Hearthstone Banwave Is Warning Shot To Botters

Given the tavern setting, surely

Beware, Hearthstone bot users. Well, beware-ish. Blizzard have followed up their forum post from August about botting being a violation of the Hearthstone terms of service and have banned several thousand Hearthstone accounts until 2015.

“As we’ve stated, fair play is at the core of the Hearthstone experience, and cheating and botting will not be tolerated,” said Blizzard via an official blog post by community manager, Christina ‘Zeriyah’ Sims. At the heart of the issue are third party programs which automate gameplay and let players earn gold, unlock card backs and so on.

The thing is, 2015 is two months away and Blizzard aren’t removing any earnings this time. The action is more of a slap on the wrist and an inconvenience to get cheaters to stop cheating and go back to playing regularly. In the ideal scenario for Blizzard they wouldn’t lose any potential paying customers, just bot programs.

As you might have guessed the response to Blizzard’s warning shot hasn’t been universally positive. There are pages of forum comments from disappointed players arguing that the punishments for botting were too lenient this time given that nothing earned through the use of bots is being removed from accounts. After all, that official post back in August functioned as the warning shot and made it clear that cheating would not be tolerated.

However, punishments for future infractions are going to be more severe. Accounts caught using bot software from this point onwards will receive a permaban without warning.

43 Comments

  1. Tyrmot says:

    It does seem rather overly-forgiving, and very cynical indeed if it is to try to tempt these accounts back (with all their ill-gotten gains) after their temporary ban to spend more money.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      I disagree. They have said from now that bans will be permanent. It seemed that botting was a problem they were doing nothing about, going from zero punishment to completely banning accounts seems a bit over the top. People will need to take this as a warning, if they reoffend then they lose their accounts.

      • bstard says:

        Botting and cheating is something new in game land, we all need to be made aware of it first that it’s not appropriate behavior. I mean how can players know when they accept the terms and download a bot they might get their account banned, it’s just not fair. Blizzard not doing an-y-thing at first has nothing to do with them analyzing the data to detect hackers, which can now be used to enforce bans.

  2. Urthman says:

    Are players actually cheating, using bots to help win games, or are they just automating grinding?

    Maybe if you design a game that rewards activity so boring that players want to automate it, the problem is the game design, not the bot-users.

    • Keiggo says:

      It can be both!

    • Tyrmot says:

      Most of the bots in HS are automated grind machines. Since it’s a F2P model, it rewards play in the form of unlocks, which is what these bots are designed to harvest. These include gold (the in-game currency) and various cosmetic changes (like gold heroes) that are only supposed to be available once someone has accrued a great deal of time playing the game.

      • Moraven says:

        Yep.

        I think Starcraft 2 had botters botting out the XXX win achievements.

        These type of rewards are for playing over a long period of time, but there will always people wanting it immediately. Lots of online games have them. They are a basic way to reward long time players.

        They capped the Gold from wins way back in closed beta, to battle botters then. 500 win golden portraits came later.

        • Smoky_the_Bear says:

          It’s more than just achievements though. The main issue is that F2P players not wanting to spend money can just bot their way to gold cap every day which allows them to buy lots of packs and make sure they can craft all the cards in the game, giving them a distinct advantage over other F2P players.
          People are also using it to bot their way to about rank 5, which a bot will be able to do with the right deck, skipping a lot of the actual work of laddering, again cheating the game.

          Part of the issue though is that grinding through the game is kinda dull after a while and affording the good legendaries takes a lot of time that some people have been happy to skip by botting. I’ve played a reasonable amount of the game and am not even close to unlocking a lot of the legendary cards. Something which would cost hundreds of pounds.

          Buying all the cards with money also has an RNG aspect to it. I MAY get lucky with the packs I buy, if I don’t it will cost me about 4x as much. This is just bullshit imo and it ensures I will never spend a penny on the game, don’t play RnG with my actual money and potentially give others more for the money they spent ffs, that is just bad practice imo. All of this lead to extensive botting.

          • Haborym says:

            Well, back in the good old days of these kinda card battling games, the packs you bought were kinda random, which I think is what they’re trying to emulate. Personally I don’t much care for that kind stuff either, I’d much rather put my money on a sure thing than something that might not potentially pay out at all. It’s like buying a shitton of lottery tickets and never winning anything or only winning back exactly what you paid for the ticket. It’s like, what’s the point? You’re just wasting money.

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            Zamn10210 says:

            I don’t think much of this really stacks up. Card packs earned from botting have just as much RNG involved. And it’s actually pretty slow compared to buying packs with money as you can only earn a pack a day. You can buy over a month of botting for £35 (and bots aren’t free either for the most part).

            As for getting to rank 5: if you’re really good enough to compete in the 5-legend range then you can blow your way though the lower ranks in a day or two and spend the rest of the month grinding to legend, if you’re so inclined. The bit the bots can do – getting to rank 5 – is trivial.

            It actually seems to mostly be about the golden portraits, bizarrely. Why people care so much, I have no idea. But it’s no coincidence that most bots are Shamans: the class regarded as having the ‘coolest’ golden portrait because you also get golden totems.

    • Zelos says:

      The hearthstone bots play sub-optimally. Due to the highly random nature of the game though, they can still win. They primarily exist to slowly grind out wins and experience. It’s not really cheating. If you go up against a bot, you have a much higher chance of winning than a real player.

      Your idea that the game is poorly designed for encouraging grinding is a bit flawed though. Aside from minuscule amounts of gold, you only get cosmetic rewards in the form of golden cards for the excessive playing.

      • TooGoodToCheck says:

        I think playing sub-optimally might not even really matter; the matchmaking in Hearthstone seems to try to pair you against a more-or-less equal opponent, so if you’re on a losing streak, I think they’ll just match you up with someone else who’s losing a lot and then one of you necessarily wins.

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        Zamn10210 says:

        Everyone plays sub-optimally. Even the best players in the world make mistakes in the biggest games.

        The best bots play better than most humans. Considering that many bots can reach rank 5, and most human players cannot, it’s pretty much certain that some botters are reaching higher ranks than they would otherwise be able to.

    • Haborym says:

      I agree, what’s the point of playing a game that’s not fun to play?

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      That’s the main reason I don’t play Hearthstone. Well, I give it a go every once in a while, but there are much better ccg’s out there.

  3. anHorse says:

    This is hardly like cheating in an FPS, bots are just an unfortunate consequence of basing your game around a terribly grindy f2p model which requires something like 30 wins a day to max out the potential gold earned.

    Yes botters should be punished in order to preserve the gameplay experience but really the currency model is to blame here

    • Moraven says:

      If if time and gold is your goal in the game, doing just enough games every 2-3 days to knock out the dailies is a lot more efficient in your time.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        That’s not really the point though. People will always take the path of least resistance. Why settle for just doing your dailies when you can do your dailies, then switch on your bot, AFK and reach your gold cap also. Doing this every day = much faster legendaries.

        • jrodman says:

          My ideal would be that the bot logs in every day and does the dailies for me, so I don’t have to.

  4. Tei says:

    I have always had the feeling that if a game is easily botted. Then maybe is not a very good game.
    Humans have things to give, like creativity and intellect, that bots can’t replicate. So only highly mechanical games are easy to bot.
    But this is some personal theory, and I don’t really have any meaningful prof one way or the other.

    • MrWorms says:

      Hey, some people like their Skinner boxes.

    • sberg says:

      You mean that chess is poorly designed because of the fact that humans can no longer compete with AI? A lot of games require more computation power than creativity to be efficient.

      For me the issue comes from the motivation. Playing the game should be its own reward. Bots are a sign that you are wasting your players’ time.

      • Ishy says:

        Chess _is_ a poorly designed game. Just because it’s old and popular doesn’t mean it’s well designed.

        Examples:
        -very, very high percent of games ending in stalemates. (55% at pro level, 36% between AIs. You’re more likely to stalemate than not if you’re good.)
        -frequent need for external rules to be applied to make it playable. (This is true of many competitive games, but it’s still ‘bad.’ Clocks, etc..)
        -solvable (I doubt it will take more than another decade or two to finish the solution.)
        -unbalanced. (White’s winrate is several points higher than Black’s, ~52-56%.)

        • jrodman says:

          I don’t really agree with any of this fully, but *solvable* makes a game bad? What in the world?

          • Raiyne says:

            I reckon its the extreme determinism in chess that makes its heavily reliant on memorisation of plays and patterns of pieces. I like to think of it as a really elaborate Tic Tac Toe.

          • frymaster says:

            once it’s solved, whichever side turns out to be the winner (and it’s probably white) will win every time if they know the solution. The only way the other side can win is if a mistake is made. Or, probably, it’ll be the case that every game ends in a stalemate

    • Xocrates says:

      You can easily “bot” chess, this has nothing to do regarding how good the game is, so much as how easy it is to implement the rules.

    • Lord Ingo says:

      It depends on what you mean by “easily botted”. The bots don’t play better than humans. You don’t bot to legend #1 or near it. What the bots are good at is playing longer. The 30 wins per day isn’t that unreachable if you’re good, and it’s by no means necessary to reach. 500 wins with a class takes a while, but is intended as a long-term reward, it’s not a gameplay benefit you need to unlock to be competetive. Both of these things are bottable simply because you can leave them running overnight, making their winrate irrelevant as long as it’s over 0%. This says nothing about the quality of the game, in my opinion.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        The issue comes from people watching the pros on Twitch playing with fully legendaried up decks that they don’t have access to yet. They don’t want to grind every day to the gold cap, they don’t want to pay real money, so they bot. Simple as that really.

    • Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

      I think I agree. If a game is easy enough that a computer can figure out the best plays, its not really that interesting. Its kind of been solved at that point. I mean, you can still find it fun, and if so, go do it. No skin off my teeth.

      • Zelos says:

        That’s not possible in hearthstone. Computers can play, but they’re far from optimal. TCGs are easy to bot but impossible to solve. The computer cannot possibly possess and make decisions based on the kind of information a player can, unless the bot is cheating(i.e. full knowledge of the opponents hand and deck)

    • Zelos says:

      It’s a card game, dude.

  5. Gothnak says:

    So, people are using an AI bot to play Hearthstone… What class do they usually play, and is there anywhere which can explain the AI routines they use?

    I’d like to know so that when i see one i can grind it into the dust due to knowing exactly how it will play or are they programmed so well they’ll win anyway?

    • Nevard says:

      Hearthstone bots are absolutely terrible at the game, they mostly exist to grind and pick off the occasional person who’s also bad at the game, also botting, or has the worst run of luck they’ve ever had.

      • Gothnak says:

        Ah, so i guess if all the bots swim around below rank 20, they all can get their achievements off each other.

        • swampzero says:

          That guy’s wrong btw.

          Hearthstone bots aren’t terrible by any means, and with a good deck they are usually much stronger than the average HS player. (Not the average at their rank, just the total average). Bots with good decks built around how they think can reach single digit ranks.

          They work basically like this:
          A bot reads the game state (number of enemy cards, board monsters/secrets, and all its own current cards). Then, it figures out all possible plays that can do, including same play ordered differently, and assign a value to each of those plays, depending on the bot’s internal value system. Health on the board is + value. Single health monsters arent as much + value as higher health monsters. Number of cards is + value etc etc you get the picture.

          So while it’s fairly unresponsive to enemy plays ( most bots won’t attempt to play around opponent’s cards, such as turn 7 flamestrike for example) it’s still EXTREMELY efficient at what it does, and opponent interactions aren’t as important as you’d think, when you’re always going for the high value play.

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        Zamn10210 says:

        This just isn’t true. Shaman bots are prevalent up to Rank 5, which is far higher than most players can get.

  6. Smashbox says:

    Building software to automatically play F2P digital card games. Let’s all just call it quits on the whole human civilization thing.

    • Raiyne says:

      Hearthstone would be a lot more enjoyable if a large portion of its content wasn’t hidden behind the horrible grind/paywall. The staying power of its slow-drip F2P content is simply not as strong as the rate at which you unlock the rest of the ‘core’ gameplay. It’s really Blizzard’s fault for putting more effort into monetising the potential cosmetic aspects of a digital TCG, and choosing this greedy F2P model which unlocks content on an RNG basis.

  7. JimmyG says:

    Is there a Blizzard game that hasn’t been dragged to the shores of Botblivion?

    Hyperbole aside, I think people write automation programs for all of Blizzard’s games — at least as far back as Diablo II. Is that because the gameplay is usually so numerical and repetitive*, or just because of their popularity? Likely both, I guess.

    *not used disparagingly

    • Smashbox says:

      All except Starcraft!

      But I do think you’re right. They are stats based and the best stuff requires a huge time ‘investment’

      • Ishy says:

        There are/was people who made bots for SC2, the semi-famous one I am thinking on was an experiment called “Automaton 2000 micro bot” that could do perfect micro on say, zerglings versus siege tanks, marine splits, medivac drops etc.. It only worked in a controlled environment and was just an experiment for fun, but Blizzard could probably implement something like it into a non-cheating almost unbeatable AI opponent for kicks if they wanted to. Pair the perfect macro a computer is obviously better than humans at, with perfect micro that humans aren’t even close to capable of (order of magnitude higher APM than is currently physically or technically (with our interface devices) possible, I’d imagine), throw in some strategy valuations and you can come up with an AI for SC2 that will win (almost) every time.