After days of teasing something big, Fortnite’s much-hyped rocket event finally arrived today. Unlike previous ceremonies, this occasion only happens once: if you weren’t in-game when it happened, you missed out on your chance to experience it. Fortunately, we strapped in and saw everything unfold first-hand.
An hour before the festivities, Fortnite’s island started gearing up for launch by animating the super villain lair near in-game location Snobby Shores that contained the rocket:
As launch time drew near, the game’s players started logging-in en-masse, and many people had to sit through queues just to log into the game. This, in a way, helped build anticipation for the event: I started the game five minutes before launch time, and barely got onto spawn island when the event started at 1:30 PM ET, and from a distance, I watched the rocket blast into the sky.
Then, I was on the flying battle bus, which provided a great view for what was to come. As the rocket tore into the sky, it left behind a giant trail visible across the map. Worried that something would happen on the ground, I descended from the bus and picked a spot up in the mountains to watch. That’s when I noticed that someone else had also eyed the same area. Terrified, I prayed to the battle royale gods that my enemy was friendly. Fortunately, we both burst into an “orange justice” dance instead of pulling out any weapons, which is great, because it would have sucked to miss the launch because someone killed me before the show.
We both looked into the sky, and to our surprise, saw a spaceship falling back down onto the island. This ship crash-landed onto the tent-area on the map that houses a meteorite that mysteriously appeared at the beginning of the season. While nobody knows what this meteorite is or what it does, every so often, it subtly changes its appearance. This is the first time something big has happened to the meteorite, but it’s unclear what the ramifications will be over the course of the rest of the season.
After the first impact, the ship seemed to zip around a few times, causing explosions in multiple areas around the map. And then, the sky cracked open and what appeared to be a dimensional rift appeared. The visual splendor was phenomenal. Here’s Polygon’s crystal clear view of the event:
I wanted to check out how things had changed on the map, but wouldn’t you know it, a player donning a John Wick skin caught sight of me and started shooting. I desperately tried running away, baffled that anyone would be thinking about murder in the face of such splendor, but such are the ways of a John Wick. With zero HP left, my body crumpled onto the ground mere feet away from my destination. Tragic.
I logged back into the game to see if things would still be visible, and sure enough, the rift in the sky is still there. The rocket, however, is gone. Nobody knows what any of this means yet, and likely, anyone wanting to find out will have a hard time. Not long after starting my second match, things progressed as they always do on Fortnite, with everyone trying to murder each other immediately. Such a short-lived peace.
The entire event took maybe a few minutes, and while Fortnite seems largely the same on the surface, but that’s not the point: by making all of this into an ephemeral experience, Epic Games succeeded in making one of the coolest moments I’ve ever had in a game. After all, this isn’t a boss battle that anyone can take up whenever they want, or an item anyone can earn. You had to be there. More than anything, though, I’m extremely impressed that the developer pulled it off at all. This is the biggest game in the world right now, and everyone was trying to log in at once to see the rocket. That’s the sort of DDOS-like load that would bring most games to their knees. Here, everything went down without a hitch. I still can’t believe it.
While the rocket launch has stirred up a lot of commotion, it’s worth noting that Fortnite’s season isn’t over yet: it ends on July 12th, so there are still weeks left for the game to change things up before a new era begins. The rift that appeared during this event may be the first step towards something larger. Likely, the new season will bring some tweaks to the island, as season four introduced a number of new locales and map-wide alterations. The coolest thing about all of this? If you’re an active Fortnite player, you’ve watched the game morph and evolve every few months — and if you just started playing, your experience is totally different from those who have been following the game.