29 May 2018: PUBG Corporation, the company behind PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) has filed suit against Epic Games in South Korea, accusing Epic Games of breach of copyright over Fortnite Battle Royale.
PUBG Corp claims that Fortnite ripped-off key elements of PUBG that it claims as its own intellectual property. The legal action follows months of disgruntled mutterings from PUBG Corp CEO Chang Ham Kim, better known as CH Kim.
He says that PUBG Corp worked closely with Epic Games on the development of PUBG because it adopted Epic's Unreal Engine 4 to help power the game. However, he implies that Epic used that inside knowledge to rush-out a similar game - Fortnite Battle Royale - to jump-start an otherwise failing game franchise.
Last autumn, Kim stated in a press release: "We've had an ongoing relationship with Epic Games throughout PUBG's development as they are the creators of Unreal Engine 4, the engine we licensed for the game. After listening to the growing feedback from our community and reviewing the gameplay for ourselves, we are concerned that Fortnite may be replicating the experience for which PUBG is known.
Following news of the suit today, PUBG Corporation - which has been widely criticised for even considering legal action over the Battle Royale format it helped to popularise - refused to comment, beyond saying: "This is a measure to protect our copyrights," according to Bloomberg.
Many of criticisms of PUBG centre upon the fact that it wasn't the first company to offer a Battle Royale-style game - H1Z1 King of the Hill was created by PUBG creator Brendan Green in 2016. And many games have offered similar online ‘death match' modes for some 20 years, including Quake, Serious Sam and Epic's own Unreal Tournament.
PUBG has endeavoured to create a gritty, realistic and gruesome fight to the death, compared to Fortnite's cartoon-based alternative that also enables players to throw up barriers out of thin air to protect themselves.
Games industry critic Jim Sterling has criticised PUBG for using, for example, stock graphics and lacking an identifiable aesthetic that it can plausibly claim as its own, compared to the recognisable artistic merit of Fortnite's more cartoon-like graphics and action.
Complicating matters still further, the creator of PUBG on mobile, China's Tencent Holdings, is also a 40 per cent stakeholder in Epic Games. Tencent also has a minority stake in Bluehole, the company behind PUBG Corporation.
PUBG Corp's action is almost driven by the fact that Fortnite has more players. PUBG has been undercut by Fortnite Battle Royale, which Epic made free to play. As a result, Fortnite quickly became more popular than PUBG, which has faded in recent months over gameplay complaints and claims that cheating remains rampant, despite a crackdown by the company.
It has promised to be more responsive in a bid to win back gamers (see below).
Both games boomed last year by offering a straightforward but challenging 100 player fight to the death game with no ‘pay to win' element. While PUBG is sold via Steam or on Xbox and charges £26.99 per copy, Fortnite makes money from selling cosmetic upgrades, but has come in for criticism that it enables players - children, especially - to purchase items without realising that a linked credit card is paying for them.
29 May 2018: The developers behind PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) have promised to be more responsive to player criticism and more communicative as reviews over the past month have turned from ‘mixed' to ‘mostly negative' on Steam, the PC gaming portal, and player numbers continue to drop.
The promises were made in an open letter over the bank holiday weekend, which also identified priorities that developers are currently working on.
"Although we've made some meaningful improvements to PUBG, we've fallen short in other ways. Players have rightfully called us out for failing to address complaints about performance, and recently we haven't done the best job of communicating about the changes we're making to the game. Today we want to change that by talking in-depth about the things we're prioritizing," claims the company in its letter.
It continues: "We look at feedback from players around the world when determining our priorities. We've heard your voices, and as a result we believe that the biggest issues which deserve our attention are performance, server-side optimization, and cheating."
Although we've made some meaningful improvements to PUBG, we've fallen short in other ways
The developers have promised - after more than a year of complaints - to tighten up the netcode and improve network latency, address screen stuttering issues, improve the way the game handles vehicles, and optimise the replay system, among a number of improvements that the company says it is now working on as a matter of priority.
It also claims to be dealing rigorously with cheating, and went into detail about some of the ways in which "unpredictable FPS drops, visual stuttering, and overall sluggish performance" would be dealt with. In addition to work on the server and network side, the company is also planning client-side optimisation to iron out some performance issues.
The letter comes after the last major update, at the beginning of May, was criticised for introducing a whole host of unnecessary changes, on the one hand, while failing to take into account much-needed changes, on the other.
These changes included a re-balancing of gunplay, which completely changed the dynamics of the game for many players, encouraging them to abandon it altogether in frustration. It also introduced an unnecessary slew of new gun attachments and tinkered again with the Miramar map.
Players have rightfully called us out for failing to address complaints about performance
At the same time, many players complain that cheating remains rife, even after PUBG switched off item trading to cut down on the incentive to cheat, and that the client-side hit detection continues to favour players with poor network connections.
The developers, instead, have been focusing on the finer details of Sanhok, a smaller new map intended to intensify the experience, as well as trying to turn PUBG into an Esports franchise.
PUBG Corporation ran some of the North American regional heats for the PUBG Global Invitational over the weekend, but failed to get more than a few thousand concurrent viewers, with the coverage criticised for being dull and missing the actual gunplay and tension-building of the game at its best.
But while PUBG Corporation has been pushing Esports, player numbers have been falling for several months as more and more switch off in frustration with a game that many players feel changes too frequently, and in the wrong ways.
This is objectively a bad game. People continue to play it because they see it for what it could be if the developers had kept sight of their initial desire to produce a great game
As a result, since the beginning of May, Steam reviews have shifted from "mixed" to "mostly negative" - a designation that used to be reserved for some of the worst games ever to hit Steam.
"Every single 'player' in the top ten is a random string of letters and numbers from China with less than three days total play time. This alone should tell you a lot about the prevalence of hacking," claimed one recent review.
It continued: "This is objectively a bad game. People continue to play it because they see it for what it could be if the developers had kept sight of their initial desire to produce a great game. The core concept is terrific, which is why so many other developers are copying it."
Another wrote: "This has been a huge disappointment for such a popular game. I gave it a chance and tried every mode available, but the constant problems with hit detection, lag, network issues, and gameplay bugs make this unplayable.
"When a game expects you to spend so much time each match gearing up with very few enemy interactions until late game it is completely unacceptable for each enemy encounter to be [down to the] luck of the draw."
Next page: New Sanhok map first impressions
13 May 2018: It's hard to believe that a game as popular as PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) attracts so many complaints: it's too fast, too slow, there's too little loot, too much loot, there's too many cheats, the Kar98 rifle is horribly overpowered.
PUBG's new Sanhok map is intended to address all but the last two of those criticisms.
At around about one-quarter of the size of Erangal and Miramar, it's intended to mash players together more frequently and make the game move on a little faster, without whipping players quite so hard with the ever-diminishing play area wrought by the blue zone.
And, by and large, it succeeds.
One of the consequences of the smaller map is that you can traverse a surprising amount of it from the jump and, at the same time, it's clearer to see where everyone is going and to either follow them or avoid them, according to your play style.
But it feels like more than just a new map: movement is faster and smoother and, for example, crawling along the ground feels faster and more natural, and a bit less like drowning in a vat of baked beans. Likewise, the graphics appear smoother and less jarring and, while running is faster, the forest and the many huts also provide plentiful cover and lots of hiding places.
However, consistent with recent changes to the main game, loot is now plentiful; arguably too plentiful. Where once to stumble across a SCAR-L assault rifle felt miraculous and a scope of any sort a gift from above, now they're almost ten a penny: everyone's got one and, indeed, pistols and rifles seem to have become the rarities - or maybe you just don't see them when there's an expectation of an M416 in every hut?
As for gameplay, the new PUBG map is little different from Erangel and Miramar, but does feel more refined: encounters, both fleeting and resulting in fire fights are more frequent. Also more frequent - because players have been forced so much closer together from the start - are the lurkers happy to pick off the winner of any firefight.
The best improvement, though, comes with the new play areas, which starts off larger relative to the map size, and the slower blue zone. While the timings keep players moving, games feel much less like a running simulator: it's no fun landing at one end or Miramar only to have to schlepp all the way across to get into the play area just in time - only to have to repeat that process when the new play area is demarcated.
The downside of a smaller map, of course, is that there are, overall, fewer places to explore, fewer rocks and hills to go crevicing in, and there's barely even a toilet to hide in from the big boys with guns (who know how to use them). And, when it comes to airdrops, there's barely even the time to pay them much attention.
Oh, and did I mention the weather? Well, with a map based on Thailand and the Philippines, expect to experience the odd monsoon - a welcome return to PUBG that adds to both the visual and aural dynamics of the game.
As for all the vehement complaints that PUBG seems to attract, I don't remember too much complaining from gamers about Pac-Man, back in the day, or Phoenix, Manic Miner, Galaxians, Centipede, Atic-Atac or any of the other great arcade games popular in the 1980s. Maybe we were just pathetically grateful to have a new pastime that didn't involve reading a book or finding something to watch on one of three (yes, kids, THREE) television channels?
Or maybe there just weren't the opportunities for people to endlessly whine to all and sundry afforded by social media, email and online forums?
Either way, the new Sanhok PUBG map is a good looking map that should prove popular with established players, providing a faster-paced alternative that should appeal to the bloodthirsty ‘Call of PUBG' crowd, without alienating players who prefer a, err, more refined* Battle Royale.
* running away and hiding
11 May 2018: PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds latest map Sanhok, also known as ‘Savage', has gone live on the Experimental Server, with users being greeted with a four gigabyte download overnight if they want to try out the new map.
However, users will have to be quick as the map will close down on Monday, 14 May at midday, UK time.
The Sanhok map is smaller than the Erangal and Miramar maps, at around four kilometres square - about one-quarter of the size - but with the same number of players. However, the blue zone will retract more slowly. It will feature three islands with a geography and jungle ‘feel' based largely on Thailand and the Philippines, from where PUBG Corp derived the Sanhok name.
As such, there are fewer settlements, but a higher density of them on the smaller map, and a higher likelihood of running into other players. The jungle will be harder to traverse, though, encouraging players to explore the settlements, although there ought to be plenty of locations for looting outside of these settlements.
Added to the map from previous betas is the new Cave area, the Tambang fishing port, the Lakawi resort and the Na Kham logging camp.
Unlike the military bases of both Erangal and Miramar, the ‘Bootcamp' (formerly Training Centre) of Sanhok is almost dead-centre, encouraging the fearless/foolhardy* to drop in and try their luck (and probably die quick and early).
In terms of weapons, vehicles and other goodies, the company says that it has "applied the same weapon balance and item spawn changes from the current PUBG live servers", but has adjust the "spawn balance" for Sanhok to increase the overall item spawn amount and increased the total amount of assault rifles.
Specifically, you should find slightly fewer M416 assault rifles, but more M16A4s and AKMs.
In terms of vehicles, the Aquarail will come in some new design variants. The minimap, meanwhile, also now shows areas of 200 metres instead of 100 metres.
* delete as applicable
3 May 2018: PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) was taken down overnight for maintenance, which coincided with the twelfth major update to the popular online PC and Xbox game.
The most popular of the new features to be rolled out is a map selection tool, so that anyone who vehemently dislikes the Erangal map can play solely on Miramar, the map based loosely on a town in the Mexican desert. Players will have to wait, though, for the new ‘Savage' map to make an appearance.
great update, but why is it almost as big as the game itself?— Jack (@Helsby_) May 3, 2018
Weapons have also been rebalanced, and new scopes and attachments introduced, alongside a new weapon - the SLR - for Miramar, as well as a new vehicle, the Mirado, which looks like an over-the-top take on the old Ford Capri. It can be found in the downtown areas and main city streets, so if your game largely involves hiding in toilets around the trailer park, you won't get an opportunity to drive this "classic muscle car".
But it is the new weapon and the weapons rebalancing that will undoubtedly have most impact for players. Damage stats for pistols have been given a modest boost, making the P92 and P1911 pistols more attractive early-game weapons if a Scar-L or UMP-9 eludes you.
There are also single-digit improvements for sub-machine guns - except the Tommy gun - and single digit reductions for the M16A4, M416, Scar-L and Aug assault rifles.
No doubt in a bid to persuade hardcore PUBG players to enjoy some ‘crevicing' on Miramar, PUBG has also introduced a new designated marksman rifle (DMR), the SLR. More powerful than the SKS, it also suffers from more recoil. It will take a magazine of just 10 bullets - 20 with an extended mag.
Way too much recoil on the m4 m16 and scar now— Adrian (@adrianallen1990) May 3, 2018
That new rifle exclusive to Miramar has also been introduced alongside some changes that will make the map's biggest towns a little less dense, with less clutter; but that will come alongside a number of small settlements to loot nearby the big towns.
On top of that will be new 3x and 6x scopes - the 3x being a common world-drop item and the 6x, which can zoom from three to six times, a rare world-drop item.
There have also been a whole range of changes to limb-shot modifiers, recoil and reload speeds of almost all the guns across PUBG - keen fans will want to study them all carefully to see what this will mean for their game.
now you have to add missions, tasks for the specific maps, so that players will queue for them ya'dig? great idea you can pay me via my PayPal thanks.— Cioby (@Cioby_RO) May 3, 2018
Unfortunately, while frag grenades will do more damage, weight changes mean that they will weigh 50 per cent more, meaning that you can take fewer of them. Equally unfortunate, perhaps, is that level three helmets will now only spawn in care packages, as will sniper rifle quickdraw and extended quickdraw mags.
Swimming from Sosnovka Island to mainland Erangal (or vice versa) will now be an even bigger PiTA with the amount of time swimmers can spend underwater much reduced, and breath-recovery time increased.
You can study the many different changes in the update log here.
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