Former Epic producer reveals that Fortnite almost got canned over Save the World

    
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Fortnite Battle Royale has been a runaway success for Epic Games, cementing the popularity of the battle royale genre in mainstream gaming culture and making beaucoup bucks for the studio in the process, but according to former Epic Production Lead Rod Fergusson, none of that ever would have happened if he’d had his way. You may remember that Fortnite originally launched rather belatedly in July 2017 as a co-op PvE title focused on building forts and fending off hordes of zombies — now known as the largely neglected Save the World mode — that didn’t exactly make much of an impression with players or critics. It wasn’t until a couple of months later that the studio introduced the now-ubiquitous battle royale mode that pulled the game from the depths of obscurity.

Fergusson, who left Epic in 2012 while Fortnite was still in development, says, “If I had stayed at Epic, I would have canceled Fortnite. Before I left, I had tried to cancel Fortnite.” He explains that the original Fortnite “was a project that just had some challenges” and that “as a director of production at the time, that game would not have passed [his] bar for something [the studio] should continue to keep going.” But as we all know, Fergusson’s efforts to axe the game were unsuccessful, and although his initial assessment of Save the World was apparently on the money given its status as a nearly forgotten cousin of the battle royale mode, the game nevertheless survived to bring us the cultural phenomenon we all know and… feel some kind of emotion about, probably.

Source: Polygon

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Ernost
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Ernost

I’m surprised that he is actually willing to admit something like this. Props to him.

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Aiun Tanks

the game nevertheless survived to bring us the cultural phenomenon we all know and… feel some kind of emotion about, probably.

Bitterness. The emotion is bitterness.

I enjoyed the potential of StW mode, and it’s the only part I wanted to play. But they saw where the money was and that’s what they spent all their time developing. They’d occasionally throw StW a discarded bone just to say they were still working on it, but the massive improvements we were looking for, the massive improvements that were NEEDED were always clearly second priority, if not an afterthought.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

Save the World was supposed to be free. The entire time I was following it they kept saying it would be one day at the “official launch”. Honestly I don’t know if they still say that or not, but being that it was supposed to be free to play and hadn’t actually launched at the time, trying to cancel it seems pretty rough. It isn’t a bad game at all, it is really fun actually, it just needs more time devoted to content in it.

This reminds me of the pokemon like game that some major developer had in testing, gosh I forget what the name of it was now. It was supposed to be for PC and mobile devices. I had the Early Access version on PC, it was pretty fun but they just didn’t keep up with the content, there was nothing to do and then they canceled it before it ever got the chance to release saying people weren’t playing enough (it never released the mobile version where it would have done best, and they simply didn’t keep up with enough content to have much to do so of course we didn’t want to sit around online all day doing nothing they needed to build the game up more first).

Fortnite Save the World didn’t deserve to be canceled, it deserved to be finished, have the rest of the content added, and have its free to play release happen as planned. That’s where it would have been overwhelmed and flooded with people. And you know a lot of people don’t buy a game that isn’t officially released yet (especially when they’re told it will be free when that release happens) – so to judge it based on that seems to be fairly unfair.

Fergusson is not someone who should be in the position of deciding if a project is canceled or not. To me he is a person that tries to make the wrong decision.

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Eamil

He tried to make that decision in 2012, five years before the game started selling “Early Access.”

BetterTax
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BetterTax

we are indeed on the darkest timeline

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Sorenthaz

Fortnite was in development hell for a long time. I remember I was initially interested in it back in like 2016 or so when Paragon was in early access that you had to buy into. It seemed like at that point the fate of it was unknown and the concept wasn’t fully explained yet.

You know it’s bad when they started working on it in 2011 or so and when they released in 2017 the game was basically missing half of its content (last two zones had 0 story and were just copy-pastes of past zones with enemies having higher numbers to inflate their artificial difficulty). They had such a convoluted progression system and it was tied to lockbox RNG.

They lucked out massively with the BR and have been trying to hold onto their lightning in a bottle since then, but it’s clear they don’t really care about StW anymore. It’s so grindy for little payout and nothing really feels impactful or meaningful in that game because it’s more about collecting everything than it is actually building up a niche strategy or what-have-you. It’s like they couldn’t make up their mind on what to actually do with it, and it shows like a sore thumb. They’re super fortunate that BR happened to be released in the right place at the right time.

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Robert Mann

Except a lot of people simply dismissed Fortnite DUE TO the BR part. They figured StW was DoA due to it. And… so it happened.

Not only did said people in large numbers not play due to the responses from Epic, but then the neglect started showing and more and more of those who were playing left. Of course it went defunct when it was treated with disdain by the company.

There was a ton of buzz and demand for StW that I remember. The problem isn’t that there was no interest, it was that the interest was killed by Epic itself.

The same could be said of any online game where the company fails to support the product. It falls apart. Meanwhile, this attitude will merely get us more success chasing clones that do the exact same failing…

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IronSalamander8 .

I actually preferred the save the world mode. It wasn’t perfect but it was fun and I played it with a couple of friends quite a bit for awhile.

I did try the BR mode, but hated it. I love team based shooters like the garden warfare games and Paladins, but BR is horrible. I know it’s popular but regardless of that, the co-op mode was enjoyable where I find the BR mode just not fun at all.

I had heard that Fortnite was only enjoying a middling level of success before it jumped on the BR bandwagon but despite my hatred for the mode, I can’t deny they’ve made the most of it.

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Tizmah

Battle Royale’s just has way too many heavy random chance factors for me. I guess that’s what makes them so popular. Gives everyone a chance to be a winner.

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3dom

See, even professionals cannot predict – what will become popular and what won’t? One more reason to try every game yourself (on discount) instead of trusting reviews like “boring after 300 hours”, “really bad game, became repetitive after 100 hours” or “I’ve played it for two months non-stop, there is no loot left to farm, can I get a refund?” (typical Steam reviews)

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cursedseishi

Except… He totally did predict it accurately. The article even makes it clear he’s referring to the “Save The World” mode that Fortnite originally was only supposed to be. You know, the mode Epic only gives a token response to maybe three times a year so people won’t hammer them about what has become a bait-and-switch that has–quite honestly–hindered Epic Games as a whole?

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Robert Mann

Except it was the very attitude Epic took toward StW that killed StW. As to the whole response thing, everyone who cared gave up long ago about Epic caring… but many of us remember that they promised a game that was interesting and killed it to chase the success of a different game.

There’s a reason Epic is often mentioned alongside EA and Activision right now, and it’s not because AAA is all lumped together.

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cursedseishi

… And the point of you telling me that is… what, exactly? Tell that to 3Dom, as he’s the one conflating Fergusson’s lack of trust in the StW mode and its quality with the success of the scrabbled together BR mode as if it proves Fergusson wrong.

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Robert Mann

The point is that the professional took a product with demand, discarded it out of his own ideals, and said he was correct later.

He ignores the large demand, the ability to improve and fix problems, and instead just says “It was worthless”. That’s not on point with your statements, it’s the opposite. In fact, he tried to can it far before there was any playtest numbers, and repeatedly… so playtester numbers cannot even be the source for his disdain.

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cursedseishi

Yeah, still wasting my time here and still no point in telling me this. You want to be ignorant? You do you. Save the World launched in a poor state, it remained in such a poor state and even before the Battle Royale mode was released people were hammering it for the poorly handled progression and monetization. Just because you have some heavy rose-tinted shades for the mode doesn’t mean it was as well off as you seem to think it was.

And, again here mate, ultimately Fergusson was right. StW was subpar at launch, and has been handled worse after the game’s paid soft-release. I could care less about how you feel about the game, because the fact is there that StW was dead on arrival thanks to its mechanical failings. The only major change that came about with the success of the Battle Royale mode was prolonging Forntite’s life and encouraging Epic to keep the original game behind a paywall they know people won’t buy into anymore.

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Robert Mann

Yeah, I didn’t say it was released well… I said there was interest and IF Epic had put in the work they could have made something out of it. The effort wasn’t there.

That, however, doesn’t mean that the idea was bad, or any of the rest of the nonsense he spewed about it was true. It means the company just didn’t do what it needed to fix the weaknesses. Where part of that might be understandable, certainly not all of it was (where they might have needed more people or different people for some aspects).

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wratts

Takes some guts to admit that. I think most people would be hoping they’d be remembered as being on Fortnite, not that they were only there for the failed part and wouldn’t have been part of the huge success