At PAX last night, Epic Games held a panel to show off some insider footage of early Fortnite development and current gameplay footage. As a showcase of Unreal Engine 4, it looks great. But we already knew that. Hit the jump to find out a little bit of what the game will actually be.
Fortnite is immediately striking. Artistic Director Pete Ellis described it as “Looney Tunes meets Tim Burton meets Pixar.” Funnily enough, all of those influences were recognizable instantly. It shares the slapstick sensibilities of early animated television. The videos they displayed showcased this and were fairly amusing. Zombie-styled enemies who wear human skin like hoodies? I’m in.
It’s easy to describe Fortnite as “Epic does Minecraft,” but that’s selling it short. Using features like “framing,” it’s easy to build huge structures in miniscule amounts of time. Leveling up your character allows for bigger, more complex frames that require more resources (w-Mega Man). Building looked very simple, but complacency can be dangerous.
Cliff Blezinski assured the audience that combat will be good in Fortnite. Obviously, Epic knows their material when it comes to heavily scripted action games (Gears of War immediately springs to mind), but Fortnite is allowing to experiment with more emergent gameplay. He claimed that they have spent significant amounts of time working on making enemies that can react to the players’ creations, such as the “troll,” which can climb on top of created structures and teleport through weaker walls. These pesky little guys will steal your hard-earned items if you’re not careful.
Speaking of items, loot is a major part of Fortnite. It was heavily implied that the game worlds will be randomly generated. “It wouldn’t be much fun playing on the same world over and over, would it?” The impressive part of this is that the worlds actually seem formerly populated. Unlike Minecraft, Fortnite‘s world has buildings and houses, giving it that post-apocalyptic feeling that any good zombie game should have. Scavenging for items will be a major mechanic in the game — even the enemies will join in the festivities.
Through very early footage, checkerboard textures and all, they showed off the variety of playstyles that the crossbow (the only weapon they showed in action) could facilitate. The basic crossbow shoots a single crossbow bolt. One possibly upgrade increases that to three at a time. Another allows the player to set electrical traps with each bolt, setting up strategic traps. My personal favorite upgrade that they showed allowed the player to attach a rope to their crossbow, letting them fire ropes between buildings or up to roofs to quickly navigate the environment. Upgrades like that go a long way towards giving the player a customizable experience, which is sorely lacking from most games in the sandbox genre.
The most obvious questions is: “What is Fortnite releasing on?” While the panel was very careful in avoiding talking about or promising a next-generation title, Cliff was quick to assert that the next-gen already exists; it’s a high-end PC. Seeing as their roots go all the way back to Jazz Jackrabbit and Jane of the Jungle, Cliff compared developing for PC “first and foremost’ to meeting up with an old friend.
I went into the Fortnite reveal expecting a shallow, derivative Minecraft clone with a shiny new engine, but I came away impressed. Keep in mind that none of us were actually able to have hands-on with the game, but from the footage shown, Epic seems passionate about improving this genre. Innovative features like as “framing” allow for on-the-fly editing before structures are even built show that they’ve put ridiculous amounts of time trying to build a game that brings new ideas to the table.
While no release date or pricing information was released, it was described that Fortnite will be a “living” game with a small paid beta up front and updates based on player response. All of the panel’s speakers seemed passionate about the project, which left me excited for the game. Considering building a machine that could run it, even. Look out for Fortnite. It’ll be special.