For a long time, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds–more often just called PUBG, but oddly now redundantly named PUBG: Battlegrounds–drew a clear line in the sand between itself and the other big games in the genre it helped birth. Warzone introduced its second-chance system, the Gulag, Apex Legends has always starred hero characters with unique abilities, and Fortnite, well, you know Fortnite–it’s the one with lightsabers and web-slinging.
For a long time, PUBG stayed true to itself as a gritty, slow-and-steady survival shooter that, I argue, boasts unrivaled tension even today. But more recently, PUBG has gotten more experimental and a bit looser with its realism in an apparent effort to bring popular mechanics from other battle royales into the genre’s progenitor. Some maps now use a Gulag-like system to win back your right to carry on in a round, a particular backpack can protect you from Blue Zone damage for a limited time, and in the new 23.2 patch, players can now respawn allies at designated zones akin to Fortnite’s Reboot Vans, Warzone’s Buy Stations, or Apex Legends’ Respawn Beacons.
Using the new Recall system, players can retrieve their fallen allies’ Blue Chips, then bring them to one of several Blue Chip Towers around the map to revive them and get them back into action. Enemies can even steal the Blue Chips of other teams, but may then drop them once more if or when they’re eliminated. Players can also find and use Blue Chip Transmitters, allowing them to revive teammates on the fly rather than needing to trek to a nearby tower. Like the game’s Comeback system, the Blue Chip mechanics are limited to only some maps, meaning they haven’t changed the meta of all of PUBG’s many maps, just some of them.
Still, PUBG is one of my favorite games ever made, and I’ve often appreciated it for its dedication to realism, so the move to bring in another less realistic feature from its competitors gave me pause. Does the PUBG community want to be able to revive allies like that? Does PUBG need to keep up with the Joneses of the battle royale world? What kind of data does the team amass to help inform these gameplay changes?
I was able to chat with PUBG Studios’ production director, Taehyun Kim, about these topics and more. You can find the full interview below, including the developer’s thoughts on one particular feature that PUBG “will never introduce.”
GameSpot: PUBG’s Recall system is inspired by similar mechanics in other games. This comes following the introduction of a second-chance mechanic. What’s the process like when deciding how to balance creating brand-new features with bringing popular features from rival games into PUBG?
Taehyun Kim, PUBG Studios: Indeed, it is true that similar new mechanics are often implemented across different games, given the inherent nature of the battle royale and shooter genres. Sometimes, we discover that a feature we’ve just brainstormed already exists in other games. Nevertheless, our primary focus is on developing features that our fans will genuinely appreciate and enjoy, while preserving the originality of PUBG: Battlegrounds. Our goal isn’t merely to make comparisons with other games.
Our ultimate aim is to maintain the core gameplay and originality of our game while providing our fans with fresh, new experiences. We are always open to considering and implementing what our fans desire and require.
Do you find that most PUBG players want the game to offer these ubiquitous features? What kind of data do you amass to inform gameplay changes such as this one?
We believe that many of our fans will appreciate the new features and recognize the fresh gameplay dynamics these additions will introduce. We also anticipate that they will enjoy a more dynamic and engaging gameplay experience with these new features. We constantly monitor gameplay data and gather and analyze various metrics related to newly added systems for future development. The volume of data we monitor and analyze varies per feature, ranging from just one or two metrics to dozens.
Additionally, we conduct user surveys and share our development plans to gauge user sentiment, taking these into consideration when modifying or redesigning our developments. We consistently strive to understand and meet our fans’ needs.
Is there a portion of the audience that wants PUBG to stay how it was–more “realistic,” more punishing–with no reviving teammates, no second chances, etc.? How do you ensure those players are heard as well?
When we introduced Comeback BR in Taego and Vikendi, we received a variety of feedback from our fans. Some players expressed a desire for stricter battle royale rules.
Features like Comeback BR, Recall, and other meta-gameplay elements are designed to enhance the gameplay experience for the majority of players, as we believe they can broadly improve overall gameplay. We made a concerted effort to consider the perspectives of various players while implementing these features. The Recall feature, in particular, was designed with various risk factors in mind to prevent its misuse, given the substantial benefits it provides to users.
The Recall system is applicable to Normal Matches, Custom Matches, and Casual Mode. However, we currently have no plans to include it in Ranked or Esports Mode.
Are there popular features from other battle royale games that you don’t foresee PUBG ever implementing? If so, why not?
While we cannot guarantee with absolute certainty that a specific feature will never be implemented in our game, we can assert that we will avoid adding any feature or content that could compromise the core gameplay and originality of PUBG: Battlegrounds. For instance, we will never introduce features that allow players to jump higher or run faster when equipped with certain “gear,” as we believe such additions would undermine the game’s core gameplay.
PUBG’s Recall system adds some interesting new layers, such as being able to steal enemy players’ Blue Chips and being able to carry Blue Chip Transmitters as loot. Why was it important for you to make PUBG’s respawn system feel different than others we’ve seen? What other changes to this system did you experiment with that didn’t make it into the game?
When developing new features or content, our primary concern is the kind of enjoyable experiences it can provide for our fans. We focus less on comparisons with other games or simply crafting a unique feel. PUBG: Battlegrounds is a game that offers unique, special experiences to its players. We believe that concentrating on the development of features that resonate with the game’s originality will naturally result in novel and distinct gameplay.
With the Recall system, we aim to provide dynamic and fun experiences for as many players as possible. For instance, you’ll be able to enjoy unique gameplay scenarios, such as stealing Blue Chips from enemy players or carrying Blue Chip Transmitters as loot–these were specifically designed to create such experiences.
After the release of Recall, we will continuously monitor player sentiment and metrics to adjust the feature accordingly. We are considering mechanics where you can track the location of the enemy player who has your teammate’s Blue Chip or set a trap using the Blue Chip. However, all decisions will be made based on player sentiment post-release.
Players can board the Recall plane only once from phases 2 through 7. Do you feel you’ve found the right balance with this window of opportunity or might you continue to tweak the system to be used in a longer or shorter stretch of time?
Our current balance is what we believe to be appropriate, based on the results of numerous internal tests. If teammates could be recalled immediately after every death or within a very short time frame, this could lead to disordered and reckless gameplay. The onset of a new phase is a point where the flow of gameplay can diverge, and players formulate new tactics and strategic moves. This is why we believe it’s best to align the timing of the Recall feature accordingly.
It’s also crucial to ensure that players can accurately anticipate when eliminated enemies will rejoin the game. We must take into account that players might miss out on opportunities if the time frame is too long or if the available phases are more restrictive. Following the initial update, we will continue to monitor player sentiment and metrics for future adjustments.
Recall is available on three maps: Deston, Miramar, and Erangel. How did you decide where to utilize this system and why isn’t it available on all maps?
For now, we plan to implement the Recall feature only on 8×8 maps. We believe it would be unsuitable to add this feature to smaller maps due to their fast-paced gameplay and shorter playtime. Additionally, we will not introduce the Recall feature on Taego and Vikendi, as these maps already incorporate the Comeback BR feature.
In terms of inventory space, how bulky is a Blue Chip in one’s backpack? Is it roughly the size of a grenade, a med kit, or perhaps something else? I’m wondering how much players will have to sacrifice from their backpacks in order to carry their teammates’ chips with them.
A Blue Chip has a capacity of 5. To provide a comparison, a First Aid Kit has a capacity of 10, and a Frag Grenade has 27. Blue Chips are not heavy, and by keeping their size small by design, we enable players to carry more chips, which in turn provides more strategic possibilities.
Although carrying three or more chips might consume a significant amount of space in your backpack, we observed enjoyable and clever gameplay moments in our internal tests, such as when a player collected the Blue Chips of enemies and discarded them.
PUBG kicked off a trend of battle royale games, but it feels like the genre has slowed down and now there are four major games: PUBG, Fortnite, Warzone, and Apex Legends. Where do you see the genre going over the next few years?
After the launch of PUBG: Battlegrounds, numerous game developers embarked on creating their own battle royale games. Several of these games have since been released and have established their own niche within the battle royale sub-genre. It seems that many are now attempting to incorporate elements of battle royale, or its rules, into existing games rather than creating entirely new battle royale games.
I believe we will undoubtedly see another battle royale game enter the market, but the general approach to this genre is likely to evolve. Gamers may not want experiences identical to those found in existing games. That being said, the trend of integrating battle royale-like modes into existing games is likely to persist and remain effective.
In what ways will PUBG continue to help define battle royale into the future?
We believe we already have a solid definition of the battle royale genre: adapting to a harsh environment and emerging as the lone survivor under the same conditions. The environment, conditions, and methods of achieving victory can vary, giving rise to new and enjoyable gameplay.
Our focus should be on continuously introducing new maps, gear, and features to make the journey to becoming the lone survivor more enjoyable for players. PUBG: Battlegrounds not only defined the battle royale genre but also popularized it and has been embraced by many fans. We will continue to do our utmost to ensure that our game remains loved in the future.
PUBG: Battlegrounds is free to play on PC, Xbox, and PlayStation platforms. The 23.2 patch is out today on PC and arrives on consoles in one week, on May 24.
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