Gamescom 2017 – PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds makes a strong esports debut, despite some real production issues

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When you think about a game that involves 100 individual players all vying for the top spot, it’s hard to imagine how that might translate into an enjoyable spectator sport. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds took its first crack at that conundrum last night though, kicking off the game’s first big international tournament at Gamescom. The night’s proceedings only included the Solo tournament, and it managed to show off some of the best and worst parts of watching a full murder island play out.

When you’re watching intense esports it’s crucial that camerawork keep up with the action. In a game like Dota 2, that only has a total of ten players at a time, this is astronomically easier than trying to keep up with 100 individual players at the same time. But PUBG’s spectator tools did a decent enough job of relaying all the relevant information a spectator would need. Outlines of players made player specific camera views easier to keep up with, as you could see a fire fight play out in its classic cat and mouse fashion. The map showing indicators of where all players were at a time was also pretty useful, especially when it came down to honing in on where potential fights might be taking place.

Switching between these views, however, is something that will need to be worked on. To the dismay of the otherwise brilliant shoutcasters, the camerawork during the tournament was lackluster. It would routinely cut away from fights that were just getting heated, or stick on a player that had nothing going on while a major skirmish was happening nearby. At times the map would be overlaid on dire match-ending plays, which just accentuated the disconnect between the people commenting on what they were seeing, and those controlling what they could see.

A big positive was the commentary though. Shoutcasters Richard Simms and Lauren Scott really brought a sense of frenzy to the entire event, giving players no quarter when they fluffed big chances or missed easy strategies. But their insight was also valuable. Lauren’s comments on weapon combinations and load outs was particularly telling (as a PUBG player, I appreciated the honesty), but was also presented in a way that casual onlookers might easily pick up on.

PlayerUnknown's Battleground Gamescom Invitational has some issues 2

PUBG isn’t a difficult game to understand – at least when you’re comparing it to the spectator headaches larger esports like League of Legends and Dota 2 face with the complexity of their particular meta-game. But even just looting and shooting managed to sustain my interest in a way I didn’t expect it to. Watching players fight with randomisation might have been an initial concern, but high-level PUBG last night showed that the best players in the world are able to adapt in some insightful ways.

If that finesse could translate over to the production side of things, PUBG could very well be an esport to keep a much closer eye on. The tournament continues today with Duo and First-Person Duo events, and concludes with Squads tomorrow.

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Last Updated: August 24, 2017

Alessandro Barbosa

You can all call me Sandy until I figure out how to edit this thing, which is probably never. Sandy not good enough? Call me xXx_J0k3R_360degreeN0Sc0pe_xXx. Also, Geoff's a bastard.

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