There's something very reassuring about Team Fortress 2. I haven't played it in years, but it's good to know it's around, entertaining a consistently high number of players. 13 years after it launched, it's still going strong, and with the arrival of its annual Halloween event, Scream Fortress XII, it's somehow managed to beat its player record.
Scream Fortress XII is not an especially noteworthy event. There are some new spooky community maps and cosmetic items, but nothing that you'd think would make people perk up and immediately reinstall it, but they do, in their droves. According to the likes of SteamCharts (opens in new tab) and SteamDB (opens in new tab), the concurrent player count recently surpassed 130,000 players, the highest number that's been reported so far.
That's a heck of a lot of players, but they're not all human. When esports consultant Rob Breslau commented on the surge on Twitter, it was pointed out that Team Fortress 2 is still at the mercy of bots (opens in new tab).
Bots taking over Team Fortress 2 is nothing new (opens in new tab), lamentably. April in particular was a bad time for the game, specifically casual matchmaking, prompting Valve to release an update that seemed to fix the issue. It didn't last. New bots appeared, this time spamming in-game chat by trolling players and spewing racist vitriol. Valve then released another update (opens in new tab) in June to tackle the problem. But now the bots are back in force.
On the Team Fortress 2 subreddit (opens in new tab), players are currently debating how many players are actually bots. The assumption—and it's a pretty reasonable one—is that there's been a big surge to farm stuff from the event, but that doesn't mean the bulk of these new players are bots; lapsed players often return for Halloween. Yet players are still frequently seeing bots and having their matches ruined by them.
The Halloween event only kicked off last night, so hopefully Valve will be able to release an update that gets rid of these pesky invaders. But if Team Fortress 2's history has shown us anything, they'll still find a way to return.