Fortnite – Building hype around a floating rock

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It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a comet!!

To say that Epic has done nothing to build a story around its take on Battle Royale is most definitely doing them a disservice. But from a gamers point of view, they’ve done just that and you know that we gamers love to make ill-formed opinions with limited knowledge so why buck the trend, eh? And yet, with radio silence from Epic, the last month of Season 3 has sparked conversation about Fortnite Battle Royale’s world, its future and what to expect from Season 4. All of which started with a pesky comet.

Fortnite Battle Royale has fast become the most played game of all time. Releasing back in September, the additional game mode to Fortnite’s PVE mode has infected the gaming scene and its popularity isn’t looking to wane. It’s grown so big that even celebrities are playing it, showing us all that they are indeed human people and not marionettes who’s sole purpose is to entertain us. But I digress, Fortnite is pretty big.

The attraction of Fortnite BR, or any Battle Royale game, is the fast-paced adrenaline-fuelled gameplay. It all sounds very energy drink advertisement but it’s this buzz that keeps people coming back for more. There are very few games that manage to get your heart racing as Fortnite and when you die, or win, but mostly die, it’s easy to jump straight back and feel that sweet euphoria coursing through your veins once more. After 500 matches of Fortnite, this feeling hasn’t stilted. Unlike other games of the moment, Fortnite manages to build this excitement purely from gameplay, casting any semblance of a story aside, but at the start of April, this changed.

On April 1st there were reports of a comet in Fortnite BR’s skies. As quickly as this was dismissed as an April Fool’s prank it was confirmed by many players witnessing the comet firsthand. At the time Epic said nothing about the comet. It simply appeared and the Internet being the Internet was quick to cook up some theories.

The most popular theory was that the comet was on course for Titled Towers – a controversial area of the map that, for some reason, attracts large numbers of players during the initial jump. It’s not out of the ordinary to see a quarter, or even a third, of all players in a match land at Tilted. On the one hand Tilted is great if you fancy jumping headfirst into the action but on the other, it leaves the rest of the map feeling a little lonely. Such player separation isn’t ideal in a game that thrives on random/luck-based gameplay and Epic will have undoubtedly been discussing how to handle it.

Whilst this theory had grounds there was no direct correlation between the destruction of Titled and the comet. But it wasn’t long before some “evidence” was found to back it up. When the comet first appeared in the skies players were reporting their controllers to be vibrating at random intervals – I witnessed this firsthand and it was bloody annoying. Epic was quick to point out that this was a bug and that it would be fixed in the next patch. Conspiracy theorists weren’t quite on board with Epic’s dismissal and instead thought the vibrations were related to the comet, somehow. Scepticism wasn’t misplaced in this instance as someone on reddit noticed the vibrations were, in fact, a morse code message. And the message? SOS D 5 418.

If you’re looking for any sort of evidence to back up a claim of Tilted being laid to waste this was the perfect piece. SOS is obviously a distress call and D5 just so happens to be the grid coordinates of Tilted Towers. The 418, however, was throwing people off. Did it mean April 1st, 2018 – the day in which the comet first appeared? Or was it April 18th? April 18th was a popular choice but once the date passed it was clear that either the whole message was false or that the numbers merely represent April 2018 – the last month of Season 3.

The rumblings of the comets purpose began to die down after its first appearance but it was then that the game started to change. As part of Forntnite’s weekly updates, additional props were added to the map. Telescopes were placed on high points of the map with their gazes affixed on the comet. The comet itself was also drawing closer taking up more space in the sky and lending to a much more splendorous view. But again, nothing was mentioned by Epic. These changes appeared in the game and it was up to the players to discover them. As the month progressed the comet drew ever closer and with just two weeks to go small fragments of the comet were breaking up and burning in the atmosphere. The comet also began emanating a weird vibrating sound, only audible when you aimed your reticule at it, which turned out to be a bit of a lol on Epic’s part. It was getting close but at this point, no one was really sure what ‘it’ was.

During the final week of Season 3, everything intensified. Emergency broadcast screens appeared on the TV’s dotted around the map. Tilted became a waiting area for the apocalypse with sofas placed on the rooftops and handmade signs welcoming other life to our planet. The comet itself now looming over the map like an emblazoned behemoth ready to lay waste to its inhabitants. Parts of the comet began breaking off, landing onto the battlefield. These meteors would hurl into the ground, breaking anything in their path. Trees would explode, buildings would crumble and players structures were smashed to rubble at the hand of these meteorites.

It was in this final week that Epic finally broke their silence by teasing Season 4 of Fortnite. The first image shown was a comet with an assumed superhero character in its tail. Since the initial reveal three more characters have been shown; one looking a lot like Wonder Woman, the third a stern-looking chap and the fourth another female character. Each character was teased with a single-line tweet; “Battle. Adapt. Win.”, “Fight with Honor.”, “Check every corner, box, and bush.” & “Leave your mark.”. The four teased characters lead to a heavily assumed superheroes theme for Season 4 but what of the comet?

The assumed superhero theme has lead to further fan theories. Is the comet a Super Man style transportation device bringing superheroes to the game? Are the heroes coming out of hiding to save the world from the comet’s fury? Or is the comet, in fact, an alien spaceship? Truth be told we still don’t know but with Season 4 literally around the corner, if you consider days to be walls, we don’t have long to wait. Today (April 30th) Epic announced that Season 4 commences tomorrow (May 1st) and did so with the following image and tweet “Brace for impact!”

We can safely assume from this image and tweet that the comet will be crashing into the game’s map tomorrow. It may have sounded like a certainty prior to this tweet but this could well have been the greatest, and most annoying, prank of all time. Other than that we’ll have to wait and see. There is, however, one telling feature in the posted image. In the righthand background, there are two faint, but visible, electricity pylons. Seasoned Fortnite players will know that these pylons sit behind Dusty Depot, a central area of Fortnite’s map. This could well mean that Tilted isn’t going to meet the fate that many assumed it would and instead Dusty will be raised to the ground. One thing is for certain, though. The comet will be changing the game’s map in one way or another.

Through a month of mysteries and fan theories, Epic has managed to do something I never thought possible with Fortnite Battle Royale. They’ve managed to create a story. The theories, both personal and on the web, made me reminisce about the days of LOST. And while a simple thing such as a comet can’t be compared to the grandeur of that show it’s done a great job of building up hype for Fortnite’s 4th season. You’ve done good, Epic.

Web developer by day, game developer by night. Mostly cranky. Mostly.

@KieranMcClung

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