I am a big fan of bots in multiplayer shooting games. This is because playing online with other players doesn’t really appeal to me. There are occasions when I will play a Call of Duty game online here and there, but those are rare occurrences. More than 90 percent of my time in multiplayer shooters is spent playing with and against the A.I in the game. It’s what I prefer and I wish that every multiplayer shooting game included this option.
Classic games from the Quake and Unreal Tournament franchises gave gamers both options. Bots were a staple in shooting games in the past. This was especially important before the gaming consoles developed online capabilities. There was a time when multiplayer modes in shooters involved all players having to be in the same room with controllers connected to the same system locally. Now with the ability to play with and against other players from throughout the world, it seems like bots have become an afterthought all too often.
I can empathize with those gamers who believe that development shouldn’t be wasted on the inclusion of bots in multiplayer shooters. Interacting with other real players in these sorts of games can be awesome, provided you have the right people to play with. You can join up with your friends, meet new friends and have the opportunity to test your mettle against some of the best gamers around. It can be an absolutely euphoric experience especially for the social gamer and the competitive gamer.
Yet for some gamers, the experience of playing alongside and against other real players can be a stressful, exhausting, and toxic affair that can take the very fun out of the gaming experience. Other players can purposely do everything in their power to make sure that your gaming session is nothing short of miserable. Real players can be petty and unfortunately display the various flaws that plague humanity in the virtual world.
I remember playing a co-op session in Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege and being a newbie, I accidentally shot one of my teammates. As a result, that same teammate spent the rest of the session repeatedly trying to trap me in a room at the beginning and for the duration of each round. So instead of learning to play the game, I was spending my time trying to break down wooden barriers to free myself from this prison because my teammate was unforgiving of my mistake. As a result, I eventually quit the session. Because Rainbow Six Siege has limited bot options, it sits on my PS4 mainly unplayed most of the time while my Call of Duty games, Tannenburg/Verdun, Counter-Strike Global Offensive, Insurgency Sandstorm, and Battlefield 2 get much more play because of how they implemented bot play. Then you have the modding community that has helped to bring bots into games such as Battlefield 3 (Venice Unleashed), Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Pezbots), Call of Duty: World at War (Pezbots), and Battlefield Bad Company 2 (Napisal Mod Channel).
While there certainly is a lot of money in real players being online and partaking in microtransactions, developers and publishers should also keep in mind that there is a significant audience that advocates for single-player experiences in multiplayer games that go beyond just a short campaign. For example, Star Wars Battlefront II (2017) was highly criticized and maligned early in its release because of the lack of content. Listening to gamer complaints, EA DICE decided to implement free updates and also a single-player mode, “Instant Action.” This mode allows players to enjoy the game in a multiplayer style with bots. By 2020, the player base revived, and Battlefront II enjoyed a resurgence.
In conclusion, I believe that multiplayer games that cater both to the single-player and multiplayer advocates can provide gamers with the best of both worlds. I will always appreciate that the Call of Duty series since Black Ops 2 has included bots to go along with the single-player campaign. In my opinion, the games provide more of a complete package for a shooting game and that is why I’m not surprised at the success the series has garnered. Also, there is a greater risk (but also a great reward) with making shooting games that only can include real players. Sure there is less programming involved due to the lack of bots. But many more of these games have dropped off into obscurity due to the player count being too low and there being no other content that would attract more purchases.
What do you all think. Bots? Real players? Both? There’s not really a wrong answer to that, as it will be based on what you prefer as a gamer. And I do realize that not every game was meant for a gamer like me. No game is meant for or will appeal to everyone. But Call of Duty sure is successful and keeps both bot supporters and real players in mind.