The game’s concept and design was led by Brendan Greene, better known by his online handle PlayerUnknown, who had previously created the ARMA 2 modDayZ: Battle Royale, an offshoot of popular mod DayZ, and inspired by the 2000 Japanese film Battle Royale. At the time he created DayZ: Battle Royale, around 2013, Irish-born Greene had been living in Brazil for a few years as a photographer, graphic designer, and web designer, and played video games such as Delta Force: Black Hawk Down and America’s Army.
The DayZ mod caught his interest, both as a realistic military simulation and its open-ended gameplay, and started playing around with a custom server, learning programming as he went along. Greene found most multiplayer first-person shooters too repetitive, considering maps small and easy to memorize. He wanted to create something with more random aspects so that players would not know what to expect, creating a high degree of replayability; this was done by creating vastly larger maps that could not be easily memorized, and using random item placement across it. Greene was also inspired by an online competition for DayZ called Survivor GameZ, which featured a number of Twitch and YouTube streamers fighting until only a few were left; as he was not a streamer himself, Greene wanted to create a similar game mode that anyone could play.
His initial efforts on this mod were more inspired by The Hunger Games novels, where players would try to vie for stockpiles of weapons at a central location, but moved away from this partially to give players a better chance at survival by spreading weapons around, and also to avoid copyright issues with the novels. In taking inspiration from the Battle Royalefilm, Greene had wanted to use square safe areas, but his inexperience in coding led him to use circular safe areas instead, which persisted to Battlegrounds.