Epic are releasing a massive update to Fortnite’s Battle Royale map, splitting it up into different biomes and adding new types of play spaces, such as multi-story buildings and labyrinthine tunnel networks.
The map update is coming this week, but Epic can’t say which exact day it will arrive yet.
Find out how to survive the swampy swamps and mountainy mountains with our guide to Fortnite Battle Royale.
You can see some footage of the updated map in the developer diary posted last week:
Epic launched Fortnite’s Battle Royale mode back in September with a map the team knew they could improve. “One of the things we wanted to do to make it better was to add more points of interest to the map,” lead level designer David Spalinski tells me. “Points of interest act as areas for players to congregate and meet and fight over various weapons and other types of valuable loot. They're also an opportunity to add unique elements of gameplay, specific to that particular point of interest.”
Spalinski isn’t talking about adding in new systems and mechanics, but how spaces themselves can drive different kinds of play. “We have a new point of interest called Tilted Towers that is a city area, [which adds] a unique style of gameplay by having taller buildings and a higher density of locations. Each building is kind of like a labyrinth and they're all close to each other.”
Another lead level designer, Sidney Rauchberger, points to a new area called Shifty Shafts that “adds a contrasting kind of gameplay.” Rauchberger explains that is “essentially an underground mine. It's very windy, it's got a lot of close quarters, tight angles, it's darker. It's frantic.”
These new kinds of spaces will infuse the Battle Royale mode with a greater variety of play and, considering the way the map closes down as the circle of death shrinks, this can significantly affect how the late-game plays out. “Because the circle is going to determine where you will end,” Rauchberger says, “you're going to be pushed into some interesting scenarios that will force you to adapt your style of play - games ending in the maze are going to be very tense.”
The new biomes, which see the map split into swamp, grasslands, farms, and mountains, aren’t just to give more visual variety, but also to give players the tools to better orientate themselves.
“You start to gain a little bit of memory,” Spalinski says, “like 'Oh, I'm in the mountain area, that means I'm on the western side of the map', or 'I'm in the swamp areas, that means I'm on the southern side of the map’. It helps give you a sense of place.”
The team also took the opportunity to redress the current points of interest on the map. “A lot of that refreshing came from playing the game with the community, listening to their feedback, reading on the internet what people had to say about certain areas that they may love or hate,” Spalinski says. “People like to go to certain areas a lot of times or stay away from others, and we like to see why that is and try to make them a little it better.”
With that feedback in mind the team made minor adjustments to a number of locations, making them more appealing. “It could be as small as 'Hey, this area doesn't have enough ammo, it would be great if I didn't have to leave it to keep fighting other people’. We listened to that kind of feedback and looked at and balanced the areas so they're creating the kind of gameplay that our users desire.”
Epic say the update is only possible because of improvements they’ve made to how the engine streams in content. “Before we had to fit everything in at once,” Rauchberger says, “now we're able to allocate more resources because we're able to split up the world better.”
It also means that there is the possibility that Epic will do a similar scale of update to the map in the future. “We’re always trying to see if there's space to continue to improve,” Spalinski says. “When we released initially, internally, we felt without our new streaming technology that there were certain things we were incapable of doing [...] and there were certain things we didn't know needed to be done until it was out there [...] and the community had played it and it was just going to take a little it of time to collect the things we didn't know.
“This map update addresses some of the things that we wanted to do and some of things we learned along the way. We're most likely going to be able to repeat that process of learning about what we're about to release and where the opportunities as a result of that and the community will be able to inform us to some degree.”