Fortnite is an online video game first released in 2017 and developed by Epic Games. It is available as separate software packages having different game modes that otherwise share the same general gameplay and game engine. The game modes include Fortnite: Save the World, a cooperative shooter-survival game for up to four players to fight off zombie-like creatures and defend objects with fortifications they can build, Fortnite Battle Royale, a free-to-play battle royale game where up to 100 players fight to be the last person standing and Fortnite: Creative, where players are given complete freedom to create worlds and battle arenas. The first two game modes were released in 2017 as early access titles and Creative was released on December 6, 2018. Save the World is available only for Windows, macOS, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, while Battle Royale has been released for those platforms in addition for Nintendo Switch, iOS and Android devices.
While the first two games have been successful for Epic Games, Fortnite Battle Royale became a resounding success, drawing in more than 125 million players in less than a year, and earning hundreds of millions of dollars per month, and since has been a cultural phenomenon.
Currently, Fortnite is distributed as three different game modes, using the same engine and has similar graphics, art assets, and game mechanics.
- Fortnite: Save the World is designed as player-versus-environment game, with four players cooperating towards a common objective on various missions. The game is set after a fluke storm appears across Earth, causing 98% of the population to disappear, and the survivors to be attacked by zombie-like “husks”. The players take the role of commanders of home base shelters, collecting resources, saving survivors, and defending equipment that help to either collect data on the storm or to push back the storm. From missions, players are awarded a number of in-game items, which include hero characters, weapon and trap schematics, and survivors, all of which can be leveled up through gained experience to improve their attributes.
- Fortnite Battle Royale is a player-versus-player battle royale game for up to 100 players, allowing one to play alone, in a duo, or in a squad (usually consisting of three or four players). Weaponless players airdrop from a “Battle Bus” that crosses the game’s map. When they land, they must scavenge for weapons, items, and resources while trying to stay alive and attack other players, eliminating them. Over the course of a round, the safe area of the map shrinks down in size due to an incoming storm; players outside that safe area take damage and can be eliminated if they fail to quickly evacuate. This forces remaining players into tighter spaces and encourages player encounters. The last player, duo, or squad remaining is the winner.
- Fortnite Creative is a sandbox game mode where players are given complete freedom to create anything they want on an island, such as battle arenas, race courses, platforming challenges and more. Epic Games plans to review some of the most popular creations from Creative and rotate these into the Battle Royale map in an area called “The Block”.
In the first two modes, players can use a pickaxe to knock down existing structures on the map to collect basic resources that are wood, brick, and metal. Subsequently, in all modes, the player can use these materials to build fortifications with, such as walls, floors, and stairs. Such fortification pieces can be edited to add things like windows or doors. The materials used have different durability properties and can be updated to stronger variants using more materials of the same type. Within Save the World this enables players to create defensive fortifications around an objective or trap-filled tunnels to lure husks through. In Battle Royale, this provides the means to quickly traverse the map, protect oneself from enemy fire, or to delay an advancing foe. Players are encouraged to be very creative in designing their fortifications in Creative.
All game modes are set to be free-to-play titles, though, as of 2018, Save the World is in early access and requires purchase to play. The first two games are monetized through the use of V-Bucks, in-game currency that can be purchased with real-world funds, but also earned through completing missions and other achievements in Save the World. V-Bucks in Save the World can be used to buy pinatas shaped like llamas to gain a random selection of items. In “Battle Royale”, V-Bucks can be used to buy cosmetic items like character models or the like, or can also be used to purchase the game’s Battle Pass, a tiered progression of customization rewards for gaining experience and completing certain objectives during the course of a “Battle Royale” season.
Fortnite: Save the World
Fortnite began from an internal game jam at Epic Games following the publishing of Gears of War 3 around 2011. Though it was not initially one of the developed titles during the jam, the concept of merging the construction game genre, representing games like Minecraftand Terraria, and shooter games arose, leading to the foundation of Fortnite. Development of Fortnite slowed due to several issues, including switching from the Unreal Engine 3 to Unreal Engine 4, a deeper role-playing game approach to extend the life of the game, and a switch of art style from a dark theme to a more cartoonish style. Further, Epic was looking to get into the games as a service model, and brought in Chinese publisher Tencent to help; Tencent took a large stake in Epic as part of this, leading to the departure of several executives, including Cliff Bleszinski, who had been a key part of Fortnite‘s development. Fortnite‘s approach was changed to be Epic’s testbed for games as a service, and further slowed the development.
Ultimately, Epic was able to prepare to release Fortnite as a paid early access title in July 2017, with plans to release it as free-to-play sometime in 2019 while gaining feedback from players to improve the game. With the release of Fortnite Battle Royale, the player-versus-environment mode was distinguished as “Save the World”.
Fortnite Battle Royale
Near the same time that Epic released Fortnite into early access, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds had become a worldwide phenomenon, having sold over 5 million copies three months from its March 2017 release, and drawing strong interest in the battle royale genre. Epic recognized that with the Fortnite base game, they could also do a battle royale mode, and rapidly developed their own version atop Fortnite in about two months. By September 2017, Epic was ready to release this as a second mode from “Save the World” in the paid-for earlier access, but then later decided to release it as a free game, Fortnite Battle Royale, supported with microtransactions. This version quickly gained players, with over 10 million players during its first two weeks of release, and leading Epic to create separate teams to continue the Fortnite Battle Royale development apart from the “Save the World” mode, outside of common engine elements and art assets. This allowed Fortnite Battle Royale to expand to other platforms otherwise not supported by the “Save the World” mode, including iOS and Android mobile devices and the Nintendo Switch.
A creative mode launched on December 6, 2018, coincident with the start of Season 7 of Fortnite: Battle Royale. Here, each player has access to a private, persistent island which they construct buildings and add and manipulate objects as desired. Players are able to invite friends to this island, and participate in unofficial games such as race tracks or jumping courses. Currently, only players who bought the Battle Pass can get their own private island, but players who didn’t purchase it will get this game mode for free on December 13th.