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Let's talk Bots, MakeMeHost, and also temporary death of B.Net

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~El

~El

Level 17
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I would like to bring up, in my opinion, a very important and potentially damaging issue. Please, hear me out.

As I'm sure everyone here is aware, after the 1.29 patch hit mainline, all bots running on the previous version were broken. That's fine. It happens. There's already a patch out there and most bot services are up and running again.

I, however, like a lot of people out there, mainly used MakeMeHost to look for user-hosted games. I don't care to (nor do I want to) play on the swarms of auto-hosted bot games, mainly because they don't host the maps I want to play.

MakeMeHost is now down, and I expect it to be down for a while. The site's owner has a reputation for being very reluctant to update and maintain the service, and as far as I can tell, the bot software itself hasn't been updated in years, just the configs. I don't blame them, either, but I fear that MMH won't be going up again anytime soon, if ever.

As far as I can tell, ENT's hosting service also isn't working (or even if it is, nobody is playing on it). I'm talking about the user-hosted part, not the auto-hosted maps.

I personally dislike bots. I miss the times when you could just host a game and have a full lobby within ten minutes at most. I miss the times when you could actually look at the in-game lobby browser and see actual, user-hosted maps instead of dozens upon dozens of empty bot lobbies. Now, I just use MMH's game list, because it's superior in almost every way. Too bad it's down now.

I also realize that bots appeared for a reason, and they offer a lot of benefits over self-hosted WC3 games:
- Giving users more control of their lobbies, including latency settings, swapping people, kicking them in-game, GProxy support and a lot of other features.
- MMH and ENT allowed anyone to host without having to configure their ports (which you can't realistically expect everyone to be able to do)
- MMH and ENT maintain a list of active games on their websites, allowing you to scan for games which you want to play while not running Warcraft, which is crucial for visibility, because otherwise your game gets drowned out in hordes of other bot-hosted games
- Bots offer cross-realm hosting, allowing more people to see and join your game

Now that MMH is out of the equation, I dare say that it is almost impossible to play the game anymore:
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Most people don't have the knowledge / skills / ability to self-host games
- The dozens of auto-hosted bot games drown out your game in the lobby browser even if you can host yourself. I can't even get 5 people into a lobby, let alone a full-house
- No automatic auto-refresh in the stock client means that your game gets pushed down even further
- Lack of cross-realm hosting in the client means that only about a third of all the people playing can even see your game

This, effectively, means that most people won't be able to host a map and get enough people into it - a problem which was already present, has just been amplified several times over. People who want to join other people's lobbies, no longer have an easy and convenient way to search for the games they like (the lobby browser in WC3 is... inadequate at best). The result is, it's very hard to play with actual, real people, even harder than before.

I'm sure this problem would go away if MMH fixed their hosting service. But what happens when another patch hits? What if the owner gets tired of paying the bills and just takes it down entirely? What then?

Blizzard can't rely on community-hosted services to keep their game alive. I imagine that the most hype around WC3 happens when a new patch gets released. People swarm the game, and what do they see? A lobby list filled with empty bot lobbies, and if lucky, two-three user-hosted maps, and if they're even more lucky, the host configured their machine properly to let others join. That's it. The game just looks dead. Even if MMH gets fixed some time after the patch, most of the hype would have already subsided.

I imagine that this is very bad for the game's popularity.

I am aware that Blizzard had plans to move WC3 over to BNet2 with a revamped lobby system and all the other cool features, rendering bots irrelevant. I'm not blaming or chastising the Classic team, they're doing a great job, but realistically, how long will it be until that actually happens? I can't even begin to fathom what a huge amount of work that would require. Months? A year? Two years? At the rate at which the Classic team is producing patches, it looks like we're a long distance away from that still.

I would like to bring the attention of @Kam here, as I strongly believe this is an issue worth looking into. I apologize if the Classic team is already working on solutions to this, but some news would be great!

I invite everyone to think about possible solutions to this problem, and I would like to bring up some points:
- While a total revamp of the hosting system to be more modern like SC2's would be great, it would require the most amount of work, so instead, I'd like to suggest things that should be easier to implement, as (possibly temporary) remedies to the current problem
- Since hosting games requires open ports on the user's part, and without them, there's no point in hosting, B.Net could ping every user on their chosen hosting port and display a warning somewhere that they won't be able to host, maybe with a link on how to solve this. This would raise awareness of the hosting problem for regular users
- A webpage with a view of all hosted games on bnet would help immensely. TriggerHappy's website already does this, but an officially-supported service is always a better option, since it will have greater coverage and access to more data
- Some form of cross-realm hosting, or possibly merging the realms into one. The player base is already tiny, and different servers just fragment it further
- Improving the in-game lobby browser, such as allowing better filter / search options, allowing the view to make better use of modern high-resolution displays, allowing to view player counts and to sort by various criteria would all be highly-welcome changes and would render the lobby list much more usable again
- Giving lobby owners more control over their lobbies in the client, such as swapping players or kicking them in the game, like all host bots already do
- After the hosting problem is solved and the lobby list is more usable, maybe just ban bots entirely? They are just a crutch that exists to solve problems, if those problems go away, they won't have a reason to exist

I think that's about all I have, outside of a total revamp of the hosting system.
 
Quite sure it'd be worse then it is now if they decide to use that system for wc3 custom game hosting though it would be nice to play without being randomly banned from ip-range banning.

Edit: Forgot to add Blizzard is a fan of one of the worst designs for multiplayer which is region locking stuff. Without bots we lose players from servers like eurobattle and we will only be able to host on one server instead of all of them.
 

~El

~El

Level 17
Joined
Jun 13, 2016
Messages
560
Quite sure it'd be worse then it is now if they decide to use that system for wc3 custom game hosting though it would be nice to play without being randomly banned from ip-range banning.

Edit: Forgot to add Blizzard is a fan of one of the worst designs for multiplayer which is region locking stuff. Without bots we lose players from servers like eurobattle and we will only be able to host on one server instead of all of them.

I was just trying to throw out ideas, my focus is trying to bring attention to this issue. User experience matters, and the user experience in WC3 as far as finding games goes is rather sub-par.
There's a lot of potential pitfalls here, but relying on bots to solve our problems is just a crutch. A more adequate solution is needed, IMO.
 
I was just trying to throw out ideas, my focus is trying to bring attention to this issue. User experience matters, and the user experience in WC3 as far as finding games goes is rather sub-par.
There's a lot of potential pitfalls here, but relying on bots to solve our problems is just a crutch. A more adequate solution is needed, IMO.

Bots also allow for stuff like server/stat loading and storage... Even better reconnection and sometimes joining host bot games in progress . So much so many ignore... Have to keep in mind WC3 is owned by Blizzard so bots will likely be the only best user experience we get for WC3, we will lose too much in my opinion.

Edit: We are actually lucky that some players invented and made bots for wc3 to this level for players to enjoy, should try to look past the negatives.
 
Updating ghost bots to work with with 1.29 is ridiculously easy. It can be done with no coding, although if you want 24 players you have to edit a couple source files and rebuild.

If you are looking for a website to view the custom games, WC3 Hosted Maps is by far the best one. I have it working on 1.29 as well. Blizzard could create something similar, and make it official but they wouldn't have access to any more data than my website already has. The only way to get lobby info is to connect directly to the host. Blizzard would have to rework the way hosting works or have the host periodically report stats to their servers, which could likely be spoofed.

Bots offer so many more features. It would be nice if it was optional to toggle them in the CG list though (in-game). For now you can use my website.

I am also about to release a patch for ghost bots which allows map makers to make HTTP requests from JASS and everything that comes along with that.

I'm personally against moving towards a system like SC2. I want to keep the game peer 2 peer.

Since hosting games requires open ports on the user's part, and without them, there's no point in hosting, B.Net could ping every user on their chosen hosting port and display a warning somewhere that they won't be able to host, maybe with a link on how to solve this. This would raise awareness of the hosting problem for regular users

They might be able do the tricks they did in SC:R and allow users without open ports to host. It can have lag issues, but it's better than not being able to host at all.
 
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~El

~El

Level 17
Joined
Jun 13, 2016
Messages
560
Bots also allow for stuff like server/stat loading and storage... Even better reconnection and sometimes joining host bot games in progress . So much so many ignore... Have to keep in mind WC3 is owned by Blizzard so bots will likely be the only best user experience we get for WC3, we will lose too much in my opinion.

Edit: We are actually lucky that some players invented and made bots for wc3 to this level for players to enjoy, should try to look past the negatives.

I am aware. However, in reality, 99% of the user won't bother with these advanced features. Stats are nice, but only for people who regularly play the same maps. I know I don't. I just want to hop onto a random game once in a while and have some fun.

I don't want to disregard the cool features that custom host bots can provide, but anything that requires any modification on the part of the user is only going to ever impact a tiny fraction of the user base. Most won't bother, unfortunately.

Updating ghost bots to work with with 1.29 is ridiculously easy. It can be done with no coding, although if you want 24 players you have to edit a couple source files and rebuild.

If you are looking for a website to view the custom games, WC3 Hosted Maps is by far the best one. I have it working on 1.29 as well. Blizzard could create something similar, and make it official but they wouldn't have access to any more data than my website already has. The only way to get lobby info is to connect directly to the host. Blizzard would have to rework the way hosting works or have the host periodically report stats to their servers, which could likely be spoofed.

Bots offer so many more features. It would be nice if it was optional to toggle them in the CG list though (in-game). For now you can use my website.

I am also about to release a patch for ghost bots which allows map makers to make HTTP requests from JASS and everything that comes along with that.

I'm personally against moving towards a system like SC2. I want to keep the game peer 2 peer.



They might be able do the tricks they did in SC:R and allow users without open ports to host. It can have lag issues, but it's better than not being able to host at all.

I agree. Unfortunately, most users won't ever be aware about your website, simply by virtue of it not having enough exposure. Maybe Hive could offer it some promotion, but repeating my previous point - unless everyone uses it, it won't really help people fill lobbies faster. People are already used to ENT and MMH, and making everyone use your website (as nice as it is), is unrealistic.

This is my primary gripe with this whole situation - the community can and does offer a lot of solutions to a lot of problems, but most people are unaware of them. MakeMeHost was (is?) nice because over the years it accumulated a large user base and a lot of attention. Most people who play WC3 nowadays know about it, and use it to find/host games. With MMH out of the equation for now, you can really feel how much more barren the user-hosted game section has become.

Even if it is easy to apply a quick patch to your bot, from what I know, the MMH maintainer is very reluctant (or just slow) to update the service. And even then, he is under no obligation to even host it anymore, so we're lucky we even still have it. The custom games community is sure to take a very big hit if it goes down forever.

Community additions, mods, and fixes should be an augmentation to the core game, and in the era when the base game is being updated again, we can't rely on community services to keep the game afloat, because their unreliable, enthusiast nature means that they can go away at any moment, due to patches, lost interest, or any other number of issues.

Both us, and Blizzard, should be aware of this problem. The ideas I proposed are just that - ideas, hastily thrown together after short consideration. Unfortunately, everything the community does to remedy these problems is destined to stay in the shadows unless it gains enough exposure, which so far, only ENT and MMH did.
 
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