I tracked a player's footprints in 400-player battle royale game Mavericks: Proving Grounds

I've just placed second in Mavericks: Proving Grounds, the 400-player battle royale game from Automaton Games and Improbable. One small note I'm hesitant to add because it's such a minor detail barely worth mentioning: there were only four other players in the match, at least two of them were on the dev team, and I'm pretty sure they were actively trying to avoid killing me so I wouldn't place fifth out of five.

In addition to proudly placing higher than I typically do in a battle royale game (besides Surviv.io, which I actually won), I did something in Proving Grounds I've never done in a BR match before: I tracked another player by following his footprints. Players leaving behind evidence as they travel the map is one of the features of Proving Grounds that separates it from something like PUBG, where you may notice open doors on a building or spot an oddly parked vehicle, but otherwise have little evidence (besides hearing gunfire) that other players are around.

My stealthy footprint tracking wasn't really necessary during the demo of Proving Grounds I played at GDC: we were on a tiny circle of map, and I probably could have just as easily found my enemy by simply running around and looking for him. It's still pretty cool, though it's an exaggerated version of how footprint tracking will work in the future.

"You would have had to walk through wet mud in the final game to leave that kind of footprint," James Thompson, CEO of Automaton, told me after the demo. You won't leave a trail of footprints everywhere you go, for instance, while running across clean pavement, unless your boots are already muddy. Footprints will also fade during the match, so you don't need to fear someone tracking you across the entire map.

While not available in the demo, there are plans for other environmental clues to let you know when you have crossed the path of another player. When running through foliage, the plants and grass won't just bend aside but remain that way. There's a wrinkle to this, though: just because you spot some disturbed foliage doesn't necessarily mean another player made it.

"We also have the wildlife systems going in towards the end of summer," said Thompson, "and they can throw you off because it could not be a human who made the trail.

"So we're adding a lot more information but also more ambiguity to counteract it."

There wasn't much to the demo beyond some basic weapon gathering, some environmental destruction (I blew up a shack by shooting at a propane tank sitting next to it), and footprints to follow, but even at this early state it's refreshing to see some elements coming to a battle royale game that might allow for new tactics and styles of play. We're hoping to see more of Proving Grounds at this year's E3.