Quick recap: once upon a time Epic's Fortnite was set to be kinda grimdark and more than likely a premium game (i.e. money upfront, party in the back). Over the course of a couple radio silent years and some fairly large revisions, however, it's emerged more lighthearted and - rather crucially - free to play. It is, then (as is usually the case with these things), an online-only affair, an action/building game built for co-op and PVP, but not really single-player. Also it'll have MMO-style persistent progression. So Epic will run the servers and sell (largely) cosmetic items. Problem: where do mods enter that picture? The answer, per producer Roger Collum: somewhere, somehow, someday. But "definitely."
First up, that whole online-only stipulation. Here's how Collum explained it:
"So the game can be played single-player. As the owner of a world you can just lock it down, declare it invite only, and not invite anybody. The AI director will react to the game and treat you accordingly. But we're not gonna have a dedicated single-player experience in the way we would for Gears of War or something like The Last of Us [which Epic did not make]. We have a narrative around it that we're not talking about yet, but it's not deeply story driven."
"We have to be online-only. That's because everything has to be authoritated on the server side. We're building a cooperative experience, and it'd be really weird if we trusted the client authoritatively in some offline mode, and then that guy joined to play with other people and was able to fake having a bunch of stuff."
But how do you let people make whatever they want when you're absolutely, on no uncertain terms trying to stop them from essentially, er, making whatever they want? Collum admitted that it's a stumper. However, he also told me that Epic will "definitely" find a way. It just might not happen as soon as the game's out.
"It's a pickle. You don't have to tell me twice. It's definitely why we're not doing it right away. You're addressing our hopes, dreams, and nightmares all at once. Point after point. These are challenges we're facing. We're starting with the fundamentals first, but we're gonna hit those challenges head-on."
"I don't think that rules out mod support. Epic has a history of mod support. We have a ton of people working here now who got their starts modding in Unreal Tournament or even Quake. It's in our DNA. Day one, we might not have mod support. But in my heart of hearts I want to see user-generated content. I want to see brand new levels. I want to see all kinds of stuff. I want this to be a platform for the community. I'm excited as a fan to see what users can do with Fortnite. It's definitely in the cards. We don't know what the roadmap for it looks like yet, though."
So then, mods will add even more color to Fortnite's lively pastures eventually. Collum continually cited Team Fortress 2 as an inspiration, so that's a good sign. There are, of course, user-created items and maps in TF2, but Valve has final say on its official rotation. Custom servers allow for more wiggle room, but unlike Valve, Epic doesn't plan to have those. At least not initially.
It's still tough to say how exactly they'll handle it. The dedication is there, at least. Here's hoping for good follow-through when the time comes.