As of November 2017, Steam, the world’s largest online marketplace for PC games, is no longer a primarily English-speaking platform. More than half of its users read and write Chinese. The sudden transition is, in no small part, due to a single game: Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds.
“I didn’t understand the scale of China when I first started this,” said Brendan “Playerunknown” Greene, the game’s creator. We spoke with him on Dec. 21, the day Battlegrounds left early access.
Most troubling, however, has been the reaction of some of the game’s fans in the West. Amidst the rapid growth in the Chinese player base, racial slurs have begun flying on social media. Some have even called for Chinese players to be booted onto their own dedicated servers. Greene strongly condemns the behavior.
“It’s quite disgraceful to see,” Greene said. “The Chinese player base is very passionate for Battlegrounds and they love our game. They’re the reason we have such a high number of concurrent users. Yes, there’s some cheaters that come out of there, but the majority of our Chinese players just love our game and love playing it.
“This kind of xenophobic attitude that a lot of Western players seem to have online is just disgraceful. It’s 2017! We live on one big planet together! What the fuck? I’m quite ashamed of those players that shout these things out. We want to create a great space for everyone to enjoy across the globe and locking one region out … I don’t know what the fuck they’re thinking.”
When we spoke to Greene, it was mere hours after the game’s 1.0 launch. He and his team had spent most of the morning load-balancing servers and troubleshooting the game. He admitted that, even after that “official” launch, the game is still a work in progress.
“1.0 was a milestone for us,” Greene said. “It wasn’t the end of development by a long shot. … We look at this game as a service. We look at this as moving into a permanent beta where we will continually upgrade and improve. I think Facebook says the same about their system.
The biggest challenge right now, he said, was the so-called “rubber banding” effect seen by some players in matches. A player avatar will appear to be in one place at one moment, and then glide or warp a short distance away. The issue has cropped up on the Xbox One version of the game as well, and Greene and the rest of the team at PUBG Corp. are focusing all of their attention on mitigating it.
“There’s no ETA,” Greene said, “but it will be fixed. People ask me, ‘Are you going to fix this?’ Yes, of course. Why wouldn’t we fix it?”
We also asked Greene about Battlegrounds’ controversial loot crates. Players are able to earn currency by performing well in-game, and that currency can then be spent on a roll of the dice for random cosmetic items. But, earlier this year, PUBG Corp. rolled out another tier of crates which could only be opened with a key that cost $2.50. Fans were angry, and Greene apologized at the time for how the announcement was handled.
But, going forward, he said loot crates will work pretty much the same way.
“We have some stuff to announce with cosmetics going forward,” Greene said, “but right now we want to get the servers stable. … We are happy with the system. We think it worked quite well. I think, moving forward, that’s what you can expect.”
Finally, we asked Greene about issues with hacking in the game. He said that his team had made huge strides to try and reduce it, but he is pragmatic about his chances of ever truly eliminating it.
“Hacking is always going to be an issue with multiplayer games, especially at our scale,” he said. “Over the last two months or so, we’ve really been trying to implement more and more measures to protect against cheaters.”
One such measure is an auto-ban for team-killing, the practice of killing allied players in duos or squads. When reports are made now, an automated system reviews the action and hands out bans on the spot.
In the meantime, Greene said he’d appreciate it if fans could just chill out and let his team do the work.
“Calm the fuck down,” Greene said. “Excuse my French. As I said, we had a plan last year to get the game out in a year, or get the game out by the end of the year, and we did that. And we’ve planned for next year to continue to upgrade and improve the game, so we’re going to do that.
“This idea that we’re going to run [away now that the game is launched] or ‘pump and dump,’ that’s not true. We’ve shown now that we care about this and we want to support this game for years.”