Steam Hit Only Up! Pulled For Good So Dev Can Finding ‘Healing’

Only Up! Is a brutal janky platformer that blew up on Steam earlier this summer after becoming a hit with Twitch viewers. A number of controversies later, its creator has removed the game from Valve’s digital storefront seemingly forever, saying they made a lot of mistakes and need time to heal before making their next game.

“The game has kept me under a lot of stress all these months,” the game’s developer, Indiesolodev, wrote in what appears to be the final update for Only Up! (via PCGamesN). “Now I want to put the game behind me. And yes. the game won’t be available in the Steam store soon, that’s what I decided myself.” The game now shows as “not available” on its store page, though players who already purchased it still have access.

A parkour game about constantly ascending to new heights, Only Up! released back in May and rose to popularity in June with over 10,000 concurrent players and 90,000 viewers on Twitch. Reviews of the game’s actual quality were mixed, however, with some players praising the surreal and capricious 3D platforming while others critiqued its glitchy physics and hasty design full of what appeared to be cheap asset flips.

Signs show in-game prompts for Only Up!'s elevator.

Image: Indiesolodev

A hit among Twitch streamers who found viewers were attracted to it as a sort of voyeuristic failure porn, Only Up! was nevertheless briefly pulled from Steam for a day in July after it was accused of stealing another developer’s copyrighted 3D anime model. As PC Gamer pointed out at the time, the game also appeared to be loosely affiliated with NFTs, from images of Goblintown tokens appearing in levels to the title itself which is a common rallying cry among crypto scammers.

“What I need now is peace of mind and healing,” Indiesolodev wrote in today’s update. “I plan to take a pause, and continue my education in game design and further with new experience and knowledge to direct my energies to my next game.” They’re sophomore project is currently titled “Kith,” which means friends or acquaintances, though it’s also the name of a popular streetwear brand. Indiesolodev describes it as completely different from Only Up! with an emphasis on “cinematography.”

“This time I hope the project will be created by a small team,” they wrote. “This is a challenging project on which I want to significantly improve my skills in game design.”

Some players are already mourning Only Up!’s unexpected disappearance, asking why Indiesolodev didn’t just decide to give it away for free. But most of the comments on their update are just congratulating them for creating a viral game out of nowhere. “You did a fantastic job with this game and should be nothing but proud of yourself,” wrote the_drummernator. “I’ve had a great experience with it so far, and finally getting to the top after many setbacks was very fulfilling.”


Embracer Group Is Considering Selling Borderlands Dev Gearbox

Borderlands 3 character Claptrap poses next to a superimposed red "For Sale" sign.

Image: Jackyenjoyphotography / Gearbox Software / Kotaku (Getty Images)

Gearbox Software, the studio most well-known for the Borderlands franchise, is reportedly up for sale as parent company Embracer Group considers options to “shore up its finances,” according to a September 11 Reuters report.

Three people familiar with the matter told Reuters that various third parties have expressed interest in purchasing Gearbox from Embracer Group, with the Sweden-based holding company working with both investment bank firms Aream & Co and Goldman Sachs to explore a possible sale. Unnamed “international gaming groups” are among the likely buyers; however, Reuters’ anonymous sources said that a deal may not actually happen, though they didn’t provide a reason why.

This development comes almost two weeks after Embracer Group shut down Volition, a 30-year-old studio responsible for games like the open-world shooter Agents of Mayhem, the first-person shooter series Red Faction, and the open-world action game series Saints Row. The holding company made the decision to shutter Volition and lay off its developers because of a failed $2 billion investment deal with the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, which fell through in May. As a result of the funding arrangement falling through, Embracer Group announced in June a “restructuring program” meant to bolster its position in the industry. According to an August 31 statement from Volition on its sudden closure, the studio said that part of Embracer Group’s restructuring program involved evaluating operational and strategic goals, which prompted the holding company to shutter the studio.

Despite closing Volition and potentially selling off Gearbox Software, Embracer Group still owns quite a few companies. This includes publishers Deep Silver (Dead Island 2) and THQ Nordic (Biomutant), developer Coffee Stain Studios (Goat Simulator), developer-publisher Saber Interactive (Evil Dead: The Game), book publisher Dark Horse Comics, and game distributor Limited Run Games, among others. One of Embracer Group’s last acquisitions was in October 2022, when the company scooped up British anime distributor Anime Limited, though a sale price wasn’t listed.

Kotaku reached out to Embracer Group and Gearbox Software for comment.

Unity Bosses Sold Stocks Ahead Of Scummy Dev Fees Announcement

Yesterday, the cross-platform game engine company Unity announced a controversial new Runtime Fee, which would charge developers per installation for games built with the Unity engine after those games reached a certain threshold. Everyone disliked that, and Unity’s stock prices took a pretty significant dip shortly after its contentious announcement. It’s since been reported that several Unity executives sold thousands of shares of the company’s stock in recent weeks.

According to Guru Focus, Unity CEO John Riccitiello, one of the highest-paid bosses in gaming, sold 2,000 Unity shares on September 6, a week prior to its September 12 announcement. Guru Focus notes that this follows a trend, reporting that Riccitiello has sold a total of 50,610 shares this year, and purchased none.

Kotaku reached out to a Unity spokesperson for comment.

Read More: Devs React To Unity’s Newly Announced Fee For Game Installs: ‘Not To Be Trusted’

Riccitiello isn’t the only executive at Unity to sell a bunch of stock the week before the company’s Runtime Fee announcement. According to Unity’s market activity on the Nasdaq, several other Unity board members sold significant numbers of shares leading up to its “plan pricing and packaging updates.” Chief among them being Tomer Bar-Zeev, Unity’s president of growth, who sold 37,500 shares on September 1 for roughly $1,406,250, and board director Shlomo Dovrat, who sold 68,454 shares on August 30 for around $2,576,608.

The last time Riccitiello’s name was in the news in a prominent way was when he said mobile game developers who don’t utilize Unity’s suite of ad technology are “fucking idiots.” Riccitiello would later issue an apology saying, “I am listening and I will do better.”

Meanwhile, since yesterday multiple developers have declared their intention to stop using Unity as a result of these changes, citing the unpredictability and vagueness of the company’s intention to charge a per-installation fee after a certain number of sales. Cult of the Lamb developer Massive Monster has gone as far as to announce its intention to stop sales of that game come January 1, when the change is supposed to come in.


Cyberpunk Dev Says The Game Was A Lesson In Avoiding Crunch

Callous, crunch-heavy work culture keeps shaking the games industry, but it seems like some developers are at least trying to safeguard against it. Colin Walder, a CD Projekt Red engineering director with over a decade of AAA audio programming experience, discussed game industry leadership during Inven Game Conference in South Korea this week. Then, in an October 15 interview with esports site and conference host Inven Global, he spoke about how the studio behind The Witcher now avoids crunch, considering it a lesson taught by Cyberpunk 2077’s grueling development period.

Crunch isn’t as useful as a looming deadline may make it seem—it didn’t save role-playing game Cyberpunk from being called fundamentally broken for a long time after it revealed its dystopia in 2020. It wasn’t until this September, when CDPR released its Phantom Liberty expansion, that Cyberpunk could bandage problems that had been bleeding for a long time. Before that, CDPR was stuck in a cycle.

“Every time we delivered something, it was intense,” Walder said.“It was always like, ‘Okay, how are we going to do this?’ And then, somehow, we achieved that.”

Prior to Cyberpunk’s launch, Bloomberg reported, CDPR made six-day work weeks mandatory, acknowledging that “crunch should never be the answer. But we’ve extended all other possible means of navigating the situation.”

Things are different now, Walder said, because they had to be.

Read More: Cyberpunk 2077’s 2.0 Update Feels Like A Different Game
Buy Cyberpunk 2077: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop

“The morale took a significant hit; that’s clear,” he said about Cyberpunk’s development. “The crucial thing was to acknowledge what happened. We had to admit that the outcome wasn’t what we’d hoped for and that we were determined to change things. But it’s one thing to say it; it has to be put into practice, you know? Actions speak louder than words.”

For CDPR’s more recent projects, including its pristine spy-thriller Phantom Liberty and forthcoming The Witcher 3 follow-up Polaris, “instead of reverting to crunch,” Walder explained, “we might say, ‘Let’s adjust the schedule,’ or, ‘Let’s approach this differently.’ Once this becomes a repeated behavior—once the team sees a genuine effort to prevent crunch—that’s when trust and morale start to rebuild. People need to see it to believe it.”

Finding solidarity helps, too. CDPR has its tail between its legs about crunch, but it’s still a major piece of the creaking games industry, and it was one of many studios to announce layoffs earlier this year. In response, CDPR developers created the Polish Gamedev Workers Union, writing on its website that it was time to “voice the employees’ concerns about the safety and conditions of employment.”

Spider-Man 2 Dev Hints Insomniac Is Open To A Venom Spin-Off

Happy Spider-Man 2 Day, everyone! (Sure, all your family on your mother’s side are celebrating Super Mario Bros. Wonder Day, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all get along.) And what better way to celebrate the release of Insomniac’s latest web-shooting action blockbuster than to demand they make another game for you? That’s what the developers are inviting in response to the suggestion of a Venom spin-off for the franchise.

Check Out Marvel’s Spider-Man 2: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop

This latest entry in Insomniac’s Spider-Man franchise (the third, following the 2018 original, and the 2020 Miles Morales spin-off) introduces the alien-goo monster Venom to the cast. It seems how he’s introduced is quite widely known, but I’m not going to say here as I just had to spoil it for myself to research this article, and no reason to do that to you too. The response from jubilant reviewers, and excited potential players, is a hope that we might see the alien symbiote getting his very own game, much as Miles did following the first game’s DLC.

The game certainly leaves a lot of threads open, meaning there’s potential for the story to spin off in all sorts of directions. More of Tony Todd’s Venom seems like a pretty good one to grab.

Read More: Spider-Man 2: The Kotaku Review

Insomniac, notably, isn’t ruling it out. In an interview with Insider, senior narrative director Jon Paquette was asked what the chances were of seeing such a project, and while his response was fairly boilerplate dismissal of the question, he did open the door to fans letting Insomniac know their desires.

“So, here’s what we’re doing,” Paquette told the site. “We’re focused on Spider-Man 2, and what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna wait to see how the fans react. We’re gonna listen to the fans and we’re gonna ask ourselves, ‘Okay, what do the fans really want?’”

So while that’s a standard, “I’m not allowed to talk about anything but the game I’m promoting” response, what it’s not is a shutting down of the idea. And, well, he just asked what the fans really want. So, if a Venom-based game is on your wishlist, let them know! You know, politely.

In the meantime, Insomniac said in 2021 it was making a Marvel’s Wolverine set in the same universe as the Spider-Man games, although things have gone awfully quiet about that since. At the time of the announcement, Insomniac’s head of franchise, Ryan Schneider, explained that it was coming from the Miles Morales team. “In the vein of our Spider-Man games,” he wrote in the same post that announced Spider-Man 2, “our goal here is to not only respect the DNA of what makes the character so popular… From what I’ve seen of its emotional narrative and cutting-edge gameplay (see what I did there?), the team is already creating something truly special..”

Venom seems like it has a lot more fun options for leaping around a city than ol’ grumpy-claws.

Starfield Dev Suggests Smaller May Have Been Better

If, while exploring Starfield’s vast, planet-filled galaxy, you’ve felt at times that its size and sheer number of possible destinations may actually be too much for the game’s own good, well, it sounds like some folks who were part of the development team may agree with you. Hindsight is 20/20, after all.

Starfield has around 1,000 procedurally generated planets to explore. There are definitely some interesting areas to find, but much of that terrain feels largely empty. In an interview with MinnMax (thanks GamesRadar), former Bethesda employee Bruce Nesmith, who worked on Starfield as senior systems designer, talked about the decision to make Starfield’s galaxy so massive, as opposed to smaller and more focused in scope.

In the interview, Nesmith said that player expectations around the size of Bethesda’s open-world games influenced the team to opt for this approach. The argument was made that once the team had successfully established the foundation for the game’s design philosophy in one solar system, replicating those ideas across dozens more wouldn’t add that much to the workload.

“[Game director Todd Howard] pretty much pulled the number 100 for the number of solar systems out of thin air,” Nesmith said, “but the more we went on, the more it was like, ‘OK, so all core activity takes place in these two dozen in the settled systems and the rest of it is open space, but people love our big games. They love that open area to explore, so let’s go ahead and let ‘em have it’.”


Nesmith went on to describe how developing Starfield, like any other game, was about making compromises to the original vision, and that meant more crafted areas came at the expense of player freedom and exploration, such as allowing you to build your own spacecraft and traverse a huge, expansive galaxy. While the space is bigger, Nesmith says this may have come at the expense of more meaningful things to find within it.

“I think some of the exploration stuff didn’t come through as well as it could’ve because they decided to make other choices,” he says. “And never misunderstand this. In every game studio on the face of this planet, they know the choices they’re making. They know the things that are not going to be in there. They know what the players are going to moan about. But you got to make the hard choice.”

Hopefully whatever lessons Bethesda has learned in making Starfield will be implemented in the upcoming Elder Scrolls VI. Given that the series is in a fantasy setting, it’s likely to be somewhat less vast than Starfield, so maybe it can better capture that sense of exploration without it being so full of empty, inconsequential dead space in between all the good stuff.