Bots — software that can be left to its own devices to play a game for you — is a common fixture of games that require players to grind for achievements or content. As you can imagine then, Blizzard's Hearthstone has become a lucrative target for bot makers, but what exactly can the developer do to combat this issue, if it's doing anything at all?
Going by a PC Gamer interview by Tim Clark with a prolific botter by the names of "Jones", it sounds like Blizzard isn't doing anything particularly proactive, at least, not at the moment. According to Jones, he's been able to use a bot to earn three "golden portraits" — an accolade given to a player that wins 500 ranked games with a class — and that he's left it active for large periods of time with no repercussions:
Amazingly, he tells me that on one occasion he left the bot playing for three days straight without any problems at all. This seems odd, because Blizzard previously told me that looking for unusual play patterns were a key factor in weeding out bots. I mean, sure, some streamers will play marathon sessions — but three days straight ought to raise some sort of automated eyebrow, right?
The article goes on to mention that the bot has even gone head-to-head with popular Hearthstone streamers such as Zisss and Trump and played very competitively:
"[Zisss is] a good player, but I noticed my bot had 30 health and 2 armor, while he was down to 8. So I looked at his stream quickly, and he was just saying how I was getting lucky with top decking, and he didn’t even notice it was a bot he was playing against."
Bots aren't perfect though and are often confused by more complicated card effects, such as "Deathrattle", which is triggered when a minion dies.
It may be frustrating to play against a bot, be it the equally-spaced playing of cards, the lack of interaction or the intangible coldness, but there's nothing stopping you from taking advantage of its weaknesses...