Fortnite: Battel Royal is a popular free-to-play game created by Epic Games using their Unreal Engine. The Unreal Engine is free to download and money need only be discussed if you start making a significant amount with what you produce. Interestingly, Epic also added a tool to Fortnite called “Creative” where users can design their own experiences within Fortnite. This tool seems to occupy a space between sandbox game and the requirements for Henry Lowood’s (2016) definition of a game engine as a tool that:
Encompasses the fundamental software components of a computer game. These components typically include program code that defines a game’s essential “core” functions, such as graphics rendering, audio, physics, and artificial intelligence, although the components vary considerably from one game to another. (p. 203)
This is interesting to me, because it seems like Epic has used their Unreal Engine to create Fortnite: Creative which is almost an engine, both of which are free to use. Why would a company do something that seems so redundant? I would guess the answer lies in the accessibility and affordances of each tool.
The Unreal Engine is designed with game and other developers in mind. To use it effectively you must have some knowledge of things like blueprint coding, how to create or find assets, etc. In return for this complexity, users are able to create almost anything you can imagine and customize every element of their experience. While they do have free learning resources, the amount you must know to be able to navigate this engine’s user interface is a deterrent to inexperienced users and also means that creating even a simple experience takes a lot of time. Experiences created in this engine can be sold as stand-alone software.
The Fortnite: Creative mode is made with Fortnite players in mind. It comes prepacked with assets from the main game and even assets created specifically for use in Creative. The kinds of games users can make are limited by most of the “coding” being pre created slider and radio button style choices. Users also cannot add their own assets or change visual effects like how lighting is rendered in any significant way (users can choose time of day). Games and experiences created in this engine all look like Fortnite and tend to feel similar when played because the player movement can only be modified in certain predetermined ways, and no outside assets can be imported. Fortnite is the one and only distribution platform for experiences created in this engine.
Examining these tools is an interesting way to explore game engines and how wildly they can vary. A game’s engine plays a large role in determining what that game can be.
Deger, A. C., Guins, R., & Lowood, H. (2016). Game Engine. In Debugging game history: A critical lexicon (pp. 203–209). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.