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If you've played Fortnite with a group of teenagers recently, you probably quickly realized that, for many players, the game is less about killing fellow players and staying alive and more about just hanging out with friends in a shared 3D space. Epic is now explicitly leaning into this use case with a new “Party Royale” mode that asks players to “leave their weapons and [materials] behind.”
That description comes from an email sent by Epic to a number of Fortnite content creators in recent days, inviting them to a test of the “experimental and evolving space” starting late Friday evening. Data miners ShiinaBR and Lucas7Yoshi have extracted an expanded description of the limited-time mode, which adds that players will be able to “hang out with friends, play games, perfect your skydive and more. The party’s just getting started!”
Dataminers have also extracted an overhead image of a new map for the Party Royale mode, apparently nicknamed “Papaya” in game files. Icons on that map, and variable names found in the code, strongly suggest mini-games based around gliding, races on foot and in vehicles, motorboat challenges, and even a soccer match, as well as “theater” and “hub” spaces for gatherings.
The introduction of a combat-free Fortnite mode comes just days after Epic announced that a record 27.7 million players attended an in-game Travis Scott concert, which featured a size-shifting version of the rapper performing amid an interstellar light show. That number includes 12.3 million concurrent players for the first of Scott's five in-game performances, up from the 10.7 million people who gathered to see EDM artist Marshmello perform in the game early last year.
An online shooter minus the shooting
In recent years, single-player games from Assassin's Creed to Soma have been experimenting with “safe mode” options that remove (or severely reduce) the threats, allowing players to explore the game's environments at their leisure. Massively multiplayer RPGs have also long featured combat-free areas for players who want to focus more on socializing and roleplaying with friends.
But Fortnite stands out for being the first major online shooter we're aware of to experiment with completely removing the shooting from a major portion of the game. While some have attempted to play such games in “pacifist mode” in the past, those players have generally been treated as eccentrics or “conscientious objectors” rather than a core audience worth catering to.
It remains to be seen just how popular Fortnite‘s new combat-free option will be. But we could look back on this mode as a turning-point moment when Fortnite cemented its transition from mere online shooter to more generalized metaverse.