On the Battle Royale Front

I don’t know how it came to pass exactly, but since no one else in my corner of the Internet is writing about the Battle Royale genre, I kind of feel like it falls to me to do so because I’ve tried most and enjoyed a couple. I wouldn’t say I’m a super fan of this style of game, but I do keep finding myself writing about them when a new contender enters the ring. Generally speaking, the market is over-saturated with games trying to bank on Fortnite or Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds‘ success, but there are outliers and new competition cropping up left and right — and some of these are doing things to push the genre forward into realms I personally find more appealing. I’ve written about several games over the past few years, starting with H1Z1 and culminating with the new kid on the block: Apex Legends.

There have been a few news stories recently that kind of sum things up for the genre in the past couple of years. My take: Basically H1Z1 came out of nowhere and created the game mode, someone who consulted Daybreak then went on to create his own game (PUBG) and then the was Fortnite and only Fortnite. The dark ages have finally seemed to pass, with the new forerunner Apex Legends showing the potential the genre has to offer to an adult audience. I suppose you can give Call of Duty some credit too, because Blackout is pretty deece. Regardless, it seems that Apex’s surprise launch caught Epic Games off guard, but they definitely took immediate notice. I’ve read several articles that point out that Fortnite has already seen a ping system patched into the game and “respawn vans” are on the way too. The linked article said it best:

That said, Fortnite is still no slouch. It doesn’t have to imitate Apex Legends. The ping system was fine, but one who continues to watch Epic add Apex Legends features to Fortnite might wonder if they’re starting to just try to play keep up with their new contender. It would be a shame to see them just play keep up, rather than innovate on their style as they had for the better part of 2018.

I agree that it’s kind of sad to see the team responsible for the most popular Twitch game for nearly a calendar year needing to keep up with the Joneses. Why not iterate your own things? You already have the stupid factor, building, and the ability to use dances made popular elsewhere. Keep going with that, and let the kids have their playground. I’ll go hang out with the adults elsewhere, thank you. Pretty soon we’ll see hero abilities and then Fortnite might as well be Realm Royale. Sorry if I sound a little bent, I just can’t pass up the opportunity to talk shit on that game.

Back to the adult world. I’ve been playing Apex Legends pretty regularly and I have to say it’s a blast, particularly with friends, but even with randoms. Polygon has reported that the game has already reached 50 million players, and that’s pretty damn good for a month since launching. At their current trajectory they’ll be more popular than Fortnite before you know it, though that wouldn’t need to happen to prove which is the better game. Honestly the only one I’m really playing is Apex and I’m happy to be doing so. I still think the genre isn’t in the sweet spot just yet, but we’ve already seen these sorts of popularity contests between titles in many genres before it (take the MMO, MOBA and Survival Sandbox booms and busts for example). I still see interesting tidbits that are worth commenting on though, and here are a couple I shared on Twitter the other day, with some excess commentary:

So apparently one of the creators of Dark Souls/Bloodborne wants to make a Battle Royale variant. I think the combat alone would be pretty awesome, and could make for longer matches, though I’d think you might want to either limit the size of the map or the amount of players just to keep things from getting out of hand. Killing mobs in these games takes a while, and though the PvP doesn’t take as long, it could still end up being excessive. I’d play it though. You’ll just have to hope you get some armor and weapons quick before you get cut down, similar to the normal games.

I find this story kind of sad, just because of my nostalgic loyalty to Daybreak (more SOE/Verant). I wanted H1Z1 to be successful. I actually enjoyed their King of the Kill nonsense. We knew the NantG thing was going to bring changes down the pipeline, and I’m sure this is a ploy to get a mobile version up to compete with PUBG‘s mobile offering. Whatever the case, the game has changed names so many times at the point they’re probably doing more harm than good. Perhaps they don’t care and are aiming for an Asian market? Hard to say. Whatever the case I don’t play whatever they ultimately decide to call this game anymore, so it’s just a footnote in history. A shame to create something that has become so popular and then find a way to not reap the benefits. I guess that’s typical of the company though, isn’t it?

That’s all I have for today.

3 thoughts on “On the Battle Royale Front

  1. Since you’re the resident expert on all things Battle Royale in this part of the internet, could you assuage the curiosity of someone who hasn’t had the time to install or play dozens of matches to find out the answer to this question?

    Just how reliant is victory dependent on randomness, and are there ways of pushing the randomness consistently towards a better chance at victory or just an overall better experience even if you lose?

    e.g. I vaguely understand that gear and weapon drops are random and have to be salvaged/scavenged. Presumably there are spawn points towards which one might go to and increase your chances getting some. But how drastically do they change your odds of survival? Can you still be killed by someone with lesser or nil gear – easily or much less so?

    On paper it just seems like many many lottery chances that one spins the wheel for, in the hope of getting to kill a bunch of people or get to the top of a leaderboard. It sounds very much like the pointless RNG of killing a boss multiple times in the hope of a better loop drop, or that gear upgrade mechanic of going from +1-+10 through a random means that still risks being able to fall to +1 and lose your investment. (Though the former example is more accumulative and doesn’t risk loss.)

    I guess I’m struggling with the idea of competence and control in a system with so many random factors. The presence of so much randomness makes it feel a little pointless to me, on a “why would I get started” front – long term, what does one look forward to or seek to gain/accumulate/improve? I mean, yes, I play something like Path of Exile, which is also the king of random loot lottery, but it’s rate of lottery drop is insane, accumulative (no loss) and the strategy lies in selecting optimal gear for a particular desired build.

    Given that Battle Royales have so much randomness built in, where does the strategic control and potential improvements in competence lie? Is it mostly tactical factors like better aim or better use of cover and approaches like ambushes or teamwork to flush someone out? Does it lie in specific map knowledge that one must know for this map, there is a spawn of X here, or a wall or cliff there? Are there specific builds/gear interactions to aim for that become meta, or mostly team composition related like MOBAs (which work better in organized communicating groups than an average random PUG?)

    Or is it the fact that such heavy randomness is in-built makes it easier to write off a loss as stuff outside one’s realm of control? Which makes it easier to jump back in for one more jackpot machine pull in the hope of luck turning one’s way for a big payoff?

    Just seeking to understand the appeal a little further.


    • Such a nuanced and multi-tiered comment. Let me attempt to explain.

      I feel like this genre is RNG personified. You’ll get a random flight path with which you choose where to land. Some games have “hot spots” where “better” loot drops. There are chests, some games let you loot corpses, but ultimately it feels pretty random what gear you’ll end up with. Sometimes you’ll have an excellent setup and still die to the guy with better reflexes, regardless of if he has better gear. There is definitely a skill cap, but most games are accessible enough to allow you to play and have fun, particularly if you queue up for a team experience. I’ve had rounds where I’ve been carried, and rounds where I carried. This is a similar experience to when I played MOBAs more extensively.

      Ultimately there isn’t really a point. There aren’t leaderboards for most games. There is typically some sort of account progression that will net you titles and accolades, perhaps some skins, but you’re realistically doing the same thing over and over and not really getting anything out of it save for the experience. And I’d say that’s definitively what gaming is all about.

      I think a newcomer could jump into any game pretty easily and learn the ins and outs within a dozen or so matches. From there it’s just gaining map awareness, meta considerations and practicing to improve your skills.

      Is this something appealing to everyone? Most definitely not. Does it appeal to me? Well, I spent countless hours playing Counter-Strike, Quake III and Call of Duty, and there wasn’t really a tangible reward there either. So I guess I’d say your mileage may vary.


      • Thanks for the reply. So it’s not just me that feels that Battle Royales are chock full of RNG, that’s good to know. The general part I’m struggling with is how much RNG might affect one’s experience, as opposed to being able to control the factors over time.

        I used to play tons of TFC repetitively back in the old days too, but over time, specific map and general game knowledge pushed me nearer to the top of a public server leaderboard as opposed to where I started near ground zero. I would have special spots to camp out with my sentry gun and me and end up in interesting duels vs medics seeking to break the defence. If I lost, I could happily ascribe it to that player outplaying me – I never found a satisfactory setup solution to a medic who could double conc jump past me and my gun guarding two avenues and then bypass the remote dispenser bomb in the flag room for example (but you can bet I got them once the first time with the dispenser before they knew it was there.)

        Whereas in a Battle Royale, it seems like a duel would be heavily influenced by whatever prior factors both players had run into earlier – you might do everything right but if he had found by chance an armor vest that you didn’t have, you might run out of health before him regardless. At which point, one might as well toss a coin to see who wins or loses at each encounter.

        Still, I suppose no harm trying a variant out a few times when I find the time to get around to it.

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