A beginner's guide to Fortnite

Published: September 14 2021

Last updated: September 6 2022

A beginner's guide to Fortnite
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Whether or not you're in the "know" of the gaming industry, there's a good chance you've at least heard of Fortnite. A game that has truly taken the world by storm over the years, not only in the niche of gaming but in pop culture. As a small game that only took two months to create in 2017, Fortnite continues to make waves to this day.

What is Fortnite?

Fortnite is a third-person survival shooter game developed by Epic Games, released in 2017. Initially, the main game mode was Fortnite: Save the World, a co-op sandbox game set on earth where a storm causes 98% of the world's population to disappear, with zombies attacking the remainder. In Save the World, four players work together on different missions to collect resources, build barriers to defend objectives, and fight the attacking zombies. 

Save the World was released in early access in 2017, with a planned full release in 2018. While Save the World was still in its early access phase, battle royale game PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds was gaining substantial traction and popularity in its early access phase. Developers with Epic loved the concept and began experimenting with making a similar mode with Fortnite's already created engine. The new mode took only about two months to finish, just after Save the World had shipped. Epic's original plan was to include the Battle Royale mode with the paid Save the World game. As the new mode became more and more popular during its early access, the developer chose to make Battle Royale standalone and free-to-play. The open early access release beat out PUBG, gaining more attention from players and media alike. Despite never having an "official" launch, Epic announced in June 2020 that both the Save the World and Battle Royale modes were no longer in early access.

By 2018, Fortnite reportedly generated over one billion dollars from in-game purchases. In 2019, Fortnite Battle Royale's popularity had grown immensely. Epic Games chose to split their development teams, shut down support for their MOBA Paragon, and halt the development of a free-to-play Unreal Tournament game to put more resources into Fortnite Battle Royale.

Since its release, Fortnite has won Best Ongoing Game at The Games Awards in 2018 and 2019, Choice Video Game at the 2018 Teen Choice Award, Best Evolving Game at the 2019 BAFTA Games Awards, and many, many more.

How to Play

In Fortnite Battle Royale, you as the player control an unnamed character. Along with 99 enemies, you drop into a map empty-handed. A storm gradually closes in on the map that damages all players, forcing everyone to battle each other in a more enclosed area. The last player, or team, standing wins.

Your character has a combined health of 200, which is split between health - 100 and shields - 100. When taking damage, your shields are depleted first before taking from your health bar. There are various items throughout the map that can help you regain any shield or health loss. The map has weapons, ammo, healing items, and other perks randomly dropped around the map, along with being included in chests that are randomly placed around the map.


Battle Royale

The Battle Royale mode is the most popular choice, with players dropping in on the map and the last player standing wins.

  • Solos - Play solo with no teammates against other solo players

  • Duos - Teams of two play against other teams of two

  • Trios - Teams of three play against other teams of three

  • Squads -Teams of four play against other teams of four

  • Arena - The competitive mode of battle royale where you earn "hype" by placing high and/or eliminating opponents. The games you queue up are always against players of similar "hype" level or skill. Arenas are similar to ranked modes in other games but are only available in solos, duos, and trios.


Creative mode is a true sandbox option. Hopping into Creative allows you to build and customize your own islands. You can also create your own game mode and invite others to play or share it with the world.

Limited Time Modes

Regularly Epic Games will add different mode options to Fortnite. These modes don't last forever; as such, they're referred to as Limited Time Modes. Some Limited Time Modes in the past have included Team Rumble, Imposters, and The Getaway.

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Fortnite map dropping

Image: Epic Games.

Unlike other battle royales, Fortnite consists of one map used in every match. The map currently has 15 areas of interest along with smaller un-named areas. Each area provides loot and items for you to use throughout the game. The terrain on the map can vary depending on the point of interest. For example, Sludgy Swamp contains a literal swamp that is difficult to walk through, Catty Corner features snowy mountains, and Pleasant Park is a residential area. The size of each area varies, and these points of interest can change season to season with regular game updates.

In the past, Fortnite has featured some iconic areas like Tilted Towers and Salty Springs, while some areas have stood the test of time like Pleasant Park and Retail Row.

Loot Pool

As a player, you have five inventory slots. You can fill these slots with any combinations of weapons and items you see fit and can switch in and out at any time during a match.

Fortnite weapons

In Fortnite, there are 8 different weapons and 5 different rarities. Image: Epic Games.


The loot pool in Fortnite consists of eight unique weapons that come in five different rarities: Common, Uncommon, Rare, Epic, Legendary, and Exotic. The higher the rarity, the greater damage the weapon does.

  • Assault Weapons - Fully automatic weapons capable of handling far and close-ranged combat.

  • Submachine Guns - Weapons that fire at a very high rate and deal a decent bit of damage but have an increased spread and consume larger amounts of ammo.

  • Bows - At short range, bows are quite ineffective due to slow fire rate and reload speed. It's better to have a scope attached to aim better, but at long range, bows have a bullet drop-off and longer travel time. 

  • Explosive Weapons - Launcher weapons that propel rockets or grenades. These deal a great amount of damage in a large area, but it can be difficult to gauge their trajectory.

  • Pistols - Fast shooting sidearm weapons that have a lower amount of damage with a smaller capacity

  • Shotguns - Deal high damage at a moderate rate with a limited magazine and can only be used short-range

  • Sniper Rifles - Ideal long-ranged weapons that are capable of deadly shots. Clips are typically limited to one, but they have the highest accuracy in the game.

  • Throwables - Each throwable weapon has its own unique feature. Some may damage enemies, while others have non-damaging effects like the Boogie Bomb. All throwables do, however, have an area of effect on impact.

Support items

Various healing and shield items throughout the map, including bandages, shield potions, fish, foraged items, and even certain weapons. These items can replenish your shield, heal you to partial or full health, and even help heal your allies.

Trap devices are another support item in Fortnite that can allow you to heal over time, trap your enemies to take damage or launch away from an area and then redeploy yours, or your enemies, glider.

Vehicles are a fairly new addition to the game that are spread around throughout the map. You and your teammates can use vehicles to traverse on land, water, or even the sky. 


One of the biggest mechanics to differentiate Fortnite from other battle royales is your ability to build structures for protection or engagement. Building materials are scattered around the map, just like items - wood, brick, and steel. You can also destroy trees, buildings, and other structures to gain them. Wood is the weakest but is built the fastest, brick is stronger but takes longer to finish, and steel is the strongest but also takes the longest to build.

Building structure options are a wall, floor, ramps, and pyramid. These can all be built to protect yourself, gain high ground on your opponents, and even edited after being built to get the upper hand on your enemies.

A beginner's guide to Fortnite - characters


Characters are NPC's placed throughout the map that can assist you with dishing out items and weapons along with different services and missions. 

In-Game Purchases

The concept of in-game purchases wasn't new by the time Fortnite was released. Many other free-to-play games relied on similar systems to make a profit. Fortnite, however, has been one of the most successful with the popularity of the game so far. With simple character skins then expanding to cosmetics for backpacks, gliders, weapons, and more, in-game purchases make Fortnite stand out above the rest. All purchases can be made using the in-game currency, V-Bucks. V-Bucks can be bought with real money and are sometimes given away during events or promotions. V-Bucks don't have a 1-to-1 ratio with dollars and can be bought by the bundle in-game.


Cosmetics are truly where Fortnite shines and where Epic Games makes money. You can buy different cosmetics for your character, backpack, harvesting tool, glider, trail, and each weapon. You can also purchase different emotes that can be activated any time in the game. Other purchasable items include loading screens, banners, and music.

Battle Pass

Every new season, Fortnite introduces a purchasable Battle Pass for the game. Any time your character levels up from earning XP from playing, you earn Battle Stars. Battle Stars can then be redeemed for certain rewards. As you level up, more pages of the Battle Pass will be unlocked, offering new rewards. The Battle Pass is 950 VBucks which equates to a little under $8.00 USD.

Fortnite characters

Fortnite has gained popularity around the world and across age groups. Image: Epic Games.

Worldwide Popularity

Although Fortnite is not the first in its Battle Royale genre, it's certainly been the most popular. 2018 was certainly the year of Fortnite. A while after the early access began, an abundant amount of streamers began to pick up and play the game for hours on end every day. Streamers like Ninja, TimtheTatman, and DrLupo not only grew exponentially on Twitch because of the game, but they brought a lot more players to the game.

Pop culture

As the popularity of Fortnite grew in the gaming sphere, so did it in pop culture. The cartoon style of the game appealed to a younger generation of players, while the mechanics and skill ceiling drew in older, more serious gamers. Between the entertainment value of gameplay and Twitch's already accessible streaming platform, Fortnite popularity grew exponentially.

One of the most known streamers to play Fortnite is Tyler "Ninja" Blevins. Ninja began playing in late 2017, and when the popularity of the game grew, so did he. Not only did he become one of the most followed and subscribed streamers on the platform, but he also got the opportunity to play and stream with the likes of Drake, Travis Scott, and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Ninja and Fortnite go hand-in-hand to the point that Epic Games released a skin of his likeness in 2020 as a part of their Icon Series.

With Fortnite as virtually a household name, Epic has truly started to turn Fortnite into a "metaverse," holding non-gaming events like movie release trailers and concerts featuring the likes of Travis Scott, Marshmello, and Ariana Grande.

With in-game purchases being the sole source of profit, Fortnite has partnered with a slew of brands throughout the years to bring them to the Fortnite universe. Cosmetics representing the NFL, NBA, MLS, Marvel characters, celebrities, and more have been added.

Read more: How an Arma 3 mod took over the world.


As with most competitive games, the Fortnite team immediately took it upon themselves to hold their own localized Fortnite tournaments. Although private servers had not been introduced yet, tournament organizers would host "kill races." These would consist of players dropping into random games, and whoever had the most kills after a certain amount of time won.

By May 2018, Epic announced it would be investing $100m to fund Fortnite tournaments throughout the year to help group the game as an esport. 

Their first real test of Fortnite esports began with their Pro-Am event in 2018 at E3. Featuring 50 pairs of popular content creators and celebrities, the event had around 3,000 in attendance and awarded $3m USD to the winning teams' charity of choice.

Throughout the remainder of 2018, Epic held various "Skrimish" events that would take place over a certain number of weeks with varying formats. The finale's of these events took place live at trade shows like PAX and TwitchCon with prizes from $500,000 to $1m.

In 2019, Epic announced the first Fortnite World Cup with qualifying rounds held from April to June and finals taking place in New York City. A total of $30m was included in prize money, with $3m going to the winner of the solo and duo competitions. After the World Cup in the summer of 2019, competitive Fortnite moved to a Champion Series format. A series was hosted regularly for cash prizes with qualifying weeks and final tournaments deciding winners across geographic regions. A similar format continues with the Champions Series as the game's primary competitive format to this day.

Epic hasn't been the only one to hold competitive Fortnite events. Major tournament organizers like ESL and DreamHack have and continue to host third-party events to support the game.

Fortnite obviously wasn't the first game in the Battle Royale genre to break through, but it certainly has been the most impactful over the years. From breaking player and streamer records to becoming a worldwide phenomenon, Epic Games has created a model that many game developers continue to replicate to this day. 

Ready to get started? Download Fortnite and join the fun.

Lydia Pendergrass

Lydia Pendergrass
Lydia Pendergrass

Millennial gamer-mom. Heroes of the Storm victim. Grammar judge. FFXIV addict. One of few that can clearly explain the main plot points of the Kingdom Hearts series.