PUBG Esports’ Everett Coleman Talks Wins and Losses of the PUBG Scene in the COVID-19 Era
One of our writers, Jason Parker, had the chance to chat with Everett Coleman,the PUBG NA Esports Lead. The two talked about highlights of the scene, wins, and losses for PUBG Esports in 2020, as well as what other esports could learn from the successes and failures of PUBG as a whole. It was a really enlightening interview, and we’ve come away with more respect for the hard work that the PUBG Esports team has put in just in general.
Chicken Dinners in 2020
Jason: How do you feel about how PUBG’s esports scene has grown since its inception?
Everett: Since the inception of PUBG Esports, we have constantly challenged ourselves to create the highest quality of competition and broadcast that the Battle Royale genre has ever seen. We have a very ambitious team that continues to innovate and push ourselves to try new things. The learnings over the last few years are helping to shape our next steps forward.
We have made major improvements to many facets of the program like in-game observing and watchability, the in-game esports tab and esports branded items, further strengthening the path-to-pro, and creating opportunities for sustainability for teams, players, and the program as a whole. The pandemic this year definitely had an impact on our ability to serve each of these areas to the fullest extent as we had planned, but it also offered a unique opportunity for us to refocus on the fundamentals of PUBG Esports and evolve into a program that can continue to thrive despite the lack of offline events – although, we are just as anxious as anyone to see offline events return!
Jason: Did COVID-19 hinder PUBG esports in 2020, or has the shift to online been a boon for the growth of the scene as a whole?
Everett: Of course, COVID-19 created a challenging environment full of uncertainties that we had to quickly navigate through and pivot our program as a result. As much as we would love to be traveling the world hosting flagship events the same way we did in 2019, the pandemic gave us a chance to realign our internal teams and priorities on what is truly important: in-game esports tab and higher quality esports items, more opportunities for teams and players to compete for prize money and profit off of revenue share from in-game items, and high-quality competitions and broadcasts across the world for our incredible players and fans. We have seen an increase in viewership and participation in the esports ecosystem as a whole, and we are looking forward to continuing to develop more exciting and engaging opportunities in the near future.
Jason: PUBG was one of the pioneers of the Battle Royale genre as a whole. Were there any major hurdles you had to overcome in setting up a Battle Royale esports league?
Everett: Many of us have previously worked across a number of other esports titles, so we certainly had a strong experience base to pull from; however, the hurdles that come along with the sheer number of players in a match and the desire to tell as many of the simultaneous storylines as possible is a very difficult feat. Rather than being able to dive deeply into the implications of what a specific match means for a team or player, we are tasked with spreading our attention and storytelling across 64 players. We want to ensure that no matter which teams out of the 16 in a match a fan is cheering for, we are offering an experience that they will enjoy.
Jason: With that in mind, was there inspiration found in other games outside of your own genre?
Everett: The esports team at PUBG is full of esports professionals from around the world who, in many cases, have worked on a wide variety of other esports titles. Our background and experience in esports has certainly given us a strong perspective on how to approach Battle Royale.
Like everyone else, we do look to other games outside of just our own genre to set quality bars and targets, but we pride ourselves in being a frontrunner in the BR genre. We’ve expanded on all of our experience and understanding of esports production and operations to accommodate for such a nuanced and complex genre.
Jason: Back to COVID-19 though, what challenges have there been in the production of your tournaments/events during these trying times?
Everett: The challenges imposed by COVID have forced us to change the way we operate our production. We have had to develop solutions for even the most basic aspects of the broadcast considering that the entire production team including broadcast engineers, operators, on-camera talent, and in-game observers are all working from home.
We no longer have the convenience of being able to plug a cable into a computer. We now have to depend on remote, cloud-based broadcast tools and workflows in order to deliver the level of production that PUBG Esports fans have come to expect.
Jason: Was there any concern of players cheating/hacking during these events, or is that something you’re able to easily detect and crack down on?
Everett: Cheating and hacking is something we take extremely seriously. We are combating the issues related to cheating head-on – not just for PUBG Esports, but for PUBG as a whole. To start, legal action is being taken against the creators and distributors of cheats. We are making continual improvements to our server-side, stat-based anti-cheat, implementing a new client-side anti-cheat, and we are currently beta testing a community anti-cheat program with a pilot group. Cheating accusations in the context of PUBG Esports are also met with added layers of investigation.
Jason: Once the world goes back to normal, do you imagine any of the changes you’ve had to make for COVID-19 will carry over into following seasons/leagues?
Everett: We are just as anxious as anyone to see the pandemic come under control and be able to return to a more normal esports program with the resurgence of offline events. We do believe that our team has grown and evolved significantly from this experience. This was a very trying time where we had to put on hold the offline event plans that we had previously worked so hard on and were so excited to share with the world and go back to the drawing board. Many of the new workflows and efficiencies that we have implemented for remote broadcasting will actually carry over to offline events. While the environment may change from online to offline, the experience and problem-solving is still very relevant to either scenario.
Jason: It’s not always easy to introduce people who aren’t into esports to the scene. Are there any matches or moments you’d highlight to try and bring someone around? What is a definitive PUBG moment for you this year?
Everett: The biggest moment that stands out to me from this year came from the PCS1 NA Grand Final. Shoot To Kill (STK) was in 1st place for most of the tournament, but they found themselves a few points behind Wildcard in the final match. STK made the decision to “hotdrop” Wildcard knowing that Wildcard would win the entire tournament if STK lost the fight. Wildcard opted out of the early engagement which meant the rest of the match was still open for either team to win.
By the time Wildcard was fully eliminated, STK was still down a few points, and they weren’t in the best position to survive much longer. STK was still behind Wildcard by 2 points when their last player was finally eliminated, but, before dying, Luke12 from STK had downed two players. If those two players were revived or taken out by another team, STK would lose the tournament, but if those two players “bleed out”, STK would actually tie Wildcard.
At this point in time, neither STK nor Wildcard could influence the outcome of the match. Viewers held their breath as the championship was decided by the lives of these two downed players. The points were finally awarded to STK which tied them for first place. They won the tiebreaker by having more overall kill points than Wildcard and earned their first-ever major event victory after years of being a top North American PUBG Esports team.
Jason: What is something that you think other esports could stand to learn from the PUBG Esports team in approach to production and design after 2020?
Everett: With so many players in a match and so many simultaneous storylines for fans to follow in PUBG Esports, we’ve put a lot of emphasis and attention on our in-game observing and API capabilities. Through our advancements with the PUBG API, we are able to see the game through multiple lenses. For example, the PUBG Esports API is used in a number of applications on and off broadcast like PEPS+, the PUBG Esports Player Stats+. PEPS+ takes the basic stats that everyone is used to seeing and interprets them into categories that tell a more digestible story about how a player or team is performing and what tendencies they have. Rather than looking at raw data, we can have insight into how well a player performs in a variety of circumstances: Battle, Strategy, and Experience.
Jason: Finally, are there any cool surprises coming in PCS3 that you might want to spoil for us? We can keep a secret.
Everett: With PCS3 coming up in November, we will show a continued commitment to the program that we have built this year with even more improvements and advancements made to the in-game esports tab and esports branded items. PCS3 is our opportunity to apply all of the learnings we have gathered throughout the year, and we look forward to finishing the 2020 season with our best remote event yet. We can’t wait to share more of what is to come!