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Natural Selection 2 has been patched with a new map, alien skin and a host of fixes. 'Caged' is a deep-space construction vessel gone dark after sending out a distress call no prizes for guessing what happened. Now that the boring old crew has been digested, we're left with a four-techpoint, 10-resource-point map.
The accompanying tweaks include bots that evolve (into Lerks, Fade and Oni), improved Alien Vision and overhauled Spores. As a bonus, anyone playing at least two hours on Caged before June 10 will receive a free Abyss skin for the Skulk. The full patch notes are extensive, so it's worth reading up if you're a veteran.
In all honesty, I'd forgotten Natural Selection 2 was still going. Unknown Worlds returned to NS development in November last year, taking over from the community team that had been keeping the lights on. Since then, it's received a patch almost weekly.
Released in 2012, Natural Selection 2 pits a squad of heavily-armed human marines against a horde of alien invaders. It's first and foremost a shooter, but it incorporates RTS elements that, as we said in our very positive review, are what "ties it all together." A couple of years after it came out, developer Unknown Worlds turned control of the game's future development over to a small team made up of members of the NS2 community, so it could focus exclusively on Subnautica. Earlier today, however, the studio took the reins back, saying that it's time to "try something new."
"Unknown Worlds is getting back in to Natural Selection development. We have hired a small group of community members to reform an in-house development team," Hugh Jeremy of Unknown Worlds (who, by the way, has a very nice rig) wrote on the Natural Selection 2 site. "We are going to try some crazy stuff. We want NS2 to be huge."
An announcement that had been prepared yesterday turned out to be "pretty shit," as Jeremy put it, but then ended up slipping out anyway, leading to excitement, confusion, and anger. To address those concerns and answer as many questions as possible, he provided links to four separate posts including a Q&A about the studio's return to the game and a more detailed explanation of how the new team will work.
Eight members of the Community Development Team that took over NS2 in 2014 have been hired on as the new, official development team, although all but one are working part time. The CDT itself "will no longer operate in the same structure that it formerly did," but members of the community will still be encouraged to create and share new content for the game. "This time around, with renewed funding from Unknown Worlds, we hope to be able to fiscally compensate people proportionally to the work contributed," Amanda "Rantology" Diaz explained. "This means that anyone will be able to contribute something to the game and, if accepted, be rewarded for it."
Naturally, not everyone is entirely happy with the situation. One well-known CDT member, Mendasp, posted a long message on the Unknown Worlds forums explaining that he will no longer be working on Natural Selection 2 or the NS2+ mod, not because he was left off the team but for what he sees as poor treatment of himself and others in the community.
"I, and the other people that weren t contacted, deserved to know these kind of plans so we could make our choices based on it, especially considering other people that aren t part of this team knew," he wrote. "If this was done fully knowing the impact I don t know, but I can tell you, from my side, that this feels like I was taken advantage of, and it s quite awful to be in such a situation."
But Jeremy said the studio has "no secrets," and suggested that the problem right now is not a lack of clarity, but a lack of certainty. "There's nothing Unknown Worlds knows that we don't want the NS2 community to know," he wrote. "The decision to return to NS2 is a big, complex, nuanced one. It is hard to describe it all in a single email, blog post, or phone call. It s even harder to convey the idea that Unknown Worlds doesn t have all the answers, and that not having an answer is ok."
Each week on Show Us Your Rig, we feature PC gaming's best and brightest as they show us the systems they use to work and play.
Hugh Jeremy works at Unknown Worlds—best known for Natural Selection 2, Future Perfect, and Subnautica—and he's got a rig cholk-full of water cooling. As Hugh explains below, the components of this powerful PC were originally in a case he custom built, which is unfortunately not very portable. Hugh was kind enough to show us his impressive setup and tell us about some of his favorite parts of PC gaming.
All of that feeds an Asus 2560 x 1440 screen at the magical 144hz.
There's also a Razer Blade & Macbook Pro 13 sitting here. I'm in the process of transferring from the former to the latter. Blasphemy, I know. From a parts perspective the i7 5557U in the Macbook is a really interesting little package. It's also pulling 1.1Gb/s read/write off the SSD, so credit to Apple where it's due.
Click the arrows to expand.
This machine is a bit weird, because it's derived from parts transferred from a custom water-cooling focused case I built out of aluminium and tears. At Unknown Worlds, we have a lot of freedom to work wherever we want on the planet. I was using my custom case in the San Francisco office, but at the moment I am working in Australia. I couldn't transfer the rig across the Pacific, disassembling it takes days, reassembling it takes days. So for now many of the parts live on in this Corsair case until I've got the guts to break out the power tools again and give them a proper home. The itch is growing.
At the moment Statistical Analysis by Ya-lun Chou. It's not as boring as it sounds. Crunching data can help make better development decisions, and better games. For example, at Unknown Worlds we collect vast amounts of anonymous data about Subnautica's performance in the wild. From that data, we can work out what we're doing badly. For example, we were able to precisely measure out-of-memory crash prevalence, see that it was affecting large number of players, and devote the resources necessary to remedy it.
Recently we worked out that 20%+ of Subnautica customers were trying to play with GPUs below min-spec, so now we're doing a better job of communicating min-spec, and assisting customers who don't meet it by providing information about GPU upgrades and so on. Chou makes sure I don't spout statistical lies.
My Steam favourites list currently features Future Perfect, DayZ, Kerbal Space Program, Maia, Natural Selection 2, and Subnautica. A lot of these games aren't finished, or were available initially in a very unfinished state. I think this is one of the most exciting parts of PC gaming. We can be part of and influence the creative process.
Right now, my favourite game is Future Perfect. It's another Unknown Worlds game. I'm not trying to plug it though, I'm being genuine. I don't get time to play it much, and it's at a very early stage. But there is just so much potential. It neatly captures the strengths of PC gaming—access to unfinished games, iteration on those games, modding, openness.