For those who may not know, Fortnite‘s gameplay has long been defined by the ability to collect resources and use them to build massive defensive structures that also allow them to cover great distances. It’s hard to remember now, but there was a time when many people saw Fortnite: Save the World’s battle royale spin-off as a shameless attempt to cash in on an emerging trend. While the game’s cartoonish graphics and faster-paced combat certainly helped set it apart from something like PUBG, it was ultimately that building system that separated Fortnite from a considerable pack of contenders.
While Fortnite’s building mechanics have come to define the absurdly popular game in many ways, it hasn’t always been the title’s most popular feature. Some see it as the feature that helps separate great players from good and bad ones, while others believe that Fortnite’s building system has come to dominate the core experience in a way that can easily alienate anyone who is looking for a “pure” battle royale game. The latter group has certainly been quite vocal in recent years as the skill gap between Fortnite’s expert builders and everyone else has only widened. It’s gotten to the point where even casual and new Fortnite players are increasingly forced to play with, around, and against those who are able to use that building system to dictate the pace of matches.
While the popular theory has long been that it’s in Epic Games’ best interest to ignore the “no building” fans, the studio recently decided to acknowledge their requests in a pretty significant way.
According to the lore of Fortnite‘s latest update, the evil Doctor Slone has essentially vaporized all building materials in the world. That means that, by default, there is currently no way to build structures in Fortnite. The idea is that players must work together to defeat Doctor Slone and restore buildings to the Fortnite universe (though that mechanic will likely be restored in the near future regardless of what players do).
The problem is that Fortnite’s players are anything but united when it comes to whether or not they want buildings back in Fortnite now or at any other point in the near future. While not everyone loves all the changes that have been added to the game to compensate for the lack of those building mechanics (such as the default addition of a rechargeable overshield, new parkour mechanics, and the ability to open doors faster than ever), quite a few people are discovering that Fortnite without building is actually their preferred way to play the game.
Again, it’s easy to understand why Fortnite without building is so popular at the moment. Not only does it make the game feel fresh (especially for those who have regularly been playing it for years), but as mentioned above, quite a few people feel that building has taken on a life of its own in Fortnite and has come to define the experience in the worst way possible.
While there are certainly quite a few causal players who feel that Fortnite’s building mechanics alienate new players, it’s telling that some of the most vocal fans of Fortnite’s new “no building” gameplay are longtime or lapsed players. That may speak to the demanding nature of the game’s building mechanics and how they often require incredibly fast reflexes, a lot of practice, and your personal interest in committing to a demanding style of play that proves to be just as (if not more) valuable as shooting at your opponents. Indeed, some feel that the removal of that mechanic is ultimately an example of “addition by subtraction” thanks to the new strategies and styles that are suddenly now viable.
That’s where the other side of this argument comes into play. While some are thrilled that Fortnite is no longer dominated by builders (at least for a while), others argue that the decision to remove that feature has made Fortnite feel much more generic and may have been made to appeal to some who weren’t really interested in the game in the first place.
Now, parts of this debate can obviously be attributed to simple preferences. Some people like building in Fortnite, and some people don’t like building in Fortnite. It’s really not more complicated than that.
However, as you may have gathered from some of those tweets, the temporary removal of Fortnite’s building options touches upon a bigger issue in the game’s “culture.” Specifically, it highlights the divide between those who feel that being truly skilled in Fortnite means being an expert builder and those who feel that Fortnite’s building mechanics belittle the importance of movement, aiming, and other “pure” shooter skills. Some also argue that it’s pretty clear that building is just a part of the Fortnite experience at this point and not eventually learning to use it probably means you’re better off playing a different game.
We’ll obviously leave it up to everyone to determine which side they fall on in this particular debate, but the biggest talking point at this time isn’t the “building vs. no building” debate itself but rather what Epic Games is going to do about this whole thing.
Maybe Epic thought that releasing a version of Fortnite without building might just show everyone that they don’t want that feature removed as much as they think they do, but it turns out that quite a few people are suddenly dreading having to return to Fortnite as it was. Much like how the release of World of Warcraft Classic left a lot of legacy WoW players realizing they hadn’t been truly excited about that game in quite some time, this “new” version of Fornite has left a lot of people looking at the base game even more venomously than they once did.
So what should Epic do now? Some are suggesting that they should just release a “no-building” mode as a permanent addition to Fortnite, which is a seemingly ideal compromise that comes with quite a few notable catches. Not only would that potentially divide the game’s massive community (and leave those on the fence in search of a home), but as we’ve seen with other live service games, introducing a “legacy” mode often doesn’t work as well as everyone hopes it will. More often than not, the spin-off mode is treated as an aside while the main mode is given the bulk of the attention. Indeed, Fortnite’s own Arena mode has often suffered from that problem.
As many are also quickly realizing, Fortnite isn’t necessarily designed to fully support the “no-building” playstyle, and turning that into a separate mode may mean needing to treat that mode like a separate game. Epic certainly seems to have the resources needed to develop and grow both modes equally, but do they believe it’s in their best interest to do so?
Regardless of what happens next, it’s been fascinating to see how this seemingly gimmicky update has really dragged this debate into the spotlight. It’s been easy enough for the average player to largely ignore the arguments about how the game’s building system has been slowly widening Fortnite’s skill gap, but now that Epic has shown people what Fortnite without building looks like, they’ve fuelled that fire in a way that nobody else could have ever dreamed of doing.
Ultimately, Fortnite will probably survive this scenario and remain that historically successful shooter that rakes in billions of dollars a year off licensed character skins. Still, it’s been incredibly entertaining to sit on the sidelines and watch one of the largest player bases in the world argue over whether or not it’s finally time for the juggernaut battle royale game to get rid of, or revamp, its core mechanic.