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October 14, 2019 1:55 PM   Subscribe

Fortnite Disappeared Over the Weekend [YouTube][Live] “On Sunday evening, more than 6 million people gathered online via streaming services such as Twitch and YouTube to watch the end of the world. Not our world, thankfully, but the world of Fortnite, which was sucked into a black hole, taking the whole game and all player characters with it. If you try to load Fortnite today, you’ll be presented with a blank screen. When developer Epic Games called the finale of Fortnite Season 10 “The End”, it wasn’t kidding. OK, before confused parents start celebrating, let’s be clear: Fortnite will be back, it’s just that Epic has closed out the first chapter of the game, which has amassed 250 million players since the launch of its Battle Royale mode in September 2017.” [via: The Guardian]

• Fortnite players think the game might come back on Tuesday [Polygon]
“Fortnite’s big black hole event is still underway, and as the hours go by, fans are working themselves into a frenzy. What do the numbers [11, 146, 15, and 62] mean? Are we getting a new map? But more importantly: When is Fortnite coming back? While we can’t say for sure, players have theories. Most discussions are coming from data miners who are digging around for clues. The first piece of the puzzle comes from trusted leaker Lucas7Yoshi, who found that the official Fortnite website seemed to suggest that “The End” event will conclude on Tuesday.”
• With the apocalyptic black hole event, Fortnite’s storytelling has grown increasingly ambitious [The Verge]
“Last night, I spent six hours staring at a black hole. The anomaly appeared on multiple screens surrounding me: it was on a TV playing a Twitch stream, on my Switch as I logged into Fortnite, and in countless images and GIFs that popped up in my Twitter feed as I tracked theories about just what the black hole was. From the outside, it probably looked a bit silly, all of this attention focused on a virtual anomaly that wasn’t even doing much. But this latest event from the team behind Fortnite is something they’ve been building toward for quite some time, as the battle royale game’s ever-evolving island has steadily become an effective storytelling tool. Now they’ve pulled off their most ambitious project yet — and left fans with no real clue as to what comes next.”
• Leaked Fortnite Chapter 2 trailer provides a first glimpse at the new island [The Verge] [YouTube][Fortnite Chapter 2 Season 1]
“But an apparent trailer for the next Battle Pass (titled “Chapter 2 - Season 1”) has been uploaded to YouTube. It teases the first look at the new map and some fun additions that appear to be on the way. The trailer looks to confirm rumors that the game will be getting an entirely new map next season. The video shows off a number of new locales, including a river, a power plant, a beach, and a fishing pond. And yes, in the new season, it appears you’ll actually be able to fish in that fishing pond, as well as drive a boat, swim, and hop around on a pogo stick.”
posted by Fizz (39 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 


So much of this stinks of stunt marketing. That being said, I'm fascinated by how Epic has changed the nature of gaming. It's carved out this very unique social media space. The game itself is just another in a long line of Battle Royale clones, and you either love it or hate it.

But it's that social space where young people/teens are hanging out that makes me pay attention. It's a game that was built for the streaming era, and you might argue it helped make Twitch even more of a thing than it was previously.

Maybe at the end of the day this is just a simple update/reboot of the game where they can open up a new map and new weapons/toys. I don't think that really matters. I'm more interested in seeing where they take this game/experience and how it shapes how people interact in these spaces.

*throws popcorn into mouth*
posted by Fizz at 2:02 PM on October 14 [1 favorite]


My partner just described Fortnite and Club Penguin with Guns, and I WANT to say they are wrong, but....
posted by Canageek at 2:25 PM on October 14 [11 favorites]


It takes an incredible amount of audacity to take the thing that's made you billions of dollars and say "Let's throw it all away." Even if your revenues have declined, even if it's almost certainly coming back in a very familiar form, deciding to run an event centered around not letting anyone play the game any more is astounding.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 2:28 PM on October 14 [17 favorites]



This is a bit flippant take but the possibility and increased likelihood (relative to other forms of entertainment that are collaborative and interactive with other users) that the company/author may take away all use of a game without any notice makes me extremely hesitant to invest a significant amount of time to online games.

When you're practicing and mastering a skill and related knowledge (locations, XP levels, strategies, etc) of a game, you're practicing it with the expectation that you'll be able to use that invested skill and knowledge to enhance the pleasure that you have while playing the game along with the social networks, informal norms, camaraderie that have formed, later on.

I think it's fair to say that it's not reasonable to expect an online game to be the same 5 or 10 years from now; but typically there's signs (dying community, mastery of the game has leveled off) reminding you the game is changing.

Granted, you could say the fear of suddenly pulling the plug on any other collaborative online project, game, community [heck, even metafilter] but games are more notorious for suddenly pulling the plug.
posted by fizzix at 2:40 PM on October 14 [5 favorites]


Wait, video games have seasons now?
posted by nevercalm at 2:43 PM on October 14 [7 favorites]


It takes an incredible amount of audacity to take the thing that's made you billions of dollars and say "Let's throw it all away."

you can do anything with unending crunch:

https://kotaku.com/report-fortnite-developers-are-severely-overworked-1834243520
posted by Mikey-San at 2:48 PM on October 14 [5 favorites]


I've never played Fortnite but I've often been fascinated by it from afar.

The current black hole screen evidently has a game accessed through the Konami code, if I remember correctly from Reddit. Which is an amazing detail to add.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 2:53 PM on October 14 [2 favorites]


Wait, video games have seasons now?

For a few years, at least. A clear early example was the free-to-play (and wholly decent) Diablo clone called Path of Exile (PoE), which started them in 2014-ish (they were called DLCs at first, but it's effectively the same thing). PoE's seasons are pretty cool. Each one adds a substantially new idea to the gameplay, along with cosmetic items to generate money, but it helps to keep things fresh. It's not super different from having bi-yearly content patches, like WoW had been doing with its expansion packs since the mid-2000s. Single player games have also started doing "season passes" since the 2010s, where the expectation is that you are going to have a lot of DLC, and you pay a premium to get all of it at once at a slight discount.

I would say that digital distribution and a slow but steady shift to games-as-service is the main reason, along with the move (as early as Minecraft) towards having games that are updated in perpetuity and meant to be played (basically) forever. Fortnite is the main example of that currently, just by virtue of being the most popular, but it's the confluence of a number of trends in gaming for the past two decades.
posted by codacorolla at 3:02 PM on October 14 [6 favorites]


Hearthstone and friends are another big driver of the 'seasons' time division... which in turn inherits from Magic the Gathering's regular release of new sets, every three or four months.

So, at the bottom of it, you can blame Richard Garfield.
posted by kaibutsu at 3:12 PM on October 14 [5 favorites]


"This is a bit flippant take but the possibility and increased likelihood (relative to other forms of entertainment that are collaborative and interactive with other users) that the company/author may take away all use of a game without any notice makes me extremely hesitant to invest a significant amount of time to online games."

A lot of these things only exist when they are first around. Either you enjoy the time you spend in them now, or you don't. Thinking of it as an investment seems like it leads to a bad time and unnecessarily frames your leisure time as some kind of labour, which many online games already do hard enough without the player's help.

Look at WoW Classic, nobody is playing the game they were back then. They couldn't even if there were 0 differences between the clients. You can never go back to that era of naivete, that era of relatively few online gaming options, that era when it was a phenomena even outsiders caught wind of.

"You had to be there" isn't a new feeling, but it's been the past few years it's been formalized and capitalized in earnest.
posted by GoblinHoney at 3:25 PM on October 14 [3 favorites]


"You had to be there" isn't a new feeling, but it's been the past few years it's been formalized and capitalized in earnest.

I agree with this. Online games have been dying since... essentially since there have been online games, stretching back to the first MUDs. Anything that isn't P2P is going to rely on a server that depends on the solvency of the company or group running it, and anything that is P2P still relies on other people caring enough to play with you.
posted by codacorolla at 3:41 PM on October 14 [2 favorites]


get back to me when epic comes out with a game as good as zzt.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 4:11 PM on October 14 [5 favorites]


My son had serious FOMO when he heard about what happened in Fortnite. We had to watch multiple youtube videos to recap what happened, and he played the space invaders game for a while.

I think what they're doing with massive concurrent events is really interesting from a cultural perspective. It's the closest we have to the digital spaces mentioned in cyberpunk fiction of the 90s and early 2000s. But from a marketing standpoint, this is risky. It will only work for so long, and then people will start just playing other games instead.
posted by sleeping bear at 4:22 PM on October 14 [2 favorites]


This just makes me think that someone watched that episode of southpark where eric cartman inherited a theme park, and then it became super popular because he wouldn't let anyone else in, and thought that was a seriously good business idea.

To be fair, they may not be wrong.
posted by jaymzjulian at 4:30 PM on October 14 [1 favorite]


What do the numbers [11, 146, 15, and 62] mean?

Coordinates for Arthur Morgan's tombstone?
posted by Chuffy at 4:38 PM on October 14 [1 favorite]


I'm just glad the mechs are finally gone. I've played since it launched (and own but never play Save the World) and Season 10 was my least favorite. I'm ready for a change and hope they pull this off!
posted by Arbac at 5:13 PM on October 14


> Wait, video games have seasons now?

I don't know how to break this to you but... even board games have seasons now.
posted by automatronic at 5:27 PM on October 14 [3 favorites]


Wait, video games have seasons now?

Asheron's Call was a thing. It had monthly updates to a world development story line. It had it's moments.
posted by Max Power at 5:50 PM on October 14 [2 favorites]


You have to admit it was pretty ballsy to pull this off when the kids had the day off of school.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:11 PM on October 14 [2 favorites]


You have to admit it was pretty ballsy to pull this off when the kids had the day off of school.

They know their audience, they know that kids will be tuned into the stream non-stop, watching other streamers, even if it is just staring at a black dot. They also know that Fortnite is like a really addictive drug, once you're hooked, you're coming back for more.
posted by Fizz at 6:14 PM on October 14


Wait, video games have seasons now?

This is basically the logical (if depressing) result of publishers becoming so terrified that players won't buy a new game (even a sequel) that they've stopped releasing new properties or sequels and instead just iterate on the one game forever with various ways to extract a monthly fee.

To be fair, this isn't something that happened overnight -- it's been a long, sometimes slow decline. But, the idea that you can even know what a game is without an explicit temporal reference is a premise that's getting shakier by the minute. We're way beyond "12 years on, you can't play TF2 in the form TF2 existed for its first few years anymore or ever", and now at basically "you can't play Fortnite in the form it existed in 3 months ago anymore or ever again".

I will be shocked if there's ever a Fortnite 2 in my lifetime, but I'll be similarly shocked if Fortnite in 2025 looks remotely like Fortnite does today.
posted by tocts at 6:26 PM on October 14 [1 favorite]


"...as if millions of yellow aviator glasses cried out."
posted by rhizome at 7:14 PM on October 14 [1 favorite]


I would have gone with the 🍴 emoji personally but 🕳️ works too.
posted by dephlogisticated at 8:21 PM on October 14 [1 favorite]


Asheron's Call was a thing. It had monthly updates to a world development story line. It had it's moments.

I find people saying "this is an interesting new method of storytelling" interesting because as far as I can tell, the only really new thing about is that people don't get pissy they missed it. That is, admittedly, extraordinary, because they're courting the pissiest demographic in a very pissy time, but the only other live game able to get away with having one-time events that most of the playerbase missed, and no-one minding, was when FFXIV dropped a meteor on the game world as it shut down. (And that's because it was clear that it had been given to a more competent development team, who were forced to rebuild the game from the ground up and found a cool way to contextualise the server shutdown.)
posted by Merus at 9:03 PM on October 14 [1 favorite]


You have to admit it was pretty ballsy to pull this off when the kids had the day off of school.

Not here in California. Kids get Cesar Chavez Day off instead.
posted by sideshow at 10:53 PM on October 14 [1 favorite]


If we're talking about ending a massively multiplayer game world (even temporarily), it's worth noting that Final Fantasy XIV did it first [previously] [video link] and here's a link to people talking about it a bit more [link].

In short, the game had some serious technical problems and was a critical and commercial failure. Somehow the director persuaded his bosses to give him enough money to remake the entire thing, and now it's one of the most successful MMORPG around. The original 1.0 version was finished by litterally dropping a moon onto the game world.
posted by Braeburn at 2:16 AM on October 15


This is basically the logical (if depressing) result of publishers becoming so terrified that players won't buy a new game (even a sequel) that they've stopped releasing new properties or sequels and instead just iterate on the one game forever with various ways to extract a monthly fee.

Culturally, this is the same generation of kids for whom there has only ever been one MineCraft. That's a game you buy once, and they support forever. To Microsoft's credit, they've continued to allow this rather than take the undoubtedly profitable step of releasing for-pay DLC packs.

Given its popularity, as well as the longevity of other things like TF, we've got a new generation or players that culturally expects the same game to last for years, even decades, while receiving periodic, free updates.

I think in large part this is about a constant look and interface. You only need to learn the basics once. You don't need to worry that the new update has made all your twitch reflexes wrong in some subtle and upsetting way.

Honestly, I'd much rather this model than the Madden 20XX model of the last two decades where they fucked with the interface every time they put out a new version too.
posted by bonehead at 5:22 AM on October 15 [1 favorite]


I've never played Madden online, but (1) there's a new one every year and (2) I think the online game only works with the current game, so it stops after a year.

Also, something something strong hands, the Nothing, etc.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:23 AM on October 15 [1 favorite]


It takes an incredible amount of audacity to take the thing that's made you billions of dollars and say "Let's throw it all away." Even if your revenues have declined, even if it's almost certainly coming back in a very familiar form, deciding to run an event centered around not letting anyone play the game any more is astounding.

What's more incredible to me is that people are actually streaming this black hole 24/7 waiting for whatever will occur and I doubt it will have much impact on playership or sales at all.
posted by Young Kullervo at 6:33 AM on October 15




Culturally, this is the same generation of kids for whom there has only ever been one MineCraft. That's a game you buy once, and they support forever. To Microsoft's credit, they've continued to allow this rather than take the undoubtedly profitable step of releasing for-pay DLC packs.

Um, Minecraft pocket edition that my son has on his iPad absolutely has for-pay DLC packs.

Java edition that he plays on his computer is still as it ever was, though.
posted by Fleebnork at 7:38 AM on October 15


The most interesting thing to me about seasonal content as a model is seeing it move out of the MMO realm. It feels absolutely unremarkable to see an MMO platform putting out periodic content and plot and world updates because, yeah, they're tired to a long-term model by design, though it was still novel when it started happening in that genre in the first place.

But all the battle royales I've put time into in the last few years are doing the same sort of thing, with varying degrees of facility. Path of Exile, but also Diablo III to some extent; if we loosen up the idea that "seasons" include major changes to the world or content and just allow for rolling seasonal tweaks and new gubbins and resets of time-limited leaderboard/event stuff, it's become pretty common indeed in big-budget games.

And there's a lot of market-wrangling there and plenty of room for cynicism, but one of the interesting things about the emergence of this seasonal model is that it does seem to fit some games very well. Like probably the thing I play most that has a seasonal cycle is Rocket League, and it kicks off a new season every few months or so and has cosmetic buyables and introduces new novelty features periodically, but ultimately it's just...stayed the same game for several years now. It's a simple game with a very hard core of underlying mechanics: you're playing soccer with rocket-powered cars. It's a sports game. It needs to stay very solid and very reliable in how it plays.

So by a traditional development and marketing clock Rocket League 2 is well due and then some at this point, but: why? What would Rocket League 2 do, to justify its existence? Change the gameplay? Not a good move when you've had players spending years becoming fine-tuned car-propelling machines, with esports competitions and all. Keep the gameplay the same? Then why is it a sequel? So running through the seasons with a static model is a good fit that, ten or fifteen years ago, might not have been available practically and could have left Rocket League as a good game that had a short heyday and then died the way games die when the cycle moves on.
posted by cortex at 10:09 AM on October 15 [2 favorites]


I think when it comes back it should be a dating sim.

Set in the court of Louis XIV and built primarily around gay relationships.
posted by Naberius at 10:51 AM on October 15 [3 favorites]


Set in the court of Louis XIV and built primarily around gay relationships.

You can easily play a character this way in Final Fantasy XIV. Just saying.
posted by Fizz at 12:52 PM on October 15 [1 favorite]


I think in large part this is about a constant look and interface. You only need to learn the basics once. You don't need to worry that the new update has made all your twitch reflexes wrong in some subtle and upsetting way.

I agree with that, but also think that graphics stopped mattering in many ways in the early 2000s. A game has to have pleasing graphics, certainly, but if you can save on processing by doing this with pixel art, or cell shading, or low-res textures, then players will still glom onto it. A lot of popular competitive and online games are decidedly from 2 or 3 generations ago, and (maybe I'm wrong) it seems like very little of popularity is built around cutting edge graphics. I think this is distinct from the early to mid 2000s, where having a cutting edge graphics that you need a top of the line rig to run was a major selling point. One potential contributing factor to this is the bottleneck that consoles have placed onto gaming, where devs want to hit as many platforms at once, and tend to design for latest gen consoles - which are effectively pretty old computers at this point. edit: That's to say nothing of the fact that a lot of competitive and massive online games even run on mobile - Fortnite being an example - so the bottleneck is even more severe than during XBOX360 / PS3 days.
posted by codacorolla at 1:09 PM on October 15


Seems like a lost branding opportunity to not leave the game down for exactly two weeks, but I guess there would be a danger of giving your major demographic too much time to find something else to do.
posted by RobotHero at 1:50 PM on October 15 [4 favorites]


A lot of popular competitive and online games are decidedly from 2 or 3 generations ago, and (maybe I'm wrong) it seems like very little of popularity is built around cutting edge graphics.

One of the most compelling video games I ever played was an obscure early PS2 flight sim called Sky Odyssey. I loved the hell out of that game and played it until I think the laser in my console was about to burn through the substrate on the CD. The graphics were not the reason why...
posted by Naberius at 5:41 PM on October 15



A lot of these things only exist when they are first around. Either you enjoy the time you spend in them now, or you don't. Thinking of it as an investment seems like it leads to a bad time and unnecessarily frames your leisure time as some kind of labour, which many online games already do hard enough without the player's help.


I don't disagree with you there; I did some online gaming as a teen (mostly counterstrike, warcraft 2, and worms) in the early 00s and than stopped (lack of interest) but some of it was also because our family PC couldn't support the more intensive games; couldn't afford to buy a graphics card and I was content gaming solo on my PS2 and using emulators.

I have the same feeling right now; I often enjoy playing rocket league (I've spent about ~300-400 hours on it over the past ~3 years) which it quite remarkable but I know compared to others, that's peanuts);
my only computer, a thinkpad running ubuntu struggles on it (I only get 30-40 FPS).
I've spent a couple hours optimizing the settings w/ guides found online and play it with the least-intensive graphics; but it was already feeling like labor trying to pinpoint the cause (as I write this, my 6 year old wireless router doesn't help either) and not worth the hundreds of dollars it would likely be to buy a suitable computer or gaming console.

Good points all around.

In sum, even doing some online gaming; I mostly grew up with the expectation that I could go back to a game and play it years later or play a game years after it was released; I understand online gaming's nature isn't conducive to that gaming in general is going much more towards that
but I'm ambivalent about that direction.

My relationship with some of my hobbies (making maps, playing around with open data sets) and labor are complicated because I've often been paid for them as well.
posted by fizzix at 8:28 AM on October 16


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