Epic Games are the Fortnite company, sure. But on the developer side of things, they're the Unreal Engine company - and while Fortnite is obviously made using that base, the two rarely overlapped if you weren't actively employed to work on the battle royale. Next year, however, Fortnite players will be able to spice up their creative maps with custom models, bespoke scripts and editable maps using Unreal's toolset.
The demonstration shows a good range of model and material editing options, plus a brief demonstration of Unreal's built-in particle editor Niagra. Alongside editing Fortnite's own assets, you'll also be able to import your own models and materials - though I'm curious to see what, if any, kind of curation will apply to these bespoke props.
"I think we still have to figure out moderation and what that looks like, so we're a little thoughtful there," lead programmer Carlos Cuello explains, "but it's super powerful to be able to import your own assets and create your own content, and things that don't look like Fortnite."
There'll also be a new scripting language for modifying many of Fortnite's systems (while keeping more vital code locked away, I'd reckon). But the real kicker is the idea that you'll be able to edit maps live, in-play, with folks on both PC and console able to jump in and test changes as they happen. As someone who's spent upwards of 20 minutes waiting to compile game projects on an old laptop, that's mindblowing to me.
Making this stuff would be PC only, unreal editor is PC only for obvious reasons.
Video is of the live editing: pic.twitter.com/35U0mjwwSZ
— Lucas7yoshi - Fortnite Leaks (@Lucas7yoshi) December 17, 2020
Epic boss Tim Sweeney also chimed in to remind viewers that Fortnite will be moving to Unreal Engine 5 sometime next year, complete with all its ray-traced bajillions of polygons. While I live in fear of Fortnite-style visuals being smashed with photorealistic assets, Sweeney is excited to see what comes out of that experimentation.
I'm extremely curious to see how much scope there is in this kind of custom editing. For now, it seems to sit somewhere in between the closed box of Fortnite's current creative mode and the more open-ended mod tools of things like Half-Life, or even the older Unreal Tournament games. I want to know if there's room for a brand new genre or game to really break out here.
I'll suppose we'll find out once Epic have worked out the moderation kinks and brought these new features to light sometime next year.