Brace yourselves, because I’m about to talk about a genre of game I haven’t even played. I’m also going to be pretty critical of said genre, and offer ways I believe would improve the genre and turn them into games I might actually want to play in future.
Battle Royale games have become ridiculously popular lately. For those who don’t know, the Battle Royale is a genre of video game that borrows its main idea from films like Battle Royale (duh) and The Hunger Games. Players are dropped, often by air, into a vast map of open fields dotted with houses. When they drop, they have no supplies. Players must scavenge the map for weapons and armor to equip themselves, in order to stand a chance against the other players in the map. Last man, or in some cases, last team, standing wins.
It sounds like a brilliant idea, and its popularity is understandable. Even when I first watched Hunger Games I thought it might make a solid game (yes Battle Royale fanboys I understand it came first, shut the fuck up about it). The latest iteration of the genre, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is, as of this writing, sitting at number one on the top selling list on Steam. I haven’t played it, and after watching many Youtube videos and listening to some criticisms from a certain person (not famous, a friend of mine) whose opinion I regard quite highly, I won’t be playing it. But the idea for this little post came out of that conversation I had.
You see, my main critique of these games comes from the map design. By necessity, the maps of Battle Royale games are massive. It gives the players the time they need to gather their supplies before they meet and kill each other. But they’re also often incredibly boring, consisting of mostly rolling fields, dotted with trees and hills and the occasional clusters of houses. The sheer size of the maps (or often, map) in these games is often a point of pride for the developers, because it seems like gamers as a group have developed this idea that bigger is better. But it’s not. Massive maps don’t help gameplay, they hinder it. Almost every gameplay I’ve seen has been people running around alone for half an hour, only to be shot from across an open field and die. The only wins I’ve actually seen are from people who never encountered anyone until the very end, where they killed the last guy in a quick and boring firefight to win.
Now I’m sure there are other stories of much more exciting wins. I know a few people who would love to jump to the defense of this genre, but I’m not writing this post to shit on the it. In fact, I actually think it has great potential, it just needs the devs to stop being lazy and actually put some imagination into it. So I have some ideas that might improve any new games that prop up in this genre. I believe these ideas would lead to a broader, more fun experience.
Make the maps smaller and denser.
Big maps aren’t applaudable because they’re big. I think games media have somehow conditioned people into believing this with the size comparison charts of all the GTA games, and various other series’ maps. The general consensus seems to be ‘bigger is better’, but I don’t believe that’s true in the slightest.
Making the maps of battle royale games tighter and slightly smaller (it wouldn’t need to be too much smaller honestly), with more buildings, perhaps even a city, would discourage camping of open areas, and offer cover from those who do inevitably camp. A tighter, city styled map would make for more intense experience and could eliminate the need to forcibly push players together through the closing ring mechanic.
Add some lore.
Lore is wonderful. It doesn’t have to be central to the game, but nice placement of lore makes all the difference. Take Warframe for example. That space ninja grind-fest has the potential to be the most boring thing ever after a while, but they’ve kept a lot of players hooked and playing just based on some very tiny lore hints. Like seriously tiny lore hints. It literally has a single page on its fan made wiki. Like two fucking paragraphs of lore is all it has but it makes the game all that much better.
Why are these people being flown to this island? Why are they forced to kill each other? Is it entertainment? Population control? Like I get that it’s just a game, but a little lore goes a long way. After all, Battle Royale and the Hunger Games aren’t interesting because of the central event, but rather the circumstances surrounding it.
Give them some character for God’s sake.
Jesus H. Christ if I have to see another one of these games where you play as baby’s first character model I’m gonna kill myself. I get it, you want to focus on the mechanics. You want to shit out microtransactions to make dat cash money. You want to do the least amount of work and still end up on the top of the Steam best sellers list. But you shouldn’t settle for generic. Add some flair, some panache. A lot of this can come from my previous point of adding lore. Is your game set in a post apocalyptic society that somehow still has working planes and dumps their criminal scum on an island to kill each other. Is it some sort of future blood sport where people watch others kill each other for the lulz? Either way, there are opportunities to pour some life into your games. Add some in-universe advertising if its a blood sport. Make the buildings more ruin like and run down if it’s post-apocalypse. Just give your world some thought so it feels less like an Arma mod and more like an actual standalone game.
For real, it’s really not too hard to delve into your imagination for the last two recommendations. The hardest part about them is the map design, which is a seriously difficult thing to get right. Map design is a goddamn art and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. However, map design isn’t taking rolling hills and plonking down clusters of buildings at random intervals. That shit is lazy as fuck and you can do better.
I know I know, ‘if you can do better why don’t YOU make a game?’ We all know that ol chestnut. So I’ll tell you what. I can’t shit out games because I don’t know how to code, that’s not my expertise. But what I can do, is shit out a game concept right here in this post.
The year is 2100. The divide between rich and poor has increased dramatically, unemployment is high, crime has skyrocketed. The prison population is increasing exponentially and there is no more room. That’s where the Death Games come in. Prisoners are chosen at random to compete in the newest craze to sweep the nation. They are locked together in an enclosed, themed arena filled with weapons. They must fight to be the last man standing. The winner gains his freedom. As the Death Games gained popularity, corporate sponsors took notice and began sponsoring arenas, prisoners and even entire prisons for the Death Games.
You see that? It’s pretty fucking cliche, but at least it’s better than, ‘a bunch of soldiers duke it out because…’. This scenario also adds the opportunity to stretch map design skills by having different arena themes. Some could be buildings, some could be forested areas, some could be cities. The corporate angle adds opportunities to plug your game full of satire ads that play on the silliness of the games world. There’s so much more potential for a game that has even the most minimal of lores. Just with some simple effort establishing a lore for your game would give it such a wider range of artistic design. Now obviously I don’t develop games. If I did I probably wouldn’t be writing this barely functioning blog. But I feel like my ideas aren’t too far-fetched. I look at games like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and the DayZ standalone and I just see missed opportunities. I see such great potential bogged down by lazy devs with little imagination. I would love to see a game in this genre really give it a good go, and make a game I might actually want to play.
Also as cliche as that little blurb I did is. If you wanna make it you gotta totally hire me to be the loremaster or something. I need the cash bruh.