This week, William Hughes stopped by to talk about the hottest phenomenon in games right now, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. For him, the key to its success is the way it builds constant tension and fear, essentially turning a multiplayer shooter into a horror game where all the monsters are controlled by other players (and you’re a nasty monster in waiting yourself). It’s a fantastic engine for bringing friends together and generating stories of your wacky, terrifying exploits, some of which Strange Albert shared down in the comments:
One of the things I like most about this game is that every round has its own “story” that your character is playing out:
- I parachuted into a farmhouse when suddenly I realized that someone else had chosen the same place. We ran into separate buildings, desperately looking for any kind of weapon to defend ourselves against one another. He got a shotgun, I got a handgun. It didn’t go well for me.
- I hid in a bunker with a shotgun aimed at the entrance for tens of minutes listening to the drone of passing cars and the occasional set of nearby footsteps. Fortunately enough, the play area always remained over my position. Until it wasn’t. With four players left, I was forced above ground where there was next to no cover. Just as I saw some hapless player sprinting in my direction, a guy picked me off with a rifle from a nearby hill.
- I started in a crappy house that had next to nothing, and the play area was several kilometers away. I’d never make it on foot. Luckily, I stumbled across a working jeep and raced toward relative safety. Along the way, I encountered another player and mowed him down, trapping his corpse on my windshield somehow. Another player was sprinting through the field and could only watch in horror as my car with its floppy corpse hood ornament plowed into him. I drove into a village, where apparently dozens of people were camping. They rained gunfire down on my car, killing me and exploding the vehicle.
For, ahem, Poop Medicine, the game has been an opportunity to reconnect with old friends:
A few friends I didn’t even know played PC games all ended up getting it, so we’ve got regular four-man squads to play with, and it’s a great time. We’re a bunch of old friends, and it’s really fun to just be bullshitting on mics and then there’ll be a pop and we’re all dead silent, then someone yells some coordinates and it’s off to the races. It’s one of those games where you’ll play a round and end up talking about it at a barbecue a full week later. The systems play so well with each other that it doesn’t need any scripting in order to generate memorable emergent stories, even if they just center around “that one fucker we were after” or “those dicks on that bridge.” I like it okay solo, but it really shines if you can talk a few of your buddies into jumping in with you.
One of my guys I play with was mostly just a friend-of-friends who ended up in the navy for a while, so we never really got a chance to get super tight. This game has actually let us catch up and build a friendship. I’m very happy it turned out this way.
And even though Shinigami Apple Merchant has only been watching the game, they ran down an entertaining list of rules for staying alive:
From all my viewings of players possessing varying skill levels, I’ve noted the following consistent tips for survival:
Rule 1: Cardio.
Rule 2: Stay off the roads.
Rule 3: Don’t shoot unless you have a clear shot (lest you reveal your position all for naught).
Rule 4: Stay off the roads.
Rule 5: Duck and run, duck and run, duck and run. “SERPENTINE!”
Rule 6: Tab and grab, then hunker down in a safe room/bathtub of a house to apply items as needed before you move on.
Rule 7: Core principle of any free-for-all victory (be it Starcraft or Goldeneye 64 or a 3rd person shooter)—don’t stick your neck out unless you absolutely have to.
Rule 8: Close every door you enter ASAP. You don’t want someone entering your building knowing anymore than you have to reveal. If every door in front of them is closed, you have a shot if you hear footsteps to get the drop on them, even if you’re cornered.
Rule 9: STAY. OFF. THE. FUCKING. ROADS. You just need one person on a rooftop and blammo! And you know what they’re thinking? “Why’d this guy go on the main road? Bullseye.”
Also this week, a few staffers convened to discuss their time with the Destiny 2 beta that ran last weekend. I think it’s fair to say the takeaway was pretty much, “Hey look! More Destiny.” Whether that’ll do anything for you at all, well, that depends on how into the first game you were. ACESandEIGHTS summed up their Destiny experience thusly:
I’m with Clayton Purdom on this one. You’re lukewarm about it; you love it; you’re tired of it; you’ve quit; HOLY SHIT A NEW HELMET, and you’re back in. Until, that is, you actually swear off the game for 1 or 2 years. You’ll find you don’t miss it at all. I was playing The Taken King raid, messed up the disc sequence, got called out for not doing my job, and thought to myself “why is a video game a fucking job?” After that, I logged in to race Sparrows once, then never logged back on ever again. It had become Inventory Manager 2015 anyway, so it was a game about jobs.
Obviously games evolve in cycles, in patterns, as a group. The Call Of Duty/Battlefield concept hung on for like a decade. League Of Legends snuck its influence in and then FPSes and other genres had that MOBA feel infiltrate them. Bungie took a tip from the World Of Warcraft playbook, miniaturized it, and bang—it’s fun for a bit but damn does it get old. When I realized that every new expansion was a couple of strikes and a raid (if you’re lucky), plus some new flashy gear to replace all your old flashy gear, it seemed pointless.
Speaking of taking nods from other games, Venerable Monk echoed our own Clayton Purdom in wishing Bungie would try to spice up the competitive multiplayer:
Bungie will always be the company that taught me to love online shooting games, but Purdom is absolutely right that their inventiveness in the multiplayer space has been completely overshadowed by the likes of Overwatch and Splatoon.
Never has the playing field and the mini-map mattered as much (at all levels of play) as it does in Splatoon. It’s still surprising to me that they found such an interesting way to get folks thinking about taking and holding terrain, even as the safe and unsafe areas shift under your feet.
And the heroes of Overwatch really are characters, rather than blank slate avatars. Each hero’s appearance and personality are tied in to the way they play, such that you can immediately intuit what it might be like playing that character and readily recognize the threats you’re facing in a match. Compare that to Destiny, where you might get some clues about a player’s loadout from their silhouette, but the sheer number of weapon, armor, and color combinations makes it functionally impossible to know what to expect at a glance. Most times you don’t know what you’re up against until you’ve already died to it and the game tells you what weapon killed you. For some folks, it might be fun to face the unknown in every encounter like that, but for me, being able to see a threat and react accordingly is a much more satisfying challenge.
Elsewhere, Shakes_McQueen took aim at Destiny’s writing, or lack thereof:
Bungie’s recent admission at E3 that they essentially had no idea where they were going with the story of the first game really took a lot of the wind out my sails to play Destiny 2.
People rightfully flogged the terrible campaign in the first game, but you at least assumed they had a coherent story they were trying to tell. Then, you hear the devs admit that they didn’t even know what The Darkness was when they made the first game, despite it essentially being the principal antagonist in the game’s lore.
There have been disappointing stories where conclusion wasn’t determined in advance (Lost) and tight stories that then had underwhelming sequels augmented onto them (The Matrix trilogy). But a story where all of the characters are babbling about stuff that is opaque to the player, and even the writers don’t know what they are talking about? I like a story to feel purposeful and thoughtful, not like the developers threw a bunch of cliched sci-fi shit at the wall for the first installment and now are retroactively trying to make sense of it.
That’ll do it for this week, Gameologerinos. Thank you for reading and commenting. We’ll see you all next week!