Over the past few years we’ve seen a number of BR games, and they seem to have similar issues, especially with onboarding, player interaction, and exploration. Somehow I end up trying one of these out each summer.
PUBG (Summer 2017) - I’ve played 1 round and I took second, which means exactly nothing about skill. Interested in what the game was about, a while after receiving it as a gift. Dropping into who knows where (as I don’t know the map), I took aim for the side of the map and figured I’d work my way in towards the ring. After picking up some sort of handcannon in a shack, I hopped into a buggy and headed north towards where the ring was headed. With no-one in sight, I headed into another building and picked up a larger weapon and hung out for a bit to figure out the next way to go. Still no-one in sight, the ring was finally closing in a way that I may need to consider moving. Apparently there were three of us left, and I still had yet to see another player in the game. Hopped into my trusty buggy in hopes that I may catch the other two in a firefight, I headed towards the likely area of the action, only to have my first target hop around a tree to hide from me, getting themselves shot by the third, who wrapped me up quite easily i’m sure as I got out of the buggy. Overall: 30 minutes for a first match only to see one other player, never fire a shot, and somehow take second. Quit PUBG on a high note considering that’d probably be my best match without putting 6 months in the game.
Apex Legends (Summer 2019): Hey look, this is squad based and has some interesting movement and communication outside of voice. I liked Titanfall, and I can plan to just follow my team, this should be good. Match 1… jumpmaster flys off the map… o.O …oooook. Read up on splitting from jumpmaster, on to Match 2… split off close to the ground when the other player does, and run into… an empty building. Squadmates had gone left and right but didn’t ping anything, so I’m left with no gear, between other empty buildings, mental coin toss says go right (into the building emptied by a squadmate) and exit to get gunned down by another squad, only to see that my teammates scattered in opposite directions and they appeared to just fly solo from there. Match 3… shot before landing, probably wouldn’t have found gear that time either. Overall: 3 matches and 3 deaths, 2 without even landing, while I never picked up a gun at least it didn’t take 30 minutes.
CoD Warzone (Summer 2020): Buddy of mine who I’ve played lots of HoTS with asks me to check it out last weekend. 9.5 hour download, so I ping him later in the week. Alright, done with work, time to run the tutorial. Great, movement is a bit weak, and pinging things seems a bit finicky, but alright. Buddy going to join me in an hour, so drop into a random plunder match, no comms from teammates for the first few minutes, and nobody pinged anything. Get gunned down exploring the area around the team, and I couldn’t keep up with their movement for some reason. A few minutes later finally teammate jumps on comms (which I’m glad i had set to headset only) and they start dropping their slurs of choice, despite being in first. Exit match, find audio options, set to friends only, and stare at the screen for 30 minutes debating whether to uninstall while I wait for my buddy. Overview thus far: Toxic players, poor movement, and no free-play mode to learn the map.
Buddy logs in, and I go back to the game. Start to get a feel for the controls after a few matches, but keep having trouble following instructions, many of them based around loadout selection. After the matches I have a further look around. Turns out some critical aspects of the game are behind a few gates, so the onboarding is terrible. Loadouts are critical, but you don’t have access to them right away, at level 1 they’re locked, so even if you’re trying to follow instructions you simply can’t from the start. While this becomes available quickly, further aspects of loadouts are locked for quite some time.
Is this what we’ve come to expect from battle royale games? Toxic players, no mode to truly learn the controls, and gating critical basic functions from new players, leaving them to be slaughtered by design?