PUBG Madison studio director Dave Curd: “The Loot Truck is just the tip of the spear”

Who doesn't love a high-speed chase?

Image via PUBG Corporation

PUBG’s season eight is live for both PC and console players as of July 30, which means that the new ranked season, balance updates, and content like the Loot Truck are rolling into the game. 

After adding ranked mode in the 7.2 update in May, the team at PUBG Corporation have been working to continue improving the game and find ways to add content that benefits the more casual gameplay experience, along with the higher-level competition. 

Battle royale games like PUBG and Fortnite are constantly adding new features into their worlds, giving players new ways to interact with the environment while still keeping the core gameplay balanced. Each addition or subtraction can change how other elements of the game interact with each other, which is something the developers have to consider when they start planning new content and updates. 

PUBG Madison studio director Dave Curd spoke with Dot Esports about how his team approaches adding content like the Loot Truck to PUBG, balancing in updates, and the process and decision-making behind remastering Sanhok. 

How has the implementation of the ranked mode gone over with the audience and your team at PUBG? Or more specifically, how has the implementation gone on your end and what feedback have you been getting from your player base?

Dave Curd: I think that’s a big thing, getting teams into ranked. When ranked debuted, we definitely saw positive sentiment, we saw kind of a nice uptick, players are feeling it, but you know, it’s got to get better. This is a living game every season we’ve got to keep pushing. 

I think it was really cool that we’re getting teams into ranked this season because you know, that’s PUBG. I don’t want to tell people how to play, I know we have a lot of fans of TPP, FPP, solos, duos, squads, but for me, my favorite time is when I’m kind of in there with my friends. 

I’ve been playing this thing and working on it for three years and I still can’t really get a consistent chicken dinner. But what I can do is play with friends. So now getting ranked points based on assist, getting that assist credit, the ranked mode being smarter of players above and below you. It’s just getting better and better.

What was the goal that your team had looking at was improved in the last update, because it looks like you made some additional updates to things like the Jerry Can again? Was there a specific, big area that you were focused on this time around?

We try to follow our passions and PUBG is a very flat organization. We all have a lot of conversations about when is the right time to try something, when is the right time to expose players to things. So with something like the Jerry Can getting an update, that is a perfect example of something neat, be there is always room to keep making the it better live in the game. 

But in terms of Sanhok, for me and my team, we were really passionate about trying some AI. We had this idea, and a lot of the best ideas are really simple and primitive. Ours was mobile care packages and then also loot Goblin, you know, from the days of Golden Axe on through Diablo. It’s always funny to chase a fat thing and shoot and have treasure come out, you know from hunting buffalo on the plain to this giant rumbling monstrous cargo truck in Sanhok.

So we said we want a truck, we want to chase it, we want to kill it, what’s a good map? And from a storytelling perspective we thought up that this is the cargo truck that holds all of the confiscated weapons of the fallen battle royale players and it’s dropping off cargo and equipment to these various training facilities around San Juan. It kind of is what broke our story because we’re wanting to expose our universe a little bit more tell more personal stories within PUBG.

Speaking on the Loot Truck a little more, what went into making this thing what will be a very pricy target for players? Were there specific parts of the truck that the team had to focus on to make sure it was done correctly and it matched that experience you just talked about? 

Early on there were two major challenges, and they weren’t even technical. The Loot Trucks know how to get out of the way of each other and will smash vehicles like Mad Max, but those were both gimmes. The real challenges were, number one, what is the balance? If you make it too easy to kill you’ve got 40 guys with gillie suits at the end of the game. If you make it too hard to kill, if it costs too much ammunition, no one’s going to take that chance. 

The second thing is how to teach the players. We’re not throwing in a tutorial and we hope some fans will read articles, read the patch notes, or maybe see it while watching a stream, but if I just boot up the game and see this truck, how do I know what it is? So we started sprinkling in gun kits, If you shoot this [Loot Truck], little ammo boxes and gun crates are going to sail off the top in this nice rainbow arc and everyone should see that and know that “if I shoot this thing it gives me candy.”

The challenge then becomes making sure that it’s not so overpowered that it’s the new meta. Because if you just have to get the Loot Truck to be competitive, we’ve made it too strong. So I’m curious to see which players hunt the Loot Truck and who hunts those hunters.

We had a two-hour playtest and we had a final circle that was in the road. A sad Loot Truck kind of ambled by and it was kind of comical, but one member used it to advance their position. They ran behind the truck to get from a tree to a rock, the other guy didn’t know and it’s really great seeing those strategies that you don’t even necessarily think about kind of play out in real-time.

Is it exciting for you as a developer to see how the game keeps evolving with each thing your team adds to the game? After you put something like the Loot Truck in, are you happy to see the players find new ways to utilize it, or are you a little trepidatious thinking about the positives and negatives? 

It’s both. So you take a Loot Truck and kill it, but how do you know it’s dead? Well, we have to swap the model and make it look destroyed. Okay, well how do you tell the story that it’s full of treasure? You open up the truck, the doors blow off, and there are lots of crates. Well, why can’t I climb in there? Can I get in there and hide? Can I shoot out of there? And we think you should be able to. 

We had to work out the collision edge cases to let players scramble in there. Now you know, with a million Loot Trucks, able to die in a million different places in the map there’ll be a couple of cases where the way they died, you might not be able to squeeze in there. But for the most part, if you take it out, you should be able to climb into it and hide and wait to try and sabotage and ambush other players that are coming up to check it out.

With this implementation and how well you feel that the Loot Truck concept has been executed, does that give you more ideas? Does that give you thoughts on what you can do to iterate on that next to add more to tell a different story in a similar vein? 

100 percent. PUBG Madison’s mission statement has always been kind of new maps, modes, and experiences. The Loot Truck is just the tip of the spear. We hope that players enjoy it as much as we do, but the things it taught us is going to absolutely apply to things well beyond the Loot Truck, or as you said, modifying the Loot Truck.

So in additional seasons, we’re absolutely going to kind of keep pushing the boundaries of what it can do and the experiences that we can provide because that’s the “Oh, I thought it was gonna be fun because of X. But it’s also fun because of Y” moment. That’s why I’m in this business. It’s fun to play, it’s fun to discover. and it’s fun to be surprised, even for an old grizzled vet like myself.