Fortnite’s Battle Royale Mode Was Designed During An Uber Ride


Fortnite’s battle royale mode is so huge and popular in 2024 that most people forget the game actually launched without it. And Fortnite’s former boss, Donald Mustard, revealed in a recent interview that the popular mode was basically designed in the back of a car on the way to a meeting.

In September 2023, after 15 years at Epic, Mustard announced he was leaving to work on new projects. He had helped grow Epic’s Fortnite into one of the biggest games on the planet, bringing in numerous crossover characters and celebrities to the online shooter’s metaverse. During a recent chat with Game File’s Stephen Totilo, Mustard revealed a lot of information on how they got Batman, John Wick, and Superman into one game, the struggle to grow Fortnite while still doing big events, and how they even decided to add a battle royale mode to the survival shooter in the first place.

In 2016, Mustard was promoted to Epic’s chief creative officer. This was during a time when the company was in a weird place—having sold Gears of War and announced Fortnite before going radio silent—and needed to “shake something up.”

Minecraft, PUBG, and a random bus influenced Fortnite

Mustard says that battle royales first caught his eye when they started popping up in Minecraft. Around 2017, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds and its 100-player matches were becoming the biggest thing on Steam. Mustard says he remembered thinking that it “felt like a really unique take on: How do you bring lots of people into a thing?” And right before the official launch of Fortnite, during a car ride in mid-2017, Mustard and Epic decided the company needed its own battle royale.

“It was Tim Sweeney and Paul Meegan, who was the president of Epic at the time, [and] Kim Libreri, Epic’s CTO,” said Mustard. “The four of us were in the back of an Uber in California, headed to a meeting at Disney…We were already toying with this [idea that] we need to do a battle royale. We should do this. And what if we did it in Fortnite?

“And so, in that car, we decided. We’re like: ‘We’re doing it, we’re going to re-task the team, we’re going to put it in Fortnite, we’re going to make a battle royale.’”

At this point, Mustard realized they needed a design document in “like, three hours,” and so in the back of that Uber he began writing up a one-page doc for what would end up being Fortnite’s Battle Royale.

The original trailer for Battle Royale (Epic / PlayStation)

“A school bus is going by us in traffic, and I’m like: Players are going to be on a bus in the sky and we’re going to jump out of it,” explained Mustard. In September 2017 Battle Royale launched in Fortnite and the rest is history.

When asked about the common criticism from many that Fortnite was just copying PUBG and using battle royale as a gimmick to help make its new game more popular, Mustard pushed back, telling Game File:

“My philosophy is: All video games are all of us just riffing off each other.” He added: “This, to me, is just an evolution of Quake.”

I recommend reading the rest of Game File’s interview with Mustard to learn about why Nintendo said no to a Metroid crossover, how Epic got Batman and Superman in the same shooter, the story behind the black hole, and even what the former Fortnite boss is working on now.



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