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Fortnite’s first Summer Skirmish event was a disaster

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Epic Games faltered in presenting its flagship game as a serious competitive sport

Epic Games via Polygon

Fortnite’s first Summer Skirmish event included a $6,500 prize for the team with the most kills, and that cash might have to be awarded to Team Lag.

I’m only kind of joking.

Constant lag is what best characterizes the tournament’s high-profile debut this weekend, when the event aired live on Twitch. It wasn’t just annoying; we’re talking about lag that kept players from moving or building. You could see them stuck in place, or jittering back and forth without moving forward. This would often cause them to get stuck in the storm, the moving boundary of each round that does damage if you find yourself on the wrong side of the line.

The casters offering the play-by-play commentary didn’t bring up the lag, even as the Fortnite streamers screamed about it in a flurry of coarse language during the event. This wasn’t a regular, friendly match; there was a significant amount of money on the line. And teams were being killed over and over by the lag.

There are plenty of clips that illustrate just how bad the problem was throughout the event, like the one below.

But the lag wasn’t the only thing that sunk the event. The rules themselves led to ridiculously conservative play. Everyone seemed scared to get into a firefight, which meant that many of the players were content to hide and wait for other people to attack. It was like watching a football game where there’s a large incentive to stay in the huddle and avoid tackling members of the other team.

“This is so weird,” a commenter on our post about the event wrote. “Every duo builds their fort and then they are too afraid to leave it, because everybody is super good, so they wait until the circle closes and move to another fort. Until you have 30 people in a tiny circle, it lags like crazy and then something happens and someone wins.

“It looks like it turns in to something that the game wasn’t designed for.”

C4 was banned after the first round, possibly in an attempt to lessen the lag. But the issue was likely the setup and rules: Streamers were playing in their homes, and viewers could follow along with their favorite player if they wanted. But the main presentation just jumped from streamer to streamer with no consistency in how each player was presented. The casters spoke over the players, there were limited spectating options, and the whole felt like just a big mess of people playing Fortnite at once, not a cohesive event.

Because everyone was playing so conservatively, a ridiculous number of players were alive for the final circles, leading to lots of building by a large number of players. That, of course, led to more lag.

Fortnite in its current form offers too much of an incentive not to attack when you have so many skilled players. It’s an issue Epic Games is going to need to address more aggressively moving forward.

And let the casters talk about the lag when it happens. Laughing when someone dies in the storm because they can’t move just seems cruel, and it’s a situation that felt like it happened more than once.

The Summer Skirmish event ended after four rounds, with promises from Epic and casters to learn how to do better for next time. This streamed tournament was a disaster, but Epic Games has a lot of room to course correct and learn how to do this better. The second live event next week is going to be a test to see if how quickly the company can improve the presentation and technical aspects of these events and present something that isn’t, frankly, a complete shitshow.