PUBG's world art director on the new map, a snowy island with a dinosaur park and snowmobiles

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ new map has been revealed. It’s a chilly, snow-themed island called Vikendi, bringing with it new weather, a new gun and the coolest way to get around a battlefield: snowmobiles. It’s already live on the PC test servers, so you can put on your woolly hat and scarf and jump in now. 

Vikendi, in terms of size and the type of battles it promotes, sits in the middle of Erangel and Sanhok. It’s big enough so that you can spread out and actually need to actively look for foes, instead of just bumping into them, but it’s got a faster pace than the biggest maps. 

“We have a lot of players that love the fast rush of the 4x4 Sanhok map, and definitely a large amount our players enjoy the larger, more tactical maps, the 8x8 maps like Miramar and Erengal,” says Dave Curd, world art director. “So we thought, what if there was a sweet spot 6x6 with loot that’s a little less than Sanhok, a little bit more than Erangel, what would that feel like, who would that serve?”

The result is a map of contrasts, not just in terms of geography, but in architecture and tone, as well. Set in Eastern Europe, you’ll come across medieval castles and abbeys but, just down the road, more modern buildings. There’s a ‘60s cosmodrome, complete with rocket, and a even quirky dinosaur theme park. 

“In every map, you’re always going to have these iconic, central locations that really lend themselves to hot-dropping," Curd says. "There’s a certain kind of player, and I’m one of them, who really loves to hot-drop and loves to take on that first fight as soon as possible, getting it out of their system. I find when I drop at the borders of map and play a slow, deliberate game, I’m usually too scared and stressed out when I get into my first firefight.”

The dinosaur park, in particular, sounds like a brilliant, murderous arena. Some of PUBG Corp’s artists took a trip to Slovenia where they found a dinosaur park, inspiring the one in-game. It was more of a wilderness trail, however, while the PUBG version is a proper amusement park with a roller coaster and bumper cars.

“You can get on those roller coaster tracks and there’s an amazing faux-rock maze in the centre that you can explore and loot,” Curd says. “My pro-tip there would be to hot-drop into the middle of the maze and shoot your way out. There’s even a volcano display you can go inside. We think players are going to have a really good time in the dinosaur park.”

These are locations with personality, and they whisper about the lives people lead on the island before it was turned into a battle royale madhouse. While Curd knows what lead to all of these places, from Erangel to Vikendi, being in the state they’re in, he’s still keeping it to himself. 

“We have an internal team lore,” he said. “And we certainly have motivations for why towns are the way they are, how the roads flow, what happened to some of these locations, but we much prefer that players explore for themselves, looking for Easter eggs and take some time to check out the map.”

There are regular towns and cities, too, created to thrust players into conflict more often. Their layouts funnel players into interesting conflicts, says Curd, and contrast with the likes of Miramar’s Los Leones. It’s a big city with loads of windows where it’s hard to predict where danger is going to come from. In Vikendi, there are fewer windows to cover and fewer lanes to watch, which the team hopes will conjure up plenty of head-to-head battles.

Away from civilisation are dense forests and plenty of places to hide. The developers envision Vikendi as a squad map, where groups of players can find lots of cover behind walls, rocks and trees. If you don’t care about being spotted, however, you can throw caution to the wind and just speed around on the slippery, sliding snowmobile. 

PUBG’s newest vehicle is also its wildest, speeding across icy rivers and over snow-dappled hills. Regular skis probably wouldn't have fit PUBG, but a motorised bullet on skis? That's a different story. 

“Those things can go crazy on any surface,” Curd says. “They can go super fast, they’re super slidey, they’re a blast to drive and it feels really good being on the back of one of them, shooting at other players.”

The weather doesn’t just make it possible to slide around on snowmobiles—it also affects visibility, like the weather on other maps, informing player tactics. When there’s heavy snow and visibility is low, or when it’s dark and the only obvious light is the Aurora Borealis, players might be more likely to lurk inside. Clearing buildings, then, becomes a priority, and so does finding the right loadout for the job. On clear days, however, snipers can find a comfy perch and start picking off targets. The snow also means that players leave tracks as they explore the island. Tracks that other players can use to hunt them down. The stalker/prey dynamic is a big part of Vikendi, says Curd. 

“When it’s time to think about a new map, our job is to ask what can this map provide that we haven’t provided for our players yet? One of the things that we first got really attached to was the idea of the hunter and the hunted; the idea of following players’ tracks, being mindful of your own tracks and what that experience might be like. When you go down that idea, you start to think sand, but we’ve already done Miramar, so snow obviously made the most sense.”

Like open doors and smashed windows, tracks in the snow can tell players to avoid an area if they don’t want a confrontation, or they can head in that direction if they do. And while an open door just means someone has been in that building at some point, tracks vanish over time, so if you do see them, a player has been in the area recently. 

Tracks are also another way for sneaky players to lay ambushes. “That’s what I’m looking forward to when it goes live on PC test servers,” Curd says. “Seeing those streamers chasing tracks round corners and someone is there with a shotgun waiting for them.” 

They promote the kind of clever, stealthy play that, as a player who often feels like they’re in a stealth-horror game, make for the most memorable matches and encounters. You know there’s someone else nearby, but have they seen you yet? Do you have the drop on them, or are they hiding in a bush, grinning with ill intent? Probably the latter, knowing my luck. 

A new weapon is being added to the roster, too. The G36C is a short to mid-range assault rifle that works well in urban areas. “We have a large Eastern European city that’s designed around really cool funnels and choke-points, and the rifle really does some work at those engagement distances,” Curd says. “It’s a really effective weapon and I think our players are going to enjoy using it. When you go out into the forests, the sniper rifle is still going to be your best bet, but for any unique locations, like the dinosaur park or the cosmodrome, that rifle is going to kick some ass.”

You can climb onto the roller coaster tracks and start taking potshots with your new G36C now by hopping onto the test servers, and Vikendi will be available on the live servers on December 19. 

Fraser Brown
Online Editor

Fraser is the UK online editor and has actually met The Internet in person. With over a decade of experience, he's been around the block a few times, serving as a freelancer, news editor and prolific reviewer. Strategy games have been a 30-year-long obsession, from tiny RTSs to sprawling political sims, and he never turns down the chance to rave about Total War or Crusader Kings. He's also been known to set up shop in the latest MMO and likes to wind down with an endlessly deep, systemic RPG. These days, when he's not editing, he can usually be found writing features that are 1,000 words too long or talking about his dog.