Jessen described Fortnite as a "co-op sandbox survival game" with three different elements. Scavenging will allow players to go out into the ruined world and find items and materials wherever they can. Building will let players first erect and then customize various structures of all shapes and sizes. Combat, the last part of the game, pits players against creepy yet "Looney Tunes-inspired" monsters attempting to take those structures down.
"This is not just a game for people who like shooters or RPGS," said Jessen. "It's a game for everybody." And according to Bleszinski, Fortnite is a big change internally from what the studio has been working on more recently. "It's been really fresh for us," he said. "We've had like six years of Gears and we've perfected the art of killing. Fortnite is serving as a fresh change of pace for us."
For one thing, you can skip the combat entirely. Scavenging in the world is all based on what tools you have available, and Epic showed video of a character first cutting down wood with an axe, and then graduating to collecting marble and brick with a sledgehammer. Building is a little more complex than Minecraft, in that players can lay down a wall that begins with a blue grid, and then mark off squares in that grid to customize it. Want to build a door? Cut out the middle and lower middle squares. Laying out grids and squares in other areas can create a railed balcony or even a sniper's nest, so there are a lot of construction options available to players.
All of those options, however, are still in flux while the team is hard at work on development. Bleszinski said the final building options "won't require an engineering degree," but there may be compromises between letting players do whatever and balancing it for the rest of the game. "It may be gamey," he said, "but sometimes in a game like this you have to be."
Characters will be persistent and customizable, which suggests microtransactions in the Team Fortress 2 vein, but Jessen didn't budge when asked whether the title would be free-to-play. "We're actually not talking about that right now," she said firmly. "We're going to figure it out, and we're going to do what's best."
Worlds will be randomly generated ... sort of. The developers were dodgy on exactly how the various worlds you'll be playing will connect up. "It's all part of a bigger picture, a bigger world," Jessen said. "We're still iterating on how you get from place to place on all of that."
Bleszinski was also vague on the story behind Fortnite – the various little trolls and husk enemies attacking your structures aren't just mindless creatures. There's a "puppetmaster" behind them. "This isn't some sort of infection spreading in Raccoon City type of thing, this is somebody sucking the life out of people on purpose," Bleszinski said. That enemy is "'desiring life', is my cleanest way of putting it right now."