I came to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds late in its early access cycle, but I still like I was a part of some monumental shift in gaming – something like watching the rise of Counter Strike back in the day when it was still a Half Life mod that used a lot of the game’s original assets, or Doom downloading over a shitty modem. Not only were PUBG player numbers going through the roof week in, week out, but other games were starting to take notice.
Fortnite’s pivot from base-building, to base-building but last-player-standing, Battle Royale turned that game’s fortunes around, and it was only a few weeks ago that its player numbers managed to eclipse PUBG. And, in the meantime, there’s a tonne of flash in the pan (subtle reference, no?) knock-offs released with monotonous regularity.
Can you copyright a game mode? Well, whoever came up with the term ‘deathmatch’ the first time probably wishes you could, but the truth is the genie is well and truly out of the bottle. The challenge, then, is to take the concept, and combine it with something fresh and new. Fortnite’s base-building and crafting, added to its lo-fi graphical design, makes it feel completely different to PUBG’s more Arma-based roots… Which begs the question – what other games could make that same switch?
We’ve already talked about how it’s a perfect fit for either a new mode or an entire new game in the Battlefield franchise, but here are some other hot properties that could offer the fresh take needed to make Brendan Greene… green with envy.
I’m gonna get this out one of the way right up front, because suggesting that the dream-like pacing heightened by frequent scares of a game with such a gripping campaign narrative sounds – on the surface – like a dumb idea.
But work with me.
There are a lot of Subnautica fans already desperate for a multiplayer co-op mode. And if you’ve played the game, you know why – the Cyclops submersible is practically begging for a full crew to go exploring the ocean depths with. So there’s already a vocal group of players wanting that connectivity in-game. But if you think a little bigger, the scope is there for something even bigger.
Subnautica’s story is that a spaceship crash-lands on an ocean planet, and you’re the sole survivor, forced to craft equipment, habitats, and food from raw materials. If you want to tie in a 100-player Battle Royale mode, then it’s not one survivor, but 100, all competing for dropped equipment from the crash. You could include some base-building, but Subnautica’s bases are a little more complex than the hasty walls and catapults of Fortnite; you’d also need to add a greater variety of weapons into the game, but that’s possible.
But the real killer here, for me (and, also, actual killer) is how deadly the environment is. Not only do you have 99 other players competing for your scalp and resources, but half the ocean wants to eat you, and drowning is always a risk. Since an ever-decreasing safe-zone is one of the key features of the genre, you could easily represent this with either the classic BLUE ZONE OF DEATH mechanic, or use the setting – imagine the ocean slowly filling with more and alien sharks and giant sea monsters to force players into the only safe space on the map.
It would be a wonderfully unique take on the original.
So, I’m the last person to suggest that what Star Citizen needs is ANOTHER FUCKING NEW gameplay mechanic, but the idea of a game that can combine starship dogfighting and first person shooting seems like a gimme for a massive battle royale in the stars (as opposed to the film Battle Beyond the Stars, which was kind of a hot mess).
I’m envisaging something like a massive asteroid field, with stations and asteroid habitats. Each player starts in a relatively modest, unarmed fighter, and must explore the belt and its stations to find gear – both personal, and to upgrade their personal ship.
The beauty of this is that it could neatly handle solo and squad play, with space-craft capable of hosting multiple crew. Imagine it – you need to search that asteroid a few hundred meters away for gear, but you know there are other ships nearby. Do you all go down, leaving your ship empty, and hope no one steals it? Do you split up, leave some crew aboard, while the rest go into the asteroid base, hoping any other ships can be held off before they return? Or do you hide in the shadow of another nearby asteroid, and wait for those ships to show up?
Of course, it would add another millennia to the development time, so what do we know?
The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
Yeah, I know – at this rate Bethesda will be releasing iterations until the cows come home (and die of old age). And yes, we know that there’s multiplayer Elder Scrolls already, but MMO RPG mechanics really don’t fit the feel of a battle royale deathmatch.
Like Subnautica, players have been wanting some kind of multiplayer in Skyrim for years. There’s something about that beautiful world that just demands it be explored together… or fought over to the death.
The big shift in focus here is that you end up with a dramatically different tool-set. Swords and spells replace pistols and assault rifles, making the game’s engagement ranges dramatically different, and the tactics required to win similarly so. Skyrim’s more complex geography makes for an interesting challenge, as knowing how best to negotiate a rocky mountain slope could make the difference between outrunning that bloody-thirsty Nord with the giant axe, and just being another notch on its shaft.
Loot could be all the usual stuff – randomised magic items, potions, and all the familiar stuff, but you could replace care drops with dragon sightings and combats, which leave the victor with random Shout.
FUS RO DAH, NOOB!
World of Tanks
Look, I just want to see 100 solo tank drivers blasting away at each other, don’t @ me, this shit sells itself.
And if any company can turn on a dime to release a mode like this, it’s Wargaming.
I never played the first game, and thought it was bit of a solution looking for a problem that didn’t really exist. But enough people played – and presumably liked – it that Ubi’s releasing a sequel to its MMO racing game.
And you know what it needs? Yes, exactly.
In this case, I think it would be wise to do away with the weapon model entirely. Not even ones mounted on cars, otherwise you end up with either Mad Max or Car Wars (not a bad idea, but I’m trying to be a little fresh here). Instead, your vehicle is your first and only weapon, and its one you upgrade throughout the match – tyres, breaks, engines, all that rev-head stuff.
It’s basically a 100-player demolition derby on a much larger map, and even just typing that makes me want to see Ubi give it a go (if anyone at Ubi’s reading this, I accept PayPal), because I would play the heck out of that.