After Fortnite Battle Royale exploded in popularity, developers over at Epic Games focused their attention on regular updates that, some players say, has inflated the game with too many items. Sure, some players might appreciate boogie bombs, guided missiles, remote explosives and launch pads, but to players who prefer a more streamlined game, Fortnite has become unwieldy.
Fortnite is, at base, a game about being the last man standing and constructing stuff. It’s Hunger Games with building plus lots of goofy items: bush costumes, portable fort grenades, and, guided missiles. Nearly every other week, Epic introduces some new, wild thing that gets everyone talking. Sometimes, that new, wild thing introduces some fun nuance into the game, and other times, it adds a little too much chaos. In fact, earlier this week, Epic Games removed the three-week-old guided missiles after several players voiced concerns “over fairness and strength of the weapon,” Epic wrote in a Reddit post. Under the post, fans noted other apparently game-breaking items Epic had already returned to the vault, Epic’s term for their item-balancing holding pen: the Zapotron, a laser sniper; the wall dynamo, an electric wall trap; a smoke grenade; a jump pad. One player wrote that Epic should focus on “fixing gameplay issues and less content for the sake of content.” Another: “I’d be happy with some weapons that have a 0% chance of appearing in most matches.”
It sounds like a basic conversation over whether a game developer should change a game’s “meta,” a term describing a game’s popular strategies. That’s partly true, but what Fornite players also draw lines between “fun, light-hearted chaos” and “game-breaking and disorienting.”
Fortnite drops are randomized, which means that item balance is a tricky topic. Two equally matched players might not face the same type of RNG luck. On the other hand, when these game-breaking weapons appear in the later parts of the game, players more familiar with them will have a leg up over players who aren’t used to Fortnite’s end game. To quote Kotaku Deputy Editor Patricia Hernandez, “Often, I’ll forget I have the spicy new weapon in my inventory, because in the middle of a hectic situation, it’s much easier to default to an assault rifle, shotgun, or sniper rifle. These are known quantities that I know how to control, and in a free-for-all where you only have one life, experimenting with the strange new thingy isn’t always the most prudent choice.”
Since just a few months after Fortnite Battle Royale’s release, a vocal minority of players have been complaining that it’s just got too much stuff and, because of that, Fortnite’s endgame is hard to balance. When players stay alive long enough, they get access to rare, super-powerful weapons. Those weapons and items can be pretty maddening to counter.. Players argue that the game needs more weapon balance—which is difficult when Epic introduces over-powered X-factors like the submachine gun. Players have different lines for “too much”: One on /r/FortniteBR said of the uber-defense potion, “The minishield and campfire were nice addition but the new Chug Jug? I don’t know.” Another player said that new guns like the hand canon aren’t compelling compared to bread-and-butter shotguns, for example. On Twitter, a few players have complained that Fortnite’s developers should just keep the game as-is and stop adding new items. In a living game like Fortnite, mastery is never fully attained: the game changes too often, and players constantly have to account for new and unbalanced weapons and strategies. One week, players might be able to fire off two extremely powerful shotguns in a row. The next week, that strategy might be gone, but now there’s a chance your enemy could instantly build a powerful fort at their feet.
Under these (many, many) threads questioning whether Fortnite is too item abundant, lots of players resoundingly answer “no.” All Epic Games is doing is keeping Fortnite fresh, they argue. On top of that, they say, if you’re not competitive against a little chaos, you’re not that great a Fortnite player. A post on Epic Games’ forum about the bush costume summed up this argument nicely:
“I love the [bush disguise] and love the fun quirky attitude of this game.
There are too many CoD [Call of Duty] type of games as is and hope this one never tries to be that style of game.
If people want a more realistic shooter go buy PUBG [PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds].”
Fortnite embraces chaos and, instead of making it feel frustrating and over-serious, stuffs it into a grenade and calls it a “boogie bomb.” Epic’s dedication to keeping the game kinetic means there’s always a chance that they’ll introduce a weapon that increases my win chances—for example, I’ve had good luck with the new remote explosives. That way, I won’t have to rely on perfect aim all the time to have a leg up. I can innovate with what Epic dishes out.
It’s also worth noting that these regular content updates keep the game interesting for its enormous, ever-growing population of YouTubers and Twitch streamers, who always have new things to make videos about.
Reached for comment about whether Fortnite should feel streamlined and simple or full of fun, chaos-inducing items—and how they’ll balance the game going forward—a representative at Epic Games responded, “We will and can put items into the vault and take them out as needed. We think that will not only keep things fresh, but also will allow us to take the time to rework items based on player sentiment, or if we think something needs a little tweaking.”
That said, sometimes, a little chaos is just too much. Players want some vestige of control over whether they live or die—even if it’s tiny. That means being able to see threats, dodge attacks and construct forts to stay safe. It’s a low bar, but some items removed from the game didn’t clear it. The now-removed guided missile, for example, didn’t give victims enough opportunity to stay alive. Opponents could direct it wherever they wanted and it could just explode forts, killing targets. That’s chaotic, sure, but also, plain broken.