(Credit: Epic Games)

It may be hard to believe now, but Fortnite (Android, iOS) wasn't a battle royale game originally. The core of the experience was supposed to be a mode called "Save the World" where you teamed up with other players to fight off an invasion of AI-controlled zombies. But when PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (or PUBG, for short) became popular, Fortnite's developer and publisher Epic Games decided that battle royale had potential, and the rest is history.

And to hear YouTube gamer Lachlan tell it, history may be made again with Fortnite's new creative mode, set for announcement on Thursday at The Game Awards but leaked early on Lachlan's channel.

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His video has been removed from YouTube (Android, iOS), but given Fortnite's meteoric popularity, getting rid of all copies of the footage quickly proved impossible. And with Lachlan's 15-minute preview, we get perhaps a deeper look into Creative Mode than even The Game Awards would be able to commit airtime to.

In a nutshell: If you like playing Fortnite but have grown tired of playing on the same island every time, Creative Mode will let you create your own scenery for a change of pace, and it could be used as a virtual gathering place, since you can invite specific people to join you and play mini games like basketball and golf cart racing.

When you load into the Creative Mode lobby, you'll be presented with a bunch of portals surrounding your character that lead off to other player's islands, and one larger one that's for you. At your portal, you can choose from up to four different islands of your own. Once your chosen island has loaded, your character can freely levitate and fly around to facilitate the building process.

To build terrain, players will get an in-game mobile phone that lets them copy, paste, and cut large tiles that have different surfaces, like grass or asphalt. Your inventory also gets a library of prefabricated buildings, devices, weapons, consumables, and chests with which you can quickly populate your island. The prefabs include obstacle courses, houses, and other buildings from key locations on the regular Battle Royale island.

When you equip one of these structures, it will go into your quick-access inventory, and you can then plop it down in the game world using an action similar to throwing a grenade, with a transparent preview of what it will look like before you place it. Individual building blocks can also be rotated, shrunk, expanded, and then placed in rapid succession.

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As you add things to your island, a "Memory Used" progress meter will start to fill up, so your designs can only be so large. These islands are uploaded to Epic Games' servers for sharing, so the developer presumably had to have controls to prevent them from running out of space on their servers, given how ridiculously popular the game is, and the fact that Creative Mode will apparently be just as free as Battle Royale.

Since Creative mode isn't intended for competitive play, you'll have access to props that aren't available in Battle Royale, such as pads that produce vehicles and act as player respawn points. There's also an ice block terrain tile that makes the player slide for a few feet after coming into contact with it.

If you want to experiment with weapons, nearly all of them are available, as well as ammo and grenades. And the island owner can set player spawn locations, team types, game modes, and time limits. You can even adjust gravity, how much damage the pick axe does, whether or not players drop loot when they die, and toggle things like infinite ammo and resources.

Not all of the features in the video are guaranteed to be in the retail version of Creative Mode; Lachlan himself noted that one of the prop's behaviors had changed just since this mode had become available to him. But Engadget reports that the leak has led to Epic revealing some info ahead of schedule: Creative Mode will be available to purchasers of the Battle Pass on Thursday, and everyone else will get access on December 13.

Takeaways

  • Fortnite is about to get a creative mode where players can design and share their own islands, and invite their friends to join them.
  • This news was apparently supposed to have been saved for The Game Awards on Thursday, but a YouTuber's preview video was published early (and has since been removed).

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.