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What should competitive Fortnite look like?

Last weekend, Epic Games put forth its first true effort at official competitive Fortnite Battle Royale. It was a disaster.

The private hosts used for the tournament were about as laggy as could be, with pro players getting eliminated simply because they couldn’t move. This tournament was for a total prize of $250K. That’s big money, and big frustration for pro players who were essentially eliminated by the whims of the server gods. But on top of the lag, the whole thing was, well, boring. A cardinal sin in any sport.

The fact is that when you put 100 pro players in a lobby together and tell them that the last man standing wins, most of them will simply sit in a fort and stay safe as long as possible. This does not generate a whole lot of action.

And when there is action on the map, there was no way for a spectator to know about it. There are, after all, a hundred people to watch out for, and jumping from one engagement to another is not only difficult but lacks a certain narrative quality, making the whole thing feel scattered.

It seems clear that a guided mode or hotspot indicator would go a long way to improving the viewing experience. Being told where the fighting was or could be happening or having a guide that flagged these opportunities could work. There could also be a documentary-style concept that followed a few top players on their entire run, with the hope that they’ll find action and maybe even be pushed into conflict to impress viewers.

Epic recently published a post-mortem on the event, outlining ways that the publisher can improve on the tournament. They’ve also set forth the rules for this weekend’s event, proposing a score-based tournament where both eliminations and Victory Royales count toward players’ overall score. Whether or not this will incentivize more action will be determined following the event.

It’s also worth noting that Epic scheduled today’s event during the Fortnite Friday tournament. Fortnite Friday, hosted by popular YouTuber Keemstar and facilitated by UMG, was a $20,000 elimination-based tournament with top players. In this week of the Summer Skirmish Series, which is worth a total of $8 million, Epic is choosing to host a two-day tournament, effectively rendering Fortnite Friday playerless.

It doesn’t have to be this way, Epic. I know that the concept of 100 of the best players in the world dropping into one map sounds incredible. It does. It sounds great, in theory. But in practice, it’s just a disorderly live stream of a bunch of highly talented players sitting around in bases, or, worse, lagging to the point of being frozen.

And, an invitational tournament (that goes terribly wrong) doesn’t scream “inclusive,” which is what Epic repeatedly says competitive Fortnite should be.

There is another way, and it’s the same way that Fortnite players have been competing for months now. A kill race.

But let’s back up a bit.

What should competitive Fortnite be?

Right now, Fortnite is played by 100 people in a single lobby, and “winning” the game is defined by being the last survivor(s). This can be played in solo mode, with 100 individuals facing off against the storm and each other, or in 50 teams of two (Duos), or 25 teams of four (Squads).

Video games often get tweaks for the competitive scene, whether it’s limiting the resources/gear that players can use or reducing the number of maps that can be played. When skill level is that high, most games must make changes to allow for true competition.

Given it’s still early days, Fortnite Battle Royale featuring purely pro players simply hasn’t worked.

But as it stands now, there are roughly two schools of thought.

Whoever gets the most eliminations wins.

Pros:

  • Super fun to watch
  • Requires skill
  • Inclusive to non-pro players

Cons:

  • A lot of RNG
  • More time-consuming

Gamebattle sites like CMG and UMG have been running minor tournaments for quite a while now using this format. Fortnite Friday, arguably one of the biggest weekly tournaments, also follows this format.

Here’s how it works: Individual players load up in a Duo match on the same team, or teams of two load up into a Squad match, also on the same team, and race for who can get the most kills in a public match.

This means that these opposing players can’t kill each other, but can keep track of each other’s kills and placement on the map. When you’re racing for kills, understanding where the other duo is fighting and how many kills they have is important information.

Given only four players are competing at a time, that means the rest of the 92 people on the map are regular Fortnite players.

This is where RNG comes into play. RNG is a term used in gaming that means Random Number Generator. It is the gaming equivalent of Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic.” It essentially means there is some level of random luck involved in the game. For example, you might land in a place where there is usually a weapon or chest, but that weapon or chest isn’t there, leaving you vulnerable to other players who land around you.

Great players can work around or overcome a certain level of RNG, but if the opposing team comes up on a squad of noobs and your team rolls up on a squad of great players, the tide of the match will inevitably shift against you, and may even result in a loss.

This is the cost of the 2v2 format that has become popularized with the vast majority of Fortnite competitive players.

While it takes more time to have 100 players compete four at a time, this format allows the viewer to watch no more than four players as they traverse the map and seek eliminations. At most, the audience has to follow along with four separate stories on the map. In most cases, duos play together, which brings that number down to two. In either case, it’s much easier than following along with the stories of 50 separate teams.

Traditional Battle Royale

Pros:

  • Less RNG
  • Amazing build fights
  • Fair, in the sense that players are fighting players of equal skill level

Cons:

  • It’s boring
  • Not inclusive
  • Confusing and scattered for viewers

This format was used during the Ninja Live tournament, the Fortnite ProAm tournament and, most recently, during the $8 million Summer Skirmish series, hosted by Epic Games.

Here’s how it works: 100 pro players/streamers pair off into teams of two and all load into the same lobby, with the goal of lasting the longest.

As I said, Fortnite Battle Royale is built around the idea that there would be a sole survivor, but doesn’t predicate that survival on a certain level of skill. In other words, it’s relatively easy to hide, avoid fights and survive to the near end of a game, or potentially even win. It doesn’t take much skill to squat in a bush or set traps in a house and sit in the bathroom.

Obviously, with pro players, there will be gunfights, and those gunfights should be pretty interesting. But they are few and far between, and are difficult to predict and capture for the live stream.

This also excludes regular players from being a part of the action. Yes, it’s a risk to construct a competitive scene on the backs of public gameplay. But it’s also never been done before in the pro gaming world. And it is the best way to include public players into the competitive scene. A regular player is far more likely to get interested in the competitive scene knowing that, on Friday or Saturday, they have the chance to play against the world’s greatest competitors.

The best way to build on the momentum of Fortnite’s popularity, as well as support the community as a whole, is to build out tournaments focused on eliminations within public lobbies.

It makes sense for Epic to want to control that experience, and it certainly makes sense for Epic to want the competitive scene to fit within the game they built, which is a Battle Royale. But thus far, competitive Battle Royale featuring purely pro players simply hasn’t worked. And it feels slightly underhanded for Epic to barrel over Fortnite Friday, given that the more competitive tournaments around Fortnite, the better for the game.

The community is here, telling you what it wants, Epic. And in true Fortnite fashion, if you build it, they will come.

Niantic explains how and why it bans players in Pokémon GO

Getting banned for cheating is nothing new in Pokémon GO. There’ve been big ol’ ban waves every few weeks for ages now.

The policies have never been totally set in stone, however — at least not publicly. Like many of the game’s mechanics, the player base has had to share info amongst themselves to figure out the offenses and their relative punishments, from slaps on the wrist to lifetime bans.

At long last, Niantic has published a proper “Three-Strike Discipline Policy.”

As the name implies, most infractions will be handled on a three-strike system. Niantic notes, however, that “some misbehaviors” (they leave that one pretty open-ended) will work out to an instant perma ban.

So what’s worthy of a strike? Spoofing (making the game think you’re somewhere you’re not), using modified Pokémon GO clients or bots or doing something that accesses Pokémon GO’s backend in an unauthorized way.

On the first strike, you’ll get a warning message. You’ll still be able to play, technically, but you won’t see anything even remotely rare for seven days.

On the second strike, they’ll close your account for a month.

On the third strike, the account is banned for good.

And if you think you got stuck in the crosshairs by accident? Niantic has an appeal process for that.

It’s worth noting that these punishments aren’t really new; bans of all variety have been happening since shortly after the game’s release. This is just the first time Niantic has really put the hows-and-whys in stone.

Niantic could probably go a few steps further in their clarifications here, though, as plenty of players are still confused as to whether or not they’re breaking the rules.

Will they get in trouble for using third-party software (like an automated IV calculator) that doesn’t modify the client or access Niantic’s backend but does provide the player with more info? What about players using third-party versions of the Go Plus hardware, like the Go-tcha? That thing pretty much automates catching/spinning as you walk around… but it’s also been sold in retail stores for years now, likely to many players who’ve never considered that this thing they bought in their local GameStop might not be allowed.

Now this… this is an ultra-wide monitor

I’ve been working with an ugly but functional lopsided two-monitor setup for years, and while it has served me well, I can’t say the new generation of ultra-wide monitors hasn’t tempted me. But the truth is they just aren’t wide enough. Or rather, they weren’t.

Samsung has just blown my mind with a monitor so wide it will serve as a ramp that you can trick off of in the summer. It’s so wide that when it puts on a pair of BVDs they read BOULEVARD. It’s so wide that the Bayeux Tapestry got jealous.

Actually it’s a little less wide than a couple of the monitors Samsung announced at CES — but those had two problems. First, they were 3840×1080. And I just need more vertical pixels than that. Second, they were 49 inches wide. That’s a BIG monitor! Not just big, but with those pixels spread out that far, it’s not going to be sharp at all.

On the other hand, this new one not only adds an extra 120 pixels, bringing it to the far superior 1200 vertical (for a total of 3840×1200), but it is 43 inches corner to corner. Forty-three inches… would that be too big, too small, or would it be…

Just right?!

(Yes, my left monitor is a bit warmer than my right, but it’s not as bad as it looks — that’s a viewing angle issue.)

One of the downsides of a giant monitor is that it can be a pain to separate workspaces or, say, have a movie playing “full screen” on one half while you browse Etsy for vintage kettles on the other. But Samsung has a “picture-by-picture” mode and some other useful features that help with this. So I’m going to give it a shot.

It’s also got 120Hz refresh (though no word on sync tech), a bunch of USB ports, and even a headphone jack. I don’t know why you would want built-in sound on a thing like this, since you clearly are a media freak if you buy it, but they felt the need to add in speakers.

The Samsung C43J89 monitor will cost $900 when it comes out, which admittedly is two or three times what I would normally pay for a monitor — I’m more of a Dell Ultrasharp guy, IPS all the way. But my whole workflow could change when this thing goes on sale.

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