Every battle royale game has them: the areas of a map that, regardless of the orientation of the dropship/flying bus/airplane, will always be hot. PUBG has the school; Apex Legends has the supply ship.
And for some people, that’s the excitement of battle royale games – fighting from the off and collecting the best equipment from the corpses left over. Others, particularly those less confident in their aim, prefer another method: crouching, crawling and creeping along the quietest corners of the map, avoiding contact by all means necessary.
It’s a style that was especially prevalent when PUBG was at the height of its popularity. Movement is slower in PUBG and being exposed is infinitely more dangerous. So for players that were less confident in their aim, or simply wanted a game that didn’t end in the first few minutes, proning through a series of bushes, rocks, and swamps became a common way of making it to the final 10.
There are plenty of tactical advantages to this: you’ve got a greater lionshare of loot in areas of the map that are less occupied. You’re also more likely to have a better spread of loot across the entirety of your team. And, most crucially, starting the game on the far exterior of the map makes it a lot easier to gauge whether enemy squads or teams are behind you, which helps positioning for the final stage of the game.
But these are just bonuses. For the people who prefer this purely passive approach to battle royale games, the real advantage is simply being able to avoid a fight for as long as humanly possible.
That's how I got my first chicken dinner in pubg. Landed, got a shotgun and hid in a shed. Best circle luck meant final circle was on top of the shed. First loser ran into the shed and I shot him in the face. I apologised to him over voice. "That's so dirty, I'm sorry"
— Heath Gargit (@heathgargit) February 14, 2019
While I’ve always been more of the reckless type, even when I was playing games like Counter-Strike competitively, the scaredy cat approach has been the most dominant playstyle across the several hundred hours I’ve put into battle royales with my friends.
It’s partially out of convenience. My partner, who plays shooters regularly with me now, didn’t grow up using mouse and keyboard controls. And neither did a friend of ours, who we teamed up regularly with. But PUBG was basically impossible to play with a controller, at least when it was still in early access on PC.
So by nature, we adopted a more passive approach. Where are places we could find good loot? What’s the shortest edge of the circle to where the ring is now – can we get there in time? Where can we hear the other squads, and how can we make sure we don’t get caught in their crossfire?
Our entire playstyle developed around this. But as we became more accustomed to the pace of PUBG and my comrades started to find their footing more, we continued to favour the quiet approach. Getting one or two kills wasn’t nearly as entertaining as crawling our way into the final 10. We even managed to win a few games, with one match in particular ending because the enemy team ran over the top of us as we were face-down in the middle of a swamp.
It was efficient, it was safe, and every now and again – we won! So, why change?
But we’re not the only ones. I put a call out late last week, asking for others who’d shared similar experiences.
Principally, battle royale games revolve around tension and anticipation. The circle is always closing in or about to close in, and players are always faced with the impending threat of other people. You don’t know where others are, but you know they’re out there. And when you’re not confident or lack the equipment for a straight up fight, holding a two-storey building or a small hill is an infinitely better strategy.
It’s a strategy that strips a lot of tension out of battle royales, for sure. But it’s also one that helps make the genre surprisingly compatible for a wider audience. Sure, if you’re a Twitch streamer it’s undoubtedly more engaging to roam the map for fights, racking up seven or eight kills minimum a match. But for those preferring guaranteed loot and the stability of knowing nobody is behind your back, camping out and avoiding every fight possible until the very end can be just as much fun as a never-ending scrap to the final two.