TABG and the virtue of low skill caps in competitive games

#1

With Totally Accurate Battle Simulator on the site today, I wanted to talk about Totally Accurate Battlegrounds, its tongue-in-cheek battle royale spinoff game.

TABG is very silly. Your character jiggles constantly, your gun gets stuck on doorways and teammates, and shooting or getting shot makes your aim go wild. This makes for a lot of funny moments, but also creates a soft skill cap; except through cheating or obsessive practice, player lethality is kept below a fairly low threshold. And in my experience, casual play is enough to keep many players competitive at that standard.

As an example, in the first week of early access, my squad began the endgame in a tall building in TABG’s “Industry” location. Two sides of the building are entirely open windows, with only a stairwell at one end for cover. As the circle closed in, we found ourselves in a protracted firefight with at least three other squads. Gunfire was constant, but most shots missed our squad, who had to rescue each other only a handful of times. It was the first time a competitive game gave me the sense of being under siege for minutes.

I came back to TABG recently and found that it still works in the ways I loved when I started playing it. Meanwhile, after 400+ hours PUBG has begun to frustrate me with instant death after slow rounds of looting, and Apex Legends seems unwilling to deal with the immense skill gap between players (most of my rounds end with the 10,000+ stat cards of my killer).

I think it’s the soft skill cap that keeps the game fresh for me, and I wish more competitive games would provide experiences like this. What do y’all think? Are there other games that do this?

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#2

Unfortunately this is extraordinarily rare, and TABG only gets away with it because it crosses the Goat Simulator threshold in the public eye and came from an established capital-S Silly brand.

High skill ceilings are, for my money, absolutely insufferable. Every time I try and buy into a cool new multiplayer game, it feels like i’m buying a short trial of what it’d be like for the game to be fun with an easygoing community on equally naive footing that i’ll never get to try again after like, a month at most.

It doesn’t help that multiplayer games by nature have to hinge themselves on Gamer approval, and Gamers deem even something like Battlefront 2015–a game with precision shooting, consistent map pickups and unlockable loadouts–to have “too low a ceiling”.

What I’m saying is cherish the hell out of TABG. The only other things i can think of are like, modded/unranked servers in old games like Unreal Tournament, Quake, Half Life or any of their total conversion mods or successors, but unfortunately that results in having to deal with PC gamer personalities running servers with creepy MotD’s, obnoxious mods, aggressive clans, and just shitty garbage atmospheres all around.

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#3

I think unranked games would often provide a totally imbalanced landscape though? If anything, a game with a good ranking system is what you would want. I was content kicking it down in bronze/silver ranks in Overwatch for a long time because it’s fun and I can for the most part get away with doing whatever I wanted because none of it mattered and the skill level of the other players (besides the obvious smurfs) were just whatever.

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#4

Sorry, to clarify I meant unranked in the sense that a lot of old-ish games use that moniker to denote servers with game-changing mods (i.e, a TF2 server with infinite ammo, quadruple jump, full-speed heavies, etc.), presumably because they’re excluded from whatever official metrics nobody cares about, not the lack of matchmaking ranks.

I’m actually still completely confounded at how terrible and absent decent ranked matchmaking has been in the most popular franchises, especially when discrete server browsers are all but extinct.