FOR Ireland, the biggest surprise of E3 2017 wasn’t a console, or even a game. For many of us, the real shock was that Player Unknown, one of the biggest names in PC gaming in recent months, was actually a man called Brendan Greene — and he was from Ballyshannon.
Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (named after Greene’s alias, such was his reputation) has shot to the top of both Steam and Twitter charts recently, as the PC gaming community rallied behind a game that recreates a ‘battle royale’ scenario in an open-world, military first-person shooter.
In Battlegrounds, up to 100 players start on a large map that continues to shrink in size until there is only one player left standing.
While we haven’t seen much of the game yet ourselves, it’s easy to see why this format has become so popular, both with players and spectators. It’s the Hunger Games meets Platoon.
When Microsoft announced that Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds would be coming to Xbox One X, their new console, we nodded in appreciation — it’s always a good idea to build on community success. It wasn’t until Player Unknown himself came out on the stage, speaking in unmistakeable Irish brogue, that we really stood up and took notice.
As it turns out, Brendan Greene has had a fascinating route to success. He first created the ‘battle royale’ concept as a mod for ArMa 2, while living in Brazil. It was a ‘dark time’ for him, one in which he turned to mod creation as a way to pass the time while saving to come home to Ireland.
Such was the success of the mod, however, that Greene was subsequently hired as a consultant by Sony-funded studio Daybreak for their game H1Z1 and, after this, was hired by Korean company Bluehole Studio to create what would become Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds.
In Battlegrounds, Greene is fully realising the concept of ‘battle royale’ online gameplay that he first brought to life with his original ArMa 2 mod. His goal is to make Battlegrounds a real eSport, one in which people will come to stadiums to watch as players get eliminated from the game, standing up from their seats and leaving the play area as they lose.
While Battlegrounds is an exceptional success story within the games industry as a whole, it’s a truly unparalleled success story for an Irish developer.
This is arguably the first time an Irish developer has achieved worldwide acclaim and success at this level, on the back of their own creation. Battlegrounds is the hottest property in PC gaming right now. Brendan Greene certainly isn’t Player Unknown any more.
Until E3, Microsoft’s plans for the future were also somewhat unknown. They planned to release a new console, now called Xbox One X, but we didn’t have much info on exclusives or the games they had coming.
As a result, their conference focused almost entirely on games specifically, in which they showed 42 different titles that were coming to their platforms, 22 of which had exclusivity of some kind or other.
All in all, it was a strong showing, with games like The Last Night, Anthem, Ori 2 and Forza 7 looking great.
On the other hand, Anthem aside, there was a distinct lack of a wow factor for Microsoft this year, something many people felt they needed to get a better foothold in the market. In addition, games like Sea of Thieves (the MMO-style pirate game) and Crackdown 3 looked distinctly average in their trailers and reveals.
It was good to see Microsoft fight back in the best way possible — by showing as many good games as they could manage — but with Sony, Ubisoft and Nintendo all showing games with the ‘wow’ factor, it felt like a missed opportunity for the US giant to gain some ground.
Speaking of wow factors, it was hard not to be moved by the tears of Ubisoft developer Michel Ancel as he revealed Beyond Good and Evil 2 after 15 long years of waiting.
While all we got to see was a cinematic trailer, that trailer had a foul-mouthed space-faring monkey, gangster pigs and a sci-fi, deep space setting that looked simply incredible.
It would perhaps have been the show’s big surprise, if it wasn’t for a certain ‘unknown’ Irishman.
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