It’s been a week since Epic Games effectively took over at this year’s E3, with the release of their absolute juggernaut of a battle royale game, Fortnite, on the Nintendo Switch, coupled with game’s first official tournament, billed as the Fortnite Pro-Am (professionals and amateurs, get it?)
The Fortnite Pro-Am paired 50 professional gamers and 50 celebrities from the world of sport and entertainment and had them play a series of 3 games in both singles and duos. The professionals included the usual suspects such as Tyler “Ninja” Bevan and Alastair “Ali-A” Aiken. These gaming celebrities were then paired up with the “amateurs”, who also happened to be some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment. This included guys like hip-hop star Lil Yachty, actor Joel McHale, and UFC star Sean O’Malley, just to name a few.
To help raise the stakes, the Fortnite Pro-Am featured $1 million USD as prize money for the best duo that will go to their chosen charity.
If you missed all the action or just want to get a quick recap, here are all the seven things that we learned from the Fortnite Pro-Am.
Games Should Be Played Inside (What’s that Yellow Ball in the Sky?)
Those tuning into to watch along with the 1.1 million viewers on Twitch were initially struck by the decision to host the tournament outdoors. It seemed particularly cruel to put a bunch of gamers in the sun but that is exactly what Epic did. Hosted in the 22,000 seater stadium of Los Angeles FC, the crowd, contestants, and media found themselves experiencing Fortnite outside for the first time ever.
It was perhaps fitting that it took place in a football stadium as the tournament had the feel of a national broadcasters world cup coverage. With its ham-fisted attempts to hide the logistics and unpredictability of a major live event. It could be seen with cosplayers dressed in the communities favourite skins, the “Llama lounge” and the players turned awkward media personalities, we’re looking at you Myth.
It was charming if a little cringy.
Epic Know What They’re Doing
So yeah, Epic Games know what they are doing. It was obvious all throughout the Fortnite Pro-Am.
With the eyes of a rather unforgiving gaming world looking on, Epic Games had every reason to crumble to the pressure, but they didn’t.
An update to the game the week before the tournament reduced the number of materials within the world. This was greeted with disbelief by much of the community with cries of, “who had ever asked for a mat nerf?!?” However, it may be that Epic know a bit more than your average gamer. Because of this change, coupled with the decision not to include squads as a game mode showed Epic Games to move away from the turtle meta so prevalent in the unofficial tournaments thus far.
Billing the Fortnite Pro-Am as a charity event was another smart decision that took the sting out the inevitable hiccups. King Richard having his mouse DPI go insane mid battle was funny rather than scandalous, for example.
Going forward, however, Epic will sort these issues out before the high-pressure big money tournaments start.
Fortnite Pro-Am – Not Quite E-Sport Ready
Casting any sport is not easy. It takes years of practice and in-game knowledge. Unfortunately, it was evident during the Fortnite Pro-Am that the casters lacked both.
There were frequent cuts away from fights to watch someone mindlessly farm materials or attempts to take in a whole battle from above in freelook mode, missing the action and detracting from the experience. Now, we don’t want to be too harsh, but it was very frustrating at times to miss key parts of the action. One saving grace is that over the course of the tournament it improved game-on-game.
The information available to the viewer will also have to improve. Think about CS: GO. It might not be fair to compare a game as mature as that to Fortnite but with it’s easy to read displays providing you with information such as loadouts, money and so on it is the standard bearer for high-level esports casting and Fortnite could do well to mimic it in its own style. With tables featuring information about who has the most materials, kills, knockdowns and special items like jump pads.
The nature of Battle Royale also means there is a huge map to cover and over 100 players. Positions, when landing, and positioning in relation to the storm and the circle, are so vitally important — the viewer has to be able to see the map at all times. How this will work in practice it has yet to be seen.
All of this will keep viewers better informed, adding to the excitement, and better allow casters to anticipate where the action will be.
Myth Fell Again
Myth is making a habit of cracking under the pressure. One of Fortnite’s first memes was born when Myth died to fall damage at Ninja’s Vegas event and in the aftermath he put it down to a ‘bug’ in the game. He found himself dying to fall damage here. Once again, it involved Ninja, who placed a C4 down, which Myth ran into. This time he put his hands up and said “shit happens”, but it seems obvious that he doesn’t handle the pressure of the big occasions well.
This raises an interesting point, with the competitive scene for the game being so new, many of the personalities that have blown up in the last 8 months may find themselves quickly supplanted when the real competition starts and the best players reveal themselves.
We won’t rule out Myth just yet, but he has a lot of proving to do.
Battle Royale Is A Viable Gamemode
The game mode has at it’s every core all the elements to make it one of the most exciting competitive game modes. 100 people. One island. One winner. It gets the imagination running wild with the possibilities. But and you knew a but was coming right? It has, since its inception continually come under criticism, whether it is H1Z1 or Player Unknowns Battlegrounds, people have doubted its ability to be a top-level Esport.
The criticisms often start with one simple fact — the games are too random. You can easily land on a house, search every drop and crate and find yourself with no weapons.
While this is a valid criticism, there is hope for those that wish to see a pure competitive BR mode. As we saw in this tournament players natural inclination is to play it safer when the stakes are high. And if you don’t drop somewhere a little quieter you should surely have no problem finding a weapon before you run into another player.
This Game Is Breaking Ground
Is there any other game in the history of that Epic Games just did with the Fortnite Pro-Am? Not the packed stadium, or the 1.1 concurrent viewers impressive as it was, but the bringing together two relatively unrelated words? Certainly not us. Never would we have thought that a game would bring together professional gamers and bona fide celebrities under one roof.
There were signs that we were entering a new age in gaming when Ninja had played with Drake and Spur’s stars, Harry Kane and Dele Alli. With the seeping of Fortnite emotes into sports celebrations it has been obvious for a while that Fortnite has had a huge cultural impact well past the world of games.
The Fortnite Pro-Am felt like the crowning moment. It was also fairly obvious that the entertainment stars had played the game and were taking things seriously. This wasn’t some paid promotion, an attempt to hack gamer culture. These celebrities were us, the average players, who for a time were getting to team up and battle it out with players that they looked up to.
Along with the hardcore competitive scene and Epic’s plus for inclusivity expect to see more of these sort of tournaments going forward.
Get Ready for the World Cup
And last, but certainly not least we got more information about the competitive play going forward.
Epic has stated the money involved — they are willing to pump a whopping $100 million USD into the game’s competitive scene. But, it looks like it won’t take long before we see things take off.
After the Fortnite Pro-Am, professional gamers and fans of the game can now look forward to the Fortnite World Cub this fall. Epic wants to open up serious competitive play to the entire community and has promised that there will be competitions across all platforms and skill levels, with prize money spread throughout.
Currently, the competitive mode will only support Solos and Duos. However, Epic Games promises that they will support Squads in the near future.
Having said that, we can’t think of any other company who has the same ambition that Epic Games had when they made the announcement. You’d best bet that we’re looking forward to what they have in store for Fortnite!
The Results – Duos Final Game
#1: Ninja / Marshmello / 8 Eliminations / $1 million
#2: CouRage JD / Kenneth Faried / 10 Eliminations / $500,000
#3: KittyPlays / Chandler Riggs / 8 Eliminations / $250,000
#4: StoneMountain64 / Jordan Fisher / 6 Eliminations / $100,000
#5: Ali-A / Pete Wentz / 3 Eliminations / $80,000
#6: WillyRex / Prince Royce / 0 Eliminations / $70,000
#7: GoldGlove / Witt Lowry / 6 Eliminations / $60,000
#8: Patriota / Kyla Drew / 3 Eliminations / $50,000
#9: Samara Redway / Cyrus Spencer / 0 eliminations / $40,000
#10: LoserFruit / Russell Horning / 6 eliminations / $30,000