PC Gamer

Since its launch almost two years ago, Rocket League has adding a huge amount of updates and DLC packs to its base game, it's firmly planted its flag in the esports scene, and even won our Multiplayer of the Year Award in 2015. Matt Elliott described it then as "fast, fun and relentlessly enjoyable"—a view seemingly shared by many players, given the fact the number of its active monthly players has jumped 40 percent over 2016 in the first few months of 2017 alone.  

But this uptake in interest has resulted in server performance issues and matchmaking delays—forcing CEO Dave Hagewood to now address the issues, and he and his team's community, head on. 

"While our player population continues to grow at a healthy pace, we need to do a better job at scaling up our systems and internal processes to handle this kind of growth," Hagewood explains via a Steam community post. "We are growing so fast, both as a company and as a game, that we are racing to fill new positions on our Online Services team. 

"We are effectively becoming an Online Service company, as Rocket League is primarily an online game, and we continue to grow in size and scope. Growing this team is one of our top priorities as we approach Rocket League’s two-year anniversary in July."

Hagewood identifies issues with the Google Cloud infrastructure which powers Psyonix's PsyNet backend. The worst outages occurred last month, he says, thus the developer has assigned dedicated staff to oversee database reliability and stability, and work to improve "high-traffic features like Player Trading and 'Scraper API access'." 

Similar specialised positions have been created to work on dedicated server performance problems - such as in-game lag spikes—while matchmaking delays in light of Rocket League's recent Dropshot update are being closely examined. "As this is a new problem, we are still investigating the root cause," says Hagewood. "We have made changes in the interim to reduce the likelihood of it recurring, but more substantial improvements will be made throughout 2017."

Hagewood signs off by stressing Psyonix will continue to work through these "growing pains", and that an imminent hotfix should tackle the most pressing issues.

PC Gamer

I've chosen a picture of one of Ark: Survival Evolved's giant snails for this particular news story. That's because Ark's next patch, v256, will among other things apparently provide a long, long, long overdue 'total inventory menu redesign' according to recently added notes to the Steam discussion post and this tweet from Studio Wildcard's Jeremy Stieglitz:

Seriously, Ark's menus and UI are kind of the pits, and while I understand Early Access provides games in an unfinished state and while I'm sure there were bigger coelacanth to fry during the development process, a redesign of the menu is quite welcome, late as it may be. Hence, the snail. Snails are slow.

For the record, here's a list of what else planned for the update, which is estimated to reach us on Thursday, March 30:

  • Total Inventory Menu redesign
  • Total Inventory Menu redesign
  • Total Inventory Menu redesign
  • Total Inventory Menu redesign
  • Total Inventory Menu redesign
  • Total Inventory Menu redesign
  • Total Inventory Menu redesign

Ho ho. 

Just kidding. Here's the real list:

  • New Mechanic: Aquatic & Amphibious Creature Breeding
  • New Dino: Equus!
  • New Dino: Leedsichthys!
  • New Dino: Ichthyornis!
  • New Dino: Iguanodon!
  • New Structures & Mechanic: Tek Underwater Bases
  • New Structure: TEK Teleporter
  • New Structure: TEK Mosa Saddle
  • New Structure: Tek Power Generator
  • Total Inventory Menu redesign (other UI's coming soon!)
  • Flyer Nerf

Please note: those aren't my exclamation points.

PC Gamer

I've been having a go at a mod called Sim Settlements, created by kinggath, (which I previously wrote about here). It's a mod that gives you a completely new way to create and manage settlements, and: 1) it does a much better and more interesting job with settlements than the base game does, and 2) it still lets you build them the old-fashioned way, if you like. It's one of the most creative and well-thought out mods I've seen yet. I think Bethesda should hire kinggaff or buy the mod or something to make it part of Fallout 4 officially, because it's great and everyone should use it.

The idea behind Sim Settlements, if the title wasn't enough of a clue, is that rather than building every last house and placing last piece of furniture yourself, you can zone your settlement for development instead (like a city-building sim). You place plots for residential, commercial, agricultural, and industrial areas, and then watch (or leave and come back) as your settlers build their own houses, plant their own crops, and erect and work at their own stores. There's still things for you to do: place generators, water pumps, defenses, and so on, but your settlers won't just stand around waiting for you to micromanage them: they'll pitch in and build things too.

It's a great idea for a mod, and this is important so I'm going to mention it again: even with the mod installed, you can still build your own custom structures and stores and everything else as you normally do. NPCs will only build on the zoned plots you place, so it doesn't have to be an entirely hands-off experience. You can zone some settlements, custom build others, or do a bit of both on the same settlement. The mod doesn't replace the original settlement system in any way whatsoever, it just gives you an entirely new option for how to plan and create your communities.

The buildings your settlers construct aren't cookie-cutter affairs: they're all a bit different, right down to the clutter that eventually appears inside them. This means just about every house and store your NPCs build will look unique. I was oddly pleased to see my companion Curie build herself a home out of a trailer rather than a wood or tin shack like everyone else had done:

The trailer was pretty barebones inside, with just a small table, a chair (actually a toilet covered with a plank of wood), and mattress on the floor. But with Sim Settlements, NPCs gradually improve their homes. Curie later upgraded her trailer by hangings lights, moving furniture around, putting up shelves, and decorating a bit, including giving herself a place to relax outside (she even brought the toilet-chair outside and used it as a place to store a beverage):

I think that's my favorite thing about the mod—seeing what the settlers build for themselves, and how it changes over time. Sort of like, y'know, a real settlement would. This is why the mod should become an official part of the game: it makes your settlements feel alive, far more than the original game does. Your settlers feel more like real people and less like nameless, corn-shucking automations.

Plots for homes, stores, and industrial buildings come with an electrical pole attached, so you just hook up one power line to each, connected to a generator, and you're set as far as electricity goes. Settlers will start with a rudimentary shack, dark and dingy, but eventually (if your settlement is safe and has enough power, water, food, and defenses) add their own lights to the interior. No more farting around with interior powerlines! They'll do it for you.

Once you set up a settlement with zones, you're free to wander off. I was away attending to other business (killing things), and I'd get a notification that someone had improved their house, store, or farm, and I'd rush back to see what they'd done. Below is one settler's home that had essentially just been a mattress on a floor and a few random items on a table. When I returned, it was looking a lot cozier (despite the mattress still being on the floor) and even had some working lamps.

Same goes for shops. Stores won't be built right away: they're dependent on population count or number of homes in your settlement. Once my population began to grow, I was very pleased to see Nick Valentine (I pretty much dragged all my followers with me to live in this one town) open a bar on one of the commercial plots. Soon, he'd added a chemistry table inside and would chill out in there most of the day. Another NPC opened a tailor's shop, and even hung a painting inside. My industrial zone, staffed by a nameless settler, eventually turned from simple mound of junk she would gather scrap from into a proper garage, complete with a busted-up car inside. Cool. Even farming plots get upgraded, as those working on them will add scarecrows (mannequins). 

All these little details are wonderful, and the items placed on shelves and left on tables and counters in the buildings' interiors make the homes and shops feel lived in, and real. Far more real than if you personally dictate what each settler has on their nightstand or dinner table. It's nice to return to a settlement not just because I want to craft something or defend it from raiders, but because I'm genuinely curious what my settlers have been up to while I've been away.

There's a lot of customization options, too. By default, your settlers pay you a small tax in exchange for living in your town, though you can raise, lower, or turn off the taxes completely. If you're looking to be a bit more hands-on, you can manually assign settlers to zones rather than letting them become auto-assigned. These, and many more options, are available to tweak through the holotape you use to get started with the mod: see this video on where to find the tape.

Even more good news: it's super easy to install since there's just a few files that need to be plopped into your Fallout 4 data folder. You can—and definitely should—grab Sim Settlements from Nexus Mods and give it a try. 

PC Gamer

Rain World looks to be set in a fairly commonplace videogame post-apocalypse at first. Wild vegetation grows from mysterious structures, the skeletons of skyscrapers scratch a leaden grey sky, and living is neither convenient nor fun. Except in Rain World you’re a slugcat (a cat that is also a slug), and the apocalypse it must endure is among the bleakest and most punishing I’ve ever experienced. You’re not punching trees to build abodes, you’re not meeting warring survivor factions and buddying up, you’re not grinding for a nice pair of trousers. You’re just surviving, by a thread. And it’s hard to do that.It’s a platformer and a survival game, but neither of those categories are a neat fit for Rain World’s peculiar brand of misery. There are traces of other games’ DNA, such as the original Dark Souls’ bonfire system and the roaming, improvisational foes of Alien: Isolation, but Rain World stands apart as one of the most alienating and difficult games in recent memory, previously mentioned company included.There’s little exposition: you’re the aforementioned slugcat, wrestled away from its family and plunged into a decayed urban dreamscape plagued with erratic, free-roaming monstrosities that want to eat you. As a slugcat you’re close to the bottom of the food chain, but not rock bottom: you’ll need to eat bats to survive, or more accurately, eat in order to hibernate. Hibernating can only be done in hibernation chambers, and one must have at least four units of food in order to use them. These chambers are infrequent, with each rest cycling to a different season in-world. Seasons work like a ladder: hibernate without dying, and you’ll move up. Die, and you’ll move down. This process is agonising, but I won’t spoil why.

Oh, and the reason you can only hibernate in chambers is because they’re waterproof. As the name implies, there’s rain in this game, and like virtually every other damn thing in Rain World, it kills you. Each life, or hibernation cycle, is timed: if you don’t get anywhere meaningful in the allotted time, such as another hibernation chamber (for which you’ll need to be well fed for), then you’re buggered.

You re a slugcat. You re nothing. You should already be dead.

There’s a whole lot more to learn about how Rain World works, but I’ve already said too much. The game only explains how to eat and how to hibernate, otherwise you only have the guiding hand of a cryptic yellow ghost, which you’ll probably try to kill and eat early on, as the game refrains from telling you that it's there to help.On that note, the early hours of Rain World will annoy anyone without steely patience: slugcat’s traversal feels cumbersome and it's terrible at jumping, but once you get a feel for what this game is trying to do (make you feel utterly disempowered) it will feel less like bad design and more thematically appropriate. You’re a slugcat. You’re nothing. You should already be dead. And yet, there are small problems with traversal that are hard to ignore, such as slugcat’s propensity for crawling into a crevice below or above the actual crevice you want to be in—particularly grating when you have three glowing numbskulls pursuing you for nourishment.

Yes, it’s cute that you’re a cat that is also a slug, but that’s where Rain World’s whimsy ends. The world is a bitterly depressing, 16-bit inspired wasteland, and while the beautiful, dilapidated grandeur is enveloping, there’s nothing in it that will make you feel good. It’s possible to feel like there’s no way you’ll survive in this world. I restarted twice towards the beginning of the game, feeling like I’d dashed any chance of progression.And yet, despite utterly loathing Rain World for the first five or so hours, once I learned the basic pattern of survival, and once the true consequences of death became apparent, I started to begrudgingly love it. This is a huge game, requiring a supernatural reserve of patience from its player, but the intrigue of the world will keep the converted on course.Still, it’s a hard game to learn. Slugcat has a small number of moves that aren’t necessarily gated, but you won’t realise they're there unless through circumstantial trial and error. Meanwhile, the free-roaming enemies can gang up on you in ways that can mean either certain death or a long time waiting for them to disperse, and the latter is often more grating when you’ve got torrential, deadly rain to worry about. Sometimes in Rain World, you just have to die. I’m sure other players will learn how to avoid certain death, but for most of us, the emergent nature of the game will at times feel unfair.

And that’s because, often, it is unfair. That is the core of what Rain World is about: failure often makes things more difficult, and if you’re looking for a redemptive “it’ll all work out anyway through the strength of will” theme to drag you through the muck, then… I hope you have a surplus of will at the ready.Rain World requires improvisation and smarts, and there’s no way to trick it into being easier. The early hours are taxing, and in all honesty, it continues to be taxing. It’s not relaxing. It’s not a game to wash away your daily worries with. But the variety of the world’s barren landscapes will keep the determined pushing on, and the seemingly insurmountable challenges are, well, surmountable, but not thanks to 'tricks' per se. You just have to be smart about it. You have to learn—and then very vaguely know—how to survive. You have to accept that sometimes you’ll be unlucky. Is that too demanding? For the vast majority of players, I expect it is. For those with the time and patience, Rain World will prove unforgettable.

PC Gamer

The patch notes for the upcoming Civilization 6 Spring Update break down a wide range of changes coming to the game, which 2K games said will include "balance changes, AI adjustments, multiplayer changes, and bug fixes." Highlights include a Harbor buff that "will bring the strength of the various districts in line with each other," and a reduction in warmonger penalties, "so they only hit with their full strength if you are truly wresting valuable cities from your opponents." 

The changed warmonger penalties will impact both your Diplomatic status and City Populations. With a few very specific exceptions, the hit to your Diplomatic status will be reduced by 20 percent if you declare war on, or capture a city from, a player you have previously denounced, or 40 percent if you take the city from someone you're already at war with. Captured cities will also suffer a reduced population loss if the city's population after it's been taken is lower than the average population of all the cities in the game.   

The AI is also being tuned to improve to improve its performance on various fronts, and a handful of bugs (and a terribly awkward reference to Australian Prime Minister John Curtin as "President") have been fixed. A multiplayer issue that caused the online games list to fail to properly show all available games has been taken care of, and the list will also now show results from additional regions. 

There's no hard date on the Civ 6 Spring Update yet, but 2K said it will hit the PC sometime this week, and don't forget that a couple of Great guys—Cyrus and Alexander—are on the way in an upcoming Civilization and Scenario pack, too. Full patch notes are available on Steam

PC Gamer

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds launched on Steam Early Access this past Thursday, and according to its developer, Bluehole, it has already raked in over $11 million in sales. The multiplayer battle royale shooter also drew a sizable crowd of combatants with a peak of 67,000 concurrent players, says Bluehole's press release. People didn't just play, but also watched: Bluehole reports over 150,000 concurrent viewers on Twitch.

If you're looking to get started with Battlegrounds yourself, make sure you check out our guide on how to get started and stay alive. We also wrote up our impressions of the last-man-standing shooter during its closed beta period.

PC Gamer

In November 2004, an independent studio named Junction Point was formed by Warren Spector and ex-Valve employee Art Min. The following year, it was announced the new outfit was working alongside Valve to create a Half-Life 2 episode which aimed to "fill in one of the gaps in the Half-Life universe" by fleshing out a specific part of its story. This project was ultimately cancelled, however new images offer a glimpse at how it might've looked. 

As posted on Valvetime.net, the images from Junction Point's interpretation of Half-Life depict the second main series instalment's eerie zombie town Ravenholm—this time covered in snow. 

According to Valvetime, the leaked map files suggest this Ravenholm would have included "small puzzles, scripted sequences, and fights". Valvetime also notes Junction Point's Ravenholm episode should not be confused with Arkane's also cancelled Return to Ravenholm.

"It is implied that the player crashes into a warehouse in a gondola," says Valvetime of this episode's narrative. "He wakes up in a room with two unique characters named Duncan and Scooter. There is a train station and buildings nearby. A group of rebels and Combine Soldiers fight on the streets. Duncan (ravenholm_npc_mueller) and Scooter (ravenholm_npc_scooter) are unique entities. Duncan uses a generic Citizen model, while Scooter's model is unknown.

"Some entities use JPS as their prefix in their names, which obviously stands for the studio's name. In addition to this, some objects have fields called magnet and magnetization, which are related to the Magnet Gun mentioned by Warren Spector in the interviews."

The magnet gun mentioned there was supposedly "entirely different" from the existing gravity gun, so said Spector in this Reddit AMA, however "the two would have been super complimentary."

Alas, it wasn't to be but a snow-themed Ravenholm would've been cool all the same. If not Ravenholm, which other areas of the Half-Life universe would you liked to have seen redone? Let us know in the comments south of here.

PC Gamer

As Andy reported back in January, the creators of GTA's OpenIV modding tool are bringing Liberty City as it appeared in Grand Theft Auto 4 to GTA 5. Back then not much beyond the teasiest of teasers was available, however it was understood that LC would exists in tandem with Los Santos —instead of replacing it—just a short plane journey away. Its creators now reckon a spring/summer launch this year is likely and have now dropped some new images

The following shows off the game's Algonquin and Broker Bridge areas, as well as a look inside one particular building and a view of the Liberty City skyline from afar. 

The OpenIV team also teased a number of screens towards the end of January which I myself missed at the time. There's quite a few—the full list of which can be viewed here—however here's a handful of my favourites:  

All going well, we should be able to wander Liberty City as Franklin, Trevor or Michael in the spring or summertime of this year. 

PC Gamer

The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth was, er, ushered into the world a few months ago, and if you're not up to date with the roguelikey action game and its various incarnations, know that it's basically The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth but with a load of additional tweaks and content, and modding tools layered over the top.

Before release, developer Edmund McMillen said that the game would receive monthly 'booster packs', adding select fan mods into the game via official patches, and while it's taken a little longer than expected, the first pack just went live a couple of days ago.

McMillen details the free update here, revealing that it adds new items and trinkets, including a few by the Isaac creator himself. These include Buddy in a Box, which grants Isaac a randomised baby buddy, and Lil' Delirium, which randomly swaps your familiar every 10 seconds.

For the next booster pack, which McMillen hopes will be out late next month, he's looking for new challenges, Angel Room items, enemies and bosses. So if you're interested in Isaac modding, get creating, as there's a chance your mods will be included in the game.

PC Gamer

Source: YouTuber TheFamilyVideoGamers

You may have already seen the Call of Duty: WWII "leaked" images, but if you haven't, here's the rundown: YouTuber TheFamilyVideoGamers posted a video, where he talked about a handful of images he received from an anonymous source. These images point to this year's Call of Duty game being set in World War II, and they even suggest the game will be called Call of Duty: WWII. 

Now, there's reason to believe that Call of Duty would be taking the series back to the second World War, as Activision said in a February earnings call that Call of Duty would return "to its roots." However, it's important to remember that this doesn't mean the aforementioned images are real. In fact, it makes it easier for someone to pass off fake images as legitimate art, so practice skepticism when viewing the images at the bottom of this post.

I think it's fairly likely that Call of Duty is going back to World War II this year. However, I don't necessarily believe these images are legitimate. TheFamilyVideoGamers has a subscriber count of about 320 at the time of publishing, and it doesn't really make sense to me why someone would send these images to them of all people.

Another thing I'd like to mention is that Activision's "back to its roots" comment could mean something other than World War II entirely. It could point to a more traditional, modern military setting as well. We can't be sure, but we'll keep you updated as more is revealed.

Each year's Call of Duty game traditionally gets revealed around late April to early May, so we're only a little more than a month away if they continue that this year. Last year's Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare received an unfavourable review from Tyler, who said its side attractions—Zombies and Modern Warfare Remastered—were more fun than the main game. However, this year's Call of Duty is being helmed by Sledgehammer Games, and Tyler seemed to like their last attempt, Advanced Warfare, a bit more.

Source: YouTuber TheFamilyVideoGamers

Source: YouTuber TheFamilyVideoGamers

Source: YouTuber TheFamilyVideoGamers

Source: YouTuber TheFamilyVideoGamers
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