This article is part of our Fortnite series.
It took five weeks, but hot damn, I think Epic finally cracked the code. The format for Week 5 of the Summer Skirmish Series was just about perfect. There’s still some kinks to iron out, but it was a significant step in the right direction.
This week was dubbed “King Pin” (we’ll talk about the silliness of these names later) and it was finally all about kills and kills alone. Every elimination netted a duo one point, with a couple multipliers being in place, as well. If a team got seven or more eliminations in one game, they’d get a 2x multiplier on kills for their next game. If a team won a game, they’d get a 3x multiplier got their next game. Whichever duo had the most points at the end of eight games would be crowned the victor and securing the $75,000 top prize.
Right off the bat, THANK YOU EPIC for finally giving the people what they want. Rather than setting up a scoring system that rewards camping, turtling, and tunneling for half the match, this scoring system assured that teams were forced to be aggressive to win. Sure, some teams chose to take it easy for a match to try and secure the 3x multiplier, and that’s a viable strategy. But once they got that multiplier, they needed to be aggressive in order to capitalize on it. Basically, you had to fight to win. Bless up, y’all.
From the very first game, things were incredibly fast-paced. It was no Friday Fortnite, but that’s to be expected since this is a lobby full of pros versus pros just pub stomping random plebs like you and me (yes, I’m bringing you down with me). Even with these lobbies filled to the brim with talent, there was plenty of aggression to go around. Most importantly, the late-game wasn’t just a campfest. Of the eight games played, I don’t think I saw anyone utilize the tunnel strategy that’s been running rampant in the scrim scene. There was still plenty of fighting for high and low ground, but people were still playing aggressive while looking for kills. No one seemed content to simply sit on their hands and wait for zones to close in for 15 minutes, moving from 1x1 to 1x1. This lead to much more engaging late games where true skill was on full display instead of a simple luck of the zone.
In addition to the increased aggression, this format brought increased awareness and clarity to both the viewer and the casters. Instead of everyone scrambling to figure out how many points a team had and what they needed to do in order to win, it was just “okay, they have this many kills and this is where they stand.” Not only that, but removing the point ceiling and making the day last eight games no matter what made things even clearer. With no one able to win before eight games were up, all the complicated math and scenarios in which multiple teams could win in just about every game were gone. Teams just had to keep trying to slay out game after game until the day was over. The end result of these format changes was a product that was engaging and interesting to watch from start to finish.
Even with all the good Epic did to improve things this week, it still isn’t perfect. Certain facets of this are still rough around the edges and need addressing.
First and foremost, they need to get the spectator tool ready for primetime. The good news here is that there finally is a spectator tool for these games. We know this because they switched to it multiple times throughout the broadcast. We saw top-down views of the map to show where people landed. We saw bird’s eye views of engagements to get a full picture of who was who and what was actually happening. The bad news is that we saw far too little of this. Anytime these views were utilized, it was for only seconds at a time. They’d show a good view and then switch back to the individual streams of each player, which often looked terrible. (Side rant: any player that’s using this new stretched aspect ratio that has become the new hotness in the competitive community needs to stop right now. It looks like ass and it doesn’t make you a better player. If they want to use that for their streams, fine. At least I can just steer clear of those streams. But when Epic is showing them on a regular basis during these tournaments, I’m subjected to a poor viewing product that hampers the experience.) If Epic can just get this tool ready for regular use over the player’s streams, the overall production level and broadcast quality will rise immensely.
Next, Epic needs to make sure that everyone gets into each game before proceeding. In back-to-back games, TSM’s Darryle “Hamlinz” Hamlin failed to load in due to either a game crash or computer crash. This led to his teammate, Ali “Myth” Kabbani having to either not join at all or load in solo. For a tournament with hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line, just as I’ve said in the past, this is unacceptable. Sure, Myth and Hamlinz were almost dead last in the standings and it didn’t really have an impact on the game. But what if it was the last game and the team in the lead didn’t load in, allowing the second place team to take the lead and win? That’d be a $15,000 error that could have been avoided by simply having everyone back out and load in again. It’s an inconvenience, to be sure, but it’s better to just lose a few minutes of time than have there be a huge controversy because of something that could have been easily avoided.
This next one is a minor one that doesn’t really affect much, but triggers me nonetheless. For the love of all that is holy, stop using these quirky names for everything. Kingpin. Wrecking ball. Royale flush. Stop trying to make everything sound fun and goofy. We get it. Fortnite is silly and wacky. But this needs to stop.
Lastly, they need to hire some full-time casters. I’ll admit that Zeke has grown on me a bit and each pro player they’ve paired with him has done a solid job. But still, they need to get some actual talent in there to help guide viewers through the game. Jack “CourageJD” Dunlop on the mic a few weeks back was a breath of fresh air and showed the potential of having an experienced person up there. I know the Summer Skirmish Series is nothing more than an $8,000,000 trial run for the World Cup that kicks off later this year, but they can’t go into the big time with Zeke and a random player on the desk every week. Especially since the pros will want to be competing week in and week out and likely won’t want to miss out just to cast.
Five weeks in and things have gotten progressively better each week. Whereas I was fearful for the future of Fortnite esports a few weeks ago, I’m now a bit more confident that this thing’s got some legs. We’ll see how Week 6 goes when Epic tries out a new format once again, but things are certainly looking up.