PUBG responds to BOTS. Brian Corrigan's discussion on Discord

PUBG responds to BOTS. Brian Corrigan's discussion on Discord

Thursday, April 30th 2020

What is this all about?

Recently, PUBG released an update to console that included BOTS without a competitive mode. It has gotten A LOT of negative feedback. People are genuinely frustrated, feel steamrolled, and feel like the game they have been so loyal to has fundamentally changed the experience for the worse.

I currently agree with this sentiment. I also think that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, though. Brian got on the PUBG Official discord to do some Q&A about the BOT rollout on console. You can look it up for yourself if you'd like to scroll back in time to find his comments. I did that and compiled a list of his answers and what he was addressing.

I don't want to come off as either defending or attacking PUBG or Brian. I am trying to stay as objective as possible and put the information out as it was stated in the discord. With that said, Brian handled himself very graciously and answered questions to the best of his ability from some pretty toxic statements. Let's get into it.

The problems (an abbreviated version)

  1. PUBG released BOTS to public matches without Competitive Mode. This means that ALL public matches will have BOTS and the only way to play against only humans is to play a custom game.
  2. Lobbies are being overrun by BOTS. Some lobbies are literally seeing 99 bots and 1 human player. This is obviously terrible.
  3. The majority of console players have been playing for a long time now. None of these players want to battle against "dumb" AI (or AI at all). The draw of the game is fighting against other players and that's what makes it so challenging. This is a fundamental part of PUBG.
  4. The community management has been... well... terrible. It's been essentially radio silence from PUBG about it when people are looking for answers.

I could go on, but that's the general sentiment at the moment.

Some quick answers to some of the main questions

Here are some abbreviated answers (based on Brian's responses) to some of the major questions that people have been asking on Reddit, Twitter, PUBG Forums, Discord... you name it. Read the full list of answers from Brian for more details.

Please do not use this summarization as official statements from PUBG or Brian. His comments are below this section. This is my summary for those that want quick questions answered. Please read below for his responses.

  • Are BOTS going to be removed? : No. They are here to stay.
  • Why did you push this without Competitive Mode? : There was an influx of new players (Stadia) and they felt it was important to provide brand new people with an experience that would allow them to compete. Competitive Mode wasn't ready to go so they made the decision to release BOTS alongside Stadia.
  • When is competitive mode coming?* : No specific date was given. The official answer is "Ideally [..] it's next month". Read more below for the full response to that.
  • Why are there so many bots in every game? : This is an unintended result of some player miscalculations and an unintended result of how MMR was implemented. They are working to address this issue ASAP.
  • Why did console get it before PC without testing or Competitive Mode? : The short answer is there was going to be an influx of brand new console players (Stadia) and they wanted (possibly needed) to have it ready for that launch. It wasn't an easy decision and the issue got compounded by issues related to MMR and the number of bots in each game.
  • Is the team aware of the outrage? : Yes. Very aware.
  • What are the numbers related to new Stadia users? : PUBG knows the exact number but contractually they can't and won't share that information.
  • Are BOTS really necessary for new users to adjust to the game? : "Absolutely necessary."
  • Will BOTS always be this dumb or will there be smarter, more difficult BOTS. : There are varying levels of AI intelligence and there will definitely be more competitive BOTS on the servers.

Official comments from Brian on Discord

Brian spent two hours or so in the public discord answering questions from people who happened to be in the Discord at that time. It's not a good solution when people want official statements on public forums but he truly did answer questions as straight-forward as he could. (At least that's my approximation of it). I appreciate Brian getting into the pit with some pretty toxic people (not all were toxic) and doing his best to address some of these problems. I hope that you, the reader, will try to understand that on the other end of the line there are real humans.

Here's the transcript.

  • hey all - I can probably answer some bot questions if there are any.

  • Bots aren’t going to be removed. Rather, Competitive Mode is coming shortly that will give people a way to play with or without them. There’s no conspiracy going on with Google.

  • [@user] just to give you more detail, having 100 players, where the vast majority are bots is not really the intention either. that’s going to get adjusted asap.

  • [@user] unfortunately there’s going to be a few weeks here while comp gets rolled out where there’s not an option.

  • On competitive mode details and what that looks like compared to normal mode. : We’ll release them ASAP, and before the mode goes live.

  • Comp is coming later in the season. ASAP.

  • On map selection queue splitting vs adding a new comp mode. : [@user] regarding map selection, its a different degree of challenge. Allowing map selection multiplies the number of queues total by 5, whereas comp does by 2. There are other options for map select though. Personally I think the way guildwars 2 has preference and weight random voting is a good direction to go.

  • On MiniRoyale and BattleRoyale queues and why those weren’t implemented but Comp and Normal will be. : MiniRoyale and BattleRoyale is not a good solution. We’ve known ranked was coming for a long time, as well as Labs, Feature Modes, maps etc. You can’t combine all these things and still have a map split like that without being a much larger region. It’s not possible in NA anyways. That said, this is game design issue. That’s one solution, but not the best one, if the goal is to get map selection back.

  • Of course we track match wait time, for every player, for every game.

  • [@user] No worries, trying to give you actual answers.

  • On why console got bots first and without comp mode. : [@user] console got them first because of the timing with Stadia. We would have loved to hold it for another few weeks, but as I said earlier, we’re working hard to get Comp Rank out too. Console got an influx of new players due to the new platform. New Player retention is critical for the future of console.

  • It’s not Stadia, it’s about the influx of new players coming because of stadia.

  • New platform means new players. It’s because of new players.

  • On if the team is aware of the outrage. : We're all very aware of sentiment. Very aware.

  • On why his team isn’t working on BOTS. : […] there’s nothing this team can do about the bot situation. This part of the engineering team who works on Comp Rank and Mastery.

  • On if PUBG knows official Stadia usage numbers. : We absolutely know.

  • On sharing exact, official numbers about Stadia player usage. : […] We’re a public company, and we can’t just share data like that randomly in a Discord. There’s a contract with XBOX, Sony, Google, Steam, Kakao, etc. It doesn’t work that way.

  • On comments about the higher player numbers in China/Asia. : [@user] just to call it out - there’s a lot of numbers people forget. Kakao, Mail.RU, DMM, etc etc. But yeah, any game in China has the majority of players in China. That’s true for LoL and almost any other game.

  • On using Steam as a representation of player base. : Steam numbers show only a small part of the picture

  • On the necessity for BOTS to help new players adjust to the game. : absolutely critical.

  • On “was it worth it to piss off everybody and release BOTS early?”. : [@user] yeah, internally I summarize this as two issues

    1. Bots / Com were always designed to work together. We knew it would be a problem while they weren’t live together, though it shouldn’t have been this big of a problem. That was caused by:
    2. The balancing numbers for bots, calculated based on influx of new players, number of high skill players, etc were not accurate. I don’t know specifically why they were off, but really clearly they were off. They’re having a bigger impact than there were supposed to.
  • On the sentiment and the reaction from the team based on the recent outrage. : Nobody wants to have days like the last two

  • On competitive ranking and how it differs from standard season statistics. : [@user] […] comp rank tracks its own season stats, and given that there will be a few rule changes there too, the design (and the rank algorithm) is the best way to measure skill. The stats there will be pretty meaningful.

  • On how comp ranking is calculated and ADR (average damage per round). : ADR is too easy to game. What I mean is, people can cheat their way to a higher number. Heals and such.

  • On the ambiguity in his answers about when competive mode will be released (a few weeks, ASAP, “this season”). : To clear up the comp rank schedule “this season” is what we’ve said (well I said) . And you can look at the release schedule, which is pretty regular, and infer from there. [...] We release monthly, as you probably know. Usually around the 22-27, so there's two releases left this season. Ideally, barring any last minute issues, it's next month. If there are QA problems, it's the following. That's the answer.

  • hey all - i have about 10 minutes left, I'm happy to answer any more questions that I can. Heart you guys too, no matter what it feels like. This is my life.

  • [@user] If we're getting bots on PC too, is it at least possible to increase the bot difficulty? To the point where it can seriously hurt you if you're out of cover for too long? On that one.. yeah, the difficulty will be increased for sure over time. Internally we have this new bot called “Ultron” that is apparently (I haven’t tried it) almost too good. But for now, the main point of bots was for new players

  • Editor Note : There will not actually be a bot called “Ultron” in the game yeah, silly name. Developers like names like that for internal projects. Obviously it won’t go public with that name

  • On Matchmaking - Editor note: Brian was one of the pioneers of modern, massive scale matchmaking. He knows what he’s talking about | [@user] "[…] will MMR fixes account for the length of time a player has been playing then? I’ve been playing since 2017. I don’t need bots no matter what my stats say". : [@user] someday I need to teach a class on matchmaking.... i've built it for so many games now. Your question is totally reasonable.. but if you think about it in terms on matchmaking, wait times, etc. To make what you proposed work, you need to have enough similarly skilled players in queue, not currently playing, to give you a fair match. The key there is "not currently playing". Nobody wants long wait times in a normal game mode. Interestingly in competitive, it tends to be more accepted. So really the answer is simply a math equation :slight_smile:

  • [@user] BR Matchmaking is hard. Its ridiculous actually. You're correct. Games with 5v5 have so easy

  • On the suggestion that “[@user] MMR should be estimated by matches played.” : [@user] we did something different, that to my knowledge hasn't been done before, but I do believe it fits BR pretty well. The long answer is "yes and no". For games with super small numbers of players in a game (say, 5v5) MMR works because you can match players up pretty efficiently. For BR, to get 64 or 100, it’s almost impossibly without super long wait times. But also interesting with BR, some level of randomness is accepted by players as part of the experience. I mean - SUPER tries to eliminate as much as possible (which is why it feels different.. with things like static spawns) but normal BR, if anything, enhances it. Anyways - for Comp Rank, we're kind of splitting the difference a bit. The algorithm itself considers encounters and skill gaps between players. At the same time matchmaking tries to generally match skill groups broadly. Finally, the rules keep some of the randomness (because we want to make sure players who like the current BR still love Comp Rank.. in face we hope you like it MORE) while still removing a few of the more controversial random elements that by the time you get to a certain skill level feel more like a DEUS EX issue than a skill issue.

  • On what players want vs what's possible in a BR like PUBG. : [@user] Here's what players want:

    • Play any mode, any perspective, any map.
    • Play when I want, with who I want.
    • Play against only humans.
    • Low matchmaking times.
  • You have to understand, if we could give you that, of course we would. That's not how it works though. That list competes with itself, you can't have all of those things by definition without a completely unlimited pool of players. Game design, like any design, operates on constraints. We have to balance it as best we can. Yes, bots kind of provide a cheat there, which is why for casual players, we think it works. As I've said though, we understand when you "graduate" which, in fairness, most of the console community has due to their dedication and long term investment, you want a more serious game. We have to give you a place for that too, which is Competitive.

  • [@user] "im asking what is the plan for if people start having issues with long wait times when we do get ranked mode. because i got a feeling its going to , and people are not going to be ok with it. that should been seen now with the complaints on longer wait times right now." : [@user] to be honest, part of that IS bots. Because anyone who “graduates” will be gently nudged to Competitive. the more players there, the shorter the queue times. To solve that problem ultimately you need new player retention.

  • But yeah, [@user] hopefully the influx of new folks (which is happening right now btw) graduate and enjoy ranked. Ranked will also have fewer modes, because we should be (as a community) more opinionated about what modes we offer there.

  • [@user] "So you will just add squads? […]" : I’m not saying that specifically, but fewer. It might differ by region even. you’ve probably seen the esports teams are doing a lot of work to help in this area too.

  • [@user] "The biggest issue with what you have stated here is that bots were not released at the same time as Competitive and players were not given a way to play without them. Something like this needs a way to be disabled rather than forcing it at us." : Yeah [@user] you're right. Yep. We just made the decision, despite that, to get it out due to the influx of new players on console. It wasn't an easy decision, compounded with the balancing problems I mentioned previously.

  • On bringing Mobile players to console. : [@user] Mobile users are mostly likely to play stadia. In fact, they are! And you’re playing against them now. Convincing them to purchase a console a few months before they’re all replaced by newer versions is not a great proposition. I don't mean to say I have specific data on this, just incidental based on the articles I shared above, etc. Mac users too FWIW.

  • On cross play between Tencent’s mobile version and console. : [@user] always an option, though balancing there is super hard.

  • On MMR and SUPER settings. [@user] SUPER doesn't work for MMR. It doesn't adjust for skill gaps. But the ranked algorithm is a modified version of the Esports scoring system, and it's very respectful to the design intent

  • On questions about SUPER compensatating for skill gap? : If you check the algorithm, you'll see it doesn't adjust for it. No Esports scoring system does. This is an old paper, but a good one!

  • hey console folks - I need to jet, I'll try to hop in again later. Again, I'm sorry for all the pain and suffering around bots, especially with such a bunch of cool Vikendi changes. Cheers and thanks

My comments (PUBG Lookup), to close it out

I think Brian did a great job of trying to answer questions as honestly as he can. Does this answer every question? No. Are all of the answers the answers we want? No. This is a start and it's great that somebody as high up the food chain as Brian was out there answering questions but it just isn't enough right now.

I'm not a fan of BOTS, I wish it hadn't been rushed out the door. I wish the bot percentages in-game were at least stabilized right now. I am in the same general consensus as the rest of the community. I do believe that their long term plan could work out very well. It's a shame that this is the start of it and it's being so poorly received. Competitive Mode for stronger players and a public mode with some percentage of BOTS does sound like a positive thing to me. It gives you the option to learn the game, play in matches where you can get the satisfaction of a kill or possibly a win, and then "graduate" up to a more competitive setting. My personal opinion is that will be great if the playerbase can sustain the new queues. It remains to be seen how that will be implemented.

Communication has to improve. It just does.

We need PUBG to communicate in a more official way than having the Head of PUBG US answer questions on Discord. I think that's a fair criticism. We've been promised transparency and more communication for a while and now is the time to fulfill that promise. Community managers should be answering questions, there should be official posts from PUBG answering these questions, these communications should be EASY TO FIND to reduce the amount of misinformation and frustration. We may not get the answers we want... But some answers are better than no answers.

This is a game unlike any other. This game has a playerbase unlike any other... We are loyal, passionate, and very involved. With that comes the responsibility from the PUBG team to speak to us as plainly and clearly as they can (like I think Brian did in Discord) on more official platforms. To get this information I had to scroll through a lot of the discord and copy everything that was answered and summarize the topic. It shouldn't be up to people like me to do that. I truly believe that they are fully aware of this... I just don't know why it's not being addressed.

I am truly looking forward to progress. I am truly hopeful that PUBG will open up their communications with the community. I personally agree that BOTS will make it easier for new players and that more skilled players won't deal with bots like they are currently implemented.

I am staying positive about this, but this rollout has definitely been a problem.

Lastly... Please don't shoot the messenger. I'm going out on a limb even posting this. I'm trying to provide information when information is hard to come by. I have no inside information and I am certainly not a part of anything related to decisions made by PUBG. I have just about zero communication with PUBG other than what is public on Reddit and Twitter.

You can follow me on Twitter @pubglookup if you'd like to chat more.


Brian posted a more comprehensive list of questions and answers on reddit. Read the article