Bots have been a staple of the Counter-Strike experience. They’re a crucial teammate, a time-honoured sledge and an essential training companion. But the modern Counter-Strike bot has just been dealt a heavy blow, courtesy of a surprise update from Valve.
The patch notes from the latest Counter-Strike: Global Offensive update has caught everyone off guard. Rather than announcing any major updates to the game’s anti-cheat system, introducing more maps or any significant adjustments to weapons or the game’s economy, Valve has targeted the defenceless, lowly bot:
[ GAMEPLAY ]
When a player disconnects or is kicked in classic competitive and wingman modes, they will no longer be replaced by a bot. If the entire other team leaves, one bot will be left on the other team, idling in spawn.
Because Counter-Strike is the kind of game that naturally induces a lot of rage — either from cheating, assumptions of cheating, or just people cracking the shits after a match gone bad — bots are a common occurrence in matchmaking games. When someone drops out or leaves, bots can be taken over by players once they die.
It’s a vastly better solution than having to play out the rest of a game 4v5. Players will often opt to rush an area for a quick entry frag, taking over the bot as soon as they die, which can cause all kinds of chaos. But bots themselves, even in higher-level third-party matchmaking services like FACEIT, can be a surprising source of frags and mirth.
(Please enjoy the below with sound. I promise it’ll give you life.)
Alas, beautiful moments like this are no more with Valve’s latest update. And it’s not really clear why bots came into the firing line to start off 2021. That said, it’s possible that Valve aren’t targeting the bots themselves but people who specifically vote out their teammates. Removing the replacement of bots takes that toxic measure away, although it’s a bit of a nuclear-level option for doing so.
It’s even stranger when you remember that Valve added “an experimental decision framework based on behaviour trees” to bots last year. Like everything, Valve didn’t openly discuss their roadmap for CS:GO bots (or why they were being cut in the first place).
Fans, understandably, have wondered whether Valve has taken things too far. Targeting the toxicity of teams that want to forcibly boot out players just because “they’re bad” or for their perceived faults — that’s obviously a good thing. But all those matches that people have been able to win because a bot temporarily filled the role of a 5th who disconnected due to internet issues, or games that carried on because a team was able to keep playing because they needed to kick a player who was intentionally griefing or cheating.
What would have been nicer is if bots consistently stayed in spawn when you told them to. Losing a player and then spamming “hold this position” has become a time-honoured CS:GO matchmaking ritual. That’s something that won’t be part of the game anymore. But you never know with Valve. They’ve done a 180 on shortsighted inclusions before, so hopefully we’ll get our bots back in a smarter, or more versatile form.