Online gaming. It's a fun experience whether you're playing with friends or with randoms, but that doesn't mean that it's perfect and without any issues. Toxicity is a rising concern with developers and players alike and more and more companies are brainstorming what they need to do to combat this. Fortnite's team over at Epic Games is no stranger to the online world and they are but one of many companies making changes to the way their games operate.
When the friendly fire feature was turned off in Fortnite Battle Royale, it wasn't difficult to surmise why but the user experience lead researcher for Epic Games set the record straight once and for all. The decision to remove this particular feature in-game was one of the ways the developers were trying to offset in-game toxic behavior.
Lewis-Evans recently sat down with Polygon to discuss why it was even a part of the game in the first place only to be removed later. According to Evans, the company "understood" that it was necessary because many similar games also have that function. Unfortunately as time went on, they quickly noticed a pattern in player complaints such as team mates killing each other simply for their gear or doing it just "to be funny." The decision to remove the feature was initially temporary, just to see how much it really was "troll" behaviour.
"We had theories about what could be impacted by [turning friendly fire] on and off, but you can look at things like, 'Did people play more field games? 'Were they playing more with friends? 'Was the number of accidental deaths going up or down? 'How do you tell what's a general team kill?'
"Another problem with team killing is that the player thinks it's genuine, but it's accidental. It doesn't matter if they were, though, because the emotional impact still carries. If you think someone did something on purpose, it doesn't matter if it was accidental. It affects your experience."
In an effort to control the amount of negative behavior a little bit in-game, the feature was left out of the shooter, "One of the good things that I've been a proponent of and that's kind of been picked up is looking to game design as a solution to this rather than just reporting [players]. We turned off friendly fire and then the friendly fire toxicity problem goes away. 100 percent solved, there is no problem. That's solving it by design."
With cheating, exploits, and just the nature of trolls ... the road ahead for online game devs is a long one but one that seems definitely worth traveling.
Fortnite Battle Royale is available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC players, as well as in beta for iOS mobile devices.