Epic on Fortnite's "unique balancing act" - and why Siphon made 90% of players play less

Tilted towers.

Epic has discussed the "unique balancing act" it faces in keeping as many Fortnite players happy as possible.

In a development update, Epic said it has to consider the hundreds of millions of Fortnite players who play the battle royale for fun as well as competitive players.

Epic said competitive play tends to see less aggression in the early game resulting in a crowded endgame "overabundant in turtling". This is why Epic introduced Siphon - to provide incentives for aggression "that more closely resembles how the regular modes are played, and to increase entertainment value and spectacle".

Siphon was a popular mechanic among competitive players because it rewarded health and shields for killing enemies. But, Epic said, it was later removed in the controversial 8.20 patch because it made the vast majority of players avoid Fortnite's main battle royale mode.

"Everybody enjoyed receiving health and shields for eliminations after we introduced the changes to the core modes, but there was an unexpected consequence: players at large grew more frustrated with Fortnite play, feeling they had less of a chance due to encounters with high-skill players with full health and shields," Epic explained.

"Ultimately, Siphon increased engagement for the highest-skilled 10 per cent, while the remaining 90 per cent were more frustrated and played less.

"Over time, players began to disengage in the core modes, stating that the game had gotten too intense to be enjoyable. The reduction in viable play styles in combination with this feedback was the basis of us removing the Siphon mechanic and the material changes from the core modes."

Epic said the Arena mode, which includes Siphon and materials cap changes, is now home for the "sharper" Fortnite experience.

Epic also discussed the removal of stretched resolution and the lack of Field of View for Fortnite. Competitive players have for some time now asked for an FOV slider to improve visibility in vertical endgame build battles.

"When a game introduces a feature that provides a gameplay advantage, players gravitate towards turning it on to maximise their chances of success, even if this makes the game look and/or feel worse," Epic explained.

"The stretched characters and distorted views detract from Fortnite as an entertainment experience for all.

"Fundamentally, we seek to avoid optional settings which provide players with a significant gameplay advantage."

Epic said the current default FOV of 80 is a tradeoff to accommodate varied engagement ranges, minimise potential motion-sickness in players farther away from their screen, minimise jarring transitions when aiming down sights, visual fidelity and performance.

All this amounts to a "tension" between the goals Epic has for players.

"Fortnite competitive play relies on a unique balancing act: maintaining a solid and balanced experience for competitive players, while being essentially the same Fortnite played by hundreds of millions of players," Epic said.

"After all, those players are the audience for Fortnite competition, and their engagement is key to the growing opportunities for competitive players.

"This creates special challenges for addressing the needs of different groups of players."

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Wesley Yin-Poole

Wesley Yin-Poole

Deputy Editor

Wesley is Eurogamer's deputy editor. He likes news, interviews, and more news. He also likes Street Fighter more than anyone can get him to shut up about it.

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