Matthew Gatland

Winter thoughts - 6 of 6

February 07, 2021

In the past, every player started every Fortnite match with nothing. It was a clean state, giving everyone an equal opportunity to win.

This season added a new currency called gold bars. Gold bars can be earned as you play, and can be spent to buy powerful weapons and other upgrades. Having gold bars gives you a strong advantage over other players. And: your gold bars carry over from one match to the next.

That means that in this season, some players still land with nothing. Others may land with thousands of gold bars, allowing them to instantly buy powerful weapons and gain an advantage.

This is really unfair! Why did Epic do this?

I played a few hours of Star Wars Battlefront II last week. (It was free in the Epic Games Store.) I’m not very good at the game but I think I understand the basic idea: it’s all about taking turns being powerful.

It’s fun to be a jedi, killing tonnes of stormtroopers and turning the tide of the battle. But that only works if other players are being useless stormtroopers. The fantasy would fall apart if everyone was as powerful as you are.

Battlefront solves this problem by having a currency, battle points, which you spend to become a hero character. You earn battle points by playing as a normal stormtrooper or rebel soldier. Once you’ve fought and died a few times in a basic role, you will have enough battle points to buy your turn as a hero character. You get your moment in the spotlight. When you die as a hero, you’ll have to go back to being a solider and earn more points again.

I suppose that Fortnite’s gold bars are meant to create the same kind of cycle. You might spend a few matches gathering currency, which takes up precious time and makes you less likely to win those matches. After a while, you’ll have a lot of bars and can spend them to get a powerful item that lets you perform better than you normally do. You get the fun of being a big hero, taking out other players who are still scrambling to get equipment.

A normal Fortnite match has 100 players and only 1 winner, which means winning can be very difficult. I think the Fortnite developers are always trying to find ways to let more players experience that moment, and the gold bar system is their latest attempt.