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The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

Star Wars Battlefront

THE LOWS

Samuel Roberts: “I’ll pay you $60 now, then $50 when we get to Alderaan”
Oof. I asked DICE about season passes and DLC when I played the Star Wars beta in Stockholm several weeks ago and they wouldn’t talk about it. I then asked whether they thought it fragmented the player base, and whether DICE was conscious of that. Here’s what design director Niklas Fegraeus said in response at the time: “Yeah, of course. Whatever you design, you need to look at what it does, what it gives players and so forth. That's always part of the discussion.”

This week, EA announced the $50 season pass of mysterious content for its multiplayer shooter. I wasn’t surprised by this but a little disappointed that’s come so early. Essentially, I worry Battlefront is now a game I can enjoy for a finite amount of time before the player base is split up. It being Star Wars is likely to make it last longer, but, well… did no-one learn anything from Evolve?

James Davenport: I find your lack of VoIP disturbing
News broke on the tail of the Star Wars Battlefront beta that it won’t come with built-in voice chat. Everyone has their favorite third-party VoIP solution, but in a game that depends entirely on how a team works together, the lack of native voice comms has the potential to sabotage the game. I spent most of my time in the beta wondering how the hell to coerce other players into coordinating with me. It felt hopeless, like we were all just running towards quick, inevitable laser death and combing the battlefield for fleeting GIFs. During The PC Gamer Show, we discussed how we’re a bit sour on the beta as a whole, so the VoIP absence only reinforces my fear that it’s a game for the lowest common denominator in the worst way possible. Simplicity doesn’t always beget accessibility, and in losing the VoIP Battlefront has started to solidify in my mind as a novel arcadey shooter.

Rocket League Delorean Slide

Chris Livingston: Live and let livery
Evan recently wrote about how weapon skins are a huge reason behind Counter-Strike: Global Offensive's massive popularity. My initial thought was: really? I know people buy and trade skins, and I've certainly have done my fair share of hat-swapping in Team Fortress 2. I don't doubt people are into cosmetic items, I just never thought of them as an actual reason for playing. I figured maybe it was something to devote a little time to while playing.

But then I realized I've not played Rocket League in weeks, a game I was really enjoying. I also realized that I stopped playing right around the time I'd unlocked every car body, every paint job, every hat, and every whatever you call the stuff that shoots out of the back of your rocket car. And now that the famous time-traveling Delorean is being added via paid DLC, I'm thinking about playing again.

I feel sort of dumb about this. How shallow am I that I'll stop playing a game because I'm no longer being rewarded with new tires and antenna toppers after each game? And how lame am I that I'm only going back because they're letting me pay for a new virtual car?

Chris Thursten: Na’Vi no more
Na'Vi, disbanded. There's a strange poetry to losing this legendary Dota 2 team in the same week as Alliance's return to relevance. The rivalry between the two and the diametrically-opposed schools of play that they represented formed the basis of some of the best Dota 2 I've ever seen. I'll never forget being there for the International 2013 grand finals. I doubt I'd be editing PC Gamer Pro today if I had been anywhere else back then.

The decision to release the roster makes sense, on paper, yet it seems strange to think that Dendi, Funn1k and XBOCT aren't in a Dota 2 squad any more. I suspect that relatively newcomers SoNNeikO and PSM will be fine: the former in particular did himself proud at the International this year. I don't know what will become of the others: a new team, some kind of Eastern European/Russian supergroup, maybe. Possibly casting or streaming. Still, for many, Dendi IS Dota 2.

It will likely take many years for there to be another Na'Vi squad as beloved as this one was in its prime, if that's even possible. I sometimes wonder if esports would be better served by more stable rosters: teams losing one or two people and crumbling is a story I've seen so many times. As my friend PyrionFlax pointed out on Twitter today, Na'Vi's number was up as early as the post-TI4 reshuffle: but it's still weird, and sad, to see their sun finally set.

The current banner on the (very angry) /r/PaydayTheHeist subreddit

The current banner on the (very angry) /r/PaydayTheHeist subreddit

Tom Marks: Pay2Day
After multiple instances of saying it would never happen, Payday 2—a game I’ve really enjoyed in the past—has announced it will be adding microtransactions in the form of gun skins similar to TF2 and CS:GO’s Crate/Key system, where you can randomly get a “Safe” that contains a skin but can only be opened by purchasing a “Drill” with real money. However, unlike those games, these skins can potentially have stat-boosting effects for the gun they are applied to. This announcement was made on the first day Crimefest, which was advertised as 10 days of free updates to Payday 2. Simply put, it’s kind of bullshit.

A free update that adds microtransactions is not free. Permanent stat boosts locked behind payment walls is toxic to a game’s health, even in a PvE game. Giving your players confidence that you would never add microtransactions and then changing your mind with no warning is disrespectful. But the most frustrating part of all of this is that the players who don’t buy Drills and just want to ignore this part of the game literally can’t, because getting a Safe will randomly occur at the end of a match, replacing your usual reward, and not buying skins will categorically put you at a disadvantage stats-wise.

More than anything, I’m just disappointed that this would happen with no warning. This is a game that has been well supported by the developers for a long time now. Yes, there’s been a large amount of DLC for it, but there have also been free updates and community events. Not every company can provide a CD Projekt-like level of free to support for their games, but if Overkill didn’t see this backlash coming, then they apparently have little understanding of today’s PC gamers.

Tom Senior: Zee sickness
I worry that my increasingly stunted attention span is ruining my ability to enjoy art. I’m the guy in the gallery who passes over everything demanding an immediate emotional hit. Come on, Bacon, you’ve got three-to-five seconds to impress me before I blow away like a distracted leaf. I envy those that can sit and look at a painting, a novel, a comic or the works of Michael Bay with laser focus for more than a minute.

They are the sort of people who can enjoy Sunless Sea, the interactive fiction/resource management sailing sim from Failbetter Games. As you visit the islands of the Unterzee you uncover little story tidbits that develop with each visit. You spend a lot of time sailing around, watching your food and fuel supplies dwindle. The ocean sets the mood. It’s murky, and full of horrible crab monsters. But I’m not scared, I’m checking Twitter. After half an hour I’m wondering if I can just read all of the stories on a wiki. I am a bad person who doesn’t deserve nice things. I wonder if I can undo my condition, by pinning my eyes open Clockwork Orange style and watching the 209-minute director’s cut of Das Boot over and over. Until then, gentle narrative games are off the playlist.