1000-player PUBG? Automaton raises $10m to overhaul survival genre

British independent game studio Automaton Games yesterday announced the securing of a $10m (£7.37m) investment from Cambridge Ventures as they work on a survival-combat game of enormous proportions.

Automaton is on the warpath. Teaming up with games technology company Improbable, they have their eyes set on the Battle Royale-themed gaming space, where PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS (‘PUBG’) is currently blazing a trail to the top of the PC market.

The indie producers will be utilising CryEngine and Improbable’s cloud-based SpatialOS tech, which the company claims is ‘unconstrained by the computational and concurrent player limits of a single engine’. Therein lies the key to the ludicrous-sounding map population, which will see a thousand concurrent players occupying a single shared world, with up to 400 engaging in direct combat.

It’s a novel pitch from Automaton, who describe a company-wide philosophy of ‘pushing forward virtual world development and massively multiplayer experiences’. Earlier this year, their pioneering approach was aptly demonstrated with the release of unique asymmetrical horror game Deceit, which has turned heads for its intriguing concept after a March release on Steam.

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Currently in development, Automaton’s as-of-yet-unnamed brainchild will feature a gargantuan map with some impressive dynamic properties. For example, the world will feature a destructive environment, changeable weather, blood trails, effects for both fire and water, and even wildlife that will roam around the map – presumably dodging bullets and reconsidering the benefits of migration.

If that doesn’t sound impressive enough, the map will encompass 12 square kilometres – over double the size of PUBG’s Erangel. The decision to go large or go home was made early on –  and SpatialOS provided “an extremely natural fit”, according to Automaton CEO James Thompson.

“We’ve spent the last two years building the technology for a next-generation massively multiplayer online game that requires an entirely new approach to game design and development,” James said. “This project delivers an unprecedented fidelity and scale of world simulation, and complex interactions between authored and player-driven content.”

“I’m hugely excited that our next step is deploying this $10m investment to bring the game to launch in 2018.”

Achieving the unachievable is a key driver for Improbable’s CEO Herman Narula, who described the company’s aim “to give developers the power to make previously impossible games.” Herman said that Automaton proved themselves with Deceit, and is looking forward to seeing what they can do next:

“We’re excited by their vision for this new game: the survival genre is seeing a huge amount of attention and excitement, and we’re excited to see what this talented team can do with the massive scale, persistent world and rich systems made possible by SpatialOS.”

The game is scheduled for release early next year, with the first playable content slated for access sometime in Spring.

Esports Insider says: PUBG has seen a meteoric rise to the top, but this game is on another scale. Whether that will ultimately add sufficiently to gameplay to attract as significant a playerbase as PUBG commands remains to be seen. But whether the product dominates sales or not, this investment promises to push Automaton towards broadening the horizons of the gaming experience regardless.