Wednesday, February 9, 2011
A true story
I recently found out that my PC specs are adequate for running Team Fortress 2. I remembered that that looked like a lot of fun when I’d seen my brother playing it on the 360, so I duly ordered it through Steam. I found a bunch of server affiliated through a particular clan that I enjoyed, and got to playing.
And died. Over and over again.
Now some of that is probably because my PC just about meets the specs; it certainly doesn’t have the sort of Super Fandango Quad-blit video card that I see used on youtube, whose framerates make me insanely jealous. It stutters at times, and I suspect my characters heads would be exploded a lot less were it a little smoother.
But I persevere. I have a crack at it most nights, I get to the point where names of the other players are starting to sound familiar. They don’t say a lot, as they’re too busy firing rockets and flamethrowers at my asshole, but I attribute emotions to them, I start to judge their level of competence, and I slowly begin to get better at the game. I learn where the taunt key is, and use it liberally. I learn how the different roles play out, and basically how to lay down some smack occasionally between deaths.
And then, late one night, someone makes a comment about ‘Jesus, how many bots do you have on here?’ I pay it no mind at first, but obviously my subconscious nags away at it. I check and find you can bring up the scoreboard with the tab key, and sure enough, ‘BOT BOT BOT BOT BOT’. Out of the 20 players on the server at that point, 3 are actual people, the rest are being run by a computer.
Now, it’s a credit to TF2 that the bots are that good; that they can make complex tactical decisions and contribute to a team’s game so well, that they can mimic human players reasonably, and they don’t get stuck running on the spot against a wall somewhere. They’re possibly some of the smartest AIs I’ve seen playing a game. But I get the feeling I might as well have just been playing offline half the time. I suspect the clan’s servers have more real people during reasonable hours; I tend to play well after midnight, and anything up to 4am.
It’s also slightly creepy to think that even if I weren’t online, there would be anything up to 24 bots, all battling it out, 24 hours a day, with no end in sight and nobody even watching. On multiple servers and maps. War has never looked so futile.
So, back to the drawing board. Time to look for more servers where real, breathing people actually play at OMG o’clock. On the plus side, playing against bots for so long has made me a better player. I suspect the bots have a fair better reaction time than most people; they don’t have to see something and lurch for a key combination or anything, they just do it. On the downside, I also suspect I’ll be back to getting killed to death pretty quickly; however good the bots are, they’re not as good as some of the hardcore players who drink, sleep and shit TF2, and eat punks like me for breakfast.