Fortnite’s giant mechanical Brutes have been contentious among players since they arrived at the start of Season 10. Players have been calling for them to be removed from the game, or at least from competitive play. Today, developer Epic responded to the calls to remove the mechs. Fortnite seems to be keeping them, because according to Epic, they give more players a chance at a victory royale.
In a blog post titled “Fortnite and the B.R.U.T.E,” Epic wrote, “The mission of Fortnite is to bring players of all skill levels together to have a fun experience where anyone can win. For example - everyone having a shot at that first elimination or Victory Royale moment.” Another part of Fortnite’s mission, the post says, is “to provide spectacle and entertainment when playing Fortnite… The B.R.U.T.E. was added at the start of Season X with this mission in mind. Since then, we have seen players who had previously struggled with getting eliminations acquiring more, while the number of eliminations earned by more experienced players remained steady.”
In the competitive Arena mode, Epic reduced the spawn rate of Brutes to account for the higher level of play. “Specifically for Arena we made the change to spawn rate in order to reduce late-game encounters. This is due to a higher number of players surviving to those circles compared to non-Arena modes. We’re happy with the results...” Two graphs included in the post showed the number of eliminations with the Brute in different game modes. The most Brute kills are found in Duos, with the least being found in Arena Solos.
Of course, eliminations aren’t the only indication of the Brute’s effects on play. On Twitter, professional Fortnite player Motor wrote, “Why don’t you show us the % builds broken// Material wasted // Damage dealt to players when used per BRUTE?” The Brute automatically gathers any materials it stomps over, making it easier for players to scoop up building materials. Its ability to quickly destroy structures makes it frustrating for build-focused players to survive. More skilled players may be getting the same amount of kills regardless of the presence of these mechs, but many feel it still has a negative influence on moment-to-moment play.
Professional player Nicks responded, “You don’t just throw an overpowered robot into the game hoping bad players will get good.” Fortnite has long struggled with the tension between competitive and casual play. The sequestering of the game’s siphon mechanic into only competitive modes was one example of this. Epic felt the mechanic, while vital for competitive play, made casual play too aggressive. Keeping the mech in competitive is, in some ways, the inverse of this situation, where an addition that makes casual play fun has supposedly disastrous consequences on competitive. Striking the balance will always be tough for Fortnite, especially as the game beefs up its esports presence.
Then there’s the question of spectacle and entertainment value, another point of tension in Fortnite. Professional caster Balla wrote, “One person losing a game by getting shot by B.R.U.T.E. missiles is too many. Dying to it is one of the least FUN things I can think of. Ever. In gaming. It is the opposite of ‘fun’ for ALL players. It is not a good spectacle. It is not entertaining watching people get mad.” Fortnite owes at least some of its success to its popularity with streamers, but Epic Games’ emphasis on watchability sometimes comes at the cost of potential competitive strategies. In April, Epic banned stretched resolutions from competitive play, saying in part “The stretched characters and distorted views detract from Fortnite as an entertainment experience for all.” The stretched resolutions did provide a larger field of vision that some competitive players saw as a benefit, but Epic removed them anyway, in part in the name of “entertainment.” Similarly, the Brute’s destruction might be fun to watch on a stream, and videos of players raging might do well on YouTube, but that it is many ways a different issue than the experience that players have in the game, especially at competitive levels.
The player community’s passionate disagreement about the Brute, as well as Epic’s response, is emblematic of the tensions at the heart of the game. Epic wants to make a game that is both competitively viable and entertaining for casual players and viewers, and the Brute is the latest breaking point in the delicate bridge between different kinds of Fortnite players. As Epic continues to try to please everyone, we’re sure to see more cracks forming.