To Cook Chicken Dinner: A PUBG Analysis

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PlayerUnknown’s Battleground, popular known by its acronym form PUBG, is the most popular video game now in the world. The game of PUBG, nevertheless, is not exactly widely well-received. As of February 6, 2018, the game has 56% of positive review on steam and 4.5 out of 10 on Metacritics users’ score. Players complain about its lack of content, poor optimization and poor anti-cheating implementation. As much as people hate it, PUBG’s sales number has been in skyrocket for almost a year with more than 30 million copies sold on PC and 4 million players on Xbox One. How does a game, released in such unpolished state, with all the hate around it, sell better than any other video game released in 2017 by far, and the number still increases like crazy? In my opinion, PUBG’s stellar and yet flawed design makes it a great game to play with friends, addictive game to play solo and exciting game to watch others’ playing.

Majorly inspired by the famous Japanese film Battle Royale (2000), which is based on a Japanese novel with the same name, PUBG is PlayerUnknown’s ultimate battle royale game after his endeavor on battle royale mods upon ARMA series and directing the battle royale mode for popular H1Z1. The evolution is obvious: the mod plays in first-person perspective but H1Z1: King of the Kill uses third-person; in PUBG, third-person perspective is where most players go but first-person mode is a good alternation for being tired playing third-person matches. More importantly, PUBG inherits the iron sights view for precision aiming, just like ARMA series and other popular first-shooting game franchises like Call of Duty; H1Z1, on the other hand, does not have such feature. The combination of third-person view during movement and first-person view of precise aiming is to ensure that players are able to take advantage for both scavenging and firefight.

PUBG adapts the more realistic shooting mechanics from ARMA series, most notably for bullet trajectory being physically simulated. Compared to H1Z1’s shooting, PUBG is obviously more hardcore and difficult to master; at least for me, who plays a lot of Battlefield games, I still have no confidence for winning any combat after 40 hours of playtime. Putting enemies directly on the center of the cursor does not guarantee a hit; players need to measure the distance between two sides and relative positions in order to aim successfully, which is incredibly difficult to get right even after hundreds of hours of playtime. In short, shooting is where players can always get better but never get perfect in PUBG.

Movement is the other pillar of the combat system, and it is just as important, if not more important, than sharpshooting; on the other hand, movement is also much easier to master compared to shooting: after the first several rounds of match, I already know to move between covers outside, block enemies’ vision and stealthily pass by enemies. Excluding some extremely rare occasion when players are sniped with one shot and die instantly, players will usually have some reaction time before or during the combat, a period for players to find covers, discover enemies’ position and fire back. Finding covers is the most important among three. Unlike Call of Duty series, where any encounter will end in seconds, PUBG’s combat is much more dynamic and usually grants you the freedom to move and react. The design is made to ensure players to have a feeling of fairness from not being able to make the best move after getting involved into the combat, instead of blaming the game that does not game them a chance.

I talked a lot about skill, but the other half of PUBG’s core mechanics, scavenging resources, is largely determined by luck. The game’s random number generation tool spawns weapons, armors and medicine inside almost every building on the map. After landing, players will immediately start to loot whatever they can find inside their closest buildings. The algorithm offers relatively fair chance for all player to find some basic weapons (usually pistols and shotguns) and armor (usually level 1 armor, backpack and helmet with occasional level 2 items; level 3 items are extremely rare to find) to defend themselves. However, even if the RNG is completely random, players are able to take some level of control; finding the best loot does not guarantee a good standing in game either, only offering a relative advantage during combat. In short, item spawning is random but fate of the players is still largely controlled by themselves.

In order to be the last man standing, players need strategy. Strategy in PUBG is about trade-offs: discarding a close-quarter powerful shotgun for a long-range lethal sniper-rifle, parachuting at hot sites for high loot with high risk of immediate death, or parachuting at silent, bordered villages for less risk death from combat but larger risk of death from toxic circle. The polarizing effect is even more obvious with the recent update where toxic circle’s damage gets a boost and people who are outside the circle all the time have less chance to survive. On the contrary, places like Pochinki becomes even hotter for being both a high-reward area and center of the map. Another way to obtain best loot is through combat because just like the film Battle Royale, players can loot whatever other player’s items after shooting them to death. Air supplies are another new feature in PUBG that adds more variety to the game since they always contain some best loot, and even best weapons exclusive to the air supply. Of course, everyone in the game close by can see where the supply lands and therefore a firefight is inevitable for obtaining the best loot. Still, getting the best loot does not guarantee a win at all and therefore it will be players decision to either take the risk or not.

Just like what people are saying, PUBG has many technical pitfalls that can negatively affect the experience. The game itself, however, is well designed to maximize the fun and get people obsessed with it. With the large variety of tactics and long learning curve, no two matches in PUBG will be the same and the game keeps players on their toes even after hundred hours of playtime.