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Building better skills by building better maps

Adil “Bucktee” Maiwand was alone and outgunned outside Colossal Coliseum. He had to fight off an enemy trio long enough for his squadmates to get there in time to save him. The trio pushed him all at once, spraying Bucktee’s wall with bullets as he burned through resources to rebuild his defenses. He had almost no chance to win the fight, but he could use a little trick he had learned to even the odds.

“It’s called spray punish,” Bucktee said of a move where he would take a shot every time the enemy trio broke his wall. “The second they broke my wall I would [hit them with my] shotgun and then place another ramp or wall. Then I’d repeat that.”

As a result, Bucktee killed two of his harassers in those frantic moments, but fell to the last one as his teammates rolled up to the fight.

“He made it an easy cleanup job,” his Fortnite coach Zach “MachineRite” Faulkner said of the play. Bucktee had used a map that MachineRite designed in Fortnite Creative to learn how to get those shots off in the first place. “We practiced that move a lot.”

As a Fortnite coach and map designer, MachineRite uses the battle royale’s Creative mode to help players sharpen their mechanical skills, decision making and game sense by designing practice routines. He’s one of many designer-coach-hybrids that have helped raise the overall skill floor of competitive Fortnite.

“The impact these maps have had is massive,” said Fortnite caster Taylor “Somebodysgun” Yates. These maps let players run coordinated drills to train their aiming, building, editing, movement and other mechanical skills. All things that players need to implement at incredible speeds within the games’ top tournaments.

Fortnite Creative training
Bucktee was ambushed at the old farm building just outside Colossal Coliseum. Image via Epic Games.

“Mechanical skill gaps close at the highest level, so you need to have the knowledge of every advantage possible in order to win,” MachineRite added.

MachineRite works part time as a coach with trios like Team Serenity — the team Bucktee is a part of — by building custom maps to help their muscle memory, reviewing game tape and helping them plan for the random elements that they can’t always account for in battle royales.

“I probably used MachineRite’s map for around a week,” Bucktee said, adding that he practices in Fortnite Creative for two hours a day. “It builds muscle memory.”

Creating Custom Fortnite Practice Routines

The training maps, much like practice for football, basketball and baseball, are all about mastering mechanical movements that players will need to do hundreds of times while trying to gain an advantage during tense moments. One advantage MachineRite pointed out as an example is mastering the weapon swap delay when players are holding a pickaxe. During that time frame, there is a short moment of vulnerability that an enemy could use to hit them with a shotgun spread.

“It’s not a math problem,” MachineRite said. “You’re building a solution to a problem before it happens. You’ll just have a subconscious habit of using them built in.”

Map creation has also become a small source of income for people like MachineRite, who chose to learn the ins-and-outs of Fortnite Creative rather than focus on their own skills. After all, for those that want to get better at one of the most popular games in the world, there is no better tool than the game itself.

“When you practice in Fortnite, in-game aim trainers teach you the actual game mechanics, whereas KovaaK 2.0 are just general,” said Fortnite map creator Daniel “Donwozi” Warish, referring to popular aim trainer tools that people can purchase on Steam. “My map has an average play time of around 26 to 30 minutes. A lot of people use them to warm up.”

Donwozi is the creator of the Skaavok aim trainer, an all-purpose routine that drills players on Fortnite’s variety of weapons. His trainer is incredibly popular, with more than 12 million unique lifetime users. Both Donwozi and MachineRite agreed that training maps have been widely adopted in the Fortnite community, with a few of them bringing in more than 40 million players.

Fortnite Skaavok aim trainer
A scenario from the Skaavok aim trainer that tasks players with hitting specific targets while bouncing around. Image via Epic Games.

Fortnite Creative is the go-to training ground for a number of top players and millions of others who are still grinding through ranked Arena lobbies. It gives players the tools to improve their muscle memory and mechanical skills, but using it on it’s own won’t be enough to win tournaments.

A lot of Fortnite Creative is how you approach it,” Donwozi said. “If you just follow the path of my aim trainer you’ll hit a skill ceiling. You need to approach things differently than the straight line version set out for you.”

Map designers have gotten creative with their training courses to encourage those skills, giving players the chance to test their wits in dire situations that are common in the final minutes of battle royales. Maps exist that help players develop their rotation abilities, help them get the advantage while being attacked, and practice one-on-one fights with a randomized loadout, resource pool and healing items.

“The realistic maps have become popular, but a lot of people don’t approach them realistically,” Donwozi said. “They go in and just crank, no matter how many resources they have. They need to imagine themselves in a real game and actually play the same way they would in that situation.”

Fortnite pros won’t land their dream loadout everywhere. Sometimes they’ll get stuck with the most basic weapons available. Map creators have created some scenarios that help people prepare for that randomness, like tasking them with getting to safety after dropping them on the edge of a crowded final circle. Unfortunately, according to Donwozi,  the scenarios haven’t been able to evolve as much as the creators like. Despite their many ideas, the mechanics haven’t caught up.

Fortnite Creative rotation map
Teadoh’s rotation practice map has players move to collect a coin while under fire from bots and enemy players, preparing them for hectic final circles. Image via Epic Games.

Fortnite Creative launched in 2018, but Epic Games hasn’t provided as many updates for the mode as they have for battle royale. New items, weapons, mechanics and systems have come to the game’s primary mode long before they hit creative. The lack of cohesion between modes makes it difficult to practice for battle royale matches in Creative.

“The Charge Shotgun was in the game for three seasons before it came to Creative,” MachineRite said, adding that the gun was favored among pros after the pump shotgun left the loot rotation. “It had one of the most unique mechanics in the game and it required a lot of practice. But it was a pain to practice with it without Creative. You had to train in Arena, which means you could die in the first fight while trying to fumble with it.”

Aim trainer creators like Donwozi  said they have also struggled to implement a target with random movement, so it’s difficult to train players for the unpredictability of enemy players. They could use zombies from Fortnite’s Save the World mode, with speed pads to simulate players moving quickly in one direction, but they aren’t as engaging for aiming drills.

The Future of Fortnite is Creative

However, Epic Games did announce Fortnite Creative 2.0, a future update to the game that should bring greater depth with the implementation of Unreal Engine 5. The company didn’t reveal official details, but a showcase video has led creators to believe they’ll be able to make modding-level changes to the game.

“A lot of creators are rushing to learn to write code so they’re ready for it,” Donwozi said. “It’s going to open a lot of doors, especially for people like me. I have all these ideas I could never bring to life. That’s going to change, hopefully.”

Bucktee’s impressive matchup against his enemy trio was possible partially due to Fortnite Creative. MachineRite’s map drill was specifically designed to help train Bucktee to stay closer to his team and survive if he ever got ambushed.

Instead of getting killed and leaving his team at a disadvantage, Bucktee was able to make a key play and get an early pick. This gave the rest of his team a chance to snowball the survivors before rebooting him and moving on to the next fight.

“They didn’t win the match,” MachineRite said. “But it was a clear sign of improvement.”



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