Category: Uncategorized

Valve says Steam Machines were ‘a good idea’ that helped make Steam Deck possible

Posted on July 30, 2021 by

Valve has not had great luck making hardware. The Steam Controller failed to revolutionize the controller scene despite its innovative design, the Steam Link worked well but was muscled out by a less-impressive app, and the ballyhooed Steam Machines basically faceplanted right out of the gate. The Index is an impressive unit, but hasn't sparked a meaningful uptick in VR adoption since its release.

We said earlier this month that Steam Machines could be seen as a cautionary tale for early proponents of the Steam Deck, Valve's upcoming handheld gaming device. But in an interview with IGN, Valve designers Greg Coomer, Lawrence Yang, and Scott Dalton took a different perspective, saying that the lessons learned from those earlier units were instrumental in making the Steam Deck possible.

“Steam Deck feels like the culmination of a lot of that earlier work,” Coomer said. “Steam Link has proven really valuable in establishing what it means to stream games from PCs. The Steam Controller was really valuable, it taught us a lot about what's necessary and valuable to a customer. So all those earlier products really feel like they've informed this one.”

One of the biggest obstacles facing Steam Machines, Dalton said, was the “chicken and egg problem” of games: Valve was trying to push into gaming on Linux (Steam Machines were Linux-based), but developers were reluctant to port their games to the OS without a critical mass of users, while gamers weren't inclined to make the switch because there weren't enough games. That's what prompted Valve to create Proton, a compatibility layer that enables Windows-based games to run on Linux. It works very well, and it means that relying on ports is no longer an issue. 

That's not actually great news for Linux diehards who want ports, as we saw earlier this week when a planned port of A Total War Saga: Troy was dropped because there's no real call for it anymore. But it's a major part of Valve's plan to achieve mainstream success for the Steam Deck.

“It was really important for us to be able to talk directly to developers and say, hey, look, the Steam Deck runs your game,” Yang said. “You don't have to port.”

“Steam Machines was a really good idea,” Coomer said. “The operating system wasn't quite there, the number of games you could play on the system wasn't quite there. Really, we've looked at a lot of what we've learned as boxes that we needed to check if we were ever going to talk to customers again about that category. We didn't really want to bring this device to customers until we felt it was ready and that all those boxes were checked, essentially. But definitely, doing that, I don't think we would have made as much progress on Steam Deck if we hadn't had that experience.”

A healthy library of games does seem like a pretty important feature for a gaming device, and Valve says that the Steam Deck has so far handled every game thrown at it, including games released this year. Whether that translates into success where Steam Machines failed remains to be seen, and one potential stumbling block could be supply issues: Steam Deck reservations are currently only available in the US, UK, EU, and Canada, yet the 64GB and 512GB units aren't expected to be available until sometime “after Q2 2022,” a full year from now.

On behalf of PC gaming, sorry about all those cheaters in your console games Call of Duty: Warzone

Posted on July 30, 2021 by

Remember when we couldn't all play games together just because we owned different boxes? That stank. Multiplayer games are better when there are fewer boundaries between us and our friends, which is why I've celebrated the increasing popularity of crossplay in the biggest games out there.

In just a few short years, it's become almost assumed that a new multiplayer game will have crossplay. Even games that came out years before anyone was asking to cross the streams are getting in on the fun, including Overwatch, Rainbow Six Siege, Destiny 2, and even Halo: The Master Chief Collection.

Honestly, I find it incredible. It's still exciting to send an invite from a PC to a PlayStation and just see it work, as if this is how multiplayer gaming always should have been. But crossplay's proliferation isn't all good news. In many cases, console folks get a pretty raw deal. Not only do they have to deal with the superior precision of mouse and keyboard, but they also have to carry PC gaming's worst baggage: rampant cheating. In only a few short years, paranoia over who's aimbotting and who's legit in popular console shooters like Call of Duty: Warzone and Apex Legends has skyrocketed, and it's mostly thanks to PC players.

On behalf of PC gaming, sorry about all that.

hes_not_cheating_bro_love_to_see_it from r/CODWarzone

The open platform

There was a time when I didn't worry about cheaters in multiplayer games. I was 13, played more Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 than is reasonably healthy for an eighth-grader, and did it all on a PlayStation 3. Back then, cheaters (we called them all 'hackers') were basically the boogeyman. We had been thoroughly spooked by stories we'd heard and videos we'd seen of hackers running amok in CoD lobbies, but few of my friends had ever actually seen one.

That's how rare cheating used to be in the world of console gaming. Wrongdoers were definitely out there, but jailbreaking a console always seemed like too much trouble for your average middle school CoD fan. The walled garden of the console ecosystem insulated me from the place where all the real troublemakers hang out. On PC, aimbots and wallhacks are only ever a few clicks away. I learned that lesson fast when I jumped ship and got my first gaming rig in 2013.

When it comes to cheating in PC games, it's less a question of whether or not it happens and more of how badly cheaters affect the average player's experience. Almost every competitive shooter I've played—including Rainbow Six Siege, Apex Legends, Call of Duty: Warzone, CS:GO and Overwatch—has a cheating problem, and they all center around the PC. If you group up with a rando using wallhacks, they're on PC. Domed by a dude that magically has zero recoil? Probably on a PC. Thankfully, in shooters with ranked modes like Siege or Overwatch, cheaters tend to naturally rise to the top skill brackets where only a small percentage of legitimate players will encounter them.

Cheating can start to feel rampant, in my experience, when matchmaking is less precise. This is where battle royale games stand out. With a minimum lobby of 60-150 players, battle royale tends to be a bit laxer about skill disparity. Less than a year after receiving crossplay, the Apex Legends community has reached new levels of unrest over Respawn's handling of cheaters and DDOS attacks. The perceived increase in cheating can be partially attributed to the game's increased popularity in 2021, but I suspect the batch of console players newly exposed to what's possible on PC has something to do with it, too.

random_loba_on_my_team_using_wallhacks_and_silent from r/apexlegends

Troubled waters

Of course, there's no better example right now of a crossplay game in turmoil than Call of Duty: Warzone. The free-to-play, 150-player battle royale has had a major cheating problem for almost as long as it's been out. It has also featured crossplay since day one, a first for Call of Duty when Modern Warfare launched in 2019. We've covered the multitude of ways that enterprising hackers have bypassed Activision's internal anti-cheat measures to cause mayhem. Warzone's massive popularity and its seemingly ineffective anti-cheat has created a perfect storm where the capabilities of cheaters seem endless and players are losing faith that conditions will ever improve.

Caught up in this storm are console players that are understandably frustrated that they wouldn't have to deal with so many cheaters if they could simply exclude PC players from crossplay matchmaking. “Apparently getting an anti-cheat is hard, so at least enable some sort of console-only cross-play. As just a temporary solution. The game is literally unplayable at the moment. We've seen moments in Warzone where cheating was rampant, but this time it feels like we're just outnumbered,” reads a post by user Sec0nd on the Warzone subreddit.

Players do have the option in Warzone to turn off crossplay altogether (as do console Apex players), but many don't want to give up the very real benefits of crossplay, like faster matchmaking. Others, like one Xbox Warzone player I spoke with, don't want to be cut off from the PlayStation friends they play with every night. For games with smaller playerbases, like the Switch version of Apex Legends, switching off crossplay may sometimes mean you can't play at all.

The price of crossplay, according to the console Warzone players I spoke with, is encountering three to five cheaters every night they play.

hacker_vs_the_ground_you_dont_even_need_to_aim_at from r/CODWarzone

“I think that cross-play in Call of Duty specifically is very well done,” user Sec0nd told me. “It's just a shame that the PC side of things is bringing in a lot of cheaters. And because there is no working anti-cheat it's pretty frustrating for console players to be forced into the same pool as the one that is bringing in all the cheaters.” Even turning off crossplay won't purge your lobbies entirely. Console players with money and determination can buy expensive (and undetectable) controller passthrough boxes that bring a limited number of cheats to native console play.

The severity of Warzone's cheating is exactly why PC-centric developers like Valve and Riot have tried so many tactics to thwart bad actors. Valve not only made its own ant-cheat, but it has also tried player-curated clip reviews. Most recently, CS:GO reinstated a paywall to play Competitive just to hit cheaters in their wallets.  Riot built an abnormally invasive anti-cheat program for its free-to-play FPS Valorant. Even though it's annoying that Vanguard wants to always be running (even when Valorant isn't), the results over the game's first year have been very impressive. Cheaters definitely exist, but Vanguard appears to cast a wide net that catches most in the act.

To play PC games is to accept some amount of vulnerability. It's the open platform, after all, and that comes with good and bad. I'm okay with that, but I feel weird about flipping on crossplay and dragging console players into the mud with the rest of us. Right now, PC cheaters are a hindrance our console peers are willing to put up with to play with friends, but the transition has been bumpy.

Sorry, again. And welcome to PC gaming.

7 rare Magic cards you’ve probably never heard of Magic card Chandra

Posted on July 30, 2021 by

Under boxes of Christmas ornaments or trapped deep in the plastic of ancient Trapper Keepers you might find some of the rarest Magic: the Gathering cards. Over its years as the reigning king of collectible cardstock, Magic has always generated tales of the garage sale Black Lotus, the attic Mox Pearl, and the older brother's forgotten Ancestral Recall. 

But in the shadow of Magic’s nine most powerful cards is a murky realm of the unusual, the unobtainable, and the unknown. Let’s bring to light a few of the most interesting with some insight from Mark Rosewater, Magic’s head designer since 2003, Wizards of the Coast employee since 1995, and world-renowned artist.

(Image credit: Wizards of the Coast)

1. The Garfield Event Cards 

Value: $5,000 – $15,000 or more
No. printed: Varies, between nine and 220 depending on the card.

Being the father of Magic comes with its benefits, and Richard Garfield has harnessed them to create a few special cards over the years. Starting with the first card, Proposal, in 1993, Garfield had a few copies made with special art he commissioned from Quinton Hoover. In one of the nerdiest proposals ever, he slipped a single copy into his deck, and then didn’t draw it until the fourth game to be able to propose to then-girlfriend Lily Wu. 

PC Gamer: Over the years a number of cards have been made for Richard Garfield’s life events, with the most recent known being Phoenix Heart in 2014. What does it say about Magic that these kinds of promotional, arguably indulgent-and-fun cards can be so memorable to some fans?

Mark Rosewater, head designer: Having designed thousands and thousands of cards over the years, I’ve come to see the Magic card as a canvas capable of creating all sorts of artistic expressions. Yes, they can be game pieces, but they can be much more than that. Richard, for example, used it as a means of celebration to publicly acknowledge events that were important to him. I think this struck a chord with the Magic community because it reminds all of us that the game is more than just an activity we participate in, but a means by which we can create a larger community that adds to the richness of our lives.

Has anyone else done something similar?

When my twins were born, I announced it online with a card that I’d made. I didn’t print it like Richard did, but I did share my news with the audience through the medium of a Magic card. (It was the world’s first and only split creature card.) I have likewise heard a lot of stories from fans about how they, or sometimes their friends or family, made their announcements in the form of a Magic card. There seems to be something universal in sharing news through the format of something you love.

(Image credit: Wizards of the Coast)

2. 1996 World Champion Card

Value: $17,500 (sold in 2001 to private collector)
No. printed: 1 (rest of the sheet and printing plates destroyed afterwards)

Back in the early days of Magic’s tournament scene, just after the birth of its Pro Tour (now the Players Tour), the third World Championship was to be held at the Wizards of the Coast headquarters in Seattle in the summer of '96. Out of a field of 125 players, relatively unknown Australian Tom Chanpheng took down the heavily favored Mark Justice to win, earning himself a trophy with a one-of-a-kind card embedded in it. 

With the 1996 World Championships, we got a corresponding 1996 World Champion card. But never again. Were there ever any plans to continue this trend in the following years? 

I never knew of any plans to make another one and I was the person who designed the 1996 World Champion card. I believe it was just done as a one-of promotional event for that specific tournament. I did design one other unique only-one-exists-in-the-world card for a Japanese tournament center. The card was called the Shichifukujin Dragon.

(Image credit: Wizards of the Coast)

3. Summer Magic (Summer Magic Hurricane) 

Value: $10,000
No. printed: Unknown, most product was recalled and destroyed

Riding high on the smash sales success of the game in '93, Magic had ordered another printing of its core set of cards, called Revised. But Revised had some problems, including an incorrect picture for Serendib Efreet, washed out colors, and it even sparked protests over satanic imagery. In an attempt to fix these issues, a new print run was started in the Summer of '94. Despite the intended function of the print run, it came back with a fresh set of mistakes, extra dark inks. The most famous of these was the green card Hurricane printed as a blue card.

There’s always a tension between making things accessible, making things exciting to collect, balancing them for play, and creating fun.

Mark Rosewater

With the printing issues that surrounded Summer Magic in 1994, a lot of product got recalled to be destroyed, and although some clearly made it out there. Legend says that some was given out to Wizards employees. Are there still boxes of Summer Magic floating around? 

This is before my time, but the story as I’ve heard it was the cards were printed at our printer in Europe, so no cards, to my knowledge (although again, before my time), were ever specifically in the Wizards of the Coast Renton office or handed out to employees. I do know of a fellow employee who collected a full set of Summer Magic, but he did that on his own and didn’t acquire them through work.

(Image credit: Wizards of the Coast)

4. Portal Three Kingdoms (Imperial Seal) 

Value: $1100
No. printed: Small print run.

The Portal sets were all designed as introductory sets, with the rules of Magic simplified to ease new players in. This trend continued with Portal Three Kingdoms, which was created for the Asian market as a retelling of the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history. These facts made the size of the print run small, and only a marginal amount of English language booster packs made it to Australia and New Zealand. Years later, in 2005, Portal cards were made tournament legal in both Vintage and Legacy, and a few cards like Imperial Seal became extremely expensive and sought-after components of top decks, with Imperial Seal acting as extra copies of Vampiric Tutor

With cards like Imperial Seal and Imperial Recruiter in Portal: Three Kingdoms not being tournament-legal at first, was it a surprise to see them become rare, valuable cards?

They were designed as introductory products for beginners to learn Magic, so we had no plans for them to be tournament legal. We did playtest them, but not with the same kind of rigor we do for a tournament-legal product. At the time we made them, we thought some Magic players might want them from a novelty standpoint, but didn’t foresee how sought-after they would become, again because we never thought they’d have tournament relevance.

(Image credit: Wizards of the Coast)

5. The “Guru” Lands 

Value: $450—$650
No. printed: Limited promo

Mid 1999 saw a new promotional program aimed at recruiting players to become “Gurus” that would teach new players how to play. Alongside the exceptionally goofy marketing the program provided paperwork and intro decks, and earned each Guru points that would get you basic lands with unique art. With how short of a time the program existed and the rarity of the unique art, this set of five cards would become desirable status symbols for everything from collectors to tournament players.

The Guru program, with its system of Guru points, seemed like it was set up for larger things but never quite got there. Was there ever the intent to introduce more rewards or promotional cards for the program before it folded in 2001? What made the program fold in the end?

I believe the Guru program was created first and then when the team was looking for incentives to encourage people to join they went to a popular well, making Magic cards with unique art. I don’t know if there were any plans to do follow-up cards. I personally never heard of any such plans, but it wasn’t something I worked directly on. I don’t know specifically why the program stopped, but experience from working at Wizards for 25 years is that it wasn’t accomplishing its goals.

(Image credit: Wizards of the Coast)

6. HarperPrism Book Promotional Cards (Mana Crypt)

Value: $320
No. printed: Limited promo

With Magic’s success came the beginning of a new series of novels exploring the story behind the setting for the game. Before they were published, a promotional tie-in was dreamed up, and five unique cards were created. Inside the back of each novel was a mail-in form that could net you the appropriate card for the book. Most of the cards were pretty bad, but one of them—Mana Crypt—would be recognized for its power. It was extremely hard to acquire for the next 20 years, only being reprinted in an accessible format with the release of the Eternal Masters set in 2016.

Mana Crypt was a very sought-after card for a long time. It’s since been reprinted in sets like Eternal Masters and Double Masters, has Wizards learned from how popular the card became as a promo-only card?

Magic is both a game and a collectible, so there’s always a tension between making things accessible, making things exciting to collect, balancing them for play, and creating fun experiences. We have learned though that if the newer version is distinct from the original, even in a subtle way, that the collectors can still get excited with collecting the original version while the gamers can have fun, enjoyable experiences with any version. I should note that those aren’t distinct groups. There’s a big overlap in the Venn Diagram of Magic players who love both playing and collecting the game.

When we went back to Magic’s original world with Dominaria in 2018, was there any talk about the old HarperPrism books? Some of us still want to see Garth One-Eye again, especially as a planeswalker card!

We didn’t talk about more books, but you are in luck in regards to Garth One-Eye. While not a planeswalker card, Modern Horizons 2 did print Garth One-Eye as a legendary creature. He even has a cool ability which lets you cast copies of certain cards from back in Alpha.

(Image credit: Wizards of the Coast)

7. Alpha – Beta – Gamma Playtest Cards

Value: $1000 for least desirable commons, far more for the best
No. printed: A few hundred of commons, far less for uncommons, 5-6 of rares at most

When Magic was first being designed, before print runs, cards were hand written (Alpha test), typed or hand drawn with colored circles for mana costs (Beta test), or had low quality black and white printed faces (Gamma test). This process left behind stacks of unusual and interesting relics of the design process on faded paper, and some of the most dedicated collectors of Magic oddities prize them for their novelty and history in the annals of the spellslinging arts. 

How have playtest cards changed over the years? Originally we saw handwritten ones with crude photocopy art, but what is that process like now? Do those playtest card mockups stick around, or get thrown out now? I assume there are probably no Alpha or Beta test cards in drawers anymore.

When Richard made Alpha playtest cards they were just printed on paper, photocopied and cut out. Early playtest cards were similar although closer in shape to a Magic card (the Alpha playtest cards were tiny). We then started using stickers that we stuck onto Magic cards. We kept improving the sticker technology, but used them for many years. The latest technology is printing playtest cards directly onto blank Magic cards. Usually, when we’re done using playtest cards, we destroy them, but some are kept as mementos to later share with the public.

Thanks to:

Everything that’s happened since the Activision Blizzard lawsuit went public Activision Blizzard walkout

Posted on July 30, 2021 by

On July 20th, California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard collecting “numerous complaints about unlawful harassment, discrimination, and retaliation” at the company. Employees the DFEH spoke to said Activision Blizzard has a “frat boy” culture that's been a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women.” In the week since, more than 3,000 Activision Blizzard employees have signed an open letter to management speaking up for victims and making a call for “official statements that recognize the seriousness of the allegations and demonstrate compassion for victims of harassment and assault.”

It's been a dramatic period for Activision Blizzard, including a response plan from CEO Bobby Kotick and a work stoppage by hundreds of employees. And this is just the beginning: Court proceedings are still pending and could last for months or years if the case goes to trial.

Here's the latest from the Activision Blizzard controversy, a timeline of events since the lawsuit was made public, and a lawyer's perspective on what losing the lawsuit (or settling out of court) could mean for Activision Blizzard.

The big stories this week

The latest Activision Blizzard news 

Everything so far

Activision Blizzard walkout

(Image credit: Getty/Bloomberg)

The Activision Blizzard controversy timeline 

Everything that's happened so far, starting with the most recent events.

Friday, July 30: Vice publishes an article about Blizzard recruiters at a 2015 hacker conference harassing a security researcher who asked about a penetration testing (cybersecurity auditing) position. “One of them asked me when was the last time I was personally penetrated, if I liked being penetrated, and how often I got penetrated,” she said.

On the same day, Waypoint writes about an Activision Blizzard IT worker at the company's Minnesota office who installed spy cameras in the unisex bathroom. He pleaded guilty in 2018 to “interference with privacy.”

IGN also publishes a report based on interviews with seven current and former employees who speak to a number of issues, including women being evaluated differently than men inside Blizzard and breastfeeding rooms not having locks, at one point. One employee characterized the company's attempts to fix its culture as “putting lipstick on it.”

Thursday, July 29: The New York Times publishes an investigation into Activision Blizzard with newly public accounts of sexual harassment and discrimination. An employee who worked at the company from 2014 to 2017 said she was paid less than her boyfriend, who joined the company at the same time doing the same work, and that a manager messaged her on Facebook asking what kind of porn she watched.

Another woman, who joined Activision in 2011 as a vice president, said that an executive “pressured her to have sex with him because she 'deserved to have some fun' after her boyfriend had died weeks earlier.”

Wednesday, July 28: Employees hold a walkout at Blizzard HQ, while others participate in the work stoppage remotely. Employees also respond to CEO Bobby Kotick's letter saying they are “pleased to see that our collective voices… have convinced leadership to change the tone of their communications,” but that Kotick “fails to address critical elements at the heart of employee concerns.” The response reiterates the four demands from Tuesday. “Today's walkout will demonstrate that this is not a one-time event that our leaders can ignore. We will not return to silence; we will not be placated by the same processes that led us to this point,” the letter says.

Game developers across the industry share messages of solidarity with the walkout.

Kotaku publishes a report on Blizzard's “Cosby Suite,” a recurring convention party room that Afrasiabi and other employees texted about bringing “hot chixx” to. Greg Street, a former World of Warcraft lead systems designer and current VP of MMO R&D at Riot, who is seen in a photo, claims that the hotel room was “a green room at Blizzcon that many of us at the time used to take a break and relax during the convention” and that “hot chixx” was a joke.

Activision Blizzard confirms to Kotaku that Alex Afrasiabi was terminated in 2020 “for his misconduct in his treatment of other employees.”

Protest at Activision Blizzard

(Image credit: Bloomberg / Getty Images)

Tuesday, July 27: The World of Warcraft team announces that it plans to remove references from WoW that are “not appropriate,” likely including NPCs and items related to Alex Afrasiabi. 

Employees state they plan to walk out on Wednesday to protest the company's response to the lawsuit. The open letter passes 3,000 signatories (Activision Blizzard has approximately 9,500 employees). The plans for the work stoppage come with four demands: 

  • An end to mandatory arbitration in employee contracts
  • More diverse recruiting and hiring practices
  • Publication of compensation data, promotion rates and salary ranges
  • A company-wide Diversity, Equity & Inclusion task force empowered to hire a third party company to audit Activision Blizzard

Late Tuesday afternoon, CEO Bobby Kotick writes a public note to employees calling the company's initial response “tone deaf,” and says “We are taking swift action to be the compassionate, caring company you came to work for and to ensure a safe environment. There is no place anywhere at our company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind.” 

Kotick's letter announces immediate steps to investigate claims, hold listening sessions, make personnel changes, enforce diverse hiring practices and change inappropriate in-game content. 

“Anyone found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences will be terminated.”

Monday, July 26: Activision holds an “all-hands” meeting that only has room for 500 staff. Executive Joshua Taub reportedly attempts to address the lawsuit, saying that there's “zero tolerance” for the behavior described in the lawsuit, and that Activision Blizzard works with employees and the accused to “work on a resolution.” Taub also says that Fran Townsend's response “wasn't the right communication.”

More than 1,000 current and former Activision Blizzard employees sign an open letter to management calling Townsend's statement “abhorrent and insulting to all that we believe our company should stand for.” The employee statement continues “Our values as employees are not accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership… Categorizing the claims that have been made as 'distorted, and in many cases false' creates a company atmosphere that disbelieves victims… Immediate corrections are needed from the highest level of our organization.” 

The letter ends with a statement that the employees “stand with all our friends, teammates, and colleagues, as well as the members of our dedicated community, who have experienced mistreatment or harassment of any kind.” 

Signatures from current and former continue to roll in.

Saturday, July 24: Former Blizzard senior vice president Chris Metzen tweets a response to the lawsuit, beginning with “We failed, and I'm sorry.”

Friday July 23: Activision Blizzard chief compliance officer Fran Townsend sends a very different message to staff, calling the lawsuit's depiction of AB “distorted and untrue” and that Activision Blizzard “truly values equality and fairness.” Townsend says that when she joined the executive leadership team in March 2021 she was certain she “was joining a company where I would be valued, treated with respect ,and provided opportunities equal to those afforded to the men of the company.” Townsend reiterates the initial response that the lawsuit's claims were inaccurate.

Blizzard co-founder and former president Mike Morhaime publishes “My thoughts,” stating “I wanted to acknowledge the women who had awful experiences. I hear you, I believe you, and I am so sorry to have let you down.”

A video from BlizzCon 2010 goes viral on Twitter. During a WoW panel Q&A, a woman asks about the possibility of less sexualized female characters. The panelists, including Alex Afrasiabi and now-president J. Allen Brack, laugh and make jokes in response.

Thursday, July 22: Blizzard president J. Allen Brack emails staff to say that the behavior detailed in the suit is “completely unacceptable.” Activision president Rob Kostich emails staff calling the allegations “deeply disturbing” and says that “we, as a company, take every allegation seriously.”

Wednesday, July 21: News breaks that the lawsuit has been filed. In a statement sent to PC Gamer and other press outlets, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said that the lawsuit includes “distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard's past” and that the DFEH was “required by law to adequately investigate and to have good faith discussions with us to better understand and to resolve any claims or concerns before going to litigation, but they failed to do so. Instead, they rushed to file an inaccurate complaint, as we will demonstrate in court.”

Tuesday, July 20: California Department of Fair Employment and Housing files a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard alleging discrimination and sexual harassment against women in the workplace. The lawsuit mentions “cube crawls” in which drunk male employees subjected women to unwanted advances; a lack of women in leadership positions; unequal pay for women; and a lack of action from HR around many of these complaints. The suit also specifically calls out the actions of former WoW senior creative director Alex Afrasiabi, who was “permitted to engage in blatant sexual harassment with little to no repurcussions.” 

What happens next?

California Department of Fair Employment and Housing

(Image credit: California Department of Fair Employment and Housing)

What should we expect from the lawsuit itself?

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing's lawsuit has started a public maelstrom for Activision, but a court hearing could be weeks or months off—if the case goes to a trial at all. 

“I don’t see either case as going to an actual trial,” lawyer Kellen Voyer tells PC Gamer, referring to the DFEH's case against Activision Blizzard as well as one it filed against Riot Games. “Typically the parties will settle out once the defendant has a better idea of the evidence being brought by the state and the strength of its case. The current negative press… is another reason why the companies will not want to go through a long, public trial.”

The DFEH's news page shows a number of settlements from the past three years to resolve discrimination and harassment cases, for sums ranging from $50,000 to $6.2 million. Voyer points out that a sexual harassment case brought by the state is stronger than a case from an individual, partially becasue it's public rather than private arbitration. (Ending mandatory arbitration in Activision Blizzard contracts is one of the demands listed by employees who participated in the July 28 work stoppage.)

Because the DFEH's investigation into Activision Blizzard must have been ongoing for some time, Voyer says the lawsuit is a way to publicly push Activision Blizzard into a settlement. The DFEH filing does request a jury trial, but this is standard practice and doesn't rule out the likely possibility of a settlement before trial begins.

Bobby Kotick, Activision Blizzard CEO

(Image credit: Bloomberg / Getty Images)

“Activision Blizzard will fight tooth and nail to avoid [a trial] as I would expect a jury (especially in California) to come down hard on the company,” Voyer says. ” A settlement is likely before it gets to that stage.”

Going after a company as big as Activision Blizzard gives the DFEH a chance to make a public spectacle; even if it doesn't have strong enough evidence to push the company into a multi-million dollar settlement, it could have significant ramifications.

“To make an example of a company, even through the filing of the case and the negative PR that results for the company, will hopefully effectuate change through deterrence: by putting companies on notice that there are real, material, ramifications for failing to address toxic culture,” Voyer says. 

It's still possible that this case goes to trial. If it does, the DFEH will likely be pushing for big monetary penalties and for Activision Blizzard to open itself up to oversight as it enacts plans to repair its workplace issues.

If Blizzard won at trial, it would likely push for no monetary damages and, in Voyer's words, “the usual corporate, general promise of 'we will change and do better.'” 

Best cheap gaming PC right now Cheap gaming PC deals

Posted on July 30, 2021 by

A cheap gaming PC deal is the easiest and fastest way to get into PC gaming for the first time, or to make a clean break with an outdated, dusty gaming rig. Our first recommendation for PC gamers is always to build your own PC, because it's a fun process that will almost always save you some money in the long run. We have plenty of advice on building your own with our gaming PC build guides.

But that process does that does take time and patience. And with the right cheap gaming PC deal, you can avoid that barrier, and maybe even end up saving a bit of money over building your own. At the very least, it's a whole lot more convenient. And if you'd rather stay portable we've got the best cheap gaming laptop deals to keep you covered too.

In this frequently updated hub we look out for the best gaming PC deals online and separate them out into price categories. Budget gaming PCs between $500 and $1000 should be able to play most modern games at 1080p and good graphical settings. The higher-end systems above $1000 come with more powerful CPUs and graphics cards.

We also don't judge purely on price: the components in these PCs matter, and we consider how the parts compare to what you'd buy in a DIY rig. In most cases, these machines won't be the ones from our best gaming PCs list, but whatever you’re getting should be worth the price.

If you decide you'd rather build your own gaming PC to save more money or get the exact right components, check out our budget gaming PC build guide for a parts list to get started.

Cheap gaming PC deals


Skytech PC | Ryzen 5 3600 | GTX 1650 | $850
This entry-level PC has enough horsepower for 1080p gaming at 60Hz, but not much beyond that. A “gaming keyboard and mouse” is also included in the box. (Posted: 7/30)

HP Pavilion | Ryzen 3 5300G | RX 5500 | $799.95
Here’s another entry-level PC ideal for 1080p gaming. It has an AMD processor and GPU, paired with 512GB of SSD storage and 8GB of RAM. (Posted: 7/23)


ABS Challenger | Ryzen 5 3600 | GTX 1660 Super | $1,100
This gaming PC has a 6-core/12-thread Ryzen 5 processor, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super graphics card, 16GB RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a 500W PSU. It’s a great option for 1440p gaming. (Posted: 7/30)

Skytech Shadow | Core i7-9700F | RTX 2060 | $1,600 (save $100)
Not a big discount here, but this is one of the cheapest pre-built PCs available at the moment with an Intel Core i7 CPU and a GeForce RTX 2060 graphics card. It will have no issue handling 1440p (and some 4K) gaming, especially with the 16GB RAM. (Posted: 7/30)

The best cheap gaming PCs

Cyberpower Gamer Xtreme

1. Cyberpower Gamer Xtreme

The best gaming PC under $1,000

CPU: Intel Core i5-8400 | GPU: Nvidia GTX 1060 3GB | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Storage: 120GB SSD + 1TB HDD 7200RPM

Exceptional performance per dollar
Runs very cool out of the box
Included SSD is low capacity
Great design

If you want a fantastic value for a prebuilt gaming PC look no further than Cyberpower's Gamer Xtreme. Featuring an Intel Core i5-8400, Nvidia GTX 1060 3GB and 8GB of DDR4 ram, you might actually pay more than $700 when building the system yourself part for part. It's already great out of the box, but the Gamer Xtreme can also be easily upgraded. The 120GB SSD won't do much if you're looking to install multiple games, so we'd recommend upgrading that first. Especially since high capacity fast SSDs are so cheap nowadays.

Whether you're looking to play Battlefield V or some rounds of Fortnite Battle Royale, the Gamer Xtreme has you covered with great performance at 1080p with high to ultra graphic settings. It doesn't have any fancy RGB lighting, but this prebuilt still looks fantastic with its built in red LED fans and tempered glass panels. 

HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop

2. HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop

An AMD powerhouse that keeps up with the best

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 Series | GPU: AMD RX 580 | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Storage: 1TB HDD 7200RPM

Extensive front panel connections
Great performance out of the box
No included SSD
Cooling isn't great

HP may not be the first PC company you think of when it comes to gaming, but the Pavilion Gaming Desktop is a fantastic choice for gamers on a budget, with models in the $700 range that offer better gaming performance than several systems we've seen well over $800.

AMD's Ryzen 5 series offers incredible performance on a budget. Combine it with the RX 580 and you have yourself a winning combination that can handle just about any modern game you throw at it. The only downside to the system is its lack of an SSD, but the modern I/O with USB 3.1 Type-C and plentiful USB ports makes it a versatile system that is great for work and play.

SkyTech Archangel

3. SkyTech Archangel

The best bang for your buck

CPU: AMD Ryzen 3 Series | GPU: Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti 4GB | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Storage: 1TB HDD 7200RPM

Great value
Easy to upgrade
The design isn't for everyone
No included SSD

SkyTech PC isn't the most recognizable name in the game, but this company has some of the best deals we've seen on prebuilt gaming PCs. The Ryzen edition of the SkyTech Archangel desktop is the perfect place to start for new PC gamers. The Archangel is already capable of running most games in 1080p on high settings, but it's also easily upgraded.

Since the PC doesn't include an SSD, that would be an obvious choice for an upgrade. The Ryzen 3 1200 that's included is a budget AMD CPU that offers great performance but could easily be upgraded to a 5 or 7 series further down the line. Unlike some of the bigger name brands, SkyTech's PCs don't have any built-in bloatware to worry about. If you don't mind the aesthetic and have a budget in the $600 range, the Archangel is one of the few choices that rival building it yourself.

Acer Gaming Desktop Aspire TC-780-UR1E

4. Acer Gaming Desktop Aspire TC-780-UR1E

Great for newcomers to PC gaming

CPU: Intel Core i5-7400 | GPU: AMD R9 360 | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Storage: 256GB SSD

Includes 256GB SSD
Easy to upgrade
Great performance for the price
Older components

If you're on an even tighter budget or just looking to get your foot in the door for PC gaming, Acer's Aspire Gaming Desktop TC-780 is a solid place to start. The desktop features Intel's Core i5-7400 for a CPU and AMD's older R9 360 for a graphics card. These are older generation components, but the combination is still capable enough for 1080p gaming on medium settings. It won't get you much further than that but it's a great place to start and can be easily upgraded down the line.

The system already comes with a 256GB SSD installed, which is great at this price point. A new graphics card further down the line will make this PC even more viable for modern gaming. Acer also offers great support which can be handy for users that are new to PC gaming.

ABS Simpli

5. ABS Simpli

One of the cheapest entryways to PC gaming

CPU: AMD Ryzen 3 1200 | GPU: Nvidia GT 730 2GB | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Storage: 1TB HDD

Great for beginners
Stable 30-40fps on medium/low settings
Easy to upgrade
GPU could definitely use an upgrade

If you're reading this, chances are you've probably heard of a site called Newegg before. What you may not have known is that Newegg actually came from a PC company called ABS Computer Technologies. The company is much busier now being one of the top PC retailers, but it hasn't forgotten its roots and is still making and selling ABS computers today.

One of those prebuilt systems is the ABS Simpli. As the same suggest, the Simpli is a simple prebuilt PC that doesn't offer a whole lot out of the box. The graphics card will only allow you to comfortably play games on lower settings, but the system can easily be upgraded over time without costing a whole lot. A simple upgrade to an SSD and a better graphics card will go a very long way towards making this a viable PC for high end gaming. 

Choosing the best affordable prebuilt PCs

Perfect peripherals

(Image credit: Colorwave)

Best gaming mouse: the top rodents for gaming
Best gaming keyboard: your PC's best friend…
Best gaming headset: don't ignore in-game audio

One of the biggest advantages to putting together your own budget gaming PC build is the ability to essentially choose every single component in the system. This allows you to take your time shopping around for deals and finding the perfect combination of parts to fit your budget and performance needs. The downside for most inexperienced builders is that this whole process can take some time and has the potential to cause quite a headache if something goes wrong. This is where prebuilt gaming PCs really shine.

When you pay the premium to configure or purchase a prebuilt PC you are paying for more than just the parts. You are paying for warranty service, support and the peace of mind that your system was put together by professionals. These are some of the things we value highly when considering the best budget gaming PCs. We also look at other unique selling points like design, upgradability and anything you wouldn't be able to do when building it yourself.

For most users that don't have the luxury to spend over $1000 on a prebuilt gaming PC, upgradability and performance per dollar are paramount. When we set out to choose our top choices for budget prebuilt gaming PCs, we took a look at almost every major manufacturer and system integrator to find the best combination of value, reliability, customer feedback, design and performance under $500 and under $1,000. 

We still highly recommend the experience of building it yourself, but if you can't do that then one of the systems above will have you gaming in short order.

Horizon Forbidden West reportedly delayed into 2022 Aloy – Horizon

Posted on July 30, 2021 by

Horizon Forbidden West has not yet been announced for PC, but we're confident it's going to happen—eventually anyway. Sony has made no secret of its commitment to bringing first-party games our way, including Death Stranding, Days Gone, and Forbidden West's predecessor, Horizon Zero Dawn. Even the famously PlayStation-exclusive Uncharted is apparently headed for PC at some point. Which is why it's worth noting that the PlayStation release of Forbidden West has reportedly been delayed into early 2022, inevitably pushing the PC arrival even further off. 

A rumor of the delay first surfaced earlier this week when Jeff Grubb said during his Giant Bomb program (via GamesRadar) that Sony was “leaning toward” delaying the game until next year, although as he understood it the matter hadn't actually been settled. According to a Bloomberg report posted today, however, the decision has now been made, and Horizon Forbidden West has indeed been delayed.

The delay has the potential to make 2022, which is already turning into a monster year for PC gaming, to be even bigger. It was set to be a memorable one based on planned releases alone, with new games like Starfield, Stalker 2, Elden Ring, and Baldur's Gate 3, but a slew of delays have pumped it up either further: Ghostwire: Tokyo, Rainbow Six Extraction, Gotham Knights, Hogwart's Legacy, Sifu, Lord of the Rings: Gollum, Kerbal Space Program 2, Stray, and more have all been pushed out of 2021.

The delay hasn't been officially confirmed at this point, and even if (or when) it is, it doesn't necessarily mean we'll see Horizon Forbidden West on PC  in 2022: As with Horizon Zero Dawn, which launched on PC three years after its original PS4 release, Forbidden West could be years down the road. In June, PlayStation Studios boss Hermen Hulst said that interest in the PC notwithstanding, Sony would continue prioritizing its own consoles: “Releasing games on PC will not come ever at the expense of building an exciting lineup of great console games.” 

But Horizon Forbidden West is not a PlayStation 5-exclusive: It's also coming to the PS4, which—-perhaps optimistically—could mean that a relatively not-too-far-off PC release is in the works too. I've reached out to Guerrilla Games to ask about the delay and will update if I receive a reply.

Horizon Forbidden West delayed to early 2022 – report

Posted on July 30, 2021 by

ps5 special editions

Sony is said to be delaying Horizon Forbidden West to early 2022, according to a report from Bloomberg.

According to the report, Horizon Forbidden West will miss its proposed holiday 2021 release and instead arrive sometime in early 2022.

Watch on YouTube

If accurate, it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering Guerrilla Games wasn’t quite sure if the game would meet a 2021 release. Back in June, PlayStation Studios head Herman Hulst said that while the game was “on track” for release this year around the holidays, “that isn’t quite certain yet.”

“For Horizon, we think we are on track to release this holiday season,” said Hulst. “But that isn’t quite certain yet, and we’re working as hard as we can to confirm that to you as soon as we can.”

Sony has yet to make a statement regarding the report as of press time. we will update this post with more information as it comes.

The post Horizon Forbidden West delayed to early 2022 – report appeared first on VG247.

Fortnite Crew August: Summer Skye is your next subscriber skin fortnite crew august

Posted on July 30, 2021 by

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Fortnite Crew skins: What's next for subscribers

Epic has announced new details on the exclusive Fortnite Crew skin for August. It looks like subscribers will be treated to a version of season 2's Skye character, dressed up in appropriately summery shorts and a T-shirt.

We've got all the details you need to know, including what other cosmetics Fortnite Crew subscribers are getting in August, when Summer Skye is releasing, and more.

Don't forget that if you want July's Fortnite Crew skin, Marvel's Loki, you'll need to subscribe before the end of the month or risk losing out on it forever.

Fortnite Crew August: Summer Skye skin

Here's a solid look at what Summer Skye will look like. Rather than the beanie hat and jacket she donned for season 2, we've got some jean shorts and a Meowscles T-shirt. Skye also apparently got her hair done, sporting a new pink (or black) bun. She's still got her camera by her side, plus a new sword. If you were really fond of Skye's beanie hat, the good news is you can toggle it on or off.

fortnite crew august

(Image credit: Epic Games)

There's an alternate version of Skye that gives her more of a Halloween vibe, with black hair and an orange and black motif. Check it out in the pic below.

(Image credit: Epic Games)

As always, subscribers get some extra cosmetics for their money. The Eagle Shield back bling looks great on knights and/or battle royale winners. Skye's sword doubles as a pickaxe, and there are two new wraps, both themed around Meowscles.

Of course, subscribers also get 1,000 V-bucks per month to spend how they like.

It turns out Summer Skye is inspired by a fan design drawn by Twitter user nollobandz, who drew her alternate style up all the way back in November 2020.

See more

Fortnite Crew August: Summer Skye release date

Summer Skye becomes available on July 31 at 8 PM ET. Remember that Fortnite Crew costs $11.99 per month, but automatically provides access to the current season battle pass. If you already bought the current season battle pass, you'll actually get a free batch of 950 V-bucks returned to your account.

Don't forget to follow our Fortnite guides and news. We've got the latest on the Rift Tour concerts, which will reportedly feature Ariana Grande. We've also got a first look at Suicide Squad's Bloodsport in Fortnite.

In one of the weirdest game crossovers ever, Sonic the Hedgehog is now in Two Point Hospital Sonic the Hedgehog in Two Point Hospital

Posted on July 30, 2021 by

There aren't many games that leap immediately to mind as being more different than Two Point Hospital, a hospital building and management simulator, and Sonic the Hedgehog, a sidescrolling platformer about a blue rodent who can run really fast. Yet somehow, like the proverbial chocolate and peanut butter, they have been mashed together into a strange digital confection.

The new Sonic 30th Anniversary Item Pack, added in an update released today, boasts four outfits—Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy—and seven items, including decorative rugs, a big statue of Sonic, and—of course—a giant gold ring. Why you would want to assess patients in the trauma ward dressed up as Sonic the Hedgehog or perform surgery with a Knuckles mask, I do not know, but I do know that the pack is free, and free is good.

The update bringing Sonic and the gang to Two Point Hospital also adds Korean language support to the Steam release, and fixes a bug that was preventing players from purchasing Plot 7 on Old Newpoint Level.

Two Point Hospital itself is also going free, although only for the weekend: Until August 2, the full game is free to play on Steam, so this is a great time to jump in if you haven't played it yet and the addition of colorful high-speed anthropomorphs has pushed your curiosity over the line. For even more freebies, be sure to keep your eyes on our regularly updated list of all the free games you can grab right now.

Life is Strange: True Colors trailer introduces you to the town of Haven Springs

Posted on July 30, 2021 by

Life is Strange True Colors Pre-Order

A new trailer for Life is Strange: True Colors has been released by Square Enix and developer Deck Nine Games.

The new Life is Strange: True Colors trailer is called Welcome to Haven Springs. Narrated by the character Steph Gingrich, it basically introduces you to the town in which the game takes place.

Watch on YouTube

In the game, Alex Chen has the power of empathy, which she considers a curse. With this power, she is able to experience, absorb, and manipulate the emotions of others.

When her brother dies in a so-called accident, she will need to embrace her volatile power to find the truth – and uncover the dark secrets buried by the small town of Haven Springs.

The latest installment of the Life is Strange franchise, Life is Strange: True Colors releases September 10 on all major platforms.

Those who order the Deluxe Edition can play as Steph in the all-new story Wavelengths, plus obtain four exclusive hero outfits for Alex.

The post Life is Strange: True Colors trailer introduces you to the town of Haven Springs appeared first on VG247.