Epic wants Fortnite to be the last game standing — so it’s stealing ideas

Epic liberally borrowed ideas from
Image: Epic Games

This week, Epic Games added a new mode called Impostors where players complete tasks on a ship while two impostors sneakily try to teleport as many agents off the ship as they can. If that sounds like a familiar gameplay loop to you, you’re not the only one who feels that way — fans immediately noticed that the mode borrows heavily from Among Us, a social deduction game that exploded in popularity in 2020 and was built by a tiny indie studio.

The team at Innersloth, the developers of Among Us, are justifiably upset with Epic’s blatant repurposing of its hit game. But despite the underhanded tactics by Epic, Impostors’ polish and surprising connections to the ever-expanding Fortnite story could be a preview of the future of Epic’s smash hit as it tries to be the ultimate live service game.

While I’m not a fan of how liberally Epic borrowed from Among Us, when I’ve played Impostors, I’ve found it pretty enjoyable in large part because it doesn’t mess with Among Us’ formula. As an agent, you’ll complete all sorts of rote tasks that are somehow a lot of fun. Many of the tasks have Fortnite-specific tie-ins, such as punching a Peeley punching bag or tossing soda cups at a miniature Kevin the cube. And as an impostor, I did everything I could to sneakily take out my opponents, and I was able to do so while dressed as Ariana Grande.

Epic has actually offered an Among Us-like mode before, called The Spy Within, but that was made by fans using Fortnite’s in-game Creative mode tools. I personally thought it was clunky, and I only played a couple matches.

Impostors, on the other hand, has Epic’s full might behind it, which ensures the game looks great and plays well. I know that I’ll come back to it a number of times in the coming days. And Epic’s direct involvement with Impostors has an added bonus in that it ties directly into the Fortnite universe.

The trailer for the mode, for example, reveals that it takes place on a ship run by the Imagined Order — or the IO, which players might recognize as the identifying acronym of AI enemies you can encounter in the main battle royale mode. And some of the tasks you complete as an agent in Impostors, such as filling up a treasure chest with goodies, seem to imply that the people on the ship are the ones preparing the main battle royale island for every single drop.

I’ve been playing Fortnite almost daily for more than three years, so the added world-building in Impostors has been a nice surprise. But it’s also a clever way to entice players back into the game who may not care about battle royale as much anymore.

Lifting good ideas also isn’t really a new strategy for Epic; it’s just the most brazen recent example. Fortnite actually launched as a co-op survival game, but Epic quickly added the now-gargantuan battle royale mode following the huge success of PUBG. Fortnite’s Creative mode is Epic’s take on games like Minecraft and Roblox, where players make their own worlds.

Epic’s ability to clone Among Us opens the door to other hand-crafted modes mimicking nearly any genre or popular title. A Fortnite kart racer? A Fortnite strategy game? A Fortnite RPG? I wouldn’t be surprised if Epic made any or all of those at some point in the future. And presumably, these hypothetical modes would be offered for free right inside the Fortnite app you and 350 million registered players (as of April 2020) already have, meaning you could easily try them out just by downloading the game’s latest update.

The Impostors mode also indicates that Epic is starting to look past rivals like PUBG and Apex Legends. While Fortnite has been more than just its core battle royale mode for some time, with its spectacular concerts, the violence-free Party Royale mode, and even in-game movie screenings, Impostors suggests Epic could bring the most popular games into Fortnite, too, to try and keep you from playing anywhere else.

Just as Netflix sees its key rivals as things like Fortnite and TikTok, it appears that Epic now views Fortnite as competing with anything else that can command your time. To succeed against everything, the game has to become everything — an impostor through and through.

Comments

Honestly, I wish they could get sued for this shit. That or we need to rally people with the "Big Bad Epic STEALS from small indie Dev" idea

Why? Like I get that everyone hates Epic, but Call of Duty has now copied battle royale from PUBG which copied it from ARMA. Copying gameplay dynamics is foundational to the industry.

This is similar to suggesting that Jean Webster not write Daddy-Long-Legs because epistolary novels are Samuel Richardson’s idea.

Everything’s just a Doom clone if you follow the chain long enough.

You mean Wolfenstein 3D.

You mean The Oregon Trail

Chess!

Bingo!

Gharba ghaba! (the ancient words used to describe the use of bone to hammer things for fun)

picking lice out of another persons hair. I’ll name that game "Catch that Lice!"

The Big Bang (when our universe simulation game has begun)

Your steam back catalogue sounds similar to mine!

One could argue every modern shooter is basically Space Invaders with an extra axis: you move from cover to space, strafing to avoid fire whilst shooting hordes of relentless enemies.

That’s Call of Duty in a nutshell.

It isnt just foundational to the industry. It is foundational of being human. If it werent for humans copying other humans we would be stuck in forest trees.

I think there’s vast difference between collectively sharing and get inspired by other’s idea and blatantly stealing and act like they did nothing wrong.

"inspired" IS copy.
The Fortnite mode is 3rd person 3d while among us is a 2d game. It is different. The ideia as many have said is not even original to begin with.

The map though.

Imagine if we did this for team death match or free for all game modes lol

Exactly this. Intellectual Property Law is a scam invented by the capitalist class as a means to seek rent from knowledge, which is inherently free, unenclosable, and has a zero reproduction cost. The world would be a much different place if the early human who invented a spear didn’t share that idea, or if Issac Newton patented and locked up his laws behind the corporate lawyers at Newton Incorporated. The world would also be a much better place today if knowledge/information/ideas were still distributed freely, and we didn’t have an economic system that required IP to be locked down. If people’s livelihoods weren’t tied up in creating artificial scarcity for a naturally infinitely abundant resource, we could all be excited about people remixing and improving every idea until it was the best it could be, and we would all benefit from that.

That being said, in today’s reality, it’s definitely scummy of Epic to blatantly steal from such a small indie company, while at the same time licensing from and collaborating with other behemoths like Disney.

You completely lost me on that last sentence… how is it scummy if you just wrote an essay on how beneficial it is to have a free flow of ideas?

Exactly. Which makes the case for intellectual property laws in the first place. To protect the small guys against an Epic that can easily come and screw you over, squash you.

You cannot get a patent of an ‘Idea’ (thankfully) therefore they can copy all they want. Every game and movie and everything really is just a copy of something else.

I am pretty sure ARMA’s battle royal was created by Player Unknown the same guy that went off and created PUBG (Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds or PUBG). I think it was even called PUBR in Arma for Player Unknown’s Battel Royal.

So PUBG didn’t steal the concept… Fortnite and Call of Duty stole it. I don’t know why everyone keeps saying PUBG stole it from ARMA… it was the same creator who turned it into a standalone game. It was his concept and work.

The entire game concept is taken from a 2000 movie of a 1999 book named "Battle Royale". Many of the core mechanics show up as early as Bomberman, and one of the earliest video game Battle Royale’s was a Minecraft mod based on the Hunger Games movie.

Brendan Greene didn’t invent the battle royale, he codified and popularized it.

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