Battle royale games, so called owing to their inspiration coming from the plot of their namesakes’ 2000 cult classic movie and novel, are a hot topic right now. These multiplayer games combine last man standing gameplay with elements from survival games, to create a genre that is both challenging and highly enjoyable.

Players are dropped into a map typically by parachute, with little to no resources. Then must scavenge at their chosen drop zone, praying that they made the right decision and the loot gods are good to them. After all no one wants to bring a frying pan to a gunfight, even if they can stop bullets.

The battle then ensues whether you are prepared or not and you must survive using your wits, skill and whatever kit is at your disposal. Whether you’re a hunter or a hider matters little, as you will be both by the end one way or another. In this game type the safe play zone is restricted, slowly getting smaller and smaller to bring players together until there’s only one team or person left after the final showdown. This ensures the gameplay flows when numbers drop, as well as making sure it actually comes to an end and isn’t just a glorified game of hide and seek.

A Brief History

Brendan Greene, more commonly known by his handle PlayerUnknown was the creator of the ARMA 2 mod DayZ: Battle Royale. A mod which Daybreak Game Company obviously liked the look of, taking him on as a consultant in the development of their game H1Z1.

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This was the first standalone of this type that I know of and where for me it all began. H1Z1s’ King of the Kill game mode released in 2016 and quickly enamoured me to the struggle of becoming the last one standing on the body heap, even with all its early access woes. The game type was just too fun for those woes to have mattered. Seemingly, I wasn’t alone in my love for this type of game, as in the following years they grew in popularity as well as numbers. After his contract with Daybreak ended PlayerUnknown was picked up as creative director by Korean owned Bluehole games studio. Through that partnership PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds was born, being so well received (hitting 30 million sales by February this year) that it’s looking to becoming an eSport.

Since then the titles have begun to snowball, with the recent 2017 addition of Epic Games’ go at the genre, Fortnite. This offering brought the elements of fortification building and destructible environments to the field. Evidently it is so fun that it has quickly shot into the ranks in terms of popularity, becoming a worthy competitor to PUBG and its ilk. As well as becoming a freshly baked meme in the process, which is probably now stale considering their usual shelf life – but who’s to judge. One things for certain, PUBG and Fortnite are currently doing battle as the two compete for top dog in the markets own version of the 2001 film.

Enter Mavericks: Proving Grounds, set to be the next instalment in what I can only imagine will be a long line considering the swift rise in popularity of this genre.

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A Maverick? It’ll Need Proving!

Originally known simply as Project X, the ambitious endeavour of self-proclaimed innovation oriented Automaton studios to create a 1000 player tactical shooter MMO has been named after more than a year. Set on an island in the near future, the now named Mavericks: Proving Grounds was revealed at the recent PC Gamer Weekender in London on February the 17th.

Before the wider MMO world is released in 2019 a BR game mode is to be unveiled sometime later in 2018. A game which will seek to fix what the team at Automaton think is wrong with similar games like PUBG, poor connection and bugginess owing to the connection and performance issues that arise with 100 players connected in large scale maps. Limitations they say other similar games infrastructure are incapable of escaping. So what was their answer? Seemingly it was to quadruple the number of players in the server.

Actually and probably quite obviously, there’s a little more to it than that. To avoid falling into similar traps that they feel make other BR and MMO games stale they will be relying upon Improbables’ SpatialOS cloud platform combined with a client created through Cryteks’ CryEngine. Having their vast and interactive map uploaded to the cloud and relying on the real-time visual rendering of CryEngine, Automaton feel they are able to really push the envelope. Looking to create a large and interactive world with a great many players in it, that has the potential to be a massive playing experience. The reason they are so confident in achieving this is because what’s powering the game behind the scenes is designed and built to deliver this. A pre-contained world that renders in real-time that the end-users PC simply acts as a viewing portal to, allowing for higher performance. In an interview with Polygon Lawrence Barnett of Automaton said;

“Everything [the user sees on their screen] is basically computed on the fly, and what that enables us to do is simulate a massive world on the server. Then, as the player moves through that world, you swap in and swap out the necessary information that they have to see. … There’s no way your computer could handle all this by itself.”

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Some players are rightly sceptical as to whether gameplay will live up to what’s been promised.

Wildlife that actually reacts intelligently and dynamically to players. The ability to track the path of others as they indent on their surroundings through footsteps or paths taken through displaced foliage. Wildfire that spreads, as well as destructive environments are all parts of this interactive map. Automaton want it to be more than just a stage, they want players to be able to use it as an interactive tool to aid them. In Barnetts words, they want to ‘create a living breathing world.’ Not only on a massive scale, but in a logical way that will influence play style depending on where you drop. They’re looking to do this bit by bit like a quilt of set-piece patches, to avoid the map sprawling willy-nilly in a way that doesn’t impact on the experience positively.

The gigantic interactive and dynamic well designed map, coupled with the heavy focus on providing players with a top notch FPS gaming experience shows that clearly Automaton have massive ambitions for the game they’ve envisioned. Trying to improve upon what they and many players perceive to be the issues with similar games. Will it live up to its ambition as planned? One can hope even if sceptical, as quadrupling a BR games player size in a bigger and better than ever map, as well as creating such a large scale immersive MMO world will make for much fun and an all-round tasty experience.

Undoubtedly developers are looking to get their slice of the BR pie and luckily for them when it comes to the market, there can be more than one winner. With such fanatic customers with a thirst for this relatively fresh genre, who can really blame them. But can this game bring more to the table? Or will it be just another copycat jumping on the bandwagon of BR games success, with a view to sell yet another MMO in an over saturated market?

I for one am more than looking forward to finding out and reporting back.

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A freelance writer and blogger living on the south-coast. I write about the world of video games on my current blog. With a focus on RTS/FPS military PC games.

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