I wasn’t sold on PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds before I played my first round, but then I spawned onto the starting island.
Chaos reigned on that little spot of land in the northeast of Erangel. A hellfire of bullets sprayed across the tiny strip of asphalt. Dance floors were made out of Molotov cocktails. Arrows were stuck in every last skull and groin. People were attempting to jump onto a crashed plane (this was well before vaulting was implemented). It was a beautiful mess, and I loved it.
It will be gone soon, if it isn’t already.
The PUBG development team has announced that it is doing away with the massive arsenal of weapons that currently appears on the island, as well as spreading out where characters spawn before the game. “Performance, both server and client-side, has improved” as a result of this change, the studio said.
I can’t help but feel a deep sadness for the loss of one of my favorite places in gaming — even if the area was always known for its horrific frame rates on even beefy gaming rigs and the Xbox One X.
Embrace the stupid
PUBG is a stupid video game. Yes, it does a lot of clever things that make it a multiplayer masterpiece, but those things are in service of the overall stupid.
Think about your favorite moments in PUBG. Is it that one shot from 300 meters that took off that dude’s head? Nope, it’s that one time your buddy — who, honestly, shouldn’t have been allowed to drive in the first place — beached a boat and somehow killed three people with the bow of the ship. It wasn’t a sound strategy, but it worked. And it was unbelievably stupid.
PUBG is stupid in the most charming way possible.
The starting island was a place where people could gather to do some wacky shit before (sky)diving head-first into a murder simulator. I fell in love with PUBG the first time I saw a line of prone characters forming a conga line like some sort of even-more-doomed human centipede. That was the exact kind of stupid I was looking for in a game.
This was a moment of jolly cooperation between players who would, just 60 seconds later, be out for each other’s heads. It was the equivalent of the pregame handshake in football. The starting island was PUBG’s version of “glhf” in a game without text chat, but somehow more sincere and honest. This was a space that gave players an opportunity to just have a good time, something immensely rare for a competitive game. You could shoot at people, but no one cared if they were shot.
I’ll miss the fashion show aspect of the island as well. It was a place where I could show off exactly how silly I had made my character look. What started off as a dude with a trashy mohawk and a pair of tighty whities has evolved into a dude with a red sleeveless turtleneck, a ski mask (thanks, Twitch Prime), a dad hat and a pair of dress shoes. He looks truly awful, and I love him.
He still doesn’t wear pants.
And I get jealous every time I see someone with one of those super rare skirts. I want one; I need one. I wish the cheapest one wasn’t a bit under $100 on the Steam Marketplace. But man, it sure would complete my capital-L Look.
I’m afraid my Look won’t be appreciated by enough people, now that we’re not all going to spawn on the starting island in the same small area. It’s unclear how many people will spawn in the new points, but it still won’t be enough.
The stupid will be spread too thin, and stupid is best when delivered in concentrated form.
A farewell to arms
When the desert map Miramar dropped, the inferiority of its starting island to Erangel’s was immediately evident.
It was too quiet. The only sounds were those of footsteps. People frantically looked around for weapons to fire fruitlessly into their invulnerable soon-to-be opponents on that first day, but they found nothing. This was a spawn point with no rifles. It was a spawn point with no grenades. There were no pistols and no crossbows. “I wish they’d add guns here,” I told my friends on Discord. “It’s too calm.”
I know now that was the beginning of the end. That the silence would soon fill the island of Erangel. The developers would not be adding guns to this spawn point, and would in fact be taking them away from the first spawn point. The quiet would spread, taking with it some of the character that made PUBG the game we all loved.
A “bug” (I considered it a feature) that caused anyone who had been caught on fire on the starting island to spew flames from the plane was fixed in PUBG’s 1.0 patch. That bummed me out. The flying flames were so obviously unintentional that I couldn’t help but love them. It was like a firework signaling the start of a new match. There was something poetic about it. And now, like the guns of Erangel, it was gone. A little bit of the strangeness had been sanded away, leaving a smooth, boring spot where once there had been streamers in the sky.
PUBG won’t lose popularity, but I am a little worried that some of the character of the game is fading away. PUBG is a game of stories, of bizarre ideas and strategies that work out for those trying to pull them off — or fail so wonderfully that you have something to talk about after the match. The starting island was an effective way to let players know that experimentation was welcome, that this was truly a game about trying some dumb shit to see what would happen.
I’ll savor the memories for now. I will remember realizing that crossbow bolts I stuck into people on the starting island would spawn with them in the round itself. I will remember my first conga line. I will always have my memories of exploring the factory building on the north side of the island.
There was that time, more than 100 hours into playing the game, I dove off the south side of the island. “Whoa, there’s a crashed plane down here,” I told my Discord buddies. None of them had ever seen it before, either. There were still secrets to discover, and weird, unexpected strangeness to absorb.
All of that had been punctuated by the sound of an M249’s massive magazine being emptied over and over again in the background. You could hear the BOOM of grenades. And, of course, there was always the slapping of someone’s fist into the face of his buddy for an entire minute. It was a celebration of the game we were just about to play, and it was beautiful.
It will soon be gone. I’ll miss you, starting island. You were too good to last.