How Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds’ replays humanise the game

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You were wearing a motorbike helmet and underpants and fired a burst from your assault rifle as I drove through the village. I was driving the broke-down Dacia 1300 with two friends bleeding to death in the backseat. I feel very silly writing this, but would you like to meet up and go for a chicken dinner sometime?

For some people, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds’ replay feature may be an educational tool, helping them to refine their tactics, but for me it’s all about stories and missed connections, and it elevates the game from something I enjoy to something I adore.

I burst into the room holding a revolver and wearing no trousers. The lack of trousers was an oversight; I’d decided to customise my character and had removed my khaki slacks but forgotten to put on something else instead. If preparation is half the battle won, by unintentionally showing up half-dressed I had perhaps shown too much of my hand (and the rest) before my feet had touched the ground. I was dressed for failure.

***

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We didn’t speak because I didn’t want to interrupt while you were hanging out with your friends, but I was the girl with the sniper rifle perched inside the church tower. I tried to get your attention because I liked your ballistic mask and dirty tank-top (grey), but you ignored the flesh wound from my M24 and acted as if I hadn’t been there at all. I hope you were just trying to play it cool because you were out with your mates. If you’re interested, I’m always on the high ground, hiding in plain sight. Come and find me.

***

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Replays are delivered a few minutes after a game ends. That means if you jump straight into a new round, unless you manage to die on the way from the plane to the ground, you’ll probably find the record of your previous death (or victory!) waiting for you. Once you press play you can follow your own character or free roam with the camera within 1km of them. Other players are marked on the map and there’s a nauseous thrill accompanying every close shave that I wasn’t aware of at the time.

In this instance, the thrills came thick and fast. I went hunting for trousers. Primarily I wanted to find a gun, but trousers would have been welcome too. A few minutes later I had a shotgun, a backpack, four bandages and zero trousers. I’d killed one person and, as is usually the case, it had pretty much been an accident. He charged at me firing a handcannon and I panicked and returned fire. Two shots and he was dead.

There were no bullets left for his revolver but I took it anyhow, hoping to find more as I continued by scavenging. Remarkably, I neglected to take his trousers.

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I spent a couple of minutes hiding in a bedroom at one point, peering out of a window. A bullet-spewing hunter of men had chased me across a field and I was sure he’d followed me right up to the door. He hadn’t come inside yet though and figured I had one chance to get the drop on him if he did try to breach my new home: a shotgun blast from above would definitely wound him, maybe even kill him, but if he were still breathing I hoped it would startle him enough to give me a chance to flee. I only had one shell left, you see.

In the end, he never found me. Watching the replay, I’m not even convinced he was shooting at me in the first place because there were a cluster of people in the field with me. I didn’t see any of them and I don’t think they saw me.

That wasn’t the startling part though. The startling part was the person hiding in the bathroom right next to me while all of my attention was focused on the window and what lay outside. We were separated by a wall, inches thick.

She was holding a sickle, the bathroom dweller, and she almost made a run for it when she heard me entering the building. Without a gun, I guess she didn’t fancy her chances in a fight.

As soon as I was inside she froze and only left when she heard me opening the door on my way out (I always close doors behind me). She watched me leave and ran away in the opposite direction. I don’t know what happened to her after that because I died shortly afterwards and replays only run up until the point of your own death.

I died with that final shell still loaded. Saved for a special occasion that never came.

***

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Me: motorbike owner, stunt driver and daredevil extraordinaire. You: that guy I beat to death with a frying pan last night. Wanna hook up ;) ?

***

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The beginning of the end was the beginning of this story. I burst into the room holding a revolver and wearing no trousers.

Watching the replay, it seems clear that the woman on the other side of the door was just as frightened as me. She was in the process of looting the body of a recent victim and probably had one eye on her inventory screen when a semi-naked man wielding a gun interrupted her.

What she didn’t know is that the gun was unloaded. What I didn’t know is that her previous target had seriously injured her before dying, and that I might have had time to punch her to death before she could react.

I ran and the replay shows that it took her a moment to gather her bearings at which point she fired wildly at the door. Then she left the building, by that point apparently convinced that if I was so quick to scarper, I probably wasn’t even as dangerous as I looked. And I didn’t look very dangerous at all.

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There’s a thirty second period during which I’m hiding in the building next door and she’s circling the building we just left, slowly and cautiously. Then I decide to make a break for it, dropping a couple of smoke grenades as I went. I hoped they’d cover my tracks as I ran across open ground but the replay shows that she clearly hadn’t known where I was until I threw the grenades. They revealed me rather than obscuring me.

From there, it’s a sad sight. I zig-zag across some scrubland and she takes shots at me until I die. My weaving and dodging is fairly pathetic and I’ll try to do better on that front in the future, but the main thing I’ve learned is that other people are as scared as I am. Or at least, they’re often as cautious as I am.

***

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We were the last two people in the world and I had a shot lined up and could have killed you, but we’d been through so much, hunting and chasing one another, that I couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger, and I thought you’d kill me and I wouldn’t have minded but you didn’t and we stood together while the circle shrank around us and were together when everything ended.

It seemed pretty romantic but I’m not sure if it was intentional or if you were afk?

***

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Playing Battlegrounds, I often feel like the slowest draw in the world and the most anxious person on the island, but replays show that caution and moments of panic are more common than I’d thought. It’s humanising, the replay system, letting you see the stories of your victims and your killers so that they become more than an obstacle, a threat or an opportunity.

21 Comments

  1. Pulstar says:

    Is there any possible way to stop reading about this game without going off the grid?

    • Ghostwise says:

      Have you tried not reading articles you’re not interested in ? It’s crazy, I KNOW, but it might just work !

      • hostilecrab says:

        Don’t be ridiculous! A person can’t be expected to not read an article just because it purports to be about something they’re not interested in. What if it’s only pretending to be an article about PlunkBG, but mid-way through becomes a review about a hitherto unknown Indie gem?

        The risk is too great.

    • Javier says:

      Yes, there is. You just… stop reading?

  2. KDR_11k says:

    Plunkbat always sounds like a torture or execution method…

    “Tell us or Mister Smile will have to give you the Plunkbat”

    • Plunkbat Oranges says:

      Indeed. British schoolchildren began playing Conkers in the late nineteenth century using chestnuts, but they tired of this playground persuit by the 1940’s and began Plunkbatting at every opportunity.

      Plunkbat, in it’s classic form, involves the art of hitting chestnuts into the lavertory using a cricket bat. Following each successful shot, the next player takes a step back before attempting their shot.

      When the players cannot move back any further, they return to their original position, however they must now Plunkbat blindfolded.

      This continues until someone misses the toilet or the players are chased out of the bathroom by a teacher.

      • caff says:

        Plunkbat Oranges? Of the 3rd Division? Good lord, I remember you at St. Plunkertons, how the devil are you? Good to see you remember the classic rules and not the modern piffle they play in schools these days on those new-fangled video game machines.

        I hear some of the lads used to rub their chestnuts in vinegar to toughen them up, which seems like a little harsh if you ask me.

        • Plunkbat Oranges says:

          Jolly good to see you again, old bean. Things have been just grand, apart from that unfortunate incident when I had to fire the help for trying to replace my prized original Plunkbat with an imitation from made in the sub continent. Had the blighters flogged and sent off to the work house!

          The only thing worse than the cads who soaked their chestnuts were the ruddy blighters who shoved metal filings into the nuts and rigged the bally W.C. with magnets!

  3. caff says:

    I never knew this feature existed, so thanks for flagging it – it’s does bring a whole new level to the game.

    It’s actually really embarrassing to watch my past matches. I just scored my best ever result (#2) and watching the replay I look like a total noob – I’ve got no kills, I’m hiding in a bush, and I start flashbanging and running towards a dead player who’s died 20 seconds earlier in 3rd position. Idiot me. Glad I lost that match really.

    I’m hoping for tripwires and traps in an update. I could have a lot of fun with those as I am quite sneaky (but terrible at shooting).

  4. Ryve says:

    For me it’s mostly a tool that helped me realise how many cheaters this game containt.

    • wraithgr says:

      Cheaters, or even the purported existence thereof, is why I massively prefer reading about these games than playing them…

    • Ringo- says:

      Nail on the head. This game is so full of Chinese cheaters it’s unreal.

      Why? You may ask? I believe it’s the garbage loot system where you buy clothing items with points. The Chinese are so poor they cheat for max points, buy loot, sell it for 25 cents USD, rinse and repeat for a whole day. They might make…what, $5 USD a day? To ruin the game for millions of players. I bet if PUBG took out the loot system the cheating would drastically reduce.

      • Chewbacca says:

        I am sure that I encountered more cheaters in other games that had no loot system that could be turned into money. People cheat for many poor reasons. And are you sure you can make 5 $ a day with PUBG? I mean after the 5th box per week, they cost 7000 points and maybe you get 1k if you win which will take you 20-30 minutes. And this will give you most likely a 5 cent item from which you only get 3 cents. I am sure that there are better ways to make money on the internet.

        And indentifying a cheater in PUBG before the replay system was very difficult. Often you did not even see the enemy. And with the new replay system there was only 1 case where I suspected a cheater but wasn’t even sure. Which region are you playing in?

  5. Ringo- says:

    Humanise the game? So I get to see the cheaters kill me over and over from their view? lmao

    If by humanise, you mean make me hate an entire country of 1.4 billion people for their rampant cheating in an otherwise entertaining game, then yes.

  6. Xalex says:

    Why are you writing shit articles like this.

    • AdamDenton says:

      I, for one, enjoyed it, and it’s these sort of articles that set RPS apart from most of the gaming press.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      Just to annoy you.

      Wait, Xalex? oh shit, sorry mate, this article was written to annoy Zalex. Easy mistake to make eh?

    • Petri says:

      I liked the article, having played Plunkbat and being quite lousy at it.

  7. DrollRemark says:

    the main thing I’ve learned is that other people are as scared as I am

    This is basically the key – you’d be surprised how many times you can get good kills by rushing a nervous player. Of course, the flipside to this is that an accomplished player will just put you down quickly, but hey, at least it’s exciting…

  8. monsieur_cronkypont says:

    Another great article from Adam Smith. This is why I’m an RPS supporter.