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The four best improvements to PUBG since launch

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Looking back on nine months of incremental improvements

Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds - man and motorcycle at sunset PUBG Corp./Bluehole

Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds launched into Steam’s Early Access program in March. Since then, the team at PUBG Corporation has effectively been building a rocketship while it lifts off of the launch pad. There have been technical hiccups, to be sure, but there’s also been some fantastic innovations.

Here are the four best improvements made to the game in the last nine months, all of which will be included in this evening’s 1.0 update.

The new desert map, Miramar

When Battlegrounds first arrived on the scene, the environment looked an awful lot like every other survival shooter. A relatively flat, post-apocalyptic, vaguely Eastern European setting with a mix of NATO and Warsaw Pact weapons lying around.

Although it’s very purposefully built, with long sightlines and smatterings of dense, urban terrain, it’s also really weird.

Why is there an isolated plateau in the middle of a corn field? Why is there a spot on the western edge of the map with a flooded inland bay full of half-submerged houses. And what’s up with those Greco Roman temple complexes? Who cares. Just go with it.

Miramar changed the tone, though, and in many ways has given the game a wholly new and unique feel.

Brendan “Playerunknown” Greene has said time and again that he owes his success to those who came before, specifically Dean Hall and his work on DayZ. Hall chose Chernarus, a “geotypical” landmass created by Bohemia Interactive, because of its scale — 225 square kilometers, with room enough for tank companies to do battle while jet fighters and attack helicopters duke it out overhead. Erangel, Battlegrounds’ original map, has the same kind of furniture scattered around, but it lacks that whole geotypical bit. It makes zero geologic sense.

I’m not saying that Miramar is ripped from the pages of National Geographic, but it sure flows a lot better. Also, its scarcity of grass and bushes looks more attractive given the limitations of the game engine. Even more importantly, the buildings — which make visual sense when set against the terrain — offer more options for sniping positions and close-quarter battle scenarios. Its verticality, with massive buildings on opposite sides of the street in some places, plays to the strength of the game’s ballistic model.

Climbing and vaulting

Like many first-person shooters, it’s pretty hard to suspend your disbelief once players start bunny hopping around the map. Even more problematic for Battlegrounds was the fact that players, who are asked to spend a large portion of their in-game time running at top speed toward the horizon, were regularly stopped cold by the humble chain link fence. Vaulting changes all that, and allows for fluid movement over obstructed terrain.

But the developers went further. There’s an entire context-sensitive climbing system that allows players to make their way up onto the top of just about anything they can reach. It also grants them the ability to leap into or out of most of the windows in the game, meaning that being cornered in a ramshackle outbuilding is less of a problem than it used to be.

Those wizard towers are still a death trap, though.

Vehicle physics

Early on in the development of Battlegrounds, Green went to Twitter to announce that additional vehicle physics had been added to the game’s motorcycles. The result was ... well, it was madness.

Motorcycles quickly became one of the most powerful items in the game, allowing players to move around and, at times, even over their opponents seemingly at will. Recently the feature was added that allowed players to shoot out the tires on bikes, but they still remain the vehicle of choice for high-level players.

Just don’t overload the one with the sidecar, or you’re asking for trouble.

The VSS

Folks who were way into DayZ may remember the Bizon, an integrally suppressed 9 mm submachine gun that was effectively the end-game weapon in the early years of that game. It has this unusual radial magazine that was very hard to find on the map, but once you had one you were pretty much set in any close-quarters situation.

One of Battlegrounds’ first additions was its own take on a wacky Russian nine-mil, the Vintovka Snayperskaya Spetsialnaya, also known as the VSS. It’s also integrally suppressed, meaning you fire from cover without revealing your position. It’s one of the favored weapons of some pro streamers. But it lacks the kind of stopping power you might expect from a long gun, and must be used with surgical precision.

Shortly thereafter, the team at PUBG Corp. released the Groza, an unusually stable fully automatic 7.62 mm rifle with sniping capabilities. It showed a commitment to weird and wonderful weaponry that goes above and beyond the standard survival shooter fare. If you take long enough to search for it, there is a weapon to suit any play style and any tactical application in Battlegrounds, and working within the limitations what you’ve been able to scavenge is part of learning to play the game well.