The Sports Desk – The Issues Defining 2018

2018 is going to be a critical and interesting year for sports video games. We’re in the prime of this console generation, so are we going to see the best from the franchises or are companies on auto-pilot? Nobody knows for sure, but here are some key topics for the year that may show us where things are heading.

MICROTRANSACTIONS 
It’s a dirty word these days, but the truth is sports gamers have been more or less comfortably living with microtransactions for years thanks to the various Ultimate Team-type modes most sports titles have these days. So the question becomes whether the existing model will change at all and possibly become more insidious.

Take-Two and Visual Concepts already stirred trouble with NBA 2K18’s aggressive VC requirements and overall MyCareer grind, so it’s crucial that NBA 2K19 offer a smoother progression path. The larger question, however, is which company is going to be the first to step out and possibly take microtransactions in a new direction? Will we see a title in 2018 introduce microtransactions into their GM/Franchise mode, for instance?

GM modes have traditionally been a haven for those who don’t want to wade into the fantasy/consumables modes, and if your GM mode is stale, then you’re probably not offering players much of a lasting alternative to the Ultimate Team-type mode. NBA Live, for instance, needs to build out its franchise mode, and it’ll be interesting to see if its The One player career mode keeps its skill tree separate from its cosmetic player gear crates that can be bought with real money.

Speaking of NBA Live, Madden creative director Rex Dickson said that the football series plans to synk its Connected Franchise Mode with NBA Live’s. He mentioned including live updates into CFM, but will Madden also get a player career mode (with its random gear crates) like NBA Live 18’s The One? And/or will the random crates be used in Madden in some other/extra fashion?

THE MODE WAR
Continuing with the importance of game modes in 2018, the various modes – franchise, fantasy/Ultimate Team, player/MyCareer – all demand some attention and upgrading from year to year, but they don’t always get it from developers. Whether it’s your favorite Ultimate Team mode getting a new wrinkle or a franchise/GM mode taking a needed step forward, odds are not all game modes are going to get the boost they deserve.

It will be interesting to see how each franchise addresses this problem and perhaps signals where its priorities lie. Add in the growing importance of esports and how the competitive landscape affects gameplay changes, as well as the en vogue story modes, and it’s getting to the point where each sports video game year is more likely to cater to a specific set of fans, giving those fans left out in the cold the option of skipping a year. Fans have often asked for the option to pay for different modes a la carte (I’ve argued that this will only stifle innovation), which seems like is happening de facto anyway.

WHERE ARE THE GAMES?
There’s more to a year’s roster of sports games than just the well-known, yearly fall titles. A good year needs options like The Golf Club 2 or racing games like Dirt 4 to also anchor the year, and I’m curious where those come from in 2018. The good news is we’ll see UFC 3 and Tennis World Tour, but off the top of my head, what are we going to get until the fall?

Perhaps the tale of 2018 will be told by lesser-known upcoming titles like Laser League (shown), Super Mega Baseball 2, perhaps something World Cup-related from FIFA, or even a title we haven’t heard about yet. Meanwhile, I can practically guarantee we aren’t going to get the return of Fight Night (that’s the UFC dev team), another MLB-licensed console title, or an EA golf game. And no, NFL 2K and NCAA aren’t coming back, either.

On the racing side, now that the Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport franchises have released – and Dirt 4 and Project Cars 2 also came out in 2017 – the racing genre in 2018 seems a little thin. Codemasters is putting out its arcade racer OnRush and the usual F1 game, and Xbox One fans are getting another Forza Horizon (the two Forza franchises alternate years), but it looks lean for sim-racing fans in particular. On this front, it’ll be interesting to see how developer Polyphony Digital supports GT Sport in 2018. An important December update is in the works, and hopefully that’s just the start.

SWITCH SPORTS
Sports developers – predominately EA Sports – are taking a wait-and-see approach to Nintendo’s hot console, and it remains to be seen if 2018 is the year any of those plans come to fruition. NBA 2K and FIFA will hopefully continue to grow on the system – particularly with Nintendo’s online program debuting, and it would be nice if Switch sports games approached parity and also proliferated. Likewise, it would be great to see more sports series on PC as well.

Missed some of the previous Sports Desk entries? Take a look at the past installments via our Hub page by clicking on the banner below.

Have a suggestion or comment? Put it in the comments section below, send me an email, or reach me on twitter at @mattkato.

 

REVIEW ROUND-UP 

Madden NFL 18 
NASCAR Heat 2 
NHL 18 
Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 
FIFA 18 
NBA 2K18 
NBA Live 18 
Golf Story 
Project Cars 2 
Forza Motorsport 7
NBA 2K18 (Switch) 
FIFA 18 (Switch)
GT Sport (shown)
Mutant Football League  

 

THE TICKER
A quick rundown of some of the sports news from the week

Tennis World Tour Highlighted at PSX 
In-game footage shown from an early build, as well as new players and other features announced.

AO Tennis Announced From Big Ant Studios 
It’s the official video game for the Australian Open, but it also features a career mode, customization options, and different court types. No known U.S. release date yet, however.

Dirt 4 Gets Clubs 

Madden Series Has a 30 for 30 Podcast 

Brazilian Soccer Legend Zico Joins PES 2018 MyClub 

The First Stage Of NBA 2K League Qualifying Announced 
Check out the AMA with league managing director Brendan Donohue.

Beta Test The Sports Desk – The Issues Defining 2018

Designing Mega Man 11's New Look

With Game Informer’s January cover story on Mega Man 11, we’re offering a deep dive on how Capcom is reviving the beloved blue bomber. One of the first priorities for the new team was to sketch out their new approach to Mega Man himself. While visiting Capcom’s headquarters in Osaka, we sat down with Mega Man 11’s art director Yuji Ishihara to talk about his history within the company and the giant task of updating one of gaming’s most iconic characters.

Watch the video below to see Yuji Ishihara sketch and explain his new take on Mega Man.

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Click on the banner below to enter our constantly-updating hub of exclusive features on Mega Man 11.

Beta Test Designing Mega Man 11’s New Look

Hideo Kojima Talks Gameplay Details For Death Stranding

For all the fuss that the three Death Stranding trailers we’ve gotten over the past two years have caused, we’ve received essentially no details on gameplay…until today. In a recent interview Kojima himself, IGN learned some scraps of gameplay information, particularly how the game will deal with player death and failure:

From what Kojima told us, here’s how it sounds — when you’re ready to return to the world of the living, you can get back into your body. However, unlike most games which set you back to a point before you died, Death Stranding acknowledges your defeat, and seems to even embrace it. You’re transported back to the world after your death — like in Dark Souls or roguelikes — where your actions maintain an aura of persistence. The mechanic of “dying” is ubiquitous in video games, but it sounds as though Kojima is implementing systems inspired by purgatory and reincarnation as well.

For more gameplay details, and some of Kojima’s amusing thoughts on fan theories, head over to the article here.

[Source: IGN]


Our Take
Finally! Something tangible. I do like this rogue-like idea of death being a persistent thing in universe and not a game over screen. Kojima’s Sci-fi Souls? Sure. Why not? Gimme.

Beta Test Hideo Kojima Talks Gameplay Details For Death Stranding

Bandai Namco Reveals One Piece: World Seeker

The long running anime and manga series One Piece has a new open world title on its way to PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.

Announced through the company’s official Twitter account and a press release, One Piece: World Seeker is a new open world title set in the One piece universe. Players take the role of Monkey D. “Straw Hat” Luffy, battling through and exploring new locations including cities, castles, and more.

“2017 marks the 20th anniversary of ONE PIECE, one of the world’s most popular manga and anime series which has riveted millions of fans since it started,” Randy Le, brand manager at Bandai Namco Entertainment America, says. “We’re proud to help usher in a new era with ONE PIECE: World Seeker, an ambitious new entry in the legendary series.” 

World Seeker is set for release in 2018 with more information available on Bandai Namco Entertainment’s official site.

 

Our Take
Following the lukewarm reception to One Piece: Burning Blood, it’s good to see Bandai Namco return to the gameplay style of its 2012 offering One Piece: Unlimited World Red. Though the game wasn’t perfect, it did feel more in line with the tone of the series, and a new title refining Unlimited World Red’s potential could make for the series’ best foray into video games to date.

Beta Test Bandai Namco Reveals One Piece: World Seeker

Conan Exiles Gets Release Date, New Trailer

Conan Exiles has been available for early access on Xbox One and PC for awhile now, but the title finally has a full release date.

Conan the Barbarian and the open world survival game he’s in will fully release May 8 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The game has fared well in early access so far, having released new content throughout the year.

The release date was accompanied by a new trailer for the game.

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For more on Conan Exiles, check out our previous coverage here.

Beta Test Conan Exiles Gets Release Date, New Trailer

Indie Game About Discovering Pornography Banned From Steam

You Must Be 18 Years Or Older To Enter is a curious kind of horror game. Your parents have left the house unattended so you take the chance to boot up your PC and log onto the internet to, well, look at pornography.

While there is mature imagery, its graphics are presented with ASCII letters. The game, offered free of charge, made it through the Steam Greenlight process back in March and has received positive reviews from critics for being an “untraditional” horror experience. However, as one of the developers James Earl Cox recounts in his Gamasutra blog post, the game was ultimately pulled from the store. We reached out to Cox and he said that in his discussions with Valve, the company seemed to believe that the art was clearly pornographic by Valve’s rules. He then said:

In the brief exchange we had with Valve, I tried to ground the conversation by pointing out how widely received the game was on the grounds that it isn’t porn. For instance, Tokyo Game Show displayed it in their Indie Pavilion without a single question, and that’s a nation with serious censorship laws.

We’ve reached out to Valve asking them for a reason why the game was pulled and will update this article if we hear back.

 

Our Take
It’s strange that 18 Years Or Older To Enter has been removed from the Steam Store given it doesn’t fit any legal definition of pornography and attempts to craft an intriguing interactive experience out of sexual anxiety, something that games don’t tackle often. Given the huge number of games on Steam that have sexual content for the purposes of titillation and comedy, Cox’s game being removed from the store feels like a double standard more than anything else.

Beta Test Indie Game About Discovering Pornography Banned From Steam

Uncharted Series Blazes Past 41 Million Sales

The Uncharted series has been one of PlayStation’s marquee franchises since it debuted about a decade ago, and Naughty Dog has revealed a number that puts its popularity in perspective. It’s sold more than 41 million units between all numbered entries and spinoffs.

To be slightly more exact, the figure is at 41.7 million, according to Naughty Dog. The studio revealed the figure at PSX, during a 10th-anniversary panel for the series. You can check it out below, and see the cast – including Nolan North and Emily Rose – reflect on their Uncharted memories.

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Our Take
That’s an impressive number by any measure, especially so when you consider the fact that, unlike other heavy sales hitters out there, the Uncharted games aren’t multiplatform.

Beta Test Uncharted Series Blazes Past 41 Million Sales

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT's 28 Characters & 7 Summons At Launch

Square Enix has released the launch day fighter roster for Dissidia Final Fantasy NT on the PS4 via a trailer, which also showcases seven summons.

The title’s season pass includes a further six characters as well as post-launch content. The developers say they hope to include more than 50 characters for the Japanese arcade version, but whether these will ever come to the console version is unknown.

For more on the game, check out its opening cinematic and this trailer on its gameplay systems.

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT comes out for the PS4 on January 30.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

[Source: Square Enix] 

Beta Test Dissidia Final Fantasy NT’s 28 Characters & 7 Summons At Launch

Sagat, Sakura Headline Street Fighter V's Third Season

After the conclusion of this year’s intense Capcom Cup finals, Yoshinori Ono had made an expected announcement: The reveal of the first character for Street Fighter V’s third season. What the audience didn’t expect, however, was they’d get just a bit more than that.

Sakura is the first fighter for the Capcom fighter’s third season, and the initial trailer showed off her skillset, which includes her signature Shunpu Kyaku and Hadoken, as well as her two V-Triggers and what looks like her V-Skill, which has her jumping towards the opponent and looks like it can lead to number of follow-ups.

However, the second trailer, which gave most characters in the cast time to shine, also showed off the entirety of the Season Three casts, which includes the long-rumored return of Sagat. Cody and Blank round out the returning fighters, and they’re joined by Falke and G (my guess? It’s Q from Street Fighter III in a new guise).

The third season begins on January 16, which is also the date Sakura joins the fray.

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Our Take
I was already planning on putting a lot of time into Sakura, and then Cody made an appearance…Falke looks cool too. I should play more Juri! I should play some Street Fighter V.

Beta Test Sagat, Sakura Headline Street Fighter V’s Third Season

Detroit: Become Human Does Not Feel Quite Real

Detroit: Become Human seems to invite concern with every stage showing over the past few years, stemming from an overall fear writer and director David Cage does not possess the chops for the subject matter he likes to tackle in his games. With Detroit, Cage is pursuing the worn foundation of Androids, commonly used in fiction as a springboard for metaphors about race, identity, paranoia, and secondhand citizenship. It is, if nothing else, an opportunity for Cage and Quantic Dream to prove their vocal critics wrong.

We played the Detroid: Become Human demo at PlayStation Experience 2017. The demo contained two scenarios, the first being the hostage situation that was first shown on stage to demonstrate the branching paths the game’s narrative could take and again shown at Sony’s PlayStation Experience presentation. In this scene, Android hostage negotiator Conner is tasked with defusing a hostage situation wherein an out-of-control Android has kidnapped a little girl and is holding her hostage after murdering her father. Connor is brought in and the player is given the choice of how to proceed.

The first task you are given once you take control is to meet with the captain currently managing the crisis. While you can go straight to the commanding officer, Conner can also examine various pieces of the environment to analyze clues and get a better picture of the assailant and increase his chances of negotiating, which is represented by a literal percentage counter that tabulates chance of success. Only some of the items in the room can be examined before you speak to the captain; everything else just produces a red barrier that the Android cannot cross due to programming telling him to speak to the captain first. It is unclear why the hallway is okay but the little girl’s room is not.

When you do speak to the captain, he is curt, expressing his disdain for Androids in general, and his overwhelming need to get the girl safely out above all else, even if that means working with an Android as a negotiator. If you ask him questions like what the other Android’s name is or what caused this behavior, he will simply tell you to go do your job. Another officer remarks how important it is to get the girl out, which makes it puzzling they would not aid Conner by answering simple questions that would literally increase the percentage chance of success.

Conner is then left, pardon the pun, to his own devices, and can either march out the door to confront the hostage-taker or continue exploring in now available areas to investigate clues. Despite the captain telling you that every second counts, you are free to basically do whatever while an invisible timer ticks down. Analyze clues, grab a gun you very much are not supposed to have, just stand around if you want, the choice is yours. Investigating the little girl’s room reveals the bad Android’s relationship with the family and his name that the captain clearly could have just told you.

After that time (which is not visible to the player) runs out, the captain barks that Conner must get out there. At the time, I was looking at an important clue which did not get added to my file despite my looking directly at it. I had not fully completed the crime scene reconstruction to show where the father’s tablet fell, even though I could see it on the ground, and Conner remarking on the tablet being important. Still, you get moved to the veranda where the actual negotiation takes place.

It is a fairly tense scene, where Conner talks the other Android, Daniel, down with prompts of empathy and the clues he found searching the apartment while slowly walking forward toward him. The chance of success goes up and down depending on your answers, eventually reaching 100% chance of success and convincing Daniel to let go of the girl. 

Either way, the police shoot him, and none of that really matters.

The other part of the demo is the scene shown at Paris Games Week with the Android Kara, a service robot that is cooking and cleaning for a drunkard louse who is unhappy with his life. Despite possessing an intense hatred for Androids himself, he requires Kara’s help in keeping his home (which, for whatever reason, looks identical to Ethan Mars’ house in Heavy Rain) running, as he does not possess the inclination or mental faculties while drunk to do it.

Kara’s first task is to serve dinner, which she does by bringing two plates of spaghetti to the dining room table. A secondary objective to turn on the lights appears on Kara’s HUD, which took some searching to figure out which of the room’s multiple light switches was the one the game wanted me to touch. The father eventually scolds me for not turning on the lights yet while Kara stands directly in front of it, leaving me to wonder what he thinks I was doing while walking toward the lights.

For virtually no reason, the father flies off the handle and flips the table, sending the little girl upstairs. He orders Kara not to move while he works himself up with no other prompting until he decides to go beat his daughter. The entire thought process lasts about ten seconds and then Kara is given the opportunity to subvert her programming and break through the barrier keeping her there.

I ran upstairs, took the father’s gun from his bedroom, and then pointed the weapon at him. The hostage demo I had played before established that Androids are very much not allowed to possess guns for any reason whatsoever, but Kara had just overcome her programming, so it made sense for her to take it. She pointed the gun at the father and threatened him to stop beating the little girl, at which point he mocks her for Androids not being able to kill humans due to their programming and then knocks the gun out of her hands.

What followed is a fight scene that is a genuine mess of quick time events. A smattering of prompts appeared, one after the other, designed to allow Kara to duck and weave the father’s attacks. Despite being the same motions for Kara herself to perform, sometimes the prompts were analog stick movements, sometimes they were buttons, and sometimes they were gestures with the Dualshock 4. They all looked identical, making discerning between analog stick movement and gesture movement shockingly difficult in the heat of the moment. 

After failing the quick-time events, the father is disposed of, and Kara and the little girl escaped on a bus. Without context, it is difficult to say whether that scene’s cartoonish escalation was warranted or a symptom of a larger problem, but it left me raising more eyebrows than being curious at what’s next.

The graphics of Detroit: Become Human are incredible and the music in the demo truly soars, but my fears about its writing have yet to be assuaged. Even without considering the scale of the story the game is trying to tell, individual scenes and dialogue are marred by poor execution, which could become a problem if those are the aspects the narrative needs to hang its hat on.

Detroit: Become Human is scheduled for release in 2018 exclusively on the PlayStation 4.

Beta Test Detroit: Become Human Does Not Feel Quite Real