The Creators Of The ‘PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ Replay System Discuss Its Cinematic Value And Future

Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds is out of Steam’s Early Access program and has hit 1.0 with a historic bang. Not only was it the best-selling new property of 2017, but PUBG is setting new concurrent player records every day on the ultra-popular PC gaming platform. After six months in beta, its official release has plenty of polish, new weapons, a brilliant map set in Mexico and, in a stealthy feature release no one really saw coming — the introduction of a fully 3D replay system. It’s the latter that will change the way PUBG is played forever.

Like a true battle royale sporting event, now survivors can view a one-kilometer area around them at all times with fully customizable camera placement and editing features. PUBG always delivered on player-created narratives that are built into the game’s unforgiving action, but now we get to look back at the near misses that produce a whole new level of drama most are too busy killing and surviving to notice.

I’ve witnessed heavily-armed players that look right when another person, focused on survival, are turning a corner to the left. If only they looked a second earlier, they would’ve seen a boot sneak behind a wall, and the whole game would’ve changed. I’ve seen 16 people land in a remote city, and through an action sequence that seems like John Woo movie reimagined by Robert Altman, had every player impact the battle with their own singular story.

Looking back with the new replay system, you see the truly complex and yet utterly random battles play out. In speaking with Peter Kim, CEO, and co-founder of Minkonet, the company behind the tech, we see there’s even more room to grow.

As someone who has basically been playing PUBG nonstop since its release, I very much appreciate this replay system. Were you guys fans beforehand or was this just a perfect fit for the tech that you’ve been developing?

We’ve been PUBG fans from the very beginning basically. Our technology was probably about at least three, three-and-a-half years in the making actually. As far as our technology is concerned, when it first came out we got a bit of first dibs on PUBG, you know being in Korea and having them be in Korea. The more we heard about the game, the more we talked with the developers. We found that this would probably be one of the best I references for technology. It’s got a little element of a slow-paced, open world, it’s got some of the fast shooting elements of an FPS, so when you blend the two and then you add the randomness of the game you just have a perfect setting for our technology. So yeah, to answer your question it was the perfect fit.

Were you guys involved in any way in the early stages of the beta release, or has it only happened in the last few months as the exposure has exploded?

We’ve been talking with Bluehole since about February of this year. So when we first started the project, we didn’t know it was going to be as big as it was. But, you know, outside of the numbers and the reviews and that, I think the battle royale genre, the genre basically was just an ideal sort of genre for our technology. The one thing that we were pretty surprised about was the use of the death cam for 3D replay, and that kind of took us by surprise. We knew that it’d be a necessary feature for PUBG and other games, but we didn’t know how. It seemed like the community really adopted it and they’re taking a step further. A couple days ago in Korea actually a very famous VJ, we call him VJ Dragus, in the West, but a very famous VJ was caught using a hack tool actually.

And he was caught by another VJ actually, a competitor VJ. He loaded up the thing and I think it totaled about a million views in a couple days basically. So it’s taking this replay system to a different level. I think it’s human nature, you know when you… I guess the analogy that we talk about here is, when you watch a movie or a video of a bank robbery happening, you see the last scene where the guy has a gun to the teller’s head basically. But then having the whole scene where he gets in the car, he parks in front of the bank, he takes these steps into the bank — that’s the kind of thing this long 3D replay that we’ve created. It just makes for much better cinematography.

Beyond even the repercussions for cheaters, you’re offering a ton of value in creating shareable moments. When you created this technology, did you expect it to be strictly for machinima, or will this eventually expand out to eSports where people can use your tools to either commentate over them, live to tape or could it even be live?

Well, that’s a great question. Initially, a lot of it was revolved around machinima. We thought that because Twitch was growing, YouTube was growing, Facebook was growing, we thought this would be a great technology to create frag movies. You know one thing we’re noticing is we’re sitting a lot of Mad Max-like things which is cool. And then we’re seeing a lot of John Woo type of fighting scenes. That’s the great thing about PUBG, you have the best technology. You’ve got the Mad Max scenes, you’ve got the John Woo scenes, you’ve got all kinds of scenes basically. But as you said, I think it’s taking on a different course. It’s doing anti-cheating, and then the third thing that you mentioned was eSports.

eSports is definitely going to be a big part of our technology because I think right now eSports is growing. But I guess if you look at some of the Super Bowls, and the NBA championships, and the All-Star games, they’ve got a lot of great footage there, a lot of 360 videos, but that’s sort of lacking in eSports right now. So that’s definitely one area that I think we’ll be working with PUBG and other game companies on. Showing a better presentation during an eSports competition.

I almost enjoy the replays more than the game itself, and I love the game. It’s funny that you brought up John Woo because think of the replay system to a Robert Altman movie combined with a John Woo movie.

Again, I think that has a lot to do with PUBG and sort of balancing the randomness with both the sandbox style and the FPS focus. But you’re right, I think it’s human nature to see who blew off your head. But then you know it’s competitive nature to say: “Damn, shit. How did this guy shoot me?” You go back and you review the tape. You know, gamers are competitors just like athletes. During the week they go back and they review the film. We want to see what we could have done better.

Another aspect you mentioned was the education part, the learning part. That’s huge actually. This isn’t just for these four competitors but your average gamer. “What could I have done better?” We’re seeing a lot of those scenarios play out. When PUBG first started we had a huge laugh about the dance parties in the lobbies, I don’t know if you’ve seen some of those videos?

I know that there’s some third-party stuff that you can get for streamers, but will you ever natively implement a whiteboard like an NFL broadcast when they diagram plays?

Oh, you’re talking about let’s say, like how, what’s his name?

Like John Madden.

Yeah, so he starts doing Xs and Os on the screen? That’s something that again, we’re just starting here basically. But that’s what we do, exactly what we do. Maybe we’ll credit you that.

I feel like the subtext of our conversation is that we’ve only scratched the surface of what your tool can do for this game.

Yes. And we’ve not only scratched the surface, but we’re learning too because the community’s putting out really great stuff out there.From anti-cheating to education, training, and cinematography. So just like when you’re developing games at the alpha or beta stage, you get user feedback. We are getting user feedback. So just gauging your comment about the John Madden Xs and Os… That’s something yeah, if we can, if that’s got life, why not go through with it? So yes, to answer your question we’re just starting.

Will the recording of a match ever extend beyond the kilometer radius of the players?

I think the way it is right now, anything beyond one kilometer is basically going to special streamers, or maybe even eSports competitions. The reason why is because obviously there’s a lot of bandwidth issues and that means a lot more cost from the server side perspective, from Bluehole, from PUBG, but moving forward, it’s something we need to discuss. We have some ideas. I don’t think it’s, it’s less of a technical issue, it’s more of a cost issue with PUGB. But at the same time, it’s also a demand issue from the community. We’re seeing a lot of people from the community demanding more than that. PUBG would have to definitely look into expanding. I mean, there could be a business model behind it too even. If someone wants to go beyond a kilometer, they can purchase another item or something. So that’s definitely a topic that we can discuss with PUBG.

So I know that the latest patch extended out how you can now see three minutes past your death. Why not just wait entirely until the replay’s over because, or allow the top ten, if you die in the top ten to just see the end of the match? Things get so hectic towards the end, I feel like I deserve to see what went wrong at those times.

Yeah, there’s actually, there’s a lot of discussions about that right now internally here and also with the PUBG team. You’re right and ask that but yeah that’s definitely a topic that’s being discussed right now internally.