Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2, a game that’s had a troubled development rife with multiple delays, now has new developers and is eyeing a 2024 release date.
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In a new announcement trailer, publisher Paradox Interactive revealed that The Chinese Room, the devs behind Dear Esther and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, will finish developing Bloodlines 2 and introduce new gameplay mechanics in the process. Speaking with PC Gamer, creative director Alex Skidmore revealed that The Chinese Room, known for atmospheric, narrative-focused first-person games, will rebuild Bloodlines 2 using “a new code base with different gameplay mechanics and RPG systems.” You can check out Bloodlines 2’s new reveal trailer below.
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Along with the introduction of new RPG systems, Paradox Interactive VP Sean Greaney told PC Gamer that The Chinese Room will be changing the age of players’ vampires. Originally, Bloodlines 2’s player-controlled vampire was meant to be a recently-turned “thin blood,” which is considerably weaker than, say, an aged vampire in the game’s universe. Now, the game stars a more seasoned and powerful vampire, according to PC Gamer.
“We don’t want it to be just a sort of poor homage or pastiche of Bloodlines 1. We want it to be its own thing. We’re not doing what Bloodlines 1 did, which is a traditional RPG game start: the very first day you’re a vampire. The actual character you are has been a vampire for quite a while. And that was to create something different from Bloodlines to give a different experience,” Skidmore told PC Gamer.
Despite playing as an older, more established vampire, Skidmore told PC Gamer players will still be able to “fill in the character a bit” as they roleplay.
The Chinese Room
Not everything is changing now that The Chinese Room is behind the helm of Bloodlines 2. According to PC Gamer, the developer will “reuse a significant amount of art and level design” from previous dev Hardsuit Labs’ version of the game and its Seattle setting. Hopefully, the next stretch of Bloodlines2 news won’t center on yet another delay like it has in the past.
A successor to Nintendo’s massively popular Switch gaming console has been rumored for years, but actual Switch 2 hardware now appears to be out in the wild. Eurogamer reports that Nintendo used a special version of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to demo the new console for developers at Gamescom 2023 last month.
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Nintendo had a booth on the show floor in Cologne, Germany promoting Pikmin 4 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, but behind closed doors it was secretly showcasing the Switch 2. While one of the demos consisted of the 2017 open world Zelda game running at higher specs, little else is known about what developers saw during the meetings or what their impressions were.
VGC has corroborated Eurogamer’s report, with additional info about a second test that had the Switch 2 hardware running the Unreal Engine 5 Matrix Awakens tech demo originally used to show off the capabilities of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. It apparently even ran Nvidia’s DLSS upscaling technology with some version of ray-tracing enabled.
Switch owners have been wondering for a while when a successor would arrive and just how powerful it would be. Nintendo gave up competing on cutting-edge tech specs back with the launch of the Wii, and the Switch has sold 125 million units despite running games at lower framerates and resolutions than rival hardware. With the arrival of the Steam Deck and Asus ROG Ally, however, PC gaming handhelds have shown that portability doesn’t always have to come at the expense of performance.
Nintendo announced earlier this year that it would have no news to share about a Switch 2 or any other gaming hardware refresh prior to the end of its fiscal year in March 2024. VGC recently reported that while the Switch 2 is expected to release sometime next year, Nintendo might not bring it out until closer to the holiday season in order to avoid console shortages at launch.
Unity, the cross-platform game engine that powers games like Rust, Hollow Knight, and Pokémon Go, has introduced a new, controversial fee for developers, set to take effect next year. Indie developers quickly responded to the announcement, with many suggesting the costs of this policy would kill smaller games, while confusion spread as devs wondered how it would affect their bottom line. Unity’s attempts to provide clarity have only fueled devs’ frustration and spawned more questions from those with both currently active and in-development games using the engine.
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The new Runtime Fee, announced in a September 12 Unity blog, is based on the number of installations a game built with the Unity engine receives, as well as the revenue it generates. Though it won’t start until January 1, 2024, the Runtime Fee will apply to any game that has reached both a previously established annual revenue threshold and a lifetime install count. Games developed with the lower-cost Unity Personal and Unity Plus plans reach that threshold at $200,000 of revenue in one year and 200,000 lifetime installs, while Unity Pro and Unity Enterprise accounts must reach $1 million in revenue and 1 million lifetime installs for the fee to kick in.
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Unity Personal and Unity Plus devs will have to pay $.20 for every game installed past their subscription-specific thresholds, Unity Pro devs will have to fork over between $.02 and $.15 for every install past theirs, and Unity Enterprise devs’ costs range from $.01 to $.125. Developers in emerging markets will have lower costs per install past their threshold. The announcement was met with widespread confusion, as devs of free-to-play games scrambled to figure out if they’d end up owing hundreds of thousands of dollars, charity bundle creators became concerned about potentially being punished for supporting a good cause, and more.
Developers react to Unity Runtime Fee
Shortly after the policy was announced, Rust developer Garry Newman wondered if “Unity [wants] us to start paying them $200k a month” before doing the math and realizing that Facepunch Studios would owe the game engine company about $410,000 total.
“While this isn’t much, here’s some stuff I don’t like,” Newman shared to X (formerly Twitter). “Unity can just start charging us a tax per install? They can do this unilaterally? They can charge whatever they want? They can add install tracking to our game? We have to trust their tracking?”
Though many devs initially thought this new fee would apply to all games made in Unity (including free ones), and reacted accordingly, it soon became clear that the fee will only apply to monetized titles. Axios’ Stephen Totilo shared some clarification he’d received from Unity a few hours after the initial announcement, including that charity games and bundles are excluded from fees. But some of Unity’s clarifications only served to further suggest the notion that it didn’t really think this initiative through.
“If a player deletes a game and re-installs it, that’s 2 installs, 2 charges,” Totilo posted. “Same if they install on 2 devices.” This means that developers could be “vulnerable to abuse” from bad actors who repeatedly uninstall and reinstall their games. “Unity says it would use fraud detection tools and allow developers to report possible instances of fraud to a compliance team.” So, if you get a massive bill from Unity, you’ll just have to wait on their customer support line. Shouldn’t be an issue, right?
Xalavier Nelson Jr., head of Strange Scaffold, the indie studio behind games like El Paso, Elsewhere and An Airport For Aliens Currently Run By Dogs, expressed concerns about the entire situation. “This is the danger of modern games and game development cycles becoming exponentially more complicated, lengthy, and prone to immense dependency,” he told Kotaku via DM. “When a decision like this gets announced, and you’re three years into a five-year journey, you have little to no choice. You’re stuck with a partner who may be actively working against your interest, and who you increasingly cannot trust.”
Tiani Pixel, indie developer and co-founder of Studio Pixel Punk, the studio behind the 2021 Metroidvania Unsighted, told Kotaku via DM that “there’s a lot of things in Unity’s statement that aren’t clear and are very worrying.” She brought up not only how complicated it is to measure actual installs, but the privacy issues inherent with such a policy.
“There are some certifications you need for having such service in your game and releasing it on consoles and other platforms. You need an end-user license agreement (EULA), because you’ll be sending info from the player’s device to an external server. So, will indies be forced to add such DRMs on their games so they can track the installs? Again, Unity does not make it clear. Forcing DRM on games has a long (and bad) history in gaming. Many tools used for this are literally indistinguishable from malwares…There’s no benefit to the devs or the user here.”
She also pointed out how these new fees could affect indie developers. “Small indie games, like our game Unsighted, which had the chance to appear on services like Xbox Game Pass, (in which the game isn’t sold directly to the consumer), might be penalized for becoming popular there, because we will be charged for every install,” she said.
Brandon Sheffield, creative director at Necrosoft Games, warned game developers off the engine in a scathing op-ed for Insert Credit. “But now I can say, unequivocally, if you’re starting a new game project, do not use Unity,” he wrote. “If you started a project 4 months ago, it’s worth switching to something else. Unity is quite simply not a company to be trusted.”
The op-ed ends by stating that Unity is “digging its own grave in search for gold.”
Unity continues to court controversy
Shortly after Unity’s blog post went live, game developer John Draisey posted that Unity had “eliminated Unity Plus subscriptions” and that the company was automatically switching members to its Pro subscription next month. Draisey shared an image showing the price difference between the two subs, which are billed annually, and it was nearly $3,300. “Be careful not to have auto-renew on your account if you can’t afford the price. And this is with just 2 people on my team with project access,” he warned.
It’s unclear how the potential change in subscription options will translate to the newly minted Runtime Fee, as the thresholds are different for each sub. Kotaku reached out for clarification, and a Unity spokesperson pointed us to their FAQ page. When asked for further clarification, the spokesperson sent this statement: “Unity Plus is being retired for new subscribers effective today, September 12, 2023, to simplify the number of plans we offer. Existing subscribers do not need to take immediate action and will receive an email mid-October with an offer to upgrade to Unity Pro, for one year, at the current Unity Plus price.”
The bigwigs at Unity have been making some, uh, interesting decisions as of late. In June, the company announced two new machine-learning platforms that would be integrated into its engine: Unity Muse (essentially ChatGPT for using Unity, a service that would allow devs to ask questions about coding and get answers from a bot) and Unity Sentis, which “enables you to embed an AI model in the Unity Runtime for your game or application, enhancing gameplay and other functionality directly on end-user platforms.” As former Kotaku writer Luke Plunkett pointed out at the time of the announcement, AI technology heavily relies on “work stolen from artists without consent or compensation,” so Unity Sentis raised a ton of eyebrows.
And as Rust’s Newman shared shortly after the latest Unity announcement, it seems these changes are having a negative impact on the company at large: their market shares tanked as of 11:17 a.m. EST. Let’s see if Unity sticks with these changes, or makes adjustments based on feedback from developers.
Unity responds to negative feedback
At 6:38 p.m. EST, the official Unity X account shared a post on the game engine’s official forums titled “Unity plan pricing and packaging updates.” The post contains a series of frequently asked questions that cropped up shortly after the announcement of the Runtime Fee, many of which were focused on game installations.
As many devs worried on social media before these FAQs were released, under Unity’s new policy, multiple reinstalls or redownloads of games will have to be paid for by creators—and the definition of “install” also includes a user making changes to their hardware. Further, any “early access, beta, or a demo of the full game” will induce install charges, according to the FAQs, as can even streamed or web-based games. And Unity won’t reveal how it’s counting these installs, posting that “We leverage our own proprietary data model, so you can appreciate that we won’t go into a lot of detail, but we believe it gives an accurate determination of the number of times the runtime is distributed for a given project.”
The FAQ does not clarify how Unity will ensure it does not count installations of charity games or bundled games with its “proprietary software.”
The Verge’s Ash Parrish was quick to point out that the multiple install charges could give right-wing reactionaries a new way to damage a game and/or studio: revenue bombing. If certain groups are angered by, say, a queer character in a game or a Black woman lead (both of which have whipped gamers into a frenzy before), then they could repeatedly install said game over and over again, racking up Unity’s Runtime Fee for the studio.
“I can tell you right now that the folks at risk of this are women devs, queer devs, trans devs, devs of color, devs pushing for accessibility, devs pushing for inclusion—we’ve seen countless malicious actors work together to tank their game scores or ratings,” developer Rami Ismail wrote on X.
Nelson confirmed to Kotaku via DM on the evening of September 12that “concrete talks are happening among some of the most significant developers in the space” regarding a class-action lawsuit against Unity.
After its announcement was met with an almost universally negative response, and the FAQ forum post did not seem to allay concerns, Unity “regrouped” in the evening of September 12 to discuss the terms of its Runtime Fee, Axios reports. Despite initially confirming that the fee would apply multiple times “if a player deletes a game and re-installs it,” Unity is now saying that it will “only charge for an initial installation.”
Unity executive Marc Whitten “hoped [that this policy clarification] would allay fears of ‘install-bombing,’” a concern many devs expressed not long after the initial Unity blog post announcing the new revenue scheme.
The company also reassured Axios that “games offered for charity or included in charities will be exempt from the fees” as there will be a way for devs to inform the company of their charity status. Whitten also said that, in regards to things like Xbox Game Pass, “developers like Aggro Crab would not be on the hook, as the fees are charged to distributors, which in the Game Pass example would be Microsoft.”
Finally, Whitten suggested only about about 10% of developers who use Unity will have to pay fees because of the thresholds the company has established.
Update 09/12/2023 7:35 p.m. ET: Updated to include information from an official Unity forum post, more reactions from devs, and the confirmation of a potential class-action lawsuit.
Payday 3‘s matchmaking servers were a mess in its first week. What went wrong? The maker of the game, Starbreeze Studios, blames an “unforeseen error” for the issues, and says it’s looking at ways to make the “always online” multiplayer shooter “less dependent on online services.”
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The bank-robbing sim is the latest game to take over Steam alongside console releases, including a day-and-date launch on Xbox Game Pass. The sequel hit almost 90,000 concurrent players on Valve’s digital storefront on September 21, but things have been rocky ever since due to bugs, crashes, and constant server disconnects. Screenshots of the game’s now infamous “matchmaking error matchmaking error” screen began flooding social media. Starbreeze CEO Tobias Sjögren immediately apologized, but problems still persist.
On September 25, the studio put out an official press release to try and explain why the servers for a game that requires players to be connected to the internet at all times in order to play have been such a disaster. It turns out that while a technical issue made things bad right out of the gate, a faulty update on September 24 by a third-party online services partner broke things all over again.
“Matchmaking software encountered an unforeseen error, which made it unable to handle the massive influx of players,” Starbreeze wrote in an announcement today. “The issue caused an unrecoverable situation for Starbreeze’ third-party matchmaking partner. A new version of the matchmaking server software was gradually deployed across all regions leading to improved performance. However, a software update made by the partner during late Sunday again introduced instability to the matchmaking infrastructure. The partner continues to work to improve and stabilize Payday 3‘s online systems.”
The studio said that the matchmaking problems never manifested during the game’s technical betas or “early access” period, and it’s currently working on both short- and long-term fixes. That includes looking at ways to make Payday 3 “less dependent on online services.” It’s not exactly clear what that means, but players have been begging Starbreeze for an offline mode like those offered in past Payday games since the matchmaking issues began. Who knows how feasible that is post-launch, but Sjögren tweeted on Sunday that the team is currently “looking at [the] possibility.”
In the meantime, Payday 3 isn’t out of the woods yet, and it’s already getting slammed in the Steam reviews as you might expect. It currently has a rating of “mostly negative” with just 33 percent positive reviews out of nearly 25,000. “Starbreeze has created an incredible successor to their beloved Payday 2,” reads one. “Too bad you cant play it.”
Baldur’s Gate 3 kitty His Majesty was born a wrinkled Sphynx, but transformed into a Maine Coon on September 22, when developer Larian issued Patch 3 for the popular RPG. Fans couldn’t stand it, but Larian heard their cries—Hotfix 8, issued October 3, makes His Majesty naked and ugly again, and it provides a number of other small improvements.
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“[His Majesty] being an angry loud scrotum was just perfect,” one fan said after the cat’s first patch. In role-playing game BG3, spoiled His Majesty rebukes players after they use the Speak With Animals ability.
“Hiss, I say, hiss!” he declares in a princely baritone voice. He curls his back in permanent disapproval, and encourages even a courteous player to get the hell away from him.
“Go! Quickly! HISS!” he says.
By patching His Majesty the first time, Larian intended to distinguish him from Steelclaw, another hairless cat NPC.
“His Majesty’s appearance now befits his name and nature,” Larian wrote about his newfound scraggly, long, sand-colored tufts of fur, which resembles a long-haired breed of cat like a Manx or a Ragamuffin. In reverting its decision, the Belgian studio altered Steelclaw’s eye color, instead, “so they are no longer identical twins,” it wrote in its hotfix notes.
Some other notable game fixes include:
Dismissed companions won’t transfer story items in their inventory to the player anymore
You won’t be able to eavesdrop while in any character creator, including a level up screen
The Weapon Master Feat should no longer appear as incomplete when a player is proficient with all weapons
BG3 should no longer crash when re-assigning characters in splitscreen
Multiplayer should no longer crash when hearing dialogue after an active roll
Raphael’s original hair color and horns are restored, and his portraits have been adjusted accordingly
Githyanki Females’ Splint Armor will no longer trigger “unnecessarily psychedelic visual effects”
What change are you most excited about? Are you happy that His Majesty has been restored to his naked state?
BioWare laid off 50 employees at the end of August. Mary Kirby was one of them. A 17-year veteran of the studio beloved for its story-driven RPGs, Kirby has worked on every Dragon Age game, and her contributions have shown up in some of the series’ most memorable characters and questlines. The franchise is estimated to have sold over 10 million copies, with the next game, Dragon Age: Dreadwolf, planned to release in the years ahead. Now her and six other recently laid-off developers are suing BioWare claiming it and parent company Electronic Arts are trying to welsh on their legally owed severance.
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A notice of the lawsuit was shared on Twitter yesterday by former BioWare developer Jon Renish. In its statement of facts, which were reviewed by Kotaku, an attorney for the group claims that BioWare was only willing to offer laid-off employees two weeks of severance per year of service, rather than the one month commonly awarded under other recent labor cases. The lawsuit also claims that BioWare was unwilling to include the value of health benefits in the severance package, further shortchanging the departing developers who average 14 years of service each. EA reported over $400 million in net income in August, up 23 percent from the year prior. The company bought back $325 million in stock the same month.
BioWare’s announcement of the layoffs was vague, and it remains unclear why a studio, which is currently in the midst of developing Dreadwolf and planning out Mass Effect 4, a long-awaited sequel to its hit sci-fi shooter, would cut so many developers, including ones with such a long and storied track record. Fans went into crisis mode. BioWare general manager Gary McKay wrote at the time that the cuts would be carried out with “empathy, respect, and clear communication.”
However, a lawyer for the seven laid-off employees, Alex Kennedy, told Kotaku in a phone call that BioWare has so far refused to negotiate better severance packages. He said that the laid-off employees wanted the development of Dreadwolf, a game that’s already had to be reworked and is reportedly overdue, to succeed, but also wanted what they’re owed. “While we remain supportive of the game we worked so hard on, and of our colleagues continuing that work, we are struggling to understand why BioWare is shortchanging us in this challenging time,” said one of the laid-off employees in a press release.
Kennedy told Kotaku that he originally had over 15 laid-off BioWare employees who were part of the lawsuit, but many bailed, worried about their ability to pay bills and even buy presents for their kids come Christmastime. The existing severance packages, while measly, would still be money in the bank compared to the prospect of a long and drawn out legal fight. It could be a month before BioWare and EA respond to the group’s legal filing, and even longer before the case gets in front of a judge, especially if the companies deploy delay tactics. Kennedy said he’s still hopeful that BioWare will eventually “see the light” and negotiate a settlement.
Interestingly, EA’s proprietary game engine Frostbite is specifically called out in the lawsuit as an important factor in determining how much severance employees are owed. Things like age, years of service, and the difficulty of finding a similar new job are all taken into account under Canadian common law. Kennedy argues that the fact that BioWare’s developers are forced to use EA’s inhouse toolset, which has long been blamed for issues with some of its biggest releases like Mass Effect Andromeda and Anthem, means it could be harder for them to find a new job than developers using third-party tool sets like Unreal Engine and Unity.
The job prospects for game developers are also especially grim-looking right now. A big wave of layoffs has hit the gaming industry in 2023, with companies ranging from Microsoft to Ubisoft shedding staff. Just since the BioWare layoffs in August, several new studios and companies announced cuts. Epic Games announced just last week that it will be laying off over 800 employees. The Fortnite maker has, however, promised them six months of severance and extended health benefits.
“To everyone who has reached out: Thank you. It means a lot,” Kirby tweeted when she was laid off. “It’s bittersweet that Dreadwolf is my last DA game, but I still hope you all love it as much as I do.”
EA did not respond to a request for comment.
Update 10/10/2023 3:06 p.m. ET: Kennedy clarified in a post-publication email that EA did not imply to laid off devs that better severance terms might hurt Dreadwolf’s development, but rather that his clients initially didn’t want to seek the maximum settlement if it might harm the studio.
Skull Island: Rise of Kong was released earlier this week and was quickly derided as one of the worst games of 2023. What happened? Well, a new report claims it was made by a small team of developers on a tight budget in just one year, putting the studio in a situation where making something good, both quickly and cheaply, would be nearly impossible.
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Announced earlier this summer, Skull Island: Rise of Kong is the first King Kong video game in nearly two decades. The last game featuring the famous giant ape was 2005’s Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie which was developed by Ubisoft. Since then, folks have been waiting for another King Kong game, and on October 17, we finally got one. But sadly, Skull Island: Rise of Kong is a bland beat-’em-up with awful cutscenes, nasty visuals, and not much else. So what happened? Why is this game so bad? Well, it appears you can blame Skull Island’s publisher.
In a new report from The Verge, developers from IguanaBee—a small indie studio based in Santiago, Chile— spoke anonymously with the outlet and explained that Skull Island’s publisher, Game Mill, gave the team only one year to develop the game from scratch.
“The development process of this game was started in June of  and it was aimed to end on June 2nd [of] this year. So one-year development process,” said one dev behind the King Kong game.
Kotaku has reached out to Game Mill about the report.
Game Mill / IGN
According to other developers at the indie studio, Game Mill—a U.S. publisher of many not-so-great video games—frequently uses smaller teams of developers to create licensed video games in similarly short amounts of time. Devs at IguanaBee claimed that Game Mill wouldn’t provide teams with “all the information” about the project, leading to frustration and forcing teams to “improvise with the limited information” they had.
Other complaints suggest Game Mill wasn’t willing to provide enough money for IgaunaBee to maintain a large, skilled staff of developers. Sources tell The Verge that for most of Skull Island’s development, only around two to 20 people were working on it. As you might expect, at least one developer reported that crunch happened, and it was bad.
“The crunch was really set in motion in February,” said the anonymous developer. “I was on automatic pilot by the end of February because all hope was lost.”
According to The Verge, even though developing the game was tough and the money wasn’t great, some folks on the team still take pride in what they were able to ship in such a short time under such difficult circumstances, with one former dev sharing on social media that they were still “proud” of IguanaBee’s King Kong game.
The immensely popular 1997 role-playing game Final Fantasy VII has been worshiped in its original form, grafted into a similarly admired 2020 remake, and now, developer Square Enix promises a magisterial “rebirth” in a PlayStation 5 exclusive set for February 29, 2024. Like the 2020 remake, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth will act as both an effigy to the original—a breakthrough title for Japanese-made RPGs—and a reinvention of it, with improved graphics and new narrative beats that break from established lore, including a “surprise” during one of the game’s most memorable scenes, developers say.
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After you reach FFVII’s Forgotten Capital as swooshy-haired protagonist Cloud, the game drenches you in ice water and makes you watch as antagonist Sephiroth kills Cloud’s sweetheart Aerith. In the ‘90s, FFVII’s first disc ended here, on this frigid note.
At this week’s Thailand Game Show 2023, and while speaking to Indonesian gaming site Gamebrott, Rebirth director Naoki Hamaguchi issued a message “to all the gamers regarding this ‘you-know-what’ moment” in the Forgotten Capital: “we can confirm that we will give you a ‘big surprise,’” he said, according to a Google translation of the Indonesian text. “So you can look forward to later in the game.”
Hamaguchi, unsurprisingly, didn’t offer up the intricacies or extent of this “surprise,” and declined to engage with any fan theories (though he expressed his appreciation for them, saying “we really accept it and feel happy about the activeness of fans in creating various kinds of theories.”) But if it’s anything like the logical but potent plotline changes Square Enix made to its 2020 FFVII remake, it’ll likely frustrate those long-time fans who want to see their childhood memories faithfully recreated, while thrilling others with its breaks from the familiar timeline that suggest bold new narrative possibilities, all while perhaps leaving FF7 newcomers scratching their heads over what it’s all supposed to mean.
Example: in the ‘90s, FFVII’s arcane ending—protagonist Cloud defeats enemy Sephiroth for the last time, the world is overrun by an incorporeal Lifestream of mint-green energy—was impressive, and its post-credits scene, in which wolf-beast Red XIII runs around a leafy, seemingly uninhabited planet, was mind-blowingly (and, to some people, annoyingly) vague. The 2020 remake respects this history by blowing minds in a similar way, preserving ‘90s ambiguity but introducing fresh details to analyze.
Rebirth—which Hamaguchi tells Gamebrott features even more “extensive exploration” than the original FFVII, but leaves some of its charming features alone, like the minigames at Gold Saucer amusement park—seems set to do the same.
Payday 3 devs have extended their apology tour that began back in September, when Starbreeze Studios CEO had to apologize for the state in which the co-op heist game launched. The always-online bank robbery simulator suffered from major server and matchmaking issues that were fixed a little over a week after launch, but the game still needed another major patch to fix some of its remaining major issues (particularly quality-of-life stuff). The team is now apologizing for going radio silent in the absence of said update.
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An October 25 post on the official Payday website attempts to “lift the curtains a little” and let players know why the major patch, which was initially promised to arrive in early October and bring with it over 200 improvements, isn’t yet here. “We’ve been quiet over the last few days, and for that we apologize,” it reads. “It’s not easy to communicate when we have not been able to offer any updates on the one big topic that’s on everyone’s mind right now: When are the patches coming to Payday 3?”
The post promises that the team is still working on the upcoming patch, before getting into the true cause of the delay: Starbreeze Studios’ update pipeline.
The reason it has taken so long to get this first patch is very long and complicated, but the short version is that we discovered critical errors with our update pipeline shortly after the game releases. There was a significant risk to player progression being wiped if we didn’t address this and ensure a solid test environment.
The issue is so prominent that the team can’t “consistently deliver patches” in the game’s current state, which means new content has to wait, as well—though the blog does promise that there will be “free content updates for the game before the end of the year.”
Though Payday 3 boasted an impressive 90,000 concurrent players on Steam shortly after its September 18 launch, those players were quickly inundated with the now-infamous double “matchmaking error” screen. Since the game requires players to have an internet connection even if they’re playing solo, the server issues rendered it unplayable for many.
As Kotaku reported on September 25, the cause of the matchmaking issues were twofold: “a technical issue made things bad right out of the gate” but “a faulty update on September 24 by a third-party online services partner broke things all over again.” It’s unclear what is the cause of the current flaw in Payday 3’s update pipeline.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 released October 20 with fanfare worthy of the vibrant New York City where it’s set, becoming the fastest-selling PlayStation exclusive and igniting pertinent conversations about its protagonists’ asses. Below the surface, the direct sequel to developer Insomniac Games’ 2018 game is even more impressive, with missable, but immersive, environmental design and, as Kotaku senior writer Ethan Gach puts it in his review, an “unexpectedly impactful” approach to the love and friendship central to its plot. Spider-Man 2’s release week interviews can provide you a more detailed look under the hood, so I rounded up some of them.
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Senior creative director Bryan Intihar recently spoke to PlayStation mostly about Spider-Man 2’s accessibility features and tutorial, but also noted that the game’s take on friendship meant a lot to him and the Marvel franchise at large.
“It’s like the least Spider-Man thing,” he said, “but… the thing I always said early on was like, ‘Hey, we want to deliver the fantasy of being these heroes, whether it’s the web-swinging, the suits, the combat. We wanted to live the superhero fantasy, but I think the thing that can really help our game stand out is how we show their lives outside the mask. If we show their journeys, their needs, their wants, their problems? How do we show them outside the mask?’”
Narrative director Ben Arfmann and advanced writer Brittney Morris shared similar behind-the-scenes observations with Gizmodo.“Whenever we tell a Spider-Man story, we always come back to, ‘The man underneath the mask is just as, if not more important, than the mask,’” Arfmann said.
This ethos was particularly important in constructing gooey alien symbiote Venom, who drives much of Spider-Man 2’s blockbuster drama. “I think we collectively understood that if we have a Venom game, we need to be able to play as him,” Morris said. “It’d be such a missed opportunity otherwise. We’re game developers, but we’re also fans, and so we knew what we wanted, and that players would probably agree that’d be the right move.”
Making that happen required attentive design. “When we’re doing animations, things have to look snappy,” senior art director Jacinda Chew told Marvel’s official news site. “The tentacles have to look like they’re almost sentient and they have a purpose. But then, when they snap back, there’s a little liquidy, kind of semi-liquid feel to them as well. So, a huge component of nailing Venom was not just the visuals, but also how we animated him.”
Keep reading for more details about the art and story behind Spider-Man 2.
Senior Creative Director Bryan Intihar, on the game’s opening section:
We knew very early on [Spider-Man 2] was going to be on the PS5 console. We knew enough about the console, its capabilities and how we wanted to push it. And we obviously knew it was going to be two Spider-Men. So, you say: new console. Big sequel. Two heroes. What is deserving of an opening for that? I think Sandman was our thing.
We worked on that mission for a long time. A long, long, long time. Here’s the thing: it’s not just like, obviously, he’s a big character in the opening. But technically it’s a challenge, whether it’s moving in and out of buildings and seamlessly switching heroes, just the amount of tech and art that goes into making Sandman look good. We wanted to go big. We wanted people to understand right away—and I always joke it’s called Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 for a reason, because there’s two of them—but for us, it was like, how within that first 20, 30 minutes, can we show people that everything is being leveled up.
Director of core technology, Mike Fitzgerald, on ray-tracing and performance:
It has always pained me, whenever I see a screenshot of the first couple of Spider-Man games, or if I see [Ratchet & Clank] with ray tracing turned off. And I always know immediately, when I see that screenshot and it always bums me out. And so it was always an aspiration for this one: wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to have that real big compromise in there, if we got back to a pure performance and resolution trade-off. And I don’t think we committed to it until earlier this year, but I think basically, we saw the way performance was trending and we said, ‘you know, it’ll be work, but let’s go for it’. I feel like we got there with the last games, but we always got there, like, a week after launch. Or, right at the deadline, and we’re never quite confident enough. And so this time, it just took a bit of ‘No, we’re gonna do it and we can get to where it needs to be.’
Read More: Spider-Man 2: The Kotaku Review
Design director Josue Benavidez, on gameplay
That’s one of the things we love to do as much as we can—let players control, and actually use the Spider-powers themselves, and figure out interesting ways they can combine things. As much as we can, we’d like to let players have fun. [We] create games that are a toolbox of toys to play with.
Venom actor Tony Todd, on the character:
I think, when people play this game, there’s going to be different sides—of course people are rooting for Spider-Man and Miles, but I think there’s going to be a whole section of people that are saying, ‘Well, what can Venom do, and why do I like him?’ Because he’s just doing it with abandon!
Advanced writer Brittney Morris, on second Spider-Man Miles Morales:
At the beginning of the game, we see [Miles] struggling to figure out what he wants to do with his life. By the end, we had Miles carrying the burden of saving the city, and also carrying Pete when Pete wasn’t strong enough to carry himself at various points.
That’s what’s been so cool about writing a story about two Spider-Men: they’re both strong, and one of them can be strong when the other is not. By the end, Miles is more confident and he’s like, “Yeah, I got this. How much worse can things get after what we just went through?”
Mr. Negative actor Stephen Oyoung, on film and video games
There’s greater freedom of movement with video games. There are less intricate props and sets of course, so it’s all in your imagination, but I really enjoy that process. It’s very intimate, with much smaller crews, but there’s also very little downtime since you’re not waiting for camera or lighting setups. And as far as your performance, what you do in the moment is what they’re going to use. It’s immediate. There are no cutaways, no reverse shots. So when you’re having a conversation, that’s what it is. It’s like real life. After a fashion.
Experience Spider-Man 2‘s own brand of movie magic now, on PS5.
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