Ah, PUBG – the battle royale game that took the world by storm and inspired countless competitors has certainly lost its way as of late. Through a mixture of baffling decisions, poor communication, and a general stubbornness to change, PUBG’s popularity continues to wane, particularly on console.
In an attempt to appease players, who may have already had their heads turned by rivals such as Call of Duty: Warzone or Apex Legends, Joon H. Choi, console lead project manager, has penned a personal letter (opens in new tab) to the game’s fans, who are appropriately addressed as “Survivors”. No kidding.
Deemed as high-priority topics that have been “floating around the community”, the dev team touches on the issues with ranked mode, anti-cheat and game stability, as well as how they’re handling those brain dead bots. Typically, it’s an unclear and strangely-worded response in a time where clarity and action is so desperately needed, but nevertheless, let’s break down what Choi had to say.
Ranked mode, which arrived in the 7.2 patch, has apparently left PUBG Corp “overwhelmed by the reception and support” (though we don’t know whether that reception was good or bad). According to Choi, there’s always room for improvement, and one of the biggest demands from the community is the addition of solos to ranked mode.
Now, to anyone who hasn’t played PUBG, solo mode is how thousands of people enjoy the game. Personally, it’s the only mode I play on PC, as I always play squad games with my friends on Xbox One, and the thought of playing with random strangers isn’t very appealing. Therefore, since patch 7.2, I haven’t been able to play ranked mode and have been left to battle lobbies made almost entirely of bots (which I still believe could damage the game entirely). Of course, to the surprise of no one, some parts of the community haven’t been very happy about this.
In its defense, PUBG Corp says that its data, which apparently dictates every decision they make, showed that the popularity of squad mode outweighed the need to include solos or duos. And furthermore, solos and duos won’t be added to ranked mode in Season 7, because of the simple reason that PUBG has too many modes, and matchmaking would be negatively impacted.
It begs the question, then: why did PUBG add so many superfluous modes in the first place? Do we really need team deathmatch, a ridiculous fantasy-themed mode that changed the entire concept of the game just to unlock some daft skins, and a public match mode filled with bots for newcomers? No, we did not. This isn’t the community’s fault – it’s poor planning from the developer, which sometimes feels like it’s making things up as it goes along. And it's just resulted in a more frustrating game.
It doesn’t sound like solos or duos will come to ranked mode any time soon, either, as this will upset the balance of the current rankings and introduce more queues. But maybe there’s some more positive news in how the developer plans to tackle radar hacks, which have plagued the game for years.
Choi bravely admits that radar hacks have been “a huge thorn in the side for us for a looooong time” – you can tell he understands because he’s used five zeros in the word long. Despite promising some sort of “packet encryption” measure against radar cheats, PUBG Corp won’t explain how it will work exactly, just in case they “give out information that baddies could use against us”. And while they do expect to see a drastic reduction in radar hack usage (note: not a permanent end to the problem), Choi signs off with the confidence boosting promise that he’s keeping his “fingers crossed”. That's not totally reassuring.
Speaking of cheats, what about SMS authentication for ranked mode? It’s already a requirement on PC if you want to play, but Choi said the developer believed it wasn’t required on console, as cheating is a lot harder to do. That’s a funny thing to say, when he literally just discussed a game-breaking hack which works on consoles...
The good news is that SMS authentication might come to consoles to help combat cheaters and dodgy accounts from playing the game. But perhaps somewhat predictably, PUBG Corp doesn’t know when it will come or how it will be implemented. They’ll let us know, though.
Cue the deletion of queues
Glossing over the fact that PUBG now apparently crashes less than it ever has on console (congrats, I guess?) the developer of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has tackled the hot topic that continues to leave the community in uproar: the bothersome bots.
Like them or loathe them, PUBG is staying resolute on its decision to keep them in the game. Choi has said that the developer's data has shown a positive change in making sure lobbies aren't primarily full of the AI invaders. But worringly, there’s no mention on how the bots will be improved mechanically, because they’re comically bad as it stands.
Still, Choi notes that bots can still fill up the majority of a lobby depending on the queue times, but he's seemingly out of ideas on how to fix this issue. Choi suggested that the best solution might be to “funnel players into less queues” and is “exploring the idea of closing some down”, but nothing concrete seems to be decided.
A final farewell
In the third to last paragraph of the letter, Choi finally gets to the crux of PUBG’s problem – if you ignore all the cheaters and stability issues, of course.
“We support many queues in PUBG – too many. We have steadily been adding more queues over the years and now support the most amount of queues in any Battle Royale game – a genre that sometimes requires over 100 players per match,” Choi admits. “Reducing the number of queues might be a bullet we have to bite to not only prevent matches where players are playing against too many bots (this was not our intention in the first place), but to also future proof the game and ensure a healthier matchmaking experience overall, for everyone.”
It’s hard not to agree with Choi’s statement. PUBG does have too many queues, and it’s arguably because the developer has lost sight of what PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is all about. PUBG needs to go back to basics. It has to concentrate on the core experience first and foremost, for the long-term health of the game.
The addition of bots wasn’t the first sign of PUBG failings – it’s had numerous problems in the past and continues to do so – but bots certainly acted as the catalyst to show just how bad a state the game was in. It’s horribly bloated, disjointed, and in need of some proper care and attention.
Ultimately, though, PUBG Corp needs to make a simple decision: does it want to re-establish itself as the best battle royale experience on the market, or simply attract new players in the hope they’ll purchase a battle pass or some extra skins? Right now, it feels like the strategy is leaning towards the latter, and it’s why I'm disheartened at what this fantastic game has become.