Fortnite was announced in 2012; I heard about it at PAX that year. The selling points were pretty much the same as they were at launch – run around smashing things, then build a sweet fort to defend your core from zombies with traps and guns. The art style and core gameplay loop were already pretty well nailed down even back then. I got REALLY EXCITED for this game, arguably justifiably so.
It then dropped completely off the radar for like 2-3 years. But I did not forget about it! Signed up for all the newsletters, stalked the press releases, signed up for the Alpha, etc etc.
PAX 2014 rolls around, and I get a mysterious email inviting me to an after-hours Fortnite event (with a +1!). We get to take a shuttle there, they have a whole venue decked out with LAN PCs and snacks and swag etc etc and I get to play this game (which I have been excited about for TWO YEARS already) for at least an hour. It’s buggy as hell and they’ve clearly duct-taped this prototype together for use, but the devs are wandering around giving us commentary and I get a free mousepad and this is literally the coolest thing that has ever happened to me (maybe tied with getting into the GW2 alpha 2 years earlier)
As we leave, they promise to get us invites to the Alpha ASAP, and by December, they deliver! Later I figured out I was in the first wave of testers, no less! I ravenously sink dozens of hours into the Alpha before dialing it back, eventually almost stopping altogether, lest I spoil my appetite for the full release. Still, I’ve had a taste, and there’s no way in heck I’m not preordering this game. 14 months later, the Alpha goes to 24/7 availability and I pick it up again for a bit, etc etc, still in love!
All of this is to say, I was not going in blind. I’d tried and tested this game, seen it grow, literally met some of the devs, I was as sure as I could possibly be that this game would be a banger.
It is also worth ominously reiterating that at no point EVER, had the possibility of PvP been mentioned, while co-op PvE was one of the biggest selling points of this game for me.
Launch day is announced (July 25th), and my only hesitation was deciding how far up the deluxe edition ladder to go – the alpha testers even got a discount! I think I opted for something in the $80 range at the time.
Preordering nets me a few days of early access, and I employ those days to the fullest. The core gameplay is tight and fantastic, even the tutorial is fun. Meanwhile, the progression system and management menus outside the actual gameplay are a huge mess and barely make any sense. Clearly some sort of mandate from on high has overinflated the variety and depth of the progression mechanics in an attempt to increase the monetizability of the game; maybe someone at the publisher had recently discovered gacha games or something.
So, the menus and progression system are janky, but they’re clearly still iterating on it, and I genuinely trust the devs are going to spend time improving things; there’s even cool stuff I saw from the beta that they’ve cut and have expressed interest in reintegrating. Fortnite is awesome and it’s only getting better.
So when launch day hits, I immediately pay to upgrade to the Deluxe +1 version, netting myself an extra copy that I immediately send to a friend, and days later upgrade again for another copy (and some pretty cool skins) that also gets shared (I think there may have actually been a 3rd copy at some point? idr). Anyways, at this point I am now playing co-op Fortnite pretty regularly with 2-4 other friends that I have pretty much singlehandedly sold on/dragged into this game.
And For A Time, It Was Good. I’ve dropped something like $200 dollars on the game itself and I’m probably spending another $10-20 a week on microtransaction currency with no regrets. I’ve waited 5 years for this game and it’s everything I hoped it would be!
Incidentally, this is around the time PUBG starts getting popular, but I
it no mind because a giant single life PvP battleground game is literally the opposite of what I want in a video game. Probably nothing I need to worry about though. How could it possible affect me.
Then, on September 12, I get an email that sends a chill down my spine. Fortnite has this new “Battle Royale” mode available on the Public Test server, and they want help testing it out. I would have expected to just ignore such a thing, but somehow I was picking up tachyon signals from my future disappointment shockwave, and was thus already wary of this development. After all, my investment in this game was predicated on knowing they would improve the weird progression/management system, and if they’re developing a parallel PvP game mode, that’s resources they’re not putting into the PvE mode.
Still, I have no proof that’s happening. Every game dev in the world will tell you that resource allocation doesn’t work like that. They could be getting extra funding to jump on board the hype train, increasing the overall dev resources. But the Battle Royale mode is getting way more hype and attention, and after maybe a month it’s clear their focus has shifted to this new cash cow mode. I’ve dialed back my playtime quite a bit, partly in protest and partly in concern that my time investment in the game isn’t going to be worth it if they let the PvE version wither on the vine.
Then, one day (probably months later), I see some minor news article detailing a fix they’ve put in for a bug in Battle Royale mode. More importantly, the bug hadn’t been fixed in Save the World mode yet. Worst fears confirmed; Battle Royale was unequivocally more important than PvE.
I’d left Fortnite installed on my computer in the hopes that I might pick in up again someday, but within days of that news I’d uninstalled every trace of Fortnite and Epic Games from my PC.
And the worst part is, I can’t really even blame them. Fortnite Battle Royale is making them boatloads of money! There is no way they could have possibly done anything else once that cat got out of the bag. But it’s also a very painful and expensive reminder that I can’t ever trust Game Developers, even if I believe they have the best of intentions
tl;dr I got into Fortnite from below the ground floor, dropped tons of money at launch and got several friends into it despite it having many flaws, then had the rug pulled out from under me when they pivoted hard to the Battle Royale mode.
Huh, I always wondered why anybody would want to play coop PvE. 🙂
Not that I’m really into FPSs anymore, anyway. I did download Fortnite because my little brother wanted me to. But I didn’t really want to play on a team with him or anyone else.
Solo was okay, but it’s not something I wanted to devote a lot of time to “gittin gud” at. The whole core mechanic of like, it’s a shooter but you build ugly shacks absurdly fast to block bullets, doesn’t really appeal to me.
I always wondered why anybody would want to play coop PvE
It’s all the great things about single player, with friends. It’s great.