The Team Fortress 2 community is fighting bots with bots

Technology

Despite the efforts of Valve to curb the bot invasion, it seems bots still haunt the servers of Team Fortress 2 – and players have taken matters into their own hands.

As the saying goes, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, and that’s exactly what the community is doing with “extermination bots”, which are designed to hunt down cheating bots and take them out. Although the creator of these bots remains elusive, and it’s unclear exactly how many people are doing this, you can find several videos of the bots in the wild on both YouTube and Reddit.

According to comments on Reddit from those who witnessed an anti-cheat bot in action, the bot didn’t seem to kill humans and the in-game chat claimed it worked. Someone claiming to be behind the Bot Extermination Service held a couple of Reddit AMAs last month, in which they explained exactly why they were doing it.

“I get happiness out of shooting bots because guess what? I have nothing better to do,” the hacker claimed. “I’m not good at the game legitimately, so playing with aimbot to kill other bots without worrying of being ridiculed or kicked because I’m doing a good thing makes me happy.”

Alongside the Bot Extermination Service, a player calling themselves Anti Bot Bot seems to have been riling up cheaters for several months by using hacks to target bots and kill them before they can target legitimate players. Players have even developed their own bot-detection tools to automatically spot bots and call a vote-kick.

While many people are celebrating the work of those using bots to tackle TF2’s bot problem, it’s not been welcomed by everyone. As pointed out by those in the TF2 community on Reddit, the vigilante bots still take up spaces that could be used by legitimate players within games, running the risk of servers being filled with fighting bots rather than humans. On top of that, malicious bots have reportedly disguised themselves as anti-bot bots in the past, making it far harder to tell which bot is on your side.

Bots started causing serious issues for Team Fortress 2 earlier this summer, spamming the game’s chat with racial and homophobic slurs, along with using game-breaking hacks and cheats like aimbot. Valve stepped in to limit what free-to-play accounts could do and limit the rate of text chat, but the bots got around this by changing the team names – and it seems the changes merely muted the symptoms rather than tackling the root problem. Whenever Valve tackles one type of bot, another seems to sprout in its place.

The critics are right in saying that anti-bot bots are only a temporary (and extremely limited) solution, but if the stunt encourages Valve to keep working on the bots, then perhaps it’s a job well done.