Fri. Mar 24th, 2023
A status screen from the now-defunct Hearthcrawler software.

A status screen from the now-defunct Hearthcrawler software.

Blizzard seems to have won a decisive victory in the endless battle against automated “bot” programs that play games such as Hearthstone without human intervention. Crawlerbots, creator of the popular Hearthcrawler bot, announced this morning that it is closing shop after a recent crackdown on users of its automated playback tools.

In what it calls the “final official announcement,” Crawlerbots writes that “the recent ban rolls in Hearthstone touched many users. After consulting with Blizzard, it is clear that we now need to discontinue our services/products. Please note that we will not be commenting further on this.”

“Thank you all for being a part of our community,” the post continues. “We are very sad about this, but you also know that botting is against the rules and we all knew that the day our products [sic] more work would come. With tears in our eyes we have to say goodbye.”

The Crawlerbots announcement comes after Blizzard temporarily banned several thousand accounts it suspected were using bot software, after explicitly warning users in August that they could face sanctions if caught botting. “As we have said, fair play is at the heart of the Hearthstone experience, and cheating and botting will not be tolerated,” said the Hearthstone creator wrote. Going forward, accounts using bots or other cheats will be closed “without warning,” Blizzard said.

Before Blizzard’s recent bans, Hearthstone‘s “bot problem” had gotten progressively worse in recent months, with 10 percent of users in the Hearthstone subreddit admits to using bot in a recent poll. These bot programs have become sophisticated enough to thrive in competitive play with relatively simple decks, leading to many complaints of competitive imbalance from legitimate players. A bot user interviewed by PC Gamer claims his bot has gotten him 2,000 games in one month.

While Hearthcrawler is now defunct, there are plenty of other programs that claim to give players an edge (and free in-game gold and rankings) by playing the game for them. By continuing to try to eradicate them, Blizzard will benefit from the experience gained from nearly a decade of battling automated World of Warcraft gold farmers, cheaters and bot makers.

Meanwhile different Hearthstone players use similar automated game analysis and gaming tools for other purposes. At the recent Defcon security conference, a two-person research team presented a model for predicting the composition of Hearthstone decks based on automated analysis of just a few cards. The algorithmic arms race continues.

By akfire1

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