Inside the Timberland: Construct10061 Fortnite Island
WORDS BY Chris Danforth
Timberland, Epic Games’ Unreal Engine and CONCEPTKICKS are exploring all-new ways of designing products with a new partnership that blends physical and digital like never before. The team behind the initiative tells us about the concept, which brings four Timberland Metaboots to Fortnite, and how it came about.
Three weeks ago, the CONSTRUCT initiative invited a fresh slate of designers and innovators for a workshop in Timberland’s innovation lab and maker space, where guest designers had the chance to participate in a special project focused on experimenting with both physical and virtual realms. Among those guests were recycling maestro Jaimus Tailor of Greater Goods, denim aficionados Everard Best aka Murder Bravado and Tela D’Amore of Who Decides War, self-taught shoe designer Aisha Kuijk and concept artist Zixiong Wei.
Working with Epic Games’ Timberland and Unreal Engine, CONCEPTKICKS Creative Director Daniel Bailey is exploring new ways to mass-produce these purely conceptual shoe designs, but in a fully digital sense, and now Fortnite fans can visit Timberland’s creation space, The Shed, which has been recreated in-game. (To visit the Timberland Shed in Fortnite, enter this code: Parkour Trails 4313-0063-0736)
Not only that, but the partnership features four Fortnite Metaboots – a replica of the iconic 6-inch yellow boot, as well as three concept designs inspired by the outdoor biomes – forest, mountain and desert – created as part of an island inspired by a petri dish in Fortnite. Fortnite players can explore all three biomes and even collect Metaboots in each biome to earn special biome effects.
“The future of product creation and innovation is as much physical as it is digital. Who are we to say that physical boots are the only thing people want to see?” –Drieke Leenknegt
Timberland Marketing Director Drieke Leenknegt explains why the brand needs to embrace this thinking: “The future of product creation and innovation is as much physical as it is digital. Who are we to say physical boots are the only thing people want to see? Because we know consumers want to interact with digital boots and Metaboots as much as physical boots. So exploring and pushing startup innovation is non-negotiable.
“For the desert biome, we were inspired by the shape of sand dunes to create the lines of a boot”
To craft the Metaboots, Bailey and the other designers worked alongside the game’s creators to learn how to build custom items in the Fortnite world. “It’s pretty wild, they take objects in Fortnite and manipulate them to create new shapes. One of the creators of Fortnite, Macca, created parts of a helicopter using a toilet. Then the blades were made from something else, and so on. That’s how we created these boots. For the desert biome, we were inspired by the shape of the sand dunes to create the lines of a boot. Or in the arctic biome, they looked at the shape of the ice cubes to join them together and create a sort of structure that looks like the outsole of a boot,” he says.
Using what Bailey describes as “digital bricks” in the Fortnite backend, the Metaboots were created that way, taking inspiration from each of the unique biomes. Although it’s not how he usually creates, Bailey admits that the Fortnite backend is a lot of fun and goes on to describe the Metaboots in a bit more detail. “In some of the boots, we incorporated more obvious natural design inspirations, while adding hidden objects and the occasional jumping fish or rubber ducks.”
The Desert Biome Metaboot is inspired by the folds of a cactus plant and the crested planes of sand dunes, the Desert Boot combines elements to create a multi-faceted concept taken directly from its surroundings. The Anti-Gravity Arctic Boot was constructed from frozen sculptures that were manipulated to create its spiked sole and snow-covered upper. Finally, the Metaboot forest is part boot, part tree; it was carved in stone and combined with elements from both flora and fauna.
The Metaboot Forest has also been recreated in high fidelity using Epic’s Unreal Engine, and is viewable in augmented reality and on the web via the Sketchfab 3D modeling platform. Reimagining the Metaboot forest in Unreal Engine 5, Epic’s next-gen 3D creation tool, introduces an unprecedented level of richness and larger-than-life detail to the immersive CONSTRUCT experience, where photorealistic visuals blend seamlessly with the real world via the AR overlay. Augmented reality versions of the Metaboot and physical prototypes allow anyone with an internet connection to access not only the forest biome of the Fortnite Parkour Trails experience, but also the real-world CONSTRUCT boots.
The digital-physical dichotomy is one of the cornerstones of the partnership. In the future, not only may the CONSTRUCT project’s concept boots find their way into Fortnite and other Unreal Engine-powered experiences, but some digital objects from these virtual spaces may also manifest in the real world. Bailey says, “At some point it will become so nuanced that you won’t even know what started out as a digital or physical concept. »
Head of Brands for Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, Raffaella Camera believes that younger generations distinguish between physical and virtual, but that doesn’t mean digital products aren’t real to them. As consumers develop a greater appetite for digital products, our perception of what is real is beginning to change. The camera notes: “We see gamers who are also consumers wanting to emulate and wanting to dress in the physical world, the way they present themselves in virtual worlds. So the two things intersect. And that’s why it’s a new world that’s made up of both.
But how exactly do you acquire all four Metaboots? The mechanic is a variation of Fortnite’s Deathrun maps. “These races take you through the environments; you can unlock each shoe’s perks and bring them back to The Shed. You must therefore complete each of these executions to obtain the final resources of each start and access the special effects.
In your quest to collect the Metaboots, Fortnite players should beware of a cunning Mr. Bailey, cradling digital Timbs. “You could catch me there,” he hints.
To visit the Timberland Shed in Fortnite, enter this code: Parkour Trails 4313-0063-0736