Server performance is one of the biggest recurring problems in competitive Fortnite. It’s been a major issue since the early days of the game and eventually led to the Band-Aid solution of Storm Surge – a game mechanic that forces players to engage with one another or die.
The competitive servers seemed to improve at the tail end of Chapter 1. In Chapter 2, however, with the move to the new Physics Engine, it seemed like performance took a massive step backward. Pro players would regularly complain on-stream and on Twitter about how bad the servers had become – often comparing it to one of the first competitive tournaments: Summer Skirmish.
Enter Ninja Battles – Ninja’s Trios tournament series that has been sporadically taking place over the last few months. The invitational tournament was largely comprised of pro players with a few content creators sprinkled-in. The biggest difference between this tournament and something like the FNCS, however, was the number of players.
Instead of the traditional 100-player lobbies, Ninja Battles featured 20 teams of three – totaling 60 players. The reduction in players changed a lot about how the tournament played out – with the most positive change being the significant reduction in end-game lag.
During the final week of the event, however, the tournament organizers – not including Ninja – decided to up the player count to 100. The result was, as expected, a massive increase in lag across the entire game – especially as the zone closed in.
Ninja was openly critical of the tournament and – more pointedly – of Epic Games for failing to address these problems three years into development. During the tournament, Ninja even tweeted an apology to the competitors, going so far as to say, “100 people in tournament servers are just not playable/enjoyable.”
Ninja and his teammates, Ronaldo and Paper, theorized on why Fortnite tournaments tend to be so laggy – from game development to the fire mechanic, to the spectator client. “I think it’s the spectators,” Ninja said as both Paper and Ronaldo agreed. “They added the casters … and I think that is what adds all of this delay. It’s the only thing that makes sense. It’s the only thing that’s different.”
The three continued to throw ideas out there about game mechanics that could fix the lag, but it’s a difficult topic and none of them are game developers. The one solution that Ninja already had seemed like the most practical, however: lower the player count.
Lowering the player count in official Fortnite tournaments would be a controversial change, but it might be worth an experiment. Ninja Battles has already shown how much better it could work – so why not adopt it for Season 5?
Unfortunately, Epic have seemed married to the idea of 100-player Grand Finals in Fortnite – even if the game is “not playable/enjoyable,” as Ninja says. We can only wait and see if Epic decide to experiment with the Ninja Battles format.