Why a Funny 'Battlegrounds' Strategy Could Also Get You Banned

It's supposed to be you against 99 other people, but sometimes, it makes more sense to work together. Bad news: it's against the rules.

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Jul 25 2017, 8:00pm

Image courtesy of Bluehole

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is a game about quick and violent ends. 100 people enter a mysteriously deserted island, but as the blue wall tightens a virtual noose, only one person emerges alive and victorious. Several game modes in Battlegrounds are designed around players working together, but in solo matches, it's everyone for themselves. At least, that's the idea. In reality, players occasionally hold back and find themselves helping one another.

A clip caught my eye on the Battlegrounds subreddit last week, in which two players drop near a road. Neither has a weapon yet, and while it's possible to engage in fisticuffs, it's time intensive and tough to pull off, so most run away. In this case, though, the players ran towards the same motorbike. Because the bike had a sidecar, it could carry both of them. This is where it takes a turn; the person driving takes the other player down the road, and conveniently drops them at another bike. In a game where violence is typically the one and only answer, especially involving contact with another player, it's an especially strange event.

"Everything happened spontaneously," the player who recorded the video told me.

It was their first day playing Battlegrounds, and nothing like it has happened since. It's possible to speak with another player in close proximity, but they didn't talk to one another.

Here's the problem: what happened was really funny, but it's technically against the rules.

"Teaming is against the PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds Rules of Conduct and is a bannable offence," reads the game rules. "Teaming is defined as two or more players in the same match working together in a larger group than is intended for the selected game mode."

Those players could have (and might still be) banned. Right now, Battlegrounds doesn't track player actions, so reporting violations requires video evidence. But in the future, when Battlegrounds gets a much-desired replay option, such actions will be harder to hide.

But should this be a bannable offense? These players weren't tipping the scale of the match, especially in the opening moments. The question of whether players can temporarily set aside their primary objective—killing one another—and work together has been a burning question ever since Battlegrounds launched in March. It spawned a heated debate on the Steam forums on the same day that Battlegrounds went into Steam's Early Access program.

Within minutes of posting the thread, the developers confirmed teaming in solo play was against the rules, but that didn't stop people from going back and forth over the validity.

"2 people teaming up against 98 other people still have a snowballs chance in hell at winning a match," said one player. "Think about it."

"What's the problem?" said another. "It's solo, not squad/duo. I just died to a team of three in a solo [match]. Is there anything we can do to report this."

(A duo match is for two people, while a squad match allows up to four in the same group.)

And while most people erred on the side of following the rules, some openly dissented.

"I highly encourage teaming in solo," they said. "You double, triple, even quadruple your survival chances, just like in the original movie that inspired the game mode. It's way more fun, you don't know if you can trust your teammates, and you have to rely on nearby voice coms only. I suggest you try it."

They've got a point! Battlegrounds is heavily inspired by the Japanese dystopian horror film Battle Royale. The 1999 film, whose concept of dumping people into a closed killing field was later popularized by The Hunter Games, can't be separated from Battlegrounds. Heck, the Twitter account for the game's designer, Brendan Greene, was once @BattleRoyaleMod.

Greene did not respond to my request for comment.

I've never been in a situation where an encounter with another player has ended in anything but a fight to the death—or the two of us running away. But I talked to a number of players who've found themselves in situations that would fall under an extremely fuzzy grey area.

One player, who goes by Valensiakol on reddit, told me about an instance where he'd engaged in a fist fight with another player, but as death neared for the other person, they started to run away. Driven by bloodlust, Valensiakol decided to chase this player down.

"I was almost dead myself so I figured what the hell," they said. "I'll just chase this guy and try to get him."

The two chased each other for several minutes, an eternity in Battlegrounds, as taunts rang out over voice chat, and as Valensiakol's prey tried to hide behind rocks and trees. And yet, the chase continued, prompting a desperate attempt to jump into a nearby car. The other player accidentally hopped into a passenger seat, and Valensiakol seized upon the error, dropping into the driver's seat and taking control of the situation. The two were now trapped.

"Once we were both in the car and moving, he didn't have many options," they said, "either ride it out and see what happens, or jump out of the moving car and die instantly from the fall."

The situation reset the dynamic between the two players.

"So, where are we going?" asked the captive player.
"I dunno, how about Gatka?" said Valensiakol. "We're pretty close."

And off they went.

"I'm sure he probably figured I was either going to drive us off a cliff or try to kill him once we stopped," they said, "and he might have tried the same.

This story doesn't end with Valensiakol and his unexpected partner continuing to work together or fighting one another; Valensiakol accidentally tapped the key that lets you exit a vehicle while going at full-speed. He died immediately, the frenemy free to go on their way.

"It was 100% spontaneous," they said. "We were originally trying to beat each other to death with our bare fists as mortal enemies who happened to parachute into the same building complex. We were both good-naturedly shit-talking each other during the fight and following chase, but we never spoke of teaming or helping each other."

Valensiakol doesn't think he should be banned for what transpired, nor should other players who end up, for a brief moment in time, working against the rules that govern the game.

"I'm all for spontaneous partnerships," they said, "so long as they happen during the match and aren't planned out ahead of time. As others have said, if you're able to come to an agreement to work together for a bit with some random guy who could just as easily shoot you to death, get a point and take all your gear, then what's wrong with that? That is a valid tactic in a free-for-all battle royale and shouldn't be something you can be banned for."

It's currently unclear how strict the developers are even enforcing bans on moments like this, and because it currently relies on people reporting incidents with video evidence, moments where players slightly bend the rules are likely to go unnoticed. It's an interesting wrinkle in a game (and community) that's still figuring out what the rules of murder are.

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