A loading delay meant that I could hear the plane engine before I could see the plane. By the time my vision had calibrated, a few people had already made the jump and were either plummeting or parachuting toward the island. I don't know the lay of the land, I don't really understand the rules, and my only objective is to survive for as long as possible.
There's a counter at the top right of the screen and even before I hit the ground I can see that eight people have died. That leaves 89; 89 people who want to kill me.
I pull my parachute cord too early and end up drifting in the air, possibly an easy target, certainly wasting time that could be spent hoovering up equipment. When I finally touchdown, the cluster of buildings I directed myself toward seems less like shelter and more like a threat. Anyone could be lurking behind closed doors, or crouching by windows.
The hunt was on.
The first building I searched had nothing of use and I suddenly felt like I was back in DayZ, where I'd wander for hours without finding anything but rotten fruit. The appeal of Battlegrounds, for me, is the way it forces people to fight, the arena shrinking every few minutes to create conflict. As the player numbers drop, the area they're playing in becomes smaller, meaning there'll be nowhere to hide.
For now though, I seem to be alone. Gunfire crackled in the distance sending me scurrying into the next building in line, but it didn't seem to be directed at me.
That second building was like the greatest lootchest in the world. An assault rifle, a helmet, some ammo, a laser sight and scope. Those accessories turned out to be useless, either because they didn't fit my weapon or because I didn't know how to attach them properly, but at least I had a gun. Not knowing quite what I should do next, I hugged a windowframe and scanned the fields, looking for movement.
There was no movement.
Seconds later, a warning flashed onto the screen. I had to move to a new area in the next five minutes or I'd be... killed? I think staying out of the combat zone means insta-death (I later learn it just saps your health rather than killing you instantly), but despite my fears I decided I could cover the distance easily enough so I stayed in my safe haven for a while longer.
Still no movement.
At this point, there were around 70 people left and I figured at least half of them were already in the marked zone, while the others were probably en route. I waited another minute, giving myself 210 seconds to cover the distance. It was at that point that I realised I had no idea how long it'd take me to cover what looked like around a tenth of the map. I knew there were vehicles in the game, but I didn't have one so I'd most likely be on foot.
I left the building and ran.
The safezone was further away than I'd anticipated, and I only had ten seconds to spare when I reached the edge of it. I was standing near a copse of trees and as I'd approached the line on the map that I needed to cross, bullets had started to whistle past my head. I just kept running, preferring to die by the gun than by whatever the heck the blue shimmering wall of doom might be.
Being shot at from afar marked my first contact with another player. I have no idea what happened to that player, but after I emerged from hiding behind a tree, the shooting had stopped and I never heard from them again. Maybe somebody killed them while they were trying to kill me, maybe they ran out of bullets, maybe they decided to move on.
There were 32 people still living.
I squat-ran north, toward the sea. There was a bridge to the north-east of my position, which led to a second island which was now right in the centre of the safe zone. I decided to go to the beach instead of heading for the bridge, since it'd almost certainly be a killing floor.
Along the way, I found another cluster of buildings. Another five minute warning hit the screen while I was still in the fields though, and it confirmed what I had most feared. The island to the north was the safe zone – sure, the actual water was part of it too, but I didn't fancy my chances floating around in the sea.
There was a decision to be made. I hadn't killed anyone yet but I felt like I was in with a chance of getting into the top twenty simply by being isolated from the action. Heading to the bridge would almost certainly throw me into the fight and I didn't fancy my chances so...
The safe zone just about touched the very edge of the beach on my side of the water. Maybe a couple of metres of it. I could start a new life there, camping under the stars, feasting on fish every night while the rest of the fools killed each other over on the island. I was going to win this thing by default, simply because I wasn't some gun-happy killer.
But first I had to get past the final buildings between me and the beach. It seemed sensible to search them, just in case anything of value was inside. I figured everyone was already on the island so I wasn't expecting to run into a fully armoured super-soldier crouching in the corner of a dilapidated kitchen. Thankfully when I did run into a fully armoured super-soldier crouching in the corner of a dilapidated kitchen he was looking the other way and apparently my panic response involves unloading an entire clip into whoever is in front of me.
I felt like the strongest man in the world as I looted the body. Now I was a fully armoured super-soldier and I was definitely going to win my first ever Battlegrounds game. I briefly considered storming the bridge now that I was essentially the Terminator – conveniently forgetting that I'd taken the mantle of Terminator by killing the previous holder of the title by accident – but the lure of the beach was strong. I'd have a square foot of land to call my own and what more can an inhabitant of the Battlegrounds ever hope for?
There were 25 left alive as I made my way down the rocks to the beach. Truth be told, the beach was essentially just some more rocks. I tried to cram myself between two, figuring I'd be concealed from sight, and then the death wall closed in. I was safe, secure and happy.
Scanning the bridge and the island for movement, I forced myself further into the crevice that was now home, already considering where I'd hang the pictures and which rock would be the bedroom.
There was no movement.
And then I died.
It was a home invasion of the most brutal sort. There I was in the crevice, assuming everyone else was somewhere ahead, crammed into the top of the map on that distant island, and some almighty arse came blundering down the rocks and shot me in the back.
Outraged, I tried to switch to spectator mode to see what the bastard would do next, but before I could figure out whether that was possible, the game crashed.
I'll be back.
I wasn't expecting to write about this misadventure so I didn't take any pictures; I've used pictures from elsewhere on RPS.