INVEN Game Conference talk with PLAYERUNKNOWN

Introducing INVEN Game Conference(IGC) Speaker Brendan “PLAYERUNKNOWN” Greene.

Brendan Greene, now Creative Director for Bluehole Ginno Games, started his career in games as a mod maker for the Arma series. He created the Battle Royale mod, and has now successfully established it as a new genre in gaming. Currently he is working on PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS.

Battle Royale is a unique genre. To survive, players must loot for items throughout the map, all the while trying to figure out the next move of other players. Everyone starts with nothing, making it the best genre to experience this unique type of “survival” game.

Creative Director Brendan Greene is a successful figure in the Arma modding community, and is now developing and creating his own version of the Battle Royale game-mode in “PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS,” within this quickly expanding genre.

Lecture Theme: The Story of PLAYERUNKNOWN, From Mod Maker to Creative Director

Photographer, Graphic Designer and then Mod Developer – How he became a Mod Developer

Brendan’s career before becoming a mod maker was as a graphic designer and photographer. He majored in Fine Arts, but later moved on to design and event photography. Brendan doesn’t consider himself a true gamer as he doesn’t play a lot of games, but rather sticks to playing a few games he loves over a long period of time.

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Brendan’s first experience of multiplayer gaming was on telnet playing MUDs (Multi User Dungeon) in college. He loved the ability to interact with other players, and while the basic idea of moving from place to place collecting items was a simple one, he enjoyed the difficulty and challenges of meeting and battling other players in a virtual world.

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Brendan got his first view of mod development when he discovered Delta Force: Black Hawk Down, and he was impressed by how the game gave the player the ability to create their own maps, and game modes. One thing Brendan remembers the most about the game was the realistic ballistics and challenges this created, especially when he was playing as a sniper and trying to aim and hit players at distances over 1km. This game left a lasting impression on him of the endless possibilities that modding can provide to a game.

Americas Army 2/3 was the game that influenced Brendan the most. When making mistakes, most games did not have a strong feeling of loss due to constant re-spawning, yet because Americas Army did not have a re-spawning system, he says he had to learn to be careful when playing each round.

Brendan fell into the Battle Royale genre about 5 years ago thanks to the DayZ mod on Arma 2. He first encountered this game while living in Brazil, and unlike other games, DayZ did not have a storyline or growth factor. All that mattered was surviving. This game helped Brendan realize he didn’t have to develop games that were like every other game.

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Brendan officially started modding after meeting a player called Devilwalker during his time playing the DayZ mod while living in Brazil. With his support they created a custom DayZ mod server called DayZCherno+. The server was centered around PvP, and less about the survival aspects of the DayZ mod. They made it easier to find weapons, which created much more combat situation which their player base found more engaging and fun to play on.

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DayZCherno+ was the first time Brendan experimented with level design, adding many new locations to the map. One of these was called The Arena, where 2 teams would face of in a custom build location. The popularity of the server gave Brendan the confidence to try his hand at creating his own mod.

After running the server for just under a year, Brendan decided to create his own mod based on the idea that players enjoyed a survival type PvP game. He found that players on the DayZCherno+ usually played for only 1-2 hours, and taking inspiration from the popular Survivor GameZ event in the DayZ mod and the film Battle Royale, he went on to create DayZ Battle Royale for Arma 2.

Battle Royale based in the DayZ mod for Arma 2, and why Arma is a great game for mod makers.

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Brendan firmly believes that one of the most important factors in increasing game engagement was a strong background, and he created a teaser image for the mod he was working on with a short story to help give DayZ Battle Royale some lore. Brendan didn’t have much experience when it came to game programming, and even less about how modding worked within the Arma engine, and the first months of the mods development were quite hard for him. But over time, and with the help of the Arma modding community, he completed DayZ Battle Royale for Arma 2, and then moved onto bringing the mod into Arma 3, where PLAYERUNKNOWN’S Battle Royale was born.

“Arma 3 is still one of my favorite games. I also think they have the one of the best looking games. Because of the scale of their worlds and realistic simulation of weapons within the game, Arma 3 Battle Royale is still my favorite version of my game mode. But during the year and a half I spent creating the mod, I wasn’t earning much money, so I had to live with my parents, which was difficult (laughs).”

Moreover, in creating the Arma 3 mod, Brendan had confidence that this would be successful as both a game-mode and possible esport. While games like CS:GO are extremely successful as esports, he wanted to create a game-mode that tested players in situations that were different every time and relied on a players tactical knowledge, not just the speed of their reflexes.

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He says that the greatest strength of Arma 3 is that there is a hugely passionate user community that continues to create new content for the game and also that he could quickly iterate on the Battle Royale idea and create new versions based on his original game-mode. He went on to create Street Fight and Battle Royale: WAR. His game-mode, Battle Royale: Ghost Hotel, secured him second place in the multiplayer game-mode section of Bohemia Interactive’s Make Arma Not War competition. In partnership with the Iron Front mod team, he also created a WW2 version called Iron Front: Battle Royale.

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As the Battle Royale mod for Arma 3 grew in popularity, so did the development team. They took charge of creating new systems that helped give the mod depth and replayablity. For example, the development team created a match tracking system and ELO based ranking system which has led to highly competitive seasons and finals every 4 months. Brendan did not make much money from the Arma 3 mod, and to date still pays for server costs out of his own pocket, but he says that he is not concerned about monetary gain, but rather on just creating a good game.

Some time passed, and during the development streams of the new game H1Z1, he heard his game-mode mentioned by the development team. Soon after, he was contacted by the then CEO of Sony Online Entertainment, John Smedley, and shortly after he was flown to San Diego for talks to license his game-mode for use in their upcoming game. He says he will forever be grateful for the opportunity they gave him as it is not something that most mod makers will ever be offered.

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H1Z1 and Arma 3 are very different from each other. While his Arma 3 game-mode focuses of extremely high realism and a large weapon set, H1Z1 is a simplified version of the Battle Royale game-mode. He says that while he loves what H1Z1 has done with the game-mode and the opportunities it has provided him; it is not what he envisioned for his own version of the game. This lead him to give the H1Z1 team complete control over how they went forward with his idea while he focused on creating his own game, PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS.

The Battle Royale genre was kickstarted due to the popularity of his game-mode within H1Z1. Brendan is quick to point out that the Battle Royale / last man standing type game-mode is not his creation, but rather he simply chose to create his own spin on it and it he feels lucky that it has become a huge success.

Over the next year, other games began to include a similar game-modes such as ARK: Survival of the Fittest and The Culling to name a few. He says that he is very happy to see the Battle Royale game type he first applied to a game grow this much.

From mod developer to Creative Director – How Brendan started working with Bluehole.

Four years after creating the Battle Royale mod, numerous game companies had contacted Brendan, yet no one really shared the same vision as him. This is when a producer from Bluehole emailed Brendan explaining how he had planned to create a Battle Royale type game for the past 10 years. The ideas this producer shared with Brendan via email were very similar to Brendan’s vision. They had a meeting, and after seeing the concept and ideas the team had, and Brendan decided to join Bluehole to make his game.

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PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS is currently being developed and will include modding. Since Brendan started in game development with modding, he wants to allow other users to create their own mods. He has placed the main focus of the game in building a strong world with good gameplay mechanics. If mod development is made possible within a game, not only might many mods come from it, but he also believes it will lengthen the lifetime of the game. The talented artists that are part of the BATTLEGROUNDS team cannot be overlooked. Bluehole not only has excellent artists in-house, but also work with some of the best artists from around the world. They work with artists whose previous work includes the Call of Duty series, Deus Ex and Evolve.

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As an example of how committed the team are to creating a realistic world, currently they are starting the process of creating new vegetation using the SpeedTree tool and he says that the artist responsible for creating these spent a week reading “The Trees of Crimea” in order to create the correct vegetation set for the island.

Overall, Brendan continues to aim for creating the most realistic world possible, but in order to add more fun to the game-play in BATTLEGROUNDS, they are adding elements that are more akin to pulp realism, for example bodies flying backwards when shot with larger caliber weapons. Adding such elements will make the game more visually appealing and fun to play.

“I lack professional experience in the game industry as I spent most of my career as a photographer and graphic designer. But due to my lack of knowledge about game engine technology and what is technically possible, it allows me to be free to use my imagination because I do not know much, and I am not limited by knowing what is actually possible, if that makes sense. This causes the engineering team to look at me like I am mad quite often when I make requests, but it has led to some great features being added to the game. This may sound like a cliché, but you have to dream big to make great games, so I want to encourage you all to keep following your dreams.”

Brendan is currently working at Bluehole as the Creative Director after being a photographer, graphic designer and mod developer. It could have been luck, but all this was possible because he had dreams he did not give up on, and with much effort, he did not fear breaking the rules. This is what made his dream possible. It will be interesting to see how the Battle Royale genre will grow with the addition of Bluehole’s “PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS.”

Q&A

Q. Recently the biggest interest among mod developers is income. Please share with us your thoughts on this.

A: “When I first began modding, I didn’t do it to seek monetary gain, but rather to create something that players would enjoy. But creating a mod, and hosting servers does cost money and herein lies the problem. I could not have created such a great game-mode in Arma without the inclusion of the work of several great teams of content creators. Due to this, I refused to try monetize my servers. But Arma has taken steps to allow server owners to try recoup their costs, and I believe they are doing a good job in this regard. Ultimately though, any systems that allow modders to derive income from their work must protect the actual content creators whose work may be included in their mods.

We have not finalized how mods will work in BATTLEGROUNDS as of yet, but we do plan on making hosting these mods less of a burden on their creators by providing servers for free. I hope this will allow more mod developers to focus on creating great ideas and worry less about how they will keep servers online for their player base.”

Q. You mentioned various developers from around the world are working together. Please elaborate on how you make it work.

A: “We have about 10 developers that are working remotely with us from outside Korea. While this sometimes is a challenge, we live in a very interconnected world and frequent conference calls and emails help keep all of us on the same page. We have an excellent production director and we plan everything down to the smallest detail which goes a long way in ensuring everything runs smoothly. One of the perks would be that since we have developers in various part of the world we essentially have people working 24 hours a day (laughs).”

Q. What will you do to make your version of Battle Royale stand out?

A: “I get this question a lot. I have no plans on changing the basic Battle Royale game-mode as I believe it works well. BATTLEGROUNDS will however have a much more in-depth weapon and attachment system than previous versions, alongside several improvements to other systems from the Arma 3 mod. In order to create a good game, I feel simplicity is most important. While we will not change the basic Battle Royale characteristics, we will be adding the ability to level-up your character during each match by means of attachments and other systems.”

Q. You mentioned that your parents were not overly happy when they heard you were making a mod, that was not supporting you financially. How did you support yourself and how did you convince them?

A: “I paid for the Arma 3 mod servers, for the most part, with donations from players. When I returned home from Brazil I had no full-time job, so I was on social welfare for some time. I had some conflicts living with my parents in the beginning, but I think they realized I would finally start to make some money after I was first contacted by SOE, and when I was mentioned in Fortune magazine last year, they really started to believe in me. But before that, it was hard. I told them it was something I believed in, but understandably they had their doubts. But I continued, and after I was contacted by SOE, I gained their absolute confidence.”

Q. You said it was important to create a strong map. Please describe the feel you are aiming for.

A: “One of the most difficult aspects of open world game development is creating an authentic feeling world. Arma spend a lot of effort when designing their worlds, going to the actual regions to record sounds and videos of the real world location. But due to the scale of our project, this is not something we have the ability to do. When creating a world like this, you need to have a thorough understanding of the history of the location as well as trying to tell the story of what life was like there. For our island I spend quite some time writing up a thorough explanation as to how life progressed over hundreds of years. Doing this gives the art and design team a great base to work from and ultimately makes their job much easier when creating unique locations throughout the map.

BATTLEGROUNDS is based on a Crimean island that was abandoned in the 1980s. Our lore tells of how it was occupied by Soviet forces from the 1950’s onwards, that a resistance of locals formed to reclaim the island from them which eventually lead to an event which caused the island to be abandoned. Luckily we are working with 2 Russian artists, and they provide us with great feedback on how the island and environment should look.”