Monday, January 14, 2019

Emulating Success

Last year I tried to get into Player Unknown's Battlegrounds but found that my old reflexes meant that I could not compete in a way that felt good. I lost almost every firefight even if I had the drop on my opponent. The hyper-realism in weapons operation combined with the long time between combats and harsh penalty added up to make the experience frustrating.

However I loved the concept and decided to try out PUBG mobile on my phone since it was free. What I found was a near perfect replication of the maps and gameplay on an interface that rewarded fast reflexes less than the PC version. The end result is that I can compete satisfactorily enough to enjoy the game and not feel like I've wasted 20-30 minutes every round.

The big downsides are comfort and battery life. No matter what accessories I use to enhance the experience (see image below) its never going to feel as comfortable as a big computer screen with mouse and keyboard, and my old Samsung Galaxy S6 battery struggles to allow me to play for more than an hour at a time.

So I decided to download and try running Bluestacks, an Android emulator for the PC. Basically you start it up and its running Android in a program window and you connect with a Google account and you have the play store to download apps and run them on your PC. You can even connect to the same account you use on your phone to synchronize game accounts. I installed PUBG Mobile on it, ran it... and was not impressed.

Now, before the calls of "cheater" and such erupt, allow me to point out that PUBG Mobile detects when you are using an emulator and groups you in matches only with other players using emulators! I'm not taking advantage of poor people on phones with my mouse and keyboard. I would not use an emulator if this were not the case (and I know its working because the game pops up a message informing you that it detects an emulator and will be doing just what I said).

First off, the good: mouse and keyboard integration are spot on, it does not feel unnatural or hacked in. Playing the game on the bigger screen from my comfy chair is nice. No battery to worry about either.

Now the bad: my PC is 4 years old and not bad but the performance of the game was not great. I turned down the graphics all the way and experienced lots of choppiness. I tried some tuning to improve it and its playable, but nowhere near as smooth as on my phone. I had some crashes too, not a lot but at least 1 in a two hour play session.

I'm going to see if some help from the internet will make things better, but overall I'm disappointed. I thought for sure the more power of the PC's video card and SSD and RAM would make this game sing on the PC but so far I've decided to stick with the phone. If anything changes, I'll update the post.

Appendum: as a counterpoint, I also ran Clash Royale on Bluestacks and it ran quite smoothly with no noticeable lag or choppiness, so your mileage per game may vary.

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