April 8, 2014

Building Fortnite With Unreal Engine 4

By Ben Zeigler

Everyone on the Fortnite team is working hard to make Fortnite the best game it can be, which is why we were excited to talk with Game Informer! But, without Unreal Engine 4, we could never make the game we are making today. I started as a programmer on Fortnite before we moved to UE4, and it's been fascinating to see both the engine and game evolve over time. From the challenges we've been through, I know that UE4 is perfect if you want to make a game that's innovative, mechanically deep, and stylish. How do I know?

As a programmer, I'm most excited about the less-obvious but critical improvements deep inside UE4. The focus on C++ development and the usability of system libraries makes it easy to write high-performance code that works on nearly all platforms. The improvements to the modularity of the engine and extensibility of core systems make it possible to build drastically different games without having to resort to dirty hacks. We couldn't have made a game that's as varied, stable, or efficient as Fortnite without UE4.

For the design of the game, UE4 is great for trying small ideas and building them up into a complete game. Blueprints are perfect for prototyping new ideas quickly before trying to scale them up.  Past that phase, the improved Content Browser has been essential for managing our thousands of assets and the relationships between them. One critical new feature for Fortnite is the ability to import CSV files in to DataTables, which allows us to manage our balance data and quickly integrate it into the game. The new automation testing framework gives us the ability to audit all of our content and keep quality under control. We couldn't make a game with the scope or depth of Fortnite without UE4.

Using UE4's content tools, our artists continually create things that seem impossible! Blueprints give them the ability to quickly craft ambient soundscapes, interactive environment pieces, and advanced animation setups while keeping things modular for safe integration in to the game. They can build a completely dynamic day-night cycle lighting system with minimal programmer support. The material system lets them construct walls brick by brick and tear walls down by rending the fundamental foundations of reality (it looks cool when the walls bounce). They can do all of this without a programmer understanding how it works, which is good for me because I don't! If you want to learn more about how you can use these tools to create something special, check out our upcoming rendering Q&A.

Unreal Engine 4 is essential for making Fortnite the game we know it can be, and we'll be sharing more about how in the future. If you have any questions, we're hanging out on the Forums and AnswerHub, and we'll try to help you make the most out of your game!

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