Epic Games has been at the top of the mountain since its smash-hit Battle Royale mode launched in Fortnite, hitting up Twitch viewership charts and collaborating into mainstream conversation with numerous celebrities name-checking it and streaming it alongside the game’s most popular public figures.
I’ve had an amazing time racking up Victory Royales with my Xbox bros and I think it’s easy to say I’ve boarded the Fortnite bandwagon. Now, I wanted to learn more about how Epic crafted the most talked-about game in the world.
So I reached out to Eric Williamson, design lead on Fortnite to answer some burning questions about their free-to-play phenomenon.
PSB: How has the team at Epic been taking care of the insane amount of attention Fortnite has gotten in the past few months? Did you expect this would become as big as it is?
Eric Williamson: We’re absolutely blown away by the response we have received. We are so stoked and insanely happy that players are loving the game and that it’s creating community and friendships!
PSB: How was the process of adding Battle Royale to Fortnite, give me a run down on what it looked like! lHow long did it take from the first person having the idea to bringing it to life?
EW: Previouslt, the Fortnite team had been conducting some experiments with a range of PvP modes, though ultimately decided to move the focus to the PvE experience. There was always the intention to go back to that. Last year, the idea of a battle royale-style game came up. We just knew would be incredible to combine the last-man standing gameplay with the action-building mechanics that make Fortnite unique. In July of last year, we proceeded working on a prototype, and then launched our very first version of the game in September. So, roughly two months. There was such a strong, solid foundation there for us, so that certainly helped us get to a playable version so quickly.
PSB: There have been a huge amount of updates to Fortnite since launch, with many more on the way. Can you give us a VIP pass to some of the tinier tweaks the team is working on? Any new QoL-level stuff in the pipeline?
EW: We are ALWAYS looking at improving things in the game, the grind never stops. A large percentage of ideas come from feedback from players, it could be new content, performance improvements or slight updates to make they experience players already have just that little bit better. We always take feedback from players into consideration! It means a great deal to us, without the players Fortnite wouldn’t be what it is today!
PSB: Since adding Battle Royale, what update has made the biggest overall impact on gameplay?
EW: Definitely our inventory system has had such a positive impact overall. Being able to speedily and easily pick up or swap items makes it so quick to grab exactly what you need. Some of our items also don’t take any inventory space, so running through a pile of loot to pick it all up is a really satisfying moment. All of this helps get you back to the action of the game as fast as possible.
We didn’t automatically think 5 inventory slots would be enough — get this, we even had plans right around launch time to increase the number of slots so players could hold more. Though then we started seeing these really interesting choices about what players would carry, and how it forced people to prioritise what items they wanted. We realised pretty quickly that we shouldn’t make any changes to how that works. We wanted to give players the experience of being strategic.
PSB: Did the success of Battle Royale influence Epic’s approach to Save the World mode?
EW: We have teams both modes around the clock those are both influencing in a lot of ways. A ton of the content that comes into Battle Royale was designed for PvE first, as follows: Going the other way, the Combat Pro control scheme that our team implemented into Battle Royale, the Save the World later adapted a version of that. We work side by side and share a lot of content, so players of both modes are seeing the benefits all of the time.
PSB: What are some other “emergent gameplay” type experiences you’d like to see someone have a go at?
EW: “Emergent Gameplay” is discovered solely by players so we wouldn’t want to give too much away and even lead them in any one direction (RIP one direction). We have a long look at everything we add to the game, whether it’s the building mechanic, dynamics, aesthetics or a new item, like a tool players can use. How they use them is what makes the moment to moment unique and surprising, and we love to see what players come up with.
PSB: Heaps of people are starting to dip their fingers into the waters of Fortnite after seeing all the recent coverage and hearing about it from friends. If there’s one tip you would give to a brand-new player, what would it be?
EW: Become Bob the Builder, learn, learn, learn, build, build, build! Learning how to place a ramp to get onto the roof of a building is the best and simplest first step to get you started. Fortnite’s action-building system can be used for offence, mobility and defence. Becoming comfortable with the system is probably the best way to have a give yourself a chance at winning.
Like, if you get caught out in the open and get caught in the crosshairs, you can quickly build a wall to give yourself some cover. This protection can give you a moment to heal, apply a shield reload a weapon and fire away!
PSB: We can’t let you go without asking: Any hints about what we can expect in the next Battle Pass?
EW: We like to surprise players, so sorry, I can’t say much! You’ll learn more soon.