Interview: Epic Games Reveals New Fortnite Gameplay

Epic Games has been quietly iterating Fortnite over the past few years. What began as a Game Jam idea has continued to evolve into a much larger project that has taken different design directions along the way. The developer has allowed a group of journalists to get hands-on with the latest pre-Alpha version of Fortnite, which is being designed as a free-to-play PC game. Darren Sugg, lead designer on Fortnite at Epic Games, discusses what’s new with the strategy/action game in this exclusive interview. Can you explain how the monsters now enter into the world in Fortnite? The way Fornite’s world is structured is there’s a mysterious storm that takes over areas of the world and it spawns these creatures. Every time there’s a lightning strike another portal opens up and creatures pour out of it. There’s a mysterious link between the storms, the monsters and the world, and we use that as a gameplay method. It also works as a relatable concept for the players because they understand the bad guys are going to come from the north because that’s where the storm front is. We got to do really cool lighting and storm effects. We got to tie together the visualization of cool thunderstorms, which everyone knows can be scary with lightning strikes, and we’re also communicating a bunch of our gameplay intent, which is you don’t want to be standing in the middle of a storm.

The pre-Alpha version we just played has about a dozen different monsters. Can you identify some of the main creatures that people will be going up against? We basically have different categories of monsters. We have what we consider artillery units and they’re about actually disrupting walls from afar and really blowing up your base. We have two different varieties of that: the Flinger and the Lobber. The Lobber is just lobbing projectiles into the world that both either blow up areas of walls or deny players areas to run through because it will put something like poison gas clouds in there. The Flinger actually takes other monsters and flings them up onto your structure. If you don’t build a roof, they can just go up into your base and end up inside your inner sanctum. Our standard unit is what we consider the husk. That is our basic trooper. He’s not particularly smart, but his job is to tear down walls. He needs help from other creatures like the propane tank Husk, affectionately known as the Sploder. He carries a propane tank and if you let him set that down, he’ll detonate that and blow up a huge area. The reason why he’s dangerous is that gives him the ability to disable traps and stop some of your machinations against enemies, so it forces players to change their behavior. Then we have our tank, which is our Smasher. He will come at ground-based walls and try to punch his way through to make room for the other husks to come through. He’s very devastating to basic walls and lower-upgraded structures because he’ll destroy your structural support and then the whole fort will come crashing down. Over time we can talk more about all the different creature types. On the player side what are the different classes that are playable right now? We have three different types of classes. We have our Commando and he is the natural gunfighter running around with like an assault rifle. He’s the guy that’s good at sniping and anything ranged like grenades and proximity mines. He’s at home up on the battlements shooting down at the monsters, or he can be up in a sniper tower shooting long range at enemies. Then we have our Ninja, who has Shurikens, Nunchucks and a Katano. He’s our melee hero and he’s at home fighting hand-in-hand with the husks and other enemies. Generally, he also has good traversal because he has double jump. He can move quite quickly through the enemies and get himself out of there. He’ll come in, do a couple of slashes, maybe execute his Dragon Slash, which is one of his power moves, and he’ll kill lots of people. Then he’ll jump back up onto the wall away from the creatures and into safety. Everybody in Fortnite can build and everybody can fight, but the Constructor takes building to that next level. Once he has a base in place, he drops down a device that enhances all the walls around him. He can create walls that regenerate as long as they’re within his radius, so basically it automates and makes building that much more awesome. This guy is designed to maintain your entire fort, while the rest of the team is running around taking care of their other roles.

Can you talk about the bigger picture for Fortnite and how you’ll entice players to come back for more? One of the things that we wanted to add into Fortnite that’s different is individual classes and class advancement that are unique only to a particular character like a lot of RPGs have. The progression of your character and of your gameplay stems out of your fortress, which becomes the central focal point for your advancement. The meta game is you’re building buildings that are making your fortress more powerful. When your fortress is more powerful, all you individual heroes are more powerful. When people look at a character sheet in a traditional RPG they see a singular guy, but we want you to look at your fortress and feel like you’re the master of this fortress and this represents how awesome I am in the world of Fortnite. My heroes that I go into combat with are just one aspect of the gameplay and my power level. My overall strength of my home base, the kind of buildings I have, how I’ve configured them – like putting a bunch of guys to man the walls of the armory to get free guns when I get into the game or putting a hospital inside my fortress that’s giving my guys passive regeneration when we get into the action part of the game – that’s all unique. That feels to me like the high level goal of why my home base is what it is. How do you see this evolving? We want to give players a space in the long-run where they can build a persistent fortress in this zone that protects my overall home base. There’s a fortress in the center and it protects it and that’s where players can go like build persistent aspects of forts, so they can try different experimental fort designs. They can try certain trap layouts and then they can throw a lever and have bad guys come attack them and really try out this persistent thing and then throw a lever and it resets and refreshes all the buildings and restores it back. It’s a place where they can tinker around. We can imagine this being a place where players could also go to make cool looking buildings and cool looking fortresses and show off those things. That part of the game is still evolving, but it feels like because the game systems of Fortnite and all the building aspects, there’s a lot of room to grow in that area. And that would all before multiplayer as well, you can invite friends? Yeah. We totally want, everything we’ve developed like from the beginning for the entirety I’ve been on the project we’ve always had like a coop working. We wanted that from the very beginning. So the same thing will be true there. We want to be able to invite other people into the space so they can at the very least check it out and more likely so they can play with you in those areas and that’s really important to us because is more fun when there’s multiple people involved.