With the undoubtable booming success of Fortnite for both casuals and more skilled streamers, developer Epic Games took what most companies would see as the next logical step: They attempted to push their game into the competitive scene. It’s a move that’s perfectly reasonable: Fortnite is a 100-player PvP bonanza where individual player skill and a bit of luck are all thrown into a huge mosh pit of a map. It’s a game of survival, and everyone is your enemy. Such simple and objective If-It-Moves-I-Shoot-It identifiers make the game super easy to pick up and play, and the building aspect is visually interesting and easy to understand as well.
So, Epic took some pretty basic steps for organizing a tournament: They asked a bunch of streamers to compete and threw a bunch of money into a big winner’s prize pool. They promised to host a bunch of games, and each game hosted would see the top few advancing onto the next round of competition. The final victor would eventually be decided in one final battle, after which a single player would be given the “#1 Victory Royale” and a bunch of money to boot. The event would be streamed using the feeds of many Twitch streamers, and live cameramen would cycle through streams based on what was happening where.
On paper, it all sounded like a guaranteed win.
In reality, the event was an absolute mess.
But the main issues don’t lie with the production delivered by Epic Games, although that wasn’t done too well either (At one point, a caster accidentally switched the feed to a google spreadsheet rather than a stream). The issue is that Battle Royale style games make for terrible spectator sports.
In the beginning of a Battle Royale game, there’s so much going on all around that it’s impossible for even the most trained camera crews to always have an eye on the most interesting point of action. With viewers watching only one screen at a time, they’re bound to miss some awesome plays.
There’s also the format of a Battle Royale game: In the tournament, the only incentive given was to achieve a high placement by being one of the last players alive. This encouraged everyone at the event to take the strategy that most consistently guaranteed a high survival rate, but not the one that made for interesting gameplay: Camping.
Almost everyone in the tournament built themselves a small, innocuous fort around the edges of the map, and waited it out. When the storm started to pull players together, they’d demolish their forts, run up a bit, and fort up again. Nothing about the game mode encouraged getting kills – All that mattered was being the last person standing.
But this was okay, right? If everyone was camping it out, then that means the final confrontation has to be epic – with the 40-some players left duking it out in one final massive conflict!
One final massive conflict that the game’s servers just couldn’t handle.
As the end battle kicked off, things started lagging – HARD. Players were killed by things they couldn’t see, were warped off of cliffs, died with no explanation of what was happening. Only a few lucky players with good connections were actually playing the game, and they just saw a bunch of people standing still while they walked around and shot them in the head.
But as everyone who’s played a Battle Royale title is aware, getting shot isn’t that big of a deal. You’ve lost, sure, but possibly the best thing about these games is that they’re so popular that there’s always another game starting just as you lose. So hit search for match as soon as you die, and you’ll be back in another game in no time.
Not so for the tournament. Since games were happening live, any streamer who died early was left with nothing to do for the next half hour while the rest of the game played out. In games where 80% of the players will get wiped out at least ten minutes before the end of the game, you’re left with 80 people sitting around bored out of their minds – with literally nothing to add.
All in all, it’s uncertain whether this is really Epic’s fault. A lot of this seems to come down to the nature of Battle Royale titles. Maybe Epic could make some changes to the formula to encourage kills, which might speed up the action and fix the lag, but it won’t alter the amount of down time between matches.
Maybe fixes will be made in the future, but in their current state, it seems quite clear that Battle Royale games just aren’t meant to be live E-Sports events.
Featured Image Via Flickr / yamato_95