WHAT IS BATTLE ROYALE?
A battle royale game, also spelled battle royal, is a video game genre that blends the survival, exploration and scavenging elements of a survival game with last man standing gameplay. Battle royale games challenge a large number of players, starting with minimal equipment, to search for weapons and armor and eliminate other opponents all while avoiding being trapped outside of a shrinking “safe area”, with the winner being the last competitor in the game. The name for the genre is taken from the 2000 Japanese film Battle Royale.
WHAT IS THE GENERAL CONCEPT?
Battle royale games are played between a large number of individual players, or a number of small squads (typically up to four or five players). In each match, the goal is to be the last player or last team standing by eliminating all other opponents. A match starts by placing the player-characters into a large map space, which may have random distribution or allow players to have some control of where they start. All players start with minimal equipment, giving no player an implicit advantage at the onset, though games allow players to customize the appearance of their character. Randomly scattered around the map are weapons, armor, vehicles, and other items that are beneficial for combat and survival. Players need to search the map for these items while avoid being killed by other players. Equipment from eliminated players can be looted as well. The “safe area” of the map decreases in size around a randomly selected point throughout the match, forcing surviving players into closer quarters and increasing the chance of player encounters. Those caught outside this safe area take damage and will eventually die if they do not re-enter the so called “safe area”. The match is over when only one player or team remains, and the game typically provides some type of reward (in-game currency for more cosmetic items) to all players based on how long they survived.
The random nature of starting point, item placement, and safe area reduction lends the battle royale genre to challenge players to think and react quickly and improve strategies throughout the match as to be the last man/team standing.
In addition to standalone games, the battle royale concept may also be present as part of one of many game modes within a larger game, or may be applied as a user-created mod created for another game.
There are various modifications that can be implemented atop the fundamentals of the battle royale. For example Fortnite introduced a 50-versus-50 player mode in its Fortnite Battle Royale free-to-play game; players are assigned one of the two teams, and work with their teammates to collect resources and weapons towards constructing fortifications as the safe area of the game shrinks down, with the goal to eliminate all the players on the other team.
HISTORY OF GENRE
Formulative elements of the battle royale genre had existed before 2012: gameplay modes featuring last man standing rules remains a frequent staple of multiplayer online action games though generally with fewer total players, while elements of scavenging and surviving on a large open-world map were popularized through survival games.
Shortly after the release of the film The Hunger Games in 2012, a battle royale mode named Hunger Games (later changed to Survival Games) was developed for Minecraft and popularised by YouTubers including AntVenom and SkyDoesMinecraft.[non-primary source needed] Survival Games takes inspiration from the film, initially placing players at the center of the map near a set of equipment chests. When the game commences, players can compete over the central resources or spread out to find items stored in chests scattered around the play area. Players killed are eliminated and the last surviving player wins the match.
Subsequent appearances of the game mode include mods for the game DayZ, itself initially released as a mod for ARMA 2. Within DayZ, players struggled alongside or against each other to obtain basic necessities to continue living in a persistent sandbox filled with various dangers. These games were designed to include player versus player encounters, but generally these events were infrequent due to the size of the game’s map and the persistence of the game world. This led to the development of game mods that sacrificed ARMA 2/DayZ open-endedness in favor of focusing on more frequent hostile interactions between players to determine an eventual winner.
One such game was the Battle Royale mod for ARMA 2/DayZ, developed by Brendan Greene, known by his online alias, “PlayerUnknown”, and first released in 2013. This mod was directly inspired by the 2000 Japanese film Battle Royale, which told the story of a number of students transported to an island and forced to battle each other to be the sole survivor, lending to the mod’s name. In Greene’s case, to differ his offering from Hunger Games-inspired mods, he designed the mod to randomly scatter weapons around the map instead of from a central repository. Greene updated this mode for ARMA 3 when the DayZ team opted to release their game as a standalone title. Greene continued to adopt his format as a consultant for H1Z1: King of the Kill before becoming the creative developer at Bluehole of a standalone game representing his vision of the battle royale genre, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. While Battlegrounds was not the first battle royale game, its release to early access in March 2017 drew a great deal of attention, selling over twenty million units by the end of the year, and is considered the defining game of the genre. In September 2017, the game broke the previous record for highest number of concurrent players, with 1,348,374 players on the game simultaneously. Battlegrounds‘ explosive growth and how it established the Battle royale genre was considered one of the top trends in the video game industry in 2017.
Prior and near Battleground‘s release, games from other developers took inspiration from highly played battle royale-style mods, as well as the popularity of The Hunger Games film series, which first premiered in 2012. Ark: Survival Evolved by Studio Wildcard introduced its “Survival of the Fittest” mode in July 2015, which was geared to be used for eSports tournaments. The mode was temporarily broken off as its own free-to-play game during 2016 before the developers opted to merge it back into the main game for ease of maintenance of the overall game. The Culling, by Xaviant Studios, was released in early access in 2016, and was designed to be a streaming-friendly battle royale mode for 16 players. However, following the release of Battlegrounds, The Culling lost much of its player base, and a few months after releasing the full version of the game, Xaviant announced they were ending further development on it to move onto other projects. Battlegrounds‘s popularity created a new interest in the battle royale genre. Numerous games that copied the fundamental gameplay of Battlegrounds appeared in China, shortly after Battlegrounds‘s release. Grand Theft Auto Online gained a battle royale mode during an August 2017 update. Paladins added a battle royale mode in January 2018, naming it “Battlegrounds” in reference to the concept of player-versus-player battleground encounters from earlier MMOs rather than to copy from PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.
Notably, Fortnite, a survival game developed by Epic Games, who also maintain the Unreal Engine used by Battlegrounds, released a free-to-play battle royale mode based on the Fortnite mechanics in September 2017. The game has seen similar player counts as Battlegrounds, with twenty million unique players reported by Epic Games by November 2017. Bluehole expressed concern at this move, less due to being a clone of Battlegrounds, but moreso that they had been working with Epic Games for technical support of the Unreal Engine in Battlegrounds, and thus they were worried that Fortnite may be able to include planned features to their Battle royale mode before they could release those in Battlegrounds.
The Chinese government, through its Audio and Video and Numeral Publishing Association, stated in October 2017 that it will discourage its citizens from playing battle royale games as they deem them too violent, which “deviates from the values of socialism and is deemed harmful to young consumers”, as translated by Bloomberg.Gaming journals in the west thus speculated that this would make it difficult or impossible to publish battle royale within the country. In November 2017, PUBG Corporation announced its partnership with Tencent to publish the game in China, making some changes in the game to “make sure they accord with socialist core values, Chinese traditional culture and moral rules” to satisfy Chinese regulations and censors. Despite the concern that PUBG Corporation and Tencent are taking with Chinese release, a large number of clones of Battlegrounds has come out in China already, and created a new genre there called “chicken-eating game”, named based on the congratulatory line to the last player standing in Battlegrounds, “Winner winner chicken dinner”.