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Review: PlayerUnknown’s Battleground: PUBG Global Invitational 2018

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

One year after the game phenomenon PUBG brought together streamers from around the world to battle it out at Gamescom in Cologne in 2017, this past weekend saw what the many naysayers would never have thought possible: the first PUBG Global Invitational (PGI), essentially the World Championship of PUBG.

Twenty teams fought their way through gruelling rounds of regional qualifiers to represent their region, their fans, and their organizations at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin to claim bragging rights and the first official title of “PUBG World Champion,” and the event delivered on all fronts.

Before I break down all the action, let’s address the elephant in the room. All those who say PUBG is a dead game, has no future as an e-sport, should bow to Fortnite and so on and so forth I say: move on, this is not the game or the community for you, stop trying to ruin everyone else’s fun.

I can’t possibly go through all the (largely inarticulate and unfounded) accusations being brought against the game, so I will let top-notch caster and streamer WTFMoses do it for me in this excellent video:

Right, so now that’s out of the way, let’s focus on what actually happened at PGI 2018: the good, the bad and the funny.

It all started with a huge announcement from PUBG Corp. at the pre-event press conference, where they presented a comprehensive 5-year-plan for establishing PUBG as a serious esport. I have not seen the full breakdown, but essentially PUBG Corp. are committing significant resources to building the scene up steadily rather than going in guns blazing, and the plan is to establish several tiers of leagues and sharing profits with the teams who play in them. This saw a hugely positive reaction from the esports community, and shows that the minds in the background are serious and know what they are doing.

Hopefully, third-party leagues and tournaments like PUBGOnline, Global Loot League, Auzom and WSOE will still be possible and popular in the same way, particularly WSOE who, with their event in Vegas just prior to PGI, raised the bar insanely high when it comes to production value of a PUBG tournament. But it is also becoming clearer that PUBG as an esport needs to establish a standard for scoring and format to make it possible to compare results.

On Wednesday, PGI2018 officially got underway. Honestly, it took a while as the pre-show was a bit of a running joke: there seemed to be the show before the pre-show before the opening ceremony before the show. It took over an hour for the action to actually get started, and even though the ever-lovely Frankie Ward did her best to get the crowd in the arena and the stream audience hyped, it was a bit of a slow start to the event as a whole, at least for the people watching on stream rather than live in the arena.

When the actual opening finally kicked off there was lights, there was music, and the mind-boggling set design was showed off to full effect – and what a beauty it was. I appreciate teams entering one by one to majestic music, Olympic Games style, but the stunt people acting out a game of Battle Royale live on stage was a bit silly. However, the opening made one thing very clear: no expense has been spared to make the PGI2018 a spectacular event to set the scene for PUBG esports going forward. This included hiring some of the best talent currently on the scene: from the hosts to the analysts to the casters, PGI assembled an all-star group of talent to bring the event to life, and the PUBG community is extremely lucky to have individuals as knowledgeable, talented, and passionate on board from the early days. A special shout-out to Toffees and Matrym though, who were sorely missed among the all-star cast.

On the analyst panel there were a few early jitters and technical problems to overcome (the microphone volume on Day 1 was just too low), but Kaelaris, Boogie and Avnqr found their groove and delivered great analysis of the games and raised interesting discussion points. It would have been nice for these guys to have some “toys” to play with, such as interactive screens where they could  show the map and break down plays to visualize some of the analysis they were delivering. This should be an addition in future events, especially to help new viewers who may not be as familiar with the game and struggle to understand the tactics and intricacies. An interactive screen would give analysts the opportunity to explain loot and rotation paths, and explore the tactical aspects of the game more. (The GLL events already do this quite well with the “Weatherman” segment.)

Once we got into the games, the casters brought pure energy and passion. Hands down, the four casters for the event were simply outstanding. WTFMoses, TobiWanDOTA, Pansy and TheSimms delivered on all fronts: puns, hype, in-depth knowledge drops, between-game analysis, and a thorough appreciation of the game and the community. It was an absolute pleasure to watch these games and listen to them. The casting talent were the shining stars of this event. Poggers!

Over five days of gameplay, including the charity showdown on Friday, the in-game action also delivered. It was truly spectacular to finally see teams from all regions of the world battle it out against each other. There were too many highlights to even mention (my favorite play was Liquid’s Ibiza’s smoke grenade chain), but one thing was clear: all the teams came to play and no one was going to go down easy.

The in-game spectator mode also saw some great improvements, with tracers put on grenades and bullets, team logos inserted into the map, live stats on players left alive from each team, and team elimination announcements. This made games easier to follow overall, although I have seen slightly better spectator angles and camera work at other events, most notably WSOE, where the people operating the spectator view seemed directly connected to the casters and reacted to their comments, showing the fights that had everyone engrossed rather than cutting away at exactly the wrong moment. These new spectator mode improvements in the right hands will prove nothing but invaluable in future tournaments.

The Korean teams dominated the third person event in commanding fashion, which was expected since TPP is the common mode played in their region. However, the European teams were able to capitalize on their tactical skill and Liquid and WTSG rounded out the Top 3 behind Gen.G Gold from Korea.

The Charity Showdown on Friday saw pro players team up with popular streamers of the game, such as Shroud, Dr. Disrespect and Ninja, and will likely be remembered for the confusion and controversy that one grenade toss from Shroud caused. (Upon examination from the opposite camera angle there was no bug, the grenade bounced far enough to not kill the opposing players.)
Again, Gen.G Gold’s players helped see their team to victory, but who could forget the sheer ecstatic cheers from Viva La Dirt League’s Ben for clinching that final chicken dinner? Epic fun.

Saturday was finally time for the first person perspective tournament, which many argue should become the standard mode for competitive PUBG (and I agree). If PUBG is to establish itself as a global esport, all regions need to come together and mutually agree on game mode, scoring, and how many rounds should be played. (I personally believe at least Best of 12 should be the standard and I’m still not entirely sold on Miramar as a competitive map.)

The first day of FPP was probably the most impressive set of games I have seen come out of an individual team since FaZe Clan cleaned up on Day 3 of the EU Qualifiers (and still narrowly missed out on qualifying for Berlin). The Chinese team OMG proved that at least this year the meme is true: “China Numba One!” They finished Day 1 of FPP with a commanding lead, a record number of kills and the loudest support in the (sadly not sold out) arena.

Sunday’s big finale was high in drama. Could anyone topple the giant OMG? And who would triumph in the battle for the spots behind them, with both EU and CIS teams giving strong performances? In the end, Liquid narrowly missed out on catching OMG and if they hadn’t mysteriously lost Game 6 to Gen.G Gold and the blue zone, or been run over by rogue UAZ’s, who knows what could have been possible? But the final day of games clearly showed the competition is close and the global PUBG community can look forward to many more international clashes like this.

In the end, OMG took home the $400,000 top prize and title of “FPP World Champion.” Team Liquid and Team WTSG placed second and third respectively, which is a strong showing from the EU teams (and should surely be enough to get the right offer from a professional organisation to sign the guys from WTSG).

Monitoring reactions to the event online, the vibe from everyone involved, everyone who attended in person, and almost everyone who watched on stream was overwhelmingly positive. The event delivered on everything I hoped for, premiered some fantastic new features to competitive PUBG, and gave back to the community in a big way with giveaways galore for in-game items. For those who love PUBG and believe in the game from the start, this was more confirmation that they were right, and I am positive this event brought some other skeptical people around on the game as an e-sport as well.