Starfield is out on PC as part of its Deluxe Edition September 1 early access perk, and players have confirmed that it doesn’t support Nvidia’s DLSS upscaling technology for better resolution and performance. Many had suspected as much when Bethesda announced an exclusive partnership with rival chip maker AMD, but thankfully DLSS support has already been modded into the game.
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As IGN noticed, the open-world RPG’s settings menu currently only supports the latest iteration of AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution feature, FSR2, meaning players with Intel or Nvidia graphics cards that use different machine learning upscaling algorithms are out of luck. AMD gaming chief Frank Azor wouldn’t confirm if that was a requirement for its partnership with Bethesda, but recently told The Verge the studio could support DLSS if it wanted. “If they want to do DLSS, they have AMD’s full support,” he said.
The good news is that a “Starfield Upscaler” which allows players to replace FSR2 with DLSS or XESS was one of the first mods uploaded to the NexusMods website after the game went live. It’s not bug free and some PC players are still reporting issues getting their preferred upscaling tech to work, but it’s a start and will no doubt continue to get refined in the days ahead.
Bethesda’s exclusive partnership with AMD caused a big controversy when it was announced earlier this summer precisely because of the chip company’s pattern of locking out competitors’ features. The whole point of PC gaming is that it’s supposed to give players freedom to pick and choose their preferred builds, unlike on consoles where fans are locked into the manufacturer’s ecosystem.
Fortunately, the modding community still exists, and DLSS support for Starfield is just the start. If years of Skyrim and Fallout 4 mods are any indication, the sky, or in this case the galaxy, is the limit.
In an open letter published on Friday, Unity’s president and general manager Marc Whitten apologized for the controversial changes announced on September 12 and announced that it was walking back some of the worst changes, including charging install fees for previously published games.
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The controversial changes were revealed in a blog post on the company’s website earlier this month. Unity—a popular cross-platform game engine that powers titles like Hollow Knight and Pokémon Go—announced that a new Runtime Fee would take effect on January 1, 2024. The controversial fee, which many indie devs pushed back on, is calculated using game installs after a game crosses a certain revenue and installation threshold. At the time, Unity said the Runtime Fee would be applied retroactively to games that meet the revenue and install thresholds. But those plans have changed.
Whitten’s open letter starts with an apology and then the president continues, admitting that Unity should have probably, you know, talked to all the developers out there using their engine before announcing such massive changes.
“We should have spoken with more of you and we should have incorporated more of your feedback before announcing our new Runtime Fee policy,” said Whitten.
Then Whitten laid out new changes, which I assume Unity is hoping receive a better reaction this time around.
The new changes Unity is making following the backlash
First up, Unity confirmed its Personal plan will remain free. It also said that it now has no plans to charge the controversial Runtime Fee on games built with Unity Personal. It also is increasing how much revenue devs can make on games made using this free version of the engine. The old limit was $100,000 and the new limit is now $200,000. Whitten also said Unity is removing the requirement to have a “Made With Unity” splash screen appear when players boot up the game.
Unity also says no game with less than $1 million in trailing 12-month revenue will be subject to the runtime fee.
Next, the letter announces that the fee will only apply to software developed using the next LTS version of Unity, which ships in 2024.
“Your games that are currently shipped and the projects you are currently working on will not be included – unless you choose to upgrade them to this new version of Unity,” explained Whitten.
Unity also promises that developers will be able to stay on the terms that apply to their version of the Unity engine as long as devs don’t upgrade.
Runtime fees aren’t going away, though
However, Unity isn’t removing the runtime fee or reversing its plans completely and the last part of the open letter confirms this, with the company president referencing the runtime fee and explaining that developers will now have a choice.
“For games that are subject to the runtime fee, we are giving you a choice of either a 2.5% revenue share or the calculated amount based on the number of new people engaging with your game each month,” said Whitten.
Unity says both of these numbers are “self-reported” from data developers already have access to and that studios will “always” be billed for the lesser amount.
“We want to continue to build the best engine for creators. We truly love this industry and you are the reason why. Thank you for caring as deeply as you do, and thank you for giving us hard feedback,” concluded Whitten in the letter.
Developers react to the new (new) changes
Some of the first responses from devs were cautiously optimistic and mostly positive. Developer Rami Ismail posted on X, in response to the open letter, “You know what, on first glance, I think this works?”
“It’s effectively a 2.5% revenue share for $1M+p/y earners? No retroactivity left, LTS stability, no black-box data, yeah? I think that works for every use-case,” said Ismail.
“This is looking reasonable,” posted game developer Dan Goodayle, “Though they’ve got a lot of work to do to repair the trust. Nothing stopping them from U-turning in another week.”
“Very happy that Unity removed the retroactivity of their new fees,” said Juan Linietsky, the creator of the Godot engine. “I happy for anyone moving to Godot but, as I said before, at their own pace and will. Doing it forced by a stressful situation can never be a good experience.”
Of course, none of this would be happening right now, and Unity wouldn’t have to be putting out all these fires, if it hadn’t created this massive shitshow in the first place with the original announcement of the runtime fee.
So while initial reactions to the open letter and its changes are somewhat positive, especially compared to the feedback Unity received from devs last time they announced changes, it doesn’t change that many feel like they can’t trust the company anymore. Partially fixing a problem you created isn’t a great way to win people back.
Longtime Activision Blizzard CEO, Bobby Kotick, is almost gone, but not quite yet. Nearly two years after over 1,000 of his employees called on the controversial executive to resign, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer confirmed that Kotick will remain the head of the Call of Duty publisher until the end of 2023, to help with the transition as it begins officially merging with the tech giant.
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“Bobby Kotick has agreed to remain in his role through the end of 2023, reporting directly to me, to ensure a smooth and seamless integration,” Spencer wrote in an October 13 email to staff. “We look forward to working together as a unified team and we will share more updates on our new organizational structure in the coming months.”
“I have long said that I am fully committed to helping with the transition,” Kotick wrote in his own email to Activision Blizzard employees. “Phil has asked me to stay on as CEO of ABK, reporting to him, and we have agreed that I will do that through the end of 2023. We both look forward to working together on a smooth integration for our teams and players.”
Kotick’s leadership at Activision has often been contentious, especially following a 2021 lawsuit by regulators in the state of California alledging a history of sexual harassment and discrimation at the company. Activision Blizzard has denied those claims and continues to fight the lawsuit in court. But the allegations and subsquent reporting became a catalyst for hundreds of employees at the company to speak out against the CEO, and even begin unionizing at some studios.
A November 2021 investigation by The Wall Street Journal alleged that Kotick was aware of serious sexual misconduct incidents at the company and did not always report them to the board of directors. Activision called the reporting misleading, but in the wake of the story gaming executives—including Sony’s Jim Ryan, Nintendo of America’s Doug Bowser, and Spencer himself—informed staff they were concerned about the allegations. The report also led over 1,000 Activision Blizzard employees to call for Kotick to resign amid large scale walkouts.
Instead, Microsoft swooped in to begin acqusition neogtiations. According to reporting by Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal, the mounting calls for accountability and unease among some members of the board of directors were a factor in convincing Kotick to move ahead with selling Activision Blizzard. It’s a deal that now looks set to provide him with a nearly $400 million windfall in the sale of company stock.
Even prior to the sexual harassment and discrimation allegations against the company, which spurred Kotick to announce a series of initiatives to make Activision Blizzard a more safe and inclusive workplace, developers working under him have often been critical of the executive’s vision for aggressively monetizing franchises with sequels and pricey in-game items. The annual production of blockbuster Call of Duty games has been blamed for poor working conditions among quality assurance testers, and extended periods of overtime “crunch” across the teams making them.
“We see the progress that they’re making that was pretty fundamental to us deciding to go forward here,” Spencer said of Activision’s plans to improve workplace culture in the wake of the California lawsuit, back when the merger was first announced in January 2022. More recently, Kotick had controversial comedian and former late night host James Corden come to Activision to interview him earlier this week. He told the Cats star that the company had a “magic” culture, and it was that magic that first attracted Microsoft to the acquisition in the first place.