Players are tired. Players want more, they want something new and fresh. Epic has set a precedent and followers of Fortnite aren’t used to waiting. Some might say that these players are fickle; demanding something new in this free game. It’s a tough line to balance for the powerhouse developer: on the one hand it has been criticised for crunching its team and, on the other, it's called out for not updating the game constantly. Christmas gave Epic the chance to hand the developers and designers a period of holiday, leaving Winterfest to keep players entertained – and it was reasonably successful: the public got daily challenges, free skins, emotes, gliders and pick-axes, and this was coming off the back of the Star Wars event at Risky Reels.
Perhaps Epic is pushing the wrong things across to players. The Star Wars crossover was fun and pretty much everyone went nuts over the appearance of lightsabers and crashed TIE fighters. But the timed inclusion of the weapons appeared to outstay their welcome as many thought the sabers overpowered, while the Stormtroopers were a lot more accurate than the movies and often interrupt movement or fighting. It seems what players want, or at least what they say they want, is changes and additions to the core gameplay and weapons.
As we edge into 2020 Epic is still king of the hill but, for it to keep any momentum, it needs to keep players coming back, especially streamers. Escape from Tarkov has looted some of the game’s best players and most lucrative streamers. Many are just frustrated so they seek out something new but, if the streamers aren’t playing, the kids aren’t watching.
Epic need to find that balance. Players are crying out for Fortnite season two, but the extended period of season one is raising the hopes of many, meaning the developer faces a very stiff task in getting it right. Most want mobility still; ways to travel across the map and redeploy in the middle of a fight. Others want more weapons, extra traps and new items which will bring new tactics. Competitive players want change. That’s far too many camps to please, no matter how many updates arrive. Season two needs to blow the bloody doors off because, when even the leakers are getting bored, there’s a problem.
Overall, though, the playerbase seemed happy with the winter events. The entire island was covered in snow, bringing with it a snowball launcher which acted like the old grenade launchers. Snowmen popped up everywhere offering cover and a hiding place, plus ice shoes if you destroyed them and threw the large snowball at your feet. Ice palaces were great sources of brick and held treasures, as did small freezers throughout the map. One could pose the question 'is that not enough?' and have a point. For several weeks these additions gave something extra, but everyone knew they were limited.
Away from the items and snow storms, we look to the pro scene. New players are coming up through the ranks, showing off their prowess and how the game is adapting to them. Many PC players are beginning to try out controller play, not committing to the change but taking advantage of newer controllers and aim assist. Maker of eSports controllers, Scuf, is seeing a lot of traction in this switch. The company offers players the chance to design the controller, adding paddles and buttons. This is a massive boon for players of Fortnite purely because the extra buttons offer better control over building. With so many options of building materials and structure pieces, these buttons mean one of the keyboard's benefits is transferred to controller players. And when you consider that many of the current competitive champions are controller users, it’s easy to see why others might make the jump.
Breaking down this shift, we can look closer at the idea of paddles on the rear of controllers. Not only can they offer greater control of building materials in Fortnite, but they can change the basics of controls. Many players are changing the jump button – usually assigned to a face button – to a paddle, meaning they needn’t take their thumb from the aiming right stick as they jump; a significant change. The other issue controller players find against keyboard players is weapon-switching. For the latter, switching from rifle to shotgun is a key press. Controller players need to cycle down the inventory with shoulder button taps. Assigning each paddle to a weapon slot is a huge change, meaning sharper box fights and battles. Will we see even more controller players in upcoming tournaments? It’s highly likely, with these hardware options following a route already somewhat explored by competitive players.
So, the start of 2020 is an oddly turbulent time for Fortnite and its players. Of course, much of this will die down when season two finally releases and, hopefully, the playerbase will find some stability. It won’t be long before we start to see new tournaments appear on the menus and hopefully, we’ll get some news on the 2020 World Cup also. A little belated, perhaps: but here’s to the new year of Fortnite.