It’s A Right Royale Knockout

Battle Royales are quite the In Thing these days. I imagine publishers are frantically trying to find the next mega-hit even as we speak…

Grand Theft Auto is history, Minecraft is old news, the kids are all playing Fortnite now and we need something to compete. What have you got?”
“So we had a racing game that you wanted turning into a massive open world, and then you wanted players to be able to dig and build stuff, and then you wanted zombies, so we’ve just finished adding them to… Zombie Death Build Race World 2000!”
“Fantastic! Love it! Perfect! Just a couple of really minor tweaks: ditch the zombies, set it on a small island instead of a massive world, and instead of racing have the players shoot each other. Great! What else have you got?”
“Well… I mean… the AI department spent the last seven years working on a chess program so fiendishly advanced that it can beat Deep Blue two matches out of three, we’re almost ready to unveil that.”
“Amazing! Chess! Perfect! Totally fits the vibe we’re shooting for. Just a couple of really minor tweaks: the board needs to shrink by one square every three minutes, and add crates of gear the pawns can pick up to upgrade themselves. Oh, and dance emotes for the bishops. Just copy some crazy popular dance fad, that’ll be fine won’t it legal team? Legal team? Anyone seen the legal team? No? Not to worry, I’m sure there won’t be any problems. What else have you got?”
“That was it, really. Apart from a retro reboot one of the team was working on: there are these invaders, they’re from space, the player has to move left and right and shoot them.”
“Nah, retro stuff is so passée, kids aren’t interested in it unless… wait a minute! What about… if there are one hundred of these invaders? And they arrive on the screen from above. And gradually the distance between the player and the invaders gets smaller, so the action gets quicker! This could be gold dust, get on it right away!”

I haven’t tried PlUnkBat or Fortnite, but when Apex Legends burst onto the scene with minimal hype and racked up record player numbers in short order (including Melmoth) I thought I’d pop a nose in and see what the fuss was about. It’s a very solid game, the context sensitive ‘ping’ function that allows you to rapidly communicate the location of supplies, suggest directions, and warn of enemy activity is a great systems that hopefully will make it into a lot of other games. I’m not a fan of universal voice chat, and specific “equipment crate here!” messages are much easier that trying to work out some sort of mime system with basic movement controls:

“Hmm, Skippy’s jumping up and down and shooting at the floor over there… either he’s found a crate and is trying to convey the location, or he’s hyperactive and bored.”
“Or he’s slumped over his keyboard with his face on the spacebar and finger on the left mouse button, should we send help?”
“Better check if there’s a crate there first”
“Good point, it would be bad to waste everyone’s time if he doesn’t need help”
“Uh, yeah, that’s definitely what I was worried about rather than the danger of a crate despawning and not getting some loot..”

Roaming around gathering weapons and equipment is nicely done, reminiscent of Survival mode in The Division (or even Rogue/Nethack, going a wee bit further back) but at some stage comes the shooting, and once again my poor aged reflexes are a bit of an issue here. I manage the odd kill here and there, support the team a bit, but on the whole I’m more shootee than shooter. It might be something I dip a toe into now and again, but I’m not sure I’ll be a regular.

Wouldn’t it make a nice change if, instead of hunting for guns and other tools of violence, players were instead scouring the map for clotted cream, cucumber slices, a selection of preserves, bread, assorted varieties of tea, scones, ornamental cakestands and teapots, and then all got together in the centre of the map for a lovely afternoon tea? Much more wholesome. Apart from the horrific violence that would result from disagreements over whether the jam or cream goes on the scone first…

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