Stay outside the circle? You'll die. Go inside the circle? Probably die.
July 2, 2017 8:24 AM   Subscribe

Playerunknown's Battlegrounds (aka PUBG aka Plunkbat aka PUBaGr) is a 100 person shooter evoking Battle Royale/Hunger Games last-person-standing mechanics but without the narrative framing, newest and biggest in a recent genre explosion. You and 99 other people parachute onto an island, and try to find weapons and armor and misc. gear while struggling to keep within the bounds of an increasingly claustrophobic circle. It can be rather goofy, even before you add McEllroys.

Currently in Early Access, the game comes from Brendan Greene, the eponymous Playerunknown responsible previously for game mods tackling the same structure, including notably a "Battle Royale" mod for the sim-ish military shooter Arma III. Unlike the mods, though, PUBG is a standalone game, with publisher money behind it, and has already sold millions of copies and basically taken over Twitch as the thing every damn body is playing.

Some more video:
- all of the Polygon/McEllroy "Awful Squad" streams
- weekly-ish Early Access highlights
posted by cortex (70 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
This is not a game I would ever play - I suck at shooters generally - but I find it fascinating to watch other people play, in particular the McEllroy/Polygon streams where they add a layer of absurdism to the nihilism of PUBG.
posted by nubs at 8:31 AM on July 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

Same here nubs. It's not the type of game I'm good at or really enjoy. But watching Twitch streams is a delight.
posted by Fizz at 8:36 AM on July 2, 2017

Bad game, bad design, randomball placement of items, one-shot kills from distance, skill matters less in this game than in almost any other FPS I have ever played -- going all the way back to Wolfenstein 3D.
posted by andreaazure at 8:42 AM on July 2, 2017

Bad game, bad design, randomball placement of items, one-shot kills from distance, skill matters less in this game than in almost any other FPS I have ever played -- going all the way back to Wolfenstein 3D.

This is a really dismissive statement about what is in my opinion a brilliantly fun game. What it tells me is that you're angry that the specific skill of shooting is not what is most rewarded. Well, guess what? There's about a billion games in which it is.

There is a ton of skill to this game, it's just that that skills are primarily large-scale strategy, stealth, and making good decisions about when to run and when to fight. Don't tell me there's "no skill", if what you really mean is, "I can't just run around being a super-sniper and pay no attention to the terrain, other players, etc". I am routinely in the top 10, and have won a few times in solo and groups.

Those wins have felt amazing in ways that few other games have ever matched.
posted by tocts at 8:52 AM on July 2, 2017 [42 favorites]

Bad game, bad design, randomball placement of items, one-shot kills from distance, skill matters less in this game than in almost any other FPS I have ever played -- going all the way back to Wolfenstein 3D.

There's a rainbow of video-games. I'd never begrudge anyone who loves this type of game. That's just silly. Gaming is so wide and open. Don't like this, don't buy this.

I've had friends gift me games like Rust, Squad, Ark, etc. And I'm thankful for these friends and their gesture in trying to get me into more social gameplay, but it's just not something I'm into. I'm very much into campaigns, JRPGs, & solo missions.
posted by Fizz at 8:57 AM on July 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

I wish there was some way to convince everyone that PLUBGR is the correct acronym, because it is clearly the best one.
posted by sfenders at 8:58 AM on July 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have a policy of nearly-no-prerelease-games, so I've been sitting on the sidelines on this one. But it's hard. It's amazing how this game has totally taken over Twitch. Over on MeFightClub a lot of folks are playing it, and part of what's fun about it is the way it generates stories. Heroic narratives starring you. That's the best kind of game.

RPS has a nice article looking at the start-of-game mechanic and analyzing why it works.
posted by Nelson at 8:59 AM on July 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh man, this game. No matter how many times I play it, I get so freaking tense and nervous like with no other game. It's funny how I can be playing something like CS or CoD and have explosions and bullets all over the place and be completely blasé, but in Battlegrounds, when I encounter another person, I literally get so nervous that I have trouble aiming.

I think having to wait for the game to start, parachute in, find gear - all makes your virtual "life" that much more valuable compared to a game where you can just respawn instantly.

I used to play the Arma version, and the standalone is definitely a step up. The blue circle moves a lot more quickly in the standalone, discouraging camping. In the Arma version, once you have decent gear, there's little incentive to move about, so you could be camping in a room for 10+ minutes. The standalone interface is also a bit less clunky, and the playerbase is larger, so less waiting for the next game to start.

It's also funny we've had the technology to do this type of game for 10+ years, but only now has the concept really taken off. I wonder how many other undiscovered game formats there are out there.
posted by pravit at 9:09 AM on July 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Bad game, bad design, randomball placement of items, one-shot kills from distance, skill matters less in this game than in almost any other FPS I have ever played -- going all the way back to Wolfenstein 3D.

They managed to pretty brilliantly collapse the loop of this sort of multiplayer shooter down into something short enough that you don't have to have a ton of time to play a round or two, and tense enough over a short enough period that it's constantly generating the kinds of stories for players that people love to tell each other about multiplayer games. Many people I know/pay attention to that don't normally get hooked on anything like this kind of game have gotten really into this one.

It's a bit janky, but it's the charming kind that leads to laughter from most everyone I've seen encounter things like the occasionally weird car physics. And if the jank leads to a death, well at most you've lost 15-30 minutes of play and another round is just a couple clicks away, and next time you'll be a little more careful with vehicles.

But to say they're not on to something here seems pretty silly to me. It's a really great tension/comedy generator.

The Awful Squad streams and Giant Bomb's Murder Island streams have all been fun. My favorite are Waypoint's Breakfast and Battlegrounds streams (their twitch page has more that haven't been uploaded to youtube yet, but that playlist's a good start).

Patrick and Austin have both gotten completely hooked on the game and their intent to just play a round or two each morning has turned into 30-60m streams on average (basically until Austin gets kicked out of the room he streams from at the Vice offices). They have a good mix of having fun with the silliness of the game while also trying to learn from their mistakes and get better. If you watch just one, I'd try this longer episode with Will Smith (the journalist, not the movie star/rapper) who has seriously gotten into this game and is pretty good at it.
posted by sparkletone at 9:13 AM on July 2, 2017 [7 favorites]

I wish there was some way to convince everyone that PLUBGR is the correct acronym, because it is clearly the best one.

Rock Paper Shotgun calls it Plunkbat, as should everyone else.
posted by a car full of lions at 9:16 AM on July 2, 2017 [12 favorites]

Heroic narratives starring you. That's the best kind of game.

Most of my narratives are not so much heroic as they are absurdist comedy, but, yeah, that's I think the most interesting and hard-to-communicate thing about the game: how much playing it is about the emergent experience of being in and navigating any given round, of guessing what's going on and trying to make something out of any crisis using the tools available. Gunfights tend to be either very one-sided (I've died a lot to snipers I never saw on yon distant hill) or goofily frenetic close quarters things, nothing you'd point to as an example of epic, elegant shooter performances, but the moments around and leading up to those interactions have a unique charge and narrative weight to them that's really satisfying.

I have a policy of nearly-no-prerelease-games, so I've been sitting on the sidelines on this one. But it's hard.

I think the caution there is smart and have fallen if somewhat more qualifiedly into that habit myself, but this is one where I don't regret at all saying, fuck it, gonna go for it. It reminds me of Minecraft in the sense that it occupies a weird wonderful intersection between work-in-progress jankiness and really, really having something good going on already. It runs poorly, it has a bunch of stuff not yet implemented, it has weird quirks and bugs that change from week to week, and it's glorious.

(One of those quirks which was recently patched out: for a long time it was true that all freshly-spawned driveable vehicles faced due east. This meant that if you saw a vehicle facing any other direction, someone had been driving it. Maybe they're nearby, exploring a house. Maybe they're nearby, camping and waiting for you to try and take their vehicle. Maybe they got out and ran and left it there to mess with you, slow you down as you case the scene.

But also: if a vehicle is facing east, it...could still be someone's and they parked facing east to fuck with you. Or, or, or.

Now all the directions are random, and that element has gone, and it was a stupid element but I kinda miss it because it was one of those weird little things I was there for. Now it's one of those things I can tell onion-on-belt stories to people. This is the best kind of Early Access experience.)
posted by cortex at 9:18 AM on July 2, 2017 [14 favorites]

Heroic narratives starring you. That's the best kind of game.

Yeah, this, and:

It's a really great tension/comedy generator.

A thousand times to both of these. I literally had a recent offline social gathering turn into like an hour discussion of this game and specific squad games me and one other person got into, with like 3 people who don't play laughing their asses off and asking questions about what happened. Even losses are often really intensely engaging narratives.

Not even kidding, earlier today I had one of the most tense and interesting gaming experience of my life in this game, in which I heard a guy on the other side of a steep hill, I wasn't sure he knew I was there, and I spent like 3 minutes trying to work out a way around this problem because I really needed to get out of the area soon but couldn't risk just running into the nearby open field towards the next safe zone.

(the solution, like so many in life, involved grenades -- though nobody was actually killed, they did scare my opponent away while I made a hasty retreat)
posted by tocts at 9:26 AM on July 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

I really like this game because you can get in the top 10 of almost any match by doing nothing. Find a secluded set of houses to loot. Run toward the center of the circle and just lie down in some tall grasses or the shadow of a tree. You're basically invisible to all but the most perspicacious player. I've had player run directly over the top of my body and never notice me. Of course you can't really get first place unless you can win in a firefight, which I can't, but I usually get in the top 10.
posted by runcibleshaw at 9:49 AM on July 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

One of the most delightfully tense and funny things I've ever seen streamed is someone hiding in a bathroom and trying to figure out if the person who ambushed them has been shot or not, starting about 20 minutes into this.
posted by figurant at 10:39 AM on July 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

I just got done playing a round with my brother --- it's become our weekend video game. I am mostly terrible at PUBG because I am terrible at anything FPS, but I am good at running in the direction I'm told to, so we typically get to like the top third with him lugging me around as dead weight. He has probably average person-who-plays-shooters-on-the-reg skills.

This last round we made it to the top 3. I died somewhere around number 19. When my brother realized we were in the top 10 I thought he was going to stroke out. Ironically if he'd sat still like 5 seconds longer we would have made it to the top 2, as immediately after he made his move and got shot for it, the guy who didn't shoot him died for being outside the play zone. Womp womp.
posted by PMdixon at 12:17 PM on July 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Basically all my favorite gaming sites (Polygon, Giant Bomb, Waypoint) have been all over this game, and I love it, though I don't have nearly enough time to watch all the streams.

I really like this game because you can get in the top 10 of almost any match by doing nothing.

My understanding is that you can often passive your way into the top 10, but if you actually want that chicken dinner, you have to start playing a lot more aggressively, if nothing else so you get practice for those final encounters.
posted by kmz at 2:01 PM on July 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yeah, depending on the breaks you can get very far with stealthy inaction, in terms of raw rank count; the longer you avoid engaging with another player or group, the more chance everyone else has to get killed by someone else or get sapped dry by the blue circle. In principle you could win without doing literally anything, through absurd good luck: if you jumped out of the plane, touched nothing, landed on an isolated roof with no good sightlines, and the circles closed around that exact point, everybody else might take each other out while you stood inert at the predestined center.

That said, the final circle is very very small so the chances of choosing (or randomly landing) at the right spot are microscopic. You'd almost certainly need to move some no matter what.

But if you really wanted to try and win without shooting, you could move along likely quiet routes; the path of the plane's flight at the start of any round defines the likely populated parts of the map (in short, wherever people can reasonably parachute to, but particularly the spots in that range with lots of buildings and hence lots of loot and potential cover), so parachute off to the side a good ways and look for a quiet area with few buildings not next to any of the busy spots. Stay on foot instead of taking a vehicle if you aren't pressed for time by bad luck with where the circles are; hit the deck instead of engaging if you see/hear someone in the distance; avoid excess looting to reduce the chance of coming across a camper; aim for valleys and wooded areas to reduce your visibility.

Once the circles get small enough, a lot of that goes out the window because the remaining players will be more densely filling the playable area, and the ones aiming for an eventual fight instead of stealth will have staked out defensible positions or sniper perches, acquired optics to watch with, etc. But you can still sneak and hope. The terrain might be in your favor. The less pacifistic players may provide valuable cover for you by firing guns at each other which will both draw everyone's attention and drown out the sound of you creeping through the grass.

The hardest part would be the final showdown. The last circle is usually three to six people, if it gets that far, and they don't have much of anywhere to hide usually, so it's less about moving forward into cover and more about bluffing out that last desperate move from a very small circle indeed to an impossibly confining one. Move early and others will see you and open fire.

And so folks will want to wait. And if they wait too long they'll end up in the blue, and near the end of the game the blue will kill you very quickly. So it's poker, it's a big bluff, it's deciding just how long to press your luck so that the others will break and move first. And then maybe you can shoot them. Or maybe they chose the right moment and if you stop to shoot them the blue will overtake you and kill you. And maybe you'll shoot them and the blue will overtake you and kill you and you're both dead.

And if it's e.g. down to three players left, and Alice the Pacifist hiding in the bush twenty feet away calls it just right, waits until Bob the Sprinter makes his move and Charlize the Gunner waits and kills Bob and then can't get inside the circle in time to live to go after Alice with her slightly-but-not-too-delayed safety move into the circle, you get a dead Bob and a dead Charlize and Alice with the chicken dinner without ever raising a fist or picking up a gun.

Narrow chances at best. But possible. More likely you get a bit lucky, sneak into the stop ten, and then get cut down making a necessary move across unlucky terrain by a player waiting for just that sort of opportunity to present itself. But at least that guy probably also gets shot.
posted by cortex at 3:13 PM on July 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

I've been watching Polygon's "Awful Squad" weekly installments, and it's interesting hearing how while most of the regulars have been developing their skills in solo play, they continue being unable to coalesce as a team (at times, some of them are having more fun trolling the others, which is both exasperating and occasionally brilliantly hilarious). And I'm also grateful that they don't stream the in-game chat, only their Skype sideband, to shut out the gamer trash talk. I hope they continue alternating between common play and their own custom maps.

But there's a point at which, even while spectating a bunch of people who are for the most part pretty decently moral in their other online work, I can't get past the fundamental psychopathy of the game. It's a gripping watch, but also horrible. I feel like I would enjoy playing it but also be haunted by it.
posted by ardgedee at 3:52 PM on July 2, 2017

Judging from the latest Awful Squad installment which they played on custom maps, the circle eventually shrinks to smaller than a human, so even in a wholly pacifist match there will always a last one standing: The last one to exit the circle.
posted by ardgedee at 3:54 PM on July 2, 2017

PLUNKBAT is silly, janky, and so much fun. I've written a fair bit on MeFightClub already, but to reiterate my favorite part of this game: When you play with friends, there's so much downtime where you get to just chat. It's like being on a road trip with your buddies in the post-apocalypse. Plus, it's the kind of game where dying spectacularly is often more fun than actually winning.

But what I really came here write is that it's spelled McElroy, not McEllroy.
posted by davejh at 4:09 PM on July 2, 2017 [7 favorites]

I know I'm in the minority here, but I find the original ArmA versions of Battle Royale to be much more enjoyable and rewarding than PUBG.

I like things like rifle sway and fatigue that makes marksmanship difficult, and that the decision to become a walking arsenal comes at a price. I was very disappointed when PU disabled the fatigue mechanic from BR a couple years ago. Even from its early days as an ArmA 2 mod, I felt that is wasn't challenging enough - things like health boosts and an overly simplified medial system were steps backward, not forward. And don't get me started about 3rd person perspective - I'd rather it not be in ArmA at all. I hear that 1st person only matches will one day come to PUBG, but it's not enough for me to bring me back to it.

I prefer that the pacing of Battle Royale is a bit slower - it makes the terrain much more of a factor in the match, and requires that you are constantly thinking about not just the next engagement, but the one after that, and adapting along the way. Sure, there is a limited form of that in PUBG, but the rate that the circle closes makes the vast majority of engagements just a blur of running and gunning. That slower pacing helped make your character's life in that particular match more important, and worth doing your best to keep them alive. To me, the faster pacing just makes your character, and the characters of the other players, more disposable, and rather than a chess match of wits and skill, you end up in a meaningless demolition derby of carnage.

I'm glad things have gone well for PU - he's worked hard for years, and deserves the success he's had. He couldn't have achieved that success if he restricted himself to ArmA - it's a niche product targeted to a niche audience. ArmA isn't for everyone, and was never intended to be. I hope that one day, PU will give his blessing for others to take over the BR mod, and give players who want to take it in a more demanding, challenging, and unforgiving direction a chance to explore those aspects.
posted by chambers at 6:11 PM on July 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

chambers, one of the features it looks like PUBG is developing is "custom matches" where the host can set the speed of the circle and a host of other factors, so it might yet give you an experience more to your taste.
posted by nubs at 6:21 PM on July 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's also funny we've had the technology to do this type of game for 10+ years, but only now has the concept really taken off. I wonder how many other undiscovered game formats there are out there.

Yes it's a cool game genre! I actually mapped out a game like this when the Hunger Games first came out in 2008.... it would be a survival MMO type game, with say 120 players dropped into a map, 10 from each faction, and it would feature death due to environmental hazards (lack of water and food, cold, dangerous animals, fire, etc) so it was as much surviving against the environment as it was against other players.

The key difference would be the spectators. When you die you become a spectator, but spectators can also influence the course of the game - they vote in real time (either collectively or within each faction) on the direction the "game" is going. Is there going to a random forest fire? Lightning storm? Horde of hungry tigers released into the game? What kind of "help" is your team going to drop into the map and into which sector - medicine? food? warm clothes?

So this means there's a balancing mechanic of sorts, if your faction is down in numbers, they also have more spectators that could influence the game in their favor.

The twist is that the game should actually be more fun to spectate than to play, so you're designing it from the spectator's point of view (and their evil ability to throw horrible things at players and watch them suffer). Design the game in such a way that people can spectate matches and participate in them (for longer term rewards?) without actually playing on the ground - something you can do on your phone, or in a window while browsing the internet. Then suddenly now you have a huge e-sport / twitch / dystopian future societal control mechanism phenomenon...
posted by xdvesper at 6:54 PM on July 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

My favorite comedians/livestreamers, LoadingReadyRun, have really gotten into PUBG, to the point of naming a new stream show after it (the show is called "One More," a consequence of the short play session time we've been talking about). Also to the point of doing a live-action Nerf PUBG video.

(And after you've watched that, watch the opening and closing sketches from this episode of their fortnightly comedy show LoadingReadyLIVE. Link is to the wiki page for the episode, which has links to the starts of both segments, as well as to a lengthy demonstration of why BeanBoozled was a bad idea.)
posted by dialMforMara at 7:25 PM on July 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Fellow crabs in the bucket, I suggest we turn our guns on whoever's making the blue circle get smaller.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:04 PM on July 2, 2017 [12 favorites]

O man I'm bad with stress so this doesn't look like my cup of tea, but I watched all 90 minutes of the Awful Squad video and it looks so weird and engaging. This seems to be the pattern:
ACT I: "Anyone need this backpack? I've only got a pistol, I need a rifle, and some ammunition for my shotgun. Ooh bandages."
ACT II: "I. Am. PACKING. Let's get moving, preferably by crossing brightly-lit fields without any cover, but it doesn't matter because everyone is still scavenging. Wait up, let's check out this hut."
ACT III: "The circle is moving! Run! RUN!"
ACT IV: (killed by someone they never see)
posted by um at 12:17 AM on July 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

I don't play shooters, but I've been enjoying watching Polygon's Awful Squad. This is one I might try, to be honest. The stakes seem to be relatively low, and it would be neat to try some strategies; it would be more fun with friends.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:09 AM on July 3, 2017

I've been playing this game for 3 weeks.

I am fucking terrible at it. Often I'm one of the first to die. I have definitely gotten better, as before, it felt like an exercise in running through a field and getting shot with no clue where anyone else is, but I am still bad.

That isn't really the point though - the fear you get when you see another player is like no other game, and the paranoia you get by examining every part of the scenery trying to decide if another player is hiding there or it's safe to loot, is incredibly engaging.

CS can be solved by rote memorization - you learn how fast people go, they always have to run from the spawn, the objective is always in the same place, you figure out the best ways to aim and cover a position, and eventually you lose that sense of surprise.

Battlegrounds rewards game-sense. There is no possible way to learn all the angles - you have to get really good at scoping out where people are, aiming without getting the jitters, deducing whether people are still camping in an area or whether they've moved on, figuring out where people are shooting from using the complicated sound cues... It's a surprisingly cerebral and terrifying game, and a huge rush.
posted by Veritron at 6:00 AM on July 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

I wonder if this will ever be available on PS4.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 6:30 AM on July 3, 2017

xdvesper, I like your idea of making the spectators part of the game in an active way. Some of the Battlefield games sort of have that in the Commander mode. It's framed as another player, not a spectator, but all they get to do is sit back and watch a map of the action. And drop help to friendlies and artillery on enemies. In theory they also gave orders to their teammates, helping coordinate the game at a high level. I loved that game mechanic, but it was never very popular and isn't present at all in Battlefield 1.
posted by Nelson at 6:51 AM on July 3, 2017

I read that the publisher's goal is not only to make it available on PlayStation and X-box, but to also enable cross-platform play. There are enough people playing the PC/Steam version right now that there is virtually no wait to get enough people to start a match. That is huge.

I am not very good at FPS games, and so was hesitant to try this. I started last night and did not manage to actually kill anyone until my 15th game, when I killed three people and came in seventh out of 100. The actual shooting does not become critical until near the end of the match, around the sixth of eight playing-area constrictions. By that time, if you've played the initial jump smart, grabbed some weapons and armor, found a vehicle and outran the enclosing blue circle of death (all of which is amazing and terrifying fun!) you stand a good chance against even the twitchiest of players. Lots of strategy, lots of knowing when and where to pick your battles. I am loving it.
posted by Robin Kestrel at 6:55 AM on July 3, 2017 [5 favorites]

It's also funny we've had the technology to do this type of game for 10+ years, but only now has the concept really taken off. I wonder how many other undiscovered game formats there are out there.
This isn't super surprising when you consider that opinions like this -
Bad game, bad design, randomball placement of items, one-shot kills from distance, skill matters less in this game than in almost any other FPS I have ever played -- going all the way back to Wolfenstein 3D.
are pretty common. There's an awful lot of people with a curiously narrow conception of what kind of "skills" should be prioritized in these games, which leads to the same types of games getting made over and over and over again.
posted by cnelson at 8:17 AM on July 3, 2017 [5 favorites]

xdvesper, The original version of Battle Royale was a spin-off mod of the ArmA 2 DayZ mod, so you had survival aspects like requiring food and water, as well as having to deal with the zombies/zeds/infected roaming the map.

Also, the spectator aspect was/is present in Battle Royale mod, but is restricted to pre-approved streamers (to prevent the average spectator from using it to help their friends). In PUBG, this would be hard to offer to everyone, especially in squad/duo matches. However, I have no doubt that PU wants to have a camera system in the game, but it's use will be restricted to certain people.

The voting aspect to influence the game is interesting, and actually may be quite possible in ArmA 3, with a little bit of code to handle the voting, and the decisions applied by an server admin via the "Zeus" feature in ArmA. Essentially, Zeus is sort of a overall god-type role, where an authorized admin can see everything going on, control the environment, loot spawns, AI forces, and even hop inside the bodies of AI characters and control them. It's sort of like how a Dungeonmaster runs a game of D&D.
posted by chambers at 9:54 AM on July 3, 2017

Brendan "Player" Unknown posted a couple screenshots of a new desert map.
posted by sparkletone at 2:56 PM on July 3, 2017

I'd like to try the team variant of this, but I don't know anyone and I don't want to risk playing with random shitlords. Is there a group of Mefites that play this game? Is there where I finally figure out what this MeFightClub thing is all about?
posted by Rhomboid at 10:02 PM on July 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Wow I really must check this out! The drama really reminds me of early CS 1.6... anybody remember when the terrorists could move the hostages? Oh man, those were my glory days... I am not a great shot, can't strafe run and shoot, but I was really good at finding a nice hidey hole with my one lucky hostage, and running down the clock.

A game where deeper strategy and planning can beat twitch FPS reflexes, sounds glorious!
posted by Meatbomb at 11:37 PM on July 3, 2017

At this moment in time, at least, the random crowd seems to only be about 20% shitlords. Which means about half the time, your squad is actually a bunch of decent enough people that use chat to coordinate and cooperate.

(Tonight I won my first chicken dinner!)
posted by jjwiseman at 12:43 AM on July 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

I will never play this game but I'm really enjoying the stream recommendations people have posted.

It's hard to find the right balance between (1) exciting to watch, (2) entertaining to listen to, and (3) not otherwise repulsive in some way. Any other channels along the lines of Polygon or Waypoint would be great to know!
posted by rollick at 5:25 AM on July 4, 2017

Yeah Rhomboid there's a group of ~10-15 MFCers playing, join us! You'll still be playing against random shitlords, but it should be a good place to find a few friends to squad up with.
posted by Nelson at 7:36 AM on July 4, 2017

What Nelson said! Join us. Adding people as steam friends (even if they're more, like, MetaFilter/MFC acquaintances) is a good way to go so that you can see people jumping in and drop a quick "room for one more?" chat if it's a good time for you, etc.

And I have so far been pretty please by the way that the game is structurally fairly immune to shitlordery. You spend most of your time not near other (non-squad) people, and when you are near someone you're either hoping very much not to be noticed or getting in a gunfight with them, neither of which accommodates anything particularly annoying.

There's also just not really many shitlordy verbs available in the game mechanics currently. Short of a jerk going on suicidal own-team-killing spree for some reason, there aren't really any points of interaction where shitlordery has time to come into play under the umbrella of engagements with the enemy actually happening. An unhelpful teammate is just unhelpful; an dingus enemy is just another enemy.

The one thing I did was mute the game's built-in voice chat immediately, but even then you would only run into chatter during the pre-game lobby when everyone's in the same vicinity instead of spread over dozens of square kilometers. You can mute the voice chat for everybody except squad members, which means if you do end up wanting to play with rando squaddies you're only rolling the dice on 1-3 strangers rather than having to deal with idiot voice chat from whoever the biggest idiot on the server is in any game.
posted by cortex at 8:09 AM on July 4, 2017

How do squads work, if the point is to be the last person?
posted by tavella at 10:41 AM on July 4, 2017

Technically the goal is to be the last team. In solo play, that's just the one person; if you're playing with a group of 2-4, the goal is to be the last squad to have anyone alive. So as long as one person on your team lives when everybody else is dead, y'all win; it's okay if the rest of your team is alive, dead, bleeding out, or a mix of those.

Once you're dead, you can switch to spectating your surviving team members or, depending on what your squadding situation is like, you can always just exit out entirely and hop into a new game.
posted by cortex at 10:52 AM on July 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

How can anyone say PUBG is a bad game when things like this are possible?
posted by sparkletone at 2:24 PM on July 4, 2017 [7 favorites]

> Short of a jerk going on suicidal own-team-killing spree for some reason...

Tangentially, in one of the Awful Squad streams they played their own game of Assassin: one person would be designated by a non-player as the assassin and their goal was to secretly take out the rest of the team without being found out. That was a hell of a fun watch.

So as long as everybody on your team is on board with playing the sub-game (and it is totally voluntary: PUBG tells you who killed you so there's nothing to keep you from blabbing except omertà), even griefing your teammates can be a game.
posted by ardgedee at 3:33 PM on July 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

Tangentially, in one of the Awful Squad streams they played their own game of Assassin: one person would be designated by a non-player as the assassin and their goal was to secretly take out the rest of the team without being found out. That was a hell of a fun watch.

When they initially explained the concept of that stream, I figured it was going to be hot garbage...and it wound up being perhaps the best one they've done. It made me realize that PUBG is fascinating game design - while there is a larger overall goal there's enough sandbox in it to allow for people to be playing different subgames at the same time. There's a lot to learn from dissecting how PUBG is structured, because it seems to be working for a heck of a lot of people right now - players and viewers.
posted by nubs at 3:46 PM on July 4, 2017

How can anyone say PUBG is a bad game when things like this are possible?

Oh my god, it's it's the bike snipe kill from the other perspective.
posted by sparkletone at 6:24 PM on July 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

Man, this game. I am a pro-gun-control liberal who hates shooting games, but the videos of this sucked me in. It turns out to be not so much about shooting -- as others have said -- as it is about hiding, being strategic, being smart, and being able to laugh at yourself when you fuck up.

I'm timid, so I try to parachute into areas away from other people. This usually means spending a few (precious) minutes running through the woods until I get to an out-of-the way farmhouse or shed. And usually there's not a whole lot of good gear in those places. I started one game today with a shitty pistol and no ammo, because someone got there before me and took all of the ammo (but left the shitty pistol). So I spent a lot of time crawling through the woods on my knees and elbows. When there were like 30 people left in the game and the circle was rapidly closing in on me, I came up behind a guy who was laying prone behind a tree, with a sniper rifle, picking people off in the field down below. He had no idea I was there. I snuck up to him, but couldn't do a damn thing with my ammo-less pistol. I would have given anything for a frying pan right then, because I could have started wailing on him from behind. In the end I just jumped up and down on his back and he shot me. It was an ignominious way to die, but I feel like I at least gave some decent player one helluva scare.

I actually came in 4th once today after finding a single shotgun and only 10 shells. I just crept my way through the woods, from circle to circle, and didn't have to shoot until there were maybe a dozen people left. I could see where many of those dozen people were, but they couldn't see me. A jeep sped up next to me and a dude jumped out, firing off to my right. I managed to kill him -- using all 10 of my shotgun shells in the process. I was able to crawl over to him and loot his stuff. I made a few more shots before dying as #4. It was awesome!

The best, though, was starting out in a shitty place and having to race inland to beat the circle. I found a gas can and a car and sped across the plains and against the clock. I didn't see the big drop-off coming, so my car launched itself into the air and landed/skidded on its side. I made it out undamaged, but the car was undriveable. I hid behind the over-turned car for a while, with gunfire all around me. Then I realized that I was still being given the option to press F to sit in the car. So I got back into the overturned car -- in the passenger seat, which was flush with the ground -- and waited for about 15 minutes while the circle closed in on me. I was right in the middle of it! And I could look around with a bird's eye view while hiding inside this upended car, and I could see everything that was going on around me. No one on the periphery had any idea I was there until I finally had to get out and sprint towards the center of the shrinking circle. I got picked off, to be sure, but I was laughing uproariously the whole time because I had been completely invisible to all of them for so long.

I started playing this knowing there would be a 50/50 chance (or maybe 70/30, if I'm honest) that it would completely ramp up latent anxiety issues. But, it's had the opposite effect so far. I know I'm going to get shot at, and I know it's harmless, and in a way it's a really useful desensitizing thing. Plus it's just really fun to be sneaky.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:16 PM on July 4, 2017 [9 favorites]

The more I watch this, the more I think I should really try to play; it is about hiding and stealthing so much, I think I might have fun.

And then I remember that I have a shelf full of unplayed games and books and that I'm enjoying the heck out of running D&D for my kids and the neighbours and that my computer probably can't handle this game anyways, and I go back to Breakfast and Battlegrounds, which is like the most violent and fun breakfast program I've ever seen. But maybe one day I'll be out there, getting my ass shot up.
posted by nubs at 8:20 AM on July 5, 2017

Rock Paper Shotgun has a nice new interview up with Brendan.
posted by sparkletone at 9:21 AM on July 5, 2017

The one thing I did was mute the game's built-in voice chat immediately, but even then you would only run into chatter during the pre-game lobby when everyone's in the same vicinity instead of spread over dozens of square kilometers. You can mute the voice chat for everybody except squad members

Several times I've been looting or hiding in a room when I overheard an enemy squad's voice chat, and wow, it amps up the intensity by another level or two to listen in on an enemy squad's conversations when they don't know that you're in the next room, or when they know you're nearby and are coordinating their search for you. I assume you miss out on that if you mute voice chat.

If you're going to mute, maybe just mute in the very beginning, before the drop?
posted by jjwiseman at 12:30 PM on July 5, 2017

That last time that happened, I was in the apartments near the school. I had heard people walking around in my building, and I was quietly trying to stalk them. Suddenly I heard someone talking nearby, so I ran into an open room and closed the door--I stood to the side of the door, shotgun out, pointing at it. I whispered "Someone's outside my room" to my squadmates, hoping whoever was outside wouldn't hear me, but then I heard "Come out with your hands up," in an unfamiliar voice from just outside the door.

I shot through the door, blowing a big hole through it and luckily getting a direct hit on the person outside. It wasn't enough--before I could even chamber another round he opened up on me with his mini uzi, and I was dead.
posted by jjwiseman at 12:34 PM on July 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Today's Awful Squad stream (link to recorded stream) demonstrates a brand-new custom mode in which there's one human team and the remaining teams play as zombies. Zombies can't pick up weapons or drive vehicles, but they have the advantage of numbers (in the first game of the stream, 95 to 5).
posted by ardgedee at 4:53 PM on July 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

At default Zombie Mode settings, zombies run slightly faster than non-zombies, have a longer range with their punches, can destroy things like doors and tires by punching, can climb onto cars and boats without driving them, and can both harm and heal each other. Even when their punch strength is hobbled, 95 zombies still have an advantage against 5 weapons-wielding humans.
posted by ardgedee at 7:56 PM on July 5, 2017

That was a great stream - i could watch Russ drive in circles while Justin sings all night long. It would be interesting to see zombie mode with more than just one team of humans, though - 2 or 3 squads of humans vs. Zombies would set up an interesting dynamic with both cooperative and competitive play.

And I can't recall who strated to bring it up, but the logistics of getting that plane loaded would be a nightmare.
posted by nubs at 8:48 PM on July 5, 2017

Wow that zombie mode is interestingly different and intense.
posted by jjwiseman at 7:40 AM on July 6, 2017

In retrospect this could have been the whole post, so well does it capture the absurd dynamics of the game.
posted by cortex at 8:04 AM on July 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

From watching the Breakfast & Battlegrounds streams, I'm learning a valuable lesson about this game: when you've got decent gear and are feeling good about your chances, that's when someone you never see is going to kill you.
posted by nubs at 10:01 AM on July 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Over on MeFightClub a lot of folks are playing it

I've been aware of MeFightClub for a long time but I just haven't been into the games that are popular there while they've been popular. The "everyone for themselves" mode doesn't really appeal to me as group endeavor but I didn't know about the squad mode though. That might get me on board.
posted by VTX at 3:34 PM on July 7, 2017

Are the zombies in Zombie Mode given markers so they know where the non-zombies are? Or were the players simply watching the stream and figuring it out that way? Because it seemed like the non-zombies couldn't go 60 seconds without being swarmed.
posted by um at 6:37 PM on July 7, 2017

They were swarmed with perhaps up to ten at a time, not 90. If they had markers it would have been much worse. I think the noise from the vehicles was the main way that most zombies found the players.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:20 AM on July 8, 2017

There are probably a few hundred or a few thousand people who've played on the zombie side by now. Has anybody got a writeup on the experience?
posted by ardgedee at 6:08 AM on July 8, 2017

In the last stand moments of the Awful Squad streams, the limit on the number of zombies a human was facing had more to do with how many could fit in a constrained space at a time.

Presumably zombie players were using in-game chat to tell each other where to go.
posted by ardgedee at 6:11 AM on July 8, 2017

I have found this game equal parts addictive, insane, hilarious and frustrating.

I like 4 person squads the best as you can better manage the game with a specific skill set, and you have people to talk to. Most my chicken dinners have come in squad games (with other mefites even)

In solo play I mostly drive around causing problems for people.
posted by French Fry at 11:51 AM on July 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm trying to get this microphone thing sorted out because playing squad mode without being able to talk is kind of a drag. But then I guess I need to get over to MeFightClub and figure out how to meet up with some mefites.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:54 AM on July 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I used a cheap desktop mic stereo headphones for years and as long as I was facing the mic I was told that I could be heard loud and clear.

A nice headset is a solid step up but cheap works fine.
posted by VTX at 6:38 PM on July 14, 2017

I've been playing this a week now, and it is brilliant.

Veteran of BF1, BF2, Counter-Strike, Team Fortress, and Team Fortress 2 here. There are modern games with much better graphics, but god damn this is the most immersive of any first/third-person shooter I have ever played.

Starts out like Minecraft, mid-game is Rogue, endgame is the most intense end of level conflicts from BF1.

The way it ramps up from relatively safe noodle-around-and-explore, Fallout 4 style, to oh god I think someone is hunting me / heh heh I'm hunting somebody to we're all hunting each other now is indescribably good.

Get a mic. Get decent headphones. Directional sound is vital in this game. You spend more time listening very carefully than you do sitting on a camping spot sniping.
posted by zippy at 7:35 AM on July 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yes. being able to tell how far away and in which direction gunshots are is crucial. Only slightly less important is being able to tell what the other people are doing just from hearing their footsteps.

I've occasionally played with people who are able to call out every weapon and its configuration just from hearing a gunshot, e.g. "That was a silenced AWM!"
posted by jjwiseman at 2:19 PM on July 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

If anyone's looking for a teammate, I added my Steam info to my profile.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:56 PM on July 17, 2017

Ten hours of gameplay in, it just gets better and better. I bought a headset and mic just for this game. Among my circle of gamers at least one normally not hardcore gamer bought a foot pedal for push to talk.

Finally made chicken dinner with my squad, looted a crate, and made top ten solo.

While landing in dense areas is great for skill training, and I recommend that, when I want to make it to end game I prefer landing some place far from the plane's path where I can sprint and loot for a few minutes. With a level 2 vest and helmet then I can take out someone mid-game and maybe have decent enough gear for the end game.

But for the early game being aware of where other chutes are landing is crucial. I can often land in a popular military area and get decent gear just because I know to head to the opposite side of the base from where everyone else is, if I'm not alone. Then with gear I can wait for the others to get into fights, scoot away, or swoop in.
posted by zippy at 9:26 AM on July 21, 2017

I started playing this recently. I am terrible! It's still quite a bit of fun though.

Managing to get a kill every second game or so. Then I invariably die to someone once everyone is all kitted out. Or I die to the circle because I haven't found a vehicle.

Luckily my fairly old computer can handle it with most of the settings turned low, but not all (paradoxically if you keep some of them higher it runs better). I've ordered more RAM. It's been a very long time since a computer game has made me feel like I need to upgrade.
posted by ODiV at 10:48 AM on July 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

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