PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) is an absolute hit. The mutliplayer survival game is based on several mods by the creative director Brendan "PlayerUnknown" Green, with over 8 million copies sold to date. But the Battle Royale is supposed to happen inside the game, not within the community.
The community behind Battlegrounds is currently at war with itself for a number of reasons. Some of the problems are related to the current PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds Invitational, the game's first tournament taking place at Gamescom 2017 in Cologne, Germany. Other issues are coming because of Twitch streaming, with the developers and the community having to navigate some prevalent issues.
Let's dig into the problems we're seeing, starting with the biggest one.
Twitch Stream Sniping and Stream Honking
Back in July, one player was banned from the game by the Battlegrounds community team. The accusation leveled at the player was that they were joining games occupied by popular Battlegrounds streamers Summit1G and Shroud, and then using the streams to gain a tactical advantage over those players and kill them. It's known as stream sniping.
The player's partner contended that they weren't stream sniping and any attempts to join or rejoin lobbies that happened to have streamers in them were due to disconnection bugs. Others, using screenshots from a now-private Steam account disagreed with this assessment, showing that the players were in the same games as popular streamers multiple times. The community wanted proof of Bluehole's evidence, which the company declined to give. Some even contended that stream sniping shouldn't be bannable in the first place. The ban remained in place, with statements from the Community Team and Greene himself being released.
"For team-killing and stream sniping, we require evidence to be submitted as with all reports against players. We do not ban players based on what we see on social media or streaming platforms ourselves. We ask players to submit reports with evidence on our forums which is a temporary measure. We take action when the evidence is sufficient to warrant a ban," said lead community manager Sammie Kang in a post at the time.
During this entire situation, popular Twitch streamer Brian "Grimmmz" Rincon admitted to getting many stream snipers banned. (The clip has since been deleted.) Grimmmz calls out what he believes is a sniper and then reports them, leading to an investigation by Bluehole and a potential ban. Some in the community believe that Grimmmz' statements pointed to favoritism on Bluehole's part, with the company protecting their popular streamers. This made Grimmmz a target by some, leading to more stream sniping and more bans.
Some players found a new way to annoy Grimmmz using his stream while not actually killing him. PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is a game that relies heavily on sound, with footsteps, clip reloading, and gunshots allowing players to have a tactical understanding of the battlefield and player positioning. Enter "stream honking", when players take a vehicle to the same area as a streamer, honking the horn to prevent them from hearing any of the game's other sounds. Below is a video mirror from folks who are doing the honking on these streamers.
"At that point, I was at the peak of my frustration and I didn't know what else to do but to hurt them back. My judgement was clouded and it was just a warpath at that point," Grimmmz said in a Twitlonger. "Afterwards, I quickly realized it was the wrong thing to do and I'm sorry. I apologize to anyone and everyone that may felt offended, including the video owners. It was plain wrong and i can understand if it changed your view about me."
This ongoing war between those hate stream snipers and those who believe they have a right to exist led to a post on the Battlegrounds subreddit, noting the community had become mostly about Twitch drama in recent months. The moderators of the subreddit ultimately agreed, adding a filter to get rid of Twitch meta discussion.
"Over the past few weeks we’ve seen a lot of discussions about various aspects of the game at a macro level. Be it with the ban process, team killing, stream sniping (and honking), loot crates, etc. While we acknowledge that many people in the community are passionate about these topics, we also understand there are many others that are not interested in seeing that type of content," said the moderators. "Moving forward we’ve been reading and discussing your feedback and have decided to implement a 'Meta' tag for topics like this. With this, we also have included a 'No Meta' filter in the sidebar."
"This is a very big step in the right direction. One problem that it doesn't solve is when people go into other threads and start commenting about the drama there. For example, back when the Grimmmz hate was at its peak, you would have people turning the discussion in the comments on every thread into grimmmz-hate," said user drainX in response.
That's not the only problem in the community though.
Camping in The Blue Area
In PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, one of the mechanics to focus each match is a shrinking playing field. Outside of the designated playing area, there's blue zone where players take consistent damage over time. As the playing field shrinks, the blue area does more damage.
During the first day of the PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds Invitational during the solo tournament, winner Evermore showed an interesting strategy. Evermore would grab a boat and sail to the starting island, stocking up on supplies. Using healing items, he would then stay outside the playing area in the blue zone, healing through most of the damage. At one point in the tournament, he even got stuck in a crevasse and survived for long enough to place high in the rankings. The strategy popped up again today, in the Duo side of the tournament.
Earlier this week, prior to the Invitational, World of Warcraft goldmaking blog Greedy Goblin noted that this was a problem in game. Rarely do players who work with this strategy win a match, but surviving as long as they do gives them a high rating.
"What is that monster strategy that got me to the edge of top 100? I went to houses and collected medicine, bandage, first aid and medkits," said the blogger. "No, there is no next step, that's all. I was running around in some irrelevant corner collecting healing stuff. When I lost HP due to blue zone, I used medicine. When it wasn't enough, I used bandages. When that wasn't enough because after the 5th circle the blue hit hard, I used first aid kit or medkit. When I ran out of them, I died... as top 10, every single time. So game after game I finished in the top 10, gaining rating."
It works, because most of the combat is focused within the playing area, so the player far outside of the region doesn't have to fight anyone. There are even Reddit posts explaining how and when to use the items to survive in the blue zone.
Some call the strategy a valid one, while others are calling on Bluehole to fix the blue zone mechanics. Currently, the developer has yet to comment on whether the issue will be fixed or not.
Invitational Observer Camera
The last issue that has the community's ire is the general handling of the PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds Invitational stream itself. This problem is a logistical one, understandable since this is one of the first official Battlegrounds tournaments. Fans have contended that the camerawork has been poor for the tournament, with broadcasters talking about interesting fights that the camerapeople simply aren't focusing on. Essentially, there's action happening and those watching the stream can't see it.
"Yeah, it felt to me like the observers either can't hear the casters or they did that to spite them. Whatever happened, that was a joke. Kill feed is flooded and we're watching 2 teams swim around," said Reddit user Jordan460 in the Reddit thread linked above.
"It's amazing that a stream with 130000+ viewers is controlled by someone who has no idea what they are doing. We have missed most the kills. We end up watching players looting, sitting inside shacks, on roofs, swimming, cut aways during fights," added user SwitchB0ard. "This is a tournament with top streamers, thousands of $ prize money. There is absolutely no excuse for this amateur production."
Observers have complained that the issue is the system used to switch from camera to camera. There's apparently no way to quickly shift to another camera, leaving the camerapeople far behind the broadcasters.
"Hey, I'm one of the observers on the broadcast. Some of the comments are correct, the setup we are using is complicated and takes several lines of communication to switch feeds. I'm happy to see that people were happier with today, but in reality, only the final game," said Reddit user El_Triddlador. "Yes we miss kills, but unfortunately decisions need to be made and when fast switching isn't an option, it's hard to peek in on action when we have a current engagement. And because of the scoring system, it counter intuitive to take risks, so these engagements can be long and could end in seconds. Hope this provides some context, it will get better each day."
Some have agreed that the stream has gotten better today, but it is a major issue for Battlegrounds as an esport. A spectator sport where you can't see the action isn't much of spectator sport.
It remains to be seen whether Bluehole will be able to address all the problems plaguing the community. While the camera issue is a logistical one, and the blue zone can be tweaked internally, the stream sniping problem is an ideological one. Some see it as good clean pranking fun, while others see it as harassment.
Bluehole leans in the latter direction, but it remains an issue that sharply divides what was generally a unified community. Bluehole and the PUBG community will have to address these issues as the game continues to grow, especially if everyone wants to retain a healthy, happy playerbase.