The untold truth of Fortnite

Fortnite: Battle Royale is one of the hottest video games on the planet — very few games manage to rack up 10 million players in their first two weeks on the market. But despite appearances, it didn't appear from out of nowhere. Fortnite has been in development for over half a decade, and it's been subject to all kinds of controversies, delays, and disputes along the way. These are some of the game's highest (and lowest) moments so far — and the game isn't even finished yet. Expect more shenanigans to follow.

Epic vs. the 14-year-old gamer

With so many players, cheating in Fortnite isn't just likely — it's inevitable. To keep the experience fair, Epic banned thousands of cheaters in October 2017. That's not all: Epic also sued two players associated with Addicted Cheats, a website where people can pay for help winning Fortnite matches. But then they went further. A second round of lawsuits targeted cheaters themselves, including a 14-year-old boy. 

Epic claims Caleb "Sky Orbit" Rogers was targeted both because he cheated, but also for uploading YouTube videos promoting and explaining those cheats. Rogers didn't stop there either. When Epic tried to have YouTube remove the videos, Rogers filed a takedown appeal against Epic. It's not clear how much Epic is seeking in damages, but some of the other Fortnite lawsuits go up to $150,000 in potential penalties. That's not the kind of money most teens have lying around.

Now, Rogers is completely, 100% guilty. He admitted as much on YouTube, explaining he "just cheat[s] for fun." He also defended himself by pointing out that he's hardly the only cheater in Fortnite. Still, targeting a middle-schooler isn't a great look, and the optics got even worse after Rogers' mother issued a lengthy and well-argued rebuttal to Epic's suit. 

All this begs the question: what's worse? Getting lectured by a kid's mom for being a bully? Or being the kid whose mom yells at game companies when he gets in trouble? Sounds like a two-way tie for last.

But Epic isn't all about suing fans. Sometimes, it's inspired by them.

A fan creation becomes official...maybe

In January 2018, Fortnite: Battle Royale received a massive update that overhauled the game's map. Fortnite: Battle Royale's mayhem-filled landmass didn't get bigger, but new locations like Snobby Shores, Shifty Shafts, Tilted Towers, and Junk Junction gave sections of the map more distinct personalities, as well as new places to loot much-needed weapons and supplies.

But when the new map appeared, a small section looked awfully familiar to members of the Fortnite community. A little while before Fortnite's map update, Reddit user blorfie posted a proposal for a new location called Haunted Hills, complete with a crudely sketched map and designated loot points. A member of Epic's staff replied, complimenting blorfie on the work, and blorfie gave permission to the Fortnite team to use those ideas free-of-charge. When the map update launched a little while later, guess what one of the new locations was called? That's right: Haunted Hills.

Now, Haunted Hills' in-game implementation isn't very close to blorfie's proposal, and while Epic acknowledges that its development team "did see the name and liked it," that doesn't mean they're directly acknowledging the fan's concept. At the very least, however, that's one heck of a coincidence, and it makes that section of Fortnite's map just a little bit more memorable.

Fortnite footie

If you need a break from all the Fortnite mayhem, don't quit the game. Simply head over to the small hub west of Twisted Towers, where you can find an indoor soccer field. Not only is the pitch filled with some weapons that should come in handy, but there's a ball, too, which you can whack into the goals with your pickaxe. Enlist a few friends (or nearby opponents), and it's easy to put together a pick-up soccer game. Confetti drops when one side scores a goal, and thanks a recent patch, using a basketball instead of a soccer ball no longer counts as a point. Thank goodness.

Soccer probably won't become Fortnite's next big spin-off, but if you can convince everyone to lay off of the trigger for a few minutes, it's a pretty good time. Just be careful: there's nothing stopping your opponents, your teammates, or any wayward spectators from whipping out their guns and opening fire while you play, so keep an eye on your surroundings at all times, and make sure that you're not in a game with a bunch of sore losers. Some people take soccer very seriously, and in the topsy-turvy world of Fortnite, you never know what's going to happen. 

The same can be said for the creation of the game, too…

Fortnite: an Epic rip-off of other games

Fortnite's Battle Royale spin-off is directly inspired by the mega-hit PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, or PUBG to its fans. That's no secret, either: Fortnite creative director Donald Mustard admitted as much in September 2017, right before the ultra-popular game mode arrived on PCs around the world. "We love Battle Royale games like PUBG and thought Fortnite would make a great foundation for our own version," Mustard wrote on the game's official blog.

But while Fortnite's Battle Royale mode gets all the press, the game wasn't always a Battlegrounds knock-off. At the Develop Conference in 2013, Epic Games' co-founder Tim Sweeney described the core game as "Minecraft meets Left 4 Dead." That's because it features four character classes, zombie-like creatures known as husks, and an emphasis on building strong, durable bases to defend against the shuffling hordes. When he said "Minecraft meets Left 4 Dead," Sweeney wasn't kidding around.

The swipes don't stop there. Critics compared Fortnite's co-op gameplay to Orcs Must Die! 2, while games like League of Legends, Overwatch, and Destiny, convinced Epic to give Fortnite a similar "games as a service" development model. Basically, Fortnite started as a mash-up of the most popular games in existence.

Fortnite took way longer than a fortnight

Before Fortnite, Epic Games was best known for three different things: brotastic shooter Gears of War, Unreal Tournament, and the Unreal game engine, which powers plenty of your favorite games. Fortnite is a wild departure from all of those, and Epic was a little too excited to show it off to the public. Born during a game jam at Epic's studios, Fortnite was planned as one of Epic's next big games. The game debuted as a trailer at SpikeTV's Video Game Awards show back in 2011, and then…nothing.

When that first trailer appeared, Fortnite had only been in development for about three weeks. In 2015, four years after the teaser, Epic finally allowed members of the press to play an hour-long demo. At the time, Epic's VP of publishing, Mike Fischer, admitted that "we announced this game too soon." Uh, yeah. 

Two years later, Epic finally released a paid, early version of the game. As of this writing, an official release is scheduled for sometime 2018, but, at this point who really knows? 

A flagship that never set sail

Fortnite is available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and even Mac. But believe it or not, Fortnite was originally only supposed to be a PC exclusive title

"Next-gen's here. It's been here. It's a high-end PC," Cliff Bleszinski — known to fans as Cliffy B — said at San Diego Comic-Con. He promised that Fortnite "is a PC-designed game, it's shipping exclusively for the PC," and that it'd be the very first game powered by Unreal Engine 4. Then the delays hit, and while the Unreal Engine 4 was ready for prime time in 2014, Fortnite wasn't.

In the intervening time, a number of games using the Unreal Engine 4 have beaten Fortnite to the market — including, ironically enough, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, which has caused no small amount of strife between the games' two developers. Yikes.

Paragon's rise and fall

While PUBG is typically seen as Fortnite's biggest competition, there's actually another game that's caused no shortage of problems – Paragon, a MOBA that was developed by Epic Games itself.

Epic developed Paragon and Fortnite simultaneously, and while the company never stopped work on Fornite entirely, over time Paragon became Epic's number one priority. In March 2016, Epic CEO Tim Sweeny told Game Informer that they'd "shifted a lot of resources over to Paragon to get that out in an awesome state." Paragon's early access trial began a few days later. As Epic refined the game, Paragon attracted a small, passionate fan base — but small was what it remained.

Ironically, Fortnite actually killed Paragon. As Fortnite: Battle Royale grew more popular, Paragon started shedding players. Before long, members of Paragon's development team jumped over to Fortnite, which an Epic representative told Redditors was "far larger than anything in Epic's past." 

It didn't take long for the axe to fall on Paragon after that. Epic announced Paragon would close in April 2018, and that everyone who purchased the game or in-game items is entitled to a full refund. Guess it's easy to see which game won that battle.

Cute, cuddly carnage

Fortnite doesn't look anything like Epic's other franchises. Gears of War and Unreal thrive on gruesome monsters, hulked out dude-bros, guns, and gore. Meanwhile, Fortnite is bright and friendly, with family-friendly art design and a healthy sense of humor.

When development started, however, the game was as dark and grimy as Epic's other projects. At PAX Prime in 2012, Epic's Cliffy B said that Fortnite's original art design was too depressing. Epic's designers were worried it would grate on players over time. Besides, games like DayZ and H1Z1, which are also zombie-infested survival games, already have the grim and gritty market cornered. Making Fortnite look different was a smart way to set it apart.

For inspiration, Epic turned to Pixar, old Looney Tunes, and Tim Burton's films for inspiration. The end result, featuring loot boxes shaped like pinatas, flying buses, and traffic cone hats, may not be hardcore enough for a contingent of serious fans, but it certainly looks different from anything else on the market. Mission accomplished.

Accidental cross-platform play

For a few brief hours, the dream of cross-console play between Xbox One and PlayStation 4 gamers became reality thanks to Fortnite. Well…kind of.

In late September 2017, Fortnite fans on Reddit noticed that people playing on other consoles seemed to be popping up in their games. One father-son team even posted a screenshot showing the same Fortnite session running on both an Xbox One and a PlayStation 4. Soon after, Epic confirmed that Fortnite cross-platform play was, indeed happening — and promptly shut the feature down, blaming the episode on a "configuration issue." Whoops!

So long, CliffyB

It may be hard to believe, but Fortnite holds some major responsibility for the end of Cliff "Cliffy B" Bleszinski's 20-year stint with Epic Games. In 2012, when Epic decided to move Fortnite to a "games as a service" model, the company reached out to Tencent, the Chinese company with ties to League of Legends, Clash Royale, and many other high-profile titles, for help. The partnership escalated quickly, and Tencent decided to purchase about 40% of Epic. That meant buying out some long-time employees, including Bleszinksi. Cliffy B sold his shares, pocketed the money, and poof! He was gone.

Bleszinski told Eurogamer that his departure had less to do with Fortnite itself, and more to do with just feeling burned out after 20 years at the same company. Of course, just a few years later, Bleszinski returned to the industry with his own company, Boss Key Productions, and a brand new game called LawBreakers. Despite positive reviews, LawBreakers has struggled to retain its player base, although Bleszinski is doing everything he can to turn the game's fate — and his own controversial reputation — around.