice people on the forums, I had my first version of Helpbot running. I added a few features as time went by, but very few people knew about Helpbot still. Once I added the /whois feature Helpbot became very popular, getting tells every 30 seconds on average. When I added the /level function helpbot's popularity reached an all time high, getting tells as often as 1 tell every 8 seconds on average. A few months ago Auno came out with a PHP version of the AO Chat classes and I rewrote Helpbot in PHP language, which I know more than Perl and I added many new features.

Tell us more about the technical side of the bot?

Helpbot is ran in a dos box on my Windows 98 machine, the same machine I play on. The source code is posted on and anyone can run thier own Helpbot using one of their ALTs. It's pretty easy to start the bot. Helpbot gets tells from about 3000 unique characters on Atlantean in any given 24 hour period. About 45% of tells are Whois's and another 45% are Levels. If you ever wanted to see some statistics, you can do /tell helpbot status

Any future projects or enhancements?

Helpbot started with one small feature and grew very slowly one feature at a time. I have no major plans for any new features, but as I think of new features I add them on the spur of the moment. The only problem now is that Helpbot gets too many tells and Chat-Flood Protection only lets helpbot reply at a rate of 1 reply every 2.6 seconds. So any new features will have to be weighed against the problem of too many tells in the reply-queue.

If there was one feature in Anarchy Online you could have, have built upon, or fixed, what would it be?

The one feature I'd like to see most in AO is a replacement for Helpbot's roll function. The problem with the possibility of people cheating and rolling several times until they get the number they want was a big coding challenge for me. I'd like to see FunCom add a roll feature to the game so that people in a team can roll live and everyone can see the result at the same time.

 "It runs on this AMD ThunderReet"

 Back home, checking the latest news

And with that, Docmax took us on a tour of his premises, showing us how it all works and how he inserts the bot routine into the gridfeed. Even with the corporate nature, Docmax believes in freedom of information and goes far trying to dodge the Rubi-Ka gridfeed defences to keep the bot running at all times, and accessible to all.

You don't really need to visit an info-station either, the Helpbot can be accessed right from your neural strata. A simple /tell Helpbot help will log you into the bot interface right away.

So what are some of it's features? Here's a few things to get you started. Telling it Help will show you all you need to know.

/tell helpbot Whois Docmax
/tell helpbot OE 100
/tell helpbot Level 100
/tell helpbot Whereis Mort
- returns player information on profession, level, side, guild
- quick calculator to show you if you're within limits or not
- returns info on pvp, missions, grouping etc. for your level
- traveldirections to get to a particular zone

Link to Kuren's AO pages: