This week, Epic announced some of the changes that were headed for Fortnite Battle Royale as part of the upcoming 10.40 patch and season 11. In addition to the promise of improved matchmaking and fairer matches overall, Epic’s also officially introducing bots into the game’s unranked matches for the first time ever.
I say “officially” because the word “bot” is a common piece of Fortnite slang and has been for years. So what exactly does this update mean?
What is a bot anyway?
To put it briefly: a bot is a computer-controlled (or “AI”) opponent in a multiplayer game. Bots have been a staple of multiplayer shooters—including Fortnite’s own great grandpappy, Unreal Tournament—for decades.
They were particularly common in shooters prior to the age of high-speed internet access. You’d find them, for example, in games like Quake on PC or Perfect Dark on the N64, which was a console that was technically limited to only local multiplayer.
But modern shooters like Overwatch still allow players to train with computer-controlled opponents, and you’re often given a wide range of settings to tweak or enable to help you train for specific scenarios in the game.
For players looking to get good without the stress of playing against human opponents or (as was common in the past) those just itching to play their favorite multiplayer games away from the internet, bots are a godsend.
“Bot” in Fortnite, however, can actually refer to a few different things.
So, what does “bot” mean in Fortnite?
Here’s where things get a little sticky. We’ve reviewed thousands of Fortnite clips, and it turns out “Bot” can have several other meanings in addition to the more traditional one described above.
You’ve probably encountered or heard players refer to things like aimbots, which are hacks players can install to help them cheat their way to victory. In the most basic sense, an aimbot will automatically move the player’s cursor to, say, an enemy’s head whenever one is visible, but modern aimbots tend to be a little more subtle so as to avoid detection by anti-cheat software.
They’re still scummy, though, and nothing’s more frustrating than playing against someone who can magically one-shot you from across the map with a heavy sniper rifle.
In Fortnite, “bots” has a third, more offensive meaning, but it’s actually directly related to the original.
If you’ve ever heard a streamer refer to other players as “bots,” you’ve probably already inferred what it means: those players aren’t very good. In fact, the implication here is that the (human) players are so bad, they might as well be AI-controlled characters set to easy mode.
It’s not unlike older terms like “noob” to refer low-skilled players, but it’s got an extra little sting to it.
Are bots in your battle royale already?
If you’re like me, you might remember the controversy around bots back when PUBG first hit mobile phones. New players to the game were finding that they seemed to be winning a lot more games than they were expecting or at least finishing in the top 10 frequently, and that led them to suspect their opponents weren’t actually human.
In fact, I remember wondering the same thing during the Fortnite Battle Royale mobile launch, but after checking into it, it seems that either my memory is fuzzy, or I was just unintentionally early to the Fortnite slang game.
In any case, Fortnite Battle Royale bots were actually implemented in patch 6.2. Sort of.
Until now, AI-controlled enemies had always been restricted to the game’s firing range, officially.
That hasn’t actually stopped players and organizations from implementing their own bots in the game. One of the unwritten rules of multiplayer gaming is that if a competitive game exists, some nefarious players will find a way to cheat, and Fortnite is no exception.
While they’re against Epic’s terms and conditions and liable to get you banned, aimbots and other hacks can be purchased and installed at your own risk. In fact, one such service became particularly infamous for deleting its users’ files just last month.
Other services exist to effectively enable computer control for your own account and set your account to auto-pilot. Your personal Fortnite bot isn’t likely to win any matches because the AI simply isn’t that sophisticated, but they can run around the map, collect XP, etc..
There’s a good chance you’ve taken down hundreds of these without realizing it. And just like the gold-farming accounts that have plagued games like World of Warcraft since the early 2000s, many of these bots likely belong to farming accounts designed to max out Battle Pass rewards and get sold off.
The “Bot”tom line
Official bots making their way into Fortnite Battle Royale’s matchmaking should be a huge boon for new players. In recent seasons, Epic has shown their commitment to bringing new players to the game, but the methods they’ve used until now to do so have been controversial because weapons and gear meant to empower new players can feel overpowered in more practiced hands.
Introducing actual AI opponents into matchmaking allows fresh players to dip their feet in rather than throwing them into the deep end. It also means that more and more new players will win some games and realize just how exhilarating the battle royale genre can be. That’s healthy for Fortnite’s future, and it’s probably why players seem to be responding to the news pretty positively.
I’m not personally a fan of calling human players the term in a derogatory sense, either, and introducing literal bots might actually help with that. Or I suppose it could make it much worse. Only time will tell.
For now, I wanna hear your take on bots in Fortnite! Do you think they’ll be a good thing for the game? Have you ever been called a bot?