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Battle Royale: The Genre That’s Swallowed Gaming

When you think “Battle Royale”, the first things to come to mind for many are the two current Genre Giants: Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite: Battle Royale. These two have both enjoyed massive success and much time in the spotlight thanks to their polished gameplay and the innate tension created by the Battle Royale genre. Many other titles, such as the late Radical Heights and the new Call of Duty: Black Ops IV are attempting to cash in on the craze to limited success. But as this genre cements its place as one of the cornerstones of multiplayer gaming for the next few years, its worth taking a second to look back on where it came from, and what games the “battle royale” genre have taken elements from or stolen from in the past to get where it is today.

The first game that can be said to feature hints of the “Battle Royale” genre was the DayZ mod for Arma 2. This mod placed a group of players on a zombie-infested island with one goal: survive. But it was less of an action-packed guns-blazing experience and more of a hardcore survival game with a few light crafting elements. As players scrounged around the virtual wasteland searching for guns, ammunition, armor, and water, they were just as likely to die from starvation as they were to be eaten by a zombie. Not to mention, when a player died, they re-spawned with no inventory items somewhere around the beach of the island world. There was no “Victory Royale” in DayZ, or victory to speak of. You either survived the full way through until the server’s clock auto-reset everyone back to ground zero, or you died somewhere along the way. DayZ’s success caused the emergence of a few other games like H1Z1 and Rust, but neither did anything significant to move the genre closer to today’s Battle Royale.

The next big step wasn’t a game at all. It was the film that popularized “Battle Royale” as a concept: The Hunger Games. Following the film’s release and success, local minecraft servers quickly created a gamemode for those asking the question: How would I do in The Hunger Games? The gamemode was very similar to the current Battle Royale formula, with a few key differences: There’s no “death wall” or “wilds” to force players into the center, all players began the session with no weapons by spawning into a central circle, and on some servers, those killed were then allowed to fly around as invisible ghosts, dropping fire underneath living players to help push them towards each other.

Brendan Greene, creator of Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, admitted to taking inspiration from the minecraft games:

 “I loved the interactions that we had. You’d come across another group or a clan in like a town, and there would be an interaction with them, either good or bad. And I loved that idea that you’re not dealing with AI , you’re not dealing with a predictable mechanic, you’re dealing with other people. And that’s a lot of fun, because there are some crazy and strange people out there.”

Before creating PUBG, Greene went on to create a number of mods for both Arma III and DayZ that would continue to inspire him to his eventual creation. Greene aided in the development of a mod for zombie survival title H1Z1, and it became so popular that the game’s developers shifted focus to making the modded mode an official mode of the game’s online multiplayer. Thanks to this switch, H1Z1 became the first of what modern gamers would call a “battle royale” game, featuring players dropping into an open, empty map, vying for advanced arms, and then fighting in an ever-enclosing arena.

And so many years later, the genre remains unchanged, despite the addition of goofy dances and Thanos powers joining the mix. Battle Royale’s quick evolution through just a few prior titles is a testament to how much sense it makes as a gaming experience and a sign that the genre will remain in the spotlight for at least a while longer.

Featured Image Via Flickr / BagoGames

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