Over the past few years, Fortnite esports has tried to reach the level of production of other esports live events. From PAX East 2018 to this year’s celebrity Pro-Am, at every event, Epic Games has tried to step up the production quality.
Now, at the Fortnite World Cup finals in Queens, New York, they’re putting on full display the culmination of their work, lessons learned and challenges. And it’s making for a pretty exciting in-person experience this weekend.
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The complex around the Arthur Ashe Arena is massive, and the Epic Production team is leveraging as much of that space as possible. They transformed the entire outside area into the Fortnite Fan Fest, with plenty of activities to entertain everyone before they even enter the arena.
Much like at past events, they brought their famous mini-golf course, as well as a zipline, a foam “axe” dueling arena, and a hamster ball course (two, actually). Fans can participate in carnival games and on stage challenges such as a trivia contest and a dance off. And I’ve been told there are thirty-six costumed characters.
All of this is a “pre-show” to the main event, an appetizer to a massive main course. And the stage is a genuine spectacle. No exaggeration. The setup in this arena is absolutely one of the most impressive esports setups to date, if not the most.
There are two floors of PCs, fronted by dozens of massive LED screens that will swap into player facecams during matches. Each of these screens give real-time indicators of in-game events, such as potions, kills, and legendary weapons. Everyone in the stadium has a comfortable view of the screens, a rarity when it comes to large venues as fans are often left craning their necks. The arena actually needed extra fabric covering to get it all “in” the tennis stadium.
And it takes a lot of manpower to get it going. Jeremy Hoffman, one of Epic’s lead production manager, laid out some of the harder-hitting backstage numbers: nearly thirty observers in two dedicated control rooms. Twenty-four thousand processors. Twenty-two miles of cables. And, the crew needed a fleet of sixty-two of trucks moving from a massive technical rehearsal in Chicago, to LA’s Celebrity Pro-Am, then, now, the final venue in Queens.
Hoffman says it’s been a learning experience. For instance, one core lesson has been that a traditional “end of venue” stage, like those for most conferences, weren’t as engaging. Fans want to see the small moments that matter, as intimately as it can be in a massive arena. In rehearsals, they developed intricate processes to unload the massive stage pieces in and out of the arenas.
All of the consideration is meant to give fans an experience of being practically part of the show. After all, as he says, he needs to make a fulfilling experience – otherwise: “Why would I want to leave the house?”
For those that aren’t leaving the house, though, Epic Games is running multiple streams for unique perspectives of events. Plus, there’s an in-game spectator client with a picture-in-picture stream option. But if you can make it out to the Finals, they’ve pulled out all the stops to make it a pretty dope esports experience.