Unreal Editor for Fortnite is about to change everything. Remember, Fortnite launched as a free-to-play game, but it's evolving this year into one of the industry's most interesting game development platforms. The game that has millions of kids obsessing over TikTok dances could become a gateway to development and supercharge a new creator economy.
This is clearly on the minds of the team at KitBash3D, the professional studio that supplies 3D asset packs that bridge the gap between Hollywood VFX studios, Triple-A game developers and hobbyists. The team's premium assets have been used in movies such as Dr. Strange as well as in video games that include The Last of Us Part II. Now, as announced at GDC earlier this year, those same assets and more are being made available for the new Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN).
If you're unfamiliar with Fortnite, it's the Battle Royale video game that runs on Unreal Engine 5 and is one of the world's most popular games. But over time it has become more than a video game, with concerts, events and more being hosted in its virtual world. If you want to learn more about the tech its built with, read our Unreal Engine 5 review.
Unreal Editor for Fortnite is a game-changer
Epic Games' Unreal Editor for Fortnite and the forthcoming FAB marketplace, which aims to connect the Unreal Engine Marketplace, Sketchfab, Quixel, and ArtStation Marketplace in one place, where creators will be able to make, share, buy and sell content, could change not just how we play games but how they are made. It could also have a broader impact on how we use the internet, create movies and animation.
The KitBash3D team are clear that their involvement, by making the studio's entire asset library available in Unreal Editor for Fortnite, will alter the kinds of games and experiences that can be made in a game known for its cartoon stylisation. Using KitBash3D's assets Fortnite users can create games and worlds that diverge from this aesthetic and even make use of the same assets from Marvel's Dr Strange to recreate a photo-real version of New York.
Maxx Burman, co-founder of KitBash3D explains: "It doesn't need to look like Fortnite, we can push photo realism, we can push different types of genres, different types of narratives in there. I think it's going to be really up to this new creator economy as to what type of content actually is on that platform."
The impression of Fortnite is it's a game for 13 year olds but the reality is bigger than this; as a recent study found the average age of a gamer in 2023 is 33, so gaming has become a ubiquitous part of people's lives. Along with Fortnite there's a generation who have grown up with Roblox and Minecraft.
Co-founder at KitBash3D, Banks Boutté tells me: "Those platforms, for a decade now, have been one of the driving entertainment sources and connectivity sources for children. But those kids are growing up. Many of those kids who grew up playing on those platforms and are now in college are going to be entering the workforce very soon. So there's a natural progression of wanting to go from cubes and cartoons into more photorealistic and expressive worlds. So I think this is just a very natural progression of where we are as a society and where those platforms have been."
Unreal Editor for Fortnite will change the internet
"I think looking at Unreal Editor for Fortnite, it opens up a new creator economy and really empowers the user base of Fortnite to not just consume content, but now start to participate in the creation of it. That's a really exciting step right now," says Burman.
Boutté jumps in and expands on Burman's view. He tells me KitBash3D has always had the goal of enabling and inspiring "creators of the virtual frontier". Boutté continues: "We believe that today, it's movies and video games, but tomorrow the Z-axis is coming to the internet."
We've heard a lot of talk around Web3 and the metaverse but Burman and Boutté simplify the idea down to a '3D internet', and with that "fundamentally, the fabric of human connectivity changes," states Boutté.
The duo see the future of the internet as 3D spaces where we're empowered to build a world and share it with friends or clients in a day, even if you've never used 3D software before.
"If history doesn't repeat itself but it rhymes, we're heading into a space that is so deeply important for individuals to have a voice, and for individuals to be able to take something in their head and create it and share it with a larger community," says Boutté. "We've seen that with the proliferation of social media and now we're heading into the interactive space in a really exciting way."
A new creator economy is emerging
This new 3D internet, and general approachable nature of creating 3D worlds using tools like Unreal Editor for Fortnite, as described by the KitBash3D team, points to a new creator-focused future. But it's one that will need artists and designers, and encourage an emerging creator economy.
One of the essential building blocks to enabling everyone to develop their own worlds will be quality assets, including buildings, vehicles and props. Along with this creators will need a mix of genres and styles, and a glance over the KitBash3D assets reveals a range from fantasy to sci-fi and historical themes.
Burman explains: "On one side of it, yes, we're looking at what are all the building blocks that these creators are going to need in order to unleash their creativity. On the other side, we're looking at how do we push the engine and what is possible. How do we build something that is both open to a ton of different stories and gameplay, but works also with the familiar mechanics of the Fortnite ecosystem?"
The big question is will the assets needed to build worlds in platforms like Unreal Editor for Fortnite be free or will they be paid for? This is really where artists, animators and creatives can succeed.
As Burman tells me, "In this future people should have the opportunity to be both a creator and a consumer". This can only happen when access to the tools is open and approachable, and the pattern is already fixed, after all social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram and TikTok have already put a "movie studio in your pocket".
Burman adds: "It's a very natural partnership with Epic because we both believe in enabling and inspiring that individual and helping them get to a place where they can make something, and share it and then be compensated for it appropriately."
A gateway to a career in art and game development
Fortnite will likely emerge as a powerful platform that can enable people to create and distribute content. If and when creators outgrown Unreal Editor for Fortnite it's not hard to imagine they will drift into Unreal Engine and begin creating broader and larger projects.
"The amount of opportunities about to open up are endless," says Burman who stresses the AAA game development and blockbuster VFX industries will still need people, but platforms like Unreal Editor for Fortnite and FAB will usher in a "new creator economy that allows independent storytellers and game designers to have the tools the need to create their own worlds, and a platform to find an audience for those experiences is a really interesting new opportunity for a lot of people."
He adds: "It's not going to be right for everyone, but for the right people, you can be early to this platform and build an audience here."
Boutté is equally excited, describing how there is a generation of gamers who grew up playing Fortnite and are now graduating college. He equates this to how the previous generation engaged with creating the internet, saying, "There isn't anyone with more experience. So that gives everyone a fresh start and an opportunity here to dive in".
Unreal Editor for Fortnite is currently in open beta, new asset kits will be released through the FAB plugin throughout 2023, and KitBash3D is one of the first to support this app with the free Mission to Minerva Kit and tutorial. Future asset packs will be a mix of free and paid-for content, some based on licensing.
If you're inspired by what KitBash3D is doing and the promise of Unreal Editor for Fortnite then take a look at what developers are doing, such as the Lords of the Fallen tech demo and the Layers of Fear remake being created in UE5.