Ping plagues Fortnite Fall Skirmish, but players push through

Seven was the magic number for Week 4 of the Fortnite Fall Skirmish Series, but Jake “Poach” Brumleve had a different number on his mind when he dropped into a completely deserted Container Yard with uncontested materials and loot.

“The ping is jumping around a lot, which is very odd,” Poach said as he scampered through the point of interest’s namesake shipping containers, his latency oscillating between 30 and 60 ping. “Hope it fixes soon. I do not want to fight in this lag.”

The Big Bonus format for this weekend’s competition awarded players $7,500 and an extra point for each elimination beyond the seventh. But getting into a build battle or gunfight on high ping could break Poach in a game that requires precise movements like Fortnite.

Poach didn’t fight in that lag — at least not at first. After farming over 2,000 materials from scattered cars, train tracks, boulders and trees, he quietly built his first fort inside the second circle southwest of Tomato Temple. As the third circle popped and the lobby dwindled below 50, Poach banked his first elimination on the rotation, a clean wall edit into submachine gun surprise. A looted rocket launcher was helpful, but the routine kill didn’t make him feel any better.

“Thirty ping my ass, it’s like we’re playing on 130 [ping] right now,” Poach said as he scanned for an opportunity. High ping or not, it was time to engage.

A pair of players nestled within the fourth circle became eliminations two and three. Jacob “Hysteria” Reiser and Team Overtime’s Lanjok were lasered down using a textbook rocket and M4 combination. Christian “Criz” Rizk took a heavy shotgun blast to the face during a rotation, and Lighting Panda’s yoyokeepitup couldn’t heal fast enough to survive the burst from a purple SCAR. All of a sudden, Poach had seven eliminations in hand with just five other combatants remaining.

At full health and 93/100 shield, Poach was in prime position to secure a monster round. He’d already earned three points for seven or more eliminations; a Victory Royale meant three more. Considering Adam “Boyerxd” Boyer had won the morning’s European set with just eight points, Poach could top North America after just one game.

Big Bonus was Epic Games’ most recent attempt at balancing the often-contrasting goals of eliminations and placement. After the action lagged during Week 2’s tepid Royale Flush format, Epic began placing more emphasis on eliminations to prod players out of their builds. Week 3 brought back the well-received King Pin rule set that multiplied the value of points for the following games after certain conditions were met while also doling an additional $50,000 to the duo with the most eliminations in a single game.

The bend toward eliminations worked as intended: There were fewer heal-offs and more duels to the death than in previous weeks. Encouraging more entertaining playstyles despite their safety risk is a difficult needle to threat, but a noticeable monetary value added to the point rules seems like the correct route. A player can employ passive tactics for consistent placement and greater odds for a high payout, or they can actively go after the money with crowd-pleasing aggression.

Epic would be wise to continue down this line, as the draw of Fortnite lies in its clutch flick-shots, shocking snipes and creative edits, not tiptoeing conservatism.

Poach wasn’t about to hide with $7,500 reasons to hunt for kills. After escaping a spray of fire from above, Poach caught SaltFN around a corner with a heavy shotgun for his first Big Bonus elimination. Back in Epic’s Los Angeles studio, guest caster Ali “Myth” Kabbani celebrated the first Big Bonus of the week with a gleeful pull of a party popper, drizzling the desk and host Zeke “Zeke” Mateus with half a handful of confetti.

Myth’s smiling face was broadcast via picture-in-picture insert seconds after the elimination, and the words “Big Bonus” flashed over Poach’s kill count in jaunty Fortnite font. It’s a measure of how far Epic has come that these overlays, unreachable in Summer Skirmish, have become routine in the fall. Recent weeks have continued to build on PAX West’s impressive presentation package, notably with the addition of both player’s elimination totals on one screen in duo formats, format rule reminders, club badges and an overall leaderboard.

Fortnite esports is more watchable than ever, but its improvements in presentation don’t come without cost. Poach’s annoyance with latency wasn’t unique; multiple players have publicly complained of server lag that doesn’t jive with an event this well-produced. Whether that comes from Live Spectator, the use of certain items, a mix of both or some factor that has yet to be determined, latency issues are Epic’s next challenge, but considering the cash the developer is burning as prize money, it’s safe to assume Epic has the resources necessary to solve them.

Back in the circle, Juancarlos “Fuzzy” Triana ensured himself two points for a top-three finish as he outgunned Noah “Vivid” Wright, but committing to that fight left him exposed. Poach avenged his Team Liquid colleague for his ninth elimination, setting up a one-on-one with Nick “Aspect” McGuire for the Victory Royale.

Out of materials, Poach forced an engage with a point-blank rocket launch, but Aspect shielded himself from the blast with a split-second wall. One squeeze of his pump shotgun was all Aspect needed, ending Poach’s tear and winning the match in one fluid move.

“Let’s f—ing go!” said Poach, clapping and exhaling as if he’d won. In many ways, he had. The two Big Bonus eliminations earned him $15,000 for one game’s work, and the seven-point game propelled him to an overall third-place finish worth another $25,000.

As Poach switched over to the delayed central stream, watching his final circle play out, a small smile crept across is face.

Not bad for 130 ping.

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