Vikendi, the new snow-themed map on PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) has only been out for just over a month. But already the developers appear to have fiddled with the gameplay on the PC version of the popular game - in particular, the loot.
Stung by criticisms that there are too many sub-machine guns - particular MicroUzis and Tommy Guns - the developers seem to have thrown in a ton of sniper rifles in the past couple of days, while dialling back on the loot at popular locations.
The move appears to be in response to YouTubers', Twitchers' and top players' complaints that, while there would appear to be a wide range of attachments for sniper rifles, there aren't actually many, if any at all, available on Vikendi.
That was a great leveller, encouraging stalking and helping to stimulate lots of intense up-close gun battles, particularly in duo and squad games. But Twitchers and YouTubers tend to get off on one-shot sniper rifle kills, which are great when you're the one doing them, but aren't quite so much fun if you're on the receiving end.
Furthermore, the sudden increase in one-shot kills will probably not do much to encourage the influx of new players to carry on playing. It takes time to fully understand the dynamics of a game like PUBG, where player strategies are changing all the time.
At the same time as dialling down on MicroUzis and Tommy Guns, the developers also appear to have slashed the number of attachments available for them, particularly the vertical stock.
This helps make the UMP-9, in particular, a relatively easy to control SMG. And the loot, in general, also appears to have been reduced, forcing players to spend more time looting and less time shooting.
The conjecture had been that the developers had thrown-in a ridiculous amount of MicroUzis and 9mm ammo in order to coincide with the somewhat silly ‘mission' to fire off 300 rounds with the SMG in five games on Vikendi.
Now, letting loose on the MicroUzi in order to complete the mission has become a whole lot more dangerous.
10 January 2019: 16 pro PUBG players banned for 2-3 years over cheats
Pro players join 30,000 banned since new campaign against 'radar cheats' or 'wall hacks' started in December
PUBG Corp, the company behind PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG), has banned or suspended a total of 16 pro players over the alleged use of cheats to gain an unfair advantage.
A total of 12 players in PUBG's $1 million eSports league were banned over the use of cheats in either public or pro games. Four further players were given suspensions over their knowledge that team mates had used cheats, although haven't been directly accused of cheating.
The players were accused of using ‘radar hacking' cheats - also known as ‘wall hacking' - that highlighted the location of opponents.
Users of two biggest radar hack developer groups confirmed bans for the usage of the previously undetectable hacks
The new anti-cheat campaign started in December and appears to have been aimed at players using more subtle and hard to detect cheats. The bans were handed out in December, according to unofficial reports, but PUBG Corp only went public this week when the bans came into effect.
Four of the alleged cheats belonged to the Sans Domicile team, which has subsequently lost its Contenders League spot. It will only be allowed to re-apply to participate in future events once it has built-up an entirely new team.
According to eSports specialist website VieSports, the cheat software alleged to have been used sniffs game data packets being sent to servers, but is run on a secondary device, relaying the information via a smartphone or second PC. This makes it particularly hard to detect.
Through a global investigation of currently active competitive PUBG players, we discovered that ten players have received in-game bans
The software can highlight the location of opponents, as well as key items on the map, which presumably includes air drops and coverted sniper rifles.
"Users of two biggest radar hack developer groups confirmed bans for the usage of the previously undetectable hacks," VieSports reported before Christmas.
News of the bans had filtered out in recent weeks, but had not been confirmed by PUBG Corp until this week.
Among the ten banned players, the logs also indicate that six of them also utilised the same unauthorised program in online professional matches
The pro players were first identified as having used cheat software as regular players, according to a PUBG eSports statement.
"Through a global investigation of currently active competitive [pro] PUBG players, we discovered that ten players have received in-game bans due to the usage of an unauthorised program, the type of which has been severely damaging the integrity of the game of PUBG," the company tweeted.
It continued: "We verified that the evidence for every ban is indeed conclusive, and that there is no grounds to assume any of the banned accounts had been hijacked or borrowed at the time the unauthorised program was used.
"Among the ten banned players, the logs also indicate that six of them also utilised the same unauthorised program in online professional matches."
Six players identified as having used cheat software in pro matches have been banned for three years, while the players identified as having only used cheat software in public games have been handed two-year bans.
In the future, before any official eSports competition, all participating players will go through a comprehensive background check
Members of of the Sans Domicile team who apparently knew about the cheating by their team mates have also been suspended, while the Red Diamonds and Pittsburgh Knights have been obliged to replace a team member each.
All will no doubt now have to go out and get proper jobs.
"In the future, before any official eSports competition, all participating players will go through a comprehensive background check on all their accounts, and any player with incriminating evidence of having used an unauthorised program will be suspended and prevented from competing," the PUB eSports missive concluded.
PUBG has suffered as a result of widespread use of cheats since it entered early access in March 2017. While the company has introduced new anti-hacking software and encourages players to report suspected cheating, it still suffers from a belief that cheating is widespread.
The anti-cheat software introduced progressively throughout 2018 has helped to clampdown on the most egregious cheating, such as aimbots and speed hacks, but suspicions remain that more subtle and harder to detect cheating remains widespread.
It's not just PUBG that suffers with cheating, but pretty much all online gaming.
CounterStrike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) has been dogged by cheating claims for years, including during eSports competitions, and even the latest Call of Duty - which has undergone a predictable Battle Royale makeover - has been affected by claims of cheating.
8 January 2019: V3 produces 'noobs guide' to PUBG
PUBG can be a punishing game for newcomers, so V3 has produced its own beginners' guide
V3 has produced a guide to PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) - one geared for for newcomers and incompetents to help them survive just a little longer.
Called 'The Noobs' Guide to PUBG', it provides basic tips for new players, as well as those who struggle to shoot quite as straight as the seasoned pros you see on YouTube or Twitch.
The guide can be found here - please do tells us in the comments what we've missed. See below for our review of the new Vikendi snow map.
19 December 2018: New Vikendi map goes live today on PUBG
New Vikendi map adds snow, snowmobiles and new aural and visual twists
Vikendi, the new snow map for PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG), is going live today.
In addition to a surprisingly good fun snowmobile, the snow that blankets most of the map means that players will leave footprints and other tracks behind, while a swirling wind may also make it difficult to hear the tell-tale sign of impending death.
We selflessly invested a weekend giving the Vikendi map a try-out when it hit the test server two weeks ago and rather liked it - See our review below!
While the map is just a little bit bigger than Sanhok, the hills and towns make it feel more fleshed out and much bigger. In addition, towns like Dobro Mesto have much more of a genuine congruence about them compared to the settlements in (say) Erangel.
While Vikendi gives players more initial time to loot-up, compared to Sanhok, players will will need to schlepp across the map to a smaller initial circle.
This isn't as big a trial as it sounds as the bluezone isn't too punishing in the first ‘reduction', and there are generally sufficient vehicles to get around.
What's really exciting, though, is the addition of footprints, snowmobile tracks and tire tracks in the snow, which will add an extra means of hunting down players, while the howling wind may make it harder to hear footsteps and banging doors. The map has a Sniper Elite 4 artistic style about it and some excellent locations to explore.
Overall, it's a convincing map, and well-worth playing, notwithstanding the somewhat odd inclusion of a winery (presumably going cheap in the asset store…) in what is supposed to be a cold and northerly part of the world.
And it seems as if we're not the only ones who like it, with the new map propelling the PUBG Test Server into the Steam top-20 of most played games over the past two weeks.
In effect, the PUBG B-team has been beating out rival Battle Royale games like Ring of Elysium and the briefly popular Realm Royale, as well as games like Rocket League and DayZ.
We'll be carrying more details about the patches coming at the same time on Update #24 later today.
10 December 2018: New Vikendi map played and reviewed
We sacrificed our weekend to try out the new Vikendi map coming to PUBG - and rather liked it
So, PUBG's long-promised snow-themed map has arrived - albeit only on the Test Server - just in time for the UK's traditional rain-sodden Christmas. But is Vikendi, as the new map has been called, any good?
To test it out, we sacrificed our weekend to give the new map an intensive workout.
The resort island of Vikendi has an aesthetic reminiscent of Sniper Elite 4, which is most apparent in towns such as Dobro Mesto, which feel a lot more fleshed out and congruent than the settlements that pass for towns on Erangel and Miramar.
The new Vikendi map - looks more like four by four kilometres rather than six by six
Bluehole have described it as a six kilometre by six kilometre map, although it looks closer to four by four. That said, the high number of locations to drop-in to does make it feel less claustrophobic than Sanhok, while remaining a lot less mañana than Miramar.
You have just over four minutes to tool up after hitting the ground, which is generous for the size of map, but a smaller than usual first circle to retreat to. However, the speed of the encroaching blue zone isn't anything like as punishing as on (say) Miramar or Erangel, and there's just enough vehicles to go round (as well as fewer expanses of water creating barriers and pinch points).
Taking the tourist UAZ tour of old Vikendi, starting in Dobro Mesto
Thereafter, the blue zone shifts are quite manageable - nothing like the cross-country schlepps often required in PUBG's three other maps.
As for the environment, the snow-themed map does actually feel fresh and different.
Footprints, tire marks and tracks from the new snowmobile all get left behind in the snow, which should make for an interesting new dynamic, especially in squad games where one squad is hell-bent on tracking down and dispatching another squad.
The Vikendi snowmobile is surprisingly straightforward to drive - but quite noisy
It may also be possible to identify potential targets from their breath as they crouch in cover. That's another nice touch.
The sound of footprints on the snow is crisp and convincing, and the howling wind also adds another aural dynamic. However, it seemed odd that players could run around quite happily on a frozen lake with no slipping and sliding, as one might expect.
Also, there were some places on the map - such as around the castle - where players leave neither footprints nor tire prints in the zone. In addition, there were one or two unexpected graphical glitches. These will require tidying up before Vikendi is launched on the main server.
And, while there are a number of buildings regularly reproduced throughout the map - the copy-paste of store-bought assets - this feels like it has been done to a much lesser degree on Vikendi.
Some houses have mezzanine levels looking down onto living rooms, which should provide an exciting new way to eviscerate noobs and other careless players. There are also some very spacious, nicely decorated toilets to hang-out in if that's how you like to pass your time playing PUBG.
The snowmobile, like players themselves, can leave behind tell-tale tracks in the snow
What about the new snowmobile?
Well, it's a surprisingly easy to drive vehicle - certainly more so than the Dacia and better handling than the UAZ. A two-seater, it's noisy but nippy and well-worth seeking out. The Dacia, meanwhile, seems like it handles better on snow than actual roads, so it's maybe best to take this hideous 50-year-old dog of a vehicle across country, rather than sticking to the road.
Other observations: there seems to be plenty of healing items, Tommy Guns, Uzis, four-times scopes and two-times scopes. But maybe fewer eight-times scopes, as well as Kar-98s, Mini-14s and SKSs.
There are also more vertical foregrips, which is welcome. The new G36C assault rifle, dropped-in in place of the SCAR-L, looks like a cross between UMP-9 and QBZ and is a satisfying gun to use.
In terms of the map, the one big eye-brow raiser was the winery - yes, a winery. PUBG has made a big thing about the northerly location of Vikendi and a winery is one of the locations you'd least expect to find on such a small island that looks like it was based on a cross between (say) Reykjavik and Copenhagen. What looks like the vinyard is, in any case, ludicrously small.
Does this even look like wine growing country?
Perhaps the developers should swap the winery out for a craft beer brewery or gin distillery, both of which would be just the kind of wanky accoutrement a ‘resort' island might more convincingly offer in 2019.
An unconvincing room upstairs within the equally unconvincing Winery
Also on the unconvincing side were some of the visual assets casually dropped in, for example, to the church in Dobro Mesto: the pews seem both far too few and too small for the size of building.
While we're in Dobro Mesto, how is that all the cars and many other items appear to be rusting due to old age, while the cafe tables and chairs in the town square look like they were laid out yesterday?
The rusty old cars look like they've been there for years while the tables and chairs look like they were put out this morning...
And what is a large cement works doing on such a small island, too, and where are all the shops and supermarkets?
That said, the cement works and some of the towns dotted around the island should make for highly satisfying duels between competing players and squads, especially in games that eventually centre on such locations.
Another high point is the castle, notwithstanding one of the towers in which the staircase spirals the wrong way: medieval castle stairs were designed so that attackers had to attack upwards using their left hand, rather than their right hands, putting most of them at a disadvantage.
Given its layout, the Castle would not appear to have been owned by the National Trust, but it is a great place to nose around, with plenty of nooks and crannies to both explore and take the unwary by surprise.
Whoever designed this feature of the Castle would've been executed for architectural heresy
Overall, Vikendi looks like it will be an excellent addition to PUBG's existing repertoire of maps. In my opinion, it's set to be the best yet and one worth returning to PUBG for, for players who had become disillusioned with the game during 2018 due to all the irritating glitches and not unjustified claims of cheating.
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