Bots, Or How I Learned to Enjoy Multiplayer as a Singleplayer

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#1 Posted by norm9 (59 posts) -

I usually find myself at the bottom of the scoreboard at the end of every multiplayer match. This may be a partial reason as to why I find multiplayer games boring. And then one day, I remembered an option that I had long since forgotten about; AI bots.

Granted, most games don’t have bots in their multiplayer matches, at least not as I remembered. Titanfall 2 has grunts to snipe to go along with actual human players to try to kill. Rainbow 6 Siege has the terrorists in Terrorist Hunt. And Halo has Spec Ops which is essentially just large playground maps to kill aliens. But none of those bots act like how a real human player would play in multiplayer deathmatch scenarios, which is what I’m nostalgic for. None are replacements for when you don’t have human friends to play with.

And then I started playing Perfect Dark Zero.

The controls are stiff, the movement is weird, and there are maybe two or three people playing multiplayer at any given time of day. After one too many rounds where I’m desperately searching a map for the one other player playing, I went to the AI.

Perfect Dark Zero allows bots in their matches. This is perfect when you can’t get a full squad together on a game that’s been out for fifteen years. But I don’t use it that way to round out my team.

I make it a simple 1v1 affair. You versus bot. Human versus robot. There are three different difficulty settings for the AI, going from normal (agent), to hard (perfect agent), to terminator (dark agent). Along with these settings, you can also choose behavioral patterns with the bot too. Is he the vengeful type? Is the AI a bully?

I was able to beat Agent AI pretty easily so I moved it up to Perfect Agent. Definitely tougher but I handled it. So I moved it to Dark Agent AI, and that was something else. They actively search for you (essentially bee-lining right towards you) and can headshot you quite easily. They're so good, I don't even bother waiting for human multiplayer while it tries to gather people.

The most important thing that came out of playing against the bot though; I felt the same sort of faster heart rate, stress, anxiety, and eventually elation, just like if I had played against a real human. Even better, it doesn't camp. It chases, it shoots, it finds, and then it kills.

There are other games that have bots that I’ve played recently, most notably DOOM, which lets you do a practice mode with bots. However, I didn’t find the AI all that interesting, and much prefer just blasting aliens in single player. There’s also very good and pesky bots in regular Perfect Dark. CS:GO has bots, but I just don’t like the game in general so I don’t play that one much.

*I’m still waiting for an announcement that TimeSplitters 2 will be re-released soon.*

So nowadays, when loading up a multiplayer match on other games takes too long, I just load up Perfect Dark Zero, a dark agent bot, and pick Facility (home field advantage) for a 1v1. Try it yourself and you can thank me later.

So what say you? Do you enjoy playing against bots in multiplayer scenarios as the main nemesis? Or do you prefer they just get out of the way so real humans can fight it out? Are there any games with bots that you love and want to toot its horn?

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#2 Edited by inevpatoria (7476 posts) -

I really do wish botmatches would make a comeback. I find myself sort of intimidated and frustrated in multiplayer situations more often than not because the dynamics of multiplayer exist outside of my control at basically all times. I don't want to be griefed, I don't want to be teabagged, I don't want to have to deal with latency issues or server connections, I don't want to be hopelessly outclassed by demonstrably better players. I want to find a flow state where I can play a competitive mode and not feel like I need to be on my A-Game at all times just to stay afloat.

This is something the Gears of War games did really well. The bots can be tweaked for specific difficulty levels, so if things are too spicy I can always dial the competition back. The AI didn't follow obvious patterns either--the way they do in, say, Overwatch--so you'd still have these fun, dynamic situations in every match.

I think a lot of games could benefit from trying to incorporate bots in multiplayer modes. The first genre I think of, probably not coincidentally, is in battle royale games. I could really get into PUBG or even Fortnite to a greater degree if there existed a more painless solution to playing it regularly.

One more shoutout before I publish this. I want to give a huge credit to Injustice 2. Really, all of Netherrealm's games post-Injustice. Fighting games show extraordinary material benefit from offering good singleplayer AI to players. It gives inexperienced and otherwise unskilled users the chance to feel successful. That's a rarified feeling in the genre. Injustice 2 does a great job giving you a ton of freedom to tweak the experience to your needs and liking, without the AI resorting to cheap tactics or game-breaking telepathic methods.

Anyway, yes. Bots are good. Put them in your games.

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#3 Posted by nutter (2309 posts) -


I played a FUCKTON of PDZ DarkOps on 360. It was my most played game of the generation. Yes, that has opened me up to some ridicule.

I feel that game was superb in that mode with a group of friends. 3v3, 4v4, maybe a few more. Make the money start slow and come in slow. The first round is all pistols, vests, and gadgets. Maybe you earn enough for a shotgun or SMG, and eventually ARs. I found it fun, tactical, and super cooperative.

I could talk PDZ DarkOps all day...

But Dark Agents? We played against them here and there to switch things up. I remember seeing them litterally shoot guns out of their backs at people. They were bananas tough and it always felt unfair. Perfect Agents...I wish they were a bit tougher, but whatever. Dark Agents always seemed ungodly difficult though.

Maybe they patched it years later. Maybe I should just bow to you. I dunno...kudos, props, and all the rest.

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#4 Posted by nutter (2309 posts) -

I’ll keep my to-the-point reply separate.

Overwatch vs. bots is fun, especially if you’re shaking off some rust.

Rainbow Six Siege’s Terrorist Hunt is really fun, too.

I play most fighting games against bots because I wreck my friends but don’t hang online (aside from Street Fighter and DOA). I’d be more prone to play if randos didn’t have a high chance of being assholes. Talking to someone during a fighting game is fun, and I’ve played against one person for hours talking nonsense and trading stuff.

I also like wrestling games, but only play them with my kid. We tend to coop against the bots, as he’d cry in the face of my might and fury....(I know you’ll read this one day, boy...and you’ll know I’m speaking God’s truth...come try me...)

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#5 Posted by nutter (2309 posts) -

@inevpatoria: Injustice 2 and Tekken 7 are both cool fighters for offline play.

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#6 Edited by shivermetimbers (1721 posts) -

Ravenfield is basically a multiplayer shooter without the multiplayer. I think it's pretty cool if y'all want to check it out.

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#7 Posted by pweidman (2867 posts) -

Gears 4 had a casual versus mp mode with bots I'm pretty sure. Been a while, but I remember thinking it would be a great way to get the movement in Gears sorted before getting destroyed by all the veteran players.

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#8 Posted by lokihellfire2008 (160 posts) -

@norm9: wow. I had to check the date and yup, someone in 2018 is playing Perfect Dark Zero. I'm not poking fun. I am probably one of the few people who remember that game fondly and who actually love that series. I too had tons of fun playing against boots in those games. My brother and I or my friend down the street would play against bots for hours. We were the last humans against killer bots, who were designed to destroy us. We would meet up, gather resources and then wait for the kill-bots to descend on us.

I am amazed and pleased that someone else out there feels the same way about them as I do! Thanks to Rare Replay, I own those games still...maybe some bot killing is in my future!

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#9 Edited by norm9 (59 posts) -

@shivermetimbers just gave it a quick look. Seems interesting. I prefer consoles but I'll give this a buy when my Internet resets and I have decent speed.

@pweidman I have gow4, and love horde mode but never finished it due to humans dropping out and being stuck in overwhelming situations in the final few rounds. Is bots available for horde or only vs mode? I guess I can test this when I get home.

@lokihellfire I came to pdzero late, so it's new to me!

Also, I'm one of those old fogies that loves arcade modes in fighting games. Story modes are cool, but I like arcade mode better.

What I'd love for future potential bots is not just easy-normal-hard bots, but also personalities like in crpgs. Imagine ai bots that know they are plus 10 strength or agility, or if they reacted differently because of intelligence.

I think this all stems from not having Internet as a kid and not ever inviting my friends over for split screen action so I had to make due with the ai. I did plenty of that in college with goldeneye though.

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#10 Posted by sparky_buzzsaw (8934 posts) -

With the exception of Halo, I've never really been good enough at shooters to be any good against humans, so I love playing bots when it's an option. I got started with it on the original Perfect Dark so reading this was a fun reminder of that.

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#11 Edited by Justin258 (15690 posts) -

I have played (and enjoyed) games against bots. Whenever I play CS:GO or Rainbow Six Siege, I usually play an Arms Race/Terrorist Hunt respectively just to warm up. I do wish that Siege had a survival mode against terrorists so that I wasn't always playing Terrorist Hunt as attackers, but whatever, it's fine. It's just a way to warm up or mess with an op I don't have much experience with or something.

I also play games against bots when listening to music or podcasts.

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#12 Edited by MerxWorx01 (884 posts) -

My favorite experience with bots was playing Battlefield 2 with several mods. Specifically the "Dances with Bots" mod that ups the match size so you are playing on the largest version of the map available and it maxes out the number of players on each side. So basically it shoves 30 vs 30(or more, I think it might have been higher) bots into the match, it was the best kind of chaos. The Bots despite being made by a third party were smart enough to pathfind and locate, then hold points. They were smart enough to fly aircraft like helicopters and jets which were pains in the ass to fly personally. Joining up with a crew of bots as they acquire and kill ground targets while I watch in the co-pilots seat or being just one of five soldiers in tank full of bots moving through capture points. The matches were full which meant that every vehicle was in use. It was common to see several tanks in a column whilst engaged with another enemy column while the skies buzzed with nearly a dozen aircraft.

It had it's flaws, bots with a full crew tend to jump out all at once when they are on top of a capture point meaning a helicopter is about to crash land somewhere close by... or on top of you. As I mentioned all the vehicles tended to be in use which makes for nonstop carnage but it also meant that a bot is tracking you and will kill you with better fire power in a matter of minutes. All vehicles being used also means waiting for another vehicle to spawn or walking back to the action. I would have put "bots won't wait for you to get in a vehicle before leaving" as a negative but I find that being also pretty common with real flesh and blood players.

If a mode like that were available for modern BF games I would be more likely to jump on board and have some quick in and quick out fun without worrying about my K/D or if I'm ruining someone else fun by not being "pro" enough.

I wish bots were more common in games. Not every game is so complicated that it requires a human to play. Just a forewarning from the devs explaining to some players that the best experience will be with real players so the expectation isn't so high regarding the AI.

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#13 Posted by TobbRobb (6588 posts) -

I have a long history of using bot matches as makeshift training rooms. I've done it in shooters and in games like League/Dota, fighting games etc. Sometimes you just need a zero pressure environment to do experimentation or very basic mechanical practice. Watching TNT on this site back in the day while just practicing last hitting in League, putting on youtube while incrementally lowering my mouse sens in CS:GO/R6:Siege... There's a lot of good uses of single-player bot matches. I highly recommend them. Though in my case, the end goal is to apply myself in multiplayer and see if the shit I'm learning is good or not. :P

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#15 Posted by Rorie (5882 posts) -

Man, I liked PDZ way more than anyone else seemed to! I also really liked the Greg Rucka novels in the PDZ universe; well worth tracking down if you're a fan of the game.

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#16 Posted by isomeri (3125 posts) -

Before I had internet good enough to handle multiplayer gaming, I used to play tons of Quake III Arena and Battlefield 1942 against bots on our family PC. I remember the first time I played those games against actual humans being a total bloodbath for me, but still some of the skills I'd acquired in bot matches translated pretty well.

Oh, and PDZ is a fine enough game. I kinda dug the whole aesthetic, everything was so shiny.

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#17 Posted by soulcake (2820 posts) -

I played so much bot matches especially BF1942, BF Vietnam, BF2. because of the lack of internet bot matches where a great way to play those games. Today i even play games like Rising Storm where you will find mixed matches bots + real players, it's a great way to play the game cause you don't know who's a bot or who's a real player and you can use set bots as some weird sort of cover. Also the new Insurgency has a nice coop rush mode with bots, there well balanced cause i tend to lose 50% of the match, gamedev's should use more bots to fill the battlefield like Titanfall did.

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#18 Edited by lokihellfire2008 (160 posts) -

@merxworx01: that sounds amazing! I wonder if you could still track that stuff down today? I'm sure I have a copy of bf2 somewhere...I think I just saw it on sale on steam also (edit: nope that was bad company 2)

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#19 Posted by MerxWorx01 (884 posts) -

@lokihellfire2008: I just tried looking for it online and there's barely any mention of the mod "dances with bots" and looking at different for forums it seems this stuff has been abandoned. The only places that mention it by name are from 2012. I'll check if I have the files somewhere but that must be 7 pc builds ago. The hard drive that had it is probably shredded but I usually move stuff around.

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#20 Posted by lokihellfire2008 (160 posts) -

@merxworx01: if you find it let me know because I'd be interested in running that. Maybe we could stream it or something. I'll look online as well to see if I can find anything.

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#21 Posted by hans_maulwurf (642 posts) -

My most played game on steam is csgo, which I have played for over 200 hours. I haven't played a single mp match in that game, only against bots. I do like the basic shooting and the maps and game modes in that game. So for several years it served as a great way to keep my hands and eyes busy while listening to podcasts.

In general I'm not playing mp against humans, so bot modes are always welcome, though whether I end up liking them is kinda hit or miss. I do for example also like the core mechanics of the COD games, but never really got into any of the bot training modes.

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#22 Posted by MerxWorx01 (884 posts) -

@lokihellfire2008: I will spin up some old IDE drives and post again if I find anything.

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#23 Posted by BBAlpert (2918 posts) -

I was never able to get into full on multiplayer games in any MOBA, but Demigod had a ton of different options and settings for doing custom bot matches. I believe you could set stuff like AI aggression, mob spawn frequency, mob strength, tower strength, EXP gain, gold gain, and team size, as well as pick from a few different maps of varying sizes and numbers of lanes. It was awesome.

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#24 Posted by fisk0 (6954 posts) -

One of my favorite multiplayer modes in recent years was "Combat Readiness Mode" in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, which sadly doesn't seem to have made it to any of the later games.

It was an anonymized mode where players were mixed up with bots, with no name tags or chat options and with all the progression mechanics removed in favor of a randomly generated loadout selection on each map load. It's probably been the first time since Call of Duty 3 (or maybe Call of Duty 4's kinda hidden Q3A style arena shooter mode where players started without weapons and had to pick them up on the map) that I've really enjoyed playing.

Really wish they'd return to that stuff some day.

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