Your favorite athletes are obsessed with Fortnite. They're playing the video game with teammates. They're talking about it in locker rooms. They're choreographing celebrations based on dances in the game. It's everywhere.
If you've been meaning to discover what the fuss is about, we've put together a beginner's guide.
When we say that this is a beginner's guide to Fortnite, we're talking about legitimate beginners. If you've ever played PUBG or even know it's an abbreviation for PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, this is going to be a waste of your time.
But if you have a gaming system with about five months' worth of dust that you've been meaning to clean off because you want to check out this free game everyone has been talking and tweeting about, you've come to the right place.
Fortnite is available to download on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC. It's a "freemium" game, which means it doesn't cost you a penny to download and you can play the "Battle Royale" multiplayer mode (FN:BR) for free. If you want to play the "Save the World" campaign mode, that will cost you some money. However, that is also supposed to be playable free of charge by the end of 2018.
We'll specifically focus on the FN:BR mode here, as that is the gateway drug taking the gaming world by storm.
Speaking of storms, that's one of the major things you need to worry about in Battle Royale. We'll get to that later.
First, a note on microtransactions (V-Bucks). This is how Epic Games is making money from this craze, but newbies will be pleased to know that buying stuff gives you no intrinsic edge in Battle Royale. The V-Bucks allow you to customize your character, its dance moves and its pickax, but you can't buy health, resources, stronger weapons or anything of the sort.
Basically, microtransactions in FN:BR can help you tell from a player's outfit whether he or she has spent way more time and money playing the game than you have. That can be a valuable bit of information to have before you decide to start shooting at someone.
There are four different ways to play Battle Royale: Solo (every man for himself), Duos (teams of two) and Squads (teams of four) are the three base formats. Epic Games also recently added a 50 vs. 50 option, which is a good starting point for beginners who want to explore the map without immediately dying.
Regardless of your team size, a total of 100 players board the Battle Bus with nothing more than a pickax in hand. The bus then flies over the map in a random direction and players skydive to whichever starting point they choose. From there, you start collecting guns and resources and begin your quest to become the last person alive.
If you have some gaming experience, it's a bit like Halo with a building component or Minecraft with guns. But even if those comparisons mean nothing to you, you'll get the gist in a hurry.
There's no tutorial or practice mode for FN:BR. You simply skydive in and learn on the fly. But here are 10 beginner's tips that should help trim down the massive learning curve. Maybe you'll eventually be good enough to win a game, like Los Angeles Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball:
Tip No. 1: You're going to die. A lot.
The sooner you're able to accept this, the more you'll be able to enjoy your first few hours learning the game. You aren't matched up based on skill level or hours logged, so just about everyone else is going to be a lot better than you. I've played around 100 games while "researching" this piece, and I've only gotten about a dozen kills. And once upon a time, I was pretty good at first-person and third-person shooters.
Because it's a survival game, you only get one life. The good news is you can go right back to the lobby and start a new game as soon as you die, and there's no limit on the number of times you can play.
Try to learn something from your deaths, though. Explore the map. Collect resources. Figure out which guns you do and don't like. It's a trial by fire, but it's the only way you'll get a feel for the game.
Tip No. 2: Watch the person who eliminated you.
After you die, if you don't opt to immediately go back to the lobby, you become a spectator of the person who killed you. If and when that person dies, you then become a spectator of the player who killed your killer.
Eventually, you'll end up watching someone who is a lot better than you, and you'll get a sense of best practices. At the very least, you'll get to see Tip No. 3 in action...
Tip No. 3: Building is everything.
This is by far our longest tip, but it's the most important one.
Even if you're an expert at first-person shooters, there's almost no chance you're going to win a solo game of FN:BR unless you also become an expert at building. You might be able to finish in the top five by laying low and avoiding combat, but you'll eventually be required to encounter someone who can build a tower in the blink of an eye. That person will destroy you. And all you've really accomplished is wasting time that could have been spent getting better.
To build, you'll need resources: wood, brick or steel. You can find these resources lying around the map, in treasure chests or where people died, but the most efficient way to collect them is by destroying the world around you. (Preferably early in the match, when your opponents are the most spread out.) Use your pickax to chop down trees, buildings, vehicles or just about anything you can find. With limited exceptions, it all breaks and gives you one of the three resources.
Bonus Tip: When chopping things down, a blue reticle will appear and move around. Aim for that. Each hit on the reticle does twice as much damage, so you can break stuff more quickly. It also gives you a bit more per strike, so it's definitely worthwhile to hit the target.
It costs 10 units to build one piece (wall, floor, ramp or ceiling), and you're going to need at least a few dozen pieces to build any structure worth a darn. You'll want at least 10 pieces when frantically trying to throw together something to defend against an attack.
Wood is the most plentiful resource, and you'll get around 50 units for chopping down the thick trees. Smaller trees and bushes are quicker to destroy, but they aren't worth nearly as much. Wood is the fastest to build with, but it's also the weakest. When trying to build a late-game fortification, you'll want brick and steel. But until you're good enough to contend for a win, wood is more than enough.
Building needs to become second nature to you. You can occasionally sprint away from gunfire, but it's far more effective to spin in a circle while throwing down four walls and a ramp. That gives you both cover and a height advantage to turn around and return fire. Until you know the keys/buttons well enough to do that in roughly a second, though, you'll likely be dead before you even know where your enemy is located.
Thus, spend your first few games off in a forest chopping down trees and building structures. It's somewhat boring, and you're probably going to get shot in the back while doing it. However, it's a required skill to get good at the game, and it's the quickest to master.
Tip No. 4: Avoid the chaos.
Put in enough hours and you'll eventually be ready to jump off the bus as soon as possible, race for the nearest weapon and try to survive the early fracas.
That's a veteran move, though, and you're still a rookie. You'll want to stay on the bus for at least 15 seconds after the door opens and pick out a landing spot a safe distance away from the initial firefight. When you pull up the map while still in the bus, you'll be able to see the path it's going to take and should have a good idea which areas are the safest.
No matter which way the bus is flying, though, don't start in Tilted Towers. There are 19 labeled locations on the map—Lucky Landing, Retail Row and Snobby Shores, to name a few—but Tilted Towers always seems to be a slaughterhouse.
Tip No. 5: Learn the weapon colors.
Items on the ground will glow a certain color, and knowing those colors will help you discern whether it's worth wasting your time or risking your life to go get them. It might also change precisely where you decide to land on your initial drop in, as you can often see some weapons while gliding to the ground.
In ascending order of value, it goes white (common), green (uncommon), blue (rare), purple (epic) and gold/orange (legendary).
If you can't shoot long-distance to save your life, a green shotgun will be worth more to you than a gold sniper rifle. Plan accordingly. But if you're trying to decide between a green shotgun and a purple shotgun, you definitely want the latter.
Tip. No. 6: Embrace the shotgun.
Back in the days of the original Halo, people who used the shotgun were generally regarded as cowards. They would race to where they knew it spawned and would proceed to hide in some high-traffic corner, fishing with dynamite.
In FN:BR, though, you aren't going to get far without a feel for the shotgun.
In the bottom left-hand corner of your screen, you'll see a running account of who killed whom and how. It seems like at least 50 percent of the kills are with this close-range weapon.
Each weapon has value, and you might find a bit of a market inefficiency by mastering the art of the pistol or SMG. But because so much of the action happens in close quarters, it's usually "blast or be blasted." If more than two minutes of the game has elapsed and you have not yet found a shotgun, you're more than likely the only one and you better keep your distance from everyone.
Here's a sneak peek at just how much damage one can do with a shotgun in Fortnite:
Tip No. 7: Mind your inventory.
It's fun to run around the world collecting everything you can, but you can't be a packrat in FN:BR. You can hold as much ammunition as you want, but you only have five spots in your inventory for weapons or healing items.
Use them wisely.
Moreover, try to keep the same weapon types in the same slot each time you play. Knowing exactly how many times you need to click to find the weapon you want could be the difference between winning a gunfight or dying with a shield potion in your hand.
Tip No. 8: Opposing players are not your only enemy.
Watch your step in FN:BR, or it may be your last one. Fall damage is one of several ways to die, though it can be largely avoided by sliding down hillsides or by quickly building a floor or ramp while you are falling. As a rule of thumb, a fall from more than three stories will hurt you, and a fall from more than six stories will end you.
Other players can also plant spike traps, which will kill you immediately.
The most imminent non-gun threat, however, is the storm.
The storm closes in incrementally throughout the game, and no structure or resource can protect you from it. You'll get alerts on your radar about the ever-shrinking safe zone, which forces players to move closer toward each other. By the end, the last two players are sometimes practically building towers on top of each other because the safe zone's radius is so small.
The storm does not instantly kill you, but it does intensify each time it closes in. Getting caught in the storm's first wave only does one health point of damage per second. Later on, though, a full-health, full-shield player will die after just a few seconds in the storm.
Speaking of health...
Tip No. 9: Shields are critical.
You start the game with 100 out of 100 possible health points and zero out of 100 possible shield points. Neither one regenerates on its own, so you'll need to find items to increase them.
The shield items, in particular, are important to find and consume as quickly as possible. If you go into a fight with no shield, your opponent only needs to do 100 damage to kill you while you're likely going to need 150 or 200 to kill him or her. Good luck with that.
On the health side of things, there are bandages and med kits. Each bandage will give you 15 health points, up to a maximum of 75. And a med kit will completely replenish your health to 100, no matter its current level.
There are small shield potions, which refill 25 shield points apiece up to 50. (If your shield is at 50 or greater, you cannot use a small shield potion.) There are also regular shield potions. Those increase your shield by 50 points each and can increase your shield up to 100. A Slurp Juice will replenish both your shield and your health by 25 points, one point per second. And if you happen to find a Chug Jug, congratulations. You've hit the mother lode! That will completely refill both your shield and health to 100.
Be advised: All of these things will take up space in your inventory. You can "stack" some of them—you can hold up to 15 bandages in one inventory slot, for example—but if you're just filling up your pack with things to increase your health, you won't have any room for guns to reduce your opponent's health. Unless you plan on using four different weapons, it's a good idea to reserve one slot for potions and another for bandages or med kits. You'll need them at some point.
Tip No. 10: Be aware of noise.
Every move you make, every step you take, someone's watching you. And if they're nearby, they are hearing you, too.
Shooting a gun, building a wall or chopping down a tree makes a ton of noise. Sprinting also makes noise, and it creates a trail of dust that makes it easier to be spotted from a distance. Crouching helps reduce noise, but even the slightest movement can be heard.
Aside from getting good at building, this might be the most important tip we can offer. Be mindful of the noise you're making but also make sure you're listening. If you're playing with the television muted, you're giving the other person in the building above or below you a huge advantage.
Now you're ready to download the game and dive in with both feet.
If you see me in the Wailing Woods chopping down trees, be gentle.
Kerry Miller is a multisport writer for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @kerrancejames.