Epic Games has introduced a new 'Party Hub' cross-platform voice-enabled communication feature for Fortnite, its massively popular online multiplayer game. The Party Hub is available only for the mobile version of Fortnite on Android and iOS, but players on PCs or consoles can join parties, and anyone can continue a chat session on another device after starting one from their smartphone. This new feature lets players see which of their friends are online, and allows voice chatting even outside of matches. It can even be used on smartphones while the game itself is being updated.
Epic Games says that text messaging is coming soon but is not supported yet, and there is no mention of video capabilities so far. Party Hub builds on technology that Epic Games acquired when it bought the group video chat app Houseparty earlier this year.
You don't actually have to be playing the game to use it, which expands the social aspect of Fortnite beyond the game itself. Android and iOS users will need to make sure that they are running version 10.31 of the game in order to see the new feature. Once updated, the app will show Party Hub controls at the bottom of the screen, which users can get to before launching into a match.
A party of friends can then jump into a match together if they want to. Some smartphones that aren't capable of running the game will still be able to run the Party Hub feature. To transfer a party to a PC or console, the app simply has to be running while the user launches the game on another platform, and the party will be accessible there. To move to using the phone app while in a game on another platform, users can tap "Transfer Voice to This Device" to continue chatting.
A new FAQ section on the company's website outlines how this does not change Fortnite gameplay at all, and how gamers can use some new privacy features. Anyone can invite their friends to join a party, but you can also prevent yourself from being added to a party or having others join your party if you like. You can invite a friend by ringing their Llama Bell, and there are limits to how often you can do this to discourage spam and harassment.
The v10.31 update also includes bug fixes related to how team storm surges, ziplines and pickaxes work. The Fortnite iPad app also now supports side-by-side multitasking on all iPad Pro models, 5th gen and later iPads, 4th gen or later iPad mini, and the iPad Air 2. The latest iPad Pro models will also now be able to run the game full-screen without black letterboxing.