Hey everyone, The Salty Gamer here, bringing you rants and bants across all genres and aspects of gaming life.
Our first foray into salt mines that would have made me a medieval king is about PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), a Third Person (originally) Battle Royale game from the granddaddy of the genre himself: Brendan “PlayerUnknown” Greene. Since the open of its early-access period, PUBG has sold in the ballpark of six million copies, and boasts active player counts that rival Counter Strike: Global Offensive.
So what could an animate pile of salt have to gripe about? It’s immensely popular, true to the genre’s roots, relatively cheap (at $30US) and easy to get the hang of. Buckle up lads and ladettes, the Dead Sea itself couldn’t contain the level of pissed-off whinging incoming.
You’d think that a game that has earned $180mil US could afford some damned servers. Instead, PUBG has opted for the cheapest, shittiest route, hiring Amazon servers in major locations. These servers simply cannot handle the traffic of 250k-550k players at any given time. At peak hour, players experience severe rubber-banding and interaction lag (“Why can’t I open this bastard of a door? And why am I now full of bullets?” he shouts at his screen). At the best of times, players can expect synchronisation issues and small amounts of input lag. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to attempt to collect the same node of ammo, but the game just can’t work it out. These issues will only get worse as the game increases in popularity. The game is barely playable at 350k online players, and at 500k you may as well be playing on fucking dial-up connection for all the good you’ll do.
A convenient segway from the server issues is the tick-rate. For those uninitiated, a tick-rate is the name given to a measurement of how many times per second the game registers an action. This number is comprised of an ‘Up’ and ‘Down’ figure, respectively describing how many actions per second the server receives from you, and how many you receive from it. Players in the USA, with better internet than we third-world plebs in major Australian cities, have performed tests and found that the native tick-rate lies around 30 tick down, 15 tick up. For comparison, the Overwatch forums nearly imploded with rage when they were experiencing similar tick rates, and a widely accepted barest minimum for a shooter is 60 tick symmetrical (which OW is currently operating at). This is why you’ll empty a full clip at someone and they often turn around, realise you’re there, and drop you with what appears to be a single, panicked round.
So, infrastructure: a fucking joke. What else can I say about PUBG?
PUBG Server and Tech Support
My god. Who let interns from the mid 90’s make these decisions? Let’s start with the Unreal 4 engine. Contrary to what most people believe, its a good engine, but being new it has its flaws. The real problem I have with it being used in PUBG is that its not built for these games. Approximately 100 players over a 64 square kilometre map, all interacting with the environment and each other, is not the kind of thing U4 has been built for. Of course, they’re in way too deep now, but you’d have to imagine that a technical company would have done some research into the limitations of their engine of choice.
And then there’s the physics engine. As a role-player, I quickly worked out exactly what was wrong with it: its just RNG. Pro-Tip: Steel and Tyres are not made of bouncy ball material.
Encounter: you hit a rock with your vehicle. Roll D20.
On a 15-20, you pass by unimpeded, the rock doesn’t notice you.
On a 10-14, you hit the rock, lose control and take a small amount of damage.
On a 5-9, you crash into the rock, doing mad somersaults that make physicists and high school science teachers weep. Take a large chunk of damage.
On a 1-4, you take a huge chunk of damage, your vehicle ends up upside-down, you’re right next to another team, and the vehicle rolls on top of you, finishing you off. Eat Shit. GG, no re.
If you were on a bike, anything less than a 10 is instant death because bikes know nothing of physics and will eject you at 100 km/h just because they feel like it.
Similar to above is how fall damage is calculated. Sometimes you’ll hit an invisible ledge, sometimes you’ll slide all the way down to your doom despite having just climbed up that same piece of terrain seconds earlier. The best part of all of this is that the developers have gone full Bethesda and said that it will remain that way, it’s a feature after all!
I hit an ant hill…
If there’s one thing that gamers hate above all else, it’s cheaters and hackers, which PUBG has in spades. Despite official media boasting huge banwaves for those cheating, there’s always another one out there willing to spoil your experience. Plenty of Youtube footage exists of cheaters using a range of tools from full ESP (every player is marked by a red hitbox), to mouse stabilisation (no recoil), auto-aim (a classic), even instances of people landing and being instantly geared with end-game loot. Despite the obvious presence of cheaters and hackers, there has been no proper communication from the development company, who have only recently implemented a system to report allegations of unfair play. For reference, the old system was to submit an email with video evidence, despite the game being taxing on medium power machines, struggling to get 60FPS on anything shy of a NVidia 980 or equivalent. Whether this reporting system leads anywhere but a virtual furnace (I wonder if they bought it from the League of Legends Oceanic Tribunal team?) is yet to be seen, with the developing company mentioning no specifics as to how the system works (but more on that in a moment).
I’m a simple pile of salt, I don’t hate based on anything but my own impressions, but the online community for PUBG is filled with children. My biggest irritation comes as a result of apologists. I can’t count the number of Steam Forum threads I’ve read that detail hackers, bugs, glitches and other bad experiences, and there’s always that one white-knight who plants their ignorant little feet and stands tall shouting bullshit like “Just because you died doesn’t mean it was cheating” or “Maybe your system just can’t handle the game, try lowering the settings.” Just because you like this thing doesn’t mean you have to validate your $30US spend. Maybe try being open to the complaint at hand and not offering information you don’t have. Nobody thinks you’re cool just because you disagree with someone on the internet.
Clearly it’s only lag right? GIT GUD!
I saved the big juicy one for last. The development team, Bluehole. If Pokemon Go taught the game developers of the world one thing, it’s this: COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR FUCKING PLAYERBASE. Your players want to hear how you’re addressing their bad experiences, how you plan to move forward, and what’s new and tasty for them to sink their teeth into. Instead, what we get is this bait-and-switch crap; a complaint is raised about server quality and Devs respond with “Yeah well…. Look, new cosmetic clothing! New weather! New Guns! First-Person Servers!” This is not how you do things, your game is still broken and you’re treating your players like easily amused puppies.
While we’re here, let’s talk about how they have responded to bugs and issues, and I’m going to remind my dear reader that we’re still in early access; what essentially amounts to paying to beta test and stress test. To give an example, world renowned streamer, Destiny, had a game glitch as he entered the server: no buildings spawned for him, and he was able to freely move through walls. Bluehole receives a video of this glitch (and Destiny killing someone by driving through where a bathroom should be) and rather than log and fix this issue, bans Destiny. Banning people. For discovering glitches. In an early access game. What the actual fuck? And yet we have other streamers who can shoot through water, or are using aim stability cheats, who remain untouched. So, much like the servers, it seems as if the punishment system in this game is also totally at random. Maybe if they communicated with players, we might have less of this confusion.
We can certainly tell where the Devs’ priorities lie: servers dying, players cheating, engines broken, complaints registered, and we’re about to gear up for PUBG’s first E-Sport event. I can’t wait to watch someone’s car cartwheel across the map, live, at an official competitive event. Or maybe Cloud 9 loses because an enemy team peeks, fires, and takes cover again, while C9’s screen shows nothing at all. Maybe they’ll wake up at that point.
I guess that will have to do for PUBG. Hope shines eternal, so there may be fixes on the horizon for these issues, bugs and cheats. But with one of the few announcements coming from the Devs concerning a console release in the near future, I kind of feel like we’ve been Beta testing the new XBOne game. Doesn’t that just give you the warm fuzzies?
Until next time
The Salty Gamer