It’s a wonderful time for PUBG

PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds (PUBG from now on) took on the gaming world by storm as not only that it claimed the #1 spot for concurrent players on Steam with 877,844 players fighting at the same time and knocking down the ever popular Dota 2 to the second spot, it’s also the new contender for the #1 viewed game on Twitch with 102,152 viewers in average (for comparison, League of Legends is roughly 144,549 average viewers).

As far as eSports goes, it’s kind of interesting to see PUBG path with growing eSports from the bottom up. In different from initiatives like the Overwatch League or ESL produced tournaments that are more directed by the company and served to the community top-town, it looks like PUBG was thrown and shaped into an eSport by the community whether the developers wanted (or where ready for it) or not.

And maybe because of the community positive feedback, eSports organizations are quick to jump on the PUBG wagon, notably TSM, Team Liquid, Gale Force eSports, Rize and many more.

While I was watching some PUBG streams the other day, I couldn’t help but wonder what makes PUBG such an interesting esport and what makes me watch it almost every day without even logging one single game. Here are some of my thoughts.

PUBG is highly watchable

I’m not a very big FPS gamer, in fact strategy in general and MOBAs in particular are more of my thing. And yet, I find watching PUBG highly enjoyable, not so much as other popular shooters like CS:GO or Overwatch. I attribute that feeling of enjoyment or “watch-ability” to two main things: UI and game pace.

One thing that always bugged me with esports broadcasts and productions is the overabundance of information presented on screen and the ratio between gameplay UI and information. Currently, most if not all eSports broadcasts are aimed at game fans or gamers at large who are used to consume and process large amounts of information through HUDs.

For people who regularly play a specific game on screen information provides more flavor and deeper insight on the action that goes in the actual gameplay. On the other hand for the casual viewer, or god forbid a non-gamer the information means very little and I would argue distracts from the actual gameplay. I marked the game data displayed in PUBG in red on the image below.

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What I like about watching PUBg, even on the pro level is that the ratio between the information and gameplay is very much in the favor of gameplay which allows me to quickly answer the three main questions if I just jumped into a broadcast and connect me to the narrative of the current game:

  1. How many still alive?
  2. Where are we on the map?
  3. Who’s point of view am I watching?

Game pace has a lot to with the ease of watching a game of PUBG as well: Don’t get me wrong, I think games like Overwatch and the new Marvel VS Capcom are amazing and crazy fun, but when I watch them, I have no idea what’s going on in a fight 90% of the time because the visual and sound effects are over the top. At first I thought it was to the camera angle (mostly in Overwatch) but the more I watch broadcasted games, I feel it’s the pace is the one setting the tone.

Luckily for PUBG, the game is roughly divided into phases and the pace is getting more intense as the game funnels down to the final few players still standing which, as a viewer, helps me to ease into the story the unfolds and get attached before things get too crazy for me to care.

There’s a storyline in every PUBG game

I already hinted at a “storyline” along the previous section but it’s definitely worth talking about it in the context of eSports: Because of the different phases in (somewhat) random factors in the game, there is a different story that is told as the game unfolds and as a viewer, I’d like to see how this story comes to an end. The games in PUBG are short enough so each storyline builds and resolves fairly fast, which makes it a positive repetitive experience for the viewer.

The game usually starts slow, allowing players to loot and sometimes scrimmage right as they parachute at a certain area. It’s usually pretty slow, allowing me as a viewer to get familiar with the surrounding area and the player I’m currently watching. Once the play area start getting smaller, the story gets more interesting: How does the player approach the new zone, how does he travel there, what enemies he’ll encounter etc.

PUBG has one of the more solid backbone I’ve seen recently in terms of making an eSport out of a game

From an esports perspective, the narrative in enchanted by the fact the the observer has access to all the players’ point of view and the map at large, making every story special on its own as well as seeing how players interact during the game. Sounds a little bit like the control room of the Hunger Games, probably because PUBG isn’t that far off conceptually anyways.

Can’t wait to see it on LAN

One thing that I’d be really interested to see is the “hype factor” of PUBG when played in front of a live audience. Not entirely sure how that will work from a logistic perspective having 20 (?) players on stage but the atmosphere should be really amazing as the game picks up pace.

Overall, I feel that PUBG has one of the more solid backbone I’ve seen recently in terms of making an eSport out of a game. That, combined with the fact that development is going to take a much more eSports oriented focused leaves me excited for the future. Maybe I’ll even log in a game someday 🙃

Post cover image by PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds

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