Warhammer: Vermintide 2

Vermintide 2 will soon let its ragtag group of heroes deck themselves out with cosmetic items without making sacrifices to the petty gods of RNG. Instead of praying their random loot drops will give them what they want, players will be able to hit up a new in-game store, and for the most part they won't have to dip into their wallets. 

Whenever a game adds a store after launch, there's some grumbling in the community. It recently happened with Rocket League, which ditched loot boxes for an item shop and blueprints system, upending the player economy. In Vermintide 2's case, however, the scope of the store is smaller and simpler. Fatshark CEO Martin Wahlund says the goal is to let players get their hands on more cosmetics. 

"From the get-go, we've had a lot of cosmetics in the game, but it's hard to get them," he says. "They're rare and sometimes people haven't been able to target the ones that they want. We thought we should have a system where people can have long-term goals to work towards certain cosmetics for the classes they play or the ones that they like." 

You won't need to juggle lots of different currencies or craft items like you would in Rocket League or Warframe. You just pick the item you want and purchase it with your earnings from quests.

"You earn currencies through daily and weekly quests," Wahlund says. "These quests have been in the game for a while and we're going to add more over time. If you do them, you earn a certain amount of coins and purchase stuff in the store. I can see it going through lots of iterations in the future, but it's very simple."

The three main things you'll be able to grab are hero skins, hats and weapon illusions, but more items could be added in the future. The vast majority of the items will be available effectively for free, costing only in-game currency. You'll just be spending your time, not your cash. Premium items will be available, however, and this is how Fatshark hopes to fund new DLC.

While Vermintide 2 features a few expansions, it's also given maps away for free and allows anyone to play the premium stuff by joining a game with someone who already owns it. Wahlund wants to be able to offer more DLC like that and will be watching how the store performs to see if it's possible. 

"We're patient," Wahlund says. "We're not in a hurry to do anything. We want to make sure people have a good time playing the game for a long time."

The premium items won't require you to purchase bundles of currency, either. One of the most egregious microtransaction tricks is selling bundles in increments that encourage players to buy more than they need. If an axe costs 1,000 Bullshit Bucks, chances are the closest bundle will be 1,100 BBs. In Vermintide, it will be done through Steam using regular currency and you'll be able to purchase the item directly. 

With Chinese publisher Tencent owning 29 percent of the company, the news of the store has made some players question if this was a change inspired by the company rather than Funcom. According to Wahlund, however, plans for the store predate Tencent's purchase of those shares. Originally it was going to launch not long after Tencent arrived on the scene, but Fatshark was worried about the perception among players and thus held off. 

"This is something we wanted to do," he says. "Tencent is very passive. They don't tell us what to do or change business models; it's 100 percent up to us. We're the majority shareholders, so we control the company. They got one board seat out of five, so they don't have the mandate to tell us what to do."

Tencent does have a lot of experience with this kind of business model, however, so the publisher has been able to provide feedback. Wahlund emphasises, however, that it's all Fatshark's creation. 

I wasn't really on-board before, but as someone who is sick of being a victim of RNG, I'm coming around to it, especially with the focus being on letting players buy cosmetics with in-game currency instead of real cash. Fatshark has been running a beta to get player feedback, and the store will be added to the live game later this week.  

PC Gamer

 

A recent intervention from Californian state regulators could lead to an amendment in Riot's gender discrimination settlement from the initial sum of $10 million to over $400 million.

The original amount, which was publicly announced back in December 2019, was to be divided between approximately 1,000 women who had worked at Riot between November 2014 and the time at which the settlement was finalized.

However, according to a recent report from the Los Angeles Times, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a document on January 8, 2020 proposing that the women in question were owed a lot more than the amount Riot had agreed upon.

The report also mentions the agency in question's argument that "no enforceable changes to employment policies, at a company alleged to be rife with sexism, are part of the settlement.”

In response to the agency’s intervention, Riot spokesperson Joe Hixson claimed that Riot “worked hard to negotiate with the lawyer representing the class to reach an agreement that we collectively believe is fair for the class members.” In his eyes, the interference of external agencies is a disruption "filled with inaccuracies and false allegations.”

"We are particularly dismayed that the filing downplays and ignores the efforts we have made with respect to diversity, inclusion, and culture over the past 18 months," Hixson added. "We look forward to making our case to the Court.”

Whether or not the amount will be adjusted is currently unclear. The intervention of an external party will either be allowed or dismissed during a separate case on January 31, 2020, while the amendment to the $10 million settlement itself will be presided over by a judge on February 3.

Half-Life: Alyx

Do you have questions about Half-Life: Alyx—like, maybe, when are we going to get a proper release date? If yes, you'll want to tune into Reddit tomorrow at 9 am PT/12 pm ET for an AMA with the development team.

The presence of the word "some" can't be overlooked, but even so the reaction on the Half-Life subreddit where the AMA will take place is bouncing rapidly between excitement and surprise at Valve's apparent newfound openness. As redditor DaftVortigaunt put it, "If you had told me a year ago Valve would suddenly be openly communicating with their fanbase, I would not have believed it. Looking forward to it!"

Or, as santumerino said more succinctly, "What the fuck, Valve communicating?"

It's not known who from Valve will be attending the AMA, but the moderators are clearly anticipating trouble: They warned that the AMA will be focused on Half-Life: Alyx, and asked all participants to "please limit jokes about Half-Life 3."

We'll be keeping an eye on the AMA, as we do, and we'll let you know what interesting things are said. And in case you missed it, Valve made the entire Half-Life Collection—Half-Life, Half-Life 2, HL2: Episodes 1 and 2—free to play today, until Half-Life: Alyx launches.

Frostpunk

There are a lot ways for your citizens to die in survival sim Frostpunk: The Last Autumn, the follow-up to one of 2018's best games. They can die of starvation. Sickness. Accidents. Brawls. Exposure to unsafe working conditions. But even if none of those happen I just may murder them all myself. I hate my citizens that much. 

Don't get me wrong: I love my little Frostpunk citizens, too. I want them to survive. Each of their deaths breaks my heart a little. But I hate them. It's a more palpable hate than I've experienced for tiny AI-controlled people in pretty much any other game I've ever played. Here I am, nobly trying to protect them from the incredibly harsh conditions I'm forcing them to endure, and what do they do? Betray me. Again and again. We'll be busy building the massive generator that will warm us against the encroaching, inevitable frost, and then some of them will notice a bunch of owls flying around during the daytime and assume they're harbingers of doom, and everything will grind to a halt.

The game text places the blame on the owls. Not me. I blame my citizens.

As in the original Frostpunk, I pretty quickly slide into fascism.

And my people aren't entirely wrong: those owls most certainly are an omen, an omen of just how badly human-made climate change will fuck with nature. But half of these idiots don't even believe that climate change is really happening, and they take the daytime owls not as a sign to work faster to build the generator, but as sign that nature is warning them to give up the construction project and go home. That's like deciding rain isn't a reason to patch the hole in your roof but a reason to give up on the idea of a roof altogether.

I hate my citizens so much. I want to save them, but boy do I hate them.

And saving them is not fucking easy. Frostpunk: The Last Autumn seems like it should be easier. Out today, it's a prequel to Frostpunk and takes place before the complete freezing of the world, so there's still green grass at the construction site. The outside world is still functioning: boats deliver material supplies, and after building a telegraph tower you can send for additional workers instead of relying on children for labor or accepting a bunch of refugees who are at death's door, as in Frostpunk's base game.

But while that sounds more pleasant, there really is no hope because I've seen the future of Frostpunk and I know those oceans will freeze solid and those lovely steampunk ships will stop arriving and children will someday be sent crawling around inside machinery by some awful, callous city leader (me). I know the world is doomed. Which is why I'm working these poor people (the ones I hate) so viciously to finish building the generator. It's the only chance we've got to live long enough to see the horrible, hopeless future.

As in the original Frostpunk, in The Last Autumn I pretty quickly slide into fascism. But can you blame me? An erotic photo mailed to a worker leads to chaos as people fight over it, repeatedly, and letters bearing bad news from home threaten to sink the motivation of the workers. I'm trying to protect them from themselves and preserve order, and the best way to do that, in my opinion, is to decide for them what they need to know and what they don't. Go ahead and judge me, but these are people who want to abandon the project because a few birds flew over it. The less they know, the better.

The guilt of censoring mail, of making people work long hours, of knowing that if there were any children available to me I would put them to work on dangerous machinery, it weighs heavily on me. Which is why I'm genuinely pleased when the labor portion of the book of laws opens up. Yes! Labor laws. This is exactly what I need. 

That's not sarcasm, in case you were wondering. I really do need this. I can't be trusted not to use and abuse my citizens until they're corpses, especially with fresh workers arriving at the docks every few days. There needs to be a check in place against my horrifying, heroically brutal leadership.

I pass a law that there must be a labor union and a worker's council. It's risky—now the same idiots who take their cues from owls will now have a say in how the construction of the generator proceeds. I build them a labor hall (well, to be fair, I make them build themselves a labor hall, but unlike their cramped tents, crowded medical facility, and the understaffed pub it might actually be a place they enjoy spending time), and institute collective bargaining, which means they can negotiate in the event of a strike. We've had two strikes already, so it's doesn't take an oracle to divine there will be a third.

Setting up labor laws feels good to me, a feeling I don't often get while playing Frostpunk. And I won't lie, it feels good not just because the union will counter my worst impulses, but also because when things go wrong and we all die I'll be able to spread the blame around a little bit. Turns out, though, we don't even get that far. The first act of the labor union is to fire me.

They stick me in a rowboat and send me out to sea, and I can't say I blame them. I've broken several promises already, being late to build a chapel and bath houses and get everyone fed properly like I said I would. Not to mention all the mail censoring I've done. At least I can die at sea knowing I did what I could to give my workers a voice, even if that voice told me, loudly and in unison, to piss off. 

Frostpunk: The Last Autumn is out today for $17. It requires the base game, which is currently on sale for $12.

The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead games were delisted from Steam in late 2018, a victim of the surprise implosion of developer Telltale Games. New series owner Skybound Games later brought them back to the Epic Games Store, and they remain available on Steam for people who have already purchased them. You can also see them there, but not purchase them, if you have a direct link like the ones below, although the store pages no longer appear in searches.

That will soon change, as Skybound announced today that Telltale's The Walking Dead Season 1, Season 2, A New Frontier, and The Final Season will all be re-released on Steam later this week. None of them are currently available for purchase, but they'll go for $15 each when they are. In the meantime, if you want to get a taste of what they're all about, a 2.5GB demo for The Final Season is still available via the Steam page.

It's not necessarily the best deal at regular price—The Walking Dead: The Telltale Definitive Series on the Epic Games Store includes all four seasons, plus 400 Days and Michonne, with graphical enhancements and bonus content for ten bucks cheaper—but if you really want to keep your stuff on Steam, here you go. Skybound didn't say whether any of the Walking Dead games will also be brought to GOG—The Final Season was released there, but was removed in 2018 at the same time as the Steam edition.

Skybound also has a new Walking Dead VR game coming out in a couple of days called Saints and Sinners. It's set to go live on January 23 for $40/£31/€34, and will support the Valve Index, HTC Vive. Oculus Rift, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets.

Half-Life

Update: And now it's official: The full Half-Life Collection is, for awhile at least, free to play. "Half-Life: Alyx is coming in March, and we are celebrating early by making all games in the Half-Life Collection FREE to play for Steam users, from now until the day it launches," Valve said in announcement.

"Half-Life: Alyx is set before the events of Half-Life 2 and the episodes, but the games share characters and story elements. The Half-Life: Alyx team believes that the best way to enjoy the new game is to play through the old ones, especially Half-Life 2 and the episodes, so we want to make that as easy as possible."

The Half-Life Collection includes Half-Life, Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode One, and Half-Life 2: Episode Two, as well as the spin-off games Opposing Force and Blue Shift, and the multiplayer Team Fortress Classic.

Original story:

Some Steam users received a notification yesterday that advertised a Half-Life: Alyx event before vanishing. The notification claimed that the Half-Life Collection would be free until the launch of the VR spin-off, except there is no such thing as the Half-Life Collection, and right now all the Half-Life games have prices. 

While there are no bundles known as the Half-Life Collection, there's The Orange Box and the Half-Life Complete bundles, but neither of them are free. And despite the notification, which links to an error page, Valve hasn't made any announcements. 

It looks like the notification was sent out too early, but that doesn't explain why the bundle has a different name. It could simply be a mistake, so the notification could just be referring to Half-Life Complete. It could also be that Valve's going to release a third bundle, which will eventually contain Half-Life: Alyx. 

I've reached out to Valve to find out more about the event, so keep an eye out for updates. 

FTL: Faster Than Light

They've been a long time coming, but soon achievement hunters will be able to feed off FTL, which is finally getting Steam achievements after only seven years. You can see them now, but you'll still need to wait to unlock them. 

FTL will feature 51 achievements, rewarding you for setting fire to ships, winning games, hoarding scrap and lots of other little milestones. The whole list is available now, but Subset Games is still testing them. You'll be able to start unlocking them later this week, once FTL has been updated. 

I'm not particularly fussed about Steam achievements, but it has been a long time since I gave the Rebels the finger, so this is as good an excuse as any to return. 

If hunting for achievements is your thing, you might also want to check out the most obscure Steam achievements and net yourself some bragging rights. 

Destiny 2

How do you start the Destiny 2 Bastion quest? It’s time again to chase another exotic weapon in Season of Dawn. For those not keeping up, Bastion has been released early through the mysterious Destiny 2 Corridors of Time and a rather enigmatic puzzle. Thankfully the community put in the legwork for you and Saint-14 will now dispense the quest without the need to decipher those Destiny 2 codes, following the January 21 reset. 

In a first for fusion rifles, Bastion slots perfectly into your primary slot and over-penetrates shields through its perk without a specific energy type. While it’s a little too powerful for dealing with the riff raff of PvE, it might just be the primary Fusion Rifle you’ve been waiting for in PvP: each shot fired releases three bullets, which makes it that bit more appealing if you can control your recoil. Sounds pretty interesting, eh? Here’s how to get Bastion in Destiny 2.

How to complete the Destiny 2 Bastion quest

Speak to Saint-14 in the Tower

As of the Destiny 2 weekly reset on January 21, this is how to start the Memento quest line that rewards Bastion. If you're really desperate to have Bastion before then, warm up your legs for a lengthy sprint through those complex Corridors. 

When the quest is live, you’ll be prompted by the director to visit our dear old friend in the Tower to kick things off.

Kill five Fallen Captains or Servitors on the Tangled Shore

Now you're tasked with visiting the Tangled Shore on a clean up mission of sorts. This step can be done wherever you like, but sticking with Thieves Landing will have this step done in minutes since there are Servitor and Captain spawns close together. Talk to Spider when you're done for the next stage.

Kill Aksinikis, Bound by Honor, in The Empty Tank lost sector 

The Empty Tank is in Thieves Landing, and is the closest Lost Sector to Spider. All you need clear the rooms and make your way to the coliseum type area and kill Aksinikis. Return to Spider for your next objective.

Kill 30 challenging enemies and complete ten Spider bounties and eight public events on the Tangled Shore 

This step takes the most grinding: it should take about 1-2 hours to tick off these objectives. When it comes to killing 30 challenging enemies, this'll come naturally, especially if you pursue Heroic public events over standard events. 

The public events can be condensed to four Heroic ones instead. While you're doing all this, pick up some Spider bounties and clear them, too. Thankfully the bounties aren’t limited to his dailies, so take on some Wanted bounties to speed things along. 

Find the Trapper’s Cave grave

Now you need to venture to the lost sector in Four-Horn Gulch: Trapper’s Cave. Just as you enter, there's a blue mist that you need to inspect next to the short waterfall. Do that to finish this part of the Destiny 2 Bastion quest.

Complete the Hollowed Lair, Memento strike, and kill the additional enemy in the boss room

Now you’re on to the last enemy-killing quest step, kind of. Now, boot up a special version of the Hollowed Lair Strike from the Tangled Shore map. While in the Strike, you’ll encounter a special enemy in the boss room that you need to kill: Defiled Reysk, the Waning Light. 

As the unique foe falls, you’ll be prompted to return to Saint-14 in the Tower. He’ll tell tales of how fond he was of his old weapon, but it's yours now. Hey presto, that’s you in possession of a new(ish) Bastion.

Cyberpunk 2077

With Cyberpunk 2077 now delayed until September, the only thing we're getting in April is a new line of Funko Pops based on the male and female versions of V, as well as two different versions of Keanu's Johnny Silverhand. They will invade your nightmares and never leave. 

It's really hard to pick between them. Which one is the most revolting? Keanu's hair and beard makes his Funko Pop's hideous head look even more monstrous, so I guess he wins the award for least breathtaking toy. Get a good look at God's mistakes below. 

While they're more than twice as expensive, I'm more partial to the McFarlane Toys range, which includes 7" posable action figures and a big 12" Johnny Silverhand going wild on his guitar. Unfortunately, only the male version of V is available. They're also due out this spring. 

Will any of these be gracing your shelves?

Cheers, Game Informer.

Sonic The Hedgehog

While not as unanimously adored as Mario, people still have a lot of time for ye olde Sonic the Hedgehog. New games release frequently, and while the forthcoming live action film has proved... divisive, it demonstrates that Sega is still dedicated to the old blue thing. Today comes more proof of that, with Sega announcing its Sonic 2020 initiative.

Basically, the company has promised (via a press release posted on this Japanese site) that new Sonic news will issue on the 20th day of every month in 2020. There's also a portal site, though that's also in Japanese. There's every possibility that some of the forthcoming news will be specific to Japan, but if there are any game announcements among them, they'll likely come west, too.

If you do click through to that portal site, you'll get access to wallpapers and fancy Sonic Twitter icons, the latter handy if you want to show more credibility in the heat of a Twitter debate. There's also key art for the initiative, which you can see below.

That Sonic the Hedgehog movie hits cinemas in February, for your information.

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