Last weekend, Epic kicked off its $8 million Fortnite “Summer Skirmish” series with a $250,000 tournament featuring top-tier players and content creators. Thanks to latency issues and confusing camera work, it was a disaster. Now Epic has put out a postmortem acknowledging that, yeah, between lag and hyper-cautious players, things didn’t go super great.
The tournament was originally set to go for ten games, but Epic swerved the unwieldy thing into a ditch after just four. Lag was unbearable, and players spent most of their time hiding rather than seeking and destroying. The event pulled in hundreds of thousands of viewers, and they came away from it in a state of near-unanimous disappointment.
In the postmortem on Fortnite’s website, Epic conceded that the tournament “did not go as planned,” but noted that it was a useful learning experience. The company went on to address viewers’ qualms point-by-point, beginning with server performance.
“We believe that there are number of factors that caused the poor server conditions during this event,” Epic wrote. “This includes the number of players still alive in the later circles, the number of players that stayed connected to spectate until the end, and the amount of dense building that occurred late in the matches.”
The developer plans to improve server performance to better accommodate in-game events that require a lot of bandwidth, like structure damage and large groups of players. Epic believes this will not only make tournaments more watchable, but will also help out in “intense” game modes like 50v50.
Epic also plans to experiment with rulesets that encourage competitors to get out there and mix it up, rather than employing strategies popularized in nature by frightened bunnies.
“Week 1 also illustrated some of the difficult player vs. player engagement scenarios with so many talented builders under one roof,” said Epic. “Complicated, snaking tunnels make it difficult to follow the action, but also amplify the lack of it (action). We’re thinking carefully about how to address late-game building for long-term health of competitive play.”
The company plans to try different formats every week, including ones that more directly incentivize eliminations. Epic plans to exercise caution, though, because complicated scoring systems can be “confusing and anticlimactic”—which could dilute the central one-life-and-then-you’re-mincemeat-on-a-desert-burger tension of the battle royale genre. The goal is to strike a balance between tactical play and flashy play.
This week’s tournament will employ a public—rather than private—server format that follows each player over a period of 10 games. The reception to Epic’s announcement has already been fraught, though, because Keemstar, a YouTube star who has made “drama” into his personal brand, takes issue with Epic’s alleged—though still unconfirmed—decision to host a tournament this Friday (last week’s was on Saturday). That’s because it conflicts with the final entry in Keemstar’s “Friday Fortnite” tournament series, which pits other popular YouTubers and streamers against each other. Keemstar had been planning to move his tournaments to Sunday anyway so as to dive-roll away from Epic’s oncoming 18-wheeler, but not until next week. Epic’s tournament this week still hasn’t been confirmed, but Keemstar believes that Epic is about to rain on his parade.
“This is the last insult I’m gonna take from y’all,” he said in a video yesterday. “I’m doing Friday Fortnite this Friday... I’m talking to all these YouTubers right now, and they’re playing Friday Fortnite. This is what you get for not communicating with me, not working with me, and just being Epic. Just being Epic. You be Epic. I’ll be Keemstar.”
He later claimed that he had talked directly with Epic about how “communications need to be better in the future.” Kotaku reached out to both Keemstar and Epic for comment, but as of publishing, Keemstar hadn’t replied. Epic, meanwhile, said in an email that it did inform organizers—including Keemstar—of its plans to run Summer Skirmish events on both Fridays and Saturdays, meaning that there was at least some communication there.
Fortnite is Epic’s game; it owns the rights and can franchise it however it damn well pleases. Keemstar is just a YouTuber and independent tournament organizer, albeit a very well-known YouTuber organizing tournaments for some of the most popular players in the world. He has power and clout within a competitive community that Epic’s only just beginning to cultivate. It’s an odd spot for Epic to be in, to say the least.
No matter what, though, this week’s Summer Skirmish tournament can already claim to be more gripping than last week’s, if only because of all the off-stream drama. The real battle royale is which stream you choose to bestow with your precious viewership.