Yesterday, Epic brought a slightly underwhelming April Fools’ Day boost to Fortnite Battle Royale: it added an increased jump effect to the Boogie Bomb, and it increased the force of the Impulse Grenade. It made for some fun videos to be sure, but people were hoping for a bigger splash from a developer that’s developed a reputation for overdelivering when it comes to new content in what is now the flagship game for both the company and the Unreal Engine writ large. Splash might not be the right word, of course — impact might be a better one.
Over on Reddit and elsewhere, people had their own theory about an April Fools’ Day event on a more cataclysmic scale. For a little while now, there’s been a comet in the skybox above the game. It started out small and it’s gotten bigger with each subsequent update, fueling fan theories upon fan theories in the process. And people had become convinced that it was going to hit yesterday through a combination of elaborate charts, Morse Code interpretations of random controller vibrations and, at the end of the day, a whole lot of wishful thinking. The idea was that the comet was going to crash down and destroy Tilted Towers, currently one of the most popular and loot-filled locations in the game.
It didn’t come down yesterday, but one thing is for sure: this comet is definitely on its way. At the beginning, this could have been read as an artistic goof or just a misinterpreted attempt to add some flair to the night sky, but the recent addition of telescopes into the game all but confirm that Epic wants us looking at the thing: even if it wasn’t originally meant to be a big deal, the developer seems to be running with the idea. So whether the comet was originally intended to come crashing down to the map or not, it seems likely that it’s now going to do so — I suspect it’s going to be the event that kicks off Season 4, and I think that the destruction of Tilted Towers is not such a bad bet.
The comet confirms something that I’ve suspected for a long time now: that Fortnite Battle Royale is almost less like a normal PvP shooter and more like a strange kind of MMO — the same is true of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, but it’s even stronger here. A lot of the hallmarks are present: 100 people might not be “massive” like World of Warcraft, but it’s big nonetheless. And Epic’s persistent, changing world might also not be quite as large as an Azeroth, but it’s built much more like that kind map than it is like something from Call of Duty. Events like a comet impact would fit perfectly into that idea, changing the game world in a grand narrative that’s no less interesting for having no real characters or arc that isn’t created by the players themselves. The story plays out both in these little 20 minute bursts but also in months-long obtuse arcs that take place as much in the skybox as they do on Twitch and Reddit.
It’s an exciting notion for the future — it feels like Season 2 was really the warmup for Epic’s eventual visions of what these seasons are. Season 3 is all about space, and its clear that that’s going to be borne out not just in the loot you earn through the Battle Pass but also through a season-long narrative event in the form of this comet. It makes me excited not only to see what happens with it, but also what future seasons have to bring. The battle royale genre is absolutely addictive despite its essential repetitiveness, but it’s seasoning like this that’s going to keep people from getting bored.