We need to talk about Fortnite. Epic Games’ world-conquering battle royale shooter has a problem. Whether you agree with this or not depends on whether you take umbrage with the meta infamously known as “Spray and Pray,” which stems from various factors introduced in Season 5 that have altered the way the majority of firefights play out.
So let’s start from the top. Fortnite’s shooting mechanics are centered around a system known as “bloom,” which affects each weapon’s accuracy. Where you aim isn’t the deciding factor in where your bullets will hit, as there’s also a random element of luck involved. The shots you take will always land somewhere within your crosshair, with the size of each crosshair varying depending on whether you’re aiming down sights, moving, standing, crouching, or jumping. First-shot accuracy (which guarantees your first shot is more accurate than the rest) is also something to take into consideration, but beyond that there isn’t anything you can do to ensure each bullet successfully hits its target. Crouching and standing still helps, but you’ll still have to pray to the RNG gods if you want your bullets to connect.
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As you can imagine, bloom is already divisive on its own, with one alternative being PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ utilisation of mechanics like weapon recoil and bullet drop–offering a more authentic and skill-based depiction of weapon firing. However, it’s clear Epic implemented bloom to reduce the skill gap between dedicated players and newcomers–at least when it comes to straight-up firefights. This makes sense when you consider Fortnite is the most popular video game in the world right now, with its availability enticing people from all walks of life to hop into the fray. But recent changes have intensified bloom’s impact in a much more negative way.
The two key factors to consider here are the increase in power for SMGs, as well as the nerfs to building and the amount of crafting materials you receive. The new P90 Compact SMG is, of course, the leading major here, with its large magazine and high fire-rate giving it a distinct advantage over most other weapons. But the P90s fellow SMG brethren aren’t far behind either. With simple firefights regularly boiling down to a healthy dollop of luck, the rapid-firing SMGs reign supreme in the current Fortnite meta. Just hold down fire and pray for the best. More than anything, however, the emergence of SMGs as the be-all-and-end-all of weapons has made the nerfs to building even more pronounced.
Epic has tinkered with the health of buildings and the amount of materials you receive from knocking down trees, walls, fences, and so on. However, with fewer materials to work with, and less health for each structure you build, the general consensus is that building is gradually being nullified.
SMGs can easily tear through structures with little issue, forcing you to burn through resources just to keep out of the firing line
SMGs can easily tear through structures with little issue, forcing you to burn through resources just to keep out of the firing line. This has led to fights becoming much less dynamic and more predictable, while protracted battles of wits and proficiency are few and far between. There’s a clear skill gap when it comes to building that might deter some, but it’s also the fundamental aspect that makes Fortnite so unique. And it’s being undermined by the SMG-heavy Spray and Pray meta.
One theory being bandied about is that Epic are nerfing building to make the game more welcoming for new and casual players, especially with Fortnite now available on smartphones. Again, this would make sense, but it also feels like a misguided move. Pro players and popular streamers have voiced their concerns about the current meta, along with the hordes of other dedicated players putting in the hours every day, and it’s hard to argue with them. Getting good at building is tough, sure, but implementing a tutorial, or making Playground a constant fixture, would give people the opportunity to practice and improve their building skillset without Epic needing to quash its effectiveness.
It’s always going to be difficult to please everyone, but deferring to those who have put in the time, money, and effort sounds like a solid strategy. Fortnite is constantly changing, and this meta won’t last forever, but it could set a disappointing precedent if Epic sticks to this path going forward.
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