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Fortnite - Haphazard & Hurriedly Beautiful

By Tim Eisen on October 24, 2018 | Columns | Comments

Fortnite - Haphazard & Hurriedly Beautiful

Another two weeks pass. Another column is due. What should I write about? The crowd-funded news well isn't exactly flowing. The big game release schedule, just in time for Christmas, is looking thick, solid and tight but I don't see any MMORPG's in the mix. I guess that means I have to dip a toe outside the narrow lines that define our niche and talk about the only multiplayer game to retain my attention this long since Darkfall launched. I'm talking about Fortnite, again.

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I went into Fortnite to do a single column about what this phenom was and why it was retaining so well. I never imagined I'd keep coming back. Over the last few weeks, I've continued to play casually albeit on the decline. That was until they added Disco Domination. I don't want to overstate this but it alone took Fornite from a typical shooter PVP experience, where fun varies greatly from match to match, to the most fun non-MMORPG PVP experience I've ever had.

I've enjoyed the Battlefield games with their destruction and vehicles. I played Call of Duty. I preferred Ghost Recons. But none of them have been able to capture what Fortnite has done with Disco Domination. Assuming most of you don't play Fornite because, as fun as its been, it pales in comparison to the sophisticated pleasure that is a PVP MMORPG, I shall inform you as to what the hell Disco Domination is.

"Summary: It's time for the ultimate dance-off. Dance Floors have spawned around the Battle Royale island. Take them over by clearing out any enemies and then dancing to raise a disco ball up from the floor. The team that fills their meter the fastest by capturing and defending the dance floors will win the match!"

In detail for you min maxer types.

"Two teams of fifty players. Respawning will be turned on until the third (last) storm circle. Five dance floors will appear on the map whenever the storm is not moving. Emoting on a dance floor when no enemies are present will raise a disco ball in the center of the floor, and capture it for your team. The more friendly players dancing on a floor, the faster it will be captured. Once a floor is captured, it will begin filling the team's "dance bar" on the HUD, until either an enemy stands on it or the current storm timer ends and the storm begins to move. The first team to fill their dance bar to 100% will win the match.

The dance floors in the later stages of the match fill the bar more quickly, so don't give up if your team is behind! It is not possible to build on or over the dance floors, but they can be protected by surrounding them with a fort.

Glider redeploy is activated in this mode, press jump while falling to use your glider. This mode uses 50v50 levels of loot and resources."

At its core, its capture the flag. Now hear me out! I’m as sick of capture the flag as anyone. I got my fill on that concept from WOW and I haven't touched it since. What keeps me playing, and laughing, is the contrast of doing something so silly, to capture something so silly, while a serious battle rages on around you. It's like Saving Private Ryan except when they get to Ryan, they go to a disco to dance the war away, if only for a few brief escapist moments at a time... I don't understand it and I don't want to.

The dancing is funny but there is more to what makes Disco mode so fun. The most important feature is having multiple respawns until the final storm cycle. As an aging gamer, I come out on the losing end in most standoffs. Having multiple spawns gives me additional chances and, more importantly, it allows players the freedom to play wreckless or conservatively. By wreckless, I mean not paying attention to my old ass allowing me to scrub a few wins. I no longer need to win, but it sure is nice not to lose all the time.

The second important feature is also behavioral. Its how the fort building works, or more accurately, how players use it. In the other modes, the building functions more like a bizarre shield than any sort of defensive structure. In this mode, the game begins to live up to its name. By the end of a disco match the center disco, which is where the most intense fighting happens, looks like an M.C. Escher drawing. The structures are thrown together in a way no robot can yet duplicate. They are human in every haphazard, hurridly beautiful way.

Fighting your way through the maze of chaos to the disco platform buried deep below is the sort of thing I've been waiting years to experience. Is it MMORPG? No. But as a shooter, I'm not sure there is anything on the market that can duplicate this unique experience. Silly, chaotic, random, player made and human in the best, and worst ways. Again I find myself praising this game for the same core elements that I love in an MMORPG.

The developers also added other stuff but I won't bore you with the details. The important part of "devs added stuff" is that it may unconsciously be the thing that I'm enjoying the most about this silly game. You see, a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away I fell in love for the first time. Her name was Star Wars Galaxies. The reason she retained me wasn't Star Wars, don't tell the others but I wasn't a fan until after I played Galaxies, it was the constant additions. Given it wasn't a grand plan so much as a launch that came a year too early, the result was fascinating and wonderful. I finally met a game that didn't get stale because every time I thought I had it figured out, they added new content that gave me something to learn.

For the majority of the players, I understand their addiction. Fornite has every game casino trick down to perfection. But I've been at this a long time. I'm no mark, at least not until I buy my first over-priced skin, but if that sweet Plague Dr didn’t get me nothing will...except maybe that sweet dark space suit... What? I’m a mark for space things... Until then it's the new content that keeps me coming back.

Every patch introduces some small seemingly irrelevant addition that turns out to have huge ramifications. Best of all the surpises don't come in the same package. One week the story might progress a chapter which changes the map slightly. How? I have to log and hunt it down to find out. Another week it's a new weapon or trap. Most recently it was a Quadcrasher, a four-wheeler that can blast through walls. Is it overpowered? Maybe, but that's part of the appeal, the same appeal that I loved about PVP MMORPGs.

I'm not arguing for Fortnite and I'm not trying to sell it to you. I'm confident that most MMORPGers would find it another twitchy shooter that doesn't give them a MMORPG sense beyond the story which you don't really progress with your actions. Sure it has several things borrowed from MMORPGs but for most of us, that won't be enough. What I'm trying to do is log my experience. I went into Fortnite with a snarky skeptical mindset and found myself pleasantly surprised. In another sprinkle of salty irony, that is exactly how I fell into this genre in the first place. Until next time, I’m off to dance my cares away!

Tim Eisen / I roleplay a wordsmith that writes about the technological and social evolution within the game industry

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