Team Fortress 2 is overrun by bots, and Valve doesn’t seem to care. We ran a story with this exact headline a week ago, but since then, further damning details have emerged revealing the depths of the problem. TF2’s bots go way beyond creating a nuisance for players, derailing games, or sabotaging the in-game market in order to make a profit. Screenshots recently obtained by TheGamer from one of TF2’s legitimate players reveal that the bots are also infecting the game with racial slurs, offering to sell bots (or bot immunity), and even posting links to alleged child pornography.
Our recent report detailed the ways in which players are fighting back; while complaints to Valve have gone unheard, some players have created ‘Bot Extermination Services’ – creating bots with the sole purpose of taking out other bots and letting the genuine players enjoy the game as it was meant to be enjoyed. When the biggest issue seemed to be bots using snipers to farm kills and item drops (then selling these rare items on the in-game market for a profit), fighting bots with bots fixes the issue. However, some bots are now intelligent enough to use the game’s vote function to boot all legit players from the game before they even have a chance – and when the bots have moved onto rampant racism and links to illegal content, Valve sitting back and letting players deal with the problem through their own Macgyvered solutions is simply unacceptable.
In several screenshots sent to TheGamer, bots are shown joining the game with the message ‘Ask for CP here’, with CP being a way to get ‘child porn’ through the profanity filter. The link in our screenshot is blocked out, as are the names of any actual players, in order to show just how prevalent the bot issue is. For obvious reasons, our source did not click on these links, but verification on whether the links actually contain what they are advertising is besides the point – they almost certainly contain something malicious, and being advertised child pornography while trying to chill out and play TF2 is disgusting, and a surefire way to push even more actual players away from the game so the bots can farm in peace. Of course, if the links are genuine and people are using TF2 bots as a way to share illegal and abusive content, that’s a problem way beyond aimbot snipers hogging the in-game loot.
Given some of the names these bots are using though, it seems like measures to get around the profanity filter aren’t even needed. The screenshots provided to us show bots with names like Waffen-88 (Waffen being the Nazi SS and 88 representing ‘Heil Hilter), or ‘n-word’ killer. The bot uses the actual n-word, with a special ‘i’ character and no asterisks; a weak profanity filter is the least of Valve’s issues when its game is overrun by racist bots peddling child pornography, but the fact that a name like that can make it through again highlights the seemingly small regard Valve has for the playerbase of TF2. Our source tells us that bots containing the n-word are incredibly common, and that other bots spam noises, including discordant music, screams, or other disturbing and unsettling content.
The third issue around these bots seems the most minor, but the fact that bots are selling bots (and bot protection) means that some legitimate players may be faced with the dilemma of giving up a game they’ve been playing for a decade, or buying bots to get by and becoming part of the problem. It’s a tough position they’re being put in, and Valve should be doing more to crack down on the bots and stop real players from being forced to make these choices.
Team Fortress 2 is not a small game, and even with the bots, it’s not a game near death either. Its all-time Steam concurrent peak was just four months ago, at almost 150,000, despite the fact it initially released in 2007.
Team Fortress 2 is not the only game currently struggling with racist bots either. TheGamer recently reported that Titanfall fans have been unable to play the game for years because of similarly named bots ruining the experience for everyone else. Despite the hate speech rampant in Titanfall, neither EA nor Respawn has done anything about it, though Respawn recently acknowledged the issue and said help is coming – hopefully Valve will soon respond to the issues in TF2.
It’s a testament to these games that players are sticking around, despite the bot situation and several newer, flashier games releasing since then. These are loyal players that online games like this are made for – games like Anthem or Battleborn would have snapped Valve’s arm off to have a dedicated core of players committed to TF2. But this loyalty needs to be rewarded; and they aren’t even asking for much. Just protection from seeing racial slurs and child pornography links every time they log on, just the ability to play their game in peace without bots kicking them out or ruining every game. Valve owes its players more.
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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey
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