Since early this year, we’ve known that PUBG creator Brendan ‘PlayerUnknown’ Greene has been working on something big – he’s shown off a tech demo that produced 64x64km squares of runtime generated terrain, and said that it’s a ‘proof of concept’ for a sandbox game on the planetary scale. In a new interview, Greene and his collaborator David Polfeldt, the former managing director of Ubisoft Massive, shed more light on the project and what Greene hopes to accomplish. It sounds a lot like a metaverse, but without the usual corporate buzzwords and brands attached.
Greene and Polfeldt are the subjects of former Edge Magazine editor Nathan Brown’s latest Hit Points newsletter on Substack, and the entire article is worth a read. Greene’s project, it seems, got off to a rocky start, and he takes the blame for that – he didn’t have experience managing large teams of developers, and this resulted in some inopportune hires of people who weren’t right for the project.
Greene’s studio is called PlayerUnknown Productions and is based in Amsterdam, where he’s brought on Polfeldt to help with the kind of day-to-day production responsibilities that make a large studio work. The end goal is something they’ve called Artemis for the time being, and it’s meant to be an “Earth-sized virtual world in which hundreds of thousands of players would be able to make and play anything they liked.”
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Greene says, was originally meant to include much more than the battle royale game mode that ultimately defined it. Having first gotten into game development in the world of DayZ and Arma modding, Greene envisioned a virtual world in which players could build whatever they wanted, wherever they wanted.
From Brown’s interview, it sounds as though the main challenge ahead is technological, but it’s one the developers believe they can overcome. “Currently gaming is trapped within these kind of 20km by 20km boxes,” Greene explains, “because that’s how much you can reasonably make with a large team of artists in five years.”
So, as Brown points out, if you can create a system that can generate a 64km by 64km square and populate it with plants, wildlife, NPCs, and artist-rendered structures and objects, you’ve gotten the hard part out of the way – the rest is just letting that run over and over as often as you need in order to build an entire planet.
The plan now is to have this 64km x 64km system running in a tech demo called Prologue, which will start out as a highly minimalist survival game about finding shelter in a massive wilderness. Greene says this will grow over time, similar to how games like Rust and DayZ have developed and added new features over their lifespans.
Ultimately, it sounds like Greene wants to create what might be thought of as a metaverse, complete with a working economy of digital goods. Brown says this may or may not involve technologies like blockchain, and that Greene himself is more interested in decentralising ownership of the platform itself than in any specific technology for making that possible.
“It’s for everyone, right? It shouldn’t ultimately be controlled by us,” Greene says. “I’m quite zealous about this. It has to be made a certain way. The only way this exists is if it’s made for everyone, and it’s not made for money.”
There’s no telling when we’ll hear more about Artemis or Prologue, but we’ll be eager to get our hands on it when it’s ready for its debut. In the meantime, be sure to check out our list of the best survival games on PC to keep you occupied.