“Winner Winner Imitation Dinner!”
January 6, 2018 7:22 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone own the Battle Royale genre? [Games Industry] “The recent public statements made by Bluehole and Epic [PC Gamer] about PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and its competitor Fortnite raise an important question: can anyone really own a game genre? This question is a good illustration of an issue which is felt acutely in the games industry, more so than in others. Intellectual property is protected by a patchwork of legal rights, each of which protects a different thing. Broadly speaking: copyright protects the expression of original ideas; patents protect novel, technical inventions; designs protect the external appearance of products (be they physical or digital); trade marks protect more or less anything which consumers rely on to identify the commercial origin of a product; and the law on confidentiality protects information which is, well, confidential.”

• PUBG dev explains why Bluehole has an issue with Epic Games and the Fortnite Battle Royale mode [VG24/7]
“PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds developer Bluehole’s concerns about Epic Games copying the game’s battle royale formula were not well explained in the press release sent on Friday. The release made it sound like Bluehole is not happy about Fortnite’s Battle Royale mode copying major elements from PUBG, but the issue appears to be bigger than that. Bluehole VP and executive producer Changhan Kim clarified the company’s position in an interview with PCGamer, saying that Bluehole isn’t going after other developers making their own versions of battle royale. “So the first thing that I’d like to clarify is that this is not about the battle royale game mode itself,” said Changhan Kim. “There were other BR game modes earlier this year that were released, like last man standing or GTA 5’s battle royale game mode, and we never raised an issue, and I think it’s great that there’s more competition and everyone should be able to create their own battle royale game mode, and it’s not about the idea itself, it’s about Epic Games, and that wasn’t really clear [in the press release].””
• PUBG and Fortnite's argument raises the question: Can you own a genre? [Polygon]
“ut on paper, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds and H1Z1: King of the Kill are the same damn game. They have huge differences in the pace and style of play, but they operate on the same basic set of principles; many players, a shrinking map, high stakes. They are variations on a theme, and even though they were both spawned from the same creative mind, they are absolutely not the same. No, they’re not clones. We’ve encountered those before with 2048 and Threes, with Ninja Fishing and Ridiculous Fishing. We know what it feels like to see a game that has practically been plagiarized. But you can have the same formula and still make different games. Just look at MOBAs like Dota 2 and League of Legends and, yes, the original Defense of the Ancients mod that started it all. Look at the collection of games made in the style of Dark Souls. This is not a new concept. It’s the differences between games in a genre that grow and evolve the art of making games. Those differences are small on paper, but massive in the hands of players. And to fight and quibble and litigate over who made what first is wasting time and energy that could be put into making each of these games better and better.”
• The Rise of the Batle Royale Genre [World Gaming]
“There are only so many ways to make a third person Battle Royale shooter unique. Fortnite introduces “building” allowing players to create walls, ramps, and traps around the environment. Each match still has you jumping out of a flying vehicle, picking a spot to land, looting buildings for weapons and gear, and attempting to stay inside an ever-shrinking play space. Fortnite, however, simplifies the formula with less complicated loot management and faster-paced gameplay. It’s simply more accessible at the risk of being potentially less rewarding. The cartoony Fortnite Battle Royale mode also went free-to-play on both PC and consoles, making it much more available than the US$29.99 Steam-only PUBG. Blue Hole have every right to be concerned about this competition. Whether they have a case or not is up in the air. Competition is great for the industry. As the Battle Royale genre dominates streaming sites like Twitch and Mixer, it’s naïve to assume this gaming trend won’t continue. The question is how long will it last? Will gamers be addicted to Battle Royale for 2 years? 5 years? A decade?”
• The battle royale genre will go from strength to strength in 2018 [PCGamesN]
“But PUBG only popularised the format: H1Z1: King of the Kill existed beforehand and, in fact, the concept of battle royale games came out of mods to existing games such as Minecraft and Arma 2. Nevertheless, the dizzying success of PUBG has attracted imitators - most famously Epic Games with Fortnite Battle Royale. Brendan Greene and his team might not be able to claim ownership of an entire genre, but the similarity the standalone version of vanilla Fortnite - the paid ‘Save the World’ mode has been all but completely eclipsed - is more than a little cheeky. That said, if you are going to copy someone else’s homework, make it the clever kid’s: Fortnite Battle Royale, with over 30 million players, is now the biggest battle royale game on the planet. It is easy to remark that, at least on a surface level, the two games are the same, but Fortnite Battle Royale has surpassed PUBG because it has put its own twist on the formula.”
• Paladins Jumps on the Battle Royale Bandwagon with Awfully Familiar Battlegrounds Mode [Paste Magazine]
“Attempting to capitalize on the popularity of the genre-defining PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, the new mode will drop 100 players onto a large island map where they will gear up and eliminate one another as bomb zones and a shrinking barrier of fog force players into smaller areas of battle until one champion claims victory. The mode basically sounds like PUBG, just reskinned to fit the more fantastic setting of Paladins, right down to the inclusion of mounts to emulate vehicles. The only real difference Paladins: Battlegrounds promises is the inclusion of class abilities. This isn’t the first time Paladins has been met with criticism over a perceived lack of originality. The game drew many comparisons to another wildly popular game that defined a genre, Blizzard’s Overwatch, upon its release in September 2016. (Hi-Rez COO Todd Harris revealed some of the game’s development history in this post to counter the claims that Overwatch heavily influenced Paladins.) While Paladins did well enough to define itself apart from its more heavily praised competitor, Hi-Rez’s strategy of slapping half of the title of the game upon whose popularity they’re trying to capitalize isn’t especially inspired.”
• Why Fortnite: Battle Royale is Exactly What the Genre Needs [Scholarly Gamers]
“Isn’t imitation the greatest form of flattery? I’ve been playing Fortnite fairly regularly since launch, and one of the things that has impressed me the most about Epic Games’ new IP — long before this new mode was even announced — was their ability to take a wealth of relatively young genres and combine them into a very enjoyable package. In a sense what Fortnite has done best, and in my opinion far better than a lot of its competition, has been to take inspiration from so many sources and create a technically solid game with evolving and entertaining gameplay. Resource gathering? Check. Crafting weapons, traps, and structures? Check. Zombie horde mode? Double check. Home base with persistent world? Check. Co-operative play with friends? Check. Solid level and character progression? Check. Insanely ridiculous amount of new characters, skins, weapons, and more llamas than you could literally shake a stick at? Check, check, check. Fortnite is almost the perfect canvas for open-world shenanigans, whatever they may be.”
posted by Fizz (35 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Need to read the rest of the links but the first one's assumption that the failure of IP to encompass entire genres is a problem to be solved squicked me the hell out.
posted by PMdixon at 7:49 AM on January 6 [15 favorites]


It's worth noting that first article was written by an IP lawyer.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 7:55 AM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Actually, WTF.

Angry Birds is a direct ripoff/reskin of the Crush the Castle/Castle Destroyer games that AFAIK arose from the Kongregate/NewGrounds ecosystem.

Plants v Zombies is just a tower defense game.

Many, many major commercial games are nothing more than reskins of games that had been floating in flash land forever under a variety of titles.

So now that it's the first new FPS game format in a while, this is a problem to be solved. Because it might give CoD/Halo etc players something else to do with the basic control feedback loops they've acquired.
posted by PMdixon at 7:55 AM on January 6 [3 favorites]


It's so funny to read that first article from the point of view of "OMG game cloning is terrible; how do we stop it?" I mean at least it's factually accurate, written by an IP lawyer who explains how copyright and patents work and why they don't apply to games. (There's a fascinating history of US case law on this point.) But like PMdixon to be says, this is not a problem to be solved. I mean imagine if id Software was able to get IP protection for first person shooters. An entire game industry would not exist, nor would several spinoff genres. No Skyrim.

I feel a little mystified by all the Battle Royale games. (Note the name: clearly the Japanese novel / manga / movie folks should own the rights to all these games!? And let's, um, not speak of The Hunger Games.) I find it particularly strange that PUBG is doing so well when the game implementation is such a buggy unoptimized mess. But they found the fun. Rapid iteration and competition is great for gamers.

One of the big mysteries of game cloning is how, 6 years later, no one has still made a really great Minecraft clone.
posted by Nelson at 8:03 AM on January 6 [4 favorites]


Some clarification regarding why PUBG took issue with Fortnite, I think it is worth pointing to, from the PC Gamer Article:
PC Gamer: So it's not the mode you guys have an issue with. From your statement or your press release earlier today, it said that there were similarities in the UI, and the other things mentioned were the gameplay and structural replication in the battle royale mode. Can you specify exactly, if you're not objecting to a battle royale mode in another game, then what do you mean by concerns about gameplay?
There are a lot of different issues but everyone else that released a battle royale game mode made their own thing, but it was Epic Games that made this game that is similar to us that has similar elements, and that's the concern, that it was Epic Games.

We use Unreal Engine to develop PUBG, and we pay a large amount of royalties based on the size of our success to Epic Games, and Epic Games always promoted their licensing models [saying] "We want to support the success indie developers", and [Bluehole is] this indie developer that has been the most successful one using the Unreal Engine this year, and that's the problem that I see.
posted by Fizz at 8:03 AM on January 6 [5 favorites]


Context: I have played FPS games since the original Wolf3d, and I've been playing competitive online versions of such games since the original Doom (via DWANGO). I've also put 500+ hours into PUBG. It is the only game I've ever cared enough about to actually watch streamers or competitive play.

That said:

On the one hand, I do think there's some real concerns raised by Bluehole regarding Epic getting into competition with their own customer. Bluehole is having to solve a lot of problems that are relatively new -- not entirely so, but not that many games previously have tried to have so many players with so large a play area, and it requires assistance from their tech vendor (Epic). That vendor having a business reason to maybe not give the best support is not a pleasant situation to be in.

On the other hand, the company most likely to unseat PUBG as leader of the Battle Royale genre is Bluehole, IMHO. It's been clear through early access (and now 1.0+) that they are not a particularly mature development house. The game is a ton of fun, and it is worth playing, but there are just scads upon scads of stupid quality-of-life improvements they could be making that they aren't. It's a cliche, but the engine optimization is awful -- I'm running the most powerful rig I've ever had and it's still necessary to run most settings on 'Medium' or lower to not have terrible performance degradation. Their UIs are stupidly broken in some cases. They seem more focused on having too many barely perceptibly different options than just making things overall great. Etc, etc.

Basically: PUBG is great right now, but it is absolutely ripe for someone picking up the ball and running with it and actually giving a shit about all the little polish details. If anything is freaking out Bluehole, it should be that.
posted by tocts at 8:07 AM on January 6 [8 favorites]


PUBG is great right now, but it is absolutely ripe for someone picking up the ball and running with it and actually giving a shit about all the little polish details. If anything is freaking out Bluehole, it should be that.

And Fortnite has really picked up steam the last few months. When Fortnite made the decision to make their PvP free to play, a whole bunch of people jumped on the band-wagon.

I've played both and I prefer Fortnite because it just handles better as a game. I also like the polish. It has an Overwatch toon layered on top and it only makes it better. I know plenty of people who hate this part of Fortnite, but for me it just works better, runs smoother, and is more fun.
posted by Fizz at 8:10 AM on January 6


Also, a ton of popular Twitch streamers have jumped into Fortnite, which has also increased its following and playercount.
posted by Fizz at 8:11 AM on January 6


As far as I can tell the rush on Battle Royale games is no different from the rush on DOTAlikes before it, or the rush on Tower Defense before that, or the rush on MMOs before that, or the rush on Mario 64 clones back in the day. The game industry is driven by fads, same as always.

(also I'm a little bugged at how little I liked Fortnite given that it's basically a synthesis of two of my favorite games, Minecraft and Orcs Must Die!)
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:13 AM on January 6 [2 favorites]


Engine developer keeping an eye on what their licensees are doing and borrowing liberally from the success cases is skeezy, no doubt, but if that's your concern then you need to either build your own engine so there's not someone who can look at what you're doing and do it better in five minutes of configuration tweaking (exaggeration but that's why Epic is a threat - they know the engine better than Bluehole and should be better at making it do any particular thing) or else deal with that in the license agreement somehow.
posted by PMdixon at 8:18 AM on January 6 [2 favorites]


I still don't understand battle royale and its popularity. But about owning genres: did everyone forget that FPSes were literally called "Doom clones" at first?
posted by floatboth at 9:37 AM on January 6 [3 favorites]


There are a lot of different issues but everyone else that released a battle royale game mode made their own thing, but it was Epic Games that made this game that is similar to us that has similar elements, and that's the concern, that it was Epic Games.

We use Unreal Engine to develop PUBG, and we pay a large amount of royalties based on the size of our success to Epic Games, and Epic Games always promoted their licensing models [saying] "We want to support the success indie developers", and [Bluehole is] this indie developer that has been the most successful one using the Unreal Engine this year, and that's the problem that I see.


This makes it more of a competition issue than an IP issue in my mind. (Yes, IP is tied up in notions of competition, given that it's about creating monopolies, but it's not as often addressed by courts as a special case of competition/antitrust law as much as its own thing). In a better world I'd like for this sort of behavior to be controlled by antitrust law, but antitrust has had so many teeth pulled that I can understand the concern.

But the impulse that IP law should be what solves this is just...bad. We already have enough trouble defining the boundaries of what counts as "works of creative expression" or "tangible medium."
posted by pykrete jungle at 9:44 AM on January 6 [1 favorite]


"I still don't understand battle royale and its popularity. But about owning genres: did everyone forget that FPSes were literally called "Doom clones" at first?" -- floatboth

I think you meant Catacomb 3D clones. ;)
posted by symbioid at 10:06 AM on January 6 [4 favorites]


But the impulse that IP law should be what solves this is just...bad. We already have enough trouble defining the boundaries of what counts as "works of creative expression" or "tangible medium."

Game rules/mechanics are explicitly unable to be protected- you can copyright a particular work that expresses a rule, but you cannot copyright the rule itself.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:46 AM on January 6


Yeah, I don't really see a way to copyright a game style such as battle royale. It's like trying to copyright a shooter, you can't do that.

That being said, hot damn Fortnite is fun as a box of kittens.
posted by Sphinx at 11:01 AM on January 6


One of the big mysteries of game cloning is how, 6 years later, no one has still made a really great Minecraft clone.

For one thing, Minecraft itself is heavily inspired by a preexisting game called Infiniminer. As far as "great" clones are concerned, though, I think the best is clearly Terraria, largely because it was not merely a demake into 2D, but actually built more on top of Minecraft's surprisingly lean skeleton.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 11:15 AM on January 6


One of the big mysteries of game cloning is how, 6 years later, no one has still made a really great Minecraft clone.

Dragon Quest Builders is also pretty solid and satisfies that Miecraft clone-itch. Only it has a more robust RPG element built into it. And as jsnlxndrlv mentioned, Terraria is also an amazing clone-like.
posted by Fizz at 11:31 AM on January 6


And let's, um, not speak of The Hunger Games.

omg. The Hunger Games: Battle Royale. I would play that.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:17 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


real winner: a JRPG where you're just on an island murdering your fellow students in a dystopian future that's actually just a metaphor for the over-competitiveness of your own society that drives you and many of your peers to suicide because of the social pressure (something a white dumbass very recently did a stupid dumbass shit thing about)

which has a sequel nobody really understood or liked because they just wanted to watch teens murder each other lol

The Hunger Games: Battle Royale

*tears hair out in tufts from esoteric nerd rage*
posted by runt at 12:17 PM on January 6 [8 favorites]


One of the big mysteries of game cloning is how, 6 years later, no one has still made a really great Minecraft clone.

I think the biggest reason is that Minecraft is a type of game people don't generally have time for another one of. MMOs have typically held this distinction as well -- games where there's almost no end to the time you could spend on them, and so any time spent on another similar game means you can't get that one more experience in the primary game. So, first-mover advantage makes following in its footsteps risky with low chance of success.

(This is related to why you don't see a ton of people specializing in both Chess and Go -- both have enough depths to be studied for a lifetime, and trying to do both just means you'll be missing out in each)
posted by tocts at 12:52 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


One of the big mysteries of game cloning is how, 6 years later, no one has still made a really great Minecraft clone.

Well, there are clones like Roblox and Minetest but I don't pretend to know whether they're better or worse. I suspect the reason there aren't more is that Minecraft is relatively easy to mod, and easy to monetize those mods. If you look at the Half-life ecosystem, the process was: make a mod, call it a beta and give it away, when it becomes popular Valve buys it from the modder and sells a version 1.0, and quickly the beta community disappears.

From what I can tell, Minecraft mods are more server oriented -- dramatically changing the game without much in the way of client downloads. Crucially, some of the mods involve paying for items with real world money. So if you have some game mode idea you don't need to license ARMA or unreal engine to monetize it through digital downloads, you can just spin up a server and either charge for access, or charge for item kits / rank.

The end result is that there isn't one Minecraft, and the usual 'mod a real game' -> 'real game' -> 'mod the new real game' cycle you're looking for doesn't exist. Instead you make a server mod, pay Youtubers to advertise it by playing on it for a bit, then monetize the server, which pays for more Youtubering. And each one of those cycles implicitly promotes the Minecraft client, priced at like 26 bucks.
posted by pwnguin at 4:07 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


As someone who founded a game genre that's recently been topping the iOS app charts again, I have a lot of complicated feelings about this. I'm impressed and proud of my game's grandchildren and envious of their success, somewhat motivated to get off my butt and get back into actually making stuff, and ashamed that the success I'm seeing could have been mine, and wasn't, because of lack of motivation/follow-through.

In any case, I'm gonna go back to making weekly games for 2018. If nothing else, "Dune!" has shown me that I could totally make a successful game with my own Dragondot-style of just circles and particle effects.
posted by NMcCoy at 4:19 PM on January 6 [11 favorites]


It's so funny to read that first article from the point of view of "OMG game cloning is terrible; how do we stop it?" I mean at least it's factually accurate, written by an IP lawyer who explains how copyright and patents work and why they don't apply to games. (There's a fascinating history of US case law on this point.) But like PMdixon to be says, this is not a problem to be solved.
Sometimes I read IP law blogs, out of some kind of perverse sense of fascination with the alternative universe inhabited by IP lawyers. Especially patent lawyers. Some of them are more or less sane, but a remarkable number of them really think that the patent system should protect things like chess openings and golf swings and that its ongoing failure to do so is a terrible injustice. The US Supreme Court's Alice decision, which made it much more difficult to patent anything at all by adding "and do it on a computer" to the claims, might as well have been the coming of the Antichrist.

One of their persistent fantasies is the idea that software-related patents are good for small businesses and independent developers. In reality, if it was more straightforward to get patents covering game mechanics (it is possible to do so now, although a bit tricky) they would be virtually useless for small-to-medium developers like Bluehole: they couldn't enforce them against large competitors, all of whom would have portfolios of vaguely specified defensive patents that they could use to destroy a small competitor's business through litigation, and it wouldn't be economic to enforce them against small competitors. The only use for a patent in that situation would be to sell it to a non-practising entity (a.k.a. a patent troll - they have to be non-practising to make themselves immune to defensive patent suits) who would use it to extort cash settlements from other developers. Meanwhile, anyone trying to come up with genuinely new mechanics would face a minefield of incomprehensible, unsearchable patents that could destroy their business and take away everything they have if they got unlucky.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:31 PM on January 6 [8 favorites]


Thanks for sharing your thoughts, NMcCoy. From the Wavespark video it looks like Tiny Wings is awfully similar; Wikipedia says the Tiny Wings developer acknowledges the debt. I hear you about follow through. A big selling point for Tiny Wings was the graphics and sound design, it was quite lovely.

But then both games owe a lot of design debt to earlier games, particularly the "infinite runner" genre. Canabalt (2009) is the first mobile infinite runner that was on my radar, the genre arguably goes back to 1981 or before.

As a gamer this is why I like that there's no protection for game design. Otherwise we'd be arguing interminably about whether these games are really novel or if they are too derivative of previous works. Instead we get a stream of developers polishing and improving on each other's ideas.
posted by Nelson at 5:16 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


There was actually a bit of a kerfuffle over the Wavespark/Tiny Wings thing at the time; I was pretty upset, though more with myself than with the Tiny Wings dev. I chatted with him, and at my request he was quite happy to add a nod to Wavespark in the game's credits, which did a lot to ease my anguish about things. My reaction to Dune, many years later, has been similar in some ways yet very different in others -- I've got much more experience with making games, and am more confident in my own abilities, and I know that everything in that game is things I'm capable of doing myself, and that there's still plenty of player interest in a game that is Basically Exactly Wavespark. So while there's still a touch of "argh, I could have done that!", there's a lot more "oh! I can do that! Like, right now!" in the emotional mix.
posted by NMcCoy at 7:25 PM on January 6 [5 favorites]


The Battle Royale genre should be My Thing. But my big non-negotiable ask is high quality procedurally generated maps rather than presets. Preset maps place too much weight on rote memorization than on acquiring the ability to analyze the tactical situation. It's like a giant iteration of the first 8 moves of a chess match where everybody has the opening books memorized, except with guns.

I get enough of that with CoD and Battlefield. I need this to be more like Hunger Games: Battle Royale (justinian is promptly assaulted by nerd ragers) where everyone is seeing the map for the first time and have to make snap judgments about where to go and what to do.

To continue the strained analogy; moves 16-24 of a chess match are far more interesting than 1-8 because you see situations you've never or rarely encountered before.
posted by Justinian at 7:33 PM on January 6


Also, there's a classic SNES puzzle game with a small but devout following, which has been largely forgotten by Nintendo itself, and which has a core mechanic that would adapt extremely well to mobile/touchscreen. I absolutely intend to continue the tradition of standing on the shoulders of giants myself (while giving due respect to my influences, since I've learned how that feels from the other end) because that's how creativity and innovation and progress work.
posted by NMcCoy at 7:35 PM on January 6 [7 favorites]


The Battle Royale genre should be My Thing. But my big non-negotiable ask is high quality procedurally generated maps rather than presets. Preset maps place too much weight on rote memorization than on acquiring the ability to analyze the tactical situation.

I went into PUBG thinking this very same thing but it turns out that when the map is large enough it might as well be procedurally generated. Even if you jump the same place each time the resulting situation is different enough that its not about map knowledge but really about situational awareness and the decision of taking a fight or not. In PUBG this is even more evident on Miramar due to the added verticality.

I have close to 200 hours on PUBG and every game I need to find different ways to approach places I've been to many times before just because my gear, my angle of approach, the position of the circle and my awareness of enemies is different. Trying to get to the military island on Erangel by crossing the eastern bridge might sound like its the same thing every time once you've done it a couple of times but it sure as shit isn't.
posted by Soi-hah at 10:48 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


Also, there's a classic SNES puzzle game with a small but devout following..., and which has a core mechanic that would adapt extremely well to mobile/touchscreen.

If you're talking about Umihara Kawase, it's already been remade. More seriously, Tetris Attack seems like it'd be fine on mobile and would be happy to see it, but multiplayer seems like it'd be the hard bit.
posted by pwnguin at 12:29 AM on January 7


We’ve encountered those before with 2048 and Threes, with Ninja Fishing and Ridiculous Fishing.

Reading sentences like this hurts my brain, considering that, once upon a time, the videogame industry was full of Pong clones. Copying games made by others has been with video gaming since the beginning.
posted by JHarris at 4:57 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


Tetris Attack (aka Panel De Pon aka Puzzle League) is actually a competitive-style puzzle game, where dumping garbage on opponents is a large part of the game. BTW, a game to look into if you're looking for a touchscreen-based variant of Tetris Attack is the DS launch title Meteos.
posted by JHarris at 5:12 AM on January 7


I mean imagine if id Software was able to get IP protection for first person shooters. An entire game industry would not exist, nor would several spinoff genres. No Skyrim.

Ultima Underworld clones. And autocomplete gave me the suggestion, how cool is that.

Meteos is a fantastic title btw.
posted by ersatz at 8:26 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


The Battle Royale genre should be My Thing. But my big non-negotiable ask is high quality procedurally generated maps rather than presets. Preset maps place too much weight on rote memorization than on acquiring the ability to analyze the tactical situation. It's like a giant iteration of the first 8 moves of a chess match where everybody has the opening books memorized, except with guns.

I disagree, like Soi-hah above did, at least for the reigning champ in the genre: I think Plunkbat has enough going on tactically and through the uncertainty of loot and vehicle spawns that the preset maps are not the issue they might be in a different game. That's not to say I don't share your interest in the idea of a procedurally remixed Erangel or Miramar, but I don't think as is it represents a serious drawback to the game's design.

Both of the maps are huge, is part of it. You can get familiar with them in broad strokes and then in detail through enough play—I know Erangel very well now after, god, hundreds of rounds of the game over the last many months, and I'm starting to get a decent sense of the newer Miramar—but the tedious roteness of Dust 2 isn't there when the maps are 8km square instead of a dozen tightly-packed corridors that can be timed down to the second. Every Counter-Strike map has an opening book, and it's a pretty small one at that; Plunkbat by contrast has a huge beat-up atlas and some tourist pamphlets but that's about as nailed down as it gets.

And the process of transit across a map from game to game is so driven by circumstance that there's essentially no resemblance to the fixed corridors of a smaller or more linear or more static map scenario in any case. The option to start more or less anywhere, and the pressure the closing circles put on you given that landing spot and the luck of the draw, hugely redefines the approach game to game, and that's just the top level question before you start factoring in whether you end up equipped for long-range engagements or tactical health-sapping dalliances outside the circle, and whether you end up with the need and/or availability of a vehicle, and then under all that there's the constant real-time situational awareness of other players/teams and the need to modify a plan when they enter your field of view (whether that alteration is "welp, gotta reroute around them" or "welp, guess I'm gonna go get the drop on them").

Basically: the map being static does present a need with improving play to know roughly where things are, but not to a degree that reduces gameplay to memorization of the map, any more than tennis is reducible to knowledge of the shape of the court. At a strategic decision-making level, you will certainly be better off if you know that Erangel's mansion is northeast of the big blue warehouse, and north of the prison, and southeast of Yasnaya, if when the circle is closing you're at any of those spots and have to figure out how to move in relation to possible other players. Better to know the lay of the land already than to stop and study the map or, worse, just be surprised entirely to find buildings just over a hill that folks could be inside, for sure. But knowing the map won't win you a round, and not knowing the map won't prevent you from doing so.

Working moment to moment on gut instinct with the terrain you're currently in vs. your knowledge/hunch about where other players are supersedes just about everything memorizable about the game, and the size of the map and dynamism of player movement in every given round means that the number of possible individual permutations of those scenarios is huge and beyond any kind of rote treatment.
posted by cortex at 10:36 AM on January 8 [2 favorites]


Fine, you guys have convinced me to add another game to the rotation in my copious free time. I will give it another shot.
posted by Justinian at 12:28 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


An interesting essay on some aspects of PUBG I hadn't considered, particularly the lack of a leveling/prestige system

PUBG helped me learn to meditate
By playing cautiously, I’m forced to sit mindfully. I have to gauge the direction of shots fired, stare out at a still vista and study the floorboards creaking under the weight of an unsuspecting enemy exploring my house. I don’t think about my deadlines, or rehash conversations I regret. With each “chicken dinner” (win) I nab, I’m rewarded for being present. If I die early, often it’s because I wasn’t focused on the world around my avatar.

The permadeath is important...Due to the inherent randomness of the game, you can’t be guaranteed each new round that you’ll find your preferred guns, or that a car will spawn along your route. Every decision you make feels vital...

...As good or even better, there is no leveling up. Call of Duty: WWII came out this year on a Thursday. I downloaded it that Saturday. Before I could even get my feet wet in multiplayer, there were dudes who’d prestiged. The game made great efforts to give me a sense of achievement, but I felt absolutely out of my depths in matches. Unless I was willing to spend hours upon hours getting my ass handed to me while I leveled up, I would remain outpaced by players with better weapons...

In PUBG, I’ve never felt at a disadvantage. Players are dropped in with only the clothes on their backs (if they choose to wear clothes at all — #undies4fear). From there on out, their destiny is in their hands...

Success isn’t binary, either. Because only one player wins each round, death is almost inevitable. Players then are able to define for themselves what success is — making it to the top 50, top 20; getting three kills, five kills. More often than not, you’re competing against your past performances rather than the other players.
posted by nubs at 1:44 PM on January 11


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