PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is the biggest game in the hot new Battle Royale genre. From the beginning, I’ve made the point that PUBG works better than the competition because Bluehole Studio limits players in creative ways to increase tension and to encourage tactical play. Now, the developer has introduced fog that will engulf the map in a thick soup at random times, increasing the tension and tactical play.
Bluehole added fog in an update last week, and it shows up less frequently than some of the other weather conditions. But when you do get into a fog match, it amplifies everything that makes Battlegrounds work. This isn’t some graphical flourish on the skybox. The fog has a physical presence that limits visibility. Anything more than a couple dozen meters away blends into the white vapor cloud, and that changes the characteristics of long-range firefights. Snipers no longer have a supreme advantage in all circumstances, and maintaining a high level of awareness while also keeping a low profile is more important than ever. But this isn’t a huge shift away from standard matches, because fog is a natural evolution of PUBG’s emphasis on limiting what your player can do.
In PUBG, you can’t craft and carry more than one helmet and two primary weapons. These boundaries are crucial Battlegrounds’ success. They force players out of thinking that the game is all about looting and getting more stuff than everyone else. That makes a difference, but at a certain point in PUBG’s half-hour-long matches, continual looting is only going to hurt your chances of success. But guiding players into the fighting sooner also gets them thinking tactically and experimenting earlier as well. If you can’t just put your faith in finding more stuff than everyone else, then you have to find ways to outthink and outplay them.
Fog is similar. By limiting your visual information, it forces you to think and play differently and even more tactically. In this weather condition, crawling or hiding in bushes gives you a ton of cover. No one can see, so sound is more important. That means silencers can help, but it’s the flash hiders that make an even bigger difference. You can’t see someone slowly crouching through a muggy field, but their gun fire creates a bright flash that stands out against the all-white backdrop.
But the bigger point here is that you can spend a lot of time in PUBG trying to gather as much information about the battlefield as possible. But most people would have more luck if they thought more about how to hide information about their position and actions from others. The fog limits you in such a way that everyone ends up naturally playing the game that way. It’s impressive that Bluehole can funnel people into significant shifts in how they mentally approach the game just by introducing a new kind of weather. And it’s even more impressive that the change almost serves as a way of learning another important way to think about playing PUBG as a whole.
Fog also absolutely makes zombie matches more thrilling. We played a match during last week’s PUBG Family Dinner stream where we bring fans and the games industry together for custom matches, and it was amazing to see 30 or so dead boys all hiding in a field in the final circle.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds still isn’t finished, but even once Bluehole releases the 1.0 retail version, it should always look for other ways to mix up its Battle Royale shooter to change the way people think about it.
Oh, and you should join us for another PUBG Family Dinner stream on our Twitch channel tonight. Follow us on Twitch and turn on notifications to get alerts for when we go live. Thanks!