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How I Made $200k When I Was 16 Years Old Through Coding (2018) (medium.com)
611 points by rodneyg_ 42 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 217 comments



Games with strong user-hosted server ecosystems seem to be a great way for kids to start gaining serious coding experience. I went a similar path with Minecraft servers (and also first started with Runescape, both are in Java) - making a server in highschool and grossing ~$150k in a year and a half.

Before making a server, I thought coding was cool, but had never done much beyond running some basic programs. Making a server gave me clear goals that helped me learn coding much faster. "I need to figure out how to add custom bosses so my server will be more fun!" is much more fun and interesting to a teenager than "I need to figure out how to remove a Car object from this list of Car objects". There's also the very important social aspect - seeing other real people enjoy code you wrote is extremely satisfying.

And you can do really cool stuff with servers that teaches you real things, moreso than any class could. My own experience writing a ton of custom code for my Minecraft server taught me things like Unix, Redis, MySQL, web dev, reading obfuscated code, networking (like running 8 servers and writing code to pass players from one to another), deployment, basic security, pathfinding algorithms, writing scripting engines, etc. etc. all of which I had no experience with before, and would not have learned for several years otherwise. I'm graduating with my master's in CS now and still haven't been taught in class many of the things I had to figure out to make what I wanted to make. The few other devs of big servers that I knew had similar experiences - started off as beginner programmers, and gained a huge amount of experience from building out a passion project.


> I'm graduating with my master's in CS now and still haven't been taught in class many of the things I had to figure out to make what I wanted to make.

Maybe the fact that you figured it out is an indication that it doesn't have to be taught in a CS curriculum. Most of the things that you mentioned have great documentation and tutorials outside of the classroom. The fact that so many people use them without them being taught in schools should be proof enough. I think the current situation makes sense -- Computer Science education should focus on teaching the fundamentals of algorithms, data structures, discrete math and how to think conceptually about problems without regard to implementation. By learning about data structures and the like, you indirectly learn how best to use memory, redis, MySQL, write servers and whatever else.


I often receive flak for expressing a similar opinion when people express disappointment at CS not teaching them "how to code". Your tuition is best spent on conceptually difficult material, not stuff you can easily pick up on your own.


Whenever I talk to people about data science I repeat the old adage:

A data scientist is a statistician who can program or a programmer who understands statistics at a high level.

It's amazing how few CS people become data scientists, I think physics and economics degrees are the most common degrees among elite DSs I know.

but it actually makes a lot of sense - it's relatively easy to pick up coding. In fact, it could be the best-taught skill on the internet, there's no shortage of material for a person who wants to learn to code. I think that most CS people don't learn enough statistics to really pursue DS and a ton of people with advanced stats knowledge can pickup coding relatively easily.

Now when I talk to kids, I tell them that if they want to go to college, they should try to learn something they can't learn on their own.


great words


A similar story here. I was into the game and started running a Minecraft server hosting company in high school (selling VPS'es with a Minecraft control panel, effectively). I ended up learning and doing the operations, maintenance, support, marketing, taxes--the usual jack-of-all trades of being a startup. My connections and experience there led directly to me joining another company, which has subsequently been acquired and landed me at Microsoft.

I wish more CS/programming classes, particularly pre-college, were game-oriented. A Java course I took in school had us writing a 'database' command line app that held fake enrollment information. Had that kind of thing been the only exposure to programming that I was given, I almost certainly would not have entered the field. But show someone like me a way to automate or expand something like Runescape or Minecraft? That, I'm interested in.


> A Java course I took in school had us writing a 'database' command line app that held fake enrollment information. Had that kind of thing been the only exposure to programming that I was given, I almost certainly would not have entered the field.

Me neither. That said, in retrospect, I believe university is more similar to real jobs that people give it credit for - the tedium only gets worse in a typical dayjob. As much as I hate "fake enrollment DB" exercises, they're pretty accurate description of how the work looks like.

(I used to want to go into gamedev professionally; due to various life events I went a different way. Judging by stories from both HN and IRL people I know from the industry, I may have dodged a bullet here.)


The thing that always bothered me is that the “fake enrollment DB” doesn’t solve a problem anyone has. It’s play-acting at solving a problem. So you get the tedium of work instead of the fun of play, but the productivity of play instead of work.

Yeah, you can get there that way but it’s a slog, and the reward is a long way off. That’s not like work. At work you get a regular paycheck even if enrollment DB isn’t thrilling.


I'm a teaching assistant for an intro to programming class, and I do feel that solving an endless train of toy problems is problematic for students. From my experience, the best way to learn is to understand a real problem, determine it's requirements, then design a solution. However the professor and I struggle to find real problems that are approachable for novices with varied backgrounds.

I saw an open source class called nand to tetris where students had a semester to create a machine that could play tetris, starting with only nand gates. I thought that seemed like a much more fun progression for computer hardware than the undergrad courses I took. I would love to discover something similar for programming but so far I haven't found it.


Some things I'd have loved to be told to build:

    Simple 2d game
    To do app
    Timesheet app
    Implement a clone of x with something extra of your choosing
    Top Twitter celebrity app using its API
    Building a search engine
    Creating a programming language
An issue with the programming courses at my uni was that none of them used a database. The programs were toy apps by design. Instruct students to use sqlite or MongoDB, and encourage them to use PostgreSQL/MySQL.

Our database class did use databases, but we had no integration of the two subjects.


To do app has always seemed an optimal one to me, since it should be relatively accessible, no matter your prior experience, but infinitely customizable. I remember a YC founder telling me that both pg and sama didn't think there was a broadly available to do app that met their needs, so they both rolled their own (and continue to update it as their needs change). That seems like a pretty optimal intro project to me


I thought that the Java Robocode stuff was interesting and could help inject some fun or 'gamification' into development. Would that not be a useful challenge for CS students? https://robocode.sourceforge.io/


Thank you for sharing. This is similar to what we were looking for, something that gamifies the assignments to get students more engaged. Part of the problem is that there are so many free coding resources out there that it's tricky to find a mature one that people have gone through and found rewarding.


Game development is the poster child of this goal; many a programmer (myself included) started this way, on their own. It offers a highly desirable goal (fun and a creative outlet) while forcing you to pick up many of the important programming concepts as the complexity of your code increases.


I've almost finished with my cooperative work/university CS degree, and I always disliked programming "games" there.

Creating the 10000th Conways Game of Life? Developing some crappy game on my own? No, thanks.

Developing something for an existing game? That would have been great! I'm all with you.


Tell Matt S. I say hi!


I learned programming at 13 for similars reasons. First I got an action replay for my Gameboy Adavance, and this opened a whole way of thinking about videos games to me: I could override the restrictions of the game and do the impossible things I always fantasized about (for example walking into the grass in the Pokemon day care). Althrough I had no idea of how it worked at the time, it really sparked something into me.

Soon after, I got into a French MMORPG called Dofus and I absolutely loved it (maybe even a bit too much?). But since this was an online game, there was no cheat codes for it. After days of searching on the internet, I joined a few small communities of other kids that were learning programming in order to write bots for that game.

It was so much fun, and got me to learn about so many aspects of programming: reverse engineering, network communication, "AI", pathfinding, complex user interfaces, RSA authentication, security (the game had a lot of anti-bot technology), making a lexer/parser in order to have my own scripting system for users and so much more. It was messy and I kept rewriting all my code as I learned better ways to do things, but it was so rewarding having hundreds of users and a community around it.

I am now a professional programmer thanks to this, even through what I was doing wasn't particularly ethical or fair towards other players and the devs of the game. But I was too young and was having too much fun to understand that. I stopped once a friend got sued by the game company for making and hosting a server emulator.


It's sad how few games let you host your own now. Pay for XBL/PSN/whatever, or the PC game co runs all the servers, or Google wants to sell you Stadia.

Fortunately, "moddable" is a genre and people want it, so it can't be killed completely. Kind of like how adding IAP "makes more money", but "doesn't have IAP" is a genre people want, too.


Hosting a long term game of freeciv was essentially the catalyst for me transitioning from math teacher/trade union official to web developer, via making some web apps For the players involved.


I wish people were transition _to_ math teachers.

I understand things change, income is different between jobs. I am not passing judgement on the fact that you transitioned away. It would be awesome if teachers were paid as well as a web dev.


I was a high school math teacher (California, US). Best thing that ever happened to me was leaving that to work in software.

As a teacher, I was working 70 hr weeks to get lesson plans in place and to grade work. Summers were booked for summer school. Every minor "vacation/break" was filled with catching up on everything. I worked with socio-economically challenged inner city kids whose families (generally) saw no benefit to an education. The pay was terrible. After 5+ years and if I were not the sole income for our household, we might have been able to eek by. As it was, we were in a debt cycle that we could not have escaped. I would never have been a home owner.

After becoming a software developer, in my first year, I made as much as a teacher with 20 years experience and a doctorate. Fast forward several years, and I out earn superintendents. I can actually have a mortgage and plan vacations with the family and help my kids with expenses.


I guess this makes it pretty clear why we don't have a glut of competent math teachers: Anyone who could do the job would recognize it isn't worth it.


It pisses me of that basically everyone who ended up with bad career prospects from their physics or similarly difficult degree switched to tech. It makes it look like there are 0 career prospects in other industries.


It's not that there are no career prospects in other industries. It's simply that certain careers can be bootstrapped on your own, and others you need to help/training/licensing/whatever to get into. You can't become a doctor or civil engineer by just hacking on your own & applying to jobs.

This comment sums it up => "I'd consider it if I didn't need a four-year degree.", (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20101794)


That's not true. My physicist friends from university ended up in various different places. Many of them with a technical or analytical twist, yes, but certainly not all in the 'tech industry': several data scientist, a quant, various opportunities at insurance companies, one who builds spy satellites, somebody who builds lensing systems for lithography, and of course a few who became software/system engineers. None of my acquaintances from uni struggled to find good employment in various industries.


I'm not sure if I understand what you mean, other than quants and insurance companies I'd consider all of these "tech jobs". Or does "tech" now mean "webdev"?


I would have thought that in this context "tech" meant "software".


Eh, I don't live in the US and I'm not up to date on the slang, but honestly a sentence like "some people work in technology while others design equipment for IC manufacturing" sounds quite silly to me. I'll try to remember now.


Apologies for being obtuse. It was me, not you, that failed at communication. :)

The type of work, though, and skills required are quite different, regardless of that they technically both develop and involve 'technology'. Semiconductor lithography requires a pretty exciting mix of skills starting with plain physics (classical and by now a bit of quantum optics), materials science, mechanical engineering, data analysis/science, software engineering (both for simulation and analysis of production of lensing systems), and I'm sure I'm missing half. It is quite different from "writes software for a software company", which is the framing I had interpreted from the comment I originally responded to.


I don't think your interpretation is wrong, just the context of a HN thread makes it more likely "tech" is software related.


That's the gross oversimplification I went for, indeed!


Building spy satellites could be argued to be electrical engineering, space/flight engineering, physics, data science, etc. In the interpretation of tech industry == software, these are career options that are open to physicists (and similar grads) that aren't in the-HN-type-of-tech.


While I am sure there are local variances, a high school teacher in my neck of the woods will easily out earn the typical web developer by a sizeable margin. I cannot begrudge someone for doing well in their career, but there is a sentiment found in this thread, and I am under the impression that you are alluding to the same, that higher paid teachers will produce better outcomes for the students. I am not sure there is in any indication of that being the case.


Purely anecdotal, but I was a tutor for two years out of college and planned to be a teacher (originally college, then high school). I went into a different field for 3 reasons:

1. Pay

2. Professionalism - all of the teachers I saw and talked to under 65 were treated like dirt, and were micromanaged instead of being treated like professionals

3. Barriers to entry. By the time I got my Master's and decided I'd rather teach high school than spend several more years getting a PhD, it was financially impractical for me to go back for more years to get a teaching degree. It was also very difficult to find internships and open positions. One guy I know who did a straight teaching degree interviewed almost a HUNDRED TIMES despite doing incredibly well in his program and student teaching at a prestigious high school.

I'm sure the kids are doing fine without me, but I had stellar reviews from every kid and parent I ever worked with, and from professors I TA'd for. People have told me my whole life I should be a teacher (came up again just the other day with the guy I was pair programming with). I'd happily take less money to be a teacher, but when you add in factors 3 and especially 2, it just isn't worth it to me. I'm not going to suffer a bunch of professional abuse and take a financial hit to boot to do something that my society doesn't seem to genuinely value.


I don't know where you're located, but in the U.S. if you already have a masters, you don't really need a teaching degree (a certificate is all that is needed in most states). My wife, an eighth grade science teacher, has a masters in neuroscience - no formal teaching degree - and is on the same payband as any other teacher with a masters.


Could be wrong but I believe it depends on the state.


I see your second and third points being issues locally as well – if you work for the government.

However, you might be interested to know that the most successful business in my neighbourhood actually operates an online high school. A friend of mine in another city also operates an online high school and seems to be doing quite well for himself. There appears to be a large market for such services.

Especially if you also have web development skills, the internet provides a platform to be a teacher independently, resolving the second and third points. The first point probably depends on your business skills. However, seeing how well that aforementioned business in my neighbourhood is doing, the potential upside is huge.


I think that is pretty common in the west. A social job does not pay as well, you should be doing it for the greater good. Today's society does not value the future


A person taking a job in teaching benefits society as a whole but disadvantages them individually. We should transfer some of that benefit to them to make it an attractive option by increasing taxes and salary.


Or, you know, you could send them some of your own money before you volunteer other people's.


What did he say that made you think he was volunteering other people's money rather than his own...? He would presumably also be paying the increased taxes he recommended. Also, why such an abrasive/defensive response when he simply recommended paying teachers a more attractive salary?


I think it's the other way around. People who gravitate towards these jobs are willing to put up with more, which while a useful skill in some contexts means that the entire profession has reduced bargaining power.


You might get a different perspective if this were a discussion board for maths teachers.


I'd consider it if I didn't need a four-year degree.


Hear hear. I got into coding as a young teen from running a counter-strike server and wanting to make my own adminmod plugins to do more cool stuff on the server, had to learn Small C. Then I wanted to go further than the restricted API adminmod had for plugins so I learned how to build and modify actual adminmod, then metamod, eventually was working in C++ building actual mods for half-life, was all fun and games at the time but gave me a platform for a lucrative career later in life, sweet!


I can relate to that. I've got into programming when I joined Blank-TV (which offered free HLTV servers at the time, similar to hltv.org). They've had a system that, nowadays you'd call it autoscaling, automatically booked new relay servers onto the master server based on the viewer count.

It doesn't even have to be programming. One of my best friends started doing little gigs for clans/teams and designed their websites. Each game had its own little eco system back in the days where you could offer/buy anything from scripts, to websites and skins.


My start into real programming was through EventScripts for source servers. Used to love that stuff. Taught me Python too.


Similar story on a smaller scale for me.

I wrote a plugin to fix an issue we had on our server, then got asked to do some work on the server's website to show news and in game stats.

Wound up on the admin team helping to run it. Built a number of plugins for it. Learnt a lot of Linux/ server ops through it, and the importance of backups.

And it helped me get a job. I showed off an Angular based editor I wrote for one an achievements plugin. The plugin exported data on available triggers and rewards ("is person in this area", "do they have this item equipped", "give them this item", "spawn this mob near them"), and the editor turned this into a GUI anyone could use to quickly make/edit achievements.


I hope you mention this in interviews. I'd imagine it fits your brand very well, as it says a lot about how you approach things. I wish I was this motivated at that age.


I'm going to try and remember this tip for when my kid gets older!


I have three stepkids ages 12 to 15 who are all interested in STEM, and we've been looking for a summer coding/compsci project for them. They're into games like Minecraft and Roblox. This might be a good avenue to take.

Back in the day, I actually talked to somebody in one of my C++ classes who made (IIRC) around $50k in a year running some kind of gaming server. I looked into it at the time, but it didn't seem like my cup of tea. I might revisit the idea. I suspect that these high-dollar figures are outliers, but it could be a good way to get the kids some valuable real-world experience and maybe they can make a few bucks so they have a little bit of spending money.


50k/yr is a low dollar figure for popular gameservers, not really an outlier.


You can't run your Roblox server can you?

You can make some mini games with their game creation IDE but no servers


It's eerie how similar my own introduction to programming and business matches the author's. I started playing Runescape in elementary school (I logged many thousands of hours on the game) and eventually started programming because I desperately needed to automate some aspects of the game (my parents restricted video games to weekends only, which made it extremely difficult to meet my in-game goals). After teaching myself Java, I moved onto Android development and built a mobile app development agency that I ran throughout high school and college.

People tend not to consider the positive impacts of gaming, but I think there's something to be said for MMORPGs. Runescape has a complex economy, captivating story telling, and complex inter-player dynamics - in other words, a consequence-free playground that prepares kids for real life.

When I first started playing the game, I remember spending many hours aimlessly walking around. It felt like I was an explorer of old; I'd come across something new every hour. That feeling persisted throughout the years as I unravelled new experience after new experience: learning to become a merchant, joining a clan, killing a challenging boss for the first time, and so on. Compared to the day-to-day boredom of middle school and high school, perhaps it is only natural that kids gravitate to these online worlds.


The vast majority of people "lost in the gaming world" is not going into programming or learning anything useful. Socially, it's a lot of "GG" and insults to each others mothers. Connections in "clans" or "squads" are mostly incredibly shallow and abstract, compared to hiking or playing sports in a team or otherwise engaging in groups irl. Kids are physically underdeveloped [1], programming MMORPGs is mostly treated as cheating and not encouraged. Sure, in a billion life-years spent in games good things can happen, but compared to the time invested? Not much imo.

It's absolutely understandable why kids gravitate to these online worlds but I regret the time lost in games and if I could go back I'd really limit my gaming to brief, enjoyable sessions, and invest my energy to more challenging and ultimately rewarding things. Building skills, building real relationships.

[1] https://www.bbc.com/news/education-46019429


> Socially, it's a lot of "GG" and insults to each others mothers. Connections in "clans" or "squads" are mostly incredibly shallow and abstract, compared to hiking or playing sports in a team or otherwise engaging in groups irl.

The best man at my wedding was a friend I played video games with that I met online (in "clans"). In fact, I'm sitting in a Discord server right now with about ten people that I've sat in a chat server of some sort since I was 14 years old (I'm 34 now). We meet up several times a year at different locations for vacations. Some of us now live close together and regularly hang out with each other's wives and kids. We still game together on a near nightly basis.

Maybe the relationships are only superficial and shallow if that's the level of effort you put into them.


I mean that's the case for you, but not for everyone. I've made connections in games (friends, guildmates, clanmates), that have lasted for over a decade. I don't regret a moment of the thousands of hours I poured into online games.


> programming MMORPGs is mostly treated as cheating

WoW, by far the most successful and influential MMORPG ever made, has a large API surface for displaying in-game information and automating certain actions, and it has a large mod scene that takes advantage of it.


Games give you a nice domain to think about that you get very involved in. I think they are a very good starting point for business-oriented programmers. You are very invested in the "world" and stuff that doesn't work as you want is painful. If it's painful enough you solve the problem via programming.

That's pretty much exactly how good and sustainable software business in the B2B world tend to start. As a HS student it's not very likely that you know much about the healthcare, legal or whatever domain but it is very likely that you "live" in some game domain.

I think there's some potential in cultivating this spirit and moving on to real world problems. Maybe something as silly as "talk to your family, what jobs do people have, are there painpoints you can identify, how would you solve them".

The good thing about games is that there's no bureaucracy involved and feedback loops are fast. It can be frustrating if you write an automation script that makes a task someone solves by doing manual steps (Excel entry etc.) easier and then not have it rolled out or having to wait half a year to get a report if it improved things etc.


>People tend not to consider the positive impacts of gaming, but I think there's something to be said for MMORPGs.

I personally know multiple people that were fired from multiple jobs each because they would regularly call in or show up dead to the world specifically because of WoW. At one point I had 2 room mates, both got fired within a week of each other and would stay up playing WoW being incredibly loud in the living room for 18-20 hours at a time, often disturbing my sleep.

This is not an uncommon thing. People get incredibly addicted to these sorts of games chasing fictional lives, not contributing to society, letting their health slide into oblivion and even often spending actual money to purchase in game items. There have even been deaths and murders directly attributed to such games.

There is a reason people don't focus on the positive, those with negative impacts on their lives far outweigh those with positive I imagine.


I would love to see a game like RuneScape but with a built in "script manager". It would be sandboxed from your machine for security, but promote building little scripts to help you play the game. It would be ideal in a non-pvp game where the points don't really matter (Like Minecraft)


Have a look at https://screeps.com/


I have nothing to add, just pleasantly surprised to see RuneScape mentioned on here! I can credit RS for inspiring me to learn programming after I got involved with several private servers. Android development was also a natural progression for me.


I thought building a guild miner in pascal would save me time.. i thought it would work...

Intro to Programming or how to develop an anxiety disorder wondering all day if your script broke or you got banned.


A key take-away from this is that the author learned to code because he had a real incentive to do so - in order to create bots to get better at runescape and make lots of money as a side-effect of that. He quickly saw how knowing how to code gave him abilities that his peers didn't have.

Now imagine if he tried to learn java by attending a class for it - i.e. sitting there for an hour listening to some guy explain how a for loop works. Chances are he would be bored silly and never get anywhere with coding. I think its important for people learning how to code to have a genuine motivation behind it - have something you actually WANT to build. Don't just learn it so you can get a job.


"If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea." -Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


This isn't specific to coding. A properly motivated learner in any subject will vastly outperform an apathetic one.


Best comment ever for this topic. I've done the same to get in to programming via sub-game script path so I can relate myself.

Ironically, I always believed the importance of the schooling but recently started to think maybe learning by doing without the necessity is easy to forget. Maybe we need new education methodologies.


A lot of books on programming revolve around using them to make games. I remember the first coding book I picked up about Visual Basic was leading up to building a small game with it. I think there is a lot for classrooms to gain by following a similar structure.


This is a really, really ignorant comment. I learned to code in the classroom with no other motivation besides paid employment and wasn't "bored silly." I've made a very successful career for myself in the many years since.

Programmers are not different from other professions no matter how special you may feel.


> Programmers are not different from other professions no matter how special you may feel.

I find it odd how offended you seem by my post.

I don't think that programmers are any different from other professions in this sense. But the subject of this thread is about programming which is why I commented about that. It is just like other STEM subjects in that - a lot of people study them at university, but only a few people actually go on to work in the field they studied. Some studies find that only around 25% of STEM graduates actually go on to work in the field they studied.

http://shortsleeveandtieclub.com/what-percentage-of-engineer...


There is absolutely a better way you could have phrased this. In fact, the easiest is to entirely remove your first sentence. You could make a counter-point, stating that not everyone is driven by external motivation, providing yourself as an anecdotal example.

Instead you provided an insult and then gave anecdotal evidence.


Hence why I said "Chances are" - meaning "there is a high probably that".


The Runescape "blackmarket" was a fun world to play in!

Like the author, I got into creating Runescape bots for a bit - but never works to sell them, just made my own for fun and (in-game) profit.

As I dove deeper into the world, I came across people who would purchase a monthly VPS and install botting software on it. There were plenty of guides on how to go through - but no easy solutions for those who weren't technical.

Realizing I had an opportunity to capitalize on this - I built up a hosting company dedicated to the Runescape botting niche. Each VPS would come pre-installed with all the required software and make it dead simple to begin botting within 5 minutes or so.

At my peak, I think I had over 100 dedicated servers each running anywhere from 4-16 VPS on them. Some of my customers were using it to level up their personal accounts, others were running gold-farming operations.

The business was fairly passive, and I learned a ton from the experience. Things eventually came crumbling down when the creators of Runescape broke the bots (This would happen on occasion, but things would be up and running within a day or two normally) for a long time. I had to shut down as all my customers left overnight.


It’s when people admit to doing things like this without any hint of remorse, and no-one calls them out on it, that it becomes evident that this is really “Y Combinator News”, and not really “Hacker News”.


What would they need to feel remorseful about? Automating a video game? It's not like they're breaking the law... I think bots are the least harmful type of cheats anyway. I remember my first intro to programming was modifying Action Replay codes for online NDS games, that was fun but I ruined many people's games doing so. I do kind of regret abusing it like that in hindsight but I would do it again given how formative the experience was.


I would prefer if someone from an online game company could give their viewpoint; I think they could give a more understandable explanation than I could.


Well in this case they killed the game trying to remove the incentive for botting and then switched to a microtransaction model. Excessive botting makes player experience worse without at doubt but at heart I don't think you can actually just outright compare it. At its height the black market supported many people in a much more serious capacity than as a pleasure exploit for the masses.


A lot of these people were quite young when RuneScape was popular.

I would also appreciate at least a small effort to not glorify their actions...but what are you "calling out"? 13 year olds who botted some gold 10 years ago?


Confusing Imaginary Property with real property is an insidious disease.


The other answers are right, but the best part is- that was literally hacking lol


how did they break the bots? I made a very basic runescape autoclicker at https://www.garyshood.com/rsclient/ I wonder if it gets banned in game now.


That's you? Well first of all, thanks!

But I think your auto-typer was really one of the only "allowed" 3rd party programs, and auto-clicking was never really enforced strictly.

When the bots got advanced, they pretty much had two methods via either injection or emulation of the entire game. So either they broke them through making a bunch of fundamental changes of ingame systems or the ability to connect to the servers.


They do it through various methods.. original common ones were random events, sleeping bags, slight screen rotations every so often, changing the ways you could interface programmatically with the game, changing colors slightly, etc.


Wow! I used your tools! I received a few black marks for using the mouse recorder to auto-cast curse on the lesser demon on the south Draynor wizard tower. The other Garyhood tools were fine though. Thanks!


Wow. You're the maker of this? I know so many people that used this program over the years. Thanks!


I used this to merchant in Falador! Such an awesome tool.


Oh yeah, loved to read this! Gaming and especially moddable games are a great entry into programming.

It wasn't exactly my entry, as I had programmed stuff before, but I learned a huge lot during my university time while writing a database site for World of Warcraft, which also had a distributed data collection mechanism by which hundreds of thousands of users could upload data gathered while playing the game to my site, where it would all be distilled into a database, of which a special, minified copy was then compiled and offered to be downloaded by the players right into the game, to be used while playing as a knowledge base. And alongside of that, people could query the database via a web frontend that used all the latest shit (it was 2007 or 2008, AJAX was a big deal back then, reactive layouts were in their infancy, but I had one, and I even wrote a 3D model viewer in the browser and something like Google Maps to view pre-rendered maps of the game world that looked like satellite images). That thing was 60k LOC Java (data processing and website), 30k LOC Lua (for the addon in the game), about 5k LOC ActionScript, some hundred lines of PHP and Bash scripts, and about 5-10k LOC of C++ for the native client to do data uploads and downloads. I eventually sold it for about 60k€ including maintenance, and maintained it as a side project for 7 years total (most of the time I was also actively playing WoW) and then it was abandoned because the site didn't catch on enough among the competition, and the game itself assimilated lots of the functionality provided by my in-game database (which was named MobMap and did catch on massively with the players, I counted at least 1.1 million installs over it's lifetime) so that successful service became redundant over time and was eventually discontinued as well.

But that project brought me lots of experience. Different programming languages and runtime environments and contexts, operating a multi-server infrastructure all by myself, using the latest web tech before there were frameworks that did all the hard things for you, maintaining a codebase over a long period, reverse-engineering (to get some of the data out of the game you had to reverse the original game data file formats, and since they changed with every patch, that was a continued activity done by a very small community of people in obscure online wikis, to which I eventually started contributing), updating large numbers of client installs in a secure and reliable way, processing gigabytes of raw data per day into a concise database (I think it was about 50GB XML incoming per day and the final DB was 4GB MySQL - and it was pre-SSDs, so I had to work all in memory with that DB to get the insert and update speeds I needed), this project had it all, and I continue to draw from those lessons in my job today.


Hey I probably used this back in BC. Thanks!


A nice story of how a young boy's enthusiasm and unhindered spirit got in the right place at the right time. I feel happy for him and his family to stumble upon this path in life - and then smashing it an building his own gold road! Alas, I also feel sad at the same time, for myself not having that opportunity and having wasted my programming skills all together after I went to university,due to outside pressures and chasing my own dick, so to say.


If it’s any comfort the alternative doesn’t turn out much better. Most of my life I looked down on prurient interests and instead chose to master my profession, convinced it had to be the smart choice.

Now I find myself on the wrong side of 30 with a collection of useless money and assets slowly coming to accept that I’ll never have that ideal lifelong relationship with someone that matters. Soon I’ll have more years behind me than there are ahead and anyone I find will never have the shared experience of being with me during my prime years. They can never be a life partner now, they are simply a partner joining me as I age and go downhill from here.

I wish I had spent more time on the hunt when I still had my entire life ahead of me. So if that’s what you did, don’t worry, it works out better in the end.


I think you are selling yourself short. I personally know people who have gotten married for the first time after 40 (and are now in their 60's) -- and are very happy.

It's not too late, and most people will spend most of their adult life above 30. The only thing that is better about being under 30 is less wear and tear on the body.

You have already figured out that money and stuff aren't the things that really matter, and that's worth a lot. I encourage you to keep looking.

Find someone who interests you, who is of similar age and experience -- someone who has also figured out that money and stuff aren't what matters. Yeah, you'll probably try multiple times and find that it doesn't work out (for whatever reason). But if you have reasonable expectations, keep trying, and honestly look for someone to give your love too, there's a good chance you'll find them.

One thing that might help is to find ways to serve others -- in a way that does not benefit you (except the satisfaction of really helping someone). Pick a charity or an organization that is doing something that interests you, but also benefits others. That could be a good way to find someone who cares about the same things you do.

Or just find a group that has events related to a hobby you have, or a sport that interests you -- anything casual and low-to-no-pressure, but is still an "in person" thing.

Worst case you do help some other people, and/or have some fun doing hobbies/sports/etc. Best case you find someone you want so spend the rest of your life with. I think it is worth the effort. so I encourage you not to give up.


> If it’s any comfort the alternative doesn’t turn out much better. Most of my life I looked down on prurient interests and instead chose to master my profession, convinced it had to be the smart choice.

> Soon I’ll have more years behind me than there are ahead and anyone I find will never have the shared experience of being with me during my prime years. They can never be a life partner now, they are simply a partner joining me as I age and go downhill from here.

You have it all wrong. Your "prime" is what you make of it. Thinking that someone couldn't be a lifelong partner because they entered your life past your prime will only set you up for unhappiness. I don't know you but I truly hope you do find someone whom you feel you can call a life partner.


There is perhaps a wrong side of 65, but I don’t think there’s a wrong side of 30.

I met my wife when I was 34 (married when I was 39) and I can’t imagine anyone I’d rather spend my life with. The only downsides are we’ll be a little older than average at college graduations, will be tired helping out with any grandkids, and are unlikely to celebrate a 75th wedding anniversary, but the game is far from over.

You’re not even to halftime yet... The grass is pretty damn green on your side, too.


What is tough with happiness is that the more things you have the harder it is to achieve. Or a perspective that effectively erase the chance of being allowed to be happy.

My own path was to start dancing, a tough one like argentine tango, since it requires full mental awareness. Which in effect means that you always come home with a grin from side to side. This will be true with any form of activity that actually makes you focus.

You always have the rest of your life ahead of you, it's up to you to make something meaningful out of it. Don't set out to find a partner but rather your passion (that involves other human beings not computers), and love will find you. And as others wrote, it's a bit of luck involved, but you have to give luck a chance to strike you.

I guess it's never too late, regretting stuff is always a downward spiral.


Same here. Took-up Argentine Tango at 45 and met more women than I could have imagimed. Finally met my life partner at 52.


It balances up computer related work pretty well wouldn't you say?


More than that. In my mid-40s I had a weird back/neurological problem and spent several futile years with physios, osteopaths and chiropractors. Then I started going to a gym where an assistant recommended tango. The back problem soon cleared-up.


Great for you!

For me it solved the puzzle of the meaning of life. After a couple of years I had a dance where everything just flowed perfectly. I clearly remember the feeling of 'dying' and being 'reborned'. That is now my point of reference going forward.


> The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.


Chin up man! I met the woman of my life at 35 and we're now in our 40s with two wonderful kids.


This attitude is not helping your cause at all.

Do you have your health? Are you fit?

Because if you've taken good care of yourself throughout all these years, you can definitely get yourself a great life partner.

If not, then you might have to work on it.

Either way, change your outlook if you want to attract quality. People with options won't want to voluntarily subject themselves to this persona, it's miserable, learn to love yourself.

The combination of good health and fitness, financial stability, no debt, no kids, no divorce, is exponentially increasingly rare and desirable with age. It's a hell of a catch, a damn unicorn.

When I was in my 20s I found fit cougars undesirable as all hell, in my 40s now when I see a fit single woman over 35 without any kids, no divorce, no drama or evidence of crazy, I get very interested. It's the same for women. If you make it into your late 30s and beyond without getting trapped with a bunch of baggage and are in great health, you've dodged multiple bullets! You just have to put yourself out there and meet members of the opposite sex (or same if that's your preference) who are in a similar position and discover your real prime years.


No idea why this is getting downvoted. Pretty good advice imo.


And flagged...

My guess is some HNers who have taken on said baggage but haven't yet found themselves single again are having difficulty agreeing there's a substantial disadvantage to having it, should they be back on the market. The reality is it severely limits your options the more there is.


Now I’m darned curious.


The funny thing is that someone very close to me knew how to program, and never once did they think it would be cool to show me how. I didn't write my first line of code until I was 26 or so. Maybe even later.

To be honest, I think that's how you become good - by working on your own stuff. I feel like my skills are rotting at work. I work with "cool tech," but I basically "learn it" for long enough to implement it and never look at it again.


You become good by spending long amounts of time on your computer, sometimes for 12 hours a day. It is a lonely and solitary activity.


"Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but don't nobody want to lift no heavy-ass weights." - Ronnie Coleman


Some of the best coders I know are 9-5ers, with busy lives outside of anything to do with computers.

I understand where you're coming from but this is also a harmful mindset for anyone coming into the profession - I have been careful to emphasise to the people I'm tutoring to not make my mistakes and sacrifice life outside of work in the pursuit of "better" coding skills.


Best coders I know became good at coding long before they started working.


To be fair, long amounts of time practicing is how you get to be a really good musician, or basketball player, or skateboarder, or anything.

But that doesn't preclude practicing in the same general area as other people with similar interests. And even if you end up practicing for 4 hours a day entirely by yourself, there are still 12 other waking hours you can spend doing things with other people.


Solitary, sure, but definitely not lonely! I got my 120wpm+ typing speed by chatting for hours and hours with friends online :)


Having a good tutor helps alot. It's like having a multiple added to the grinding effect.


I'm dull, what do you mean by chasing your own dick?


I suspect it has to do with pursuing the carnal pleasures rather than the computational variety.


As user 'thrower123' replied, I was busy jackin it and playing with girls which obliterated my previous schedule of learning 24/7 and being eager to do so.

I genuinely despise the change that lead to who I am. But as I write this I also realize that it was all me and this is just a bunch of self pity and I'm being a whiny little bitch that should not be scared of doing stuff for fear if not being as easy/able to as when I was younger. Fear of failure? Possibly. Probably. I'm too drunk to keep going and need help. Or money so I can take some time off and work on myself physically and mentally.


Holy shit! This is literally my story too. Playing runescape and writing scripts for botting programs was literally how I learned to program.

I ended up becoming a moderator on the RsBot forums and I remember Autofighter Pro when it came out. Super popular, and I didn't even realize it was made by someone the same age as me back then!

Anyways, even though I didn't make any money (I gave my scripts away for free!), I did learn a lot. I'm currently an engineer at Google and I honestly owe it to the incredible monotony of playing Runescape.


Exactly the same story here. When I was 12 or 13 I tried to use bots in Tibia to make some money on selling gold, eventually leading me to the path of trying to write my own bots for different games. I had one of the first proof of concept bot for Path of Exile which I reverse engineered myself.

I think it's really a great way to get into programming, since it's SUPER rewarding to make the computer game work for you especially if you can sell some of this work afterwards. I know for some people it can be viewed as a shady practice, but I regret nothing ;)


Tibia bot developer checking in as well. Started in 8th grade with Open Tibia and have been at it since.


Just for arguments sake if this was titled "How I made $200,000 gaming Hacker news" where it's the exact same story but instead of writing for RSbots he was writing bots for a site to game HN submissions and comments and manipulating HN rankings instead we would have a completely different reaction, regardless if it happened years ago.

Just a thought to put things into perspective.


Yeah, it's kind of concerning that an article about essentially black-hat behavior is earning so much praise in the comments. You have to remember that this kind of thing put a huge strain on Jagex when they had to (and still do) spend resources fighting against bots and gold sellers rather than development of the game. And in fact the difficulty of dealing with this problem led to the update which restricted free trade and did a great deal of damage to the game and the people who played it.


Aren't the MMORPGs also at fault? By requiring a long, boring "grind", they are encouraging players to automate their gaming hours. After all, we play games to be entertained, not to repeat boring tasks.

That's a good reason why this activity (writing bots) is not seen in a negative light even if it may cause problems for the company running the game and/or other players and the game economy.


The repetitive tasks are the fun aspect for many people. If it isn't fun for you, you have two choices: Either quit the game and find something you actually like, or use bots and ruin the fun for other people that like the game.


Not every bot ruins the game for other players.


Yes. As criticizing and nitpicking which HN can be, it’s amazing how uncritical many people here are as long as something simply makes money. Doesn’t matter what it is – if it involves technology and makes money, then it gets nothing but heaps of praise from the HN crowd.


Whenever a post about privacy or freedom or some other unethical practice of a tech company surfaces, I always wonder if people are critical for direct reasons or because they can't have a piece of the pie.

There are white-hat hackers out there and people driven by passion, but even Richard Stallman has enough income or social capital to lead a decent life. Being a paragon of virtue is a luxury predicated on meeting a minimum living standard.


Are you accusing me, and/or any critique of something making money, of simply saying “sour grapes”¹? It’s always a theoretical possibility, but I don’t think this possibility allows you, or anyone, to dismiss all criticism that easily. It’s too easy; it’s like saying “a wizard did it” – sure, it’s possible, but unlikely, and this argument doesn’t help the discussion, since it doesn’t lead anywhere.

You make a similar dismissal of people being virtuous, saying that they can only be virtuous since they otherwise can afford it, thereby implicitly excusing anyone else’s non-virtuous behavior if they aren’t feeling rich enough at the moment. This is similarly seductive argument, but it has real practical limits. If you are stealing bread because you are starving, that’s one thing, but as soon as you go a little beyond that, it’s certainly on you to live up to your own ethical standards.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fox_and_the_Grapes


I notice a similar phenomenon with posts about Bitcoin; I always wonder if criticism is due to genuine belief or jealousy/regret in missing out on the first several orders-of-magnitude increase in value.


They were offered an easy, fun, tech-intensive, intellectually stimulating game to play with the possibility of becoming a multi-millionaire if they simply played. And they didn't. So now they wish for its demise.


Precisely. They either wish its demise (“Bitcoin sucks and/or it’s dumb”) or they want to invent a new game (“buy my altcoin!!”) in hopes that it generates the same success.

I’m pretty convinced that anti-Bitcoin sentiment will be forgotten and/or disdained in a few decades.


I see a lot of posts about people relating to the story and how they had a similar start in their engineering career.

I have not seen a single post praising the author's unabashed ruthlessness to make money illegally through the company's efforts.

All stories have multiple perspectives that everyone can relate to, agree with, and disagree with. In this case, many more people feel a relation to the story and want to voice it. If there is a large part of the community that disagrees with the author's way of going about it, either they are not as passionate about their disagreements, or did not wish to comment on the article, but these things are not mutually exclusive.[0]

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survivorship_bias


I remember someone doing a Show HN and getting heavily criticized and downvoted for their spam practices (as I recall, their tool was designed to bypass Gmail's antispam measures for "marketers") - despite making a lot of money. So, not all is lost.


This is a good example of an uncomfortable aspect of human nature. Deep down we don't really want to follow the social contract so we respect and sometimes glorify people who don't, at a conscious or unconscious level, and even if they turn out to be monsters.

It's only when the person is framed to be in opposition to us that we stop doing this and start complaining.

That's why you can have people loving Iron Man as a character when they would hate him in real life. In fact the character's creator explicitly wrote him as a personal challenge: someone who went against the morality grain but whom audiences would learn to identity with regardless.

Of course the kid was hardly a monster for making bots but he did play a part in hurting the game and players who didn't cheat, and is cheered for it.


And similarly if a piece written by Escobar that had never been seen before surfaced and was published I imagine it would upvoted to the moon with a title like "How I made 30 billion dollars capturing 80% of a U.S. market"


Well the show Narcos is exactly that, glorifying Escobar to some extent.


Debatable. He was portrayed as a piece of shit and his death shown as a celebration.


I like reading all the posts where people are like, "Hey, that's my story, too!" Uplifting thread.

It most certainly takes motivation (I say passion) to become a self-taught programmer. I think the "larval stage" (http://www.hacker-dictionary.com/terms/larval-stage) is critical. That transformation makes you a different kind of programmer.

I am also a self-taught programmer, but I came at it from a different angle, long before this internet age. I wasn't hacking on games (although I did do that sometimes). I was hacking the machine (PC-XT!) and the OS and software that ran on it. I was fascinated. I went from command-line, to scripting, to Microsoft C, and then it took off from there, and I've been at it professionally uninterrupted since 1990.

I didn't go back to school for CS, though. I wish I did, and am happy to see other people here have. I think that's important. I had to teach myself all the best practices (thank goodness for "Code Complete") or learn them on the job.

This probably isn't 100% kosher, but this kind of story is a good indicator when hiring. If you ask how someone got their start and it's this kind of self-motivated journey they invariably make good employees. Over the years we've most certainly noticed there is a significant difference in value between someone who chose programming because it's a job and someone where programming chose them.


Ah, its nice to reminicse!

Back in my day, games weren't online, and I didn't really have the hardware to do them justice, nor the money to buy good hardware or games either. I remember playing Wolfenstein 3D from a cover-disk in a tiny postage-stamp sized window. At school we used to pass around cover-disks because we couldn't all afford to buy every mag.

Anyway, I kind of started programming from the get-go, and for a long time, programming _was_ my game. By the time I got to uni I found myself writing modding tools and editors for various games that my friends played or wanted to make mods for.

By then I had somehow found myself in a 'rogue' part of a very big company. I was surrounded by contractors making £60/hour so I started my own contracting company and was soon making way more money than I've ever made since.

Once I graduated I went into normal being-an-employee mode, and things have been getting financially worse ever since.

So its interesting, scary and confusing to read this guy's account of how he dropped out of school and has set up a stream of companies to sell his small products. Interesting, obviously. Scary, because I fear that some young people are reading it and thinking "I don't need school! I can make money!". Its the same way I get all scared when my daughters tell me how much youtubers apparently make. And confusing, because I can't spot the value in any of the products and stuff he has created recently. I guess I really don't get this whole social online world?! Perhaps I went in entirely the wrong direction all those years ago when I went and got a normal job?

Good luck to him!

Not sure what advice I'd give to a young kid now, though. To be honest, I'm not very keen on being an employee. But would you tell a kid to drop out of school and try and get funding for an app they sell to colleges etc?


Some people make it as you tubers. Some make it in professional sports, some make it in Hollywood.

Most don’t. It’s nothing new.


> I was surrounded by contractors making £60/hour so I started my own contracting company and was soon making way more money than I've ever made since.

> Once I graduated I went into normal being-an-employee mode, and things have been getting financially worse ever since.

> Scary, because I fear that some young people are reading it and thinking "I don't need school! I can make money!".

Um... did you need school? You skipped the part where it helped you. (And were explicit that it hurt!) Why did you leave your personal contracting company?


I was part of a big company graduate-recruitment-program so I spent my summers interning with them. Luckily I landed in a team they called 'FastTrack' and that was where these contractors were. One of my war stories from that time: https://williamedwardscoder.tumblr.com/post/17282439831/an-e...

When I went back to uni, I set up my contracting company and continued to work for them, but now as a contractor. I even managed to get on their 'preferred supplier' list, which was a really major coup. Anyway, it paid for uni.


> Wolfenstein 3D from a cover-disk in a tiny postage-stamp sized window

The only way to play on a 286 without game-breaking stuttering visuals. Oh how far we've come in such a (relatively) short time.


wow, this is kinda similar to how I got into coding and reverse engineering. what got me into it was Ultima Online and my first serious effort at learning coding was in C# of all languages. I focused on macroing and I helped pioneer/consolidate hacks across (hundred+?) client versions. I made a macroing client with built in script compilation (C# of course) which included code completion and syntax highlighting back when it was pretty difficult to do. the main difference is I decided to become a drug dealer instead of a professional coder and though I had pretty amazing short term success I'm now considered a violent felon by the state of California.


When I was a kid, I learned so much about programming by doing those kinds of "illegal" activities. When you are young you are reckless, adventurous, you want to cheat the system. My first introduction to programming was through a bot for a MMORPG too, which was used to harvest resources. I then started to build bot for mini games where you could win prizes if you had the highest score, and resold those prizes on second hand markets. I also learned about "hacking" because it felt cool and underground. I believe kids should be protected from the heavy legal repercussion you could have by doing those things, as long as the intent was curiosity and a lack of awareness of laws. Every thing is getting more protected/regulated and it has become so easy to ruin your parents life if you are a little bit too curious. I don't really know what the solution is, but I hope my kids will be able to experience like I did !


I'm jealous. I made $700 for a two year project that started when I was 15. :)

When the project started, my partner and I (that's right, the $700 was for both of us) thought that $700 was an enormous sum and that we were being very clever. (This was in 1984).

After two years (18 months of which was after my partner left for college) I finally was able to bring the project over the finish line.


> thought that $700 was an enormous sum and that we were being very clever. (This was in 1984)

This made me laugh out loud, it reminds me of the prizes Atari would give software devs via Atari Program Exchange (APX) contests, some of which teens won, which would be a few hundred bucks (or sometimes more) of credit for hardware usually, plus royalties on sales of the software


I don’t know why, but cheating in Runescape is hardest drug ever. I’ve got banned in 2005, never touched gaming after that.

Anyone remember SCAR?


For those that don't know, SCAR is a scripting IDE. It was originally created for Runescape, but it can easily be used for many other games or automated tasks. Scripts are written in the Pascal programming language (super old school!). The IDE provides the ability to focus on windows, track screen coordinates, and get pixel color values. There is a large standard library of functions- MoveMouse(), ClickMouse(), FindBitmap(), FindColor(), TypeKeys('asdf')- basically all the building blocks necessary to emulate human input. There are probably better scripting IDEs out there nowadays, but back then, this was one of the best.


SCAR was I think the first programming I did. It was very good software, really made it enjoyable. So much so that SCAR eventually _became_ the game.

Every morning before school and every afternoon when I got home I would check on my bot to see it either:

- Murdering chickens/Mining/Cutting wood

- Stuck on a tree

- Stock on the log in screen

I just remember how carefully i had to debug those scar scripts. A bug could waste night of botting, or worse do something suspicious and get your account locked.

I worry that kids growing up today have fewer opportunities like this.


I remember back around the same time in 2008ish, I was reading the old WoW Glider (Glider was a Bot for WoW) forums and came across someone who was running a massive WoW farm from Germany racking in close to 150k a year. It's so interesting to see the transition both games have gone through to embrace the Pay-To-(Somewhat)-Get-Ahead with both WoW offering Tokens ($20 for 150k gold) and RuneScape offering Bonds ($7 for 4 million GP).


I dabbled in selling scripts for Wow, D3, RS, NeoPets way way back, even wall hacks and auto-aim bits for FPS games... Wow was the best in my opinion - it was fun waking every morning with an ungodly amount of loot, felt like Christmas.

It led to a passion for process automation, both hardware and software.

The one thing I could never overcome were the people in my surroundings - family, school, work ... they all said I was a cheat and if I cheat at video games what else wouldn’t I cheat at, why stop there. I haven’t noticed one comment regarding the ethics or morality of process automation for video games even though almost all games ban it under TOS. Would be fun to have a game encourage scripting.


Could be my then neighbor. Started while in school and made around that sum with Glider. Went to study engineering (nothing IT) and then tried to focus on his health and reduced the wow sidejob.


"I began to spend much less time gaming, and the majority of my time developing my bot."

That's what happened to me. I started playing games, then modifying them, then writing my own, then the coding consumed all my time.

https://www.classicempire.com/history.html


It's kinda sad how games don't really work this way anymore. There are few open-world sandbox games and mods aren't really a thing. It's "free-to-play" skinner box treadmills from here on out.


Minecraft is still huge, and moddable. Sure lots of people moved to Bedrock edition on Consoles/Win10 but plenty of people still play the Java version and develop mods, resource packs, shader packs, etc.

Racing Sims like Assetto Corsa have a decent sized modding community with people designing and coding new car models, modifications to the physics/handling, audio packs, tracks/maps, etc.

Flight Sims are the same, and lots of other Simulator games.

As for open world games... Skyrim, GTAV, Empyrion, Space Engineers, Terraria, Starbound, are all moddable and have thriving communities.

Then there's the entire Steam genre of moddable games: https://store.steampowered.com/tags/en/Moddable#p=0&tab=TopS...

Modding is very much alive and well. I'd suggest just finding any of the above games that interest you and having a play with the mod system. I find it a very entertaining and interesting way to learn more about programming due to the specific constraints of each game.


reverse engineering is your friend. i've modded all sorts of stuff that never intended it... Full Tilt Poker back in the day, MechWarrior Online, Ultima Online, etc. Learning how to hook into a program's functions and extract real-time data without destroying the stack, properly calling game functions with your own arguments, and translating your patches to new client versions is all pretty interesting and gratifying IMO.


If you do this in any recent game you'll get banned. If you do this in any Valve game you'll get VAC banned.


Bots get you banned in Runescape too, which is what the OP article is about. What's your point?


Botting/cheat detection mechanisms have changed and evolved since RS.


There's plenty of games that still embrace modding and sandboxes, you just have to look outside the AAA mainstream.


Be the change you want to see.


I also got started programming writing RS bots, private servers, cheat clients, and eventually reverse engineering the game client (and sometimes other people's scripts) to write bot frameworks. I remember talking smack to the article author in the private RSBots script authors forums as a 13 year old and getting banned a few times. Good memories of a great community, with lots of people who ended up in solid careers doing impressive engineering work. Every so often I get a DM from somebody who wants to meet up IRL to grab a coffee almost 15yrs later. If anyone reading this remembers Bomb/Contra/RFTO/RECoders hit me up!


I wonder how many people got into coding because of Runescape like the author... I have almost the same origin story [1] and I know a lot of people who also do.

[1] https://victorzhou.com/blog/how-i-became-a-programmer/


Douglas Rushkoff's Cyberia (1994) has some coverage on the idea of a true hacker and the "curious" personality archetype that matches it. It was more than 10 years ago that I read it and it resonated strongly with me, so perhaps it's worth a read if you like to understand more of the psychological roots.

https://www.amazon.com/Cyberia-Trenches-Cyberspace-Douglas-R...


Great author.

Both fiction and non-fiction.

I highly recommend ‘Exit Strategy’.


I got into programming because of Runescape as well! Although my beginning was bots written in AutoHotKey that would:

1) Search screen for pixels within the color of bones

2) Pick up bones

3) Bury bones

My prayer level went through the roof! Then they implemented "sleep", a system where each action added a bit of "exhaustion" that could only be solved by walking to a bed, sleeping, and typing in a captcha in order to wake up. Killed my bots! But not my love of programming :-)


You can count me as another data point. I started taking coding seriously at around 11/12 years old, working on one of the big Runescape fansites, and very quickly lost interest in playing the game because I found coding to be more fun.

I wonder where this is happening today, for the next generation of developers. Roblox seems like a big one, are there others?


I share that sentiment. My first exposure to programming was some C++ when I was 13th but I gave up 2 months in. It was my fanaticism over playing Runescape that reintroduced me to programming through making bots with SCAR.


I was planning to introduce my kids to game development this summer. Is Gamemaker still the best platform to introduce kids to game dev? My kids know a bit of scratch...


Similar story here, though I was more into the IRC servers used by runescapers to communicate, and creating IRC bots and the like


I started mine in writing autohotkey scripts for MMO's / DoTA and making custom maps with starcraft


Similar for me, but custom maps in wc3 instead.


I was heavily involved in the private server scene in the late 2000s :-)


Wow, exactly how I got into programming too! although I made 40$ in the end instead of 200k :D The timing also matches up pretty well, I wonder if we bumped into each other on the forums. I was on the scar forums, then SRL, but the period I was most active was on villavu (iRobot), after Arga came out I started to become less active. I wasn't at all involved with the RSbot scene and knew almost nothing about it.


Hi there!


THE GenoDemoN?? How are you and ruler doing? Do you remember Lardmaster?

(I also remember that I became inactive, and then some scammer hacked my account, which may have left a bad taste in your mouth because you thought it was me)


I had a similar idea for Asheron's Call, to build a modular plugin system for its bots. People could in theory be authorized to receive a plugin, which would be beamed from the server and dynamically injected at runtime. Reasonably secure copy-protection (aside from the rare determined and skilled hacker). I even had about 10k lines of code written, but it wasn't very impressive (although there were some interesting gems). Sadly, the game started getting DDOSed, which led to a sharp drop in population and abandonment of the project around 2014. The game shut down within a couple years after that.

I love the concept of making interesting bots for games that aren't originally intended for bots, but it's becoming harder and harder to do so given the issue of cheating. Makes for a major risk to a project that is already hard to justify doing. I believe Blizzard has sued someone for making and selling a game bot, so there is precedent for legal trouble as well, which is very unfortunate for hobbyists.


I got my start programming because I was interested in writing plugins for the Decal framework.


I'm assuming that these bots impact other gamers -- either through some negative consequence for human gamers or overall inflation of the MMO marketplace. If that's the case, then these bots seem terribly antisocial. OTOH it seems like youthful mischief is a rite of passage for software developers.

Regardless of how you started: good for you, and good luck with your career!


As much as I despise them, they basically are to be expected in any MMO these days. There isn't much to be done against them. These big third-party marketplaces using hundreds of bot accounts don't really care about getting banned - as long as they make enough sales, they can just buy new accounts ad vitam aeternam. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the more shady ones used stolen accounts.


A "teenager does X" post that is actually worth reading.


Including or excluding the 40% fluff that was added seemingly because the author wanted to tell a good story more than anything? :P


Apologies for not really related question - is there a way to bypass Medium "login wall"? That's probably the third time this week I see "sign up for extra free reading". No any intention to sign up to Medium tbh.


Further to the comments below, you can also just delete the sites cookies, assuming that you're not logged in


Open the URL in an incognito tab.


anonymous browsing


Does anyone remember The New Yorker article from June 2018 about the magazine “Teen Boss” that described similar stories regularly, except that it was marketed to pre-teens and teens?

The cover of one of their issues is really something to behold: https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-very-unnervi...


I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that.


I also got into programming through game mods, but for me in started with making maps for Duke Nukem 3D (yes, of '96 vintage!), and then 3D modelling and QuakeC mods.

A lot of people I collaborated with ended up working in the games industry, either on games like Unreal, or in journalism. I ended up working in the enterprise, but from the many bad stories of life in the games industry, perhaps it was a lucky escape :)


The perfect mix of dumb luck and foolishness. Bet he had no idea of the business opportunity that was arising. And to think that many people spend their lives trying to find a small niche and build businesses and fail each time.


Reading this article + accompanying comments has me reminiscing on how awesome the Runescape community was back in the day. Scripting for SCAR, Moderating on Sythe.org (screen name Puto & Heist if anyone's out there) and trafficking massive amounts of internet goods via PayPal bring back some of my fondest memories on the internet.

I credit a good portion of my career success today to Runescape-centric experiences in CS, Business and Community Politics.

Thank you Andrew Gower + JaGeX team for creating a game much larger than itself.


Runescape was great for anyone with parents who wouldn't let you install things. All you needed was a browser and java, super low bar for entry into the world of grinding.


You may want to address some of the comments upon your twitter app, if your going to promote it as an achievement. Though appreciate that it was last updated in 2014, so API's being as they are - change over time and would explain the aspect that it doesn't work now.

But amazing stuff and self-taught is kinda how many get into coding. How I got into IT back in the 80's. The aspect of bailing out your parents, that is something to be extremely proud of and a life achievement anybody can respect.


So... made money to cheat the game? How is that a great story?


I love reading stories like this.

Gaming is also one of the main things that got me into web development and programming too.

One of my first real projects beyond a Geocities personal site was a gaming ladder in 2000ish that a friend coded and I designed. It was basically a SAAS app for people to schedule, report and rank competitive Quake 3 matches. That project alone helped kick off a career in freelancing and I haven't stopped in nearly 20 years.


This is a great story. In my experience this sort of gaming-based route to programming expertise is not uncommon among programmers, and I suspect that it is a contributing factor to the gender imbalance. Scanning the quite large thread, I’m curious whether anyone is actually non-male at all.


A couple of quick questions I wanted to ask the author (if he sees this):

How did you manage to hide the money from your family and friends when you were still keeping your programming secret, before you told your parents? Did you have any problems getting certain bank accounts or cards because of age restrictions?


I made an actual robot to automate hi alching for me a year or two ago, to work around the whole "no software" thing. It just pressed the mouse button for over a month every ~0.6 seconds. Totally worth it. Just had to check on it every 24 hours when the client timed itself out.


Great story, Rodney! You've done very well for yourself.

My background shares some similar elements of yours during the same time period albeit with a different game, Habbo Hotel, and a lot less money :-).

In a few years we'll start to see more from the Minecraft and redstone generation.


What I find the most impressive is that someone was able to get a serious career start from one of the "Teach Yourself X in 21 days" books. I'd always dismissed these as proto-clickbait without any meaningful content. Shows what I know


That book was not his sole source of information.


I've learned tree searching and tree pruning when trying to write a bot finding the optimal way to play OGame (was about 14-15y old).

Never really manage to write the full bot, didn't know English well enough and the resources in my language were poor ;-(


I love this, because I can relate to it a lot, my story is very similar.

I started at age 12, with QBasic and VB6, writing Trojans because that was what fascinated me at the time. A few years later, when .NET was introduced, I moved over to VB.NET. At the time, I was playing a web-based game called "BootLeggers.us". When I got into an accident, my leg was messed up, and I couldn't move off of a couch for a few days (stairs were not possible), I was still young and alone @home for a week because my parents were on holiday. I laid on that couch for 3 days, playing BootLeggers on a laptop, with my arm on a side-table. The worst position ever. I did this nearly 3 days straight, and it was when I first got carpal tunnel. I couldn't do anything for quite a while because it felt like my arms were on fire all the time :-/

Some time passes, and I can use a computer again for a bit, without too much pain, but I was no longer able to play Bootleggers, since I could not stay on the PC for that lang due to my carpal tunnel.

The game is basically a set of actions you can do every X time. I had written small 'timer' applications that warn you when your next action is available, and I thought: why not automate a bit more of the game, since I can't play it for the duration I want to myself, so I started creating an application to do so. I've spent about a year and created a bot that could do everything in the game. It used an embedded webbrowser that was fully automated, so it was not detectable. You could play the game yourself in the application, and if you'd stop, the app would take over and continue playing, that way you could do complex interactions with people yourself if you wanted, and add some non-obvious behaviour, making it harder to detect.

At the time, I was able to run the bot for weeks on end; I had it set up to take around 3 hours of downtime each day to make sure it would be 'defendable' to have a lot of activity, still, my account would rank faster than any other on the platform.

The game then introduced CAPCHAs to the game, and the bot would not be able to continue. So, I created my own OCR engine and got it working again. Over the time, I've written 3 complete new implementations of the OCR engine, each working better than the previous. It was amazing to do and I learned a lot from it. Had a whole crew who I shared my programs with, had it locked down on your CPU serialnumber, HDD serialnumber and mac address to prevent it spreading to people who were not 'authorised', etc.

It was definetively the thing that really made me more in love than ever with programming, the sheer power you wield and adoration you get from people you share your stuff with was amazing.

Only thing that came close to this, was when I created the first online rainbowtable lookup serivce for hacking Tompson modems (got me on national tv news for a feature peace years later as well. It's dutch but you can watch it here if you want: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFfCEe9MuZg ).

Been writing software ever since I was 12, and still love it now. I started my own company finally two months ago after being the CTO of a startup for a year, and I'm so happy I did it, because I feel like, now I might get some time to get into some crazy project again :)

I have so much more to tell, but I think I'll take some more time later on and just write a big blogpost, but it was fun to relive some of that history again :)


These stories are entertaining but one must always remember there is some element of luck when things like this happen, and plenty of people coding side projects and not making a dime. So don't feel bad if you didn't make enough money top buy a house while you were are school!


You've got to give luck an opportunity to find you, by getting involved in things.

Once the author saw the opportunity, he then pivoted to exploit it through a lot of time and effort. It's pretty clear that other bot makers did not see that opportunity, or saw it and did little.


My perspective is you make your own luck - and really you are making a lottery ticket with probably much better odds than a real lottery ticket, and other upsides (if you fail you gain experience). But it's still a lottery ticket so it is not always useful to disect someone else success and say "oh they woke up at 4am every day, so I'll do that to be successful" etc.


Exactly. That is how side-projects usually happen, fun first then money/reputation/skill as (eventual) side-effect.


There are MacBook images strewn about the article, which definitely fits with hip coder culture, but I doubt he started coding in the Mac ecosystem, given how he started out in gaming? More likely he started coding in Windows....

if so, then all the MAC art in the article is slightly curious to me. Totally fine (I am currently a Mac user, and I’m sure the author is now as well) of course.


this story checks the "solve your own problem/scratch your own itch" advice for entrepreneurs/makers, you can tell it must be very satisfactory, it is motivating to read such stories.


How I made minimum when I was 16 and I was underpaid. Cherypicking story.


@rodneyg_, the link to 'cold-emailing Mark Cuban' is broken


Thank you so much for pointing it out!! Fixed it.


for me it was similar but with the game Tibia


How come a listing with full details available publically can never make it to top of Ycombinator but a medium article with gated content ranks on top?


What do you mean by "a listing with full details available publically"? Can you give examples of articles you feel should make it to the top to HN but haven't?

The answer to why this one is doing well is clear from the comments: a lot of readers found a lot to identify with in the article. That's the important thing, not what site it appears on.


Hey Rodney. Nice to see you on HN. - You know who :)


Hey Kyle!!! It's been awhile. ;)




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