Plus the Overwatch League wraps up indefinitely and all the highlights from PAXAus
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SIFTER is produced by Kyle Pauletto, Fiona Bartholomaeus, Daniel Ang, Adam Christou and Chris Button. Mitch Loh is Senior Producer and Gianni Di Giovanni is our Executive Producer. Thanks to Audio Technica Australia for their support of SIFTER.
KYLE: Hi I’m Kyle Pauletto
FIONA: and I’m Fiona Bartholomaeus
KYLE: Welcome to Walkthrough, SIFTER’s weekly recap on the biggest news in video games.
FIONA: This week so many studios have sacked their developers, Counter-Strike 2 fans aren’t thrilled with some of the changes, and the winners of the Australian Game Developer Awards were announced.
Here is the news for Sunday 8th of October. Let’s go!
PROMO: Join the SIFTER community on Discord at sifter.com.au/discord
KYLE: It has been a brutal week of layoffs across the industry this week, this time for Last of Us heavyweights Naughty Dog, Worms and Overcooked developer Team17, Keywords studios, who were working on the next Dragon Age, and once again Telltale Games is in trouble.
We’ll start with Naughty Dog.
According to sources, at least 25 developers across multiple departments, predominantly in quality assurance, are having their contracts abruptly terminated by the end of the month.
Sadly, with these team members being contractors, severance packages are unlikely, and there are rumours that both the remaining and the terminated staff are being asked to keep quiet.
Now what’s happening over at Team17 Fiona?
FIONA: According to reports by Eurogamer, the company is in the process of a major restructure, with around 50 roles expected to be cut largely within the QA department.
But that's not the only shuffle. Michael Pattison, who joined as the CEO in 2021 after leaving PlayStation, has stepped down from the role. With Pattison's exit, commercial operations director Ann Hurley is tipped to be the next at the helm.
It’s been a rough couple years for Team17. Earlier this year its art and design departments saw redundancies. And you might remember back in 2022 when reports surfaced about poor working conditions and wages. Plus there was the brief, botched foray into the realm of environmentally friendly Worms NFTs.
KYLE: It was also announced that Bioware would not be renewing its contract with Keywords Studios, a global contractor providing services like QA workers for major developers.
In the firing line are 13 of their unionised QA workers who had been working on Dragon Age: Dreadwolf.
The Edmonton-based contractors succeeded in unionising in June last year in a move that was the first of its kind for the Canadian games industry.
Keywords studios claims there is no more work for those contractors, but Polygon has reported that several job listings have since been posted by the studio.
FIONA: And lastly we have news from Telltale Games, with IGN reporting that a significant portion of their staff have been let go.
After being basically brought back from the dead in 2019, fans were hoping things had turned around for the narrative driven developers. But unfortunately it’s really not looking good. We don’t know exact numbers just yet, but be sure to stay tuned to Walkthrough and we’ll keep you updated as more information is released.
KYLE: Last week Valve dropped Counter-Strike 2 out of nowhere, much to everyone’s excitement, but unfortunately it didn’t live up to expectations.
The update to Counter-Strike: GO launched with new gameplay aspects, weapons and graphics, but was missing quite a few features that fans loved. So of course those fans took to Reddit and Twitter to share their complaints and concerns about the game’s current state.
Reddit user cosmictrigger01 put together a list of some of the aspects that have disappeared including several competitive Wingman maps, workshop maps, and game modes like Arms Race, Flying Scoutsman and Danger Zone.
FIONA: That’s not the only issue, as CS2 replaced CS:GO entirely, some players can’t even access the game anymore including those players on Mac with no info about whether support will return.
It was kind of a strange move, you could still access the original Counter-Strike for many many years after CS:GO launched.
Valve has acknowledged some server instability, but that’s pretty much it, and say they are working to fix it.
FIONA: It’s that time of year where we celebrate Australian games and creators with the Australian Game Developer Awards and boy did they not disappoint.
Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical by Summerfall Games unsurprisingly took out several awards with Game of the Year along with Excellence in Music and Accessibility.
The Master’s Pupil by Pat Naoum won Excellence in Art for its hand-painted look that reportedly took seven years to complete. The puzzle adventure game sees you explore the art of master artist Claude Monet, helping him complete some of his greatest masterpieces as his eyesight fails.
Winning Excellence in Narrative was Amarantus by ub4q. The visual novel-styled road trip game follows the story of Arik who’s on a quest to defeat a tyrant, meeting new and old friends along the way.
KYLE: Espire 2: Stealth Operatives, the stealth action first person shooter by Digital Lode Immersive Media won Excellence in AR/VR. You can grab this one on Meta Quest 2 and take on the role of Espire Operative Poe.
One of our favourite chaotic multiplayer games by SMG Studio, Moving Out 2, also picked up an award, taking out Excellence in Gameplay. This removalist game sees you and a bunch of friends taking everything out of a house and breaking a lot of things in the process. Hopefully they didn’t throw this award into the truck.
And taking out Studio of the year was PlaySide Studios. The Melbourne team are known for their games Age of Darkness: Final Stand, World Boss, and their upcoming game Dynasty of the Sands.
There were a stack of other games and developers who were recognised at the awards, check it all out in our show notes.
FIONA: As the Overwatch League grand finals wrap up for 2023, we are unfortunately saying goodbye to the Overwatch League for the foreseeable future.
Earlier this year Activision said that both the Overwatch and Call of Duty leagues were in trouble and warned that efforts to turn them around may be unsuccessful.
Caster Soe Gschwind and the rest of the broadcast team signed off for the last time with messages of sadness but thankfulness to the fans who stuck around for many years.
KYLE: Activision has promised that a revitalised esports program is in the works but there are no plans or suggestions on how that will look.
In July this year, Activision said the league teams will get to vote on a new operating agreement but it turns out that if they don’t vote in favour of the new agreement they may face a $6 million termination fee.
KYLE: PAX Australia returns for another year, with indie games galore and where else to get your fill of what’s going on at the event than right here on Sifter.
The team is covering some of the highlights on the show floor, from the spooky point and click game The Drifter, to the combat wombat game Primordials Legends: Hollow Hero, and the hilariously absurd The Dungeon Experience from Ring of Pain developers Jacob Janerka and Simon Boxer.
FIONA: We’re showing off all the indie showcase winners as well as a preview of the first expansion to spooky fishing game Dredge: The Pale Reach which was just announced.
(AUDIO: The Pale Reach is our sixth area in Dredge and one that we were actually always wanted to do even before we released Dredge, we just didn't have time and so it introduces the icy biome.
We're excited to introduce a whole new monster into the area just as you would expect from the other biomes and there are a few extra boat upgrades that you'll be able to do.
Smashing through ice is definitely a lot of fun.
So you'll have to find bits of materials and equipment to be able to upgrade your boat and access all that you can in the new area.)
There’s a lot to cover over the couple days, with plenty of interviews and stories to come. Keep an eye out for them on our website sifter.com.au or head to our youtube at youtube.com/sifterHQ.
FIONA: New financial data out of CD Projekt Red has given us the final cost of its Phantom Liberty DLC, and it’s massive.
The new campaign cost around $80million US dollars to produce, of which around $21million was just marketing.
Add that to around US$40 million to bring the game to Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 and the sweeping 2.0 update which improved many of the base systems.
KYLE: The new updates have enticed many new players to the dystopian RPG, and CD Project have just announced a live action spin-off series is in development as well.
Part of me thinks it might have been better for them to just wait a bit with the release, but it sounds like CD Project might have bought the redemption arc they wanted.
FIONA: That’s it for the big headlines, here’s what’s coming out over the next week.
KYLE: Out on the 10th is the revamped Forza Motorsport. While it's the eighth in the series, Turn 10 Studios and Microsoft have decided on a soft reboot, presumably heading towards a live service model. Boasting over 500 vehicles with 800 upgrades, expect features like ray tracing and enhanced damage models when it comes to Xbox Series S and X and PC this Tuesday.
FIONA: Space fantasy gacha-thon Honkai: Star Rail from chinese studio HoYoVerse is out on PlayStation 5 after launching on mobile and windows earlier this year. Take part in turn based battles as you ride a space train through the stars. Pick it up on the 10th.
KYLE: This Friday we will see the return of Lords of the Fallen, the successor to the 2014 hit by the same name. You’ll journey through vast realms, master combat, customise characters from nine classes, and face colossal bosses. Decide your legend's path in this expansive RPG sequel on PC and current-gen consoles on the 13th.
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KYLE: This has been Walkthrough by SIFTER, my name is Kyle Pauletto
FIONA: And my name is Fiona Bartholomaeus. Thank you so much for listening.
KYLE: If you’ve ever enjoyed one of our podcasts, can I stop for just one second and ask you a massive favour? Send one of your mates a link to your favourite episodes who you think might like our work. It doesn’t take long and that recommendation is absolute gold. We’re a small indie network and we rely on word of mouth, so if you take the 30 seconds to share the show it’ll be so appreciated.
FIONA: SIFTER is produced by Kyle Pauletto, myself, Adam Christou, Daniel Ang and Chris Button. Mitch Loh is Senior Producer who edited this episode, and Gianni Di Giovanni is our executive producer.
KYLE: Thanks to Brian Fairbanks from Salty Dog Sounds for composing the Walkthrough theme tune.
Thanks to Audio Technica Australia for their support of SIFTER’s podcasts.
FIONA: Thanks again for listening, we’ll be back with more news next Sunday.