The most recent season of Fortnite opened with a cool cut scene introducing the new PRIMAL theme. Players were then dropped into a new map and a whole slew of new game mechanics. It’s one of the things that I am most inspired by when making class connections. Epic is never happy maintaining the status quo. They are always tweaking – adding new mechanics and weapons, vaulting and reintroducing older weapons, and tweaking game play elements.
But this season it seems that Epic went too far. In one of their major updates they introduced a new mechanic that allowed players to find a basic “makeshift” weapon they could then craft into an upgraded weapon. By using different building materials the player could create a more powerful but less accurate primal version or less powerful but more accurate mechanical weapon.
The process was pretty cumbersome though. To craft the player first needed to find the makeshift weapon they desired and then hunt down, sometimes literally, the materials needed to craft the upgrades. To make a primal weapon the player needed bones which at first were obtained through killing wildlife like chickens or wolves.
Unfortunately the animals randomly spawn so it was difficult finding the materials. The Mechanical weapons needed machine parts which could be obtained by destroying certain types of scrap around the map. These scraps were so widely distributed though that it was hard to obtain enough within a short amount of time.
It turns out that the system was not that fun. Fortnite has always balanced the frantic pace of combat in the battle royale format with the side quest style mine challenges. The side quest of searching for the makeshift weapons and materials threw off the balance and it must have made players frustrated. My guess is the anger at the update was centered on the difficulty finding materials and time it took to craft a decent weapon because after only a couple of weeks we received a new update. After booting up the new update players received a message that the upgraded primal and mechanical style weapons would now be appearing randomly around the map, have a higher rate of spawning out of treasure boxes, and crafting material would be spread out on the map and new structures would drop the items.
Epic knew that they messed up and rather than blame the players for “not getting it” the company adjusted.
What a great game inspired design message about sunk costs.
As a teacher I am introducing new stuff all the time. Sometimes the students are going to respond positively and sometimes its going to flop. The key is to be like Epic. Recognize the mechanics or materials that are not working and make quick adjustments. It is easy to enter a mindset that the students should like what we are doing or that they just don’t get it. Rather than blame the students though reflect on the conflict and adjust. The phrase my father would use is “don’t throw good money after bad”. Don’t try to keep forcing something just because it is in the lesson plan, because a book said its a great technique, or because administration started an initiative. If it doesn’t work move fast to get into a better place.
Be like Epic.