The Daily Grind: Where do you stand on the Fortnite-vs.-PUBG feud?

Ever since Bluehole threw down a gauntlet at Epic’s feet over the similarities between PUBG and Fortnite’s battle royale mode – or more specifically, over Epic’s conflicts in regard to the Unreal Engine it furbishes and on which both games run – I’ve noticed the mainstream narrative is about whether it’s “illegal to rip off” a game mode that’s existed for decades. I suspect MMO players may see it differently.

See, Bluehole isn’t some new studio to MMO players; it built TERA in Korea. It was also the studio that was sued civilly and prosecuted criminally (successfully) for ripping off NCsoft years ago. Multiple Bluehole employees were accused and convicted of stealing trade secrets, “copious amounts of confidential and proprietary NCsoft information, computer software, hardware, and artwork relating to Lineage 3” from NCsoft.

Moreover, MMO players have already seen how conflicts just like this one between studios and engine developers can absolutely sink games. At the end of 2015, the MMORPG sandbox community watched helplessly as it appeared the studio behind Hero Engine held The Repopulation studio hostage, ultimately forcing the game offline and then buying out the game from its original developers in what seemed an unwelcome, hostile takeover acceded to in desperation.

So with all that in mind, this morning’s Daily Grind is multifold: Where do you stand on the Fortnite-vs.-PUBG feud? Who’s in the right, legally and morally, and does it concern you for engine/game relationships in the future?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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60 Comments on "The Daily Grind: Where do you stand on the Fortnite-vs.-PUBG feud?"

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Kty Shy

I stand nowhere, but I can’t help but be more sympathetic to the game that does not make you wait 7 days before playing after purchase. not that PUBG is bad per se, but it’s certainly unappealing to someone like me who values a more intimate quality, coop at the most, and there are many great games like that this year. The Battle Royale mode is the epitome of what I don’t care about.

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Jeremy Barnes

I just like that people think Epic just threw together the whole mode in 2-3 months.

PurpleCopper
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PurpleCopper

If this was a totally different company like Rockstar which made a “battle royale” mode for GTA, then I’d have no problem with it competing with PUBG.

But a business partner competing against you seems like a dick move, like what EPIC is doing right now.

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Sorenthaz

I think it’s shady as heck and is in line with most other things Epic’s been doing. Either way, one thing needs to be made clear: Epic Games today is not the same Epic Games that made Unreal Tournament, Gears of War, etc. That Epic Games is long gone, and the only similarity is the name and their dependence on the Unreal Engine to keep the company going. This Epic Games embraces F2P and some of the worst tactics pulled straight out of mobile games. So it would not be beyond them, I imagine, to race PUBG to the punch of releasing a long-awaited game type to consoles.

Especially since they only worked on this BR mode in Fortnite for 2-3 months, AFTER Bluehole had announced at E3 back in June that PUBG would come to Xbox One in late 2017. Epic Games is not only beating Bluehole to the punch, but directly screwing over the chances of PUBG’s initial success on the XB1 by making their BR portion F2P with a model that they claimed they would use for Fortnite’s PvE side (cosmetics/vanity only, no pay to progress/win BS), but didn’t.

This whole thing reeks of shade on Epic’s part, and even if they’re legally not doing anything wrong, they sure as hell are dancing around ethics/morals. Not that it matters much such since Tim Sweeney only cares about $$$ at this point, given how he responded to the Fortnite community about the issues with the systems that choke what could be an otherwise great PvE coop game.

Celestia
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Celestia

Could care less. Not my type of game.

when-youre-seeing-your-friends-off.gif
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starbuck1771

Personally I think the feud is completely stupid as neither one is truly an original work and are just pieces of other games slapped together.

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zeko_rena

I don’t play either game and I don’t think I ever will, Pubg looks so boring, and Fornite from what I have seen is a huge cash shop.

But the whole thing sounds like a load of old bollocks that will likely end badly for all involved and will just waste time and money.

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Rohan Verghese

I think Epic is in clear legally. But it’s still a sketchy way to behave to a partner. They should have tried to avoid stepping on Bluehole’s toes.

Though it is pretty common behavior for large platforms. For example, if your company sells an item on Amazon, and it proves popular, Amazon will often commission a knock-off and start selling that directly.

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Sylkesh

Clearly, for me the only answer that comes to mind is: Elf Butts :D

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nobleeinherjar

I don’t really care about PUBG vs Fortnite. Neither company is entirely in the right. (You can really stop reading here for the short answer. Everything I typed out after this is either barely tangential or off topic.)

But I find it funny that Fortnite threw its battle royale mode together while some of its PvE assets aren’t even finished. People who invested in Fortnite did so, I imagine, because of its co-op, base-building gameplay.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am somewhat biased against Fortnite because of how it’s handled its Early Access label. (I have beef with PUBG, too, though, so it’s not like they get off scot-free in my eyes.) But in terms of one game versus the other, I don’t really care.

The simple fact is that PUBG is the new hotness, so a lot of devs are gonna try to cash in on that craze. I’m sure there will be standouts, like the very tiny handful of crafting games that managed to distinguish themselves from Minecraft. But .. eh, I’m getting off topic.

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Ket Viliano

They should’a.
Kept it.
.Private.
.

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Chris Brown-DeMoreno

PUBG’s gameplay isn’t an entirely original idea so another game copying it, which was inevitable anyway, isn’t that big of a deal. In a couple of years a superior title will probably come along and do everything better anyway.

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Mr Poolaty

I’m someplace in the middle of I don’t give a fuck…

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Dug From The Earth

Im biased. I hate the PUBG style game genre. So I hate the fact that Fortnite, advertised and sold to early access players as a “Co-op building/adventure/action” game, is now getting so much focus on something that has NOTHING to do with that. The 2 different play styles between original Fortnite, and PUBG style Fortnite, for the most part, are going to clash, not helping either game mode.

There are some blatant copy and paste aspects in the Fortnite version, that I feel they should be forced to make unique and more original. Even simple things like the progress circle when you are using an object in the game. You cant copyright a game genre, but if specific elements feel too identical, then I feel there is an issue that needs to be addressed.

Of course, id be happy if some legal loophole allowed Bluehole to shut down the Fortnite version all together (like i said, im biased). If the unreal tournament team wants to make a competitive multiplayer mode for Fortnite, id rather see something new and original, rather than them trying to ride on the coattails of another games success.

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Sray

Bluehole is looking like whinny little kids; but on the other hand, there’s nothing about what Epic has done with Fortnite that doesn’t reek of the sketchiest tactics to wring every last cent out of players (day one microtransactions in an early access game; major publisher even doing early access…).

But from a business perspective, this was a poor choice on the part of Epic. There is a lot of back and forth between studios and engine developers for support: that means it’s almost impossible to keep a secret from the engine devs; thus requiring a large degree of trust in the engine guys. At this point there are several other cheap to use, highly versatile game engines available. If game developers start feeling like Epic is going to steal their ideas while still in development, they’re going to start looking at alternatives like Unity, Lumberyard, and/or Source2. So if development studios can’t trust Epic, Epic is going to have a difficult time selling their engine.

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Jack Pipsam

I don’t care much about either game, but the pubg guys are looking mighty bad from all this.

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Greaterdivinity

Bluehole has a kernel of a legit complaint, but has handled it so incredibly poorly and unprofessionally that they kinda lost any chance of me siding with them on this. Who the hell threatens legal action against a company they’re licensing an engine from via a press release?

As for the Hero Engine comparison, IMO that’s not a very good/direct one. The situations are much different (Epic isn’t cutting support because they’re broke, and then breaking NDA’s and blaming folks who are licensing the engine for not paying), and IF is significantly smaller in terms of company size and their stature in the industry.

Both sides are dumb; Epic for the shameless ripoff and terrible/gross monetization decisions that have more or less indicated that they’re largely creatively bankrupt nowadays, and Bluehole for being the most stereotypically out of touch Korean developer who understands nothing of the western market making a gigantic stink when they should be riding high. Bluehole is just being the dumber one in this particular instance.

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Serrenity

I have a few thoughts on this, despite not playing either of the games, I enjoying wandering the twisted legal / ethical byways herein.

First – the licensing agreement likely servers two purposes (as it relates here) … potentially 3. The first is that it would not preclude Epic from making any similar as used in it’s Unreal engine — which makes sense because it would severely limit Epic’s options for creating their games.

The second is that there is almost guaranteed to be clause in there that allows employees of Epic to access the source code at whatever discretion — most likely for criminal conduct/complying with court order, violations of ToS, support / customer service for the unreal platform. That stuff is all pretty standard in most enterprise Contracts.

Third is probably protects Bluehole from having their ideas / implementations brought into the core product without their explicit consent, as it represents their intellectual property. It generally doesn’t cover something like talking about it, and then the vendor reserve engineering and incorporating into the product. Bad for customer relationships, but it happens.

What I think is damning about this for Epic is two fold – one they specifically referenced a competitor who is also a partner (which is in general just a big no-no) in marketing material, whether intentional or not, it’s a super /face-palm moment for … well, pretty much exactly this.

Second – and far, far more damning is that they didn’t tell Bluehole what they were doing. Keeping in mind that they are under no legal obligation to do so, but developing a competing product for one of your partners and then NOT letting them know before the public announcement violates all kinds of good-faith agreements, and is ethically gray.

So while there’s no real legal ramifications here (I can’t imagine a world where this scenario isn’t covered in the Unreal licensing agreement), the way Epic has handled it so far has not been in Good Faith — it ‘smells’ quite the opposite. BlueHole is very much the underdog in this situation, and it feels like Epic is trying to leverage is superior legal position to give them an unfair advantage in the marketplace. I don’t think BlueHole has a leg to stand on legally, but the court of public opinion is something different.

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Ket Viliano

Off the cuff, if I recall the license agreement correctly, it concerns checking a companies accounting books for royalty compliance, not their program code.

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Serrenity

Was that for enterprise level stuff? If they were getting any tech support / customer service from Epic at all, someplace there’s a clause that allows Epic’s staff to access Bluehole’s codebase — likely in a very limited and very specific scenarios but they still had access to the system. It’s pretty hard to provide to provide any kind of tech support / customer service without that clause in there someplace.

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Ket Viliano

It may be that a support contract has different terms than the de facto free download license.

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Schmidt.Capela

What I think is damning about this for Epic is two fold – one they specifically referenced a competitor who is also a partner (which is in general just a big no-no) in marketing material, whether intentional or not, it’s a super /face-palm moment for … well, pretty much exactly this.

It’s only illegal and/or unethical if you misrepresent the competitor, telling falsehoods (or half-truths) about their product or implying someone else owns it.

Otherwise, it’s just an unusual move; companies don’t mention competitors by name on their advertisement because, without the kind of trash talking that is potentially illegal, it amounts to free advertisement for the competitor. And the only mention of PUBG by Fortnite is rather flattening: a dev saying he is a fan of PUBG.

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Serrenity

I’m not denying any of that – and I don’t think they went into it saying deliberately we are going to reference the competitor, but I think it was someone who didn’t understand the potential hub-bub of this and was just talking.

I also specifically said I didn’t think they did anything illegal, but they definitely violated good faith with their partnership to Epic

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Witches

Bluehole, and it’s not about copyright, it’s about conflict of interest and possible breach of trust.

Epic works with Bluehole on PUBG.
Epic creates a mode for an in-house game (Fortnite) with faint similarities to PUBG.
Epic mentions PUBG and other games while promoting Fortnite.

This could have been avoided by either asking permission to mention PUBG or simply keeping a game they are collaborating on out of their promo.

It’s likely this was just incompetence from Epic’s PR department.

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Armsbend

It is confusing on both sides so I’m not keeping up with it.

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Adam Teece

So many people keep claiming that Fortnite used PUBG in their promotion of the new game mode. Can anyone reference that exact area where that occurred? I watched the video that they claimed made reference to PUBG and all that was said was that the Fortnite team are big fans of games like PUBG and H1Z1, and last I checked, saying something like that, even in marketing is fair game. In fact, here is the video so you can check yourself – https://twitter.com/FortniteGame/status/907612032945586176

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Utakata

I don’t know where I should be standing since I only just learnt of the names, “PUGB” and “Fortunite” from just reading the article now…

“That’s PUBG and Fortnite, Uta.”

…oh right! My Rogue was doing an instance with PuG B last night. So…err, who are these people again? o.O

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Rheem Octuris

Ok, so there are two games. One is PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, made by Bluehole, the people who made TERA. Then they’re Fortnight, which is basically H1Z1’s Just Survive except in smaller bite size bits and 100% coop. That’s made by Epic, who makes the Unreal Engine a lot of games run on (named after a game series they made that first used the engine)

Now, Bluehole and Epic have a working business relationship, as does any studio who uses Unreal Engine for their game, as they pay a certain amount to Epic for licensing but also support with integrating the bits PUBG needs to work. The problem is Epic is adding the Battle Royal game type which is rather hardcore PvP game-mode (and also happens to be all of what PUBG does) to Fortnite, an otherwise wholly PvE game. Its a pretty obvious cash grab when Bluehole is already paying Epic a ton in engine royalties, whilst also becoming a direct competitor.

To put it another way, lets say you own a successful, high end bakery. You decide to work with a publishing company to put out a cookbook. During the editing process, a subsidiary of the publishing company opens a restaurant next to your bakery, which wouldn’t normally be an issue, but strangely desserts resembling most of your baked goods are on the menu.

It’s not the fact that a competitor appeared, its the fact that it was someone who you’re bound to and paying money to, is then trying to take more of the pot for itself and cut you out of the deal. Bluehole is claiming it’s a conflict of interest on Epic’s part. That’s ultimately what it is about.

Who’s right and who’s wrong? I don’t know. That’s up to each person to interpret.

(Note: I’m not claiming 100% accuracy on this.)

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Sorenthaz

Also worth keeping in mind that PUBG announced a XB1 release back in June at E3 and Epic’s Unreal team only started working on this roughly 2-3 months ago. So they raced Bluehole to the punch of getting a BR game to consoles and are making it f2p to totally screw over PUBG which is b2p.

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Serrenity

oh I didn’t realize that –the rush to console. Makes Epic look even shadier in the grand scheme.

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Utakata

Well…that would be plagiarism. Flat out!

…and you could tell if it was my muffins my store baked, as it would be patently all pink and poofy like! <3

(And thanks for explaining all that! I think I get it. :) )

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Schmidt.Capela

From what was shown up to now I don’t see anything wrong done by Epic. No assets seems to have been copied, no breach of contract was pointed by Bluehole, etc; the best argument Bluehole seems to have is that a company that licenses a game engine shouldn’t compete with its licensees, but if that argument was in any way valid Epic would have to leave game development altogether given the wide range of projects that use its Unreal engine.

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Bhima Jenkins

There is no there, there. Fortnite’s Battle Royale is a totally different take on the survival/king of the hill game format. Hell, DOTA and LOL have way more similarities in playstyle than this.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

aside from art aesthetic and a f ew mechanics with the guns, looks pretty similar to me https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q19apeXtGXE&t=361s

idk what this has in common with lol/dota at all either oO :S

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Bhima Jenkins

You are forgetting the most important fact, which is you can actually build structures on the fly in Fortnite. That is a huge difference in how the game is played. Imagine playing a MOBA where you could on the fly build defenses, set traps, build towers to snipe from, etc. It would make it a completely different game than LoL even though it is still a MOBA.

Instead of watching a youtube vid, you should actually try them both out and decide for yourself. At the end of the day, there is a much bigger difference between how these two games play than many other games that share the same genres.

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Hirku

It’s all svelte elven posteriors to me.

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Tobasco da Gama

I actually didn’t know the thing about being sued for stealing Lineage 3 assets. I thought this whole feud was about simple paranoia, but now I see that it’s obviously about projection. Bluehole is simply afraid that Epic will do something that they would absolutely, definitely do if they were in Epic’s position.

Legally, I sincerely doubt that Bluehole has a leg to stand on here. Epic isn’t stupid enough to risk their engine business by stealing code directly from Bluehole, and I’m sure their licensing agreement allows Epic to use any enhancements they made to the Unreal Engine at Bluehole’s request to be used for other projects.

There may be more of a case on ethical grounds, but I’m going to speculate here and suggest that any ideas the Fortnite team took from PUBG were reimplemented in a “black box” manner. I.e., nobody on the Fornite team has ever seen any PUBG code or been involved in any discussions where Bluehole was requesting technical assistance or engine enhancements to support their own work on PUBG. So, basically, the Fortnight team would have exactly as much knowledge of what Bluehole was doing as any other dev studio doing their due diligence by playing their competitor’s products.

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agemyth 😩

Elf butts. If this is a real issue the lawyers will sort it out.

Cyclone Jack
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Cyclone Jack

Epic should have contacted Bluehole for permission to use PUBG as a part of their own game’s promotion, just because they are own the engine and already have ties with Bluehole. It was a stupid, dick move. At the same time, Bluehole should have contacted Epic and sorted this out in private, instead of throwing a tantrum on social media. The more they stomped their foot, the more childish they appeared. Either way, I’m not playing either game, nor do I have plans on playing either game, as they both look excessively bland to me.

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Modrain

Game design is not under copyright laws. The only risk there is to copy a game design is in terms of image, to be called a clone/ripoff, and be boycotted by some players. But by reusing well known mechanics and tweaking them or adding new ones, it’s also posssible for the new game (mode) to not be mere copy, but an iterative improvement of the base formula. As it’s how the overwhelming majority of video games have been created, it makes no sense to me that Bluehole even cares about it, unless the one at command has little knowledge of the game development culture.

Someone also not very good at understanding how works the modern world. What is even Fortnite? I was unable to precisely tell what this game even was before Bluehole’s comments. There’s now some Streisand effect around it that gave it a spotlight it would never have had again otherwise. (See Google Trends: https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?q=fortnite)

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BalsBigBrother

Bit of a storm in a teacup from my own “no horse in the race” view point.

I am slightly perplexed why a game such as pubg which sold as many units as it has and cemented itself firmly on top in terms of popularity on steam / twitch is concerned at all. To me all the pubg folks are doing is shining a light on a game that would probably have been shuffled off to the side if they left it alone.

I expect that in a month this will all be a distant memory that few will remember.

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teh evilengineer

I just want to know who at Epic thought it was a good idea. A certain level of trend-chasing is expected in modern game development, but Epic is behind Pubg’s engine. That makes the whole thing tainted with thievery and dirty double-dealing.

Personally from playing both. fotniteBR didn’t start as a cheap knock-off, but someone found this side-project tet game and saw $$$$$

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

it’s definitely a dick move and not a way to inspire confidence in doing business with you when your primary business model is licensing your engine to other developers.

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Jeremy

I’m in the “don’t care” camp.

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TheDonDude

On the sidelines.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

i think it’s tom foolery on the part of the bluehole CEO that seems determined to put his foot in his mouth.

on the other hand kind of an odd dick move of epic to shoehorn a clone of pubg’s rather unique take on battle royale (and yes it is quite unique in the “genre” of battle royale games, tho in many ways quite dierviative in it’s elements it combines in that unique way), into a game that was until that moment advertised as PvE focused from top to bottom.

unless bluehole has patents on the design of pubg tho, there’s not much legally speaking they can really do here. and so far all they’ve really been doing is damaging their relationship with their engine license partner in a public war of words that is proving to be rather bad pr for them at least amongst consumers who partake in social media rants.

what i’m thinking here is the CEO is thinking back and misapplying ncsoft’s lawsuit against them for literally stealing lineage 3 code from ncsoft and using it in tera to some extent as well as attempting to sell it in the japanese black market (lol seriously). and thinking that scenario applies here.

but either way, dick move on epic’s part, blowing hot air on bluehole’s part.

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Tanek

As someone who plays neither and has only watched a few videos of the gameplay, what is it that is unique about PUBG? To my untrained eye, it looks pretty much like the most basic version of every other last man standing game mode in a shooter.

Fortnite adds building, ARK adds dinosaurs. H1Z1 adds the tears of every player hoping for more out of “Just Survive”…PUBG is just running around shooting people and hiding? I am obviously missing something.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

i didn’t really understand until i played it myself and got the gist of it and how it differs from say hizi king of the hill (which was designd by the same guy who is the principle architect of this game mode for several years now, iterating on it to some extent or another in each game in which it appears under his design).

so here’s a video of a full match to give an idea. it’s a bit long at 33~ minutes but i think watching how a match plays out will give an idea. and noting there’s no pve at all, no zombies or dinosaurs, no building, no rpg progression system, and the circle mechanic forces players into confrontations unlike any battle royale game before it afaik.

while much of the individual elements are deriviative to one degree or another (keeping in mind the principle designer of the game playerunknown designed most of the previous battleroyale modes/games/mods), the combination is rather unique and novel and quite refreshing.

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Tanek

Thanks, I’ll check it out. By “circle mechanic”, do you mean the shrinking playfield? If so, I have seen that in every game’s version of the mode other than (if you include it like some have) GW2’s Southsun Survival. And in that one, they have a different mechanic that serves a similar purpose.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

hmm nver noticed it in the previous versions of the game mode i’ve seen videos or heard it mentioned. >> allowing players to hide out the entire match.

as it is you can only hide so much in pubg and not for long at all. tho hiding is a pretty big part of the strategy (as well as thinking twice at engaging other players simply to kill them).

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Schmidt.Capela

Implementing something to force players to leave their hiding places (or otherwise prevent them from effectively hiding out the whole match) is essential in a proper “last man standing” mode, otherwise it becomes a boring contest of who can out-camp who.

(This, incidentally, is what killed Epic’s first implementation of this mode back in the 90s; lacking such an anti-hiding mechanic, camping was so effective a tactic the matches were boring.)

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

hmm watching a full king of the heill hizi playthrough i guess it has it too. tho somewhat different.

ofc hizi king of the hill was also designed by playerunknown.

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Archebius

To me, it feels like PUBG is losing ground by even acknowledging Fortnite. My impression is that Fortnite was not overly successful, and adding a PvP mode was scaring off a chunk of its population already. Without the publicity, I doubt it would be a threat.

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Tanek

From what I have seen, I side with Epic on the copyright (or whatever the heck Bluehole is trying to say) claim and concerns.

That said, I think if Epic is going to continue like this, they should split off the engine part of the company from the games part to avoid conflicts.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

the only part of IP law that would apply here would be patent law if bluehole had thought to patent the design of pubg, which is probably unlikely.

copyright and trademark don’t really apply here.

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Tanek

I did not think copyright would apply, I just don’t get why Bluehole keeps using language that makes it sound like they think it should.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

yeah he’s obviously out of his element and misunderstanding things or at least misrepresenting them.

i mean it’s still a dick move that will make developers think twice about licensing UE4 from epic if they go viral and epic will have no qualms about cloning their game to cash in.

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thalendor

I stand off to the side, wondering why I should care.

wpDiscuz