Fortnite: How I Got Away From The Craze
I love Fortnite. Epic games has produced what amounts to a masterwork when it comes to gaming, something that is both visually stimulating and mentally challenging. It’s a Battle Royale, 100 players at a time with one winner, on an island packed with places to hide, places to fight, and places to die. Now in it’s 4th “season”, Epic games has managed not only to create a great game with killer hooks, but also to create an overall story arc that hangs over the game and gives it plenty of direction. It’s super impressive, super addictive, and I am happy to say I got away from the craze.
Fortnite is a shoot’em up game, 100 players go into battle to collect weapons, disguises (the bush!), shields, bandages, and traps, and then they work to eliminate all of the other players, and the game uses a “storm” to slowly but surely herd the remaining players into a smaller and smaller area. Eventually, there is only one survivor, getting the Victory Royale. It’s one of the few games that you can play on PC, console, or mobile.
I personally love the game because there is no single way to play it. It is only a set of rules and situations, and you move around and take actions as you see fit. You can be a hunter chasing everyone down, you can be a sniper trying to pick people off from on high, you can be a trapper building elaborate ruses to kill people, you can bomb them, make them dance, and you can even be a flittering “camper” who avoids contact in all ways, all with the ultimate goal of surviving to a finally battle and snagging that prized win. You can really do whatever you like in this game, it’s wide open and pretty impressive. The UnReal engine that drives the game gives it plenty of flexibility, the players move naturally, the physics of the game are generally really good, and the experience immersive enough to really become addictive.
The game has a few issues, most of which aren’t particularly overwhelming. It really does requiring premium hardware for you to enjoy on PC, I actually upgraded my video card to play this game properly, an I7 / 16 gig ram / 1060 armour graphic card still only gets 120fps in epic mode (high resolution). This is the type of game that drives people to buy $1000 graphics cards, that is for sure. It also has a fairly detailed and complex set of controls, with mouse, keyboard, function keys, and more all being used to control movement, firing, selecting weapons, building, and the like. It’s pretty complex and the chance of hitting a wrong button seems to be about 100%.
The biggest issue, however, is lag or network latency. When you are playing a game with 100 other people, the game need to know where those people are, what they are doing, what they have removed / destroyed / changed (you chop down trees, break rocks, and destroy metal objects like cars for building materials), what weapons and items they have picked up, and the like. Each person has to communicate that to the main server and others. There is a certain amount of time delay to communicate that, for each player a case of 50 to 100ms generally, plus processing time, and then sending it out to everyone, so maybe 300ms. While this doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s enough to make it very hard to shoot someone (300ms is enough to move at least a body width) or generates the worst possible outcome for a player, appearing to die when someone was shooting past you or even away from you.
There is no cure for this. It has become highlighted in Fortnite because they added in a replay system. This system was designed so people could make cool clips to put in youtube and twitch, but instead it’s lead to people seeing that they are “dying” in the game in unreasonable ways. I had a number of instances where someone would shoot a body width past me (to where I might have been before) and I would suddenly die. They hit my virtual ghost and it was fatal. I would literally play back the clip and show that their shot went right past me, but boom, I was dead anyway.
I realized that problem, and again, there is no real cure for this. Hits are decided not by your current position, but instead by the position that the shooting player sees you in at the time. Shots effectively have no latency, because it’s based on the information local at that time, not where you are actually now. So someone with a 1 second lag could shoot at where you were 2 or 3 seconds ago, hit you, and you appear to die 3 seconds later, because of the round trip time from that other people. The bigger the combined lag between the players, the more pronounced it gets.
The best players appear to use this to their advantage, with aggressive moves and super low ping times, they are playing with the freshest info and prey on those who run slower. Certain approaches seem to give an advantage in the game, including avoiding face to face close up shooting (where the lag pretty much turns the game into a random crapshoot).
The Fortnite support forums are filled with people complaining about dying for no reasons, pulling stills and videos from their replay system to show them getting shot through walls, around corners, or even in my case having the replay showing me dying before the other player had even taken his shot!
Once I realized that the game was flawed, it wasn’t hard to get away from the craze. I still love the game and I am likely to play it from time to time, but I have a feeling that these flaws around going to be the downfall of the game, and that could happen faster than anyone at Epic would like.
UPDATE 2918-05-08: Well, the 4.1 patch came out, and I figured I would give it all one more shot. It’s worse. Lag, rubberbanding, judder, ad more unexplanable deaths. Hint to Epic: you were doing really good. Stop with the special editions and deal with base issues of people shooting through walls, getting killed “late”, and the issues related to lag. Otherwise, you will soon be about as well off as Radical Heights. (oh, and game deleted).