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Mobile ‘PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ games for China market look impressive

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Chinese game giant Tencent announced in November that it would be bringing a version of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds to mobile devices in China. It seemed like an impossible task given the game’s less-than-ideal performance on PC and Xbox One, but two separate games are now in their testing stage on the Chinese iOS and Android stores, and the footage we’ve seen has us hopeful they come to other regions. The first of the two offerings is called PUBG: Exhilarating Battlefield (some have translated it as “Thrilling Battlefield”), and it’s designed to emulate the basic structure of the original PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.

You are dropped onto a giant map filled with 99 other players all looking to be the last one standing, and you can fully customize your character with many of the same tools available on the other versions. It includes first-person mode and third-person mode, and without the virtual buttons on the screen, it’s quite difficult to tell it apart from the PC version. Frankly, the framerate in the mobile game often looks better than it does on Xbox One X.

The other game is PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds: Army Attack, and it’s a little bit different. In addition to containing naval battles, it has snappier combat that feels like it was designed with the platform in mind. Kills come quickly, and large hit markers help you to determine if you’re doing damage.

Like its sibling game, it runs at a buttery-smooth framerate on the iPhone X. So, which of the two has taken off in China? Actually, both of them have.

Industry analyst Daniel Ahmad revealed that the two games had 75 million players preregister, and they are currently first and second on the Chinese iOS download charts. Given the original PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds‘ popularity on both PC and Xbox One, the latter of which already has 4 million players in just a few months, it appears the two mobile titles are certain t be a hit overseas. We’re hoping Tencent expands its vision for a global launch, as well as a version on the Nintendo Switch.

All we want is to eat a chicken dinner with the power of the Joy-Con controllers.

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Microsoft looking to acquire EA, Valve, or PUBG Corp, says new report

When it comes to big-name exclusive games, Microsoft is lagging somewhat. While Sony has Spider-Man[1], The Last of Us Part 2[2], God of War[3], Dreams and others lined up for 2018, Microsoft has Crackdown 3[4], State of Decay 2, and Sea of Thieves[5] on the horizon. 

These titles may look promising and we know there are unannounced games in the works[6] – those Fable 4[7] rumors are still going strong –  but Microsoft isn’t looking as comprehensive on the exclusives front at the moment.

If Microsoft wants to remain competitive with Sony and Nintendo, it needs to do something about its sparse offering of console-selling first-party titles, and it’s acknowledged this in the past. If a recent report from Polygon[8] is anything to go by, making some big acquisitions is the fastest and most likely solution.

Pay-to-win

Speaking to four industry analysts, Polygon is reporting that major publisher acquisitions are the “most likely” route for Microsoft, given that the company is short on time and internal studios, but sitting on a reasonably large cash pot.

Citing an anonymous but “reliable” source “close to Microsoft”, Polygon reports that Electronic Arts is one of the publishers being considered. Other rumors have suggested that Valve and PUBG Corp are also being looked at. 

Given Microsoft’s recent timed exclusive deal with PUBG Corp, it wouldn’t be too outlandish for the company to want to tie its ever-growing game PUBG[9] to Xbox[10] and PC on a more permanent basis.

Acquiring EA would be a much more bold move, but it would significantly boost Microsoft’s software division and both companies appear to share the belief that games as a service is the way forward for the industry.

Certainly, the Xbox Game Pass[11] service would truly become the true Netflix of games if it was able to boast titles from third-parties. 

Though acquisitions do seem like a plausible and beneficial move for Microsoft at the moment, these rumors remain nothing more than rumors and Microsoft is yet to confirm any plans yet.

References

  1. ^ Spider-Man (www.techradar.com)
  2. ^ The Last of Us Part 2 (www.techradar.com)
  3. ^ God of War (www.techradar.com)
  4. ^ Crackdown 3 (www.techradar.com)
  5. ^ Sea of Thieves (www.techradar.com)
  6. ^ we know there are unannounced games in the works (www.gamespot.com)
  7. ^ Fable 4 (www.techradar.com)
  8. ^ Polygon (www.polygon.com)
  9. ^ PUBG (www.techradar.com)
  10. ^ Xbox (www.techradar.com)
  11. ^ Xbox Game Pass (www.techradar.com)
  12. ^ Xbox One isn’t short on great games, and these are the best (www.techradar.com)

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Dear game designers: Please rip off these brilliant game ideas from 2017

Steve Jobs once said: “Good artists copy; great artists steal.” He should know-he stole the quote from Pablo Picasso, who probably didn’t come up with it either. This sentiment drives modern game design, which revolves around iterating on good ideas. It also drives this very post, which is a rehash of a list we published around this time last year.

2017 was an exciting year for gaming, heralding the arrival of some long-awaited titles as well as more than a few surprises. Here are 10 novel ideas from 2017’s best games, that we hope to see someone shamelessly rip off in 2018.

A Linear narrative told through multiple endings (Nier: Automata)

Replayability has always been an interesting sticking point in game design. The desire to give players meaningful narrative agency with branching choices that play out differently (and thus encouraging replays) runs somewhat at odds to the tendency to make games longer and longer, increasing their perceived value.

Classic ’90s RPG Chrono Trigger, which included a wide range of potential endings, created the “New Game+“, which allowed players to maintain their items and experience on subsequent (and accordingly faster) playthroughs. Auteur designer Yoko Taro has taken that to a new level with the sequential multiple endings of Nier: Automata. In addition to a few potential endings for your first playthrough, the game is actually notably different in new game+.

For much of the second time through you control the character who had been your sidekick, offering a new perspective on the same events. There are also new interstitial scenes sprinkled throughout the second loop, giving new context to the world and story. The third time through assumes the perspective of a completely different character, and is essentially a new act entirely, radically altering your perspective on the game’s story once again. Nier: Automata took what works about new game+ and compounded it, rewarding players increasingly as they invest more time into the game.

It’s also a marvelous example of medium specificity, using the unique conventions of video games to examine a story in a way that other media could not. It’s always a good sign when you complete a game and want to start from the beginning immediately, and no game we’ve ever played is better built for that.

Open worlds without filler (The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild)

In the years following the success of Skyrim and Assassin’s Creed, “open world” has become one of the most overused design tropes in AAA gaming. When we first heard that Nintendo was going the open world route with its upcoming Zelda game, we felt a little apprehension that they were just chasing trends, but Breath of the Wild turned out to be a master class in the genre, and a wake up call for where it needs to go.

A common problem for open-world games (particularly those from Ubisoft) is that they feel less like living, immersive places and more like maps covered in icons, loaded with repetitive objectives that just feel like filler content. Even games that we otherwise loved, like Horizon Zero Dawn, fall into this trap. The genius of Breath of the Wild is that it dials back the role of the map from overbearing taskmaster to its rightful place as a player-aiding tool.

Regions of the map are left blank until you find and climb a tower within them, encouraging you to encounter explore at least a portion of the world without a guide. Even then, rather than populating the map for you with points of interest, the only map markers that the game provides are those that you place yourself. By putting cartography back into the hands of the player, Breath of the Wild re-situated their attention from maps and menus back into the game world itself.

Subsequent open world games would be well served to take note of Nintendo’s focus on moment-to-moment experience and discovery.

Destination gaming (HQ Trivia)

The first wave of breakout smartphone games, such as Flight Control, Candy Crush, or 2048, have all focused on the size and touchscreen for accessible, drop-in, one-finger experiences. As a gaming platform, however, smartphones are so much more than just small tablets. Their portability and constant connectivity (service allowing) opens up a range of exciting possibilities for designers to play with time and space in a way that other platforms do not facilitate.

In the last few years Pokemon Go and Subterfuge have both embraced this medium specificity in different ways. Where Pokemon Go grounded the game in real space, and Subterfuge spread it out over real time, HQ Trivia instead hosts daily trivia contests at particular hours, creating a sort of “destination gaming” (so-named after event-based destination television). While admittedly some of HQ‘s allure is the real cash prizes, live competition against strangers adds a thrilling sense of connection to an otherwise cerebral type of gameplay.

The addition of a real host further blurs the line between a mobile game and a traditional quiz show, making HQ Trivia one of the most truly 21st-century-native forms of entertainment we’ve yet seen.

Making old games new again on Switch (L.A. Noire)

Porting older games onto the latest platform is a time-honored way to fill out a console’s library while developers learn to make best use of its capabilities. Traditionally this just entails a bit of graphical upscaling to take advantage of technological progress, ranging from simply adding newer, HD textures to more complete visual overhauls (like the upcoming Shadow of the Colossus remake for PS4).

Nintendo, ever the wild card, has sidestepped the console arms race yet again with the Switch, sacrificing raw power for portability. The prospect of taking recent AAA titles to a handheld platform has brought the gaming community’s remake appetite to a whole new level. Bringing 2016 first-person shooter Doom to the Switch was an excellent proof of concept for what handheld AAA gaming could look and feel like.

It was the remake of Rockstar’s 2011 detect-em-up L.A. Noire that really surprised us, though. Its top notch voice acting and facial animations looked great, despite the generally aged visuals, and its rich, period narrative and interrogation system haven’t really been matched.

Where Doom and Wolfenstein II got us excited about the prospect of contemporary AAA games on the Switch, L.A. Noire has us wondering what other slightly older games could gain new relevance on Nintendo’s exciting new platform?

Battle Royale (PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds)

Any gamer that watched or read The Hunger Games immediately saw the potential in it for an amazing video game. A large number of people drop into an area littered with weapons, and the sole survivor wins.

The grim narrative convention of the so-called “Battle Royale” (derived from the eponymous 1999 Japanese novel and its subsequent film adaptation) lends itself perfectly to the indiscriminate carnage of video games.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds isn’t the first attempt at a Battle Royale video game (there have been various mods for Minecraft, Arma 2, and the like, as well as 2016’s The Culling), but it’s certainly the definitive version. PUBG creator Bluehole refined the genre within a modern military shooter shell, but the general gameplay model could be applied to any number of more fantastical genres and mechanics. The Darwin Project, which we tried back at E3 2017, uses third-person action with a bit of crafting and survival in the narrative context of dystopian reality TV, for instance.

Despite Bluehole’s IP-related sabre-rattling, we hope that other developers will continue to run with the concept in new and interesting ways.

‘PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ on Xbox One: Hands-on preview

It’s finally time. After months and months of hearing about the magic of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Xbox One players can experience the phenomenon now that a beta version of the game has launched on the Xbox One Game Preview program, Microsoft’s answer to Steam Early Access. In case you aren’t among the 20 million players who’ve picked up the game since it launched on Steam Early Access in March, here’s the quick pitch. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is a highly competitive first- or third-person shooter that focuses exclusively on a single game mode, “Battle Royale.” Each PUBG match opens with 100 unarmed players jumping out of a plane onto a large, open map.

Once they land, it’s up to them to find weapons and take everybody else out. The last person standing gets the win, or as the game likes to say, “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!” Let’s just get this out of the way.

The Xbox One port of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is an inferior version of the game. It doesn’t have key features found in the PC version, and doesn’t run well on any version of Xbox hardware. Despite that, the core PUBG experience remains intact.

Its still feels creates intense yet tactical, frantic yet fun. Win or lose, every encounter will get your adrenaline pumping.

Dark, mushy Clouds

While the “finished” version of PUBG launches on PC this week, the Xbox One version will likely stay in beta for the foreseeable future. On a technical level, the Xbox One version of PUBG feels like a much earlier, rough-hewn version of the game.

Network issues lead to occasional hitching and crashing. While some effects, like explosions, look excellent, many basic elements look muddied. Worst of all, the game has trouble loading the game map quickly, especially right at the start of each match.

In a match’s opening moments, you’ll see topographical features pop in as the plane flies in overhead. Once you’ve jumped, you often land to find that the textures on the surrounding buildings have not loaded yet. The world is, for a time, dotted with interactive piles of mush.

Every encounter will get your adrenaline pumping. These issues can have a practical impact on how you play. Bumping into another player in the opening moments of a match becomes tricky if you can’t sprint to the nearest house (and presumably the nearest gun).

Savvy players would be wise to adjust their strategies to account for these potential hang-ups early on. Though the game is in “preview” mode, and clearly marked as unfinished, the technical issues come as a bit of a shock. Neither Microsoft nor the PUBG Corporation indicated that the game would be in such rough shape, and a locked 30 frames per second should be possible.

The game doesn’t look good enough to justify performance issues.

What does this button do?

Once you get past the technical hang-ups, the biggest difference between playing on PC and Xbox is the controller. Like many games designed specifically for PC, PUBG requires too many inputs for a controller to handle naturally. To condense things into a controller-friendly format, the game relies on the full set of inputs, including the D-Pad, and certain buttons work differently depending on whether you tap or hold them.

For example, tapping the left trigger enables aim mode, which lets you look through your scope, but holding the trigger in third-person mode switches to an over-the-shoulder view that steadies your aim. Similarly, some aspects of the original game were designed specifically to work with a mouse. PUBG uses menus to manage equipment and use contextual items, and players must do so quickly. There is no “time out” in multiplayer games, and players who linger in menus tend to get their heads blown off.

On Xbox One, PUBG streamlines the process of equipping and swapping attachments. Rather than moving back and forth between your equipment and your inventory with the LB and RB shoulder buttons, you can simply tap A to highlight an item you want to equip, and the game automatically toggles between the specific item slots you can select. Two quick taps, and you’re good to go.

That’s a trick we’re sure PC players wouldn’t mind having. Most of the changes work well, once you learn the ropes. Most of the changes work well, once you learn the ropes, but getting to that point can be difficult.

The game has no introduction or tutorials, so it’s on you to read up and figure things out. On PC, leaving players to teach themselves how to play is fairly common practice, but it’s a poor choice on console. PUBG‘s advanced controls are anything but intuitive.

Silver Lining

While PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds doesn’t work well on Xbox One right now, there are signs the game’s technical issues are improving. Even after one week, there’s a lot less hitching, and fewer performance hiccups.

Though the texture pop-in we described earlier is still present at the start of each match, the map loads more quickly than at launch.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Compared To

We also found that the extra power in the Xbox One X makes a noticeable impact on performance in PUBG, at least for now. Playing on an Xbox One X prompts you to choose between boosting framerate or resolution. We found that prioritizing framerate keeps the game running smoothly.

Regardless of your choice, the pop-in issues at the outset of each match seem to resolve a faster on One X, and are less likely to impact your game. These are caveats, and do not excuse the game’s performance issues, or suggest you should buy a game that isn’t finished. That said, we’ve enjoyed spending time with the Xbox One version of PUBG, which is testament to the game itself.

PUBG has was never a visual spectacle or a technical marvel on PC.

Its success lies in its ability to suck you in with intense, unique gameplay.

So long as Microsoft and the PUBG developers put in the time to optimize the game, there’s no reason the Xbox One version of PUBG can’t be every bit as captivating as the original.