Blizzard admitted the increase of unauthorized bots in Hearthstone. Why are there bots in the game, and how is this affecting Arena?
In a forum post yesterday, Blizzard acknowledged the player's frustration around the bot problem in Hearthstone. This story isn't new. Earlier this year, we talked about how Chinese botting could ruin Hearthstone Arena. Today we see those fears becoming our reality.
Let's go over why there are bots in Hearthstone, how to identify them and why they are a major threat.
Why are there Hearthstone Bots
To begin with, we must differentiate two kinds of bots in Hearthstone. There are authorized Blizzard bots and unauthorized third-party bots. The first ones are AI opponents that players can face as apprentices and low ranks on ladder. The second ones are the actual problem.
Blizzard introduced AI bots in the 24.4 Hearthstone patch to help new and low MMR players have a more fun experience while learning the game and at the same time reducing queue times for them. These bots should not appear beyond Silver or Gold ranks, so they have no impact on the leaderboards or legend ranks.
The unauthorized third-party bots affecting Hearthstone are something different. They are scripts that simulate players, generally on Wild ladder, used to "farm Gold" with no effort. These bots infested Classic Ladder before Hearthstone retired that mode, and then moved to Wild.
The reason behind these bots is to farm Hearthstone resources and then sell these accounts in a black market for a profit.
"Botting generates tons of free gold, which could be used everywhere (bgs lul), but particularly effective in Arena."
How to differentiate bots and report them
It's important that we learn to differentiate malicious bots from ordinary players or even Blizzard bots. These third-party bots usually have random-character usernames, they tend to play Pirate Rogue in Wild and are terrible at the game. If you suspect you have faced one of these bots, you should use the report tool to denounce them.
Blizzard AI opponents are different in some key aspects. These bots only appear in low ranks in Hearthstone Ladder and their usernames are usually friendly NPC-like names composed mainly of two words. If you face one of these and you check your "Last opponents" in the Friend List, you should not see them there. That's how you confirm it was an "official bot" and you don't need to report them.
How Hearthstone bots affect Arena & the Chinese connection
The problem with these Hearthstone bots it's not just Blizzard losing revenue for account selling, it goes deeper than that. In February, after Blizzard closed their servers in China, some Chinese community members explained why the bots popular in their region could affect players worldwide.
"It's safe to say, at least safe for a Chinese myself to say, that we are notorious for cheating like botting, boosting… in many games, including Hearthstone. Check the recent wave of bans, for example."
Zeddy also addressed the botting problem in Hearthstone in a video last week worth watching.
The issue these accounts with limitless Gold are mainly used to draft incredibly good Hearthstone Arena decks. When you have infinite Gold, you could just retire any deck that it's not a super draft because it costs you nothing.
"This is one of the main reasons why CN server's Arena meta had been the toughest, because so many botted accounts were in our Arena, the average bar of deck quality got raised by a significant amount. Normal players, with normal drafts, were consistently put at a disadvantage."
With content creators encouraging this behavior by buying "Super-Draft" accounts, the problem only gets worse. Blizzard regularly does massive bans, but they don't communicate much since they say it could help Hearthstone bot designers to find ways to avoid detection.
"We have a general policy against explaining our cheating investigations or actions because we have found that every time we share information about the process, that just helps the cheaters get more sophisticated, making the problem worse in the long run."
In their last post, they acknowledged the increase of bots in Hearthstone and mentioned that they are working on a systemic solution. But the question is still there, what if the bots evolve once more and keep getting away with it?
"We’ve seen a marked increase in third-party botting over the past several months. So far this year we’ve banned hundreds of thousands of accounts for botting—and we’re ramping up our efforts. We also have people working on solving this problem on a systematic level."
The ramification of this issue are uncountable, and while many players might not face the consequences of this problem, a large part of the community is begging for long-term solutions. It's been almost six months since the first reports on the problem, let's hope that the next update talks more about the solutions applied than the problems bots are causing in Hearthstone.
That's all for now, but stay tuned to esports.gg for more Hearthstone news and updates. See you next time, in the Tavern.