PC Gamer

Two separate sources are reporting that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered will release later this year, following similar treatment for the first Modern Warfare in 2016. Unlike that reissue, though, Modern Warfare 2's remaster won't include its multiplayer component.

That's according to both Charlie Intel and Eurogamer. The former has reportedly received confirmation via a Raven Software employee (the studio responsible for the Modern Warfare remaster), while the latter also claims to have independently verified the rumour. These reports follow the appearance of a listing for the game on Amazon Italy, which has since been removed.

When Modern Warfare Remastered first released it was only available with certain premium versions of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Activision presumably won't be repeating this (much maligned) strategy, since the Italian listing for Modern Warfare 2 was a standalone release with a price of 20 Euros. 

It's interesting that, by all evidence, this reissue won't include multiplayer. Did Activision find that Modern Warfare Remastered's online component attracted more players than its flagship 2016 title? I don't know, but since Infinite Warfare wasn't exactly welcomed with open arms, it feels like players might have gravitated towards the classic game.

Whatever the case: it'll be fun to watch Black Ops 4 go up against Modern Warfare 2 this year. Here's the teaser trailer for the former, which was announced last week:

The Elder Scrolls® Online

Bethesda announced today that the ancestral home of Tamriel's Altmer—the High Elves—will be the setting of the next Elder Scrolls Online expansion, Summerset. The expansion will conclude the story that began in 2015 with the Orsinium DLC, and will add a new zone, the Psijic Order faction and skillset, a new jewelry crafting skill, and new Delves, Bosses, and a 12-player Trial called Cloudrest. 

Summerset is a lush, lovely place, "but trouble is hiding in the shadows, and corruption threatens to destroy High Elf society from within," Bethesda said. That may be why Queen Ayrenn has opened the borders to outsiders for the first time in Altmeri history, and also why she's not actually living there right now. Instead, her cousin, Alwinarwe, rules as regent, aided by Khajit spy Razum-dar, Valsirenn of the Psijic Order, and Alchemy, a performer in the House of Reveries. 

The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset will go live on PC on May 21, and is available for pre-purchase now in multiple editions, including a swanky physical release that comes with a statue of the Daedric Prince Mephala. Pre-purchasing will also net you the Queen's Bounty Pack, with the Court of Bedlam costume, a Pocket Salamander pet, treasure maps, a Psijic Vault Crown crate, and experience boosters, plus a digital copy of the Morrowind DLC and the Nightmare Senche mount. Full details are available at elderscrollsonline.com


Chucklefish have been on a roll. The indie devs who made Starbound and are working on Wargroove have, as publishers, brought us Stardew Valley and Risk of Rain. Now they're adding to their stable of quality pixel-art indie games with magic school RPG Witchbrook and "Dwarf Fortress on a space station" game Starmancer, both on the way. Recently joining that list is Pathway, which sounds like Indiana Jones if it was a turned-based tactics RPG. That's a pretty good sell right there.

The setting is 1936 and the Nazis are out there digging up occult artifacts and generally being the bad variety of tomb raiders. After your pal Morten gets in their way and then gets captured you put together a squad of heroes and go after him, and that's when Pathway turns into Jagged Alliance with a whip and fedora.

German studio Robotality, the developers of Pathway, have form in this genre—they previously made sci-fi strategy game Halfway, which Chucklefish also published in 2014. Since then, they've quietly been hard at work on Pathway. I spoke to Robotality's Simon and Stefan Bachmann, brothers and designers who are responsible for art and code respectively, about what they've got planned.

PC Gamer: What's the elevator pitch for Pathway?

Simon Bachmann: "Choose your own adventure" events with squad-based tactical combat all nicely presented in a '30s pulp story scenario. 

What were some of Pathway's inspirations? Apart from the fedora-wearing elephant in the room?

Stefan Bachmann: Well, surprisingly enough Indiana Jones really wasn't what initially sparked the idea for the game.

Simon: Yes, exactly. One of the main inspiration when we started were the comic books by Hergé, The Adventures of Tintin. We grew up with these books and they had a big influence on us back then. Other notable influences were The Phantom by Lee Falk and Corto Maltese by Hugo Pratt. Besides these comics we got a lot of inspiration from all the '30s pulp stories. Movies like the The Mummy (1999 edition) and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow certainly served as inspiration as well. But if I had to pick one I would definitely say The Adventures of Tintin was the primary source of inspiration! 

This is your second game with Chucklefish. What attracted you to working with them again?

Simon: The way Chucklefish works with us the developers is quite unique. Being developers themselves, there's just an immediate connection we really appreciate. Besides, they are super nice and smart people!

Stefan: Absolutely. I'd also add that if you look at their line-up of games, there's a theme that goes through most of them: a clear love for retro games, but also a desire to bring new and modern aspects to them. This has always really rung true for ourselves. Which is why we spent a lot time developing a visual technology that allows us to do some pretty interesting things with pixel art! 

We had a lot to learn as a team and Halfway was perfect for this. You could call Halfway a beta test for the team.

Simon Bachmann

Are there lessons you learnt from Halfway that you're applying to this new game?

Stefan: Oh, there's a lot of them. One big takeaway from Halfway was that randomness needs to be presented in favor of the player. We kind of naively thought that we're doing the right thing by creating a game that's true to the dice roll. But in reality it led to a pretty frustrating experience for a lot of people. Lots of strategy games tweak their numbers in the background to make it feel right for the player even though it isn't. This is certainly something we've spent a lot of time trying to get right in Pathway.  

Simon: Yeah, the whole RNG part was super important and took us some time to figure out a good way forward. Another one was variation and replayability. We received a lot of feedback that Halfway looks and plays well but gets repetitive after a while—which is a problem a lot of linear story-driven games share. We took on board several concerns there and are addressing them in Pathway. So for example we're making enemies more distinct and varied in their behavior. We're also giving the player more freedom of choice in what strategies he can apply to an encounter. The playable characters are more distinct and give opportunity to try out different play styles. All this will hopefully create a package the player will want to revisit time and time again.

It removes a lot of the frustrating bits, like shooting at an enemy directly next to you and missing, whilst still keeping the combat dynamic and surprising.

Stefan Bachmann

Stefan: And then there's a lot of lessons learnt when it comes to working as a team. I don't see this being talked about a lot, but being able to communicate and work well as a team is hard and doesn't always come naturally. Even (or especially) when you're working with your brother, ha!

Simon: Hehe, I do agree. We had a lot to learn as a team and Halfway was perfect for this. You could call Halfway a beta test for the team. Having worked out many of the kinks in our team dynamics has helped in delivering an overall more polished and in my opinion way better game then Halfway ever could have been.  

How much randomness is there in Pathway's combat?

Stefan: We've gone through a lot of iterations in the combat system. As mentioned before, randomness in combat was something we really wanted to get right. We started out with an extremely deterministic system, where there was basically no randomness at all. You knew exactly what your move will do before you did it. There were a lot of problems though. Yes, we had successfully removed the randomness, but through that we had also lost a lot of action and speed that we really liked in Halfway. The game's combat became all about positioning your team correctly, and very little else mattered. We tried for months to make it work, but eventually decided to approach it from a new angle. 

Where we ultimately ended up is a sort of hybrid between the deterministic system and Halfway's approach. It removes a lot of the frustrating bits, like shooting at an enemy directly next to you and missing, whilst still keeping the combat dynamic and surprising. We believe people are going to like this a lot.

Why did you decide to come back to turn-based tactics as a genre?

Stefan: Mostly because we love the genre. But there's certainly also a part of me that just wanted to have an opportunity to try and make a turn-based game that's much better than Halfway. 

Simon: Yeah, it was a natural process that lead to it. When we started talking about our next project after Halfway, we were all at first a bit fed up with TBS games. They are pretty tough games to make. So we started to prototype several different game ideas whilst working on our new voxel/pixel engine. But after two or three months of trying different ideas we started working on a turn-based prototype and it just felt right. All of us here on the team have a deep passion for the genre and so looking back at it, it should have been the obvious choice to start with but it was not. And yeah, as Stefan said, having a second go at our idea of a what makes a great turn-based game is really cool. 

Is the Morten of this game an ancestor of the Morten in Halfway? Are there connections between the two?

Simon: No, not really. Halfway and Pathway are not connected in a direct sense. There will be some fun little nods to fans of our first game, but they are not interlocked story wise. 

What's the German indie dev scene like at the moment? Is it possible to generalize?

Simon: The German indie scene is well and alive, but it is somewhat focused around the bigger cities like Berlin and Hamburg. There are some really cool projects coming out of Germany lately like The Curious Expedition by Maschinen-Mensch a Berlin-based two man studio. We're also a part of a loose collaboration between many indies called IndieArena. They help organize booths for game conventions and have a big online community.

Do you have a rough idea when you'll be ready to release Pathway?

Stefan: When it's ready... But more seriously, we want the game to be as good as it can be. The gameplay and lots of content is already in place. But we want to take our time getting it right. 

Simon: Yes, this is another lesson learnt from the release of Halfway. It could have used another month or two of polish to make it an overall better experience.

Finally, what's your favorite Indiana Jones movie?

Stefan: If I had to pick one, I'd say Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Simon: The Last Crusade.

You can learn more about Pathway and keep up with developments at its website, or Steam page.

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six® Siege

Ubisoft said in December that eight new operators will be added over the course of Rainbow Six Siege Year Three, from Russia, France, Italy, the UK, the US, and Morocco. Courtesy of the data-diving detectives of Reddit, we can now get a look (or at least a sideways glance) at two of them: Alibi and Maestro, members of Italy's special forces. 

The names aren't necessarily final, as the character icons are labeled as placeholders, but they fit with what we already know about them. Which, I readily admit, isn't much: There are two of them, and they wear the insignia of GIS—Gruppo di Intervento Speciale—the airborne counter-terrorism unit of Italy's Carabinieri military police force. 

The image of Alibi is flanked by two ghostly silhouettes, which also corresponds to an extent with data about new gadgets uncovered by redditors last week. Datamined references to holograms, decoys, and fading in and out suggests that she'll have the ability to distract and trip up enemy players with holographic images. Seems like Alibi might have attackers shooting at ghosts. 

Maestro is trickier to pin down. Ubisoft might have been shooting for something Pavarotti-like with the character (especially given his name) but he looks more like a banana republic strongman to me. He's also packing serious body armor and a bandolier of shotgun shells, so whatever he specializes in, you can bet that it's not especially subtle.

The most recent operators added in Operation Chimera—Lion and Finka—were both attackers. With the Italians next in line, I'd put money on them both being defenders, to restore the roster balance.

A leak is a long way from confirmation but we should be getting the official word on these two fairly soon. The Italian operators are scheduled to debut in the second season of Year 3; a start date for that hasn't been set but the first season began with the release of Operation Chimera earlier this month. 


Maelstrom is a game of "fantasy naval combat" set on an inundated world where land is at a premium and wars are fought constantly to control what little dry territory remains. In case that's not bad enough on its own, what lurks beneath the waves is even worse: Monstrous creatures, larger than the biggest ships, hunt the treacherous "Dead Waters," waiting to destroy any who cross their path.   

At first glance, Maelstrom sounds quite a bit like Sea of Thieves, but it's a faster-paced game, with ships controlled by single players rather than crews. Developer Gunpowder Games described it as kind of a cross between Sid Meier's Pirates! and the Man o' War tabletop game. The Orcs, Dwarves, and Humans will each bring unique abilities and tactics to the fight—Orcs are "brutal boarders," while Dwarven ships are slow but incredibly tough—but gameplay is more arcade-style than simulation, with "an emphasis on action and moment-to-moment choices."   

Maelstrom is on Kickstarter but the campaign is actually wrapping up instead of just beginning, and it's already achieved its $10,000 goal. That's a relatively tiny slice of a development budget, but the studio said the primary goal of the campaign is to help build a community around the game. 

"Maelstrom will launch on Early Access regardless of the funding goal but we're really behind on our community building," the studio said. "The Kickstarter is meant to help us connect with genuinely interested players, willing to back the product and help build the game with us before we launch on Early Access." 

The Kickstarter campaign says Maelstrom will be focused on multiplayer, but four-player co-op is on tap as a stretch goal at $30,000 and a full-on single-player campaign at $100,000. That's an awfully distant goal—the campaign is currently sitting at a little over $11,000 in funding, with five days to go—but never say never and all that. The Maelstrom Kickstarter ends on March 27, and will likely hit at least one stretch goal before it's all over, while the Early Access launch on Steam will follow on April 11.   

Grand Theft Auto V

Jamal Rashid's ambitious GTA 5 visual overhaul mod NaturalVision Remastered first caught my eye last year. At the time, it was the result of 1,200 hours of work (now a whopping 3,600)—including over 40 hours of video, photograph, and Google Street Map research—and provided a gorgeous reworking of Los Santos and beyond. 

Now, several months on, its latest update not only looks even prettier—it expands its scope beyond superficial aesthetics. 

"With the newest update, I've transformed NaturalVision Remastered from a simple graphics overhaul to something much bigger," Rashid tells me via email. "Now it includes a few gameplay changes, weapon changes, vehicle tweaks and much more. I have a relaxed schedule for the time being, which allows me to sit here and mod this game. As I add more content, the amount of time between each update goes up. As a result, there is increased pressure from the audience. I've learned that it's okay to take as much time as needed if you plan on delivering quality content."

Rashid explains that making roads look wet in 'Extrasunny' weather became this update's biggest challenge, and that making environments look cooler during morning and afternoon times—"where the sun is closer to the horizon and shines on the roads"—was tricky. 

"I enabled rain and disabled all the rain particles for this specific weather, but I was left with noise from the invisible rain and puddles that continued to form on the ground," says Rashid. "I gave up on this task months ago, but recently I ended up finding a hidden timecycle variable within the Halloween weather which completely disables any noise from the rain and prevents puddles from forming. It's exactly what I wanted. Now I had slightly shiny roads in Extrasunny weather with invisible rain falling at all times and no puddles."

Rashid continues: "But wait—this change caused the pedestrians to start walking away because the AI thinks it's raining. Next I spent hours trying to find a workaround. Part of this included driving up and down a virtual street dozens of times and restarting my game after each tweak in order to observe how the pedestrians behave in different weather conditions. I ended up swapping the 'Rain' parameters with 'Snow' in some of the AI files and enabled invisible snow particles in Rain, Thunder and Clearing weathers. This finally fixed everything that I wanted."

Rashid says his favourite part of the update process is getting feedback from his close circle of beta testers, and that down the line he may rework 'Cloudy' and 'Smog' weather from scratch to match his increasingly high standards.

Here's a gallery of screens from NVR's latest update, with some interesting coinciding commentary from its creator (click the top right for expanded images). 

Here is the Clear weather during sunset. Cloud and sun colors were reworked to provide a warm look for the sky. This is one of my favorite in-game hours. 

Taking a helicopter tour near the Vespucci canal on a sunny afternoon. Most of the vegetation you see in the background was modified to look more realistic. I mostly altered the color of the textures, but other times I swapped the model with something that looked better. Additionally, some of the vanilla GTA 5 trees had a bright specular texture that would cause leaves to look white under direct sunlight, so I've reduced the intensity of that. In the future I'd like to make 2K vegetation textures for every major tree throughout the city and countryside. 

Here we have a modded Porsche 911 parked in the industrial zone of Los Santos on an Overcast day. While I've improved the cloud colors and ambient tones, the real magic in this picture is the stylish tonemapping applied over the image. This was only possible thanks to a custom script another modder created specially for me. This script allows me to uniquely alter the contrast, brightness, gamma and more for every single weather by editing the timecycle_mods files. There's no need for ReShade and no FPS loss. 

Here is the new Rainy weather. Everything in this picture was heavily inspired by the first Watch_Dogs game. I modified the rain drops to look thinner and tried to give the overall weather a cold feeling. 

The sky colors in this picture were inspired by Forza Horizon 3 during late evening/night transition. The purple streaks in the sky are actually tiny soft clouds that I added to blend in with the dark blue sky. That way there's more variety to the sky and horizon colors. 

I reworked godrays and made them feel smoother when transitioning between objects. The only downside is the newer NVIDIA drivers broke godrays in GTA 5. They only seem to work in driver version 388.71 or older. I've reported this issue to NVIDIA and so have other people, but they haven't implemented a fix as of yet. 

Here we have the new Foggy weather, which was inspired by some old Half-Life 2 mods and Silent Hill. One of my favorite features in this weather are fograys, which work similarly to godrays but rely on fog density for their appearance. 

This picture was taken after sunset in Extrasunny weather. The ambient tones, fog colors and sky colors were somewhat inspired by Watch_Dogs 2. 

Taken around 6am shadows are slowly unmasking all the brightly lit structures in the background. This was one of the most difficult hours to create in the GTA 5 timecycle. I wanted to make shadows cover most of the city and ran into a few bugs while attempting this. Luckily, I managed to balance things out in the end. 

At first glance it may seem like this picture is edited, but it's actually just the new lens flare effect during sunrise. Truly a sight worth seeing. As for the deer, I made sure to include a gameplay tweak where animals cannot witness a crime and call the cops on the player. This was a real thing that Rockstar enabled in the vanilla game and I personally hated it. It's more realistic if you commit a crime in the middle-of-nowhere and get away with it. 

This picture shows off some of the muzzle tweaks that I added to every single weapon. I didn't like how the muzzle flash texture was really big. I also didn't like how most of the weapons failed to exhibit gunsmoke when firing. I modified both of those things for each weapon in order to offer a more realistic experience. This part of the mod is still very much a work-in-progress. In the future I'd like to modify weapon recoil, rate of fire, magazine size and other things. 

Sunset in the countryside. I like how the sky colors mix together. Although you can't see it in this picture, the way Mt. Chiliad looks during this hour is absolutely breathtaking. I definitely need to snap a picture of that soon. 

"I increased the procedural grass density beyond the normal limit. My game settings are fully maxed out in the "Before" image. Increasing the grass density only causes an FPS loss of 1 or 2 frames. I think it's totally worth it for the result you're seeing here." 

"I increased the amount of litter/trash spawned around certain parts of the city. I felt as if this gave the city a little more life to it. Think of it as background noise." 

NaturalVision Remastered's latest update is out now. More information, including installation instructions, can be found over here.


Welcome to our round-up of the best Metroidvania games. That slightly awkward portmanteau refers to a hybrid genre inspired by Metroid and Castlevania. They tend to be 2D platformers that have you exploring dungeons, defeating bosses, and picking up items that unlock new zones of the map. Within this simple format there is plenty of room for variation and, it turns out, lots of gorgeous art. 

A few of the games on the list have been lovingly crafted by small teams and even individuals over the course of a decade or so. Others, like Dead Cells, experiment with fusing the metroidvania with other genres to create a powerful hybrid. Whichever games you pick, expect lots of 2D platforming and some tough boss fights.

Ori and the Blind Forest

Ori's warmly animated world and slightly tearful opener barely hint at the incredibly tricky platforming challenges that follow. PC Gamer's Philippa Warr has compared this to a teddy bear that wants to punch you in the face—it's a cute and beautiful-looking game, but damn tricky. The pleasant soundtrack puts you at ease while the game rarely does.

 Axiom Verge

One of the very best modern examples of the form, Axiom Verge is set in a dark, Giger-esque alien world populated by mysterious giant mechanical beings and, of course, a slew of bullet hell boss monsters. New paths open up as you discover fresh alien gadgetry, like a trenchcoat that lets you phase through walls, and a device that lets you control a small alien bug to crawl into new cave systems. 

Combat is simple—blast the alien things flapping around each level—but there are loads of weapons to discover, and plenty of secrets if you’re determined enough to glitch or blast your way through secret walls. It’s a sinister and slightly unnerving game with some genuinely dark moments, but that makes it a fitting tribute to the lonely hostile corridors of the original Metroid games. 

Hollow Knight 

This one takes a while to get going, but once you have a few upgrades it’s a spectacular hand-drawn metroidvania with a snappy melee combat system. Hollow Knight borrows its melancholy apocalyptic atmosphere from Dark Souls, and also its currency recovering system—if you make it back to the place you died you can reclaim your last life’s earnings.

Hollow Knight looks gorgeous, and it’s full of interesting bug characters that sell you new gear and give you extra quests. The bosses are challenging and the dodge-and-slash combat is a serious test of skill once you’ve unlocked a few moves and started running into the game’s more serious enemies. The world is beautifully put together, too, and you learn more about the fate of the city as you dash, skip, and double-jump into new zones.


You’ll notice that many of these games are set underground in endless cave systems. Owlboy is set in a floating cloud kingdom. As said Owlboy, Otus, you have to flap around the world in a slightly cumbersome manner befitting a character who is regarded as an idiot by his village. You can teleport friends into your claws as you fly around. Different pals come with different abilities; some will fend off nearby enemies with projectile attacks, others will help you to access new zones in true metroidvania fashion. It’s tricky to say much about Owlboy without spoiling the story, but suffice to say it’s an emotional ride depicted in lovingly detailed pixel art. 

Shadow Complex Remastered

Blast your way through a military compound with machine guns in this futuristic Metroidvania. It’s billed as a “2.5D” game, which means you run and jump on a 2D plane, but can shoot into the background as soldiers and battle robots. You play as an ordinary man called Jason Fleming who gets lost on a hike and stumbles across a high-tech group bent on starting a civil war in the US. The game escalates from there you strap on their armour, raid their armoury and start blasting their mechs. The game was originally released on XBOX Live Arcade, but lives on Steam now as Shadow Complex Remastered.

Cave Story+

Daisuke Amaya’s seminal indie metroidvania is available on PC as Cave Story+, which features the original 320x240 visuals and the updated version. You play an amnesiac boy who wakes up in a cave full of rabbit folk called Mimigas. They are being picked off by the malign creations of a mad scientist, who you need to chase across 15 levels. It’s a big game, especially considering it was made by one very dedicated creator with a clear love for the 16-bit era. An absolute classic and a must-play if you love metroidvanias.


From one solo creator to another. Joakim Sandberg spent many years painstakingly designing, animating and composing for Iconoclasts. The result is a cheery and colourful metroidvania starring a friendly mechanic called Robin. This is a relatively shooty one featuring more than 20 bosses, but the worlds are packed with chatty characters. It’s worth picking up to see what seven years of one guy’s life’s work looks like.

Steamworld Dig 2

Approachable, and not too difficult, the Steamworld Dig games deliver a gentle hit of Metroidvania action supplemented by lots of Terraria-style digging. You can pickaxe your way through the levels, but this isn’t a sandbox. You have to tunnel your way to new zones and grab new gadgets to upgrade your hero, a steam-powered cowboy robot in the first game and a blue woman in flying goggles in the second. The sequel has more varied environments and a bigger world to explore, so that’s the best place to start.

Dead Cells

Dead Cells straddles the line between Metroidvania and roguelike, which makes it a warped child of Super Metroid, Castlevania and Rogue. You battle through randomised dungeons, starting from the beginning each time you die. As you chop up enemies in beautifully animated exchanges of sword-blows and bow attacks they drop cells that you can pour into your character. 

This persistent element eventually gives your guy the sturdiness to reach new zones you haven’t seen before, fulfilling the typical metroidvania exploration pattern. Dead Cells is a game about blasting through dungeons as quickly and efficiently as possible. When you arrive in an area a timer starts on a hidden treasure door somewhere on the level, if you can find it before the timer expires, you get access to a room full of special items and sweet cash. Dead Cells is a high pressure game compared to others in this list (bar Ori and Hollow Knight), but if you like action and great pixel art Dead Cells is a good option, though it still has some time to mature in Early Access.


VIDEO: An interview with Lukas Kunce of Amanita Design

It's the week of the Game Developers Conference here in San Francisco, which means devs from all over the world are in town to show off their games, talk about how they're made, and throw business cards at strangers. 

Lucky for us, Lukas Kunce of Amanita Design, creators of point-and-click classics like Machinarium and the Samorost series, was kind enough to sit down with me away from business card firing range. We had a nice chat about their most recent game Chuchel, what they're working on now, and the future of adventure games. 

We also learned a bit about what the studio is working on now, including a horror game and another built of 3D scans of cardboard creations. For fans of fluff, we also discussed whether Chuchel will get the plushie treatment, what the hell the blockchain is, and brainstormed what an Amanita shooter would look like. (Hint: it won't look like anything.)


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Your flapping heads for this episode:

James Davenport

Lukas Kunce

PC Gamer

Game designer Jennifer Scheurle

Remember that metro train in Fallout 3 that was actually, according to the game's code, an "arm" inexplicably worn on the head of an ordinary character model? My favorite stories about games give us a glimpse at the kinds of workarounds and crazy tricks game developers pull to make their games fun (or to make them work at all). Designer Jennifer Scheurle gave a talk on that subject at GDC, drawing from a viral Twitter thread she started last fall. She pulled out some of the best examples from that thread to explain in her talk, and these are the PC games that stood out to me.


The first bullet a splicer fires at you in BioShock will almost certainly miss. This lets the designers spring surprise attacks, but still give the player time to react to incoming fire. It's the kind of thing you likely never notice while playing the game, but is blindingly obvious once you see a video example. A splicer will waltz up and miss their first shot from short range. 

Scheurle got her information from Ken Levine, who said the first shot will always miss, but Bioshock's AI designer weighed in to say it's actually a bit more complicated than that. Enemies have an accuracy curve that increases the longer they're in a battle, so they start extremely inaccurate and become quite accurate over the length of an encounter.

The more surprising tidbit, though, was that a single shot will never kill you in Bioshock, but instead bring you down to 1 percent health. If a splicer targets you with a tommy gun and unloads—a bunch of bullets hit you in sequence—you're probably going to die, because you'll be taking a hit at 1 percent damage. But that first shot won't do it. This gives the player the rush and tension of just barely surviving, without feeling like a cheap hit took them out.

It's the kind of game design balance that isn't realistic or necessarily "fair." We think all bullets should do the same amount of damage, right? But that small touch is something most players will probably never notice, and if it works as designed, means Bioshock's combat will be more fun.

Gears of War

This was the only secret that totally shocked me, and it was one that generated plenty of discussion in the Twitter thread last year. In the original Gears of War, the developers realized that something like 90% of players would never touch multiplayer again if they didn't get a single kill in their first couple matches. So how do you ease new players into a very high skill, challenging multiplayer mode? The Gears team decided to give them an invisible buff.

Players who haven't gotten a multiplayer kill before get a damage bonus on their shots, akin to the higher damage you get from Gears' active reload mechanic. Except the new players didn't actually have to pull off an active reload to get that damage buff. Once newbies had a couple kills, the game would dial back their bonuses. 

This one made some people mad because it's a competiive game and not fair. But some designers argued the advantage for new players was there to offset the many advantages skilled players had already—knowledge of the map, the ability to pull off active reload, and so on. 

Spec Ops: The Line

This was my favorite detail of the talk, because it touches on two things: designers taking shortcuts that players will never notice, and bending the truth to make the game more fun. In Spec Ops: The Line, enemies will shout at you to let you know they're about to throw a grenade. They'll step out of cover and trigger a wind up animation. But they never actually throw a grenade at you. 

Instead, the grenade simply spawns in midair, on an arc headed towards you. Scheurle explained how it all worked, thanks to input from a designer at developer Yaeger. "Nobody has found out since the game came out, and I'm spilling the beans today," she said.

This implenentation of grenades fulfilled the game design goal of having grenades as a threat, but was much less work than programming a full ballistic system for the AI. As Scheurle said, "it didn't really matter." 

Yaeger hid the system by having grenades spawn at the feet of an enemy if you shoot them before the "throw" takes place. That helps complete the illusion. 

The trick that makes Spec Ops more fun is also pretty simple. When you throw a grenade at enemies, there's a reaction radius that will tell the AI to run away. That's called the panic radius. Smart AI! Except, the AI is actually programmed to stay within the blast radius, so they'll still take damage. That's not so smart. But isn't it way more fun to blow up the AI with a grenade than it is to miss?

There are plenty of other tidbits hidden inside Scheurle's Twitter thread. If you missed it, give it a read. And then try calling yourself from inside Surgeon Simulator:


Despite perpetual snow warnings, the Met Office reckons Spring has kicked off in the Northern Hemisphere. If you can't be convinced, you might fancy a complimentary trip to sunny Sapienza. Hitman's best level is going free for a limited time. 

Part of the game's Spring Pack, the free download extends from now through April 3 whereafter the Sapienza mission is yours to keep for good. 

Developer IO Interactive explains that Elusive Targets have been reactivated too, and that the special offer also boasts 20 levels of Mastery (including weapon and item unlocks), over 100 challenges, and all of the Escalation Contracts, Challenge Packs and Featured Contracts specific to Episode 2.

More information on all of that can be found over here. And before you go, let me share this excerpt from Phil's 85-scoring Sapienza mission review

Sapienza's freedom is an important distinction over Paris, but there's another factor that makes it work so well. In The Showstopper mission, targets Viktor Novikov and Dalia Margolis host a fashion show and auction respectively. As such, they're notable figures in a public space—on guard and suspicious. 

In World of Tomorrow, your targets are living their lives. It's not that they're unprotected—their mansion is crawling with guards—but they aren't suspecting anything out of the ordinary. That makes for a profound difference in how the levels play out. The challenge is less intricate, and that let's 47 more naturalistically discover opportunities. 

Again, Hitman's Spring Pack is free to download now through April 3. 


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