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This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

THE LOWS

Jody Macgregor: I hope you had the time of your life

This is my last week as Indie Editor. Don't worry, our coverage of indie games isn't going anywhere, it just won't be the responsibility of a full-time editor any more. I'm stepping sideways into a new role as Weekend Editor, making sure you've got stuff to read on the days when you're supposed to be goofing off on the internet. Austin, who covered indie news, will be doing more general news coverage and has some rad features in the works.

My tenure as Indie Editor was a six-month experiment dragged out for eight wonderful months, which I'm grateful for. My Low is that I wish I'd had time and energy to tell you about even more games you might have missed: Octogeddon, a game where you're a mutant octopus who destroys cities from the creator of Plants Vs. Zombies; Subserial Network, which is about androids trying to emulate humanity and informing on those who install forbidden serial ports; What Isn't Saved (Will Be Lost), a text game where you choose which of a person's memories to preserve while bringing them back to life; or a hundred other inventive projects at risk of being lost in time, like wet eyeball things are when skywater happens.

Tim Clark: Not feeling so Sparky

I don't use these words lightly when I say that I was baffled and dismayed to learn this week that Bethesda is ditching renowned CCG developer Dire Wolf Digital (its brief goodbye is here) as the studio responsible for The Elder Scrolls: Legends. Going forward, the game will be maintained and updated by Sparkypants, who previously made a decent RTS called Dropzone, but as far as I'm aware has no prior track record with card games. Perhaps tellingly, Sparkypants is now hiring for a card designer.

So why the switch? It's not particularly clear from Bethesda's initial statement or accompanying FAQ, which is bedevilled with corporate hedging. Into that vacuum, some fans have speculated that perhaps Dire Wolf's work on its own CCG, Eternal, was considered too much of a distraction. Others have suggested that the pace of updates was too slow for Bethesda's liking, and I think there's also some credence to the notion that Dire Wolf's visual presentation was disappointing. (It was one of the complaints of my original review, which was otherwise very positive about the quality of the card file and game mechanics.) 

If you want to be really cynical, there's also the possibility that Dire Wolf's contract simply came to a close and Sparkypants was able to undercut them when bidding for the work. I'd prefer to be optimistic though, given that I still like the guts of the game a lot. Recently a group of prominent content creators was invited up to Bethesda's Maryland base to meet the Sparkypants team and look at some of the new features coming to the game. I'm not sure a tournament mode is what it needs right now, but those folk seemed to leave feeling positive about the future. What I'll say is that it's very unusual for a live game to switch developer during its lifespan, so I'll be watching what happens anxiously.

Chris Livingston: Court battle royale

Back in September of last year I talked to CH Kim, CEO of PUBG Corp (then VP at Bluehole) about his concerns at how Fortnite, which had just revealed its battle royale mode, was being marketed by Epic Games. At the time, Bluehole was 'contemplating further action' but I never heard anything else about it (despite asking repeatedly). I assumed the two behemoths had just come to some sort of licensing agreement since they're already partners through the Unreal Engine, but I guess not since we just learned that PUBG filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Epic back in January.

Unlike 99.9% of the population I'm not a legal expert, so I don't know if the lawsuit (which I haven't seen) holds water, but I think sometimes legal action is just how big corporations talk to each other instead of, like, picking up the phone. So, I don't know what will actually come of this. It's just a bit of a bummer, an unpleasant distraction from two very popular games that millions of people are playing every day.

Samuel Roberts: GTA offline

Every week passes and something new is happening in GTA, whether it's free money giveaways, new multiplayer modes and this week, new missions to get to grips with. Actually finding the time to sample this stuff at the moment has been tricky for me, mostly because I'm instead catching up on games that might be relevant to this year's PCG Top 100 list. By the time I get around to trying the thing that's got double experience and money this week, it's over.

Part of me thinks this is kind of inevitable with Red Dead Redemption 2 on the horizon. GTA is inevitably going to wind down a little, and while exciting rumours are in the air about owning your own nightclub in the game, I'm still the most engaged with the game's existing heists and playing through them with the PCG crew. 

Tom Senior: The Bad Place

It turns out hell really sucks, at least in survival horror game Agony. You can read about my struggles in the underworld today, but my real low of the week is the knowledge that we probably aren’t getting any more Alien: Isolation ever. It’s rare to see an on-screen universe captured so well in a game, and I found it fascinating as an AI experiment.

Isolation also managed to keep stealth interesting for the duration of the campaign. Naturally you were finding and crafting new gadgets to use, but the levels are skilfully paced—which is miraculous considering there’s a roving AI monster in there ready to mess up a scene at any moment. That sense of frightened anticipation was delicious, though, and the android villains added essential variety. Maybe it’s time for another playthrough.

Joe Donnelly: Sensible selfish soccer

I'm having a selfish grumble in this week's lows. I love football/soccer, and am a long-serving fan of the Football Manager series. Despite my interest in the real world game, I'll always argue that FM's wealth of stats and figures make it a wonderful strategy game—one whose strategy trappings can be enjoyed by all fans of the genre. 

One thing I'm less fond of is Sports Interactive's monopoly of the football management simulation subgenre. This isn't SI's problem, of course, but I'd love to see another developer step up and challenge the enduring series. Someone like Paradox would be a great fit, I reckon. But its CEO seems more interested in the idea of baseball management games. And I don't play baseball, nor do I have the first clue about how it works behind the scenes. I suppose a Paradox-led baseball management sim might encourage me to learn—in the same way I encourage non-football fans to play Football Manager for its strategy elements—but I'd really like to see a Paradox-powered football management game. One can dream. Boo, hiss etc.