PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds had a very busy year, and the transition between 2020 and 2021 promises to be even more agitated now that PUBG is in its 10th Season and launching the new Haven map! To better understand the current moment in the game and envision the future of the battle royale’s father, the national game adviser kindly invited us to chat with Dave Curd, the creative director of PUBG. Check out the best moments of our conversation below!
Have you ever worked on one of the main blockbuster series on the market with Call of Duty. It must be quite different to leave annual games for a frequently updated title as a service. How was this transition? Is there anything you learned from the old job that you apply now?
“You know, one of the most interesting experiences I had at Raven is that she was like a sister studio to several other producers, helping with several titles in the series Call of Duty. So that means that every year we gave a moral to Infinity Ward, Treyarch or Sledgehammer. So while these companies were immersed in cycles of three years of work, Raven, in practice, was launching something every year. In a way, it prepared me a little bit for how a game as a live service works, because everything is always in motion, you know?
I was able to see how many wonderful studios worked, absorb their best practices, take what worked and discard what didn’t work. Even today, I still think Raven does a great job in its work culture, and that’s very important. When I joined PUBG Madison, I believe I was the sixth employee there, and we are still growing. So building a cool culture is all that matters, especially when you have a small team. We have to make sure that every member is passionate and engaged in what he does.
And everyone says that, and PUBG really confirmed this idea that gameplay is what matters most. Graphics are cool, polishing is great, but if you have a fun foundation, that’s what people really respond to when they play. So I try to apply the AAA gaming practices I learned at Activision and combine them with the most rebellious spirit of the indies. ”
And during all this work time, do you feel that the way video games are produced has changed a lot? Is it cooler to work in a constantly evolving game? How is your approach to the project?
“It’s like you said, games are made very differently today than they were 10 years ago. The first game I worked on was Singularity, which was a project of many years full of ups and downs, and at the time we had no previews or live streams, we just hoped to launch the game and people loved the final result. So you worked a lot and it wasn’t until three years later that you found out what the staff felt about what you did.
Nowadays, on the other hand, here in PUBG we now had the Haven map entering the test servers, but I already have my head there in December 2021! I work with absolutely amazing developers who make sure that the content available today is cool, but who are also focused on what’s coming in the middle and end of next year. As a developer, it encourages you to look at things a little more from the outside and think realistically about your project. You can’t focus too much on a single element because the game is alive and growing over time, you need to be reactive and work together with the community, not against it.
I think this is a much more fun way to develop, because normally I only spend about five or six months without talking to you and seeing what you think of the game, which is very different from the old days, when we disappeared for three or four years and then came back with a game ready, just like Moses arriving with the tablets of the ten commandments for the staff, with everything already ready in hand. (laughs) Now we have Twitter, we can chat live, and that allows us to understand better and faster what people want and what exactly they are enjoying playing more. ”
And how was the process of developing the new Haven map?
“In a perfect world, all we would do would be to expand what has worked before. But I’ll give you an example of something that went wrong, and then of something that worked to help you understand: in season 6 we offered Karakin, which brought the black zone, destruction of buildings and penetration of bullets. Believe it or not, this penetration was the most difficult thing to implement, from internal consistency and consistency to ensuring that the bullet holes remained there for all to see.
It was all very difficult, and it’s not like the community hated the result, there were even a lot of cool videos of them hitting headshots through the walls, but for the most part it was something we added and it wasn’t as rewarding as it should be in PUBG. After all, we have a survival game, not just a shooter. So the players didn’t want to risk revealing their positions with shots on the wall that might not work, or even creating a hole in the wall that the enemies could see.
Most of the players prefer to play a little bit like “hide and seek”, throw grenades through the windows, things like that, so the bullet penetration was something we added and I’m glad we tried our best, but it wasn’t something that shook the structures. On the other hand, we had a very positive reaction from fans in season 8, when we added the loot truck. People liked to see a firefight interrupted by this benign third party that ended up creating new stories and opportunities!
In our internal tests, the first time a loot truck appeared to interrupt the action, it was very easy to think “what if this loot truck was bad? What if he could attack everyone? How would it work? Maybe an attack helicopter, or maybe put guards protecting the loot? Like a protected treasure? ”. So just using the loot truck to work and be fun has already given us several ideas, and these ideas helped us to think about new maps, to put a smaller size and more consistent with this idea of infiltration and being more discreet.
Putting a more obvious path for the loot truck and creating an urban environment and streets for it to circulate would make a lot of sense. When developing something, I feel that all of your ideas should be derived from the same main idea. And the main idea of the Haven map is what I call the ‘artificial intelligence ecosystem’, because it’s a family of systems that talk to each other while you’re trying to survive, and we all thought that was a very interesting idea! ”
I know it’s too early to talk about plans for the new generation of consoles, but how has the advent of more powerful hardware impacted the game’s development over the years?
“It was a very interesting unintended consequence of creating a game as a service: the more time a title spends, the more things you can do with it. As you said, technology evolves and, in an ideal world, we also evolve as developers along with it. Then our worlds become more ambitious and well thought out in the process.
We have always been interested in delivering an interesting experience in terms of performance on different systems, from minimal configurations to the most top-of-the-line computers, so the main thing I care about is not letting technology limit the experience. I prefer to decrease the graphics and create a more interesting gameplay than to push as many polygons and shadows as possible in a scene, if that were to limit any idea. The longer we have to PUBG in the air, more things we can do, because the systems are always improving. ”
Do you think 2021 still has room for PUBG shine among the most viewed games on Twitch? What are your plans to keep the game full of hype?
“I think Brendan Greene must be very proud to have given life to a genre from which we received so many interesting mutations and evolutions, whether they are more arcade or focused on construction. Many games have taken the base PUBG and took you on other very interesting paths!
Personally, I don’t really care if PUBG will it be the number one game on Twitch again or not, because it has so many other factors to take into account! Of course, you can only launch a new genre once, so when the PUBG it exploded initially, it had the viral popularity of everyone wanting to understand what was going on, to know what their favorite streamers were playing and not to be left behind by their friends.
But, entering 2021 and 2022, you need to consider other things, like free games versus paid games, there are these new variables. So everything is very subjective, and so what I care about are three things: first, really respecting the basis of a battle royale. Because our core is to be a survival game that creates great narratives, so that you never have two equal matches. That is the highest priority!
Second, we want to have bigger worlds. 2020 was a year of playing and experimenting, so we had smaller maps with new tools to play. We focused on that because it was a faster way to put our various ideas into practice available to everyone. If they were bigger maps, we would have to wait almost a year to get ready and people to test our ideas. But now that we’ve done this, and we know what worked best and had a good feeling of PUBG, we want, who knows, to make even the biggest maps ever seen! Because perhaps the most PUBG everyone be the time you spend exploring, hanging out with friends and having surprise fights.
Finally, we want to have more interesting choices and opportunities. Obviously I can’t give spoilers or bring big revelations right now, but to make a small teaser, if you watch our shootings, they are very rich and deep, with more than 40 weapons and accessories, different rates of recoil and types of ammunition. This is a big part of our success, being able to stay in a great compromise between arcade and simulation.
But we are not a shooter, we are a survival game, and the exploration gameplay goes straight to the point. I wouldn’t say it’s shallow, but it certainly doesn’t have the same richness as the shots. Which is funny, because normally a game consists of spending 90% of your time surviving, and only 10% on exchanges of fire. So we want to bring more adventures and possibilities to what consumes most of people’s time, with new ways to interact with the world. I think this is what we can explore the most in 2021, trying to make survival even more interesting! ”
For someone who has stopped playing and wants to return to PUBG, or even getting to know the game for the first time now, what do you think they should be most looking forward to?
“I think that only in 2021 will players be able to see our main initiatives and news in action, but I would also like to talk about the current Season 10. What’s cool about it is that it’s small, but very vertical, it’s not like you arrived on the map and already saw five enemies right away. Everyone is in the building and on different floors, and all this verticality means that there are many different places to hide. It has sewer pipes where you can sneak in, plus more shadows and dark places. With 32 players, the pace changes a lot, and the winners usually only enter two or three shootings during the matches!
You can go in, explore, get your loot, and probably lose if you’re a newbie (laughs), but that’s okay, because that’s part of the experience: getting more comfortable little by little! As for the veterans, who are more strategic and have already mastered the map and resources, we are giving them more items, like the parachute to jump off roofs and the whole reworked AI ecosystem that we have already commented on, it is something that leaves me very excited! ”
You have played PUBG? What did you think of this interview and the ideas revealed by Dave Curd? Tell us in the comments below!