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As Its Ninth Map Debuts, PUBG Dev Says It’s Still “The Premiere Battle Royale”

PUBG gets its ninth map in a new update today, July 13. Deston is both objectively the biggest map in the history of the game and arguably its most diverse landscape yet. Mixing the game’s usual blend of sprawling wilderness with several elaborate places of interest like enormous skyscrapers in a downtown section and an outdoor festival the likes of which you’d expect to find in Forza Horizon, Deston is perhaps best defined by its inability to be easily defined.

This is new territory for the game’s map design, which has historically showcased a singular style for each of its respective maps, so much so that the fandom sometimes refers to them like they’re naming Friends episodes: the one in the desert, the one in the snow, the one with the volcano, and so on. But Deston is different, and five years after kicking off the battle royale trend, it’s heartening to see PUBG continues to be reimagined.

Today the game operates with something like quiet confidence. While Fortnite, Warzone, and Apex Legends tend to make the headlines, PUBG quietly churns out update after update and remains a top-five game on Steam every day.

GameSpot caught up with PUBG’s creative director, Dave Curd, to discuss the design intentions of the new map, the state of the game following the move to a free-to-play economy earlier this year, and more. Best of all, we finally asked something we’ve wanted to know for a long time: Is PUBG’s jank a blessing or a curse?

GameSpot: From where it started to where it is now and where it may go next, what’s the overall state of PUBG on PC and console right now?

Dave Curd: We feel that PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS is in the best state it’s been in and the free-to-play transition has only echoed that sentiment. Now heading into year 5, we consider PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS as the foundation of the PUBG universe and the game transitioning to free-to-play offers more ways to develop the game and build the community. Currently we’re hyper-focused on the launch of Deston and are looking forward to diving into player feedback to see how the community receives the update. We are always brainstorming new gameplay elements and ideas and while we can’t go into any detail about what some of those concepts are, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see them featured in future maps.

What’s the relationship like between PUBG classic and PUBG Mobile? In what ways do the teams collaborate and what goals do they each have? How do their respective communities’ expectations differ?

I love what they are doing over at PUBG Mobile, they do a great job of presenting maps, modes, and experiences from Classic, and providing their own unique experiences. I think both Classic and Mobile share the same goal, to surprise and delight our fans, and keep them excited for what’s next!

Why does PUBG Mobile get so many brand crossovers, like Butterfinger and anime, that PUBG on consoles and PC don’t take part in? Is the mobile audience more open to that sort of thing?

As you may know, PUBG Mobile is a product of collaboration between KRAFTON and Tencent Games, and is operated completely separate from PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS. While I can’t speak to the nuances of PUBG Mobile’s publishing efforts, I can say that PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS’ marketing team is always evaluating promotions and partnerships we think will resonate with our audience.

What kind of changes have the community and team undergone since PUBG went free-to-play? How many new players has it brought in, and has an influx of new players altered matches in noticeable ways?

As you can imagine, PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS’ community has grown significantly since the game’s transition to F2P. We’ve been thrilled to bring in a large swath of new players, many of whom had no prior experience with the PUBG brand. It’s been incredible to onboard them into the game and watch the legacy community help guide them through their early days on the battlegrounds. For the team, it’s been a bolt of lightning to see the game through fresh eyes. It’s been an amazing opportunity to ship features that serve 2 very different fanbases. Creating offerings that please both day-one users and longtime veterans, has been an awesome challenge.

It can feel like wacky, colorful costumes put players at a disadvantage, such as ruining a stealth opportunity. How does the team balance the serious, tactical play that PUBG is known for with the cosmetics store that may need to offer eye-catching items to bankroll the game?

While we always aim to release creative and unique cosmetic items for players to try and obtain, we never try to harm the core gameplay of PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS. Ultimately, it is up to the player to customize their survivor however they see fit and we always encourage players to express themselves through their cosmetic rewards.

PUBG remains a top-five game on Steam every day, but it’s no longer the biggest game on the planet like it once was. How has the update cadence and roadmap changed in the time between its record-setting early days to now?

PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS remaining in the top-five on Steam’s charts is proof of our belief that it’s the premiere battle royale game. As PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS enters its fifth year, the team has been able to make steady updates to improve the game throughout the years, while being able to dedicate larger amounts of time to create meaningful and unique content like the new 8×8 Deston map. We’re not content and will always work to improve the game. This sometimes manifests itself as small weapon adjustments. Other times this result in the introduction of new mechanics like the Ascenders and Utility Parachute that we’ve been experimenting with internally for years.

The new PUBG map, Deston, looks quite different from most other PUBG maps, with its rarely-seen urban setting. It’s also said to be the biggest map in the game’s history. What were the team’s goals and points of emphasis with this new map? Are there aspects of it that PUBG has never introduced before?

When creating new maps, we always try to ensure that the look, feel, and mechanics are worthy of a new PUBG location. With 8×8 maps, in particular, we need to provide varied terrain types with a wide range of engagement opportunities. They also have to say something new by being visually unique, while entertaining the player with places to explore, new mechanics, and everything else that makes a large PUBG map great. In addition to the 8×8 size of the map, we really emphasized the verticality of the map, allowing players to engage on multiple planes.

Unlike other PUBG maps, Deston can’t so easily be nailed down to a singular aesthetic.

Deston is also PUBG’s ninth original map, and several are in rotation at any given time in-game. This is unlike most battle royales, which tend to offer very few maps or even just one map at a time. What went into this decision to offer so many maps and why do you think other battle royales tend not to do it?

We’ve always strived to provide a diverse array of content for PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS players. Each map has its own unique personality and gameplay style that players can experience. In the past five years, the game and community has experienced the launch of PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS to the transition of free-to-play which has lowered the entry point barrier and has allowed for more players to experience the PUBG universe. While we can’t speak to the decision making of other battle royale games, our team’s goal is to always be innovative while creating new experiences that will grow the PUBG universe for our dedicated and passionate community. The variety and breadth of maps in PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS continues to be a testament to that.

PUBG is credited with kicking off the battle royale trend, and today it exists in an extremely competitive genre. In your mind, what does PUBG offer that competitors don’t?

As you’ve alluded to, we’ve remained vigilant in maintaining PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS’ identity as the most realistic battle royale. PUBG offers a variety of ways to play the game through different maps and intricate gunplay mechanics. While the team has worked hard to provide new and unique mechanics and places to the PUBG community and universe, we’ll always consider PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS to be the premiere battle royale game in the industry.

Games in most genres aren’t viewed as being in constant competition with each other. No one would say action-adventure fans must choose between Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed, for example. Battle royale, however, is often viewed as a pie of which each game is trying to get a bigger slice. What causes this perception? Is it fair and/or realistic?

I think you have to take a step back and look at the genre as a whole – especially competitive genres. Of course, you wouldn’t have to choose between two successful single-player, action-adventure genre game franchises like you mentioned – but what about multiplayer genres? I think it’s healthy to have competition and it subsequently drives innovation within the industry. There will always be a debate amongst the media and communities, but each battle royale game in our industry has its own personality and unique strengths about them – which is inspiring to see since the battle royale genre is still relatively new.

A lot of players talk about the “jank” of PUBG. Some find it endearing and part of the fun–like the “Keep PUBG Weird” movement–while others cite it as the reason they bounced off the game. What does the team think about this so-called jank?

The dev team has always taken pride in the realism of PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS. What others see as “jank” we see as the game’s natural style. We’re always looking to improve the game and provide innovative ways to entertain PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS players while providing an engaging experience. We’ve made significant strides in optimizing the game on both PC and consoles over the years, and will soon be releasing an animation refresh for the game, but we’re constantly concerned about keeping the core gameplay style of PUBG intact.

Several maps have received sizeable makeovers. Has the team discussed a full-game remaster or remake? If you were to do that, which elements, if any, might not survive that transition, and which are considered critical to the game’s DNA?

It’s too soon to talk about what’s next, my focus has been on Deston, but rest assured, our devs are always thinking about maps, matchmaking, and the holistic experience of a PUBG session.

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