With COVID-19 forcing many of us into quarantine, lots of people are scouring the internet looking for entertainment. Sports fans have really been left out in the lurch with the NHL, MLB, NBA, Golf, MLS, and NASCAR all on hiatus during the lockdown. In the absence of traditional sports, many people are finding esports for the first time. To help welcome the uninitiated, we’re running a series of primers to get you ready to watch. Today, we tackle one of the newest genres of game on the scene with our Beginner’s Guide to the Battle Royale. Most of you know this genre as Fortnite.
A brief history of the Battle Royale
Unlike the other entries in this series, this guide is covering an entire genre of game. This is for the simple reason that many battle royale games play very similarly, usually having one or two defining difference. The Battle Royale genre is so named because it is based on the film Battle Royale. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a Japanese film where in a classroom of students are dropped on an island. They are told the last person standing gets to live. What ensues is a bloody battle for survival.
You may be sitting there thinking “Hey, that’s the plot of The Hunger Games.” Don’t worry, Battle Royale came first. Our Beginner’s Guide to the Battle Royale should technically begin all the way back with games like H1N1 or Rust. However, the genre didn’t hit mainstream success until PUBG. PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds released on Steam Early Access in March 2017 and quickly exploded in popularity. The concept was simple. 100 players drop on an island with no gear or weapons, scavenge what they can, and the last person standing wins.
On the success of PUBG, Epic Games introduced a battle royale mode into a little semi-popular tower defense game they had developed called Fortnite. The game promptly exploded in a way that no game had since World of Warcraft. You couldn’t look left, right, or center without seeing someone playing or talking about Fortnite. Stars like Ninja and Tim the Tat Man rose to prominence seemingly overnight. And that brings us to today.
As I said before, the rules of a Battle Royale game are very simple. A large number of players, usually more than 50, are dropped onto an island with nothing. They scavenge whatever weapons or supplies they can find, and try to be the last person standing. To ensure that players don’t find a good hiding space and just camp out forever, each game has a mechanic to force players to move closer to each other. PUBG has a ring of elecricity, while Fortnite uses a storm. Staying outside the ring will cause you damage until you die, so you need to keep moving.
Every Battle Royale game has those principles, but the devil always lies in the details. How are the games different? PUBG is your most classic example of a Battle Royale, and many purists would argue it’s the best. There aren’t any flashy gimmicks or weird mechanics. Just move, shoot, and loot. The infamous phrase “Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner” was co-opted by PUBG and is displayed when you win.
Fortnite has the building mechanic, which makes it very unique and is also the most difficult thing to learn. In Fortnite, you can and must build structures to gain advantages over your opponent. Walls, stairs, ramps, platforms, anything you need to get the right line of sight or protection. Winning a game of Fortnite scores you a Victory Royale.
APEX Legends meanwhile borrowed inspiration from other popular games of the time, namely DOTA 2, League of Legends, and Overwatch. They introduced heroes into their game, allowing players to choose who they want to play as. Each hero has unique abilities and tactics they can employ to help shape the outcome of the game. This beginner’s guide will not be offering opinions on which Battle Royale game is the best, merely showing the differences.
What should you expect when watching?
As you can guess, watching a Battle Royale game can be chaotic due to the sheer number of players. Many games in this genre utilize squads, which drops players down in teams of four. They also tend to not use the full number of players the game can handle. PUBG for example, uses either 64 players (16 teams) or 80 players (20 teams) . Fortunately, many of these games are getting a lot of assistance from the developers to become more watchable.
Games like Fortnite, PUBG, and APEX Legends are typically casted by a large team. It generally includes two casters, a camera directors, and 5-15 camera operators who move around the map and capture all the action. Watching a match of any Battle Royale will see you moving all over the map and keeping up with many different story-lines at once. The viewing experience is largely influenced by how good the casting team is. A single match generally takes 30-40 minutes to watch, and a full tournament usually lasts 2-4 days.
How to watch
When to tune in is a little trickier with Battle Royale games than other genres. These games are the youngest of the esports, and their scenes are still being fleshed out. Worse still, COVID-19 has demolished many of this year’s scheduled events. Most recently, Epic was forced to cancel this year’s Fortnite World Cup. Almost universally, these games can be viewed on Twitch. You can watch last year’s PUBG Global Series and Fortnite World Cup on Youtube. APEX Legends is looking to really get their esports scene off the ground this year, but coronavirus is forcing delays. We’ll update this article as soon as they announce their plan moving forward.
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