Fifty-million copies sold. Eighty-seven million players log in each day. Four hundred million total players as of June 2018 .
Buckle in, because this gets crazy. It all started with an amateur game coder’s add-on modification (“mod”) of an existing mod of a somewhat popular 2009 online military shooter called ARMA 2, and a 2000 Japanese action movie, praised by Quentin Tarantino and banned in 23 countries, that almost never saw North American distribution.
The story of how this game came to be is really a story of a chain reaction of inspiration and iteration: people in the gaming community developing play styles in multiplayer games, creating new modes inspired by other games and films, and using each new thing to make newer things.
The film Battle Royale, based on a book of the same name, was a stylish action-fable set in a dystopian future that imagines teenagers sent to an island and pitted against one another in combat to the death, where the last one standing is declared the winner.
If that sounds a lot like The Hunger Games, written eight years later in America, that’s because it is a lot like The Hunger Games, which was also inspired by the same Japanese book and movie.
It was part John Hughes Breakfast Club, part William Golding Lord of the Flies, part 1950s teen exploitation film Blackboard Jungle, and part Jean Claude VanDamme Bloodsport. And it was banned from distribution in America for ten years, causing it to become a cult classic among film buffs.
Based on inspiration from this film, Brendan Greene, a hobbyist coder whose screen name was “PlayerUnknown,” modded the elements of an existing mod of ARMA 2, called DayZ. He created a style of battle royale gameplay that has since taken the industry by storm.
Players, dropped into an island, are forced to scavenge for weapons seeded around it while the safe area of the island map shrinks, forcing them to confront one another until only one remains. This mod proved so popular that Greene was hired by Sony as a developer for other games and began his career as an industry luminary.
Greene was eventually drafted by a Korean game development company to create and oversee the production of what would become PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG). And PUBG would become a multi-platform juggernaut that has become a genre in itself, and a professional eSport with a two-million-dollar prize pool!
PUBG gameplay overview
Greene refined the battle royale concept by innovating a never-ending series of matches that play like a sport. A “third person,” over-the-shoulder perspective allows the player to see the onscreen avatar he or she controls and guides into a big, last-man-standing fight in three distinct stages:
1. The beginning stage of the game, where players are flown in a cargo plane across a massive map and must choose a spot to parachute in.
2. The mid-game, where loot, weapons, vehicles, and resources are gathered while players try to stay alive and engage other players in elimination combat.
3. The end-game, where the safe-zone gets increasingly smaller so that it must end in a big shoot-out between the remaining survivors and their best gear.
Wait! Isn’t that Fortnite? Which is copying which?
Parachute dropped from a flying cargo vehicle…Find loot…Eliminate other players on a shrinking map. You may be saying to yourself, “Hold on a minute. I’ve heard of this. Isn’t this Fortnite?”
Well, that’s a whole ‘nother story. What people commonly refer to as Fortnite is really a mod of the game Fortnite, called Fortnite Battle Royale, which, yes, pretty much directly copies the PUBG model, complete with flyover and parachute drop.
The actual base game of Fortnite began as a co-op game called Fortnite: Save The World, where players fought off wave after wave of non-player character (NPC) zombies, built forts from collected resources, and attempted to survive.
Epic Games, makers of Fortnite: Save The World, then released a free “Battle Royale mod” for their game, in a similar fashion to how PUBG began life in its early stage as a mod of a different game, before spinning off into its own stand-alone product.
In the process, Epic absolutely copied the entire structure of PUBG but emphasized looser, more arcade-y controls and designs. So what are the differences? And how is this legal?
The first question is easy to answer, but the second one, not so much.
Differences and similarities in PUBG and Fortnite Battle Royale
PUBG and Fortnite Battle Royale differ in tone. While PUBG’s character models are gritty, heroic, dashing, and semi-realistic, Fortnite Battle Royale’s are more cartoony and animated looking, as is their gear.
PUBG’s cargo drop plane is modeled after a military cargo plane, and the players parachute in using parachutes. Fortnite Battle Royale turns the plane into a whimsical “Battle Bus,” a hollowed-out bus-body being flown with a steampunk-style zeppelin. The Fortnite players drop in with action figure-style cartoon gliders, and sport oversized, caricature pickaxes and “harvesting tools.”
In gameplay, so much is similar, but the differences are in degrees:
PUBG fine tunes and dials in aiming and weapon differences and offers players more nuanced controls involving going for cover and maneuvering.
Fortnite opts for a more run and gun, jump and hop console-style, arcade controls.
PUBG’s sound design is an integral part of the game; how the weapons and explosions sound from different vantage points offer real strategic awareness for experienced players.
Fortnite offers a much simpler version of this idea.
PUBG integrates the use of vehicles as real elements of game strategy.
Fortnite uses silly golf carts and such that are more distractions than anything else.
Perhaps the biggest difference is that Fortnite keeps its “build a fort” controls and scheme from the PvE co-op mode, and the end game becomes a fort vs. fort fight of rapid building and shooting.
In the end total, the two games are very similar in the way Coca-Cola and Pepsi are similar. Both are recognizable carbonated cola beverages, but your preference comes down to taste.
Battle of the battle royale games: Is PUBG suing Fortnite?
The short answer is: not anymore.
There was a lawsuit filed by PUBG in January 2018 against Epic Games citing copyright infringement . And on its face, it would seem logical - to see the two games play side-by-side, they look like different skins on the same shape.
But the question of who can truly claim original ownership becomes a little thorny, as these concepts are modifications and refinements of pre-existing games and have evolved as such.
When a mod mods a mod and becomes its own game, then is a mod of a different game that replicates that modded mod a violation? Complicating the matter is that PUBG was built licensing the Unreal Engine, which is owned by Epic, the makers of Fortnite.
It’s so complicated, in fact, that PUBG withdrew its lawsuit in June 2018 . No word was released about the reasons, or if a settlement between the two parties was reached. Now both games are vibrant, growing communities, occupying the same genre of gaming.
In old westerns, it was a cliché for one gunfighter to say to the other, “This town ain’t big enough for the both of us!” As it turns out, as of June, the town of the gaming industry IS big enough for both PUBG and Fortnite to exist, without any more battles between them.
PUBG on PC, PUBG on console, and PUBG mobile… and mobile on PC!
PUBG began as a Windows PC game, released in 2017 into the Steam marketplace. Its addictive and competitive gameplay saw it develop a rapid user base and community, where it continued to be refined.
By December 2017, a deal with Microsoft was inked and the game was released on the Xbox One platform, opening it up to millions of new gamers. The PUBG Xbox One version allows Xbox players to play against other Xbox players. Unfortunately, there is, as of yet, no true cross-platform play. PC players battle other PC players, and Xbox players play other Xbox players.
A PUBG PlayStation 4 version is set for release in early December 2018, for the holiday season. The Windows and home console versions of PUBG require an actual purchase of a copy, either a physical hard copy on DVD media or a digital download.
The game has been released in a modified version for both Apple iOS and Android, as a free-to-play game with in-game purchases (similar to the Fortnite Battle Royale model) in PUBG Mobile. It went worldwide in March 2018 and boasts a whopping 350 million downloads.
In another strange twist to the story of modded mods, the publisher of the mobile game version has released an official Android emulator for Windows, where you can download and play the smaller, free-to-play version through the emulator. This means you’re a software program that acts as a virtual Android device so that the software can run software through itself! 
How to play Steam’s PUBG on Windows PC
To play the full, robust PC version, you’ll need a Steam account. Setting up a Steam account is free, but the PUBG software will cost $29.99.
After choosing “Join Steam” and completing the setup, search for “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” and then “Add to Cart.” Before you complete your purchase, make sure your PC can handle the game.
The standard WASD keyboard setup for movement (forward, back, right, and left) are by default with the mouse controlling your look-direction. You can activate walking and sprinting with L-CTRL and L-Shift, and the spacebar makes your player jump.
Jolene Dobbin is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Jolene is an East Coast-based writer with experience creating strategic messaging, marketing, and sales content for companies in the high-tech industry.
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