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What to expect from Fortnite in 2020

(Image credit: Epic Games)

In the grand reset that was Fortnite Chapter 2’s launch, fans of the ever-evolving battle royale machine lost quite a bit. Chapter 2 said goodbye to mechs and ballers and sub-zero biomes. In return, however, we got a game that felt like what Fortnite was meant to be all along: A playful sandbox focused on a player’s own abilities and progression rather than a race to invincible bubble vehicles.

So what could possibly be next for this giant, unstoppable machine? Where does Fortnite Chapter 2 Season 2 go when even Star Wars has capitulated to the marketing power of your audience? Well, two of PC Gamer’s most dedicated Fortnite players have got a few ideas.

Mobility stays limited

Joe Knoop, PCG contributor: Count me among the Fortnite players who loved, loved, loved what they did to vehicles in Fortnite Chapter 2, and hopes they keep it at a similar level for some time. Getting rid of the Baller, the B.R.U.T.E., shopping carts, and even golf carts was a smart way for Fortnite Chapter 2 to refocus itself on the fundamentals of its particular brand of battle royale. 

Rather than worry about my flank being attacked by someone in a hurtling glass ball from Jurassic World, I was able to focus on getting those precious sniper kills from afar, and move into the next bit of cover with some level of composure. I’ve seen way too many previous Fortnite games end with a couple Baller drivers swinging around while the less fortunate players duke it out below, and I’m glad Epic saw fit to stop those shenanigans for now.

RIP.

RIP. (Image credit: Epic Games)

That said, Fortnite’s map is still ridiculously huge, and I wouldn’t mind more options to get around, so long as they don’t throw the game’s balance into the blender. I think Epic will almost definitely add some new vehicles to play with in the new season, but they’ll likely be rolling them out much more slowly.

James Davenport, staff writer: Chapter 1 was a wild time for mobility. Epic tried everything, much to the chagrin of the Fortnite playerbase. I was a big fan of the near game-breaking updates, be it the mech or the Baller's initial form, but I'll admit that mobility was too accessible and free and varied for the bulk of the chapter. Getting across the island was a cinch, which made playing the circle trivial. Chapter 2 brought back that classic battle royale tension you mentioned, where playing the far edge of the circle is a risk. Outrunning the storm is a serious concern, and I'd like it to stay that way. 

But we can't go another year without any mobility updates, right? I think we'll see map-spanning mobility options trickle back in throughout 2020, but they'll be high risk or high cost options. Like the bandage gun, maybe mobility items take up multiple inventory slots, or the faster vehicles are fewer and located in high-pop arenas. Maybe they're extremely loud and easy to pick at over long distances—I'm talking glass carriages here. Choosing mobility or holding onto mobility options needs to carry the same tension as playing the edge of the circle. Mobility needs to be a major tactical decision over the course of a match, a dangerous choice rather than the expectation.

Joe: I think you’re right on the money. Vehicles in Fortnite need to be a bigger risk vs. reward equation. If you’re giving me a boat that fires rockets or a glass ball with a Batman grappling hook, I want that thing to control like Roach in The Witcher 3, tripping over squirrels and inexplicably ending up on roofs.

fortnite lightsaber locations

(Image credit: Epic Games)

Expect more brand partnerships than ever

Joe: Mild spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker follow, but we’d be fools to not mention an incredibly important plot point that connects the two vastly different brands together.

During Fortnite’s Star Wars event, players were not only treated to a dogfight featuring the Millennium Falcon and J.J. Abrams’ digitized, handsome body, they were also treated to a monologue from Sith lord Palpatine himself. The monologue, speaking of a “day of the Sith” and other such revenge fantasies, was actually a key plot point that kicks off the events of Rise of Skywalker. It's possible to consider Fortnite part of the Star Wars canon, and because of a promotional event.

However you feel about the movie itself, one thing is clear: Someone at Disney, basically the most powerful media organization in the known galaxy, calculated that this was a worthwhile investment for them, to share this key story beat with not only Fortnite’s core audience (something north of 250 million players) but also all the casual and non-fans who would inevitably end up watching or hearing about it.

James: I have $20 in my pocket, Epic. What kinda brand partnership will that get me? 

Joe: So what does this mean for Fortnite? Expect brand partnerships to continue, damn the consequences. Disney has already seen fit to give Fortnite its Marvel blessing twice over. Wreck-It Ralph flashed by at one point. Even Marshmello held a concert in Fortnite. Notably, Epic seems to want to continue investing in “live” events that are broadcast over every server in real-time, rather than the pre-scripted events that mark the ends of each season.

James: Fortnite's brand partnerships and in-game events are a major reason why kids are still flossing in 2020. Epic can just turn off the game for three days and get a segment on Good Morning America. Epic can call some buds at Disney, make a virtual J.J. Abrams dance in front of a live audience, show a bad clip from a bad movie, and attract so many viewers that Epic's login services break across not just Fortnite but their entire client. I'm thinking we'll see a new branded event or skin promo every single month in 2020. January already saw the official Ninja skin and the Fortnite Icon Series basically guarantees we'll see more of this stuff.

Joseph: Maybe one day we’ll get entire state governments promising Epic a billion dollars if they do a Fortnite promo for them, like how New York or North Carolina couldn’t stop salivating over Amazon’s plans for a second HQ building. Who will be the first presidential candidate to host a live rally inside Fortnite? Will Bernie Sanders lament how the top tenth of the top 1% own 99% of all the building materials?

James: I'm voting for Cuddle Team Leader in 2024.

Patch notes will stay simple or disappear again

Joe: With Chapter 2’s arrival, a small army of Fortnite guide writers (myself included) squealed in glee thinking of all the new guides we’d get to write. Think of the patch notes updates, we cried. Unfortunately, Epic stiff-armed us and said no way. Patch notes went the way of the drum gun, leaving a lot of us aimlessly wondering what each update would bring, often for days after it released.

But this isn’t just about Fortnite guide writers. This hurts players, too. Sure, maybe it keeps that update in the news for an extra day or two as we all parse through the map and files, but even a wildly transformative game like Fortnite still relies on some sense of balance, and it was largely impossible to know how each weapon or item was being impacted week to week.

(Image credit: Epic Games)

On one hand, it’s probably great for Epic to not deal with angry blowhards who can’t deal with a 0.2 damage increase on the tactical shotgun—those monsters. On the other hand, it keeps players of all levels in the dark on what to keep their eyes open for, and for a competitive online game in 2020, you just can’t have that communication go away.

James: I'm all for obscuring this information, honestly. There's an endless stream of amateur analysts that see those damage number tweaks and immediately fly into an outrage about Holy Eternal Game Balance. I think part of Chapter 2's actual literal meta depends on update obfuscation. Observation and study through play is rewarded rather than minute-one number-crunchers digging through detailed patch notes and deciding what the meta is that week. 

I think giving perceptive players the upper hand fits into the battle royale ethos too, even if it doesn't jive with the industrial standard for game updates. But it's Epic. Epic can do what Epic wants as long as Fortnite still prints money. I'm curious to see how these nontraditional design decisions add up over time and whether or not they—as jarring as they are now—become commonly accepted practices once the noise dies down. 

Joseph: That’s a pretty gracious take on Fortnite content creators. They’ll always find something to harp on. I can’t log into certain sites without seeing a couple headlines like 'Ninja Explains Why Fortnite’s Tactical Shotgun is Broken!!' As for actual meta, while I like the idea of players being forced to explore more of the game’s minutia in order to find out how this strange new world works (not unlike feeling out a new planet in No Man’s Sky, or learning quantum physics in Outer Wilds), I feel like that works more for narratively compelling adventure games, not so much a battle royale. This is a game where numbers and tools matter, lest your 15-minute run be ruined by someone sporting an arbitrarily more powerful weapon. Look, California’s new freelancer laws have already messed with my workload enough, I don’t need Epic dunking on me, too!

James: Light and dark, good and evil, patch notes and no patch notes. This battle will rage on for eternity.

Joe: War never changes.

Fortnite will be built by its players

James: Last year I jumped the gun and said 2019 would be the year Fortnite became something bigger, a platform brought the battle royale, creative, and survival game modes together. I was a bit early and a bit off the mark. We'll see Fortnite become something like a platform in 2020, but it won't a magical hub world that Epic populates with new modes. It'll be business as usual, except players will be making it all. According to a recent tweet from Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, Fortnite's creative mode tools will getting some major updates, allowing players to "do the kind of things with the game that only [Epic] can do right now." 

A calm, collected mind would read into that and expect The Block 2.0, an area or two on the map that features player-created structures voted in by players, a few more custom game modes here and there. But if the tools are as powerful to dev tools, we could see players created their own scripted campaigns, or even create their own in-game events that ring in new Block updates. 

Players could create vehicles, items, weapons, cosmetics—anything and everything. The most ambitious read of this info imagines Fortnite as the PCs LittleBigPlanet or Dreams, an accessible platform for creating games with a battle royale mode that pulls in player-created map changes and items as curated by Epic. 

(Image credit: Epic Games)

Joseph: I know I’m supposed to challenge your point in an article like this, but honestly, Fortnite’s creative mode is its most exciting feature by a country mile, and the idea that creators could get a way more expansive tool set is drool-inducing.

My hot take is that Epic goes beyond something like a Block 2.0, and instead incorporates player creations either across the entire battle royale map, or—and follow me here—somehow utilize entire player-created islands. Thematically, it would fit since Fortnite has already dealt with the bending of reality and wormholes and such. Mechanically, it allows Epic to ease up resources for other projects inside or outside Fortnite. 

James: Yeah, I think integrating community updates will let the Fortnite devs breathe a little and plan more for the long term without slowing the pace of updates. 

Joe: If I have to challenge the point, I’d say this would open up a giant, giant can of worms called “spec work,” but that doesn’t seem to stop Ubisoft from doing it repeatedly. For the unaware, Ubi tried getting independent artists to create music and art for Beyond Good & Evil 2 through Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s HitRecord. Artists submit their work, HitRecord and Ubisoft pick their favorites, and only those whose work was picked get paid, and often not nearly enough to justify the man hours spent. If Epic uses fan creations more extensively, they’ll be able to say that since payment isn’t a factor, it’s not the same thing, but I think it’s still something they’ll have to contend with.

James: Epic already kicks its community creators some money, or at least the potential for money with creator codes. Input a code into the Epic Store or Fortnite and a cut of whatever you buy goes to whoever the code is assigned to. But you're right, I think we'll need to see a more direct, guaranteed form of payment, something that more closely resembles the Steam Marketplace. Either way, I'm curious to see how Epic builds out its community features and integrates them across multiple games. Will we get Steam 2 or something else entirely? 

Building won't change

James: Epic hasn't budged on streamlining Fortnite's convoluted building system, which I still find surprising. But now it's too late. It was too late when I guessed things would get simplified, even the slightest bit, last year. Building will stay convoluted and complex and alienating, but skill-based matchmaking and bots will continue to improve and keep me ramping and doing slow 90s without much suspicion that I'm being catered to. 

Joseph: Fortnite’s building mechanics are still the one thing keeping me from really investing more of my energy into the game. It’s fascinating watching YouTubers and pros building those 90s in record time, climbing high into the sky, but all it ultimately does is remind me that Fortnite’s endgame is statistically less winnable (for me) than something like Apex Legends or PUBG. You’re right, it’s not going to change, but I am glad Epic is instituting bots and SBMM to make players like me feel like a few more games are going their way.