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The Rise of Battle Royale
Battle Royale is a popular game mode these days. One title most gamers are familiar with, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), came from a series of mods in other games. Grabbing public attention by storm, PUBG is the first game to really capitalize on the last man standing mode. Recently, Fortnite came out with an addition to their shooter game that received some flak for being similar to PUBG. While PUBG wasn’t the first to have a Battle Royale mode, it is, however, intimately related to its predecessors and the first to really popularize the genre.
Inspiration for Battle Royale and Beginnings
Battle Royale takes its name from the Japanese novel and movie of the same name. The Battle Royale story follows a group of high school students who are forced by the government to fight to the death until there is only one victor remaining. The survival setting was also an integral part of The Hunger Games books, which caused a surge in popularity for survival scenarios in gaming after the release of the movies.
The Battle Royale game mode took the survival and last man standing elements and turned it into mods for popular games. Minecraft saw one of the first “Survival Game” mods that was inspired directly by The Hunger Games movie, featuring players in a central area, forced to fight over supplies. Later, similar mods were adapted to the zombie shooting game DayZ.
Brendan Greene, known as “PlayerUnknown,” created mods for DayZ and ARMA 3 that were inspired by the Battle Royale movie as well as The Hunger Games. These were just the beginnings of the genre and continued to be refined when they were adapted to work with the next zombie shooter, H1Z1, where Greene was consulting. A South Korean studio, Bluehole Ginno Games, took interest in the genre and hired Greene to head their game based on his former mods. Thus, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds was born.
Up to now, Battle Royale had simply been an addition to other games and a side project rather than the main mechanic of a game. PUBG was really the first to design around the genre and feature it as the main game. It is no surprise that it is related to the other versions, given that they acted as stepping stones.
With Battle Royale so prominently in the public’s eye, it’s hard not to want to capitalize on its success, and games often share similarities with one another just by being in the same genre. So it took no one by surprise when Epic Games announced their own Battle Royale mode for their game Fortnite.
For PUBG and Fortnite, the base mechanics for their Battle Royale modes are strikingly similar. PUBG drops players from a plane, Fortnite drops players from a flying school bus. In both games, there are safe zones in each that force players toward the center and into contact with each other as the match goes on. Players must use strategy, compete for resources, adapt to their surroundings, and ultimately, fight to the death.
While the mechanics may share similarities, the games themselves are quite different. PUBG is focused more on realism and is heavily militaristic. On the other hand, Fortnite’s environment has more of a fantastical setting and is very arcade-style in nature. Fortnite also has crafting, turning the survival game into a creative endeavor. It mimics Minecraft with its ability to build nearly everything on the spot, whether it be towers to hunker-down in defense, or stairs to escape up a mountain quickly.
PUBG focuses on complex, military-type scenarios. It has large maps, making players plan out travel and acquire vehicles to make it to the safe zones before the blue zone closes in. Weapons are hard to come by and very complex. With over 20 main weapons and an assortment of attachments, pistols and grenades (plus some unique weapons that come from periodic air drops), PUBG can easily overwhelm novice players. Fortnite has a smaller map that is much easier to travel and no vehicles are needed. Weapons are widely accessible, placed around the map and ranging in rarity with more rare items often found in treasure chests, safes and air drops.
All in all, while PUBG and Fortnite share similar mechanics, the games vary enough to stand out on their own. It all comes down to how much players enjoy the atmosphere of realism vs. creativity. Despite playing the same survival genre, I’m sure players in each game will find their experiences wildly different.