The Brief, Bizarre History Of The FPS Bot 

The Brief, Bizarre History Of The FPS Bot 

The early days of first person shooters like Quake and Unreal Tournament gave birth to one of the most unique types of video game AIs: the FPS bot. Within a few years time these mindless enemies became an institution. Then just as quickly as they arrived, they disappeared.

For many in the late ’90s and early 2000s, the ability to run through maps blasting things with a rocket launcher predated their access to high-speed internet. This created a need for offline opponents that could understand the game rules, collect powerups and provide a semblence of a challenge to the modemless.

Quake‘s Reaper Bot might be the first example of the trend, according to Super Bunnyhop. Rather than learn its environment, Reaper was programmed to navigate the map by following the movements of human players, while shooting at them with near-perfect accuracy. The result was an AI that was difficult to beat but also easy to confuse. Standing still was enough to trip up Reaper.

Bots only became smarter and more ubiquitous from there, learning to imitate normal gameplay by following invisible waypoints or chasing after items. Early console shooters like Perfect Dark adopted bot players because the Nintendo 64 didn’t have internet connectivity, and many more games, like TimeSplitters, followed suit.

Improved broadband internet access started to make legitimate multiplayer gaming a real threat to bots, but the death blow came from Moore’s Law. Faster computers created the opportunity for bigger, more complicated maps. The more open-world these maps were, the harder it was to program bots that could simulate some level of gameplay fluency. Games like Halo came along to prove, beyond all doubt, that the age of the bot had ended.

Originally posted on Gizmodo.


  • Unreal Tournament on the two towers map, full bots and the sniper rifle – one of my all time favourite gaming memories.

    • You had to have them on the normal difficulty or easier (or thereabouts) though, otherwise they started to “dodge” and “evade”.

      Ruined all the fun of mowing them down like lemmings.

  • Some of my best memories are playing against bots. I know they can’t compete with humans just yet, but there was just something about playing multiplayer bit solo. So much less pressure.

    • Agreed. I remember using the Reaper bot with QUake and just having a strangely relaxing time. It was stress relief as opposed to the current multiplayer stress enhancer.

  • Bots bugging out on the elevator on Q2DM1, or when you use the hook mod in Quake.

    Good times, good times. *nods sagely*

  • Just for fun, they should have a competition where they face teamed AI fps bots against each other, then the winner gets to take on the humans at tournaments.

    You know, give skynet a go.

  • i really want bots to come back especially since we still had bots in battlefront 2 and battlefield 2. the onyl reason why bots stopped existing is solely based on the fact that more people were connected online and devs just stopped making bots thinking everyone would rather play against humans.

  • So many good memories of Battlefield 1942, especially that bottleneck at the top of the hill on the Omaha map – clearing out 5-10 bots at a time with a well-timed grenade and then getting taken out moments before capturing the spawn point to win.

    Man, I’m gonna go install Origin just to play that right now.

  • One of the best things Treyarch ever did with Call of duty, Added bots in Black ops. I could get my CoD multiplayer fix without being screamed at by 12 year olds who populate most of Call of duty’s multiplayer lobbies

  • 007 Nightfire was one of my favourite games with bots, sniping on the ski lodge map from the cable car was great! Shout out to timesplitters 2 as well, assault mode was insanely fun.

  • I never did quite get why for all bungie’s talk about how sophisticated their AI was in the campaign, they couldn’t put bots in Halo 2. And despite what the article says, I doubt that bots wouldn’t be able to cope with how big the stages are.

    Also, I possibly played Brink repeatedly this weekend because it is effectively a multiplayer game with bots.

  • I still think bots have a place; for the people who don’t want to play online. I play Star Wars Battlefront only for the single player missions. That’s all I want to do,

  • My favourite bots were in Battlefield 2, two of us versus a seemingly endless horde of fairly useless bots who’s main strategy it seemed seemed to be in numbers. Alone they were absolutely useless but when 20-40 of them come streaming into your position you start to pay attention!

    Not exactly bots but I’m currently enjoying the AI in Terrorist Hunt mode in Rainbow Six Seige

  • Setting all the bots to “fists only” and only having a pistol to defend yourself in Perfect Dark is the ultimate zombie survival game

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