PS Plus January Update Has Something For Everyone

Characters in Life is Strange: Before the Storm play a roleplaying game.

Image: Deck Nine

If you’re a PlayStation Plus subscriber, you’re in for a pretty sweet time starting on January 17. And if you’re not, the first catalog update for 2023 is tough to say no to. The latest injection of games to Sony’s subscription service features some undead co-op slaying, Super Saiyan shenanigans, a couple of classic games, and much more.

The PlayStation Plus subscription service, much like other gaming subs, regularly updates with new games every month. The service is spread across three tiers, Essential, Extra, Premium, which each cost $10, $15, and $18 a month respectively. Premium gets you the largest catalog (it’s the only tier that nets you access to PSX games) as well as letting you take advantage of Sony’s game streaming service (once known as PS Now). This month’s highlights include Back 4 Blood, Dragon Ball FighterZ, Devil May Cry 5, Just Cause 4, Life Is Strange: Before the Storm, and Syphon Filter 3, among others.

In a blog update, Sony laid out the following additions to PS Plus Extra and Premium tiers:

PS Plus Extra and Premium PS4 games

Back 4 Blood
Dragon Ball FighterZ
Jett: The Far Shore
Just Cause 4: Reloaded
Life Is Strange: Before the Storm
Life Is Strange
Sayonara Wild Hearts
Omno
Erica

PS Plus Extra and Premium PS5 games

Back 4 Blood
Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition
Jett: The Far Shore
Just Cause 4: Reloaded

If you’re on the Premium tier, you’ll also get the following PlayStation One classics:

Syphon Filter 3
Star Wars Demolition
Hot Shots Golf 2

If you haven’t played Devil May Cry 5 yet and you like stylish hack-and-slash action, it should probably be your first download of the lot. Otherwise, I definitely recommend giving Syphon Filter 3 a spin. The stealthy action series never reached critical acclaim quite like Metal Gear Solid did, but it’s definitely a pleasant trip down PlayStation memory lane. Let’s not resurrect the Snake vs. Gabe wars in the comments though, please. (Obviously Snake wins.)

Dead Google Stadia Game Lives On Through Sneaky Steam Update

Image for article titled Dead Stadia Game Lives On Through Sneaky Steam Update

Image: Necrosoft

As Google prepares to kill off its Stadia streaming service for good, there have been a few parting gifts to emerge from its demise. Users got a final game, along with the ability to unlock the Bluetooth capabilities of their controllers (even if that was something they should have been able to do from day one), but one of the last surprises can be enjoyed by all of us. Especially those of us who never paid for Stadia in the first place.

Back in 2020 Necrosoft (finally) released Gunsport, a sci-fi take on 2D volleyball, as a Stadia exclusive. It was pretty cool! It was also, as a Stadia exclusive, a game that most of us never got to enjoy. In June 2022 it was followed by a sequel, Hyper Gunsport, which was much more widely available, since it came out on PC, Switch, Xbox and PlayStation.

Gunsport Stadia Teaser

While two completely separate games, they’ve now been brought a lot closer, with Necrosoft saying in a tweet earlier today “Since we care about game preservation we’ve made an offline version of Gunsport available in the Steam version of Hyper Gunsport, through the beta channel.”

You can see a video of this game-smuggling move (done by Necrosoft’s Lotte May) in action below:

If you’ve never had to use a Steam game’s beta channel system before, the video above will give you a quick rundown on how to activate the original game, then be able to easily switch between playing it and the sequel.

This is a very cool move! Not just because people are getting essentially a free video game, but because this is a super interesting way to implement a form of game preservation, one that thinks way outside the box but which, thanks to the way Steam is structured, also seems to work pretty damn well!

Fortnite’s New Weekly Quests Sucks, Even After Latest Update

Last month, Fortnite’s newest season, Chapter 4 Season 1, started. With it came some big changes, fresh content, and a new island to explore. Most of the new stuff this season has been great! But one change to how quests work has frustrated some players, myself included, and while Epic’s recent attempts to fix this problem have helped a bit, the situation isn’t completely remedied.

Over the last few years, Fortnite has become one of the biggest and most popular games in the world. One big reason Epic’s free-to-play online battle royale continues to be so successful is that the developer is constantly changing, improving, updating, and expanding the game via new seasons and chapters. For example, this season saw the introduction of new randomly generated perks that players choose every time they play. These perks, like one that makes your assault rifle’s first bullet do more damage, can shake up each match. However, not every change in Fortnite’s history is well received. Case in point, Epic’s decision this season to make weekly quests time-limited, forcing players to complete them in one week or miss out, has gone over pretty poorly among players who can’t play the game as much as others.

Epic Games

Before Chapter 4 Season 1, Fortnite had weekly quests that would be added to the game every week. (Like the name says.) But these quests would stick around in your quest log and could be completed anytime after they were added, letting you knock out easier ones first and target hard ones later. It also meant that if you took a few weeks off to play something else or live your life or whatever, you could come back and have a bunch of quests to complete, letting you level up your battle pass and continue to make progress on getting all the season’s rewards.

Now, things have changed. In this new season, weekly quests only stick around for the week they arrive. After that, they vanish, even if you haven’t finished them or logged in that week. This change makes it harder to level up your battle pass if you aren’t playing consistently. More annoyingly, some of these quests involve multiple steps that can take a lot of time to complete if you get unlucky or don’t have the time to invest each week in doing them. Sure, old weekly quests had multiple steps too, but you had more time to do them, so it wasn’t a big deal.

I held out some hope that Epic might change this after a few weeks of players criticizing the change on social media and Reddit. And yesterday, Epic did acknowledge the frustrations players had with this new system. But sadly, it’s not changing. Instead, Epic is just going to make multi-stage quests shorter and easier to complete. That’s nice, but I and many others still miss the old system, and not just because you had more time to do quests.

The old quest system also allowed you to skip quests until later in the season if it was too hard to complete due to other players trying to do it too. You see, when new weekly quests were added, a lot of players would focus on the new missions all at once. So if a quest asked you to go to a specific area and hunt three wolves or something, it would likely be you and 30 others all trying to complete it at once each match. Annoying! But as more weekly quests were added and the season went on, those earlier quests would become easier as more players moved forward to new missions, letting you pick off tricky quests later in the season with less competition.

I imagine Epic decided to make the changes to how Fortnite’s weekly quests work to encourage players to log on more frequently, which is also why the company runs weekly events, changes its store all the time, and offers daily quests and bonuses for completing them. Thing is, I think there were plenty of reasons before this season to log in almost every day to play Fortnite like the already mentioned daily quests as well as mid-season rewards, time-limited cosmetics, and in-game tournaments. And weekly quests were one system in the game that seemed built to support those players unable to play as often, which was nice. Now, it’s gone and seems unlikely to return anytime soon.

Blizzard’s ‘Workplace Ranking’ For Employees Sounds Like Hell [Update]

A story ran on Bloomberg earlier today with the headline “Blizzard Manager Departs In Protest of Employee Ranking System”. It sounds very businessy, maybe something that would land on the Linkedin news feed of a HR manager, but the stuff it’s describing is important because it sounds absolutely dystopian.

Here’s how that “employee ranking system” is described in the report:

In 2021, Blizzard, a unit of Activision Blizzard Inc., implemented a process called stack ranking, in which employees are ranked on a bell curve and managers must give low ratings to a certain percentage of staff, according to people familiar with the change who asked not to be named discussing a private matter. Managers were expected to give a poor “developing” status to roughly 5% of employees on their teams, which would lower their profit-sharing bonus money and could hamper them from receiving raises or promotions in the near future…

You’ll have to forgive me here, as despite my tenure in this job I still live and work in Australia and so aren’t fully up to speed on the specifics of American office conditions, but what the fuck? You’re telling me this company has implemented a system where 5% of its workforce, even if they’re doing just fine, even if they’re going a great job, will be targeted—and suffer financially—just to meet a quota?

No wonder people are pissed! One of those people, Brian Birmingham, a co-lead developer on World of Warcraft Classic, got so mad that according to Bloomberg’s report he emailed staff last week to “to express his frustration with this system”.

When team leads asked why we had to do this, World of Warcraft directors explained that while they did not agree, the reasons given by executive leadership were that it was important to squeeze the bottom-most performers as a way to make sure everybody continues to grow. This sort of policy encourages competition between employees, sabotage of one another’s work, a desire for people to find low-performing teams that they can be the best-performing worker on, and ultimately erodes trust and destroys creativity.

Birmingham goes on to say he can’t work under a system like this, which he and other managers (who were asked to keep it a secret!) had managed to “circumvent or skip” for the last few years but which had recently begun to be enforced. He reportedly told staff he would be leaving the company if the policy was not reversed, but shortly after the email was sent he was called into HR and “terminated”.

If you work at Blizzard and have been impacted by this policy, and would like to share your experiences, you can contact us here.

UPDATE 8:48pm ETBirmingham has released a lengthy statement on Twitter expanding on his thoughts about the policy and about the corporate leadership situation in general. It begins here:

The Sims 4’s Big Baby Update Is Looking Promising

The latest Behind the Sims Summit gave a look at what’s to come for the life sim franchise across The Sims 4, mobile games The Sims Mobile and The Sims FreePlay, and The Sims 5 (we mean Project Rene). And yes, babies that aren’t objects will come soon.

When are babies coming to The Sims 4?

Teased at the October 2022 Behind the Sims Summit, the massive baby update is coming on March 14. Babies have been a major part of The Sims, but since its 2014 release, babies in The Sims 4 have been mere objects. After your Sim delivered the baby, or babies, they sat in their cradles doing…well, not much of anything. Your Sims could interact with the babies in a very limited fashion, feeding them, changing their diapers, and choosing from a spat of social interactions. But they could never be taken out of the cradle, you couldn’t dress them, and you couldn’t even really distinguish any unique facial features on them.

Beginning March 14, Simmers will have a host of new options. Firstly, there will be customization options, allowing each rugrat to exist as their own person. There are new hair options, clothes, and accessories.

Since babies are now free and unchained from their bassinets, other Sims can interact with the tikes in new ways: holding them, nursing them, playing with them, and even handing them off when to other Sims. They can interact with other Sims of all ages, so now your fictional families won’t seem like a group therapy session waiting to happen. Babies will also get traits. Imagine! A baby with more personality than a static object!

Is there going to be a new Sims 4 Expansion Pack?

Yes! Unfortunately, The Sims team didn’t share anything about it. We’ll have to wait just a bit longer until February 2 for more information. That’s also two days before the franchise’s 23rd anniversary.

However, the upcoming Expansion Pack is largely expected to be a “Generations” Pack. There are many somewhat classic Sims Expansion Packs, and Generations, which adds gameplay and items relating to families, is one of them. This speculation is due to its release close to the big babies update. The Behind the SIms Summit also referenced it with the phrase, “Meet the family.” Luckily, we won’t have to wait long to find out for sure.

What do we know about The Sims 5?

The Sims team gave more updates on the next iteration of the iconic series, nicknamed Project Rene, during today’s Sims Summit. Much of it built upon the scant details fans got during the last Sims Summit in October. Grant Rodiek, game director for Project Rene, discussed cross-play between mobile and PC and multiplayer options.

According to Rodiek, PC will offer players the full Sims experience with more powerful design capabilities, while being able to play on the go on mobile. The game director gave an example of playing on PC at home and on mobile while out at a park with his toddler.

For multiplayer, the largely single-player franchise, Rodiek stressed that The Sims 5 is not going to go the MMO route, but will instead allow players to invite friends as they want. This sounds much like Animal Crossing, for example, which is a single-player game that allows players to invite friends over to their islands when they want, and to keep things a solo mission if they don’t.

Since the announcement late last year, the team began rolling out limited playtesting “small snippets of the game,” including apartment customization, multiplayer customization, and uploading furniture and item design.

But the team was still adamant that development is still ongoing. Rodiek specifically said the next generation is “years out.”

Are there any updates to The Sims Mobile and FreePlay mobile games?

Both mobile games, yes there are two, are getting some love.

The Sims Mobile will celebrate the anniversary of The Sims franchise with a plumbob disco (plumbobs are the, usually green, 3D diamonds that appear over Sims heads indicating how they’re doing). The phone game is also getting ready to celebrate its fifth anniversary with new items tied to a treasure hunt. The Sims Mobile will also see regular seasonal updates and another Sims Festival, which is a monthly recurring event in the game.

Meanwhile, The Sims FreePlay will add a new area to its desert map in the Sims Springs town in April that players can customize. There will be fixer-upper opportunities, according to the Summit, and there will be an amusement park grand prize as you make your way through the map. FreePlay apparently hasn’t gotten any additional music since its launch 11 years ago. The mobile game will add tunes from other Sims games which can be heard via the Sim FM station on stereos.

The Sims 4 Update Adds Trans-Inclusive Top Surgery Body Scars

A substantial update for The Sims 4 dropped on PC and consoles today, and with it comes a new suite of control schemes and customization options. This involves things like hearing aids and shapewear, but one addition is expressly targeted at trans Simmers in an effort to make them feel included and visible.

Developer Maxis took to the game’s official website to break down The Sims 4‘s latest update, which includes chest binders and top surgery scars.

“Under the Body category, all players can find a Body Scars category with an option for Teen and older male Sims (masculine or feminine frame) to add a top surgery scar to their Sims,” the update reads.

“I finally get to see myself in game,” one person tweeted in all caps.

“Top surgery scars and binders?! That’s so cool,” exclaimed another tweeter. “So happy more representation is being added to the game.”

Binders and shapewear can compress someone’s chest or give more curvature to their body. In other words, these articles of clothing act as extra ways for trans folks to feel more comfortable in themselves, especially if they can’t afford or aren’t ready for body-altering surgeries.

“Binders and top surgery scars in base game,” a tweeter asked in all caps. “[Let’s fucking go, this is a] huge dub of the transmascs.”

“Oh my god I’m literally crying,” said another tweeter with crying emojis. “Finally, binders and top surgery! My little trans heart is so happy.”

There are also medical wearables, such as glucose monitors and hearing aids, which makes The Sims 4 all more inclusive for the disability community as well. It’s good shit.

“Binders, top surgery scars, hearing aids, and glucose monitors?” asked one tweeter about this new Sims 4 patch. “This is the best update since we could have feminine clothing on masculine frames and vice versa.”

Kotaku reached out to EA for comment.

The team also added new ways to actually control and interact with the game on console specifically, making navigation easier and bringing it closer to the PC version. All beneficial quality-of-life improvements.

Read More: The Sims 4‘s Big Baby Update Is Looking Promising

Again, this is all extremely good shit. Though, there appear to be some kinks that still need to be ironed out a little bit, like confusion around where things are located and top surgery scars seemingly not populating for some folks. However, that Maxis and, by extension, EA is aware of and acknowledge its trans community in such a representative way makes me feel good. Maybe other studios will follow suit, making trans-inclusive representation something worth investing in and implementing in games.

 

Witcher 3 Next-Gen Update May Have Added Realistic Vaginas

This post contains NSFW references, proceed at your own risk.

The highly anticipated Witcher 3: Wild Hunt next-gen update boasts a lot of things: ray tracing, DLSS, a 60fps performance mode, and, it seems, fully-formed labia. Yes, it appears that the updated version of the wildly popular CDPR game (which dropped as a free download in December of last year) has added realistic genitals for its full-frontal ladies, complete with neatly trimmed landing strips. No word yet on whether this lewder aspect of the game will make it into Netflix’s next season of the Liam Hemsworth-led show.

Read More: 15+ Epic Games To Play After The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

In the 2015 version of the game (which has more than 200 game of the year awards and is considered one of the best RPGs ever made) any female full frontal nudity had a distinct Barbie doll effect: impossibly smooth and hairless mons pubis and the complete absence of discernible labia majora. Naturally, explicit mods cropped up that gave the often-naked female NPCs “visible vaginas and pubic hair,” because men exist and the internet is unhinged. That one’s racked up some 188,000 downloads.

Now, however, according to NSFW screenshots shared on Reddit and some real-life player testimony—my fiancé was taken aback when trying to take a picture in photo mode and noticed a bruxa had an entire bruxussy—some of The Witcher 3 women have fully formed vaginas and perfectly coiffed pubic hair. (It seems to be just the ones who are monsters, RIP.)

Though I can’t get to a point in the game to confirm this (the only full-frontal female nudity I’m aware of is either the three crones in Crookback Bog or the bruxae you can encounter on your travels), I did head to the Passiflora brothel in Novigrad, remembering that there was a bug in the original version of the game whereby one of the sex workers was fully nude in the bath. You could make her stand up by unceremoniously jumping in fully clothed. In the next-gen version of The Witcher 3, she’s got panties on no matter how many times I reload a save or exit and re-enter the Passiflora.

Knowing that The Witcher 3 next-gen updates include “fully integrated fan-made mods including 4K textures and models,” it’s only natural to consider that the realistic vagina one is one of those mods—especially when the choice of pubic hair is so distinctly similar to one of the mod’s options. So I reached out to CDPR for comment. “We’re looking into it and will have more information in the coming days,” a rep told me via email.

I’ve also reached out to the above mod’s creator via NexusMods DMs, but did not receive a response in time for publication (they haven’t been active for years). If and when we get confirmation that The Witcher 3 next-gen updates redefined the meaning of 4K textures, we’ll update this story accordingly.

Update 2/10/2023 12:18 p.m. ET: Kotaku has received an official statement from CDPR stating the addition of the realistic vaginas was “unintended” and will be removed. You can read the full story here.

16 Years After Release, Team Fortress 2 Getting A Major Update

I know it is still available and being played, but Team Fortress 2 can at times feel like a game from a different age. Partly because it is, but also because it’s so old—and has gone so long without a major update—that you’d be forgiven for thinking it was on its last legs. But no!

The game’s website—which charmingly hasn’t appeared to have been updated since the game’s launch—hummed into life today, posting a news blog called “Attention, Steam Workshop Creators!”. It says that not only will the game be getting a “a full-on update-sized update” later this year, with “with items, maps, taunts, unusual effects, war paints and who knows what else?!”, but that the update will also include some contributions from the game’s community as well.

Steam Workshop Creators, can we have your attention please. The following message is so urgent, so time-sensitive, we made the executive decision to skip TikTok and Twitter entirely and break the glass on the most bleeding-edge communication technology available.

Welcome to the future. Welcome… to a “blog-post”.

“Wow!” you’re probably thinking. “I forgot how hard reading is!” Yeah, it’s scary how fast you lose that. Don’t worry, we’ll be brief:

The last few Team Fortress summer events have only been item updates. But this year, we’re planning on shipping a full-on update-sized update — with items, maps, taunts, unusual effects, war paints and who knows what else?! Which means we need Steam Workshop content! YOUR Steam Workshop content!

So get to work! (Or back to work, if you were already working but got distracted when the entire internet simultaneously found out about this state-of-the-art blog-post.) Make sure to get your submissions into the Steam Workshop by May 1st, so they can be considered for this as-yet-unnamed, un-themed, but still very exciting summer-situated (but not summer-themed) (unless you wanted to develop summer-themed stuff) update.

This is the first good news the game’s community have had for a while, since over the last few years the only things outsiders have heard about Team Fortress 2 has been the enormous issues the game has had with bots, and the userbase’s subsequent protests about it.

No Man’s Sky Update Boosts Graphics, Adds Cool Stuff

A No Man's Sky player is shown walking through a grassy area with alien wildlife scattered throughout.

Image: Hello Games

No Man’s Sky consistently contributes to its quest to become one of video games’ greatest redemption stories with regular, important updates, and the next one is no exception. The upcoming Fractal Update is actually going to make Hello Games’ open-universe space sim prettier nearly seven years after its original launch.

No Man’s Sky Fractal Update Trailer

The studio is positioning the Fractal Update as a PlayStation VR2-focused patch, as it’s adding an overhaul to how the game plays on VR headsets just in time for Sony’s new peripheral. This includes allowing you to move your personal forcefield with your non-dominant hand to more easily block enemy attacks, as well as revamping mechanics like base building and navigating the galaxy map with new controls to make them more intuitive for VR users. But while the VR updates are nice, if you’re not playing No Man’s Sky with a headset, the Fractal Update is also improving the game’s HDR lighting to bolster the visual experience across the board.

The comparison shots the studio used in its blog post e are pretty stark in contrast. The new lighting doesn’t feel like it’s lost any of No Man’s Sky’s colorful, neon-drenched visual identity, but without the blinding bursts of lighting, it’s easier to see and appreciate the minute details and notice more contrasting colors in its place. It looks great.

The inside of a space craft in No Man's Sky is shown with a bright, blown out light in the background.

Image: Hello Games

The inside of a space craft in No Man's Sky is shown with notably dimmer lights in the background, allowing for much more contrast and detail in the final product.

Image: Hello Games

Alongside VR changes and a visual update, No Man’s Sky is also getting a few tweaks for the Switch, including adding Nexus Missions, a new start up screen that lets you more easily choose between playing alone or playing with friends, and individual descriptors for its options menu. Also exciting is new accessibility features, which include changes to mechanics like automatic resource scanning to help people who have trouble using the game’s standard simultaneous button pushing, as well as options to change menu text size, because words should always be bigger.

No Man’s Sky is seven years into its life, and even still Hello Games is putting out huge, free updates. Fractal is focused pretty heavily on PlayStation VR2, but there’s a lot here for the general player base regardless of what system they’re playing on. It’s really impressive seeing how far the game has come and continues to go. And now it looks even prettier, so watching these strides just got a little bit nicer.

Pokémon Scarlet And Violet’s Big Update Is Deleting Save Files

Pokemon trainers from different schools face off.

Image: Nintendo / Kotaku

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet launched in an incredibly rough state last November, and it seems that the latest patch has introduced an even bigger problem for its players. Fans on Reddit have reported that connecting to the Pokémon Go app or downloading the DLC has caused them to lose their entire save files.

Here’s the worst part: There’s not one singular cause of this save-corrupting bug. Some people lost hundreds of hours of progress after syncing the game with Pokémon Go, a new feature that allows players to send postcards to one another. Others had their saves wiped by downloading the DLC. Another person lost shinies merely from buying the DLC. One person did all of the above and managed to send multiple postcards before their save file was corrupted. There were a lucky few who didn’t encounter either issue from sending postcards or downloading the DLC, but some players lost hundreds of shiny Pokémon after their save file corrupted.

According to one Reddit user who experienced the save error, their copy was still playable when they created a new Switch profile, which they opted for out of fear that their original file might be gone forever if they played on their first profile. The game just won’t recognize the corrupted save file, and even using the save recovery method hasn’t worked for the OP.

Some players tried to contact Nintendo support to get their Pokémon back. One support agent reportedly told a player that the publisher was “looking into it” before closing their ticket. Another redditor’s customer service representative reportedly brought up the possibility of transferring Pokémon from their corrupted save onto Pokémon Home (an app that allows you to send your Pokémon to the cloud) once the compatibility launches.

Kotaku reached out to ask Nintendo about whether or not a fix will be coming soon but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

This bug only seems to have affected a small number of people, but it could theoretically hit anyone. And there’s not a lot that we know about this bug, so regardless of how excited you are for the Scarlet and Violet’s pre-order bonuses, it might be best to hold off on purchasing the DLC until Nintendo acknowledges and fixes the issue.

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