Beginning with the placement of the Infinity Blade before the Winter Royale, Fortnite esports has been in constant flux.
The planes transitioned straight into The Baller and those two vehicles have dominated games ever since the beginning of Season 7.
Last weekend we finally got a reprieve. Due to a bug where players were unable to exit vehicles, Epic had to disable The Baller in the finals on Sunday.
The result was our first glimpse at Fortnite esports without an overpowered vehicle. The result was fantastic, but naturally had players wishing this could be the normal state for Fortnite esports.
This is what the end game looks like without vehicles:
One popular theory as to why vehicles had stayed in the game so long was that end games like that would cause overwhelming amounts of lag.
I have prescribed to this theory and covered it in numerous articles because it is a rational explanation for Epic’s continued support of the planes and baller.
But on Sunday we learned that lag wasn’t a big issue. There were hiccups absolutely but lag didn’t cause significant issues even in that complicated behemoth of a structure.
Why last weekend still wasn’t a success
In a normal esport, developments would be announced and players would have time to react to them.
If that was the situation, the removal of The Ballers would be a welcome change to the community. But as it stands now, players have built their strategies around The Baller and used them to qualify for Sunday.
Then a tweet goes out at 8:10 PM PT on Saturday night saying that all vehicles will be disabled. For players in other regions like Switzerland’s Ghost Issa, that tweet went out at 5:10 AM.
Due to an issue where players can become stuck in a vehicle and unable to exit, we will be disabling all vehicles for the remainder of this week’s tournament – all regions will play the Sunday Finals with vehicles disabled.— Fortnite (@FortniteGame) May 12, 2019
That gave him only hours to adjust his strategy to the new ruleset as he tries to qualify for the most lucrative esports tournament in history.
He still managed to qualify, but thousands of players went to bed on Saturday after using The Baller to qualify for Sunday, and weren’t able to successfully adjust the next day.
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We are now halfway through the World Cup qualifiers and any hope of consistency coming to Fortnite esports seems long gone.
This tweet from longtime esports reporter Rod ‘Slasher’ Breslau does well to sum up the issues with Fortnite esports:
between epic making sudden major and unbalanced gameplay changes, players dealing with bugs, cheaters, teamers, griefers, and not properly addressing any of it, not a week has gone by without some form of clown fiesta for what is the biggest prize pool in esports history— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) May 12, 2019
OWL commentator MonteCristo chimed in with even more harsh criticism of Fortnite’s place as an esport:
It's very generous of you to call it an esport under these circumstances. I consider it more of a promotional showmatch.— MonteCristo (@MonteCristo) May 12, 2019
While the Overwatch League has its own share of issues with the current GOATs meta, the esports scene is at least a priority for Blizzard.
That is what made last weekend such an interesting case study. On one hand, we finally got to see what Fortnite esports could look like without The Ballers. But on the other hand, the way they were removed was yet another example of everything wrong with how Epic Games has run the esports scene.
Leave it to Epic to remove a problematic vehicle in a problematic way which left the competitive community conflicted and confused.