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It seems that the appearance of bots in multiplayer gaming is becoming a thing of the past. For those unfamiliar with the concept of bots, they’re computer-controlled game characters, substituted for human players in offline multiplayer modes. If you’ve ever set up your own offline game and chosen your map and enemies, the enemies you’re playing against are bots. However, with the ever-expanding popularity of online gaming, bots are making fewer appearances in the titles on our shelves today. Why would developers want to cater to the inclusion of bots in their games when people can play against each other online?
The answer: every person who owns a console does not necessarily play it online, be it for a number of reasons. Many people don’t have the money to subscribe to an online gaming service such as Xbox Live. Having paid the full amount of cash for a new game, why should they be cheated out of their money by not having full access to a “true” multiplayer experience, simply because they can’t play it online?
The disappearance of bot options is becoming increasingly more apparent in today’s FPS titles. Could this be because developers are intimidated by the idea of successful offline play, not worlds apart from the pay-to-play online option? In this day and age, it’s been proven in games such as the Unreal Tournament and Bad Company franchises that computer AI has become more intelligent than ever; often capable of providing an experience more enjoyable than online play.
Why do some people prefer offline multiplayer with bots, rather than playing online? There are a huge number of reasons. Before jumping headfirst into a new game you’ve just purchased, players can familiarise themselves with new maps, weapon locations and playing techniques by setting up a local multiplayer game against a team of bots. Some people prefer playing against bots due to poor internet connections – gaining a more enjoyable experience from playing against computer enemies rather than players who, due to lag, have now developed the inept ability of binning it from one side of the map to the other, as well as becoming impervious to gunfire.
PC owners in particular are now becoming increasingly frustrated with the appearance of mods and general cheating in online multiplayer games. You can counter this by being “that guy” and sitting through it, filing constant complaints against them whilst deluding yourself with the false assurances that they will definitely be getting banned. Or you can do the mature thing and play offline—maybe even set up a local game via LAN. Another cool thing about bots is that they’re beyond the concept of trash talking and tea bagging. Instead they opt for a confused, 3-second circular swoop around your corpse until it becomes apparent to them that you’ve respa wned, which is in my opinion much more degrading.
One thing that developers are surely missing is the prolonged life that bots can add to games. If you do own one of the latest shooters, there isn’t all that much to do once you’ve played through the campaign and single player modes. Developers often push DLC purchases on players by acting as if it’s integral to the game’s experience, and then limiting their game mode choices. In the case of Halo developers, Bungie—”Sorry, you haven’t purchased this map pack yet, you can no longer play certain game modes.”
Local multiplayer can be fun, but is much more fun with the addition of bots due to a four player limit cap on one console. This allows players who don’t have access to online multiplayer to still enjoy bigger games on larger matches with up to 32 players, be it if 31 of those other players are computer-controlled. Bots can also have their intelligence and playing styles dramatically altered, setting them to an easy difficulty to use as target practice or a more challenging difficulty for a more realistic playing experience.
For me, the best multiplayer experiences I’ve had were on games such as Perfect Dark and TimeSplitters when I was younger. Get three friends around and fill the remaining places with enemy bots. The best thing about them is the variety they add to game modes. Potentially, there is a lot more fun to be had with bots as opposed to playing the same games over and over in online multiplayer. Should developers bring bots back? The only thing that has come of their absence so far is the domination of online multiplayer, sequels replacing prequels in a matter of months and a constant barrage of DLC.