New format spices up Fortnite Summer Skirmish in Week 7

Fortnite stars Tyler "Ninja" Blevins, left, and Benjamin "DrLupo" Lupo partnered up again for Week 7 of the Fortnite Summer Skirmish. ESPN.com

As electric purple rain engulfed Pleasant Park, Clément "Skiiiite" Danglot found himself alone in the storm.

French player Lefoubruiteur, his partner, was dead, ambushed at the start of a firefight that filled the neighborhood with shotgun blasts and bursts of rifle fire. Skiiiite had avenged his fellow Frenchmen, collecting three eliminations in a mid-air maze of brick ramps and wooden walls. The streets were silent now that the fight was over, a rarity for the Fortnite Summer Skirmish Series.

Crouching in the shadow of a towering jagged structure that served as the battle's only monument, Skiiiite gathered what was left of Lefoubruiteur's resources: a few hundred materials, various bits of ammunition and a crucial Med Kit. The battle had left Skiiiite wounded and stranded far outside the circle; this full heal was his only chance to make out alive. He spent a few precious seconds applying the salve before racing south, praying he could reach safety before becoming lost in the storm.

Week 7 of the Fortnite Summer Skirmish marked another step along Epic Games' eight-week foray into esports, a minor move forward beset by many of the same problems that hindered its previous iterations. Twitch Rivals organized the event for the second straight weekend, offering participants a slice of $1.03 million in prize money doled out over two sets of five games on Friday and Saturday.

Big payouts were based on cumulative results, with minor sums awarded on a per-match basis.

The region-specific heats created in Week 6 returned in Week 7, with European and North American sets separated by a two-hour intermission. Viewership remained steady, drawing an audience of several hundred thousand despite acting as counter-programming to Dota 2's marquee event, The International 8. The North American matches were buoyed by the return of Fornite's iconic duo: Tyler "Ninja" Blevins and Benjamin "DrLupo" Lupo, whose combined stream views comfortably eclipsed the main hub.

While the weekend schedule remained the same; the rules did not. "Big Bonus" was the format de jour, replacing the exciting but bungled "King Pin" from Weeks 5 and 6. Eliminations were still worth one point, but once a duo secured eight or more, the eponymous big bonus added an additional five points. Five bonus points were also awarded for each Victory Royale, a static total in contrast to King Pin's next-game multiplier.

After seven weeks of experimentation, it's clear that the best format for Fortnite: The Esport might not involve winning Fortnite: The Game. Mountains of eliminations aren't necessary to win in regular play, but they are essential for an enjoyable esports viewing experience. On its surface, Big Bonus was Epic's attempt at addressing those contrasting goals, incentivizing eliminations while also assigning a point value to winning the game.

The company's new strategy paid off. Players understood that playing conservatively for the Victory Royale was a trap, as the value of winning the map by abandoning positive play was dwarfed by the 13 points a duo could earn if they secured eight eliminations. In other words, eliminations remained the central goal, with Victory Royale a helpful bonus.

However, Epic's successful format was again undercut by the inconsistency of its broadcast.

Live Spectator's Friday return offered fans a tantalizing preview of what could be, showcasing God's eye views that provided needed context in teamfights. A live map that pinpointed the location of every remaining player and a smaller live map with player names also made sporadic appearances.

However, none of these features were utilized on Saturday, and there was no explanation for removing them.

Big Bonus was less stats-intensive than King Pin, which allowed production to relay points and standings after their corresponding matches. Viewers had a more coherent sense of who was doing well from match to match, but the standings remained a mystery during play. Collective eliminations were not visible and could not be easily accessed. Viewers and commentators were left to guess if a duo had secured the eight eliminations needed for a big bonus based on how many the player who was currently on screen had.

The simplicity of potential fixes underlines how nascent Epic's esports efforts really are. They have the ability to overlay simple information on individual streams -- the name or a player, for instance -- but fail to do so with regularity. The leaderboard overlay has not appeared since Week 5, despite being perfect for a cumulative format like Big Bonus. Problems with kill feed readability could be alleviated by providing the commentators their own off-screen feed to relay, but Epic didn't make use of that option either.

Luckily, Summer Skirmish's work-in-progress presentation was aided by the sheer quality and thrill of its gameplay. Incredible moments elevated the product, like Shane "OPscT" Turnbull nailing midair knocks with a hand cannon, or Alexia "Alexiaraye" Raye's screams of joy when she eliminated both Ninja and DrLupo.

Confident play from heavyweight duos, like Europe's Duong "Solary Kinstaar" Huyh and Julien "Lunary Jbzzed" Dupré, or North America's FaZe Thiefs and Ryan "liquidchap" Chaplo, showcased the game at its best.

FaZe Thiefs and liquidchap concluded the weekend leading all duos with 76 eliminations, good enough for a $63,650 purse. Across the pond, Solary Kinstaar and Lunary Jbzzed crushed their competition, recording 53 eliminations for $76,450 in weekend winnings. They took first place on Saturday, and would have done so on Friday, too, had one lonely Frenchman just stayed in the rain.

It took Skiiiite almost six minutes to reach the second circle. The trip cost him 15 bandages, three Bouncer Pads, one campfire and the Med Kit Lefoubruiteur left him. As it turned out, a new lease on life was all Skiiiite needed.

Skiiiite fought his way to the final circle and picked up two more points in the process. Once there, he eliminated Jonathan "method jetpacks" Bergius, Finnley "rogue gommru" Payton, David "zaccubus" Treacy and flendermoys in one show-stopping sequence.

His kills forced a 1-on-1 with none other than Lunary Jbzzed, and Skiiiite won that too. As chat cried out "LE MONSTRE" -- "The Monster" -- Skiiite out-built Lunary Jbzzed to set up a split-second blue pump to the head.

"LET'S GO!" Skiiiite screamed in English, both big bonuses secured for a massive 20-point round, and Lefoubruiteur and Skiiiite walked away with $42,500 and a first-place finish on Friday.

The result was worth the journey.