PUBG 101: Map, Circle Mechanics, and Red Zones

In PUBG, having access to the map and being able to quickly determine where you need to go, and how you’re going to get there is a major key to success. Your map will quickly become your best friend once you learn how to use it effectively.

Opening your map should be the first thing you do the moment you get into the plane and start flying over the island. Pressing M (by default) will open your map and allow you to see the plane represented as a white icon moving from one point to another. The map will show you what direction the plane is heading and allow you to begin planning your jump from the moment the game begins.

The map itself displays almost no topographical markings, meaning it’s close to impossible to tell what areas may have hills or elevated terrain around them, this is something you’ll have to learn first-hand by playing the game. However the map does offer grid-squares, if you zoom out all the way you’ll be able to see that Erangel is broken down into an 8x8 grid of yellow squares. From one side to the other, these yellow grid squares represent one kilometer of distance. If you zoom in slightly (scroll wheel by default) you’ll be able to see that each of these yellow grid squares are made up of 10 smaller, white grid squares. These white grid squares represent 100 meters of distance. This is very useful when estimating distances either for firing, or running.

Left-clicking and dragging will allow you move the map around and and get a better view of city layouts or specific points of interest you want to look at. If you get lost while zoomed in on the map or for whatever reason can’t find your player icon again you can always press spacebar (by default) to recenter the map on your player icon.

Right-clicking on the map will allow you to mark a location with a colored pin. This pin will show up in the placed location for you, as well as anyone in your duo or squad games, and is a very useful tool when communicating with other players. You can also press Insert (by default) to drop a pin at your current location. This is a great tool for marking buildings with loot for allies, or when asking for help if you’re downed. Pins will also show up as a colored icons on the compass UI at the top of your screen when your map is not open. 

You’ll quickly notice that the map is littered with yellow markings, these are buildings that contain loot. You should almost always be trying to land at, or nearby these yellow marked buildings so that you can find weaponry early on. As a general rule, the more yellow buildings in a given area, the more loot. The size of your group should dictate the types of areas you decide to land at. In squad games it's generally best to land in larger cities to ensure that everyone in your group will be adequately equipped once the first circle starts closing in.

The map also displays all of the major roads on the island, you can use this to your advantage in that cars have a very high chance to spawn alongside roads. If you or your group can’t make it to a large city when jumping out of the plane, try to patrol roads while parachuting down or run alongside them on the ground as you move to your next looting destination. Finding a car early on greatly increases your chances of survival, as well as increasing the distance you can travel in a short period of time.

  • Keep your map open when the game starts to be able to see the trajectory of the plane.
  • The map has no topographical markings.
  • Left clicking and dragging will  allow you to move the map around.
  • Scrolling with your mouse will allow you to zoom in and out of the map.
  • Space bar will reset the map to center on you.
  • Right clicking allows you to set a colored pin anywhere on the map.
  • Insert will allow you to set a pin at your current location.

The Circle

The playzone, or circle, is what makes every match in PUBG unique and refreshing. In essence the circle is a large electricity field, that continually shrinks the designated play area on the island, forcing players into contact with each other. The first circle’s center point is randomly generated at the beginning of every match, and is unveiled a few minutes into the game.

The playzone is referenced in two ways on your map, a static white circle, and a moving blue circle. The static white circle will designate where on the map the moving blue circle will stop, while the moving blue circle on your map will reference the wall of electricity that is enclosing around the island. If you are caught outside the blue circle while it is closing, you will begin to take damage every second. Once the blue circle reaches the white circle and stops moving, the damage it deals is significantly increased. You’ll want to ensure that you get to safety, before the blue circle reaches its stopping point and begins to deal increased damage.

There are a total of 8 circle movements that will transpire in every game. With each movement, the play zone is reduced by around 50% and the damage of the electricity field is increased by around 50%. This means the first few circles won’t deal that much damage and are fairly easy to survive if you’re caught outside them. However as the game wears on into the later circles it is almost impossible to survive outside of the playzone for any longer than a few seconds.

 The first circle is roughly 4,500m wide and encompasses around 50% of the map depending on where it is located. This makes central looting spots on the island such as Pochinki, Rozhok, The school, and the apartments, very popular because the travel time required to get into the first circle is almost always negligible. Even though the first circle is very large in comparison to the following circles, if you land far away from the center of the map to loot safely, you run the risk of being caught outside the circle without a fast way to get inside.

After the first circle every following circle change will happen entirely inside the new playzone. Each circle change is randomly generated, but will never extend outside the previous circle. There are generally two schools of thought when it comes to surviving the circle, playing the center, or playing the edge.

Playing the center of the circle becomes increasingly difficult as the play zones get smaller, this tactic is often best used for the first three to four large circle changes. Essentially you’ll want to be in or around the center point of the circle, so that no matter what direction the following circle spawns in, you’ll be able to reach it quickly. This tactic is best aided when buildings and hard cover can be found easily in the center of the playzone. You should try to claim these buildings as quickly as possible because other competing players will want to claim land in the center of the circle as well. However if you show up late to a closing circle and stop by the edge to med up, you might want to play the edge of the new circle instead of darting for the middle.

Playing the edge of the circle can be equally dangerous as you’ll want to patrol the perimeter of the circle constantly while waiting for the next one to spawn. When playing the edge of the circle you’ll want to do your best to move from cover to cover, while putting your back to the blue-wall. Playing the edge in the earlier phases of the game can be dangerous however because the circle deals less damage early on, meaning there is a higher likelihood of players who are caught outside the circle and are still running in. Although they’ll be focusing on getting in safe-zone, you’ll be an easy target with your back to them.

If you do end up caught outside in the blue zone, you’ll want to make sure you have either meds, or a vehicle, if not both. Being caught outside the circle in the early game isn’t as dangerous as it may seem. The first circle in specific does such a low amount of damage you can easily out-heal it with boosters, however this will eat into your medical supplies. As you get into the later stages of the game you’ll want to have boosters running constantly to ensure that if you accidently end up in the blue zone, you’ll be able to survive it for as long as possible.

  • The circle is an electricity field that constantly shrinks the play-zone of the map.
  • The white circle on your map is where the electrical field will move to before stopping.
  • There are 8 circle changes throughout an entire match of PUBG.
  • The first circle encompasses roughly 50% of the island.
  • Every following circle change will transpire entirely inside of the previous circle.
  • Playing the center of the circle is often the safest route for survival, if you can get to cover in the center of the circle first.
  • Playing the edge of the circle is best used later in the game when you know players won’t be running in behind you.
  • If you end up in the blue zone, make sure to pop boosters to ensure your survival.

Red Zones

Red zones indicate bombing areas. They are roughly 1km wide in diameter, and are marked on your map by a large transparent red circle. Red zones, unlike blue zones can pop up at any time, in any place. Although players have theorized that red zones appear more frequently in areas that large amounts of players are in, no information has been able to prove that this is the case.

After a red zone has been marked on the map there will be a short grace period before the the area will be bombarded with explosives. The location of the explosions are entirely random, and they will kill you if you are caught in their blast radius.

Surviving a red zone can be done easily by staying indoors. Although the windows of your building will be blown out, you should almost always survive a direct hit to the building you’re hiding inside of. Vehicles however offer you almost no protection, as explosives detonating around the vehicle will damage it directly and often cause it to explode as well.

Avoid red zones entirely if possible. If you have to travel through them, the safest way to do so is in a vehicle. The sooner you’re out of the bombing radius, the sooner you’re safe.

  • Explosions are randomly generated inside red zones.
  • Staying indoors is the safest option, however this takes time.
  • If you cannot wait indoors, the faster you’re out of the zone the sooner you're safe.