Tales From the Eye of the Storm: A Fortnite Anthology

I don’t know if this post is going to … “work”… as a concept, but I’ve been back-and-forth on how I can best capture my recent gaming habits.

Since writing about ‘Fortnite: Battle Royale‘ a few weeks ago, it has become my “go-to” game for those idle evenings where I just want to switch off and play something fun… but ultimately low-effort. There’s a kind of rhythm to each round that’s easy to fall in to and, as I mentioned in my previous ramble, I’m at least competent (if not particularly good) so the whole thing is vastly more enjoyable that PU:BG. A little while ago I even managed to win a solo round; albeit mostly due to fortunate arena shrinking and sneaky-sneaky tactics, but nevertheless it was a victory where I was the last one standing of those initial one-hundred players culminating in a dramatic ambush of the penultimate player.

In the last couple of weeks however I’ve shifted from ‘solo’ to the 4-player squad option in-game; this was initially to complete a daily challenge, but has since become my ‘go-to- game mode. The part where this differs from my regular ‘orario del bus‘ is that I’ve been playing in those small intimate four person squads with strangers, hitting that “fill-up-the-team-with-any-old-person’ button with carefree abandon. Being driven to randomers is largely because I haven’t been pushing too hard to convince my normal online gaming compadres to join me; without the Steam interface the super-casual chance to invite someone in to the game isn’t there and I’ve yet to convince my wife that she likes F:BR. Until this changes it’s just me and the players that join me based on that virtual roll of the dice.

The interesting thing about teaming up with randomers is watching how they take on Battle Royale; fundamentally this is a game which allows the player to choose how best to be the last standing which can be undertaken from many different angles. I also decided to switch off voice communication – sure, I might be rolling the dice here, but I don’t want to be subjected to verbal abuse each time I mess up. Of course, this does limit how much planning we can do as a team, so my playstyle has been mostly letting the other team members take the lead with me following and supporting accordingly; if they actually realise that this is my strategy or not is unclear. I’ve accepted that I’m unlikely to win a squad game like this, too much is lost without being able to talk particularity in the closing stages of a round. The experience I’m left with a is a vaguely comical farce in which I try and work out what my teammates are up to and equally they seem to be just as baffled by my actions… maybe they’re trying to speak to me, I really wouldn’t know… In order to fill the void of communication I’ve decided to share some of these in-game tales with you; all of the events happened, but the names have been changed… and much of their motivation has been outright fabricated based on what I saw

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The Demise of Geoffrey357:

Every ten rounds or so I’m teamed up with a player who I have a connection with… an unspoken connection… and… well, I’ve no way of knowing of the connection is reciprocated. It was this way with Geoffrey357. Right out of the battle bus I rode the air currents of his slipstream down to the landing point that had been designated by all four of us. Unfortunately madskillz67 and WoMbLe_pants didn’t grace us with their presence; sure they landed in the same general region, but one thing I’ve discovered is that there is safety in numbers; an extra set of eyes, an extra gun, and someone to just pick you up when you’ve been downed makes all the difference if they’re stood next to you rather than a few hundred meters away wailing on an RV with a pickaxe. So whilst Geoffrey357 and I set about methodically striping our selected building for everything of worth we barely noticed when the aforementioned makskillz67 and WoMbLe_pants were merrily gunned down by a rival squad a few buildings over.

It appeared to me as though Geoffrey357’s character’s shoulders slumped slightly as the realisation of our team’s loss dawned on him. There was a brief pause, presumably as he internally debated the merits of using his valuable time to go and check out the scene of the destruction, before he trotted off toward the region of our fallen, but never formally introduced, companions. I, duty-bound to this stranger, followed on the assumption that this would be a short lived round. It transpired that Geoffrey357’s talents lay not only in systematic looting, but also in combat; far from the short futile skirmish I had imagined, his hastily planned flanking took the enemy squad by surprise and between us (him doing most of the hard work) we took revenge for our team. Seemingly invigorated by this significant victory, Geoffrey357 took off toward the horizon with purpose; he vectored from structure to structure, looting and wrecking with an obvious sense of determination. Here was someone who exuded confidence in their actions, clearly someone talented who has a vast amount of ingame experience, and maybe even someone who I could win the round with. I diligently remained at his side, covering, assisting, and generally supporting my new captain.

When we came to a mountain he barely broke step as he constructed a series of ramps up to the house at its peak. Likewise when we came to descending this lone pinnacle Geoffrey357 confidently built a platform several spans out into the open-air… before calmly stepping off the edge and plummeting to the ground…

… Clearly we didn’t have the connection I had imagined… 

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The Dance of the Three Amigos

I get the impression that I’m mostly buddied up with similarly squad-deficient individuals. It’s often clear from their actions that they don’t have that graceful rapport that comes from extended online gaming with the same people. I guess if there were two people looking for a round it would be more logical to play a duo round, and I’d also that teams of three might prefer to opt for an empty seat rather than an unknown variable in the equation. Nonetheless I have been the fourth wheel in a posse of three on a few occasions, this is typically indicated by a lack of dropping a marker before heading out of the battle bus or a common theme for player handles.

Stacey_turtle58, Stacey_turtle59, and Stacey_turtle60 were to be my team for this spawn’s venture on to the ‘island’. There had been some jumping around of markers on the map screen which had eventually resolved itself so we set off for the designated landing site. The round began typically enough with all the Stacey’s and myself stripping the various buildings of everything they were worth. There was the usual kerfuffle of too many people rushing through doorways to that next item chest, and the odd awkward standoff as one person picked up an item that another had clearly been running for, but nothing out of the ordinary. As we were leaving that first area and heading across those lush rolling hills towards the eye of the storm Stacey_turtle59’s (well.. it might have been 58 or 60) gun ‘accidentally’ went off with me in the firing line. Nothing too unusual about that; it’s pretty easy to let a shell or two rip as you’re flicking between equipment or to build mode. I turned toward the offending Stacey_turtle and gave my best backward-running-scowl in their direction before resuming the task at hand.

Although I was too naive to realise, it was just a matter of time before the inevitable barrage of lead headed my way; my ‘teammates’ all silently agreeing that they were better off without this interloper. The game doesn’t let you tap out to the lobby until you’re entirely out of the round, so I had to endure being knocked to the ground to then watch as those three Stacey_turtles danced around me using the ingame taunt system (that I’ve never worked out how to do) before finally one took pity on me in the form of a shogun shell.

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The rush to make groundfall is a big part of the start of the round; there’s a technique in picking when to jump from the plane, what angle to descend at, and using little tricks to minimise the time you’re stuck casually… and vulnerably… floating to earth beneath the glider.

The team were headed for ‘Lonely Lodge’, a small collection of log cabins forming an abandoned forest holiday village on the edge of the island. ‘Lonely Lodge’ is one of my preferred landing spots; the trees & terraced land formation provide lots of cover and there is usually good loot to be had. Along the southern edge of the region is a wooden tower with an exposed staircase spiralling upward on the exterior, typically with a chest at its peak and some guns to be found on the ascent. Landing on the staircase is a good way to beat the system and get your feet on the ‘ground’ as early as possible. I was on a good line to meet these stairs about half way up the tower, but I caught a glimpse of another player heading the same way. Luckily I was on course to intercept the stairs a little higher than them which meant that I could immediately run up, grab the first weapon I could find, and hopefully take them out before they managed to find their own.

I landed and immediately began rushing up the stairs; the sound of another set of feet hitting the wooden beams behind spurned me on as I turned a corner and grabbed a sub-machinegun. I equipped the weapon, span 180, and emptied the entire clip into the figure behind me. They slumped to the ground, injured & knocked down, then I noticed the name hovering above their crawling form; Puppy_dudeX. The realisation that I’d just downed one of my team dawned on me slowly.

What should I do?” … they continued to crawl around the floor… I levelled the gun at them once more tempted to finish the job “Would the rest or my team know? Would Puppy_dudeX just do the same to me once they picked up a gun?” … Puppy_dudeX carried on shuffling back and forth, presumably at as much of a loss as me about what to do. I decided to buy some time to think and quickly ran up the tower to loot the chest before returning to find my team-mate still crawling on the stairs… once more I levelled my gun and considering finishing the job… “Dammit, this is just the worst kind of social situation“. Finally I yielded and decided to revive them. As soon as I had pulled them to their feet they charged off down the stairs, presumably trying to escape their lunatic team member who had not only “accidentally” shot them, but had carried on about their business for some times before getting around to reviving them…. I didn’t see Puppy_dudeX again that round…

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Ok… Bye…

On a few occasions I’ve come across genuinely thoughtful teammates. These rare beings will actually wait for everyone, provide assistance, and drop useful items such as health when they notice you’re lacking. These players give me hope for the online gaming community; unsurprisingly they often make the more enjoyable and more successful rounds. I strive to be one of these ‘nice’ players… but it doesn’t always work out…

The team had landed around dusk at ‘Greasy Grove’ a small residential area, popular as a landing spot for the numerous houses which provide not only loot, but cover. It’s not too tricky to listen to the activity around you and move from building to building, either taking enemies by surprise or anticipating a safe course of action. I was downstairs, reloading in the kitchen of a small detached property, when I heard footsteps approaching from the rear of the house. I wheeled around letting a blast of shot fly in the direction of the noise before (once again) realising that it was a rather burly looking member of my own team, GoverNOR_NiCeFeEt. He stopped, appearing to be a little stunned at the unexpected attack and I stared stupidly at him whilst I tried desperately to navigate the inventory screen and drop a health kit that I’d picked up and apologise for my mis-shooting.

… just had to try and make it right…

Right at the moment I dropped the health however, GoverNOR_NiCeFeEt took off once more at full sprint out of the front door and was seconds later gunned down in the street. I’ll never know if he just didn’t see, or stubbornly refused my offer of help…

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