The Importance of Bots
The inclusion of AI bots in any multiplayer game is always an added bonus. Playing against bots is a great way of learning the basics of a game and practising your strategy. It also provides a welcome break from the human element of any game, which can become wearisome at times. It’s also a good insurance policy for the future, when a games popularity may have waned and finding an online game may prove difficult. Therefore, I am pleased to see this facility present in titles such as Call of Duty: Black Ops franchise, Overwatch, For Honor, and Friday the 13th: The Game. Bots are also present within the MMO genre. For example, these include your skirmish soldier in LOTRO or your away team in STO. When I played SWTOR I found that some companions were invaluable due to their role as a healer. And let us not forget combat pets. They may well be fluffy and cute or have large pointy teeth, but they’re bots no less.
As an advocate of bots, I would like to see them present in a lot more games. One of the main reasons for this, is that I see them as a solution to player toxicity. At least half of all the games I experience in Friday the 13th: The Game are unsatisfactory due to my fellow players fooling around, trolling or simply trying to pursue their own agenda. I stopped playing Overwatch because too many players have become self-appointed arbiters of how to do things “correctly”. And I ceased playing For Honor online due to the proliferation of “lag switch” cheating. Bots resolve all these issues and conspicuously lack a propensity for continuous garrulous inanities. Obviously, if you are a top tier player you may find bots an unsatisfactory opponent. Plus, there’s little fun to be had crowing or taunting a defeated AI opponent. But for the average player, bots can offer an entertaining and enjoyable experience free from stupidity and annoyance.
I would also like to see a greater presence of bots in the MMO genre. Often due to the culture of racing to level cap, if you’re absent from a game for a while, you’ll find yourself in a level appropriate region devoid of other players. If you’re part of a big enough and helpful guild, you’ll may find others to help you through instances and dungeons. But that isn’t always the case and personally, I don’t want to have to be dependent on the good will of other players. I would like to have access to multiple AI companions from different classes that would allow me to tackle what is usually group content. Now some players would consider this an anathema, stating that it mitigates the point of an MMO. However, the Achilles Heel of the genre is the very inter-dependency upon other players. Irrespective of ideological arguments, from a business perspective it is not wise to inconvenience your player base. If I cannot progress, then I will go find something else to do.
I believe that bots may well become more common place in gaming because they ultimately fit into the “live services” mindset that is currently on the rise within the industry. Bots offer convenience and convenience is a marketable commodity. Unlocking a bot healer, DPS class or tank that would allow me to clear content in MMOs that I currently cannot currently do or more to the point, clear more quickly, is something I would pay for. AI technology is also something that is constantly improving, so may be existing prejudice against it will diminish over time. Certainly, the inclusion of AI bots in a game increases its longevity and that therefore impacts positively upon its financial lifecycle. And if we’ve learned anything from the games industry in recent years is that fiscal imperatives drive the market. So, don’t be surprised if the next big thing is the proliferation of bots. I for one will welcome it.