words Chris Danforth
© my wine
Timberland, Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, and CONCEPTKICKS are exploring entirely new ways of product design through 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 new group of designers and innovators to attend a workshop at the Timberland Innovation Lab and Maker Space, where guest designers had the opportunity to participate in a special project focused on experiencing both physical and virtual worlds. Among those guests were major merchandise tailor Maestro James, denim enthusiast 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 Timberland and Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, CONCEPTKICKS Creative Director Daniel Bailey is exploring new ways to mass-produce these purely conceptual shoe designs, but with an entirely digital sense, and now Fortnite fans can visit Timberland’s creation space, The Shed, which has been Recreate it within the game. (To visit the Timberland Shed in Fortnite, enter this code: Parkour Trails 4313-0063-0736)
Not only that, but the partnership includes four Fortnite Metaboots – a replica of the popular 6-inch Yellow Boot, as well as three concept designs inspired by outdoor biomes – jungle, mountain and desert – created as part of a Petri dish-inspired island 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 physical as it is digital” – 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 physical as it is digital. Who are we to say that physical footwear is the only thing people want to see? Because we know consumers want to interact with Digital shoes and Metaboots as much as they like to interact with physical shoes.So exploring and driving innovation for startups is non-negotiable.
“For the desert biome, we were inspired by the shape of the sand dunes to create the shoe stripes”
To craft the Metaboots, Bailey and other designers worked alongside the game’s creators to learn how to build custom items in the Fortnite universe. “It’s so brutal, they take things in Fortnite and manipulate them to create new shapes. One of the creators of Fortnite, Macca, created items out of a helicopter using a toilet. Then the blades were made out of something else, and so on. That’s how we made these shoes. For the biome In the desert, we drew inspiration from the shape of sand dunes to create the lines of the shoe. Or in the arctic biome, they looked at the shape of ice cubes to link them together and create a kind of structure that resembles the outsoles of a shoe,” he says.
Using what Bailey describes as the “digital bricks” of the Fortnite backend, Metaboots were created in this way, inspired by each of the unique biomes. Although this isn’t the way he usually creates it, Bailey admits that the Fortnite backend is a lot of fun and goes on to describe Metaboots in more detail. “In some of the shoes, we incorporated more natural design inspiration, with the addition of hidden objects and the occasional rubber duck or fish jump.”
The Desert Biome Metaboot is inspired by the folds of cacti and the crowning planes of sand dunes, the Desert Boot combines the elements to create a multifaceted concept drawn directly from its surroundings. The Arctic Anti-Gravity Boot is made from frozen sculptures that have been manipulated to create its serrated sole and snow-covered upper. Finally, the Metaboot forest is the boot part, the tree part; It was carved into stone and combined with elements from both plants and animals.
“At some point, you won’t even know what started digitally, what actually started, and where it started? Who knows?” – Daniel Bailey
The Metaboot Forest has also been recreated in high resolution using Epic’s Unreal Engine, and can be viewed in augmented reality and on the web using the 3D modeling platform Sketchfab. Reimagining the Metaboot Forest in Unreal Engine 5, Epic’s next-generation 3D creation tool, delivers an unprecedented level of richness and larger-than-life detail for an immersive CONSTRUCT experience, where realistic visuals blend seamlessly with the real world via an AR overlay. Augmented reality versions of 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 physical digital separation is one of the cornerstones of the partnership. In the future, not only may the CONSTRUCT Project concept boots find their way into Fortnite and other unreal-powered experiences, but some digital elements from these virtual spaces may also emerge in the real world. Bailey says, “At some point, it will become so subtle that you won’t even know what started out as a numerical or physical concept.”
Raffaella Camera, head of brands for Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, believes that younger generations distinguish between the physical and the virtual, but that doesn’t mean digital products aren’t real for them. As consumers develop a greater appetite for digital products, our perception of what’s real begins to change. The camera notes: “We see players who are also consumers who want to imitate and who want to dress up in the physical world, the way they present themselves in virtual worlds. So the two things intersect. Which is why it’s a new world made up of both.”
But how exactly do you get all four Metaboots to work? The mechanic is a different kind of Deathrun map in Fortnite. “These races take you through environments; you can unlock the perks of each shoe and bring them back to The Shed. So you must complete each of these executions to get the ultimate resources for each start and access the special effects.
In your quest to collect Metaboots, Fortnite players should beware of cunning Mr. Bailey, who embraces digital Timbs. He hints, “You can catch me there.”
To visit the Timberland Shed in Fortnite, enter this code: Parkour Trails 4313-0063-0736