An advantage to having adult kids in the house is the games they discover might be fun. Such is the case with the everpresent Fortnite.
I have heard about this game for a year and a half from all the muggles of the world. “Oh my god, my kid is playing Fortnite too much !” Being busy with Ingress at launch time and other priorities since, I have never investigated further and simply sneered at the idea that the game might be interesting. This is just for kids !
Then my daughter got an Xbox. And she LOVES Fortnite. She’s been playing for about six months and is pretty good, and has some unusual priorities as far as I’m concerned – her favorite thing is the skins and wraps and whatnot that the game has. She immediately told me I should play it, but also threw out mixed signals since she didn’t want me partying up with her crew (a bunch of real life friends), especially after they all started telling her how cool I am. I didn’t want to screw things up for her. But she convinced me to try it out, and I journeyed and persevered through figuring out
- What is this game exactly ? (Well, that’s easy, 100 player Battle Royale)
- Where did this come from again ? (Not a Gears of War player, never played an Epic game)
- Why is this fun ? What’s the progression ? How to do this cheaply ?
And so here’s what I figured out, credit to Wikipedia for most of it :
Back in 2017 Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds – PUBG for the initiated – came out and was a huge success. I was tempted to buy into it, but PvP has never been my thing and it cost around $40 I believe. Having a huge Steam backlog keeps me from buying things nowadays.
Also in 2017 Epic was putting together a free to play game called Fortnite. This game sounds like a bunch of gamers getting together in a conference room and talking about what their new game should have :
- Fully destructible world
- 4 player coop (See Left 4 Dead)
- Free to play with microtransactions
- Tower Defense concept
- Buildable structures in support of tower defense
- Scavengable representation of the real world
And they went ahead and realized their game. It was OK. RockPaperShotgun was not very complimentary, making it sound like microtransaction hell.
But when PUBG came out, they realized their game was pretty close and a good fit in the Battle Royale era, so they threw their hats in the ring. In a super short two month timeframe they created “Fortnite Battle Royale”, which now has become Fortnite. With the success, the titles have switched.
Fortnite BR is now a multi billion dollar success. They have the entire teen universe playing this plus God knows how many other gamers. After you get past Battle Royale the game has features including :
- Free To Play. Want to try it ? Just put it onto your device.
- Chapter and Season content. I keep forgetting which is which. But the Season 2 introduced a new map with a hugely varied set of areas for you to kill each other on. I have to hand it to their mapmaker(s), it’s really well done.
- Want to pay ? Buy a Battle Pass which is good for one Chapter. $10 is pretty reasonable. This permits you to unlock a few characters, and get all the rewards for levels 1 – 100.
- Cheapskate ? Play through the chapter and acquire V-Bucks (premium currency). Hold onto them and you can buy the next chapters Battle Pass. Ad Infinitum.
- Whale ? Buy a Battle Pass and keep buying V-Bucks. You can spend them on Skins, Wraps, Songs, Gliders and other weird things, that all look really fun.
- Don’t wait ! Each item is only available for a limited time. Artificial scarcity with the skins, I am sure, drives a lot of impulse buying for whales.
- Many platforms. I have seen Xbox, Switch, Android, IOS, and PC. There are a lot of concerns with these different platforms all being matchmade together, which probably doesn’t matter too much because :
- Skill Based matchmaking. Everyone wanted to party with me when I was a newbie because the opponents are easier. As you build up a record, they get harder, if you do well. I can clearly see my opponents are harder than at first.
- Like Progression ? It’s there. Season 2 Chapter 2 includes several unlockable skins for the “normal” progression, and the ability to unlock gold versions with each level you increase above 100. For example, I unlocked a Brutus skin, and as I level up his head is gold and it’s trickling down until his entire costume will be 100% gold.
- Want achievements ? These exist, not really well done, but it’s kind of fun to try and pick them up.
- Spy Theme. This is exceptionally well realized and assisted greatly by the fantastic score I hear playing the game. There are techno versions of music too, maybe that works for the kids, but I love the 60’s James Bond vibe I get from this.
- Don’t like PvP ? There’s no sense of loss in this game. Lose a match, and just jump into another one. No big deal. The cartoony aspects of the game help a lot here.
- Building based shooter. I don’t build much (I think I’m called a Grounder for that reason). Most of the match winners build structures as fast as you can click a mouse and it’s weird to watch.
Have I mentioned the main game yet ? Why, no I haven’t. It will be familiar to anyone who knows the Hunger Games universe. You skydive onto an Island along with 100 other players and fight. Find weapons tucked away in different spots on the map, acquire resources and build up little structures and rooms. A “Storm” continuously closes in and keeps the players from just hiding out far away from each other. Eventually a couple of players are squooshed into a small area and the last person standing wins.
You can play solo (my preferred version), or Duo with two people, or Squad with four (My Daughter’s favorite). Voice coms, which I have avoided with all the determination of an old bastard hating on new technology, are well implemented and inescapable. And there is NO COMMAND LINE TEXT CHAT. You can only talk with your teammates….. with your headset on. By voice.
It’s fun. It’s super hard to win. But it’s all the game aspects behind the Battle Royale that make it a big success.
Then there’s the tweaky things I noticed. XP is an interesting one.
- You want to level up to unlock the next reward on the Battlepass. But the vast majority of XP comes from Missions. These come in a couple of flavors and are limited to a few at a time.
- This, of course, pushes you to play daily (Daily logins ! Investors etc want to know this ) and not to play after they expire. Pretty neat mechanic as well to keep teens from spending less time in the game.
- Being a grinder, I managed to figure out a good way to play without missions. I fish and scavenge. Catching fish, strangely enough, gets you nearly as much XP as opening a chest. Avoid other players, open chests, and fish for the best XP. Having said that, it’s just the best available.
- Grinding XP for four hours gets you about the same XP as a mission that takes 15-20 minutes.
And there are no rewards for winning the game. No rewards for first place, second place, whatever. Very little career tracking other than this.
I remember each of these wins clearly. It’s a fun sense of accomplishment.
So for now I am a daily player contributing to the juggernaut that every muggle parent exclaims against.