Not Esports Ready, But Very Close: PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS Charity Invitational 2017 Review

The news of PLAYERUNKNOWN’s BATTLEGROUNDS (PUB) officially holding its first tournament last month came as a surprise; at the time, there was no observer mode, no custom game option, and little experience available for the masses to see how a Battle Royale game was broadcasted in a viewer-friendly way.

EU’s turn had some issues, but all in all was a strong showing to the future of PUB esports.

Both brackets were best-of-three, with points being awarded depending on where your team placed.

Let’s just get right into it, shall we? There’s a lot to cover.

First, the critiques.

Critiques

  1. Audio Issues. The opening of the EU tournament had its ups and downs, but its main issue came with the audio regularly switching on and off during any pre-produced packages. The game audio was fairly loud in comparison to the commentary, allowing for some unintelligible moments when an air drop or vehicle came too close to the camera.
  2. Lag. One of the biggest issues when it comes to Battle Royale games is the lag. With so many people playing the game, the server was bound to have a few issues. A server change from EU to NA in the second round only helped marginally.

Though these are big issues in terms of quality of life and general esports capability, they are also things that can be fixed, and things that BlueHole has known about and have been trying to fix. Still, it was a bit disappointing to not see smooth gameplay, especially towards the end of tournaments where that really matters.

The Positives

Despite those issues, there were quite a few positives; some of which seemed to be directly learned from the shortcomings of H1Z1’s tournament, Fight for the Crown (FFTC).

  1. It was live. The stream kicked off about 7 minutes late, but had the standard “welcome” screen and felt like an actual esports tournament that the average esports fan of any game could be expected to find. Despite some audio issues at the start — first being nonexistent, then the sound over-modulating quite a few times — that’s the charm of live that was missing from FFTC.
  2. It wasn’t winner take all. The best-of-three allowed for the teams to actually have a fighting chance and wasn’t entirely too reliant on RNG. The fact that the game gives you some control over your spawn — aka, when you jump out of the plane — also helped with this.
  3. The talent knew what they were talking about. PUB’s Esports Program Manager Chris Prankhurst teamed up with PUB’s Lead Community Manager Sammie King for hosting duties. Prankhurst in particular was fantastic with his player analysis, giving context expected from your average ESL CS:GO tournament. King was not one to be outdone, though, giving her own analysis before and after each bracket. The Gameplay Programmer Marek Krasowski seemed a bit more shy on camera than the others, but his background on weapon mechanics helped bring a good perspective. For them being developers of the game and part of PUB’s staff, they were very well versed and clearly did their research on how to cast esports. Also, shoutout to the Observer Mode; for something that, according to Prankhurst, “didn’t exist” three weeks ago, it’s quite a strong model.
  4. It was entertaining. From a “naked” brawl at the start of a NA game to the nailbiting endings of quite a few rounds, the game itself was incredible and the teams fought hard. I wasn’t bored watching; I wanted to know who was going to win, even though I didn’t know of half the people involved. Shoutout once again to Prankhurst for his pacing and his storytelling skills; it elevated the matches to look like it was a professional esports event.

Suggestions to include in the future

PUB mentioned that they wanted feedback and wanted to know what fans wanted to be included in the game. Judging from the tournament, I’d make a suggestion of the following:

  1. A trail to show where a grenade is thrown in Observer Mode. Maybe a red line or something similar to how CS:GO tracks grenades in Observer mode.
  2. An outline of the safe zone circle also on the in-game enviroment in Observer Mode, just to make it easier for the viewers and the casters to know where the safe zone is. It shouldn’t be included in the player’s POV, however.
  3. Hitpoints for vehicles in Observer Mode. If they were there, I definitely didn’t see them. Considering how the first NA game ended (spoilers!), it would have been nice for viewers to know a bit sooner.

The Verdict

All in all, PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS Charity Invitational 2017 was a success. Though it had its quirks, the tournament itself wasn’t unwatchable and was entertaining the entire way trough. The lag and audio issues were definitely annoying — and something that needs to be addressed before tournaments to beyond this testing phase — but it’s a very solid start to what could be major PUB tournaments in the (somewhat?) near future.

PUB obviously wants to have a strong esports scene; Prankhurst talked about tournaments in the future having a prize pool worth “millions of dollars.” They seem to be taking a slow-and-steady approach to it; they emphasized the charity aspect of this tournament before anything else, as well as them being completely aware of the fact that they’re still in beta and still have bugs to work on. They also mentioned no esports would occur until after the game was officially released, but that could be as early as six months from now.

I’m personally hoping for sooner rather than later, but I appreciate the wanting to take their time and think this all through. With that sort of mindset, PUB can only improve on their solid foundation from here.