The Best Video Game News This Week: Cyberpunk 2077 crunch, free Half-Life, and Project: Mara

The Best Video Game News This Week: Cyberpunk 2077 crunch, free Half-Life, and Project: Mara
Imogen Donovan Updated on by

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It’s Friday! Or is it? Time is a social construct, so I could tell you it’s Wednesday today, and how could you prove me wrong? It’s Friday because it’s the fifth day this week, but when did this week start? Can’t prove that either, I’m afraid. Well, the calendar in the bottom right corner of the monitor says it’s Friday. Who told the computer that it’s Friday? Anyone could change that display in the settings. What I can say, for certain, is that events occurred and news transpired in this indefinable time period, and it’s been turned into bite-size chunks, here in the round-up…

I like horror games. I miss horror games. I played The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan with my friends on New Year’s Eve, but that didn’t hit the spot. Though it’s got a cool multiplayer mechanic, Man of Medan delivers its scares flattened on a reel of film. They kind of unfold in front of you, happening to somebody else, and no matter how charming Supermassive’s cast is, I can’t really care for them (sorry, Shawn). The logical step would be to step into the shoes of these people and look through their eyes. Lots of first-person horror games are… almost identical to each other. I plod through a two bed, one bathroom house while a ghost stalks me, seeking my repentance for offing my wife and daughter. Extra credit for a crayon scrawl pinned to the fridge telling me how much I am loved.

Anyway. What about a castle? Our preoccupation with making horror grounded, personable, and disproportionately affecting stubbly white dads has lost sight of the grandeur of a fortress. The echoey, endless hallways and unimaginably heavy doors that clang closed with an upsetting finality. The skittering of rodents and the plush atriums that cast shadows that shift in the corner of your eye. Also, I’m looking at the Wikipedia entry for a list of castles in Slovakia, and there are some serious contenders here. Nový zámok sits six hundred metres above sea level, and it’s got six floors and four bastions. I love the idea of themed floors that become increasingly surreal as you make your way to the top, and its clock chiming at odd moments to set you on edge. Those seeking something a little more classic should settle for Spiš Castle. This was the seat of the kings of Hungary and changed hands between multiple families from the 15th century to the mid-20th century. Why? (it explains in the Wikipedia entry). Here’s the news.

Left 4 Dead 3 is not happening, confirms Valve

“We’ve seen rumours to this effect for the last couple of months,” Valve said in a statement.“We did briefly explore some Left 4 Dead next opportunities a few years ago. But we are absolutely not working on anything L4D related now, and haven’t for years. It’s clear some people are having fun creating misinformation to spin up the community and other outlets. Unfortunately, for now a new L4D game is not something we’re working on.” A report claimed that the developer was stunned by the reception to Half-Life: Alyx, and wanted those who purchased its own VR hardware—the Valve Index—to get a bang for their buck. A new Left 4 Dead game in virtual reality would achieve this and as a result, the company “change[d] everything about their future plans for virtual reality, public communication, and game development in general,” alleged the leak. We now know this didn’t happen, and Left 4 Dead won’t be returning for some time. 

Phil Spencer calls Xbox Adaptive Controller Switch mod “incredible”

“Finished! Ava gives my homemade #accessibility controller V1.0 the thumbs up. She can play @Nintendo #BreathoftheWild on her #switch like her friends now. All thanks to @Microsoft ,” said educator Rory Steel. He modded the Xbox Adaptive Controller to be compatible with the Nintendo Switch, and his daughter Ava is delighted with the results. It’s very impressive, because at the moment, the Adaptive Controller will only work with hardware that has USB ports. Microsoft has expressed its wish for the controller to work with other platforms, and Xbox boss Phil Spencer caught wind of Steel’s work, calling it “incredible.”

Rockstar Games counters report claiming that it took 40 per cent of industry tax relief in 2019

Tax Watch UK has claimed that Rockstar North—the Grand Theft Auto developer based in Edinburgh—snapped up almost 40 per cent of the total tax relief claims in the industry, amounting to £37.6 million. Rockstar Games responded to the report that criticised it for taking funding away from independent developers, stating that “well over 1,000 highly skilled and long term jobs across London, Lincoln, Yorkshire and Scotland” have been created by the company. Rockstar Games maintained that its activities “solidif[ies] the UK’s position at the forefront of video game development well into the future.” UKIE also came to the defence of the Video Games Tax Relief initiative, and said that it “delivers a great return on investment for the taxpayer.” 

Cyberpunk 2077 crunch is hardly the “doom and gloom of The Witcher 3,” claims report

It was disheartening to hear that the Cyberpunk 2077 delay would not relieve the pressure exerted on the development teams at CD Projekt Red. “To some degree, yes—to be honest. We try to limit crunch as much as possible, but it is the final stage. We try to be reasonable in this regard, but yes. Unfortunately,” said CEO Adam Kicinski. A story from a Cyberpunk 2077 developer has surfaced, and it claimed that the current conditions are more lenient than they were for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. “The situation at the studio now is very far from the doom and gloom times of The Witcher 3’s final year,” they described. “I’m glad that we could go past that as a studio. We’re not fully there yet, but I expect there will always be people staying late resulting from a mix of deadlines and high ambition.” The anonymous employee said that “if we manage to do our stuff on time and it gets approved by QA we can leave after eight hours,” with no repercussions. 

The Half-Life series is free-to-play until Half-Life: Alyx launches 

Half-Life is a really old game. It was released in 1998, followed by expansions Opposing Force and Blue Shift in 1999 and 2001. Half-Life 2 came out in 2004, and now, the new Half-Life: Alyx takes a turn to virtual reality for the established series. It’s funny, because it feels like Half-Life only came out yesterday. Maybe, that’s because no one on this green earth has stopped talking about it, for the past twenty-two years. Anyway. To get everyone up to speed for the next chapter, the games are now free to play until March, which is when Half-Life: Alyx is expected to release.

Riot Games plaintiffs may be owed $400 million due to gender pay gap

In the summer of last year, it was determined that a $10 million settlement sum will be paid to every female employee at Riot Games to reconcile its class-action lawsuit. Then, two state agencies contributed their own investigations into the lawsuit and claimed that the plaintiffs may in fact be owed $400 million due to the gender pay gap. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing also mentioned that “no enforceable changes to employment policies, at a company alleged to be rife with sexism, are part of the settlement,” in spite of efforts of Riot Games towards inclusivity in the workplace. The publisher has hit back against the reports and deemed the conclusions to be “reckless, misleading, and wholly unsupported.” On January 31, there will be a hearing to decide whether the DFEH and the DLSE have the right to weigh in on the lawsuit, and, if permitted, the $10 million settlement will be refused. “We are particularly dismayed that the filing downplays and ignores the efforts we have made with respect to diversity, inclusion, and culture over the past 18 months. We look forward to making our case to the Court,” said Riot Games representative Joe Hixson.

Ninja Theory reveals Project: Mara, an exploration of “mental terror”

An “in-development experimental title that explores new ways of storytelling,” Project: Mara draws upon the psychological and interpersonal research resulting from the development of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. Ninja Theory will produce Bleeding Edge and Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II alongside the new experimental title, and it promises to “recreate the horrors of the mind as accurately and realistically as possible.” Those interested in how Project: Mara takes shape will be able to keep up with the Dreadnought Diaries, which will showcase the developer’s latest work in episodic vlogs. 

Housemarque’s “most ambitious” project could be a PS5 game

The evidence? The Resogun developer began beavering away on a new project two years ago, claiming that their roots in arcade genre games were over. Earlier this week, CEO Ilari Kuittinen posted an update on the company’s “biggest and most ambitious title yet,” which was made possible by “amazing support from our yet-to-be announced partner.” It’s a AAA game in “full scale production,” and Housemarque will be revealing it once it gets the green light from its publisher. Looking back on the developer’s roster of games, four of its most recently released games were published by Sony, and eight of the games in its portfolio are exclusive to PlayStation. Kuittinen even mentioned that this game marks the “next evolution” for Housemarque, and that this year will be “full of exciting surprises.” The PlayStation 5 launches in late 2020, but Sony is yet to officially unveil the product. One opportunity would be to show off Housemarque’s upcoming game running on the swishy hardware at one of the “hundreds of consumer events” that Sony will attend instead of E3 2020. Of course, we don’t know that this is the case, so we’ll have to sit tight and see.