Friday, May 22, 2020

Trailer For The Future

As I write this I'm downloading Fortnite. How did that happen? Like this...

I have a terrible habit of flicking between things as I wait for loading screens. It's pathetic. These days most MMORPGs take a minute or two to log in, seconds to swap from zone to zone. It's time that doesn't need to be monkey-filled with chatter. Just let it flow.

Good advice I don't listen to. If there's a loading screen that lasts more than three seconds I'm off, alt-tabbing out, rabbitting through the favorites scrolling down the left. Except, insanely long as the list is, there's not much on it I actually care to look at, most days.

This morning I'd swapped between EverQuest and EverQuest II, setting Overseer quests and missions. By the time I'd been through the various stages, swapping characters a couple of times, I'd exhausted Feedly, my blog roll, the weather, the news, and matchup reports for World vs World in Guild Wars 2.

I was about to log in to GW2 to do dailies but as I exited EQII, in the thirty seconds it takes to camp out (because I always log out properly instead of just quitting, because I remember when closing an MMORPG too quickly could lead you to miss a character save and lose a few seconds of progress - or at least some people believed it could and why take the risk?) my eye cast around for distraction and found it in the shape of Box Office Pro.

I have five movie sites bookmarked from back when TAGN Movie Obsession was still a thing. Remember that? Of the five, two (Cinemascore, Theater Counts) are completely dormant for obvious reasons and one, Box Office Report, might as well be.

The remaining pair struggle on. The Numbers has turned into what feels like a personal blog about DVD/Blue Ray and Streaming releases. Box Office Pro, true to its name, has concentrated on interviews with cinema professionals and think pieces on what might happen to the industry in months to come. Today they ran this report, which opens with the news that
"The new trailer for Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated Tenet has debuted online via the video game Fortnite and on YouTube."
Say what again? It happened last night while I was asleep and as far as I can tell wasn't trailed anywhere much earlier than that. The big video game sites had the story around eleven, my time, by when I was tucked up in bed playing Animal Crossing Pocket Camp and watching Season Two of Community on Amazon Prime.

I read the piece on Box Office Pro. Then I googled around and read a couple more reports on Kotaku and The Verge. The Kotaku piece has a magnificent clickbait headline which neatly sums up the reason I have Fortnite downloading in the background right now:
"New Tenet Trailer Premieres In Fortnite, Which Is No Longer A Video Game"
Isn't that fantastic? Give that sub-editor a donut!

I'd read about Fortnite's new Party Royale peace-out bliss mode, of course. I knew it was a non-combat area where Fortnite players could do what many of them have always done, namely hang out and chill, only without the buzzkill of imminent apocalypse. I also knew about Epic's propensity for using the game as a backdrop for major music and pop-culture events. Oddly, I hadn't quite put the two things together.

The Verge had:
"There’s an outdoor movie theater and a club with towering holographic dancers, alongside race courses and other points of interest like a pirate ship and soccer field. Epic describes it as an “evolving space,” so we’ll likely see more activities and events added in the future. Both of these updates point to Fortnite’s likely future"
The Travis Scott event, which made global headlines in the non-gaming press, took place inside the game itself - the Battle Royale - but there's already been a major concert in Party Royale, featuring Dillon Francis, Steve Aoki, and Deadmau5. Even I know Deadmau5.

As the Kotaku report on that one puts it "The show made Fortnite feel like a world". Yes, like the real world.

Because that's where this is heading: towards fulfilment of the promises made and never met by Second Life. Or, more pertinently, made by a mainstream media fooled into believing Second Life was William Gibson's cyberspace and Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash all rolled into one.

As that BBC piece explains "Mentions of Second Life first crept into the UK media mainstream in early 2006... newspapers fell over themselves to cover it, devoting many column inches in their business, technology and lifestyle sections to profiles and trend pieces. "

But just a couple of years later there was silence. Businesses who'd jumped the trend backed off. Stores and embassies closed. The reason was simple. No-one cared:"You could go and open these stores and no-one would turn up...They would have 20 to 30 people there when it opened, and after that no-one would bother going in there again. It just wasn't worth the spend."

Those handfuls have become multitudes. Events in Fortnite reckon their attendances in millions. In tens of millions. These are the jetpacks we were promised.

I'd been kind of meaning to try Fortnite for what feels like a couple of years now. I've read so much positive print about about it. I've played a few Battle Royales, though, and they're not really my thing. Everything that interested me about Fortnite was the not killing each other part. And now, here it is...

... Intermission ...

So, the first thing I do is break Fortnite. It's downloaded and installed. I've made an Epic Games account. Woohoo! Free games for me!. I've logged in and...

Can I find Party Royale? I cannot. I fiddle around for a bit and then tab out to google it. I find what seems to be a seperate download. I download that and install it. It's not the right thing. It's something called Party Hub and it breaks Fortnite good and proper.

After several repairs, a welter of error messages and offers of online support, I finally decide to re-install the whole thing. That, eventually, does the trick.

... End Intermission ...

Turns out, Party Royale is something you select from within Battle Royale. I had to watch a YouTube video before I worked that out. I guess the hundreds of million who already play Fortnite don't need to be told but a signpost for the several billion who don't would be nice.

Then again, Fortnite is still in early access. I'd forgottent that, what with it being one of the most successful video games in the entire world! But no, there it is on the login screen. Early Access. Can't expect anything too polished, I guess.

When I finally stepped out into the mall-like streets of Epic's brave new world, the movie trailer was just about to begin. I could hear someone interviewing the star, John David Washington. Then it started and I could hear that, too, but by the time I'd figured out where the screen was it was all over.

A movie trailer does only last a couple of minutes. If it had been a concert or the promised full Nolan movie to be shown later in the summer, I'd have had plenty of time to get a seat. The trailer's showing on the hour, every hour. Maybe I'll drop back in and take a screenshot or two.

Except you can't. Or I can't. I went through all the in-game options looking for the screenshot key. There isn't one. I fired up FRAPS and it doesn't work with Fortnite. I googled it and watched some YouTube videos and apparently you either take video with the in-game playback feature or you just hit PrtScr and tab out. Which is what I did.

I know static images are so twentieth century but not even having a screenshot function does seem a bit primitive. Feel free to tell me what an idiot I am when you point out it does have one and how to use it in the comments.

Anyway, that's the hard work done. Fortnite is installed and working. I have an Epic Games account. Now I can play the game - all of the games - and drop in to mingle and marvel whenever something culturally significant happens.

I don't think Fortnite is the future. I just think it's a pointer to where the future's going to be. Think of it as MySpace to Second Life's GeoCities.

The next generation's the one. Or maybe the one after that.


  1. I guess I am just old. I don't see the appeal of looking at a screen in which there is a screen playing the content I want to watch.

    Then again, I'm that guy who 'saves' trailers until I can watch them in 4K on the 60" TV in the living room. I may just be a dinosaur.

    I'm also still super-salty about Fortnite in general since I bought into being a 'Founder' for the OLD, pre-battle royale Fortnite that Epic abandoned. So that may be coloring my view of things.

    1. I appreciate that people who spent money on the original concept of Fortnite might well be a bit annoyed at how things have turned out but I suspect if Epic had stuck to the plan the whole thing would have been scrapped by now, as has happened to so many other similar projects. Of course, that's something we'll never know.

      I have loved big, social gatherings in MMORPGs since the first time I happened on a talent contest in Freeport in EverQuest back in 2000. I'm one of the people who loves one-time events in MMOs and logs in an hour before they're due to start so I can just soak up the vibe. If someone (not necessarily Epic) can get a convincing virtual, communal space up and running that can host events on a par with concerts, festivals and even plain old movies, I could see myself spending a lot of time there. Depends what acts they put on, of course...

  2. Pretty sure Fortnite will be in "early access" in perpetuity, in the same way that the Epic Games Store will be under a state of constant revision to get it even close to the level of stability and sophistication that Steam has.

    1. I'm quite generous in my opinion of early access, I think, but I do think that, when you have made one of the biggest, most successful video games the world has ever seen, you might as well hang out your shingle and call it ready.


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