Epic have been busy this week with Fortnite [official site] in both its PvE and Battle Royale forms. Over in Battle Royale (which is free), Epic have added a duo mode and started banning cheaters in their thousands. Epic have also been working on technical improvements to Unreal Engine itself that should benefit any game throwing 100 players into a big world to fight. Pointing this out seems a bit of a passive-aggressive wink to how the makers of Playerunknown's Battleground have grumbled about the possibility of Epic keep any such improvements to themselves. Cheeky! And for Fortnite PvE (which will be F2P but isn't yet), the new Horde Bash mode has launched.
Fortnite Battle Royale cheats
First, cheats and the cheaty cheaters who cheat with them. Epic say that "addressing cheaters in Fortnite is the highest priority across Epic Games" and that they "are constantly working against both the cheaters themselves and the cheat providers."
They've already banned thousands of players and, while playing cagey so as to not clue naughties into how their cheat-detection and banmachine works, say "we are rolling out tools and will continue to do so." Making bans stick is difficult in free-to-play games, as banned players can simply use a new e-mail address to register a new account, so hopefully Epic have something good up their technosleeves.
A player progression will arrive in Fortnite Battle Royale system in "the next several weeks", and Epic hope that people will feel less inclined to cheat when they risk losing their progression to a ban.
Earlier this week, Epic also launched a Battle Royale update adding duos and bringing back supply drops. They also gabbed about their plans to rebalance weapon accuracy.
Unreal Engine improvements
Onto Unreal Engine! This week, Epic detailed the many "performance, memory, and workflow optimizations" they have made to Unreal Engine 4 while making Fortnite Battle Royale. These changes aren't directly visible to players -- for example, "Switched property type comparisons from strings to FNames for speed during replication" -- but improve the engine's technoguts, largely enabling better dedicated server performance and easier collaboration for artists.
These changes will roll out across the next two releases of Unreal Engine 4, and Epic say they've got more Battle Royale-y improvements in the works too.
Epic stress that all these improvements can "not only benefit Fortnite: Battle Royale but every developer using Unreal Engine 4, especially those building games with similar requirements." You know, like Playerunknown's Battlegrounds.
The makers of Plunkbat have expressed discontent with Fortnite Battle Royale in strange and rambling ways. Following a baffling statement in which they said they "are concerned that Fortnite may be replicating the experience for which PUBG is known," Bluehole Studio elaborated with further vague concerns in an interview with cheery RPS fanzine PC Gamer.
"We could be afraid when we make new features in the engine by modifying it internally, that is not already available and public, that feature could be leaked, or other things could happen," producer Changhan Kim told PCG. Plunkbat is also built upon Unreal Engine, see, so Bluehole didn't seem best pleased about the prospect of Epic getting an 'unfair' advantage from that. The games are genre rivals, after all, even if the two are quite different in many crucial ways.
Young Matthew Cox will tell you that Fortnite Battle Royale simply isn't as fun or as interesting as Plunkbat. However it has beaten Plunkbat to console, and Bluehole are likely concerned about it getting a strong footing before they arrive. Their other concerns are still weird, mind, acting put out that Epic have ventured into a genre that predates both their games. Even the chap who arguably created the modern blueprint for Battle Royale modes with his Arma mod, Brendan Greene (the eponymous Playerunknown, currently making Plunkbat with Bluehole) told us earlier this year that he didn't claim ownership over the genre.
Anyway! The point is, technobits go zoomier? All those changes won't automatically benefit Plunkbat and perhaps won't even apply to how Bluehole use Unreal, but they will be in Unreal Engine for all.
And on Thursday, the PvE side of Fortnite received an update adding Horde Bash mode. This has players build a base together before the round starts, then pits them against waves of nasties. Waves get more difficult over time, obvs, and completing waves gives resources to craft weapons and tend to your base.
On Wednesday, Epic announced that Fortnite - both its PvE and Battle Royale sides combined - had passed 7 million players. Presumably the vast majority are Battle Royalers having a crack for free but hey, that is a big number.
The Fortnite client is free to download through Epic's own client. That'll get to into Fortnite Battle Royale for free but the PvE aspect will cost money until it leaves early access. Brendan will tell you that the PvE mode "is one of the most obnoxiously loud and over-designed games I've played in a long while," which isn't a glowing recommendation.