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We spoke to players of Fortnite's Chinese test server about its closure

With the test server closing after roughly three years, players of Epic Game's battle Royale are mourning its departure.

Yesterday it was revealed that the Chinese Fortnite “test” server will be closing down November 15. The game, which existed as an altogether different version of the popular battle royale, is likely to be closed due to financial reasons. The game had still not received approval from government regulators in China, and the costs of keeping the servers live probably lead to the decision to shut it down.

While new accounts of the Fortnite test server can no longer be created, players already invested are spending the next two weeks enjoying an experience soon to be lost. We reached out to some of those players to learn more about their experience with the server, how they learnt the news, and what happens now.

We first reached out to a user by the name of Joker_BaiYi. They started playing Fortnite back around October 2018 as their friends had been playing previous instalments of the game. As of today, they have around 4,800 hours played on the global version of Fortnite, and 1,010 hours in Fortnite’s Chinese test server.

Joker is a core creator on the official Fortnite China website, and as such creates videos and streams around the game for the community. As part of what they describe as the “core group”, they were among the first to hear something was going to happen.

“At first, the head of our core group suddenly said there was a very important news to announce, we thought it was something else. Later I was busy packing up to go back to school when I saw someone posting the news of the server shutdown, which I had thought was fake because this kind of news comes every once in a while.”

“It wasn't until players started making a big deal about it that I headed to the official website to check it out and finally confirmed that it was indeed going to be shut down. Everyone was basically crying."

In response to the news, the core group including Joker decided to release a series of creative islands that would record player messages, hoping to keep a record of farewell messages from players of the server.

“I was in charge of building [the creative islands]. I had the live stream on at the time, and after I did the build, I played horde rush. For probably the whole afternoon, I was there talking to everyone. There was nothing going on until I clicked on the exit screen. It [showed] ‘Are you sure you want to quit Fortnite’ and we all cried. Some things that are usually very common become particularly valuable at this time.”

Fortnite’s Chinese test server wasn’t just enjoyed by those living in China, it stood out as a unique version of the battle royale that some from overseas enjoyed playing too. One such player is Garrett - a US-based 17 year old C# and Java developer who had been playing Fortnite China for some time when the news dropped. They first got into Fortnite during during the 2018 rocket launch event, but was drawn to Fortnite’s Chinese test server due to its many differences born from strict rules on what games can contain in China.

“My main draw was the many censorship changes Epic made to prevent the game either getting rejected or delayed in its release compared to global versions. I was also drawn to it because it gave me a break from the main game, and gave me new goals to hit.”

“[I was] fascinated by what they changed, in what ways, did it look better, etc., etc. And also, because I'm a dataminer for Fortnite content, they also included stuff that wasn't supposed to be known at the time because of the differences.” They point to the Taskmaster skin that was shown publicly without the classic skull face the skin had around the world).

Garrett has since invested upwards of 7,500 hours into Fortnite’s Chinese version. It was yesterday, alongside the rest of the public, that they learnt of the server’s fate via the Fortnite Weibo page.

"I wasn't shocked, from the start, Epic had said that it was a test, it was never a "launch". I was very confused though knowing that Epic had just recently shipped some bugfixes for Fortnite.

“I decided to upload it because once Tencent stops allowing the game to be downloaded from WeGame, those assets will be lost to the public. Sure, Epic will still have them, but to the public, the only thing we'll have is the tweets of what there was. So now people can make 3D renders of the changed cosmetics, look through what hadn't been posted about since FNCN released, etc.”

Garrett will still be playing Fortnite, and is sure that most of the players of Fortnite’s Chinese test server will too, but thinks that Epic should take action to help soften the blow to Chinese Fortnite players. “I do hope Epic does find it in them to take the time to at least reimburse Fortnite China players on Global Fortnite with the exclusive items as they'll no longer be available.”

Joker is one such person planning to continue playing Fortnite once the server goes down through the global version, but is focused on spending the coming days sending the Chinese version off.

“What the community is doing now is saying a proper goodbye to FNCN, and members of our core group are assisting them in this endeavor.”

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