Fortnite Season 5 Is Here, and the Rest of the Week in Games
Welcome, dear reader, to the first edition of Replay, where we look the happenings in the gaming industry and play catch-up at the end of another busy week. This time, we've got some really unfortunate firings, a rare boon for independent creators, and time travel a la Fortnite.
Let's get to it.
Fortnite's Fifth Season Crosses Time and Space, Brings Golf Karts
It started with a crack in the sky. The live event, which occurred simultaneously in every Fortnite Battle Royale earlier this month, set the stage for Season 5 of the game, which kicked off yesterday. This season is a collision of worlds, blasting together items and biomes from across time and space and scattering them across the map. There are vikings, samurai, ancient statues of mystery—and also a four-person golf kart, the first real vehicle in the game's history. (And no , the shopping cart doesn't count.)
Fortnite has been doing some exceedingly clever things with working narrative into its gameplay, building live events that reshape the map while adding to the nascent lore of the multiplayer build-and-shoot-em-up. It's a trick that really works, and cements something that's slowly become more and more apparent as the game has continued on: Fortnite is way smarter than most people are giving it credit for. It's time to pay attention.
Also, the shotgun got nerfed. Sorry.
Two Game Designers Got Fired, and the Games Industry is Still Reeling
Last week Guild Wars developer ArenaNet fired two developers, Jessica Price and Peter Fries, apparently based on their conduct in interacting with a streamer on Twitter. It's the circumstances of the firing, and the conduct of ArenaNet in the process, that have led to so much discussion: Price and Fries were both speaking from their personal Twitter accounts, on their personal time, and were not officially representing the company in any capacity.
What's more, the statement that ArenaNet released immediately after the firing occurred suggested that Price's minor conflict with a streamer who gave her unsolicited design advice constituted "attacks on the community," which any woman in the games industry will tell you is the sort of thing that encourages harassment from those in games inclined to do such things. (Megan Farokhmanesh over at The Verge has a great rundown of the whole situation and its effects.)
Since then, the larger conversation has raised some urgent questions. How do we protect workers in the games industry from overzealous employer reprisals? And how do we protect women and marginalized creators in particular from harassment? These questions have been lingering in gaming since at least 2014, and it doesn't seem like they're going to go away any time soon.
Epic is Giving Unreal Asset Creators a Big Raise
And now for some good news for creators, Epic, creators of cash machine Fortnite and owners of the Unreal Engine, have announced that it would start giving asset creators on the Unreal Engine Marketplace even more money: The company will be taking only a 12 percent cut of sales, down from the 30 percent that's broadly considered standard. Even better, Epic will backpay that 18 percent gap on all Marketplace sales dating back to 2014, when the story opened.
Epic isn't shy about why it can do this: As Epic co-founder Tim Sweeney said in the announcement, "Thanks to both the Marketplace's growth and the success of Fortnite, Epic now conducts a huge volume of digital commerce." In fact, you could probably ignore the first part of that reasoning.
Stores like the Unreal Engine Marketplace allow creators to buy and use bespoke assets, a handy time saver and a boon especially to young and time-constrained developers. And if Unreal's profit-sharing deal leads to it having more assets than its competitor, the Unity Store, well, that's just a wonderful bonus for them, eh?
Recommendation of the Week: Blow some stuff up on Mars with Red Faction Guerrilla: Re-Mars-Tered
Oh, the days of the Grand Theft Auto clone, when gaming was as simple as running around the biggest, most complicated space an engine could throw at you and causing chaos. Red Faction Guerrilla was one of the best of that era, a paean to destruction set on a sprawling Martian colony. In this game, you've got to do what a good rebel does, and blow up everything you see. Naturally, right?
Now, there's a snazzy little remaster out for $19.99, and, yes, it's actually called Re-Mars-Tered. Somebody liked puns. Either way, this game has one of the best destruction engines ever made, and you should pick it up if you're in the mood to break things.