This article is part of our Fortnite series.
It took eight weeks, but Epic Games' Summer Skirmish Series finally showed the potential of Fortnite esports at PAX West this past weekend. Summer Skirmish had been getting better week after week, butthe improvements hit their peak over the course of the four-day event, putting on the best product we've seen thus far.
As I've stressed over and over during the eight-week tournament series, the production value is going to be what really makes a difference for this game from an esports perspective. There were far too many issues – from the casting to the viewer experience – in weeks past that left a lot to be desired. Seemingly overnight, all those issues were gone this weekend and the Summer Skirmish finale was all the better for it.
From the minute that things got underway on Friday night, there was a marked difference in the production quality. Given that this was a LAN event, Epic had all the tools at its disposal and it put them to work to create an incredibly polished product.
First and foremost, the spectator tool was here in full and used with regularity. That alone made a huge difference in making sure that viewers were able to keep up with the action at every point. This was especially needed in the final circles where there are a ridiculous amount of people left. Rather than just having to guess where everyone is at and just focusing on a single POV during the final, frantic moments of a given match, they were able to pull the camera back and give a god's eye view that showed just how cramped these spaces truly where.
Just look at that shot above. In weeks past, you would only be watching from a single perspective and would have no idea that there were eight people in that one tiny square of the map. This ensured that during the most tense moments of the match, the viewer was able to get a full picture of the action. There was no more guessing about where everyone or who each person was. With the guesswork gone, you'd be able to spend less time wondering what was happening and more time just soaking in the tense action of each match.
Speaking of guesswork, the other big improvement to come in the form of production value was this baby right here.
Yes, that is a scoreboard that could be pulled up mid match and provided a ton of information for the both the casters and the viewers. Not only could you see how many kills each player had, which is the most important information, but you could also see how much health/shields they had and even what weapon they currently had equipped. This thing even showed the distance to the storm, for crying out loud. Where has this been all this time?!
The amount of information that this scoreboard provided is simply invaluable. There have been so many moments during earlier weeks of the Summer Skirmish where the casters had no idea how many kills a team had and were guessing as to whether they were crossing the point thresholds, which left the casters sounding confused and cheapened their overall voice. With this scoreboard, though, Ben "DrLupo" Lupo and Jack "CourageJD" Dunlop could provide concrete facts on the current standings, sounded much more confident, and were able to deliver a much cleaner product.
Without a doubt, this was by far the best casting job we've seen throughout the entire tournament. We already knew that these two were a great duo from their time casting Tyler "Ninja" Blevin's event at the Esports Arena in Las Vegas a few months back. Given the bevy of tools they had at their disposal this weekend, they were able to improve on that job and really knocked it out of the park this week. There was the right amount of humor coupled with some great and insightful analysis at just about every moment.
Even during the chaos of that clip, Courage and DrLupo kept up with things and were still giving plenty of play-by-play and color commentary the entire time. If this was a normal Summer Skirmish and Zeke was casting, I can guarantee that he would have just been laughing hysterically the entire time and not giving any analysis. There's nothing wrong with having fun, but the casters are there to cast and guide the viewer through the action. The way Courage and DrLupo handled themselves during this moment was just one example of how solid of a job these two did all weekend long.
In addition to the more important issues of production value and casting, there were a couple of other improvements I noticed that really rounded out the product for me.
Since this was a LAN event on computers with identical settings, the stupid stretched resolutions that players have been playing with the last few weeks was nowhere to be found. No more switching between players and seeing grainy ass, terrible looking perspectives. I'm not sure how this will be regulated going forward since they likely won't be able to stop players from using these resolutions on their own setups. Perhaps if they can just use the spectator tool and pull up perspectives that way, they can skirt around the issue.
This last one is more of a personal gripe than anything, but no silly phrases were used at all this week! No "Royale Flush" or "King Pin" or whatever else they used over the previous seven weeks. It just left the broadcast sounded more like a normal event than something trying too hard to be quirky and funny.
That being said, it wouldn't be a Summer Skirmish without at least one gripe from me. While the overall ruleset has been refined to a pretty acceptable place at this point, there was an issue that came about when two players tied at the end of Day 3. According to Epic, the players were tied in every metric and the only way to decide the tie was to flip a coin. Mind you, this was to decide who would move on to the finals where each player was guaranteed at least $5,000. This was essentially a $5,000 coin flip. I know that they said there was no other way, but I would have rather seen them do a 1v1 in Playground instead of just leaving it up to random chance. With this much money on the line (this has become my motto, hasn't it?), this is just something that can't happen in the future. This was but one instance during the entire four-day event that left me scratching my head, though.
By the time the broadcast came to a close Monday night, I was left with a real sense of the potential that Fortnite esports has. Even one of our writers, who had never watched any of the previous weeks, said that he could see the potential this game has based on the product we were given this weekend.
While things certainly were looking a bit shaky early on during this tournament series, Epic saved the best for last and really delivered this weekend. If this is the kind of product that Epic can put on every week, the future of Fortnite esports is incredibly bright.