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Fortnite Summer Skirmish 'postmortem' examines server issues and dull gameplay

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The first week of the Fortnite Summer Skirmish "did not go as planned," Epic admitted in a recent "postmortem," which may be a bit of an understatement. (James was somewhat more to the point about it in his analysis.) But the good news is that developers learned some valuable lessons from the experience, and they're working on ways to improve things for the next round. 

Epic blamed poor server performance during the tournament on three factors: The number of players who were still alive late in the game, the higher-than-usual number who hung around to spectate after they were killed, and heavy late-match construction. Addressing those issues is the studio's top priority. 

"For example, when an explosion damages a large number of building pieces, and each piece needs to send that event to a large number of connected clients, we get a big spike in server CPU load," Epic explained. "We have a lot of ideas about how to handle cases like this better, and are working on that right now. We also think that this work will improve server performance for other intense modes like 50v50." 

The nature of Fortnite itself also presents challenges, which becomes particularly apparent when so many skilled players are crammed together in a single match. "Complicated, snaking tunnels" do not make for the most compelling viewing experience, and Epic is kicking around ideas to address that for the "long-term health of competitive play." That will likely include switching up and reworking formats during the series, although it doesn't want to stray too far from the game's "core values and play experiences." 

"The one-life survival dynamic creates tough real-time decisions for competitors. Each engagement against similarly skilled opponents presents a risk assessment scenario that is typically not apparent for those competitors (or viewers) when observed in public matches," Epic explained.   

"Competitors generally need to expend a lot of resources (ammo, health, materials) when attempting to eliminate their opponents. And in team-based play (Duo or Squads) they’re also required to spend additional resources to secure the elimination against a downed opponent. Tactical play becomes more beneficial than flashy play - and that’s where we’ll need to strike the balance." 

In a way (to roll out one of the few sports analogies I'm semi-familiar with), it sounds a lot like the neutral zone trap in hockey: It's boring and not much fun to watch, but the bottom line is that it's effective and so it's not likely to go away without some kind of intervention from Epic—which it's understandably reluctant to do. 

Week 2 of the Summer Skirmish series will feature a "public server format," with player performance tracked over a period of ten games. Full details and a list of invited players will be posted on Friday.

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.