Quantic Dream, the studio behind titles like Detroit, Beyond: Two Souls, and Heavy Rain, has lost a French labor court case against a former employee. The verdict brings back into question Quantic Dream’s reported toxic work environment that plagued the company earlier this year.

In January, a joint investigation from multiple French newspapers alleged that Quantic Dream had fostered a work environment centering around harassment, sexual harassment, and racism. While Quantic Dream founder David Cage denied the allegations and said he was “shocked” by the suggestion, the studio took the massively unprecedented step of suing the publications that ran the story.

One of the allegations was that the internal office servers held 600 photoshopped images involving employees’ heads photoshopped onto risque or racist images. One employee quit as a result of discovering this, then invoking employment law that allows them to receive unemployment and benefits despite leaving voluntarily. As Eurogamer reports, this process involves showing that the work environment victimizes them and an independent labor board making the final call.

In this case, the labor board investigated the claims and found in favor of the employee. This means that, considering the circumstances, the employee is eligible for benefits despite resigning. Quantic Dream now has the right to appeal.

As the studio continues to deny the initial reports of its work environment and sue publications that claim otherwise, the overturned resignation does little to bolster their case. Other employees have tried to invoke the labor law in their favor, but two were dismissed and one is still in appeals.

[Source: Eurogamer]

 

Without getting into whether the initial allegations are true or not, I actually find the way France does labor investigations to be pretty interesting, at least from an American perspective.

The initial reveal and subsequent launch of Xbox One was less than ideal for Microsoft. Marred by DRM concerns, a shoddy Kinect-focused interface, and inferior hardware, Xbox relinquished its last-gen lead to largely play second fiddle to PlayStation this generation. While PS4 has continued selling well, delivering an inarguably stronger lineup of exclusive titles, the Xbox team has slowly improved its standing and won back the Xbox faithful by listening and reacting to its community in a way never before seen in the console space.

Recovering From Early Tumult

The signs that Microsoft would need to listen to its community more came early, as the company quickly backpedaled unpopular announcements prior to launch. Xbox One’s initial reveal fostered overwhelming hostility surrounding restrictions of offline play and used games while making players buy a Kinect with their console and carrying a higher price point than the competition. With such a groundswell of negativity, Microsoft had no choice but to roll back those announcements.

Sony further shined a light on Microsoft’s blunders during this time by producing a short sketch at E3 2013 starring PlayStation executives Shuhei Yoshida and Adam Boyes, which showed how easy it is to share used games on PlayStation 4. This dunk was seen as one of the ultimate mic-drop moments in E3 history, and further served to crystalize the problem in a meme-friendly way. From there, Microsoft knew that real transformation had to take place to salvage its upcoming console.

Microsoft began pivoting, rolling back its controversial stance on always-online requirements and used-game restrictions. It proved too little, too late for Xbox One’s launch later that year, as Sony pulled away to an early and decisive sales lead it has maintained to this day. Former Xbox president Don Mattrick departed shortly thereafter. His replacement, current executive vice president of gaming Phil Spencer, had the task of rebuilding the relationship with the Xbox faithful.

Upon his appointment to this spot, Spencer told us his primary focus was to reassure Xbox’s hardcore base in the wake of a launch that centered more on entertainment apps than actual games. “My goal, first and foremost, is to make sure that everybody understands that Xbox is a gaming brand and it’s going to be gaming first,” Spencer told us in 2014. “That’s a leadership principle that I will bring to the program from day one.”

Spencer also committed to listening to the community to right the wrongs that led to the rough launch. In a 2014 interview with Xbox Live’s Larry “Major Nelson” Hryb, Spencer explained the importance of interacting with the hardcore fans and paying attention to things like social media and internet forums. “That two-way dialogue between us and the fans will be important as we drive this product forward,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a foundational element to the culture of this organization. I want the two-way dialogue. We hear what fans say. They have great ideas, and we should use that as an input to how we build our product.”

While many executives make similar declarations, the actions the Xbox team has taken since show these words were not empty. Microsoft quickly abandoned the unpopular Kinect peripheral and began selling a cheaper version of the system that was in line with the pricing of the PlayStation 4. The Xbox One S console revision in 2016 added HDR support – something PlayStation 4 featured in its base models – and 4K support for Blu-rays and video streaming, which are still not offered by Sony even on the PlayStation 4 Pro. In addition, new Xbox One controllers added features like Bluetooth integration and a built-in headphone jack. The platform adjustments didn’t stop there, as Microsoft’s ultimate vision for the Xbox One was yet to come.

Xbox One

Playing With Power

Throughout its history, the Xbox brand has prided itself on power; the original Xbox was more powerful than the PlayStation 2, and multiplatform games often ran better on Xbox 360 than PS3. With Xbox One, PS4 had a noticeable advantage in both categories, and Microsoft wasn’t satisfied with that. Early reports hinted at a more powerful console, but when Xbox finally revealed the initial details of its console revision, codenamed “Project Scorpio,” it packed an impressive amount of oomph.

“For me, and for the fans and for the developers, Xbox has always meant innovation and the latest technology and delivering the world’s most powerful console – something we absolutely want to do,” Xbox corporate vice president Mike Ybarra said in the E3 2016 reveal video for Project Scorpio.

“Two years ago when we started this journey, you told us you wanted certain things from us. You wanted power; you wanted community; you wanted choice,” Phil Spencer said in that same video. “This […] is absolutely the culmination of all of your feedback and something that we think will truly move Xbox forward.”

In addition to dwarfing the PlayStation 4 Pro in terms of raw power, Xbox One X added to the 4K video offerings of the Xbox One S by delivering true 4K gaming capabilities. According to several Xbox figureheads, this was in response to fulfilling fan expectations of Microsoft often delivering the most powerful systems.

These hardware updates not only served to close the gap between Xbox One’s initial design and what PlayStation 4 was already offering but expand beyond it. Through an iterative approach with its operating system and feature set, Microsoft has improved on the software side as well.

Xbox One Groups

Making Your Xbox Work For You

Sony’s lead on the sales charts hasn’t discouraged Microsoft from innovating; if anything, it has pushed the gaming division to explore new features that differentiate its offerings from Sony and recapture its reputation as a worthy gaming platform. Throughout the Xbox One’s five-year history, Microsoft has continually reworked the system to give fans features they want.

From early updates like revamping the home screen’s layout to be more usable, to more recent additions such as allowing players to create custom groups for their games and apps, the Xbox One operating system has received numerous overhauls and facelifts. Microsoft has worked to deliver things like a customizable home screen and a more usable party system more in line with the popular features present on Xbox 360. Microsoft’s reactive approach has gone hand-in-hand with its community’s requests.

With each update, Microsoft doubles down on customization, allowing players organize their home screen and game collections how they want. These changes and new features stand in stark contrast to the vanilla layout of PlayStation 4’s home screen, which offers minimal customization options outside of downloadable themes and limited folder options. This level of customization has substantially improved the Xbox experience.

Plays Well With Others

Xbox has improved the digital-game experience through other avenues as well. One such push has been its Play Anywhere campaign. Play Anywhere takes Xbox’s first-party lineup and makes it playable on Windows 10 PCs. While this has essentially cut Xbox One’s lineup of true exclusive games to nothing thanks to the nature of the program, it ultimately benefits the players by letting them choose if they want to enjoy these games on the couch or at their desk without having the purchase them two times.

Microsoft has also vastly increased its player-base options through working well with other companies. In 2014, Electronic Arts launched EA Access on Xbox One in collaboration with Microsoft. The service offers subscribers access to more than 60 Electronic Arts games, as well as trials of new games before they launch. Sony passed on bringing the service to PS4, saying it, “does not bring the kind of value PlayStation customers have come to expect.” However, unless there are other unspoken factors at play, it would have been nice of Sony to allow its customers to make that judgment call for themselves as Microsoft did.

In a similar fashion, Microsoft has worked with first- and third-party developers to bolster the lineup of its Netflix-like subscription service, Xbox Game Pass. This monthly fee subscription service is like EA Access, but it spans multiple publishers and even grants subscribers access to first-party games from day one.

Xbox has also demonstrated its willingness to work with perceived competitors by beating on the drum of cross-platform play. Xbox users can play popular titles like Fortnite, Rocket League, and Minecraft with Switch and PC players. Meanwhile, Sony has come under fire for its unwillingness to cooperate with developers and competitors on crossplay initiatives.

Just last month, Bethesda’s Todd Howard expressed his team’s desire to make its upcoming game Fallout 76 work between multiple platforms, but lamented that, “Sony isn’t being as helpful as we want them to be.” This isn’t the first time it’s been suggested that Sony has appeared uncooperative in this regard. This became even more apparent during E3, when Fortnite players attempting to transfer their Epic Games accounts linked to PlayStation 4 over to the Switch version of the game, only to be denied.

Microsoft representatives have expressed interest in working with Sony to allow games like Fortnite to work across platforms, but Sony CEO Shawn Layden says that they’re trying to, “get to a solution which will be understood and accepted by our gaming community, while at the same time supporting our business.” Former Sony Online Entertainment John Smedley says it’s a money issue for Sony.

Regardless of the reason its primary competitor has not embraced cross-platform play, the fact remains that Microsoft is being accommodating. As long as it continues expanding its crossplay library while Sony remains stagnant, Xbox will continue looking like a shining example of a platform holder working for the larger gaming community.

Old Is New Again… And Done The Right Way

All these improvements have given Xbox’s player base plenty to be happy about in the years since the system’s launch, but perhaps the biggest example of Xbox listening to its fan base came in 2015 with the introduction of backward compatibility. Microsoft’s approach to backward compatibility isn’t a streaming service like Sony’s PlayStation Now or a system that requires you to re-purchase games like Nintendo’s Virtual Console; Xbox One’s backward compatibility is the feature done right.

The list of games available, which started at around 100 Xbox 360 titles, has steadily grown each week and now features more than 500 games across original Xbox and Xbox 360. Even better than the continually growing library is that if you own the game already, it automatically works on your Xbox One either by redownloading your digital copy, or by installing the files off your physical disc.

While new games are always paramount, this has given players the ability to go back and re-play an incredible game like Red Dead Redemption before its sequel launches or experience the magic of the Mass Effect trilogy for the first time. For collectors, it’s also satisfying to see the complete run of favorite series like Assassin’s Creed sitting in your library ready to be played. This oft-requested feature was implemented correctly and continues to add community-requested titles every week. The best part is that Microsoft shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, even stating intent to carry this philosophy into the next stages of the Xbox brand.

Phil Spencer

Looking Ahead

Microsoft’s commitment to backward compatibility goes beyond looking to the past. In 2016, Spencer told me the plan is to make sure fans have the peace of mind that they’ll be able to play the games they buy today in the future. “When I’m building something today, I know that it will be playable 10 years from now because I’m building on a platform that a company like Microsoft is out there supporting,” he said. This intention sets the standard for how platform holders should view their catalogs in terms of future-proofing, but until Sony or Nintendo commit to similar plans or Microsoft makes good on this statement, there’s no way of knowing if the industry will embrace this idea.

Microsoft’s dwindling first-party software lineup remains the most glaring weakness of Xbox, and the biggest concern among fans; the Xbox One simply can’t compete with the breadth and depth of Sony and Nintendo’s exclusives, and there isn’t a quick solution to the problem. However, Microsoft has taken a step in the right direction with the recent acquisitions of studios like Ninja Theory, Playground Games, and Compulsion Games. Bulking up its first-party development now, Microsoft will not only improve its offering on the Xbox One, but also safeguard against the same mistakes and backsteps for its next console.

Already, the rumors of offering a choice between a streaming console and a traditional console shows Xbox is being flexible and making sure it doesn’t alienate the core as it did with the initial Xbox One reveal. Though it ultimately strayed from that initial Xbox One vision, Microsoft has listened to its players to come full circle and accomplish the primary goal of the system as laid out in the 2013 reveal: to be an outstanding place to enjoy games and entertainment.

Turn 10 has announced in a blog post that they will be changing the in-game economy for Forza Motorsport 7 alongside getting rid of prize crates and in-game currency for Forza Horizon 4. The studio said “While we’ve never charged money for prize crates in Forza Motorsport 7, their presence in the game has continued to be a source of controversy. The overwhelming feedback has been that this system feels out of place in the game. After careful consideration, we have decided to completely remove prize crates from Forza Motorsport 7. “

 This decision comes with the caveat that it won’t be implemented until winter, and while there have already been changes rolling in, the economy won’t see their total removal for a while longer. There are no microtransactions in Forza 7, a popular misconception about the game, but all the crates are acquired with in-game currency. Unfortunately, the system was designed around players using their credits to purchase randomized crates and hoping that the random number generator delivered. A quote from the blog states.

“Due to the complexity of removing prize crates from the game – while keeping access to Driver Gear, Mods, and Badges – we expect that this process will be completed in the winter timeframe. Starting this month we’ve already taken steps towards that goal, first by unlocking more than 100 previously locked ‘exclusive’ cars and, second, by completely removing cars from the prize crates in the game. The current lineup of prize crates offers no competitive advantage and only offer Driver Gear suits, Mods, and badges, and these crates will remain in place until crates are removed entirely.”

In our review, we called the system “fussy” and that it ended up making many of the cars disposable based on their division requirements. It is great to see that the system won’t make an appearance in future titles like Forza Horizon 4, but it is unfortunate that Forza 7 had to be a casualty to make this possible.

Forza Horzion 4 will be out on Oct 4, check out our preview for more information on the game. 

[Source: Forzamotorsport.net, Resetera]

I’m glad to see another game remove any sort of loot box feature, paid or not. The evidence is piling up from games like Battlefront II and Shadow of War that these kinds of systems fundamentally change in-game economies, usually for the worse, so the recent trend of getting rid of lootboxes is a good one to see. At this point it is a little too late for Forza 7 and seems pointless, but the fact that Horizon 4 won’t feature them is the good news here. 

Destiny 2: Forsaken is an expansion in all senses of the word and that includes new gear for your guardian. Bungie has released a video showing some of these and the effects they’ll have on the enemies in front of you. Check it out below.

You can see new armor like Antaeus Wards, which creates a projectile-reflecting shield, or the incredibly named One Thousand Voices, which shoots out an energy beam of fire.

We’ve been running down exclusive Destiny 2: Forsaken information all month, which you can catch up on at our Destiny 2: Forsaken hub.

The PlayStation 4 version of H1Z1: Battle Royale is leaving open beta and officially launching on August 7 as a free-to-play game.

Daybreak Games announced several new additions coming to the game at launch:

  • Two new weapons, the RPG and the SOCOM Sniper Rifle
  • A new vehicle, the ARV, which seats up to five players
  • The Season 1 Battle Pass, which allows players to unlock content through either free, premium, or PS Plus reward tiers
  • The Hardline Deluxe and Viper Starter launch bundles

Daybreak Games also announced improvements to movement, weapons, airdrops, and loot distribution.

For more information, you can read H1Z1 Producer Terrence Yee’s post on the PlayStation Blog.

Microsoft has announced what games Xbox Live Gold members can look forward to in August, and there’s a good amount of variety in the selection of freebies.

Throughout the entire month, players can grab Forza Horizon 2 for Xbox One, which received solid reviews back in 2014. For the first two weeks of August, players can also pick up the polarizing Dead Space 3, which is playable on both 360 and Xbox One thanks to backward compatibility.

Starting on August 16, players can participate in some knight-on-Viking-on-samurai warfare in Ubisoft’s For Honor, which despite a rocky launch, has been improving ever since and is kicking off its seventh season of free DLC next month. Players can also pick up Epic Mickey 2 in the latter half of August; like Dead Space 3, it is available on both 360 and Xbox One.

As an extra reminder, don’t forget that you still have a few days to pick up some of July’s free offerings of Assault Android Cactus, Death Squared, and Splinter Cell Conviction.

[Source: Microsoft]

Offering up Forza Horizon 2 when the fourth installment is only a few months a way is a bit underwhelming, but I’m interested in checking out For Honor – I didn’t play the game when it first released, and it seems to only have gotten better since then.

Crossing Souls was a pleasant surprise early this year, a pixelated indie title with more story depth than immediately apparent. The game features a number of playable characters, each with specific abilities, and they can be swapped out for one another at any time. We said it was a “fun action game that tells a beautiful story about the power of friendship in the face of rampant greed and materialism.”

Initially the game was only released on PS4 and PC. However, Devolver announced that as of today, the game is also available on Switch for $14.99.  

If you’re still on the fence, you check out Crossing Souls in our New Gameplay Today. In it, Javy shows off the game’s strengths and tries to convince Jeff and Leo that it’s not just a throwback for throwback’s sake.

During a recent visit to EA headquarters, I got extensive hands-on time with NHL 19, and am happy to report the gameplay looks to be in great shape compared to years past. Both the Real Player Motion skating improvements and new collision system help the game take the dramatic step forward many fans expected the series to take back when it made the generational leap to PS4 and Xbox One. If you want to get your hands on it now, you can via the open beta.

In addition, I also sat down with creative director William Ho to discuss many of the questions hardcore franchise fans have been asking on social media and in the comments section of our first look. Read on to find out about the status of adding more player likenesses, EASHL practice mode, online franchise, and many other hot-button issues. 

 

On Stretching Player Ratings

“We very deliberately didn’t play with the player rating spread a lot this year. I think that’s because we really wanted to focus on the effect of traits and specialties on players. Especially because we don’t just have the traits and specialties in World of Chel. We also have them in Be A Pro, and we wanted to be very deliberate about what those boosts are when you are applying those traits, because that is additive and also subtractive on player ratings. You’ll see swings like sometimes plus or minus five points on primary traits. That is where we get variability on the high end. If you max out your shooting abilities you can take a guy from 89 shooting to 96 shooting, which is getting pretty up there. …You shouldn’t be surprised if we do a recalibration of player ratings in the future, but we didn’t want to tear down that house for NHL 19.”

On New Commentary

“After last year, where there wasn’t an update for certain reasons, this year we were adamant to get as much recording time and studio time with Doc and Eddie. What’s nice is those guys are total pros. You may be aware that most of the material is actually ad-libbed by them. We provide very little and they are so pro about it; we’re able to book a number of sessions in Chicago, get our crew down there. We were able to get several thousand new lines. It’s mostly in what we call ‘heavy traffic’ areas. That’s the most common place you’re going to hear much more variety in those calls. And then there’s a certain sort of ‘low traffic’ comments, the fringe context for VO, which we added a bit to but not as much as we added to the ‘heavy traffic’ areas. We hope fans will notice a difference.”

On Adding More Player Likenesses

“There are a number of updates. I think we’ve gotten some of the younger players. I think Boeser –  we have an update and there is a handful of other younger player’s we’ve gotten in. We’ve spent considerable time and effort on some of the alumni teams we’ve added. We do have a new representation of Wayne Gretzky in there. Some of our players we have likenesses that are still okay from years past, but we don’t have some of the players from the ’80s and previous to that, so we spent some time and effort on lovingly recreating likenesses of those classic players.

“We can do it manually; there’s nothing that a good video artist can’t create from photo reference, from video reference. But we are looking at ways we can be more mobile so we can meet halfway with the athletes, or if they are passing through Vancouver we can get them into our head scanning room. But we’re always looking for more ways that we can get more updated likenesses.”

On Changes To Be A Pro Mode

“We haven’t messed with the core of it, but we have added traits, so that as you level up your player, you earn points that you can spend on skills and work your way down several different skill trees. That’s that extra layer of strategy, choice, and personalization that I think gives more choice but also doesn’t violate the fantasy of it being a simulation mode.”

“We know there are lots of fans of Be A Pro, myself included. We are looking at ways we can add to it and freshen it up in years to come.”

On Why “Ones” Mode Doesn’t Support Offline Play

“We originally envisioned it as a way to get more people to play online. People love 3v3 and 6v6 and EASHL, but it is a bit intimidating to some players, so we deliberately designed Ones to get people to play online and show that hey, it can be instantly fun instead of having that huge learning curve. I like to design features in phases, and I think this is just phase one of Ones.”

On The Prospect Of Outdoor Rinks Coming To Other Modes

“We did design Ones as this tournament/festival out in the mountains on the lake. We’re looking at ways we can have other modes outdoor because we know that aesthetic of having outdoor ponds, it’s a sunny day, you have everyone in their casual gear, it’s just a great vibe. We’re definitely looking at ways to get it into other modes.”

On The Lack Of An EASHL Practice Mode

“All of the features we hear about year over year, we don’t deliberately just ignore them. We don’t have EASHL Practice Mode in NHL 19, but it’s not to say we didn’t consider it. But there are lots of loud voices on our team campaigning for it, so hopefully we’ll have better news sometime in the future. 

On Why They Haven’t Added Online Franchise Mode

“GM Connected is something we always evaluate, because we hear it too. We know there is a demand for fans who want that level of connectedness, that depth, and that realism. There’s a lot of moving pieces that have to contribute to something that has so many dependencies. We want it, but I think it will have to happen at the right time. You mentioned it wasn’t as satisfying as it could have been when it was in NHL, we don’t want to do it that way again. It would have to be a full, top-notch experience for us to ship it.”

On Improving A.I. Behavior

“This year was more of a consolidation and quality of life year. We’ve taken a lot of the feedback from the community and really focused on how we could take the existing A.I. and polish the heck out of it. A lot of the pain points, a lot of the things that players have noticed, particularly with goalie A.I. and player positioning. We’ve done a lot of polish there. With player switching, this is not “A.I.” but there is logic there that affects your ability to play. We’ve done a lot of internal user testing on that to see how we could improve that. And for people who really want, “I need the left wing right now” or “I want a right defensemen” you can just hold down the right trigger and use the right stick to select the player you want. That sidesteps any edge cases in our logic.”

NHL 19 Open Beta Out Today

Start practicing your dangles and cellys with the NHL 19 open beta, which starts today (at the time of this writing it’s not yet available) and runs through August 2. This year’s preamble focuses on the game’s World of Chel hub, including Ones, Threes Drop-In, and the Pro-Am.

Ones is a 1v1v1 free-for-all where everyone simply competes to grab the puck and score on a single goalie. Threes is self-explanatory, and the Pro-Am is a single-player tutorial of sorts to get you attuned to the player-lock play of the EASHL.

No matter which mode you play you can try out the game’s revamped class system, which lets you tweak your physique (which then alters your attributes) and try loadouts of primary and secondary traits. These traits, like Booming Slapper, also positively and negatively affect your player.

NHL 19 comes out on September 14 (PS4, Xbox One), and we’ll have extensive hands-on details later today.

[Source: Official PlayStation Blog]

No Man’s Sky received a huge update recently that adds a wealth of content to the game, including fleshed-out multiplayer. However, some players are reporting issues with the Next update, namely that the game starts them from the very beginning when they load their save file.

Hello Games has responded to this issue, saying there is a hotfix for that issue (and several others) on the way. It will go live on PC first and then PS4/Xbox One soon:

For our thoughts on No Man’s Sky’s NEXT update, check out the log I’ve been keeping as I explore the galaxy.