Is PUBG a roguelike?


#1

(I guess my question isn’t as definitive as “is PUBG a roguelike,” but more like “do you think it’s reasonable to consider it one?”)

I just got PUBG yesterday (after watching the exploits of Crowbar & Sickle for the past two months), and after finally playing a few hours, I realized that the experience of playing it felt really similar to that of a roguelike. Obviously permadeath is a driving component of the game and one of the devices it uses to create tension, but it goes far beyond just that for me.

For one, though the physical map isn’t technically procedurally generated, I thought the randomization of the flight path/vehicle spawns/ammo/guns/loot in general gave it a very roguelike feel. And the randomization of the circle means the exact path you take through the map will rarely if ever be the same as a previous run, which keeps with roguelikes that have a consistent physical structure around a randomized interior (think Enter the Gungeon, with consistent floor archetypes but inconsistent inner maps.)

The crate drops also felt roguelike-ish in the way they present a tradeoff between better weapons/gear and potential (or probable) death, since roguelikes will often invoke that kind of option. Combat-wise, the game’s approach to health feels very roguelike-ish as well. You have enough to survive a couple of hits if you’re careful, and healing exists, but it’s nowhere as easy to heal as in shooters that people might more readily associate PUBG with. And it’s dependent on both luck and preparation.

And then the atmosphere sealed it for me. I’ve always felt that roguelikes have a very specific kind of tension, where I expect to die around every corner and only get more anxious when I don’t (which is very different from say, Overwatch). PUBG captures that exact feeling. What do you all think?

(Also, hi! I’m new around the forums and this is my first post haha. This seems like an awesome community and I’m stoked to be a part of it!)


#2

That’s an interesting way of looking at it. PUBG itself isn’t very much like Rogue, directly, and I think you’d have to stretch the roguelike definition to make it fit cleanly. It’s definitely not a traditional role-playing game and I don’t think PUBG’s open world really matches with the dungeon crawling requirement. It’s also player versus player, rather than player versus the environment. The systems and general loop of the game don’t really line up either.

I think it shares some things that many games have in common with roguelike games and probably couldn’t exist without roguelike ideas feeding into other games. Survival games in general all stem from roguelikes, so there’s definitely that heritage. But I think there may be another, more accurate categorization for what PUBG is doing.


#3

I’d agree with @harpermd. I think you’d have to stretch the definition of a Rogue-like too far for it to fit. It’s like when people talk about Souls games being Rogue-likes. Yeah, they’re difficult and punishing, but those aren’t very randomized and don’t force you to start over. I think those are as crucial as increasing stats, which PUBG lacks.


#4

I suppose you could say it’s a Roguelike in the same way I argued in another thread that the Souls series games are Metroidvanias. Fundimentally the statement is true, they share a lot of mechanical DNA and there’s no shortage of comparisons to be drawn if you’re looking for them, but both games make a deliberate effort to not be associated with the other genre in smaller aspects of their presentation. So technically: yeah I guess. Though PUBG is further from the Roguelike moniker than Souls is from Metroidvania I’d say.


#5

I feel like to call it such you run the risk of classifying every game with some element of randomization as a roguelike. at minimum I think you would need the guns to have secret characteristics which change every session. but even then, without pinning down a brooklyn definition of a roguelike I think, at minimum you need a procedurally generated map.


#6

Does armor not make you more durable?
Do better weapons not improve your offense?
Are weapon attachments not powerups?
Does the pan not have a weird modifier making you immune to some damage?

Is it like Rogue? Absolutely not.

Does it fit into the modern “Roguelike” concept/genre? I… I’d say yes, for sure?

You know the goal, and have the same goal every run.
Things you do between runs do not help you in the game in any way, outside of looking up strats/failure reflection.
Every run starts you in a random line of possible locations. (Map itself isn’t random though, aside from weather.)
Loot spawns, gear, power-ups like vehicles, weapon powerups, medical etc. on the ground are random.
You can get lucky or unlucky with what you get, where you start, where enemies are, which greatly affects outcome.

So… I think there’s a good number of arguments against it being a roguelike, but they all kinda sound very semantic? I think if I was trying to describe what PUBG was to someone, and they were familiar with roguelikes, but not Battle Royales (as terms/rule sets/game types.) I’d be wasting time trying to avoid the term, which is when I tend to go ahead and count it as one.

“PUBG is a competitive FPS Roguelike, where each round you drop from a plane, which will have a random trajectory over the map. You parachute to wherever you want to from there, and everyone will start looting guns, armor, medical supplies, weapon powerups. Everyone will fight to the death in an ever-shrinking section of the map, as randomly positioned concentric circles, which damage players outside of them close in. Once only one player or team remains, the game ends.”

“PUBG is a battle royale. How you know that term, but don’t know what PUBG is by now, has me worried about you.”

I dunno… I think if you come at it from a stance of “I don’t want to call this a roguelike,” there are plenty of things you can come up with. “The map isn’t random,” etc. However, I think if you come at it from a place of not really caring what is or isn’t called a roguelike, and are thinking about ways to most easily describe the game to someone who doesn’t know what it is, roguelike is absolutely on the list, which to my mind puts it in the category for the function of having such a category?


#7

sure, if you want. genre is a construct, let’s just burn it all down.


#8

Not everything with Randomization (almost all games have some form) and permadeath are roguelike. I tend to skew closer to the Berlin interpretation than not.

There’s very few MP games I’d call Roguelike at all tbh


#9

I tend to agree with this. From the book publishing industry, genre exists as a way to help consumers find other books that they may like. This is why genres will describe story content (e.g. romance, horror, science fiction) as well as age (Young Adult, children’s, etc.) or supposed quality (e.g. literary fiction, upmarket fiction, women’s literature). In actuality, there’s no reason that a YA Science Fiction book couldn’t be considered the same quality as “literary fiction”, but that book is going in the section where customers are most likely to buy it.

Since video games are sold on platforms like Steam and PSN where they have a relatively comprehensive knowledge of your playing habits, they are able to make explicit recommendations that might be even more accurate than a genre could. So instead of saying, “You like Rogue-likes, so we think you’ll like Dead Cells,” it says, “You like Day-Z, Counter-Strike, and Dark Souls, so we think you’ll like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds”, or whatever.


#10

This is really the crux of it. If you wanted to make recommendations to a friend and compare PUBG to experiences they were familiar with, I think you’d be adding more confusion than clarity if you listed off the major roguelike games or even the current generation of roguelike-like games. For example, recommending it by saying, “Did you like NetHack, Binding of Isaac, Rogue Legacy, or Spelunky? You’ll love PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.” While those games have components that are also in PUBG, it’s really a totally different experience for the player.

However if you were to say to that friend, “Did you like Rust, ARK, Day-Z, etc.” I think they’d have a much more accurate picture of what to expect when they played the game.


#11

I do completely agree with that use of genre, and that it’s in no way indicative of quality. What I’m more interested in is the kind of… genealogy, I guess, and how that might have informed design? As someone who tries to write fiction and especially likes genre-blending and genre fusion, I don’t like definitively labeling things (which is why I reworded my question a bit in the initial post) but I think whether a designer/writer realizes it or not, knowledge of genre does heavily inform design/writing.

Really though it was just that I found that I didn’t enjoy PUBG for the reasons I enjoy shooters at all—the things I enjoy about it are the same things I enjoy about modern rogue-lites (maybe that’d be a better term than straight roguelike) like Enter the Gungeon, Dead Cells, Immortal Redneck, Spelunky, etc. If someone’s played DayZ or Rust (which I hadn’t) those are definitely closer comparisons, but I’ve also heard it compared to other third-person shooters that, beyond the superficial, I don’t really feel it has much in common with.


#12

Even if you don’t subscribe to the full Berlin interpretation of the term, I really think the procedurally generated environment is central to what a roguelike is. Even if we ignore the historical specifics (simultanous turn-based movement and all that), having to learn the areas and purpose of items each time is pretty much essential to the genre. You’re not supposed to know what’s coming up next.
PUGB may look like that at first, but it’s world is static, many of the spawns are even static. You can easily find areas with a concentration of loot that you go for in almost every run, and given how there are recurring house designs all over the place, you can even learn how to specifically handle every type of building. All of these are aspects which I think are antithetical to what a roguelike is.


#13

If I were tasked with turning PUBG into a roguelike my priorities would be:

  1. Procedural generation of map and structures for each round.
  2. Randomized properties and effects for gear.
  3. More different ways to effect the environment and other characters to move the focus somewhat away from shooting skills and towards discovery of interesting and useful gear/environment/character interactions.

#14

There’s also the thing about the developers actively discouraging (and straight up banning) people finding creative ways to cooperate in solo games and things like that which goes against what I’d think could make the game vaguely roguelikeish.
Traditional roguelikes always leaned heavily into rewarding exploration and experimentation. In Nethack and Larn you could hold any object in your hands and attempt to eat them or hit enemies with them. That could be weapons, corpses, food and armor, and interesting things could happen if you were to eat the the corpse of a specific enemy etc.
Spelunky also did this to some extent with the sacrificial altars, shopkeeper behavior, using the pets/damsels as shields, kiting the ghost around (and eventually killing it) and all that.


#15

For me, a large part of what makes a Roguelike a Roguelike is the randomization. That’s something PUBG really doesn’t have, and it draws the line for it not meeting the criteria to be a part of that genre. If they were generating maps for every match, and doing more to randomize the properties of player gear, then I might find the argument a bit more compelling, but I think it’s just a bit too far removed as it is.