The following article is an opinion piece and should be taken as such. The views herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the entire BlizzPro Hearthstone staff, but they are important and should be discussed/heard.
Botting. You mad, bro?
Now, before I get started, I want to clarify that this is not going to be a “pro botting” article. Much of the community believes that botters should have their avatars taken out into the street and publicly beheaded. I agree but on a much less aggressive front. This article is geared towards making you think about what the REAL problem with botting is.
Let me set the scene for you. I sit down on Friday night. It’s 10:00 p.m. and the kids are asleep. My wife has sat down to watch the pre-recorded episode of one of her shows which means, for me, it’s Hearthstone time. I log on and scan my decks feverishly trying to decide what I’m in the mood for. Control Warrior? Nah. Freeze Mage? That’s SO 2 seasons ago. Ah yes, Shaman. Time to chip away at that 500 wins some more and grind the ladder.
First and second game was against another Shaman. Both played the exact same decks and I thought it was a little strange. Nevertheless, I got rocked both games and thought to myself, “Is this the new deck that’s storming the meta?” Before tilting and losing any more stars, I logged off and went to bed fairly discouraged at my performance. The following day I was informed via Twitter that that particular Shaman deck is primarily played by bots. How scummy, right? Or is it?
So, what is botting? Some people have heard about it, some haven’t, and some do it. Botting is when a person uses a program that runs scripts to play for you. The script basically calculates the best play for a given scenario and plays it out. In essence, it’s a robot that plays the game for you. What are the advantages to this? Well, for starters, every 3 wins in Hearthstone nets you 10 gold (plus gold for completion of your dailies). With a robot using a script to play out the most effective way of handling a situation, wins come fairly easy and gold can rack up quickly. Wins also gain you higher ranks on the ladder obviously. In essence, you could start this bot, go to bed, and wake up at a good spot on the ladder (or better than you left) and a pocket full of gold to buy booster packs and Arena runs. With perks like that, why wouldn’t you use a bot? I’ll tell you.
There are several downfalls to bots that you should be aware of. They can’t plan out future turns. We’ve been in situations where we know that by sacrificing one minion, we can set up for a better play next turn. Bots can’t do this. They only run a script for the cards they have and the board condition presented to them. They also have a very difficult time playing around Deathrattle and some of the other mechanics cards have.
How do I know when I’m playing a bot? Developers of these programs have become a little smarter but not much. The program does a great job at making you think you’re playing against a real person. There are some pretty obvious ways to spot them. First, there is no target arrow coming from your opponent’s side of the board. Their minions just crash into yours. Secondly, you’ll see some less than optimal plays when it comes to cards with Deathrattle. They’ll have a board full of minions and crash them into your Sylvannas every time which kills their side of the board dramatically. I’ve seen it on several occasions. The part of the program that’s tricky is when you see the bots highlight various cards in their hand and wait several seconds as if they’re debating their next move. It’s strictly a stall timer that is built in and once you spot it, you’ll see it every time you play a bot.
How should I feel if I’m beaten by a bot? Well, it all depends on your personality type. Let’s analyze this a little bit. The basics of this situation is that someone is paying a program to do their job for them. Does it change the game? Not at all. You still played a game of Hearthstone whether there was a real person on the other end or not. You played your best with the cards you were dealt. Is that different than being beaten when someone IS on the other end of the game? Are you upset that you’re putting effort into a game and someone else isn’t? That’s everyday life. We all have situations where we work harder than someone else, yet they reap better rewards. That doesn’t mean it’s right, but it shouldn’t be a huge shocker. I can tell you that bots ARE beatable. The program is good but it doesn’t work 100% of the time. You’ve likely beaten bots and didn’t even know you were playing them. Does the win feel the same or different when you beat a bot? Did the game react any differently to your win or loss? I ask these questions so you can sit back and think about “why” you’re mad at people botting. Blizzard is upset because that affects their booster pack sales. That’s why 3rd party programs like this are against the Terms of Service. Also, it affects “fair play” in Blizzard’s eyes, which is completely agreeable. But, if you can go to bed at night and wake up with a fist full of gold in the morning, why would this not sound appealing? That’s the mindset of the community and player base. A lot of people have the opinion that “It doesn’t matter what has to happen, as long as my name is in the “W” column”. It’s called Greed and it’s a trait we all share to some extent.
Good dependable botting programs can cost anywhere from $20-$50. Realistically, you aren’t out the money; they are. You get to play the game normally and to the best of your ability. Your gaming experience is unchanged. Lastly, bots don’t get you to Legend. They get weeded out around ranks 5-7 as players who can plan in advance for future turns overtake them. So, with all of this stated, I ask you to sit back and think to yourself: “What is making me mad about this?” I guarantee you that you’re justified, no matter what your answer is. It takes the fun out of the game if you look at it from a certain perspective. But at the end of the day, you can still play your best and when you beat them, it feels all the sweeter.