The latest update to Player Unknown's Battlegrounds has hit live servers with the introduction of a new ‘event' on Sanhok involving ten teams of five players.
The event this weekend will see teams of players land equipped with a shotgun, pistol, frag grenade and a pack of bandages, with care packages containing either a sniper rifle or designated marksman rifle (DMR) landing every one minute, 10 seconds.
The ‘war mode' fights will take place on a random subset of the Sanhok map, with players racking up three points for a kill and one point for a ‘knock'. Players that get whacked can drop in planes flying by every 30 seconds. The first team to 200 points claims the chicken dinner. If no team reaches that tally in 15 minutes the team with the most points wins.
The event coincides with a new 6.6GB update that includes some tidy-ups to Sanhok, such as rockier rocks and mossier ruins. A number of minor fixes have also been thrown in and the update also lands with an update to the BattlEye cheat detection tool.
However, the introduction of the new Sanhok map, which is smaller and more action-packed the games first two maps - Erangal and Miramar - hasn't helped to permanently increase player numbers, despite price cuts of up to 50 per cent in recent sales on Steam, Fanatical and Green Man Gaming.
See also: The trouble with... online gaming
27 June 2018: PUBG Corporation, the company behind PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG), has dropped its legal action against Epic Games over Fortnite.
PUBG Corp had complained that Epic's popular Fortnite Battle Royale game infringed PUBG's own copyrights in the Battle Royale gaming genre, filing a legal case in South Korea at the end of May (see next page).
Those claims, however, were widely derided, and helped to turn PUBG reviews on Steam from "Mixed" to "Mostly Negative", while player numbers have dropped off from a peak of around 3.2 million in January to lows of 1.2 million in early June.
While numbers have since increased to around 1.6 million, following an update introducing a smaller, faster-moving map, free-to-play Fortnite has not only become wildly more popular, but is also making more money - $318 million in May, according to Epic - simply from the sale of cosmetics.
PUBG, in contrast, retails at £26.99, although it is currently on sale for as low as £17.99, and the introduction of loot boxes bearing cosmetics was one of the factors that put many players off.
The decision was revealed after PUBG Corp delivered a ‘letter of withdrawal' to Epic Games on Monday.
It's not clear, according to Bloomberg, whether a settlement has been agreed or whether PUBG simply backed down.
However, the ties between the two companies almost certainly complicated matters: PUBG uses Epic's Unreal Engine to make its game work, while China's Tencent has a minority stake in both companies, and developed the Android mobile port of PUBG.
While both games are based on the same Battle Royale idea, they are very different, with Fortnite offering a more cartoon-like aesthetic with building mechanics, while PUBG delivers a grittier realism with weapons based on real-life guns.
22 June 2018: PUBG's newest map, Sanhok, has landed today in a 12.2GB update as the company behind the game looks to reverse a massive fall in the number of players with aggressive price cuts.
Sanhok will form part of a major update, which will also include a new ‘event pass' - at a price of £7.49 - and coincides with a Steam sale intended to drum-up interest among new players.
The Sanhok map is around one-quarter of the size of Miramar, and is intended to provide a faster and more intense Battle Royale game compared to Erangel and Miramar.
In addition, players can reach a much wider proportion of the map from the plane, and the bluezone is not only slower and can be outrun, but dynamic, moving based on the number of players remaining. Weather makes a welcome return and can change dynamically.
On Sanhok, too, newbies will be thrown-in among seasoned players, rather than match-making players according to their ratings, and decent weapons - assault rifles and the like - will be more abundant.
However, the update also removes the ability to choose maps, a decision that has provoked adverse reaction among the game's most vocal players.
The company justified the removal of map choice by claiming that it will improve match-making times, with player numbers now split among three maps; single player, duos or squads; and in terms of first-person or third person perspective.
Instead, players will be able to choose between Erangel and Miramar, on the one hand, or Sanhok, on the other. A new map coming later this year is intended to come in between Sanhok and Miramar in size.
The new event pass, meanwhile, is unlikely to do anything to pique new interest in PUBG - introduced as a means to enable players to get their hands on guaranteed "premium loot", rather than wedging up for what normally turns out to be a crate of unwanted junk.
The update comes as PUBG has been battling a precipitous fall in player numbers since the game's peak in January, when it achieved a daily player count of 3.2 million on Steam, making it the most popular game ever on the PC gaming platform.
Player numbers have fallen particularly sharply since the last update amid complaints that the developers don't listen to players, and haven't done enough to iron-out glitches and combat cheating.
In addition, Battle Royale rival, free-to-play Fortnite, has not only overtaken PUBG in popularity but left it trailing, while a string of other Battle Royale games have also nibbled away at the player base.
And the company has done itself no favours, either, by taking legal action against Epic Games, the company behind Fortnite, claiming that Fortnite breaches PUBG's intellectual copyright.
PUBG Corporation's claim has not only been widely derided, but has driven a slew of negative reviews on Steam, shifting it into "Mostly Negative" territory - a label normally reserved for the most catastrophically bad games on Steam.
15 June 2018: Sanhok, the forthcoming minimap on PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG), will do away with match-making based on skill and instead throw-in newbies with veteran players.
The reason, the company claims, is to speed-up matchmaking times and to make the Sanhok map more riotous and chaotic for all players. However, while ‘career stats' will be recorded, performances on Sanhok won't affect players in terms of matchmaking.
The game is also set to tweak its approach to map selection, back-tracking somewhat on earlier promises in a bid to keep matchmaking queue times manageable.
"We've decided that we can't support individual map selection for more than two maps," write the developers in their latest update.
The missive continues: "This is because map selection creates an essentially exponential increase in the number of total separate queues when combined with other queue options like party size and perspective. That means the matchmaking pool gets split into many small sections, making it nearly impossible to put together a match in at least some of those queues."
While the game currently features just two maps, those options are sliced into two in terms of whether the player wants to play in third-person or first-person mode, and those two groups are then sliced three ways: solo, duo and squad (with single players pitting themselves against squads also needing to be fitted in to squad games).
PUBG's typical daily player numbers have dropped from a peak of just over 3.2 million in January, just a month after it came out of early access, to 1.5 million or fewer in the past week.
In order to better manage queue times, therefore, the developers will revoke the separate choices for Erangal and Miramar, which were only introduced in April, and instead provide players with a straight choice between ‘Battle Royale' (Erangal or Miramar) or ‘Mini Royale' (Sanhok).
"At least for now, we're going to launch Sanhok as its own queue, with Miramar and Erangel bundled together in a separate queue. That means that in the new UI, you'll be able to queue up for Sanhok by itself, or Erangel + Miramar together. Choosing both queues means you'll randomly be dropped into one of the three maps currently in the game."
However, the company revealed at the E3 trade show this week that it is working on further maps for PUBG, including one that will be around midway in size between Erangal and Sanhok to provide more variation for players.
Next page: PUBG's June 'event', Sanhok's latest Experimental Server tests, and PUBG's plans for improved cheat detection
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