The first time I set foot on Miramar, I felt lost. It was unfamiliar territory for PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG). A vast desert with minimal buildings, cover, or foliage to crouch within. I felt so exposed—especially donning a dusty tracksuit, emulating a certain villainous figure from the film Battle Royale. Then over the weeks, I grew to love it. It was different from the game's original map, Erangel, but I liked that change. I had to play adversely to my usual methods; rethink my strategies.
Apparently, a lot of other players didn't agree. They only wanted Erangel, and without a map selection option in the game yet, they took action against it.
As a result, players on Reddit cooked up a way to avoid getting Miramar in the game's random map rotation. By deleting or renaming Miramar in the game's directory, they would be booted back to the lobby should the game select the unfavored map. The amount of how many players actually went to these lengths are unknown; also given the fact that I still see folks dropping out of matches on Erangel's lobby the moment they spawn in, seemingly preferring the newer map in its place.
Nonetheless, PUBG Corp. heard the big outcry, and patched the map in early February to help dissuade players from dropping matches or avoiding Miramar's selection by other means. The patch has added buildings, more off-road flat routes for vehicles, and updated the spawn rate for weapons in certain, more desolate areas. Playing the slightly-refreshed map feels odd, like the experience is bending to what I feared most back when Creative Director Brendan "PlayerUnknown" Greene first announced that new maps were on the way: that they'd just feel like reskins of Erangel.
About a month ago, I reached out to PUBG Corp. in hopes of talking about the creation of Miramar. This week, and in the time since the controversy around Miramar has bustled, Producer Taeseok Jang wrote to me over email. "We came up with the idea of playing in a desert because of just that—how different the gameplay is when you’re in a barren location, and how it makes you think differently about the game," writes Jang on the newer map's design. "I wouldn’t change anything in the map, but if I had the chance to turn back time, I’d release Miramar earlier when it’s less finished so we can get our players’ feedback much earlier and build the map with our players, just like we did with Erangel for over a year since our first closed alpha test in July 2016. We only heard from our players for few weeks before release. For Erangel, we had many months to listen to our players and go through iterations together."
Miramar is a map built not just for a different sense of combat strategy, but with the game's newest addition, vaulting, specifically in mind. All across the map, you'll find conspicuously placed crates and other ledges baiting players to climb onto, making rooftop access viable in a pinch for when players need higher ground. The additions look semi-unnatural to the environment when you see them everywhere, but they give players something new to toy with that wasn't ever possible on Erangel.
Games on Miramar play out very differently to those on Erangel, and that stark disparity is exhilarating. A final circle that's down to the wire can be buried in the corner of a deserted area, with nothing but a small hill for cover. A match can end up on one of the map's larger cities, like Los Leones, where squads are holed up on multiple stories of one single building, tossing grenades in stairways and out windows onto fire escapes. There's an impervious air of sparseness and verticality that's not possible on the heavily forested map of Erangel, where most matches end up in a meadow or among a bunch of trees. Maybe that's why I've netted more chicken dinners (also known as the winning spot out of the 100 players battling one another) on the more barren map: I'm better at thinking on my toes in a tense situation than carefully sniping from behind a tree.
Jang attributes the experience the team had in building Erangel in enlightening the design of Miramar, even with a new principle mechanic in mind. "[Vaulting] guided the design of a number of the map’s areas," writes Jang. "We also wanted to create a map that was very distinct from Erangel. Miramar wouldn’t exist without Erangel. [...] We used all the lessons learned from creating and tuning Erangel for over 6 months to create Miramar."
Miramar won't be the end of PUBG's new maps either. Last summer, Greene teased another map coming to the game eventually: one with a cosmodrome that includes snow. But with the blurred reaction to Miramar—going from hype to players deleting any trace of the map from the game's files so they never have to play it—it's plausible that PUBG Corp. might take their sweet time with the next new addition to the map rotation. The Xbox One version of the game still has to play catch-up and get the Miramar map after all, even with the addition of vaulting and the new lobby screen already at launch. And hey, maybe the next new map will even have a playable version of it on a test server for a longer period than Miramar, as Erangel once was on alphas long ago.
With the recent changes to Miramar, Jang tells me that the team is still listening closely to the community, and will adjust the map as players find fault in it. Last summer, Greene told me that the team hopes to update Erangel at some point too, to give it an aesthetic upgrade and possibly more (like pivoting the map to support better scenarios for vaulting). As for Miramar, adding new buildings isn't the end of tweaking the map. We have listened to their feedback on Miramar and will be making some changes in [a] few weeks," writes Jang. "We’re always eager to hear what the community has to say about the different aspects of PUBG, and Miramar is no different."
And as for me, I just hope the negative reaction to Miramar doesn't hold the next new map back. If I wanted to play more maps like Erangel, I could just cross my fingers for Erangel when I join a match. But what the heck do I know: I'm still hoping for fog and rain weather settings to make a comeback.