Xbox’s Director of Programming and long-time public figure in the company’s history, Larry ‘Major Nelson’ Hryb has announced he’s leaving Microsoft after 22 years at the company.
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Hryb has been a figurehead for the Xbox brand for a long time. Even looking back for examples of Kotaku’s past coverage of his career brings up (now broken) podcasts and articles dating back over 15 years. Alongside public-facing work like the Xbox podcast, Hryb has been one of the more fan-focused members of the Xbox team, even taking part in fan meet and greets. So while his colleagues at Microsoft will likely feel his absence, it’s fair to say that much of the Xbox community will feel it, as well.
Hryb made the announcement on his personal Twitter account, where he thanked Xbox fans and his colleagues at Microsoft as he looked toward the “next chapter” of his career.
“After 20 incredible years, I have decided to take a step back and work on the next chapter of my career,” he wrote. “As I take a moment and think about all we have done together, I want to thank the millions of gamers around the world who have included me as part of their lives. Also, thanks to Xbox team members for trusting me to have a direct dialogue with our customers. The future is bright for Xbox and as a gamer, I am excited to see the evolution.”
At the end of his Twitter thread, Hryb also confirmed that Xbox’s official podcast (originally called Major Nelson Radio), will be taking a hiatus for the summer and will return in a new format without him.
Reviews have started pouring in for Starfield, the highly anticipated and allegedly gargantuan space RPG from Bethesda, which comes out worldwide on September 6. And though the reviews are mostly positive, and reports suggest that this may be the least buggy Bethesda launch yet, one content creator has pointed out a major problem with the Xbox and PC exclusive: accessibility.
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Steve Saylor, a content creator and accessibility consultant who has worked with studios like Naughty Dog, Ubisoft, and Raven Software, posted a Starfield accessibility review on YouTube, calling it “extremely disappointing.” “I didn’t know when Todd Howard said on @KindaFunnyVids that they would have big font mode that was all they would have,” Saylor tweeted.
Starfield’s accessibility problems
“If folks were hoping space would be accessible, it is not,” he says in the 13-and-a-half-minute long video. “I wish I could say that this was going to be the first accessible hit from Bethesda–it is not. Sadly, not even close.” Saylor’s video then shows the accessibility tab in Starfield’s settings menu, and the four options available: general subtitles, dialogue subtitles, toggle iron sights, and large menu fonts, all of which can simply be toggled on or off.
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The big font mode is a crucial feature, since so much of Starfield relies on navigating text-heavy menus. “For the majority of the in-game menus—and there are a lot—the text is not perfect, but manageable,” Saylor, who is legally blind, said before pointing to the enlarged text’s lack of further customization options as another problem.
But the lack of font customization is most egregious when it comes to subtitles. There’s no ability for players to change the font-type, color, or background opacity for the subtitles, and since Starfield uses a stylized, computer-y font throughout, Saylor worries that it may be an issue for folks with dyslexia. “If you’re not happy with the default, you’re out of luck,” he said. The biggest issue is the contrast—there’s so little contrast throughout the menus and the in-game hud, and because the text is white it can often get lost on lighter-colored planets or even in bright parts of space (though Starfield swaps the font to blue when in your spaceship).
The Xbox Series X and S version offers some degree of button remapping that could help players with motor disabilities, but it’s unclear how well that works on PC. Saylor notes that Starfield has a small selection of “okay” accessibility features that don’t require customization, like a center dot that helps with motion sickness and high-contrast visuals when using the in-game scanner. But the overall offering pales in comparison to that of blockbuster games like The Last of Us Part II, which has around 60 different accessibility options including a high-contrast mode, a magnification feature, text-to-speech options, and customizable subtitles.
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Despite all of this, Saylor makes sure to point out that he still loves Starfield (he praises its “gorgeous soundtrack” and “intriguing” companions), and makes it clear that the blame for its lack of accessibility should not be placed on Xbox’s shoulders—Microsoft has made accessibility a cornerstone of its gaming business in recent years—but on Bethesda’s.
“Some folks may think that modding will help with accessibility, and yes, modding Bethesda games has helped in the past. But that is not the best way to get around accessibility,” Saylor told Kotaku over X (formerly Twitter) DM. “Only because if Bethesda releases a patch or an update, that mod could break, and it’s up to the modder to want to go in and fix it. Which can take time and there’s no guarantee it will be done. I wanted to add that to my review, but didn’t have time.”
It’s unclear if future Starfield updates will add more accessibility options, but with Bethesda now under the Xbox umbrella, you’d certainly hope so. Starfield launches for Xbox and PC on September 1 for players who shelled out for the special edition, and September 6 for everyone else.
After months of silence, vampire shooter Redfall is receiving its biggest update yet following a disastrous launch back in May. The second big patch will add the Game Pass multiplayer game’s long-awaited 60 frames-per-second mode on Xbox Series X/S, as well as a host of gameplay improvements and bug fixes.
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“Today’s update brings Performance Mode to Xbox Series X/S, stealth takedowns, a bevy of new controller settings, and a lot more changes to Redfall,” the development team wrote on Bethesda’s website. While the 60fps mode is the biggest addition, a raft of accessibility features and improvements to stealth gameplay and aiming sensitivity are also welcome changes. Whether it’s enough to begin addressing some of the deeper disappointment around Redfall’s lackluster enemy encounters and unfulfilling progression system remains to be seen.
Redfall was panned by many critics and players when it launched earlier this year. Expected to be the first-party blockbuster that would end Microsoft’s drought of console exclusives, it instead failed to live up to the months of marketing hype that preceded it. In addition to bugs, performance issues, and complaints about the core gameplay loop, it also launched on the “next-gen” Xbox Series X/S with a “next-gen” price tag of $70 but without the 60fps performance option that players on PC would have access to.
Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer apologized for the situation at the time, but a report by Bloomberg later revealed other issues underlying the game’s rough development. Made by Arkane, best known for immersive sims like Prey and Dishonored, Redfall was instead an online multiplayer game that at one point was planned to include microtransactions as part of a push by parent company ZeniMax into live-service monetization. While those features were stripped out, a lack of development resources and constant turnover reportedly made it hard for the studio to deliver on Redfall’s confusing blend of genres and gameplay mechanics.
Recently, Bethesda marketing head Pete Hines said in an interview that despite the harsh reception, Redfall wouldn’t be abandoned. Instead, he expected new players joining Game Pass a decade from now to give the game a shot and enjoy it thanks to ongoing post-launch support. With Cyberpunk 2077‘s recent 2.0 victory lap after a botched release, many are wondering if Redfall can pull of something similar, or if Microsoft will pour the money into it required to make that happen.
If it does, it will still have a big uphill battle to fight. The game only has a few dozen players on Steam at any given moment. Still, Redfall’s second update is a start.
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.