How to create a metaverse experience in Fortnite

by: | Apr 13, 2023

As we recently wrote in our post about the opportunities for businesses in the metaverse, “The metaverse is not a thing nor a platform. The metaverse is actually many things. And many platforms.”

As builders, we need to understand the underpinnings of those platforms in order to deliver lovable metaverse experiences. Metaverse platforms include online virtual worlds, and one of the most popular of these is Fortnite. In this post, we’ll explain how we built a proof-of-concept (PoC) experience in Fortnite called ArcTouch Island, and what we learned along the way.

Understanding the Fortnite metaverse opportunity

Fortnite has a very large user base. According to PlayerCounter, Fortnite has between 2.9 and 4 million concurrent players at any time. And Epic Games reportedly has more than 400 million registered users on the platform.

For any brand or business, reaching an audience this size is massively appealing.

Keep in mind, this world is mostly populated by players engaged in “battle royale” games against up to 100 other people at a time. So, when creating a metaverse presence in Fortnite, builders must aim for complementary kinds of experiences.

Here are a few examples of what some companies have done:

Why we built ArcTouch Island in Fortnite

Our primary goal for this project was to better understand the kinds of experiences we could create on this metaverse platform.

We used Fortnite’s Creative Mode to build ArcTouch Island. This allows developers to create modifications to the environment, custom game modes, and mini-games. You can build your own space by creating assets or using thousands of galleries with pre-created artifacts. You can also create non-player characters (NPCs) to communicate with visitors — and react according to changing circumstances in your space.

It’s worth noting that with Creative Mode you are not able to create weapons, skins, or new characters. To do this, businesses need to work directly with Epic Games.

While we considered building a virtual ArcTouch office, as we did with Decentraland, we wanted something that was closer to what Fortnite gamers would expect. So, we created ArcTouch Island, an open-world experience for our team to test a variety of structures and effects.

ArcTouch Island on Fortnite build metaverse experience

Step-by-step: How we built our island in Fortnite

Step 1: Strategy

The process for building a metaverse experience in Fortnite is no different than any other digital product. We started with some strategy work to define the key features for our minimum lovable product.

An early question we asked was how we could create a lovable experience that would encourage visitors to explore the island. Given that the target audience was our internal team, we decided to gamify some of our ArcTouch company values.

For this proof-of-concept, we defined three primary activities:

  • Escape the Pepper Maze: In this challenge, we emphasize our Commitment value. Users must escape the maze before the clock strikes zero and the character runs out of energy.
  • Fish for a Friend: In this challenge, we emphasize our Collaboration value. Players find a hungry friend (an NPC). Players use a virtual fishing rod to catch some fish, which they share with the NPC to complete the challenge.
  • Island Exploration: We created some structures for players to explore, and to give our design and development teams more opportunities to learn about building in Fortnite. This includes a store with a vending machine to purchase items for a mission, a bridge connecting two parts of the island, and a mysterious room atop a windmill.

Once we defined these MLP product features, we moved to the design phase.

Step 2: Design

One of the most important design tasks was creating blueprints. These visual references helped lay the groundwork and align the team for the work that followed. Here’s our map for the island (it’s big!):

a map of ArcTouch Island in Fornite

And here’s the blueprint for one of the main structures:

a blueprint of a building on ArcTouch Island in Fornite

It was important for our design team to create user stories for every single area and action — to help guide our team throughout the remainder of the project. There are many discrete elements in each scene, responsible for providing key clues to help players complete each step. If any design details were missing, it would break the story.

Note that we designed this experience before the new Unreal Engine 5 Editor was released. We know that future design work will be much easier with this new version. For our project, we were unable to import assets from other design tools — and this new editor will allow designers to more easily include branded elements.

Step 3: Engineering

While the 3D design was underway, our engineers were learning about and testing the game mechanics. We created two separate test islands, so that design and engineering could work in parallel without interfering with each other.

Our developers tested the motion and effects defined during the strategy phase to ensure we could deliver the experience we envisioned. For example, in one scene we hid a jump pad that would be only revealed if the user made a fire to clear everything that was covering it. One of our developers spent a fair amount of time making sure that was feasible.

a jump pad in Fornite

A jump pad in Fortnite.

Step 4: Bringing the Fortnite experience to life

After our designers finished their work and engineers validated game mechanics, we merged the two together on the main island.

We also worked on NPC dialogues and pop-up messages to provide clear directions and clues to the player. It’s important to let the player know what is expected from them, but also to provide the freedom to explore any area they want to visit.

a pepper maze on ArcTouch Island in Fortnite

A player (center) navigating a pepper maze on ArcTouch Island. 

Step 5: Quality assurance

Once everything was merged into a single island, our QA team tested the entire experience to make sure:

  • Audio and visual patterns matched the game modes. For example, we didn’t want to play a calm, peaceful song during a tense moment.
  • Color coding was consistent among interactive elements in the game.
  • Game objectives were clearly stated so players understand what is expected from them.
  • The narrative’s aesthetics, mechanics, and level progression were logical.
  • The colliders were functioning as expected so a player can’t see through solid objects or walk through them.

We added other team members to our Epic Games account so they could visit and explore ArcTouch Island. While our primary goal was to learn about building in Fortnite for our clients, it’s even more fun to see players enjoying it.

Step 6: Demo video

Although many of our team members are Fortnite fans, not everyone plays it. So we created a demo video for our colleagues and clients.

We sketched a storyboard to highlight the gameplay and the key activities:

a storyboard of the ArcTouch Island in Fornite

Then we created the video from actual gameplay footage and added a soundtrack to match the mood of the onscreen elements. The demo shows sneak peeks of mysterious environments and secret rooms that players can find on ArcTouch Island.

Want to create a Fortnite experience for your company?

ArcTouch has been building lovable apps and digital products for a wide variety of platforms for more than 15 years. Want to talk about your metaverse strategy? Contact us to set up a free consultation.