Posts with «author_name|jessica conditt» label

Proteus Xbox controller is an accessible gamepad made of modular cubes

Xbox is expanding its accessibility footprint with the Proteus Controller, a modular gamepad created by nascent peripheral company Byowave as part of the Designed for Xbox program. The Proteus Controller is a group of palm-sized cubes that can be connected to each other in a wide variety of configurations, with interchangeable faceplates that include standard controller buttons, analog sticks and a directional pad. This means players can set up the Proteus Controller to be used in individualized ways: in one hand, flat on a desktop, as part of a traditional gamepad with palm grips, connected to a joystick, and other setups.

The Proteus Controller is available for pre-order now at a discounted price of $255. It's expected to ship in the fall. The full kit includes two power cubes, two analogue cubes (with Hall effect sensors), one half cube and two spacers, plus the swappable peripherals. There's a D-pad, left trigger, right trigger, two single-button options, an XYAB diamond, a mini analog stick and the Xbox home grouping. It also comes with left and right handles to create a traditional gamepad, and socket and plug covers featuring Byowave's cute blue beastie. A USB-C charging cable and Bluetooth dongle are included in the package.

Byowave is selling the Proteus Controller in tiers, and it has just 150 available at the $255 VIP Price. After that, it'll have 500 kits available at $268 (Early Bird), and then 1,000 kits available at $284 (Pre-Order). The standard price of the Proteus Controller will be $300.

As evidenced by the built-in Xbox home button, the Proteus Controller was backed by Microsoft and at launch it'll work only with Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and Windows 10 and 11. It will not work with PlayStation 5 or Switch — at least not at first.

"It is very important to us to be officially licensed with console companies to ensure a seamless user experience and so that we can ensure the longevity of the controller," the Proteus FAQ reads. "We would love to partner with these platforms in the future! 🤞"

The Byowave team says it can't verify that the Proteus Controller will work with Steam Deck, but they're hopeful that it will. They encourage interested players to reach out directly for more information about Steam Deck integration.

The Proteus Controller is part of the Designed by Xbox program, which means it was developed alongside Microsoft's gaming teams and should work seamlessly with the company's hardware. Companies like Razer, Turtle Beach, PowerA and Logitech also sell gadgets with the Designed by Xbox logo, but the Byowave partnership marks a new emphasis on accessibility products in this space. Microsoft today said it's accelerating and streamlining the Designed by Xbox onboarding process for hardware manufacturers focused on serving the disability community.

The announcement of the Proteus Controller is part of Xbox's recognition of Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Xbox has been a leader in accessible gaming hardware since it launched the Adaptive Controller in late 2018. The Adaptive Controller is a reimagined, deeply customizable gamepad designed in partnership with AbleGamers, Warfighter Engaged, SpecialEffect, Craig Hospital and the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, and it was the first piece of hardware from a major manufacturer to focus on players with disabilities. It costs just $100 and allows users to plug in their own third-party peripherals to create their ideal gaming setup.

The Adaptive Controller is also getting some love for Global Accessibility Awareness Day, as laid out on Xbox Wire: "Based on community feedback from an update impacting unauthorized accessories on our platform, we are updating the Xbox Adaptive Controller to expand support for more accessories connected via USB port. This update will better support full functionality of some accessibility peripherals."

Each port on the Adaptive Controller will now support up to 12 buttons, a second stick and a hat switch. The update will hit Xbox Insiders first over the next few weeks and it'll go public through a controller update prompt in the coming months.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Arkane Austin and Tango Gameworks have been shut down

Microsoft has shuttered four ZeniMax teams: Arkane Austin, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog Studios and Roundhouse Games. Arkane Austin is the home of Prey and Redfall, while Tango is responsible for The Evil Within, Ghostwire Tokyo and Hi-Fi Rush. Alpha Dog is the creator of Mighty Doom and Roundhouse was a support studio for ZeniMax projects.

In an email to employees published by IGN, Xbox Game Studios head Matt Booty outlined the upheaval, stating that some workers would transition to other teams under ZeniMax's purview. Most employees, however, will be let go. Here's Booty's breakdown of the layoffs for each affected studio:

Arkane Austin – This studio will close with some members of the team joining other studios to work on projects across Bethesda. Arkane Austin has a history of making impactful and innovative games and it is a pedigree that everyone should be proud of. Redfall’s previous update will be its last as we end all development on the game. The game and its servers will remain online for players to enjoy and we will provide make-good offers to players who purchased the Hero DLC.

Alpha Dog Studios – This studio will also close. We appreciate the team’s creativity in bringing Doom to new players. Mighty Doom will be sunset on August 7 and we will be turning off the ability for players to make any purchases in the game.

Tango Gameworks – Tango Gameworks will also close. We are thankful for their contributions to Bethesda and players around the world. Hi-Fi Rush will continue to be available to players on the platforms it is today.

Roundhouse Games – The team at Roundhouse Games will be joining ZeniMax Online Studios (ZOS). Roundhouse has played a key role in many of our recent game launches and bringing them into ZOS to work on The Elder Scrolls Online will mean we can do even more to grow the world that millions of players call home.

In summary, at least when it comes to the games: Redfall development has been stopped completely and people who spent $100 on the game's Bite Back edition will be eligible for a partial refund to compensate for the DLC they never received. Sign ups for the refund are right here. Hi-Fi Rush will remain playable. Mighty Doom will shut down on August 7.

The remaining studios under ZeniMax Media, which is owned by Microsoft, are Arkane Lyon, Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, MachineGames, ZeniMax Online Studios, and the Bethesda publishing and corporate teams. Arkane Lyon is currently building Marvel's Blade and it's the home of Deathloop and the Dishonored franchise.

The co-creative director of Arkane Lyon, Dinga Bakaba, shared his reaction to the layoffs on X with the following thread:

This is absolutely terrible. Permission to be human : to any executive reading this, friendly reminder that video games are an entertainment/cultural industry, and your business as a corporation is to take care of your artists/entertainers and help them create value for you.

Don't throw us into gold fever gambits, don't use us as strawmen for miscalculations/blind spots, don't make our work environments darwinist jungles. You say we make you proud when we make a good game. Make us proud when times are tough. We know you can, we seen it before.

For now, great teams are sunsetting before our eyes again, and it's a fucking gut stab. Lyon is safe, but please be tactful and discerning about all this, and respect affected folks' voice and leave it room to be heard, it's their story to tell, their feelings to express.

Microsoft purchased ZeniMax Media — including Bethesda, id Software, Arkane and Tango — in 2021 for $7.5 billion. The acquisition marked an escalation of Microsoft's efforts to eat the entire industry: The company acquired five mid-size teams in 2018, including Compulsion Games and Ninja Theory, and by February 2019, there were 13 studios under the Xbox Game Studios banner. The ZeniMax purchase cleared regulators in 2021, setting the stage for Microsoft to buy Activision Blizzard, one of the largest game producers in the world. The Activision Blizzard acquisition was the most expensive in Microsoft's history, costing around $69 billion. After nearly two years of regulatory negotiations, the purchase was cleared in February 2023.

It's not just Microsoft making the video game industry smaller. Sony, Take-Two Interactive, Tencent, Epic Games and publishers of all sizes have been gobbling up talent in a rash of post-pandemic corporate consolidation, and this has led to an avalanche of mass layoffs in the industry. In 2023, an estimated 10,500 people in video games lost their jobs, breaking previous annual layoff records. Prior to today's studio closures, roughly 9,400 video game workers had been fired in 2024, setting a pace that should outstrip last year's figures. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

What the heck is going on with Helldivers 2?

In the last five days, Helldivers 2 was removed from the PC market in 177 countries and the game’s Steam reviews collapsed under the weight of more than 200,000 negative ratings, dropping from Positive to Mixed. It’s now Tuesday and the Helldivers 2 Steam page is overrun with people ranting against Sony and celebrating democracy, and for anyone taking their first glance at the game, it’s all a bit confusing.

Here’s what’s going on.

Helldivers 2 is a third-person co-op shooter developed by independent team Arrowhead Game Studios and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. It went live on PlayStation 5 and Steam on February 8, marking a rare instance of cross-platform parity from Sony. Immediately, Helldivers 2 was a hit on PC — it clocked more concurrent players on Steam than any other PlayStation game, beating God of War, Spider-Man Remastered, Horizon Zero Dawn and The Last of Us Part I. Helldivers 2 was so popular in its first few weeks that Arrowhead’s servers had trouble meeting demand and had to be capped at 450,000 players.

“I am completely exhausted by the success,” Arrowhead CEO Johan Pilestedt tweeted one week post-launch. “So is the team, many, many late nights, on-calls, emergency meetings, discussions around server capacity, shards, capacity units, CPU utilization, login rates and CCU. Tired, but very, very pleased.”

Sony Interactive Entertainment

Helldivers 2 is one of the first tests of Sony’s long-term multiplatform goals. While Pilestedt was taking stock of Helldivers 2’s launch week, Sony executives were telling investors about their fresh plans to aggressively chase revenue streams on PC. Sony president Hiroki Totoki said the objective was to “proactively work on” releasing first-party games on PC alongside PlayStation, a shift from the company’s longstanding console-first approach.

Helldivers 2 isn’t a first-party Sony game, but it’s console-exclusive to PlayStation 5 and Sony has been supporting its development as its publisher. As long as Helldivers 2 has had a Steam page, it’s also had a dijon-yellow notification box alerting players that they’ll need to link up a PlayStation Network account in order to play. According to Sony, account linking is all in the name of security and cross-platform play, but of course it also helps boost the studio’s PSN monthly active user numbers.

Due to the game’s early network issues, Sony decided to postpone the account-linking requirement when Helldivers 2 went live on Steam on February 8. It hit the digital PC storefront for $40 with no notable region or account-linkage restrictions. For nearly three months, Helldivers 2 had its moment in the sun.

And then it started to burn. On Thursday, May 2, Sony announced that all Helldivers 2 Steam players would be required to log into their PSN accounts in order to continue accessing the game on PC. The requirement would go live for new players on May 6, and existing players would start seeing a mandatory login prompt at the end of the month.

“Due to technical issues at the launch of Helldivers 2, we allowed the linking requirements for Steam accounts to a PlayStation Network account to be temporarily optional,” Sony’s announcement said. “That grace period will now expire.”

Usually this wouldn’t be a massive issue, since PSN accounts are free and it’s relatively painless to link one to Steam. However, Helldivers 2 had been sold around the world, and PSN is only available in 73 countries. That would leave well over 100 countries and territories in the lurch, with those players unable to play a game they'd already paid for. Refunds were also out of the question for most players — especially the most dedicated ones — since Steam generally limits those to games that’ve been played for less than two hours. The bad reviews started pouring in.

Sony Interactive Entertainment

Neither Arrowhead nor Sony seemed to know what to do next. Sony published an FAQ in the Helldivers 2 Discord that didn’t offer solutions, and instead seemed to advise affected players to create PSN accounts in different countries, a violation of the platform’s terms. It became readily apparent through tweets and Discord updates that while Sony was the driving force behind the PSN requirement, Arrowhead developers kind of hated it. They even encouraged the review riot.

“I want people to make their displeasure known in a place where it might actually make a difference, Steam reviews and refund requests will do that, angry posting in the Discord won’t,” Arrowhead associate community manager Spitz posted in the game’s Discord server on Friday. “I’m not happy about this decision either.”

Over the weekend, more than 200,000 people posted negative reviews of Helldivers 2 on Steam, tanking its overall rating. On Sunday, May 5, Sony silently removed Helldivers 2 from Steam in 177 countries and territories that don’t have access to PSN.

That same day, Arrowhead CEO Pilestedt tweeted, “We are talking solutions with PlayStation, especially for non-PSN countries. Your voice has been heard, and I am doing everything I can to speak for the community — but I don't have the final say.”

Sony Interactive Entertainment

On May 6, the day the PSN requirement was set to go live for new players, Sony backtracked. The company tweeted that its account-linking plans would “not be moving forward.” The message continued, “We’re still learning what is best for PC players and your feedback has been invaluable. Thanks again for your continued support of Helldivers 2 and we’ll keep you updated on future plans.”

Helldivers 2 is now available in every region that has Steam, with the option to link a PSN account. Its PC review score is slowly recovering as the rioters return to adjust their rankings, now alongside cheeky messages about the power of democracy.

On Monday, Pilestedt quoted Sony’s reversal tweet and added, “Firstly, I am impressed by the willpower of the @helldivers2 community and your ability to collaborate. Secondly I want to thank our partners and friends at @PlayStation for quickly and effectively making the decision to leave PSN linking optional. We together want to set a new standard for what a live game is, and how developers and community can support each other to create the best game experiences.”

With Helldivers 2, the account-linking issue was easily avoidable. Sony was knowingly selling a game to people who wouldn’t be able to play it — but first, it gave them a paid trial and three months of false hope. At best, it looks like Sony was completely unaware of the logistics that would support its bold new PC strategy. At worst, it all feels mildly diabolical.

Sony Interactive Entertainment

It’s unclear what the 2024 Helldivers 2 Steam riots will mean for future Sony games on PC, but there’s another test coming up soon with the release of Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut on May 16. Just like Helldivers 2, the game’s Steam page contains a little yellow rectangle warning players that it requires a PSN account for online multiplayer and the PlayStation overlay. According to SteamDB, Ghost of Tsushima is currently on sale in a handful of countries that don’t have PSN. 

As the Helldivers 2 drama began to kick off on May 3, Ghost of Tsushima developer Sucker Punch Productions responded to a concerned fan on X with the following account-linking clarification: "Just so you are aware, A PSN account is required for Legends online multiplayer mode and to use PlayStation overlay. It is not required to play the singleplayer game."

As long as the terms of engagement are clear and Sony doesn't attempt to pull the rug out from under players three months after the game comes out, that all sounds just fine. Account linking isn't a new or even rare scenario in gaming — Microsoft (including Activision Blizzard), Ubisoft, Riot, EA and most other major video game studios require a proprietary sign-in to access their games on Steam and other third-party storefronts. The issue with Helldivers 2 wasn't account linking. The issue was Sony's short-sighted execution of a high-profile PC rollout and its poor communication with upset players after the fact.

Most gaming fans want to see PlayStation titles on PC, and Sony wants to wring as much money out of its core franchises as possible by putting them on additional platforms — this plan should be win-win. With Helldivers 2, it's been more like win-lose-win, but at least we got there in the end.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Take-Two is shutting down the studios behind Rollerdrome and Kerbal Space Program 2

This one's a bummer. Mega-publisher Take-Two Interactive is shuttering Rollerdrome studio Roll7 and Kerbal Space Program 2 team Intercept Games, according to paperwork seen by Bloomberg.

Roll7 is based in London, and was founded in 2008 by lifelong friends Tom Hegarty and Simon Bennett. Roll7 is the studio behind OlliOlli, OlliOlli World and Rollerdrome, all fantastic games with wheel-based mechanics. OlliOlli was a Vita hit in 2014 and World landed in early 2022 — they're both great, and the latter in particular is a flow-state-inducing skateboarding platformer with an adorable art style. Rollerdrome was one of our favorite games of 2022; it's a luscious third-person rollerskating-and-gunplay game that looks like a slice of 1970s dystopian sci-fi. 

Roll7 has picked up multiple prestigious awards over the years, including recent wins at BAFTA and DICE. As the studio name implies, Roll7 developers know how to make incredibly smooth action games.

Take-Two purchased Roll7 in November 2021 and made it a subsidiary of Private Division, the company's label for small- and mid-size publishing deals. According to Bloomberg, Take-Two plans to close Roll7 and will offer severance packages to staff.

Intercept Games is based in Seattle and is responsible for Kerbal Space Program 2, a popular flight-simulation title that's still technically in early access on Steam. Take-Two founded Intercept in 2020 specifically to manage Kerbal Space Program 2, and the game has been receiving updates since going live in February 2023.

Take-Two has yet to confirm that it's closing Intercept Games — but it hasn't said it isn't, either. The company filed a notice in Washington on Monday outlining plans to lay off 70 people in the state and permanently close their place of business, and some Kerbal developers have confirmed their recent departures. Private Division will continue to update Kerbal Space Program 2, Take-Two said in a statement.

Take-Two is one of the largest video game companies around, reporting $5.3 billion in revenue last year. It's the owner of Grand Theft Auto and the parent company of Rockstar Games, 2K, Private Division, Zynga and — very recently — Gearbox Software. Take-Two purchased Borderlands studio Gearbox in March for $460 million. Grand Theft Auto VI, arguably the most anticipated game of the decade, is due to add billions to Take-Two's bottom line in 2025.

In April, Take-Two announced plans to lay off 5 percent of its employees, or roughly 600 people, by the end of 2024. It also canceled some in-development projects. When news of the planned firings broke last month, Take-Two didn't identify which studios would take the hit, but now we know it includes Roll7 and Intercept. The company laid off some Private Division workers in 2023 as well.

An estimated 9,400 people have been laid off in the video game industry so far in 2024, and a total of 10,500 workers were let go in 2023. Sony, Microsoft and Riot Games have fired a combined 3,300 employees this year alone, and the fallout from Embracer Group's funding implosion keeps spreading, with numerous shuttered studios and more than 1,400 displaced workers.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Explore Starfield's barren planets at 60 fps on Xbox Series X starting this month

Starfield, the excellent Digipick puzzle game surrounded by 80 hours of sci-fi mediocrity, is getting a performance update on Xbox Series X that unlocks frame rates above 30 fps. Starfield's May update adds the option to target 30 fps, 40 fps, 60 fps or an uncapped frame rate — for displays that support VRR running at 120hz. Displays without VRR will have the choice of 30 fps or 60 fps. 

The May update also includes the ability to prioritize visuals or performance at each frame rate target. Visuals mode means the game will do its best to maintain a high resolution and full detail in lighting, special effects and NPCs, while performance lowers the resolution and clarity of those same details. Of course, both modes adjust the game's base resolution alongside heavy on-screen action. 

Bethesda recommends performance mode when playing at 60 fps and above. For Xbox Series X players with 120hz VRR displays, Starfield's settings now default to 40 fps, prioritizing visuals.

The May 1 display updates bring the Xbox Series X version of Starfield closer to its PC counterpart in terms of customization options. The Xbox Series S edition remains capped at 30 fps. This is the version I played when I reviewed Starfield last year, and while a frame rate upgrade won't make the game less bland, its combat scenes would definitely benefit from a boost to 40 fps, at least. It's a shame that the most popular Xbox Series console isn't seeing any frame rate love in today's update.

Additionally in the May update, Starfield's surface maps have been overhauled in order to increase legibility on all platforms. The new design shows top-down 3D images of terrain, buildings, and objects like trees and rocks, which makes a lot of sense for, you know, a map. The original surface map tries to make landscapes out of white dots on a bright blue background, so this is a welcome improvement. The update also allows players to customize their difficulty options on the ground and in ship battles, and it adds navigation markers to the environment when walking around a planet.

This is Bethesda's fourth and largest Starfield update since the game came out in September 2023. It's all scheduled to go live by May 15.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Lorelei and the Laser Eyes preview: This may be my GOTY

I found myself in a variety of odd situations while solving puzzles in Lorelei and the Laser Eyes. I spent some time staring at a mid-century movie poster for a documentary about a decomposing cat, wondering if I should focus on the runtime or the date it came out. I pulled up old hotel blueprints and deciphered the math of dead architects. I played a handful of ASCII-style PC games to receive messages from a 19th-century magician who calls me his sister. I found some toy blocks and shoved them into the walls of a secret cathedral. I slipped between realities and traversed a maze that shattered into shard-like pieces under my feet. I watched a woman fall to her death. I wondered if that woman was me.

Lorelei and the Laser Eyes is a third-person noir detective game set in a haunted hotel with impossible architecture and a gruesome history. Its hallways are dense with logic-melting puzzles about magicians, mazes, astrology, filmmaking, mausoleums and physics, and it isn’t even clear why the protagonist is there in the first place. With artifacts from the 1800s, set pieces from the 1960s and technology out of the 2010s, it’s barely clear when she’s there. Lack of direction is a key tenet of the game, resulting in a sense of solitude that’s oppressive and supremely unsettling.

It’s also empowering. The hotel in Lorelei is a playground of secrets with no set path for players, and there’s a rich density of riddles and lore to untangle in every scene. Though I still have no idea where I’m heading in the game, I’ve rarely felt lost. It's kind of like Tunic in that regard, but it also feels like something directed by David Lynch, and visually, the game resembles Kentucky Route Zero or Sin City. There’s really no direct comparison for Lorelei and the Laser Eyes. Playing it feels like nothing I’ve experienced before.


The actual gameplay in Lorelei is straightforward: Walk around and press a button (on a gamepad, literally any button) to interact with objects that glow when you’re near. Otherwise, pressing a button pulls up a menu with the protagonist’s stats, inventory, reference materials, unsolved puzzles and handheld gaming system. Her stats include caffeine, stress, temperature, cash and bladder trackers, her inventory comes with a tampon and the hotel provides both coffee machines and bathrooms that she can actually use. I haven’t discovered a gameplay reason for the bathrooms or the tampon yet, but I’ve enjoyed the fact that they exist, and I will keep trying to insert the tampon into every statue and keyhole until it finally works. If it ever does. With Lorelei and the Laser Eyes, you just don’t know until you know.

Lorelei’s world is built on Roman numerals, Greek letters, zodiac signs and 24-hour clocks, and it’s filled with puzzle boxes, keypad codes, logic riddles, mazes, image reconstructions, memory tests and other ultra-satisfying mystery-solving mechanics. Even then, part of the game’s genius lies in the actions that take place off-screen. Lorelei and the Laser Eyes is meant to be played with a notebook and pen close by, and I do not suggest starting without these tools. Yes, even you, the person who just scoffed and thought, “I won’t need to write anything down.” I promise, you will.


Lorelei definitely has puzzles with straightforward solutions, but the bulk of its queries are challenging, relying on previous answers, significant amounts of reading, object manipulation, deduction and creative thinking. The simple riddles supply a steady cadence of endorphin hits, especially in the early game. They also provide a guide for approaching the trickier puzzles: Trust your instincts. If you think of something, try it, no matter how outlandish it may seem. Lorelei and the Laser Eyes rewards curiosity and the game is incredibly adept at planting the seeds of concepts that’ll be useful hours later.

I hit my first mental wall around hour seven, and that’s when Lorelei’s pacing shifted downward for a spell. I went from consistently — but not effortlessly — solving puzzles and unlocking new areas of the hotel, to lingering on a handful of rooms I simply couldn’t figure out, pacing among them and scouring my notes for hidden clues. After 45 minutes or so, I remembered I still had a simple puzzle from my first hour waiting to be solved; I returned to it, completed it, and the game expanded beautifully in response, offering up an entirely new area of the hotel to explore and increasing the tempo once again.


Each eureka moment in Lorelei introduces more questions, and the secrets pile up as a grand, overarching narrative elegantly unfurls around the protagonist. There are classic horror elements here: children in owl masks giving advice from beyond the grave, hell-dark hallways, spooky phonograph music, ghosts with no eyes. A man with a maze for a head floating right behind you, reaching for the back of your neck. The game seamlessly introduces various visual styles at regular intervals, breaking its own reality in perfectly orchestrated ways.

All of this weirdness forms a cohesive experience because Simogo knows how to make a damn fine puzzle game. This is the studio behind Device 6, an iOS title that played with text and physical input methods in trippy ways, and Year Walk, a haunting adventure about Swedish mythology and death. Lorelei feels like a magnum opus for Simogo, an atmospheric powerhouse of a puzzle game that proves how deeply its developers understand these systems, and pushes the genre into strange and unchartered territory.

Lorelei and the Laser Eyes is a rat king of riddles. It’s a game composed entirely of mysteries, with each puzzle twisted around the previous one and strangling the next, solutions knotted with concealed information. Mark my words, the game guides for this thing are going to look like House of Leaves.

I’m ten hours in and plenty of mysteries remain. There’s a six-handed clock with zodiac signs and Roman numerals in the west wing that I still can’t figure out, and there’s a journal with a lock based on moon phases that’s been slowly driving me batty. More than a dozen puzzles are waiting to be solved in my character’s on-screen scratchpad. In real life, the pages of my notebook look similar, covered in hastily scribbled numbers, letters, dates, arrows and symbols, solutions sprinkled among the chaos.

Lorelei and the Laser Eyes is due to hit Steam and Switch on May 16.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

It took 20 years for Children of the Sun to become an overnight success

Children of the Sun burst onto the indie scene like a muzzle flash on a dark night. Publisher Devolver Digital dropped the game’s first trailer on February 1, showcasing frenzied sniper shots and a radioactive art style. A Steam demo highlighting its initial seven stages went live that same day and became a breakout hit during February’s Steam Next Fest. Two months later it landed in full and to broad acclaim. This explosive reveal and rapid release timeline mirrors the game itself — chaotic but contained, swift and direct, sharp and bright.

Though it feels like Children of the Sun popped into existence over the span of two months, it took solo developer René Rother more than 20 years to get here.

René Rother

As a kid in Berlin in the early 2000s, Rother was fascinated by the booming mod community. He spent his time messing around with free Counter-Strike mapping tools and Quake III mods from the demo discs tucked into his PC magazines. Rother daydreamed about having a job in game development, but it never felt like an attainable goal.

“It just didn't seem possible to make games,” he told Engadget. “It's like it was this huge black box.”

Rother couldn’t see an easy entry point until the 2010s, when mesh libraries and tools like GameMaker and Unity became more accessible. He discovered a fondness for creating 3D interactive art. But aside from some free online Javascript courses, he didn’t know how to program anything, so his output was limited.

“I dabbled into it a little bit, but then got kicked out. Again,” Rother said. “It was just like the whole entrance barrier was so big.”

René Rother

Rother pursued graphic design at university and he found the first two years fulfilling, with a focus on classical art training. By the end of his schooling, though, the lessons covered practical applications like working with clients, and Rother’s vision of a graphic design career smashed into reality.

“There was an eye-opening moment where I felt like, this is not for me,” Rother said.

In between classes, Rother was still making games for himself and for jams like Ludum Dare, steadily building up his skillset and cementing his reputation in these spaces as a master of mood.

“Atmospheric kind of pieces, walking simulators,” Rother said, recalling his early projects. “Atmosphere was very interesting to me to explore. But I never thought that it was actually something that could turn into a game. I never thought that it would become something that can be sold in a way that it's actually a product.”

René Rother

By the late 2010s Rother decided he was officially over graphic design and ready to try a job in game development. He applied to a bunch of studios and, in the meantime, picked up odd jobs at a supermarket and as a stagehand, setting up electronics. He eventually secured a gig as a 3D artist at a small studio in Berlin. Meanwhile, his pile of game jam projects and unfinished prototypes continued to grow.

“In that timeframe, Children of the Sun happened,” Rother said.

In Children of the Sun, players are The Girl, a woman who escaped the cult that raised her and is now enacting sniper-based revenge on all of its cells, one bullet at a time. In each round, players line up their shot and then control a single bullet as it ricochets through individual cult members. The challenge lies in finding the most speedy, efficient and stylish path of death, earning a spot at the top of the leaderboards.

“It was just a random prototype I started working on,” Rother said. “And one Saturday morning I was thinking, ‘I don't know what I'm doing with my life.'” With an atmospheric prototype and a head full of ennui, Rother emailed Devolver Digital that same day about potentially publishing Children of the Sun.

“The response was basically, ‘The pitch was shit but the game looks cool,’” Rother said. “And then it became a thing.”

René Rother

Visually, Children of the Sun is dazzling. It has a sketchy 3D art style that’s covered in bruise tones, with dark treelines, glowing yellow enemies and layers of texture. Every scene looks like The Girl just took a hit of adrenaline and her senses are on high alert, lending a hectic sense of hyper-vigilance to the entire experience. It’s a game built on instinct.

“I didn't make any mood boards,” Rother said. “I didn't prepare [for] it. It was just like, oh, let's make it this color. Ah, let's make it this color…. This is something to very easily get lost in. I spent a lot of time just adjusting the color of grass so it works well with the otherwise purplish tones and these kinds of things. I spent way too much time on the colors.”

Children of the Sun went through multiple visual iterations where Rother played with contrast, depth, fog density and traditional FPS color palettes, before landing on the game’s dreamlike and neon-drenched final form. The residue of this trial and error is still visible beneath Children of the Sun’s frames, and that’s exactly how Rother likes it.

“I see it as a big compliment, actually,” he said. “In paintings, when we talk about visual art, I really like when you can see the brushstrokes. I like when you can still see the lines of the pencil before the painting got made. I like the roughness. I wanted everything to be rough. I didn't want it to be polished.”

Rother picked up the game’s soundtrack collaborator, experimental ambient composer Aidan Baker, the same way he hooked up with Devolver. Rother was a fan of Baker and his band Nadja, and he wanted a similar droning, slowcore vibe as a backdrop for Children of the Sun. On a whim, Rother sent Baker a casual message asking if he’d like to make music for a video game.

“He was like, ‘Well I've never done it, so I don't know,’” Rother remembered. “So we met one evening and then afterwards he was like, ‘Yeah, let's just do it.’ Instead of just emulating something that I like in the game, I somehow managed to get straight to the source of it. And that was a really nice experience.”

For Rother, Children of the Sun has been a lesson in trusting his gut. He hasn’t found the proper word in English or German to describe the atmosphere he created in the game, but it’s something close to melancholy, spiked with an intense coiled energy and bright, psychedelic clarity. He just knows that it feels right — visuals, music, mechanics and all.

“That's kind of how I live my life,” Rother said. “Not that I'm, like, super spontaneous or just flip-flopping around with opinions or these kinds of things. It's more about doing things that feel right to me without necessarily knowing why.”

When he booted up that Quake III demo disc and started making 3D vignettes for game jams, Rother didn’t realize he was building the path that would eventually lead him to a major publishing deal, a collaboration with a musician he admires, a big Steam release and a game about cult sniping called Children of the Sun. When Rother takes a moment to survey his current lot in life, he feels lucky, he said.

René Rother

“I feel like in the last three years, somehow, lots of things fell into my lap,” Rother said. “Although I still had to do something for it. I needed to be prepared for this moment, that required work.… But in the time where I prepared myself, I was not aware that I was preparing myself. So that's how the feeling of luck gets amplified a bit more.”

“Luck” is one way to describe it, but “artistic instinct” might be just as fitting. Children of the Sun is available now on Steam for $15.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Playdate developers have made more than $500K in Catalog sales

Panic is celebrating Playdate's second birthday this month, and the party favors include some piping-hot statistics about Catalog game sales.

Playdate hit the market in April 2022 with 24 free games. Its Catalog store went live in March 2023, offering 16 curated games for purchase directly on the device. Panic has added more titles to Catalog on a bi-weekly basis for the past year, and the marketplace today has 181 games and apps. More than 150,000 games have been sold on Catalog, giving developers $544,290 in gross revenue — that's after taxes, processing fees and Panic’s 25 percent cut. 


The average price of a Playdate Catalog game is $5.36. The average install size is 5.03MB, while the smallest Catalog game is 30.1KB and the largest is 107MB. Playdate ships with 4GB of flash storage. It also has 16GB of RAM, an accelerometer, a 400 x 240 1-bit display, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities, a mono speaker, and a condenser mic and stereo headphone jack. Oh, and it has a delightful little crank.

The figures Panic shared today cover Catalog purchases, which means they only tell part of the story. While Catalog has just under 200 titles, there are more than 800 Playdate games and apps available on alone, and the community there is active and vibrant. As I described in our Playdate retrospective published last week, browsing the device's page feels like "hanging out in a friendly underground clubhouse populated by crank-obsessed video game freaks." But, like, in a great way.

Playdate supports games from new and veteran developers, and some of its most notable titles include Mars After Midnight by Lucas Pope, Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure from Keita Takahashi’s studio uvula and Zipper by Bennett Foddy. Some of my personal favorites include Root Bear, Spellcorked, Word Trip, Chopter Copter and Pocket Pets.

This is the first time Panic has publicly shared data about Playdate game sales or its revenue-share model. The 25 percent cut that Panic takes is less than the standard set by Steam, which gets 30 percent of most game sales, but it's more than split on the Epic Games Store, which reserves 12 percent for Epic.

Playdate costs $199 and there's an optional teal cover available for $30. Panic has also been teasing the Stereo Dock — an adorable Playdate charging station, Bluetooth speaker and pen holder — for more than two years, but the accessory is still "coming soon." There's no word on a price or release window for the Stereo Dock, but Playdate Project Lead Greg Maletic recently told Engadget to expect an update in the coming months.

"We apologize to everyone with a Playdate who has been waiting patiently for the Stereo Dock; it’s been a trickier project than we anticipated and we had a few false starts," Maletic said. "We thought we'd save some time on that project by having our factory do the software for the Stereo Dock, but we've learned that you don't always necessarily want that in some cases. The Stereo Dock is very much alive, we have the physical prototypes to prove it! We expect to have a formal update on when you can buy one later this year."


More than 70,000 Playdates have been sold in the past two years and a little more than half of all owners have purchased a Catalog game, according to Panic.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Take-Two plans to lay off 5 percent of its employees by the end of 2024

Take-Two Interactive plans to lay off 5 percent of its workforce, or about 600 employees, by the end of the year, as reported in an SEC filing Tuesday. The studio is also canceling several in-development projects. These moves are expected to cost $160 million to $200 million to implement, and should result in $165 million in annual savings for Take-Two. 

As the owner of Grand Theft Auto and the parent company of Rockstar Games, 2K, Private Division, Zynga and Gearbox, Take-Two is a juggernaut in the video game industry. It reported $5.3 billion in revenue in 2023, a nearly $2 billion increase over the previous year. Just a few weeks ago, Take-Two agreed to purchase Gearbox, the studio responsible for Borderlands, for $460 million. The company is preparing to release Grand Theft Auto VI in 2025, a move that should bring in billions on its own.

Take-Two instituted a round of layoffs in 2023 across Private Division — the indie label behind Kerbal Space Program, The Outer Worlds and Rollerdrome — and other in-house studios. 

An estimated 8,800 people in the video game industry have lost their jobs in 2024 so far, and a total of 10,500 industry employees were laid off in 2023. These are, depressingly, record-breaking figures. Sony laid off about 900 people at PlayStation in February; Microsoft fired about 1,900 workers across its gaming division in January; Riot Games let go more than 500 people that same month — and these are just some of the most recent AAA layoffs. Take-Two is now at the head of this list.

Take-Two executives have been hinting at a "significant cost reduction program" coming this year, but before today, they deflected questions about mass layoffs. In March, CEO Strauss Zelnick said on an investor call, "The hardest thing to do is to lay off colleagues and we have no current plans."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Tesla halves the price of its Full Self Driving (Supervised) subscription to $99 per month

The price of a monthly subscription to Tesla's (kind-of) self-driving software has just been cut in half. Tesla's Full Self Driving (Supervised) subscription now costs $99 per month, a reduction from the previous standard of $199. 

Tesla instituted the $199 monthly upgrade fee in 2021, back when its self-driving system was still in beta. It costs $12,000 to add Full Self Driving (Supervised) — full name, every time — to a Tesla outright, so at the current rate, it'll take 10 years for the subscription to lose its value. As far as installment plans go, this one seems like a solid deal. To be fair, so was the $199 rate, which gave (self-)drivers five years before hitting $12,000 in fees.

You can now subscribe to FSD (Supervised) for $99/month in the US

Upgrades > Software Upgrades > Subscribe

— Tesla (@Tesla) April 12, 2024

Tesla is doing what it can to make its EVs (and its stock) more attractive following a rough financial quarter to kick off 2024. For the first time since 2020, Tesla EV shipments fell year-over-year and they dipped significantly compared with the previous quarter. In the first months of 2024, Tesla deliveries were down eight percent yearly and down 20 percent over the final quarter of 2023. Analysts expected Tesla to ship 449,080 EVs in Q1 2024, but it delivered just 386,810.

The company offered a free trial of Full Self Driving (Supervised), which does not make the vehicle autonomous, to Tesla drivers at the end of 2023, seemingly in an attempt to boost its bottom line before reporting came due. As of March 2024, Tesla salespeople in North America are required to demonstrate Full Self Driving (Supervised) to anyone buying a vehicle. The prices of all Model Y vehicles also rose by $1,000 on April 1.

Tesla hasn't shared shipment numbers for the Cybertruck, which started rolling out late last year. The company is preparing to release a "next-generation low-cost" EV in 2025. Probably.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at