Battle Royale emerged into the wildlands of early access, crude and technically unstable, but with enough promise that a huge audience attached itself to PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds (PUBG). This amorphous space has allowed for PUBG, as well as others like Fortnite and Realm Royale, to present their spaces as living games. In fact, one could argue that it’s a necessity for such games to evolve constantly, introducing updates and content drops, making it as much a live service as it is a game. Treyarch knows this and plans to listen to its community carefully with regards to how it will steer Blackout after both the beta and the retail launch in October.
“Constant updates,” Treyarch’s studio design director David Vonderharr promises. “There will be so many updates you’ll get bored [of how many of them there are].”
According to Vonderharr, a lot of the work in Blackout has been centered on the development team having all the necessary tools to change the experience as they see fit once feedback from the community starts rolling in.
One of the possible tunings he discussed during our cover story trip, was about unlocking characters. To unlock a character in Blackout, you must find an item associated with that character, perform a quest related to that item, and then finish in a certain place to unlock that character. For example, to unlock the specialist Battery, you have to find her special weapon War Machine, use it to kill some foes, and then place high in the royale itself.
We asked Vonderharr if he was worried about pushback from players criticizing steep character unlock requirements. “I’m not worried about game tuning,” he says. “I’m not concerned about pushback. I consider it an opportunity for us to figure out if we’re off the mark in our tuning.”
When it comes to Blackout, ‘the future is open’ seems to be Treyarch’s stance, especially when it comes to developing narrative threads hidden within the map itself. “This is just the start of a lot of stuff. The philosophical argument component here is that this is where we are today and where we go with this thing… there’s all sorts of stuff littered all over this map. And the answer will be ‘whatever the fans resonate to.’ When we ship the game, it’s halftime at a football game. You’re just starting. You’re not ending. This map will evolve. The modes you can play within it will evolve.”
Outside of tuning and a statement of its developmental philosophy in regards to Blackout, Treyarch is keeping things vague as far as specific content drops go. However, Vonderharr did imply during our rapid-fire interview there could be another map for Blackout at some time in the future, through it would not be soon. The player count could also change and other features, including the possibility of more A.I. enemies than zombies being added to the mode, could be changed or added as Treyarch continues to develop and support Blackout.
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