Why Adding Bots to Fortnite is a Great Idea | Design Dive

Fortnite made all the headlines recently by
completely destroying the game live with players still inside it and then shutting the game
down in preparation for the release of Chapter 2: a fresh take on the ever popular battle
royale that includes new locations, weapons, mechanics, quality of life improvements and
apparently… bots. After it was hinted by Epic themselves in
early October, there are now AI bots appearing in the battle royale matches and it’s been
received a mixed response from the community – because it’s impossible to please everyone
on the internet. But this saw me reinstall the game recently to find out what it was
all about and how well they operated. I’m Tommy Thompson and in this episode of Design
Dive, let’s talk about the inclusion of bots in multiplayer video games and why it’s a
great idea to add to a game like Fortnite but also the challenges faced and considerations
that need to be taken when making it work within an established online ecosystem. Now when you start Fortnite Chapter 2, your
first match is filled with bots and is built as a tutorial to help you play through and
win a solo match. I haven’t played Fortnite since the end of Season 5 and I while I managed
to nab many a solo and squad win, the game shifts so drastically that jumping back in
when you haven’t kept an eye on it is incredibly daunting and hence why I lost interest. But
when you come back in for the first time, it allows you a bit of space to figure out
how all the new mechanics work such as swimming, fishing, hiding in shrubbery and using a variety
of vehicles that are lying around. And it’s this entire excercise that quite explicity
points out one of the biggest benefits of introducing bots to an online only game like
Fortnite: it’s a great source for training new players. Games that only provide online multiplayer
games options anticipate that players will simply figure out how to play the game by
sitting down, jumping into a match and finding their feet. But it’s seldom as straight forward
as that, it’s no longer the case that you can immediately understand all of the inner
workings of a game on first passing, you need time to figure out the variety of different
components that define that experience. This could be different weapons in Rainbow Six,
to figuring out the best locations to land in Call of Duty Blackout or the operators
in Apex Legends. In fact, none of these games provide offline modes that reflect the core
multiplayer experience using bots. Black Ops 4 only provides them in split screen team
death match and free-for-all, while Rainbow Six Siege has Terrorist Hunt and the Situation
missions. But the AI in these modes are limited in their gameplay functionality and cannot
take control of the operator classes that are the crux of what Siege is all about. What this means is that when you start playing
these games for the first time, you’re immediately cannon fodder to anyone who has more experience
than you. Sure, you’re going to be at a disadvantage when you’re playing a game for the first time,
but it’s difficult to build up the knowledge and skill you require in a battle royale when
you’re being killed within 30 seconds of hitting the ground. Or alternatively landing in a
safe area, scooping up items only to be shot in the head from afar as soon as you approach
the next circle. And this is a problem that only continues to grow as these live service
games continue to flourish: games that are constantly trying to drive new players towards
them while they’ve been active and building their player bases for months if not years
previously. Providing an offline equivalent of that core game experience that allows you
to run around, get a feel for the mechanics, try out weapons and get a grip fighting enemies
that actually reflects how the games plays online is something that most games simply
ignore and I imagine is what turns people off these games pretty quickly. All that said,
bots don’t successfully replicate how humans play games typically, given these AI creations
are built and designed to operate in a more traditional capacity (no 360 quick scoping
here kids), and that sadly means you’re still kept at arms length from the reality of how
this game plays online. Ask anybody who plays fighting games about the disparity between
offline modes and human vs human fights and you’re gonna get a rant, guaranteed. Now while I stressed this in an offline context,
but there is value in providing them in online game modes. You can provide a balance of skill
level for incoming players, potentially even allow for them to get a couple of wins early
on and over time as their skill grows, you could disable the bots from the experience
– which is a point I’ll come back to later. Truth is, live service games – especially
Battle Royales – are notoriously bad at onboarding their players. Largely because so many Battle
Royales are developed in a hurry to get that sweet sweet free-to-play money. It’s interesting
that the other big PC and console-based F2p genre – MOBA’s are actually pretty good at
catering to new players, with League of Legends and Dota 2 providing player vs AI modes that
allow you to get to grips with it before joining other humans. This is immensely valuable for
someone like me who is by MOBA standards, clinically dead. Yet funnily enough Fortnite
is not the Battle Royale to do this (and it might even the first time it’s happened in
Fortnite). The mobile version of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has had bots in it since launch,
while it’s long been suspected that Fortnite’s mobile version had something similar. In both
cases. it’s accomodating for players trying to play a game with rather rich mechanics
on a touch screen. Meanwhile other multiplayer shooters such
as Gears of War recognised that first-time players often abandoned the multiplayer if
they didn’t get kills in their opening games. Hence they deliberately populates your first
multiplayer matches with bots and gave you damage boosts such that you get a chance at
scoring some kills. On that note, Gears of War should be commended given that it has
provided the option to play skirmish matches since Gears 2 against AI bots and both Gears
4 and 5 have dedicated player versus AI game modes in multiplayer, but they also serve
another purpose. And this brings me to my second point… There’s nothing worse than playing a round
of multiplayer and your team is outnumbered. Either the matchmaking hasn’t found enough
players or that one guy decides he’s had enough and rage quits anywhere from 10 minutes to
10 seconds into the current match. As soon as that happens, you’re at a huge disadvantage
and either you’re going to find a way to overcome it, or you’re just going to get steamrolled
by the enemy team. Adding bots into the mix can help address that imbalance. It doesn’t
rectify it entirely, given an AI bot is often written to lack the same level of competence
as a human player, but you can nonetheless take advantage of it in order to get have
a fighting chance against the other players. This is great in recent games such as Gears
5, where players that drop out of horde mode are replaced by bots. Sure, a bot isn’t the
same as having a human involved, but they’re actually still pretty vital. They help distract
enemy AI from targeting you and – in my experience – are more likely to come over and try to
revive you if downed than actual human players! And of course there are issues of connectivity
and overall player count. You might be playing in a game where the servers in your region
aren’t as populated as they are elsewhere in the world? Or you’re like me and have wooden
internet that makes it impossible to have consistent connections at certain times of
day. Beyond all that there’s the reality that these online games are built to be disposable:
try jumping back into older online-only games and see how populated your matches are. Can
you fill a lobby of the original Titanfall anymore? I can’t. Oh and the one other unspoken thing when it
comes to adding bots: it speeds up matchmaking! When you’re only looking for maybe 50/60/70
players instead of 99, it can shave time off between matches and gets people back in the
game faster. All that said, I can understand if people
get frustrated if they suddenly lose due to bots filling up a PvP match. Hence I think
there are issues that need to be balanced and I’ll come back to that in a minute. But I think the most important fact is that
putting bots in for new players or to fill up servers is great, the real trick is enabling
greater accessibility. AAA games seldom really consider the broader audience that would ideally
like to play the game, but cannot due to a range of factors. Many of these online games
are built with the intent that this is your primary game. A lot of people own a gaming
device solely to play their favourite online shooter, but there are also large sums of
people for whom this is something they have limited time to engage with. People maybe
go to college, have jobs or even have families to take care of and want to be able to participate
in their hobby without other players in the game effectively pushing them away given so
much emphasis is placed on established skill. But perhaps more critically, there are people
who may never be able to play at the expected skill level of the game and it’s outside of
their control. Players with disabilities have just as much right to participate in games,
but quite often games are not built to accommodate for them, because most action games are predicated
on skill which in-turn is (often unintentionally) ableist. By introducing bots of various skill
levels and even tweaking over-arching game systems you could cater to people for whom
it would be otherwise impossible to play these games. There is huge potential for games to
better accommodate players and AI could be a huge player in making that happen. So this
is something I may well return to in a future video. No while I do thing it’s a great idea to populate
online games with AI bots, there are issues that need to considered given it can break
the experience a little bit: not just in how they work but the message it sends or the
issues they create. First things first, tell players you’re doing
it. I know we like to think that sliding bots in there to help them get better at the game
is great, but not telling them you’ve done amounts of subterfuge: really weak and not
that interesting subterfuge that most people will get over in a heartbeat mind you, but
you’re bound to get some one with opinions who goes and yells about it on their own wee
corner of the internet. Plus if it’s readily transparent that’s what you’re doing, you’re
more likely to annoy your players rather than make them feel good about their accomplishments
within the game, which was pretty much the response when Mario Kart Tour came out on
mobile (d’you remember that? That was only a month ago?, yeesh). Secondly, if you’re implementing bots, then
make sure you allow for a opt-out for players, especially at higher skill ranks. If it’s
clear based on the skill-based matchmaking system you’re operating that these players
would be better off shooting each other than bots, don’t put them in there. If anything
it becomes a system they can game for easy kills and resources. Unless it’s Titanfall
2 where bots are a core part of the multiplayer experience. I suspect that even in circumstances
like that mentioned earlier, with players in unbalanced matches and with shoddy internet
would still rather take their lumps as it is than let their pride take a hit for winning
a match with a bot in it. The third thing is tied into the second, in
that you may well start to phase bots out the longer someone plays the game. It makes
no sense to put them in again if the player has a consistently good run, but conversely
it could make sense to drop them back in if they’re having a really bad time of it. This
also comes back to the issue of telling the player that you’re doing it and the need for
the opt out as I imagine someones delicate ego and inturn their controller could take
a beating if they start seeing bots repopulate within their online matches again. Conversely,
you might never want to play with people and always play bot matches. Because people are
the worst. If that’s the case, don’t punish players for opting to take that approach and
instead provide alternative ways to achieve unlocks typically tied to multiplayer XP. This is far from a settled issue and I imagine
there’ll be many a complaint in the coming months, but it seems like Fortnite is approaching
this a lot of positive ways. I genuinely believe that having more AI bots – irrespective of
how feature rich they are – caters to audiences in ways that most online games simply don’t
bother to think about. Yes you could read it as the death knell of Fortnite because
the servers can’t populate anymore or just that more people can potentially grab a Victory
Royale. Like I said earlier, I haven’t played Fortnite since the end of Season 5 and I while
I managed to nab many a solo and squad win, but it was nice to come back to some more
bot-heavy matches to help me get a feel for the game all over again. Thanks for watching this Design Dive episode.
This was a short n sweet video that wasn’t planned until I started reading about all
this Fortnite bot jazz last week. But I hope y’all enjoyed it nonetheless! Be sure to like,
subscribe, watch all the other videos on how bots are actually made in video games and
even join these wonderful patreon supporters too. I’ll be back!


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