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(User Research) Why bots are needed: from developers to players

by Yongcheng Liu on 07/19/21 11:04:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

When talking about current situation of Chinese domestic games, bots in game have become an inevitable topic. Almost all Chinese mobile games involving PVP will put bots in game. Take the hottest mobile game on the market as an example, the battle Royale mobile game "Game for peace" is a game full of bots. Whether it's a newbie or a player with low-leveled skills, knocking down enemies and winning the game becomes a matter of faith. So why exactly do developers want to add bots? Players actually buy it or not?

01 Why bots are needed: from developers to players

If we want to explore the reasons for adding bots, we might as well start with the official statement from different game companies. At present, for most of the Chinese game developers we can not find the official reason of adding bots in game, because they have been avoiding talking about bots in their games. If players asked, the official attitude is always blinking words, they will deny that there are bots in their games.

Most of the foreign game developers will be more open and honest, directly saying the game has bots. There might also be official bots-related instructions. For example, Epic games, in the "Fortnite" update on October 2019 directly mentioned the placement of bots. On April 2020, PUBG also mentioned in the seventh competition season of the update would be adding bots.

But once these foreign developers mentioned the reason for adding bots, their attitude became less clear. Epic said in its official reasons that the bots were added to help players improve their skills (Help provide a better path for players to grow in skill), and PUBG officially said the game, because of joinning Google's Stadia platform, which might have a lot of new players, it added bots on the console platform first (and ended up adding them on PC less than a month later as well). None of these official reasons are the core reason for adding bots to Battle Royale games, and the real key point is simply that there is less players left to play these games.

When Fortnite first launched in mid-2017, the initial mode (zombies + building) was not a success. After the introduction of Battle Royale mode at the end of the year, the numbers of players soared. But a year and a half later, Fortnite reached its low point in the summer of 2019, with record low streams/watch time and much fewer online players. And the decline of PUBG players is even more obvious, with the overall online numbers and popularity of PUBG declining since '2018.

Player loss is something that is hard to avoid in every popular game. The high-speed loss of original players, coupled with the growth rate of new players will keep slowing down: it is getting harder and harder for players to enter a game. the threshold for new players is higher, and it is difficult to compete with old players and they left the game after being not able to win the game. The game fell into a vicious circle, the inclusion of bots can no longer wait.

Fortnite was already considered a pioneer in a foreign battle royale to add bots in 2019, but Chinese mobile game bots at this time have been very common, becoming standard in most games with PVP modes. So bots in Chinese games may have also given overseas game developers some inspiration.

In addition to shorten the matching time, another important role of bots is to give a free win to players. Fortnite learned the essence of the " free win " when it first launched Battle Royale mode: the game starts directly with a game in which there is only one real player, and the player's first game is sure to be a win. After the " free win" game, the game will also put a large number of bots in several later games of new players, so that the first few games of players will not likely die right after the landing.

At this point we are introduced to the next problem, the game developers have done so much in terms of bots, do players buy it?

02 Players attitudes: accepted and get used to bots

From the perspective of Chinese players, the bot's launch has undoubtedly been a success, because they accepted and got used to the presence of bots. YRS did a simple survey about bots, only 9% of players said they don't accept the placement of bots in-game, and more than 70% of players said that bots can appear in the very first few matches when they are new to a game, thus giving rookie players a better experience.

And in the real experience of players, it is not difficult to find that for players who are not addicted to competition, it is an accomplishment to win even with a large number of bots in a match. This is also in line with the development direction of mobile games, such as "Arena Of Valor" or "Game for peace" and other trendy mobile games are not as difficult as "League of Legends" or "PUBG", the overall control difficulty and competition have a certain decline, the lower threshold also allows "Arena Of Valor" achieve 100 million DAU.

Bots are just a way for ordinary players to have more chances to kill and win, and to be the only winner out of 100 players becomes something that everyone can do. Even if they didn't win, players could at least kill several bots in the game to get their own accomplishment of playing the game. And we saw players in the forums saying: "I didn't win this time, but I killed some people! Although there are bots, those killed by me are definitely not bots". Although this must be the real bots, but as long as the player does not think it is a bot, then in fact the purpose has been achieved.

So is the adding of bots a good thing for every player? Not really. For some of the most competitive players, the difficulty of killing bots is not much different from that of killing real people, but the sense of accomplishment is much lower. The original "chicken dinner" is challenging, but in the case of adding bots, the challenge is steeply reduced, and if player's skill level is not reduced, the overall game experience tends to be boring.

As Robert says in "The Luxury Disease," "If everyone in the office carries a Timex watch, then the first person to buy a Rolex will be the only one; when everyone brings a Rolex, only Patek Philippe can meet people's needs for identity." It turns out that the pros can kill and win a chicken dinner, and ordinary players can't hope to do so. But the adding of bots allows ordinary players to win more easily. The pros lost the capital to show off their gaming abilities, and killing bots lacked a sense of accomplishment and were more frustrating overall.

Therefore, the bots are successful in reducing the matching time and improving the player experience, especially in line with the current characteristics of mobile games, so that some players with average levels can have more sense of achievement in strong competitive games. But at the same time, there are also some potential risks of bots placement, which need to be considered by game developers from a different perspective, so as to give players with different backgrounds a potential better gaming experience.
 


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