Bots are automated scripts that are designed to perform specific actions on behalf of a user. In the context of the Urban Dead community, bots are typically scripts that perform repetitive actions that would normally require a human player to spend considerable time logged into the games.
A more specific definition is that bots are programs that interact with a game, typically an online game, as if they were a player ie the bot plays the game for their owner. This is the specific sort of program addressed on this page. Not all programs used by Urban Dead players to aide game play fit this more limited scope, but many of these do automate certain tasks, often tasks outside the game (such as information reporting) or other tasks that are not game actions. For information on these types of programs, see Intelligence Sharing Programs, Metagaming Sites, and External Links.
Controversy: Arguments for and against
Arguments for Bot Usage
Arguments for Bot usage have typically been of a need-based bent - without the specific bot, the game is horribly broken, thus I am justified in using the bot. A related argument is the justified retribution argument - there are similar, non-kosher activities being performed by the other side, thus I should be able to perform non-kosher activities myself.
However, other arguments for Bot usage exist. One is the precedent of other communities - many other web-based communities happily accept bots as a useful tool in gameplay, and, assuming the bot is a good citizen (ie does not cause considerable strain to the server or bandwith), there's no real harm in such a bot.
Others also note that within the Urban Dead community, bots must deal with the same restrictions as any other user - they only have a certain amount of IP hits per day, they only have a certain amount of AP, and they are as vulnerable as any other user to being killed in play. Some bots do no more than mimic the behaviour of normal users, not doing anything a user couldn't do himself were he willing to spend the time doing so.
Arguments against Bot Usage
However, the arguments against Bot Usage have been well-established also. One of the primary arguments is that Bots are against the rules of the game, and are thus cheating (much like having multiple accounts that assist each other). This is, however, not as clear-cut as many believe - Kevan has never actually stated that the use of bots is illegal, merely that multiple characters assisting each other is. Whether bots fall within the "spirit of the law" and are illegal despite no explicit statement about them is an interesting question.
Other arguments call towards game balance as a secondary point - Urban Dead was designed to be played for a few minutes a day, and a bot that can effectively watch the game 24/7 (a feat a human could/would not do) will naturally upset the delicate balance between the two sides.
When a character in Urban Dead is active, it is generally expected there is a real player sitting at a keyboard controlling that character. Some people view violating this expectation as unreasonable.
Well-known Bots in the Urban Dead Community
Due to their controversy, relatively few bots exist within the Urban Dead community, compared to other online gaming communities, such as Kingdom of Loathing. However, some have become quite well-known, typically due to a public release by the author of the script.
The Sentinel bot was created by Sentinel, and was a bot built specifically to assist in maintaining barricades. The Sentinel bot was built with some considerable customisation, allowing users to determine how often they wished to check for barricades, at what level the bot was to begin rebuilding barricades, and how many AP the bot would keep "in reserve". Also, the bot had the beginnings of the code required to heal up the user if they dropped below a specified HP level. At Kevan's request, the bot also shuts down if the IP limit is reached.
Sentinel chose to release Sentinel publicly, bringing some considerable debate into the appropriateness of Bots within the Urban Dead community. It is unlikely that the originally released version of sentinel would still function, due to some changes in how the code of barricade building works. Whether modified versions or independently developed "copycat" bots of this sort currently exist, function, and are used is a matter of some debate.
There is also a collection of scripts that could be used for creating a bot. Although the scripts were designed to automate menial tasks, they offer a simple introduction to scripting and bot writing. Typically these scripts will be designed for siege situations; for example a survivor-oriented script might building barricades when required, and a common zombie script might perform ?rise.