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Game News

Players Debate Whether Red Dead Redemption 2’s New Patches Downgraded The Game’s Graphics

Screenshot: 2K Games (Red Dead Redemption 2)

Post-launch updates are supposed to make a game better, but some players now believe Red Dead Redemption 2’s graphics have been slightly downgraded following the release of the most recent patch. They have been sharing before and after screenshots to try and prove it.

Rockstar Games released Title Update 1.06 on February 26. It introduced new items and tinkered with stuff in the online mode, like adding new daily challenges and making it easier to identify players that were potentially griefing other people. The single-player campaign was seemingly left unchanged, but some players are now saying they see less detail and poorer lighting in some areas of the campaign. Other players think that’s wrong and are countering with their own before-and-after shots.

On March 13, a player going by Darealbandicoot‏ on Twitter tweeted an alleged comparison of the inside of a saloon between when the game launched and now. The first image is clearer and has a more striking contrast between the shadows and highlights on objects, while the latter looks a bit foggier over all. There are also some things missing in the post-1.06 screenshot, including one of the non-playable character’s pocket squares.

Other players have argued that the changes can be accounted for by differences in the time of day between the two shots, and that the second shot was potentially doctored to look worse. In response, Darealbandicoot shared a second comparison shot involving customizing protagonist Arthur Morgan’s clothes. There are still noticeable differences that wouldn’t be caused by the time of day, like fewer shadows on the folds in Morgan’s clothes and the floorboards in the cabin he’s in.

In an email, Darealbandicoot told Kotaku the screenshots were did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the shots.

Another comparison point has been the game’s street cars. A handful of shots comparing them pre- and post-patch show similar differences in the lighting, with supposedly fewer and more shallow shading effects on the side of the cars in the current version of the game. There’s also a before and after shot of a hallway which looks practically identical at first. Upon closer inspection though it’s clear the lamps lining the walls in the first shot shine more brightly and warmly on the parts of the wall immediately behind them.

How a hallway appears in version 1.0 (left), compared to version 1.06 (right).
Screenshot: Marcoshmg (Red Dead Redemption 2 )

Other players have come forward with shots that appear to show that some of the changes in the lighting effects might go back even further to the Title Update 1.03 from November 29. In a thread posted on the GTA Forums that same day, some players mentioned differences and talked about trying to re-download the original version of the game to revert back to the earlier graphics.

Rockstar Games did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

These lighting effects in games tend to be associated with ambient occlusion rendering. In PC games there’s usually an option to turn it off in order to run a game more smoothly on a less powerful graphics card. Some players have speculated that the visual downgrades are an attempt to make Red Dead Redemption 2 run more smoothly on base PS4 and Xbox One models. It’s also possible that the visual changes are simply a bug.

The 1.06 patch notes list dozens upon dozens of bug fixes, some aimed at things like lighting effects. “Fixed an issue that resulted in incorrect textures and lighting effects on some combinations of player clothing,” reads one.

It’s possible that there’s no problem at all, and the differences in screenshots can be accounted for in differences in the time of day or weather, both of which are associated with lots of nuanced, visual changes in the game. The act of compressing images down to share them online could also be partly responsible for at least some of the apparent changes.

Whatever the cause, it hasn’t made Red Dead Redemption 2 look ugly by any means. The game remains a technical marvel. It has, however, led to a new contingent of the game’s most diehard fans committing themselves to going back to the 1.0 version of the game and not installing any future updates.


Ex-Valve and Riot developers set up new studio, with backing from Riot Games

Former Valve writer Chet Faliszek and former Riot Games technical designer Kimberly Voll announced their new studio ahead of this week’s Game Developers Conference. It’s called Stray Bombay and, according to a blog post from the duo, the pair’s new studio will focus on cooperative multiplayer games featuring enemies and experiences driven by artificial intelligence.

Faliszek is best known for his work at Valve, where he wrote for games like Portal, Left 4 Dead, and Half-Life 2. After leaving Valve in 2017, he moved to I Am Bread and Worlds Adrift developer Bossa Studios, which he has since parted ways with. Now he’s teaming up with Voll “to create games that give players a place to breathe and live in the moment. Games that tell stories knowing you are going to come back again and again, that change each time you play them without feeling completely random, and that help you feel like a real team that supports each other … not a bunch of folks in each other’s way. And where AI drives not just the enemies but helps drive the entire experience.”

Voll’s work at Riot Games focused on in cognitive science, player dynamics, and artificial intelligence, according to her LinkedIn profile. Prior to Riot, Voll programmed games like RocketsRocketsRockets and Fantastic Contraption at Radial Games. Faliszek praised Voll as “an expert in AI and human-centric design.”

Voll said in the duo’s blog post that Stray Bombay has investment from Riot Games and venture capital firm Upfront Ventures. The pair added that they’re “going to go dark for a little bit as we start laying the foundation of our new world.”


Smash Bros. Player Leaves Pivotal Tournament Match After Getting Frustrated With Audience Member

During Smash regional Collision 2019 in New Jersey last weekend, a Super Smash Bros. Ultimate match came to a halt when one of the competitors got annoyed with the gathered audience and walked offstage. This left tournament organizers reeling for over an hour as they tried to come to a solution for both players.

By Sunday afternoon, Collision 2019’s Super Smash Bros. Ultimate bracket had been whittled down to the top 32 players. Tyler “Marss” Martins and Justin “Wishes” Magnetti had done well for themselves up to this point, and met in the winners side of the bracket to decide who would move one step closer to the finals. As they entered the fifth and final game of their set, however, Marss began to look agitated, at one point getting up and shouting something at the audience cheering behind them. A few moments later, he appeared to give up by walking away from the match, leaving his opponent and the commentary team stunned.

It didn’t take long for word on what Marss was so upset about to come back to the broadcasting team. Apparently, someone in the crowd was calling out Marss’ game plan—in this case, his proclivity as a Zero Suit Samus player to jump after hanging on the ledge—which he felt constituted coaching his opponent. While there’s nothing in the official Collision 2019 guidelines that specifically discourages this, traditional Smash rules dictate that coaching is not allowed. This year’s installment of Genesis, one of the biggest Smash events of the year, directly forbade coaching during Super Smash Bros. Ultimate competition, and since many such rulings flow downwards directly from major tournaments to regionals like Collision, it’s generally accepted that coaching isn’t allowed anywhere unless specifically mentioned.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a matter of picking up from where Marss had abandoned the game, because Wishes, in his confusion, simply killed the now-stationary Zero Suit Samus with his Pokémon Trainer and ended the match. They needed an official ruling, something Marss hoped to get when he stormed away from the stage. After learning of the issue, Collision organizer Riddge “RJ” Mussington asked the attendee shouting from the crowd to leave the venue and then gathered his staff to discuss how to move forward. Half an hour later, they decided to restart the game with both players at two stocks. This was a huge boon for Marss, who had already lost a stock at the point he got up and left, and Wishes told the tournament staff to disqualify him if that was their ruling. From there, RJ discussed the issue with Wishes while the stream continued with additional matches, and they decided that they would return the game to the 2-1 stock differential while also artificially putting Wishes at over 100% damage, setting the scene much closer to what it had looked like before Marss walked away.

After an hour and a half of deliberation, Marss and Wishes finally returned to the stage to finish their match. Marss won, but neither player seemed happy. The audience looked deflated. The excitement of the match had been ruined. Marss would go on to win the entire tournament, while Wishes would bow out of Collision 2019 at ninth place.

“I’m extremely upset that this situation occurred, but I’m also extremely happy I was able to work with both Marss and Wishes to come to a reasonable solution that both parties felt okay with,” RJ explained on Twitter after the situation was resolved. Wishes’ social media posts, however, said different. While he acknowledged that it was a crappy situation for everyone involved, Wishes still mentioned feeling “robbed” and that it was a “petty thing” for Marss to get upset over. “Also anyone who actually thinks I was getting coached can piss off,” he added. Marss defended himself to those in the community who felt he was being over-dramatic, claiming,“I’m standing up for myself, and that’s more than a lot of you cave dwellers can say.” Naturally, he also had a much rosier outlook on the turn of events than his opponent, calling Collision an “amazing tournament.”

The fighting game community is much different than other esports in that competitors play many of their matches either near or in the thick of the crowd. Where finals might occur on a stage removed from the audience, everything leading up to that takes place on the ground, making for a unique atmosphere that can’t be found anywhere else. Some players thrive in this kind of environment and some have to adapt. Many fighting game players (Wishes included) have drawn comparisons to a specific Tekken 7 match at Final Round, a traditional fighting game tournament held the same weekend as Collision. In the footage below, a group of spectators sing and dance around two players, one of which—Atlanta hype man Ricky “Pokchop” Walker—very obviously feeds off the energy. Did this contribute to him beating his opponent? Is this coaching? I guess it all relies on which side of the match you’re sitting.

In the case of Collision 2019, the organizers felt there was a thin line between cheering on a friend and helping them with outside information, and they decided that Marss had a valid reason to call them over despite the fact that he abandoned Wishes in the middle of their match and went off on the crowd. But how does Pazda, the Collision attendee who shouted to Wishes and was eventually ejected from the tournament altogether, feel?

“It was not coaching,” he explained. “Saying that’s coaching is like telling someone on a math test that the answer to 2+2 is cum.”

Well, that settles that.

Ian Walker loves fighting games and loves writing about them even more. You can find him on Twitter at @iantothemax.


Grand Theft Auto V Role-Playing Has Taken Over Twitch

For the past five days, I’ve been glued to Twitch, unable to look away from the virtual car crash that is popular streamer Sodapoppin playing on a modded Grand Theft Auto V role-playing server.

Since the middle of last week, popular Twitch streamers have been flocking to a Grand Theft Auto V role-playing server called “No Pixel,” where people can play as a cop, a criminal, a doctor, a different criminal—you name it. Sodapoppin has been playing as a regular dude who works at a vineyard. Other popular streamers, including Summit1g, Lirik, TimTheTatMan, Forsen, Moonmoon, Andy Milonakis, and Greekgodx, all of whom have hundreds of thousands or millions of followers, have joined in.

These streams have put GTA V in league with Fortnite in terms of viewers and led to the formation of an interconnected streamer cinematic universe that is effectively akin to 10 concurrently running 24/7 television comedy dramas. It’s a terrible, dumb mess that I can’t stop watching.

Not everyone can play “No Pixel.” Players must apply to in order to join. The server’s application asks a number of questions, some of which require you to be in-character. For example: “You’ve found what looks like a random car in the street with a load of drugs inside. What do you do and why?” The application process sets the tone for the whole server, which has a near-zero-tolerance policy for breaking character. Beyond that, you can be whatever you want. No Pixel is by no means flawless, but that’s part of its appeal: RP neophytes and longtimers alike have to role-play around the surreal, glitchy strangeness that inevitably arises when people pile player-made modifications atop the already teetering codebase of a complex open-world game.

Grand Theft Auto role-playing is not a new thing on Twitch, with streamers like Sheriff Eli—a former real-life police officer who role plays a hard-ass cop in GTAgaining dedicated followings over the years. But No Pixel sports especially sophisticated role-playing features.

Some streamers have taken to it better than others. Summit’s proven good at facilitating elaborate scenes put on by experienced GTA V role-players, for example, while Lirik has decided to just literally be Avon Barksdale from HBO’s The Wire. Then there are the streamers who’ve taken to role-playing less like ducks to water and more like disgraced mafiosos with cinder blocks tied to their legs. Andy Milonakis makes every scene he’s in with other streamers painfully awkward, but even he’s got nothing on Overwatch pro turned wailing Twitch banshee man xQc, who managed to get in trouble with the people running No Pixel by acting like a violent madman. That’s great when you’re playing GTA V the regular way, but extremely against the rules when you’re supposed to be role-playing.

I’ve found Sodapoppin’s GTA RP streams to be far and away the most consistently entertaining, mostly thanks to a very good premise: His character, Kevin Whipaloo, is a hapless scrub with crippling anxiety who wants to make an honest living—in Crime City, USA, where all that ever happens is crime, and the clocks don’t even have numbers on them, just 12 different instances of the word “crime.” Inevitably, all of his attempts to stick to the straight and narrow go horrifically wrong, in part because even as he tries to make peace with everyone, he accidentally snitches on them—something Sodapoppin did on accident at first, but swiftly incorporated into his act. On his first day in the game, he pissed off the police and got in trouble with multiple major gangs (all played by actual GTA role-players), but—miraculously—managed to collect $2,000, pay them off, and clear his name without ending up in prison.

The next day, he pissed off another gang and took a meeting with them in a parking lot to head off any major altercations at the pass. There, as they conversed, a torso in a Santa hat crawled by, as though it was all as normal as day. This, in a nutshell, is GTA RP on No Pixel:

Jankiness, it turns out, adds new dimensions to role-play, keeping even the best improvisers on their toes. Case in point: Sodapoppin’s character, Kevin, has accidentally kicked or punched multiple people. The first time, it was a doctor who’d just saved his life, and he apologized profusely. Later, he managed to clock an in-game friend, and—fed up with apologizing for this exact thing—told him it was to keep him ready for anything. Then there was the time Kevin’s boss was assuring him his job was above board and, specifically, “safe,” only for a pack of wild animals to magically appear in the building next to them. He didn’t have anything for that, but honestly: Who would?

Kevin owes a lot of his success to his supporting cast. First and foremost, there’s Eugene, an old British man (played by a young British man) with severe memory problems who swears he’s fought in 38 world wars. Alongside another seemingly sociopathic old man named Mel, Kevin and Eugene have formed Prune Gang, the least competent group of pseudo-criminals in the history of pseudo-crime. Last Thursday, they attempted to seek revenge on a blue-haired woman who apparently kidnapped them and left them for dead (I say “apparently” because the incident left them in the hospital with amnesia; these incredibly bad-good player-made plots can reach seasons-long soap opera levels of complication in a single afternoon). After the painstaking process of getting a gun, they were ready to go. Then Kevin tried to back out of a gas station and blew the entire gang sky high:

Role-playing dictates that they had to scream and writhe around in pain until someone took them to the hospital, so scream and writhe around in pain they did.

So far, Kevin’s only run-ins with the law have been the result of other people’s actions. Yesterday, for instance, somebody robbed him at gunpoint, so he reported them to the police. An officer then informed Kevin there was a warrant out for his arrest due to an assault charge. So, in effect, he snitched on himself.

When Kevin’s not bumbling his way through crimes he refuses to actually commit with his own hands, he’s working for his boss, Joe, at a vineyard. Nearly every time they meet up, Joe comes at Kevin with a voice that exudes ice-cold intensity, accusing him of a crime or misdeed, or implicating him in one. Kevin believes this, because he’s in a city where literally everybody else does murders on a regular basis. Then Joe reveals that he’s just fucking with Kevin. He’s slowly, expertly escalated these pranks, making Kevin—and at this point, I mean Sodapoppin, because both the person and his character have legitimately fallen for it every time—believe he was going to have to move a body, that Joe was going to execute him in a cellar, and finally, that Joe had been killed in cold blood in the dark of night by his own boss, who pulled a gun on him and fired actual shots, at which point Joe pretended to be dead for multiple minutes. Then they said “gotcha” and told Kevin that was the final prank, which I believe, because I’m not really sure how you top that.

Viewers love these moments, because they’ve been following Sodapoppin for a long time, and they like to point out when he’s “not acting.” Sodapoppin has even copped to it himself on a few occasions, saying, for example, that a loud, chaotic in-game party actually caused his real-life anxiety to act up. The streams blur the line between personality-driven entertainment and character-driven role-playing.

Some of the stuff on these streams is bad. Really bad. People role-playing as gang members regularly draw on crude racial stereotypes for their accents and storylines. Not everyone does this (thank goodness), but the ones who take that tack do so almost gleefully, likely because they could never get away with behaving so egregiously in the real world. People are also frequently assholes to women, with one character, Ricky, shutting down an argument with a woman player by saying that he wasn’t using “stupid bitch logic.” That’s just the tip of the iceberg on that front: Twitch chat hates it when women role-play, saying things like “sex her,” “kill her,” and “tell her to shut her cock-sucking mouth,” often in all-caps. You won’t be surprised to hear that LGBTQ issues don’t get handled any better. There is, for example, a “trans” role-player Kevin sometimes encounters who identifies as a “trans-pacific railway” and yells for people to ask them their pronouns. Other characters crack jokes about how ugly they are, because of course. Yes, they’re role-playing criminals, but there are so many more interesting ways to be bad, and yet these people tend to fall back on the same tired, mean-spirited edgelord tropes.

Thanks to the influx of big streamers, No Pixel is now overrun with new players and wannabe players. Compounding issues have led the people running the server to temporarily shut down sign ups. This adversely affects the game’s pre-existing community, some of whom I’ve seen pop into Sodapoppin’s chat to express their frustration. You could also argue that longtime RP-ers deserve more credit for the attention the server is now getting, given that they are—in many cases—doing the role-playing equivalent of carrying their new streamer pals.

I can’t ignore the bad parts of the streams, but I find myself drawn into the good stuff, to the playful improv that the best of these streamers is doing live in Grand Theft Auto for their audiences. There’s potential for wild stuff and—when people are actually trying—some impressively funny and considered character dynamics. If you tune in, be warned that there will be some crappy behavior, but if you find the right moments, you’ll also find some of the best—good—trashy entertainment you can find right now on Twitch or any other screen.


Octane is Apex Legends’ first new character: Here’s what he can do

Apex Legends is getting a new character named Octane, developer Respawn Entertainment announced on Monday. The character — Apex Legends’ first post-launch Legend — will be released alongside the game’s season 1 “Wild Frontier” battle pass on March 19.

While Octane’s abilities aren’t yet visible on the game’s official website, Sony’s PlayStation Blog gave us a preview of what the character can do. Most of Octane’s abilities are built around his health. His tactical ability allows him to move faster than normal, but costs a percentage of his health to activate and only lasts a few seconds. To offset this, Octane’s passive ability grants him healing whenever he isn’t being shot at, allowing him to slowly gain back the health he has either lost or spent.

Octane’s ultimate ability is called Launch Pad. He can throw launch pads on the ground that allow anyone to boost into the air. You can even get an early preview of the launch pads by checking out the ones that Respawn placed just outside of the Market location late last week.

It’s unclear how players will be able to unlock Octane. Previous Legends were available for 12,000 Legend Tokens each, or around $8.50 if you’d rather use real money. However, it’s possible that Octane will be given to everyone as soon as the new season launches.

Octane will be released along with Apex Legends battle pass on the first official day of season 1, March 19.


StarTropics On Switch Is Missing The Clue You Need To Beat The Game

Last week, Nintendo added the cult-classic 1990 NES game StarTropics to the Switch Online library. There’s just one problem: it doesn’t contain the secret clue necessary to actually beat the game.

StarTropics follows a young boy named Mike Jones as he searches a mysterious island for his researcher uncle who’s gone missing. In the process he encounters all manner of weird creatures, including a race of strange aliens responsible for his uncle’s abduction. And he does almost all of it with a yo-yo to boot.

The game came out at the end of the NES’s life-cycle, just a couple weeks after the SNES had already come out in Japan. As a result, it was one of the more complex and sprawling games available on the console, mixing platforming, over-world exploration, and real-time combat into the story of a role-playing game.

It also had an extreme puzzle that, depending on how many times you smacked your head against a wall trying to figure it out, was either one of the most clever or most evil things ever put into a game. At one point Mike has to use his uncle’s submarine, but it won’t work without a secret code.

That’s when Baboo, his uncle’s assistant, becomes possessed and says, “Evil aliens from a distant planet …tell my nephew to use Code 1776. Tell Mike to dip my letter in water.” Entering 1776 into the control panel causes the submarine to go under water, but a second code is needed to do anything further. That second code is nowhere to be found in the game. You could search everywhere, press every button on your controller while standing on every tile in the game, and never find it.

That’s because the code is actually hidden inside a paper map that came packaged with the game. On the back of it is a letter from Mike’s uncle asking him to visit the island. Dip the map in water and the code 747 appears on it in invisible ink. You can watch Kotaku’s Chris Kohler do this with a sealed version of the game on Unboxed:

It’s very clever, but it can also be a royal pain the ass. Especially if you bought StarTropics used, or borrowed it from a friend, like my brother and I did back in the day, and didn’t have access to the letter.

Now Switch players are in the same boat, since the digital version of StarTropics players can currently download doesn’t include that part of the instruction materials. Previously, when Nintendo put the game on the Wii U Virtual Console, it included a page in the digital manual that showed an animation of the letter being dipped in water and the code appearing. The Switch version doesn’t have that.

It’s possible that Nintendo might patch something like the Wii U’s workaround in at some point, or that the company just assumes players will search the internet for the answer when they hit upon the puzzle. If that’s the case I hope they’re right and no one else is driven mad by their inability to solve the riddle on their own.


Valve’s (almost) ‘anything goes’ content policy devalues Steam and harms developers

Valve’s recent brush with obscene and harmful content is the latest incident that exposes one of Steam’s key weaknesses. Abdicating its responsibility as a content host has led the market leader to alienate developers and damage its own brand.

Steam’s content policy has been a regular source of confusion, coming to a boil in mid-2018. The company issued delisting warnings to developers of visual novels aimed at an adult audience and featuring nudity.

The storefront ultimately relaxed its warnings, but had already tipped off a series of questions about its ambiguous definitions of what is acceptable on Steam. The result was a reaffirmation that Valve is willing to take money from almost any developer, provided the content isn’t deemed by Valve to be “illegal or straight up trolling.”

A few months later, Steam permitted the first uncensored adult game, leaning on filters to weed out sexual content. While PIN-protected family accounts might safeguard minors, they don’t shield developers who are caught in the blast zone when Steam lets a game like Hatred or the recently removed sexual violence fantasy Rape Day from developer Desk Plant come anywhere near its store.

It’s easy to forget that digital storefronts still adhere to retail paradigms. While there are no physical shelves upon which boxes sit, games (and developers) are still judged by the company they keep. On Steam, that comes in the form of a set of recommendations on every store page labeled “More Like This.”

Two days after Rape Day made news, Valve announced that it had decided not to allow the game on its store. During that time, a full store page was live, complete with a “More Like This” section.

That recommendation engine is driven by user tags. That’s how Curtel Games’ The Ballad Singer ended up in Rape Day’s “More Like This” section. The two games share three tags: adventure, nudity, and sexual content. The developers couldn’t be more different in their approaches to such a sensitive topic.

“The fact that the Ballad Singer is recommended under Rape Day is probably related to the fact that in the game we have indicated that there are nude scenes (not explicit),” Curtel Games project manager Riccardo Bandera told Polygon via email. “A rape choice is included in our game. But what we tried to do compared to Rape Day is completely different. We try to sensitize the player on this issue, entering the mind of those who suffer violence and trying to educate the player, despite being free to do what he wants. In my opinion it is a good thing that our game is recommended, provides a different point of view that allows players to understand the victim, trying to bring a real social value through the video game.”

While Bandera is glad that The Ballad Singer has the chance to provide a different perspective than Desk Plant’s endorsement of sexual violence, he does not condone Rape Day’s content.

“Rape is not a game but probably one of the worst violence that a person could suffer,” he says. “I think it’s an insult to all the victims to include a rape game inside Steam.”

He isn’t the only developer to have a strong reaction to Valve’s decision to keep Desk Plant’s game on its storefront even for the few days it lived there. One More Story Games CEO Jean Leggett suggests that Steam’s current content policy is alienating for some developers.

“I don’t want to put my game, which is a thoughtful and sensitive approach to PTSD and sexual violence, [on Steam],” she says. “I would be absolutely livid if that came under the ‘More Like This’ section.”

Leggett has opted to steer her company’s games toward platforms that do take a stand on safety with clear content policies.

“It’s already difficult enough to do the kind of content that I’m doing,” she explains. “That’s why it feels safer, more appropriate, and ethically responsible to put our games out on the App Store and the Play Store. They do gate against those kinds of things.”

The Epic Games Store is currently curating its content leading up to when the company casts a wider net later in 2019. Despite founder Tim Sweeney’s vocal support of open platforms, Epic didn’t throw the door open. The company has built an enormous following of young Fortnite fans. While the company hasn’t commented, it’s hard to imagine Epic giving Rape Day anything other than a hard “No.”

This is, in part, because large companies and PR agencies make it their job to know how their content is being positioned internally and on external platforms. Brands need to be regularly tended and curated, otherwise someone else will start defining what they stand for.

”There are entire teams of people at agencies whose sole job is brand safety,” an experienced marketer told us under condition of anonymity to protect their career. “We work really hard to ensure that our content isn’t seen alongside certain content. Brands have lists of other brands or verticals that may not appear alongside their content. This is super common in advertising online. When someone tells us that our videos or other content have preroll for certain products or brands, like a tobacco company, alcohol, or sex products, we work with Google or Youtube or whomever to fix that ASAP.”

Valve’s statement about removing Rape Day continues a trend of obfuscation and confusion about what content the company finds unacceptable. Even the explanation amounts to a wishy-washy recitation of, “I’ll know it when I see it” while burying the lede.

“After significant fact-finding and discussion, we think ‘Rape Day’ poses unknown costs and risks and therefore won’t be on Steam,” Valve says. Those unknown costs and risks? Alienating developers who already see Valve’s value proposition waning and potentially drawing unwanted government attention. While the United States government and state officials might be loathe to wade into this matter, the same can’t be said for other countries. Members of U.K.’s Parliament and the Scottish Parliament have called for stronger legislation around content like Rape Day.

“One day, tech industry in general will have to learn that taking responsibility and preventing bad things from happening rather than asking for forgiveness after fucking up is the only way we’ll stop uninformed government legislation,” said Vlambeer co-founder Rami Ismail on Twitter in response to U.K. government officials chiming in. “The games industry doesn’t need permission from anyone. We are not and should not be beholden to any one government. But my word, do we need to do a better job of convincing the world at large that we don’t need a babysitter to tell us ‘don’t do the bad thing’ sometimes.”

Valve’s “unknown costs and risks” caveat are absent from its longer post of June 2018 in which it specifies that it will only restrict content that is “illegal or straight up trolling.” All of this perpetuates uncertainty around what material is allowed on Steam, a problem the platform has been facing since before its haphazard choices around adult visual novels last year.

That isn’t to suggest Valve made the wrong decision here. Clearly Rape Day is a flippant treatment of sexual violence that mishandles the real trauma faced by survivors. But there’s nothing to say that a game just like it won’t appear tomorrow. Valve’s reactionary process ensures that almost anything can exist on Steam, even for a few days, and wreak havoc on other developers.

“Sometimes all it can take is a single image or memory to form an association forever,” a community lead who asked to remain anonymous to protect their career and employer told Polygon. “If someone is browsing the ‘More Like This’ section because they want to avoid similar things, innocent games could be caught in the crossfire. Someone’s work, forever discarded because of a false association with a game about rape.”

That’s not just an unknown cost or risk. Valve is inviting this to happen again by refusing to be proactive. Whether developers stick around when new entrants like the Epic Games Store are providing both more money and better security is a bet Steam seems willing to make, at least for now.


At his GDC panel on God of War’s animation, Sony Santa Monica Animation Director Bruno Velasquez rev

At his GDC panel on God of War’s animation, Sony Santa Monica Animation Director Bruno Velasquez revealed one scene in God of War where the mo-cap was handled by the animation team: when Kratos beats up that freaky monkey-ogre. Looks at those happy animators!


Apex Legends First Battle Pass Outlined; Here’s How It Works

EA has announced that the Season 1 battle pass, titled Wild Frontier, for Apex Legends is launching tomorrow, March 19. The battle pass releases alongside Octane, the ninth and newest Legend to join the battle royale game. Octane is not a part of the battle pass and will release separately, allowing you to buy him with Legend Tokens or Apex Coins. He’ll be the same cost as Mirage and Caustic–12,000 Legend Tokens or 750 Apex Coins.

Apex Legends’ Season 1 battle pass can only be purchased with Apex Coins, one of the three in-game currencies. Buying into the battle pass will cost you 950 Apex Coins. However, you don’t have to buy the battle pass right away to avoid missing out on rewards. “You’ll receive all the rewards up to your Battle Pass level (which is your current level for the season) retroactively!” EA wrote in the battle pass FAQ. “For example, if you’re on level 20 for the season when you buy the Battle Pass, you’ll unlock all rewards for every level up to 20, plus three special Battle Pass skins.”

If you want to buy yourself a little help in unlocking the Season 1 battle pass rewards, there’s also a bundle–which you can purchase for 2,800 Apex Coins–that unlocks the next 25 levels for you. This bundle can be purchased at any time, so you can buy it at the start and instantly reach level 25 in the battle pass or nab it when you’re, for example, level 40 and reach level 65. The Season 1 battle pass has 100 levels in total, and contains an assortment of weapon skins, stat trackers, Legend voice lines, and Apex Coin and XP drops as rewards. Leveling up is entirely XP based, as there are no challenges.

Like other games that feature seasonal battle passes, all rewards unlocked with Apex Legend’s Season 1 battle pass remain during follow-up seasons. However, once Season 1 ends, you can no longer unlock the items included in this specific pass. Regardless, whether you buy the pass or not, you’ll unlock free rewards during Season 1. You get 18 new stat trackers, five Apex Packs, and a new skin for Octane.

Apex Legends is available for Xbox One, PS4, and PC. In our Apex Legends review, Phil Hornshaw gave the game a 9/10, writing, “Apex Legends is a mix of smart shooter ideas that makes for a competitive, team-based game that gets at all the best parts of battle royale while addressing a lot of the weaknesses. Respawn’s intense focus on team play makes Apex more than just a worthy addition to the genre; it’s an indicator of where battle royale should go in the future.”


Halo: The Master Chief Collection Won’t Be Part Of Xbox Play Anywhere

343 Industries studio head Bonnie Ross confirmed yesterday during the Halo Championship Series Invitational at South By Southwest that Halo: The Master Chief Collection will not be part of the Xbox Play Anywhere program which makes Xbox One games cross-buy and cross-play on PC. Those who already own it on console will have to buy it again if they want to access the PC version.

“One of the questions we’ve gotten is will MCC PC support Xbox Play Anywhere, and first off I want to say we so appreciate all of the support we’ve had from the Xbox One community with MCC and we’re obviously bringing Reach to MCC,” Ross said during a quick panel discussion before the tournament’s grand finals. “While MCC shipped before the XPA Play Anywhere, we are exploring ways to make sure that we show our appreciation and recognition for the support we’ve had from the amazing fans on MCC and we’ll have more to announce as we get closer to launch.”

Microsoft originally announced the Play Anywhere program back at E3 2016. It would give specific Xbox One games cross-buy and cross-play capabilities on PC, making the transition between the two platforms more seamless. In an older blog post detailing the program, Microsoft said every new game it published would be part of Play Anywhere, but that blog post was subsequently changed to specify “every new title published from Microsoft Studios that we showed onstage at E3 this year.”

The program currently includes 73 games. Many are from third-party publishers, but the library also includes every Xbox One game released by Xbox Game Studios’ since the program was announced, the most recent of which is Crackdown 3. In practice, the only games which have been left out are ones that were already released prior to program’s existence, like Forza Motorsport 6 and Minecraft. Microsoft originally tried to push cross-buy on Xbox One by giving players who bought Quantum Break at launch a free code for the PC version of the game, but they haven’t done anything similar for older games.

If ever there was a previously released game ripe for getting the Play Anywhere treatment, though, it would be MCC. The game’s original release was a bust, with bugs, lag, and matchmaking issues that persisted for months Giving the existing player base the option to play on PC with new players would be a nice reward, especially since there won’t be cross-play, at least for now.

Later on in the panel, 343 Industries community director Brian Jarrard said that while cross-play is a possibility in the future, right now the team working on the port is just focused on getting the game up and running on par with the current console version. As MCC consists of six different games and eight different engines, porting it will likely be a unique challenge, which is one possible reason that features like cross-buy and cross-play aren’t currently in the cards.

MCC on PC is planned as a staggered release with Halo: Reach being the first available game in the collection. Jarrard announced a new beta initiative called Halo Insider that players can sign up for in order to get early access and start testing the game out in the near future. “That’s going to be happening I think sooner than people realize,” Jarrard said.