This week, PUBG Corporation revealed Update 4.1; a massive patch headlined by the visual update to the title’s original map, Erangel.
Brimming with new features and areas to discover, Update 4.1 delivers even more to players roaming the Battlegrounds. Reinforced with an unexpected, yet intriguing storyline, this update takes the grassy fields of Erangel to an all-new level.
Despite the addition of exciting new maps to the game, Erangel has remained synonymous with PUBG. It’s maintained its appeal and lore amongst the player base, while seemingly improving with each patch. This creates a unique challenge for those responsible for giving Erangel its first major makeover. Luckily, PUBG Corporation has some of the best in the business to tackle such a task.
As the world art director at PUBG, Dave Curd is the man responsible for coordinating and seeing this through. I spoke with him to help me cover all the bases, and he was kind enough to offer some insight into what it’s like to overhaul the title’s original map. As well as what he thinks players should be excited for when dropping into the refreshed plains of Erangel.
App Trigger: This update is a big one, headlined by Erangel’s visual update. Could you shed light onto the amount of work that goes into remastering the title’s iconic and beloved original map?
Dave Curd: From both a design perspective, there are a few things that go into it. There’s rebalancing loot to be more in line with our players enjoy the game today. There is an analysis of heat map data to suggest what areas don’t get the play and love we think they deserve. We discover areas like the Prison or Mylta Power, not only could use new art, but a new layout and design features as well.
From an artistic perspective, there’s a lot of work from both the Madison and Korean art teams, diligently pushing to and increase the realism of the terrain and foliage. Every building, every surface, every texture has been touched. Not only does it have to look great, but it also has to play great. And it also has to be fresh but familiar. We don’t want to change it too much and lose the magic. But we do have to change it enough to kind of be spicy and get people coming back and checking it out.
AT: What about this update are you most excited for the players to see?
DC: Well, in terms of season four, I think as a player, I’m really excited about Co-Op missions. I think we have players that prefer solos, and we have players that prefer squads. So it’s really great kind of no matter how you play, there are challenges you can enjoy. I think visually, the cohesion, from the props to the buildings to the lighting. Everything is really balanced out and beautiful.
From the gameplay perspective, I’m just excited about the new areas, players discovering them, and a new meta being revealed. We’ve added turntables randomly spawned around the map, which really opened up that “cat and mouse” tactical-gameplay as players beat each other out by turning on and off the turntables. It should be really, really interesting.
From the gameplay perspective, I’m just excited about the new areas, players discovering them, and a new meta being revealed.
AT: What’s your favorite feature or area of the new Erangel and why?
DC: It’s really great to hot drop school. Just from a design perspective, it’s still the same, but it’s so much more of a fleshed-out believable area. I think the player reads and lighting are much more successful. So I think gunfights should feel more fair and balanced. And in terms of an all-new experience, I really think we’ve done some fun layout choices in the new Mylta Power.
It’s a much more developed compound; there’s more verticality with new hills and new elevation changes in the terrain. And just interior layouts are very, very different. So I’ve enjoyed how that area plays from all of my testing.
Unlike designing a new map, such as Vikendi, Erangel already had its foundation and unique features. As an art director who’s now experienced both at PUBG, how do you feel about revitalizing a map and implementing a story, versus starting with a concept and blank canvas?
DC: It’s like picking a favorite kid, right? They’re both awesome. Starting fresh, everyone likes the blue-sky development. And you know, bringing dreams to life. But it’s just as satisfying to take an iconic PUBG map, something that everyone knows and loves, and try to make it fresh and familiar.
It’s such a satisfying challenge. If you hit the mark, and I’d like to think that we did, it feels like how it should have felt. It doesn’t feel like we remixed it, or we totally changed the feeling. It’s just like, okay, yeah, this is how it was supposed to look all along. I like to say that this is the Erangel everyone set out to make, two and a half years ago.
Could you speak to the inspiration behind this visual update and where it may have originated from?
DC: The big inspiration is my fellow developers. When we kicked this effort off, I did a lot of talking with Tae-seok Jang, our executive producer. But at the time, he was the art director of Erangel. So the first thing we did was just have conversations of where he wanted the map to go and where there’s room for improvement, due to the size of the team and the length of schedule.
And then you really do a deep dive into reference gathering, concept painting, really kind of fleshing out the initial intentions to make them feel a little bit more believable. While still capturing that soul of Erangel, if you’ll allow me a poetic thought.
I’ve read that you consider yourself to be a “gameplay-first” art director, are there any examples of this throughout the new Erangel update?
DC: The first is always being aware of performance constraints and protecting FPS. There are a lot of bells and whistles we can activate to make the game look even cooler at the expense of FPS. But once you start making art the point, you’re going to lose players because no one’s going to play the world’s most beautiful game at 30 frames-per-second. So we always protect FPS.
And then the second is layout over realism; Mylta Power is another great example. When most people imagine a power plant, it’s just a big flat parking lot. That’s the most real or the most accurate, but it’s not necessarily the most fun for the player. So we wanted to push to make sure, ‘Hey, let’s get a little bit of terrain modulation in there.’ Let’s make sure we have a lot of different fun encounters. And this also, so that’s kind of high level the two.
Certainly, that approach directly influences the player’s experience. And examples of this, from a players perspective, are what?
DC: It’s protecting player reads, being thoughtful about lighting to make sure our gunfights are as fair as possible. It’s being thoughtful with set dress to make sure we’re telling beautiful stories inside the buildings, but we’re not getting players caught up on little ankle-biter props. And you know, we don’t want the collision to make the gameplay a challenge. So we’re always very aware that we’re making a fun game first, and a beautiful game second.
Players are receiving an all-new Survivor Pass in this update, titled “Aftermath.” How much is the new Season 4 items influenced by the Erangel visual update?
DC: I would say it’s very inspired. You know, the character team was very passionate. They’ve been here since the beginning, and they’re very passionate about Erangel. So they certainly have that in mind when they were crafting these items.
Is there anything else you would like to add and let the player base know?
DC: I just want our players to understand there’s never been a better time to play PUBG. I’ve been looking at all the momentum we’ve been gaining from the recent updates, new weapons, weapon mastery, ledge grab and we’re just continuing to make it better with season four. And as season four continues, we’re going to have some things like a survival mastery system opening up, and some further refinements to our ledge grab mechanic.
So the game just keeps getting tighter and tighter, we keep learning more and more lessons, and I’m really excited for maybe a player that’s taken some time away to come back in and check out all the new stuff we’ve added.