Developers for every multiplayer shooter have discussions about balance before and after the game is released, early access or retail. No one wants to release a game that can be exploited online, but some philosophies about balance are far different than those reserved for games like Overwatch or Call of Duty.
“PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds was designed more closely like an open world sandbox game, and almost all of the game mechanics are based on real life mechanics,” said Joonhyuk Choi, Lead Designer of the Game Design Team at Bluehole Studios. “Adding new content would start from modeling from reality.”
And that’s what makes PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds different from other massively popular multiplayer games — it looks like part of a different genre altogether. Some weapons are overpowered and can give you a big edge in a firefight. Some items were even added to help create wild scenarios in game.
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“Our bullet proof frying pan was a feature that we created for fun internally but somehow accidentally made it into the actual build,” Choi said. “It’s clearly an OP item, but we decided to leave it there because we thought the entertainment value of the frying pan weighed much more than its risk value.”
Compared to other melee weapons, the frying pan is highly overpowered, and yet you’ll only see it used in crazy scenarios since melee weapons aren’t a priority for most players. Items like the frying pan and crossbow really lend themselves to risk, but you’ll have a great story to tell if you can pull of a kill, but if you rely too much on them you’ll just end up dead.
And while these few wild items can lead to some funny fights, the real variable in PUBG’s balance is its randomness. Loot spawns, vehicle placement, and the placement of the blue circle will all be different round to round. There is no way to reliably count on where something will be, making each game different.
“We adjusted the distances between towns and the density of covers and shelters,” Choi said. “As well as randomizing item spawns so that they are naturally spread out without too many empty spaces."
The randomness is paired with risk, since where you decide to land will effect what sort of loot and company you’ll find in the early seconds of the round. “We let players to decide where they parachute in so that they bear the risks they put on themselves,” Choi said. “A place where there are less valuable items is safe, while a place with many valuable items is dangerous.”
It’s a fundamental part of PUBG that players have worked into their strategies for months now, and it’s something that its developers have had to consider for years. “The randomness that you get through different play zones, item farming, vehicles, care packages, and the red zone each round make PUBG unlike other games on the market.”
PUBG takes advantage of the sandbox genre mantra of gaming, meaning you can choose how you want to approach something. There are no choke points or centralized areas where everyone ends up in the middle of a match like other shooters.
PUBG combines the slow pace of an open world game with the fast pace of a multiplayer shooter and finds a strong medium, and there’s no way around it. The randomness doesn’t allow for reliable plans that can lead to some players exploiting item drops, it puts everyone on the same playing field and lets them choose. And no strategy ever guarantees a chicken dinner.