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An AI watchdog could be the solution to Counter-Strike’s cheater problem

Early versions of AI agents trained to identify cheating Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players are already showing promising results, says Valve. …


Gamasutra News

The Sports Desk – Forza Horizon 3 Blizzard Mountain & The Problem With Sports DLC

I recently played a large chunk of Forza Horizon 3's Blizzard Mountain DLC. For $ 19.99 it's a decent helping of content fashioned after the base game, with its new, snowy location. That it's similar to the rest of the game is a compliment, as it contains all the normal custom events, barn finds, challenging roads, speed cams, and online features. Nevertheless, playing through the content made me think about the sports genre's difficulty with DLC.

First off, as I already said, I liked the Blizzard Mountain DLC – the spontaneous blizzards that obscure your vision being a highlight. Furthermore, I respect the time and abilities of the developers who work on games and all their post-release content, which is part of the reason for my thoughts on the tough spot sports games are with DLC.

It's not hard to do DLC for your sports title, or any game, but which paid DLC do we remember and enjoyed most? They are usually story-based add-ons for a non-sports title like the DLC for BioShock Infinite or The Witcher 3. Very few sports games have story modes to add to, and the sports franchise's various ultimate team fantasy modes mostly occupy the microtransaction content lust of publishers, developers, and the public alike. Finally, free roster updates and fixes (hopefully) occur on a regular basis, and the fact that the games are already packed with modes and have to "save something" for next year means there just isn't a giant well of post-release content to draw from.

We already get a fair amount of free content that might otherwise constitute paid DLC. Rocket League adds new modes, Forza Horizon 3 has free loyalty reward cars, The Golf Club has updated with new themes and modes, EA updated an albeit truncated version of Rory McIlroy PGA Tour with new courses, and many sports titles and their devs deliver post-release goodies for no cost.

This puts Forza Horizon 3 Blizzard Mountain, in particular, in a tough spot. Some of the Blizzard Mountain's content may be just more events and challenges in a base title already full of them (many of which you probably aren't playing in the first place), and other titles may have given away free cars or modes in the past, but the effort the devs put into the DLC has to be repaid somehow.

So what could sports developers offer as paid DLC that isn't already free, would be interesting, wouldn't cannibalize what's coming next year, and isn't just more Ultimate Team packs? For staters, games with story modes like NBA 2K17 and FIFA 17's The Journey could offer more story-based episodes. I also like what NBA 2K17 is already doing by offering college teams with historic players. Perhaps other series could take this in a different direction and offer classic versions of their games only with current rosters (like how Tecmo Bowl lives on). Finally, maybe franchises could offer expansions that take their games in totally different directions similar to Read Dead Redemption's Undead Nightmare. I know many people love games like Mutant League Football. Perhaps Madden could offer a football variant that totally skews the rules and landscape for the series in a fun spin-off.

As gamers we're often spoiled with free content and titles with high replay value. Developers work hard all year to keep us interested, and there's a fine line between what is expected as free and DLC that is alluring and worth paying for. Hopefully sports DLC in particular continues to evolve and we all get to play more can't-miss experiences.

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.

 

MLB THE SHOW 17 DEVELOPER TRAILER WALKTHROUGH

A few weeks ago, Sony and developer Sony San Diego unveiled the first trailer for the title, including the debut of Retro mode. Now studio game designer Ramone Russell walks through that trailer almost frame-by-frame to talk about all the details contained therein. Fans of the series are not going to want to miss this!

(Please visit the site to view this media)

 

THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL DYNASTY MAKERS

After we talked about Draft Day Sports: College Football 2017 in a previous Sports Desk, I caught up with two of the creators – Brooks Piggott and Gary Gorski – to chat about the studio and the game.

How big is the development team, and how did everyone get together to create the game?
Gorski: It's a three-man team with the lion's share of the actual coding work done by Brooks and another fellow named Asger who started out volunteering to help him develop his pro football game. I did the UI and graphics for the game as well as, of course, the business/promotion side of running the company itself. I develop the pro and college basketball games, so I do code on those games. Brooks was developing a pro football game on his own and I followed it for a while. I thought it had good potential, so I invited him to join Wolverine Studios last year, and we pushed out an update of his pro football game. But Draft Day Sports: College Football 2017 was really our first deep collaboration – we discussed how a number of features could work and rebuilt the entire interface structure from what he originally had done when he was working on his own – and I'm really excited to push these changes to Draft Day Sports: Pro Football next.

What aspects of real-life college football are you guys personally interested in (recruiting, different kinds of plays, programs, etc.)?
Piggott: My favorite aspect of real-life college football is the regional ties people have to teams and conferences. I grew up in the Midwest so I'm a huge Big 10 football fan, but I've lived in Austin, Texas for over 15 years now, so the Big 12 has grown on me. Seeing the history of programs like Texas and Texas A&M up close, and going back to my childhood rooting for Purdue and Notre Dame, I think that loyalty of college fans is pretty impressive.
In the game, being able to run one of my favorite teams and try to get them to famous bowls, or win championships is extremely gratifying for me. All of the systems in the game have aspects of fun in them. Putting in a custom game plan that upsets a top-five team, recruiting a five-star kid you had no business getting, winning awards at the end of the season, watching your star WR break out for a 75-yard touchdown as time expires to win a conference championship all make the game rewarding.
 

Gorsky: The only aspect I am interested in personally is Michigan winning!

Do you have any tips for calling plays during the game? Speaking only for myself, I am a bad gameday coach!
Piggott: As for tips on play calling, I struggle just like everyone else. The game engine is built using physics, and a bit of randomness, so all of the plays vary from team to team, or opponent to opponent. The only advice I have is during the first few games of the season try running several different plays so you get a sense of whether your RB is fast enough to hit the edge or needs to be an inside runner, or if your WR's do better going over the middle or going deep. Narrowing down to a handful of plays that work more often than not will make the playcalling a bit easier.

How hard is it to create a simulator that tabulates the results of any given play? Is this different or the same as the part of the game that sims entire games/seasons?
Piggott: Every play in the game is calculated at the time it is run. We can simulate weeks or seasons of plays to get an idea of how successful a play is in general, but it is highly dependent on the players and teams on the field. Given teams can adjust defenses, blitz ratios, etc. It can drastically affect the success of said play.

Do you have any post-release content/patch plans?
Piggott: Right now we're on version 1.0.4 and we expect to do a 1.0.5 in the next week or two. After that it just depends on what issues users are running into. We're pretty committed to fixing anything that throws errors in the game. Eventually the patches will focus on fixes only. For the updates we've done recently we've released fixes for crashes, but we've also added a lot of functionality, and addressed issues with usability. The community has been extremely positive and their excitement makes it easy for us to continue trying to sneak in one last feature, or tweak one last screen.

It seemed like there was some randomness in whether a recruit would/would not sign with you despite your efforts. Is this correct? Can you talk about what goes into whether a recruit signs with you or not?
Piggott: For recruiting there is some randomness just to keep the element of surprise there. But the bigger factors are a players personality; their desire to be close to home, to play for a prestigious program in a prestigious conference, more playing time, chance to win championships, etc. The main tips are to recruit kids that are near your school, interview them and scout them so you know their personality, and then try to keep recruiting them every week. If you skip a week the recruit may think you've lost interest.

 

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

Surf World Series Announced for 2017

2K Announces NBA 2K17 All-Star Tournament
Form your own Pro-Am team and play for a $ 250,000 championship at the NBA All-Star 2017 event in New Orleans.

Report: EA's Deal With Porsche Coming to an End (SpeedManiacs.com via GTPlanet)
Hopefully this expands the brand's presence.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Don’t Miss: The tricky design problem of Soma’s memorable monsters

Mechanical and strict, or random and fuzzy? Frictional Games creative director Thomas Grip shares his approach to creating the unique monsters of existential nightmare, Soma. …


Gamasutra News

This Wireless Controller Fixes A Big Problem With The NES Classic Edition

One of the biggest gripes about the NES Classic Edition(besides its extreme scarcity) is how amazingly short the controller cable is. 8bitdo has a bluetooth solution to this conundrum that works with a variety of controllers as well as the packed-in NES30 seen above.

Besides the convenience of a world without wires, the NES30 allows you to access the home menu by pressing two buttons rather than hitting reset on the console. That means that not only can you sit a comfortable distance from the system while you play, but you also won't have to jump up to hit the reset button every time you want to switch games. The controller dongle is set to go on sale for $ 39.99 on December 11, though pre-orders are available on Amazon now. For more on the NES Classic Edition, read our review, or check out our video of the system in action.

Our Take
If you can manage to get a hold of the NES Classic in the first place, this seems to be the best way to actually play the darn thing. A two-foot cord never should have been the length to begin with, and requiring players to press a button on the console to access the menu is just a hassle.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Kojima on adapting to players and the problem with perfectionism

“Players have a lot of choices. As a developer, you have to adapt to your customers’ lifestyles. Maybe that means mobile, or endless multiplayer. You can’t dictate.” …


Gamasutra News

Blog: Final Fantasy X-2′s brilliant Job System (and a problem I have with it)

“It has so many clever innovations and ideas that I don’t see getting picked up or expanded upon. That makes me really sad because while I think this game’s job system does a lot right it still has a lot of room to grow.” …


Gamasutra News

New storefront Playfield aims to solve games’ discoverability problem

Indie studio Shark Punch raised more than $ 1M in investment this year to “fix game discovery.” and this week it formally rolls out the result: Playfield, a new game storefront and discovery platform. …


Gamasutra News

Bethesda Solved Its Fallout Shelter Baby-Making Problem In Latest Update

Die-hard Fallout Shelter fans (myself included) have noticed that sometimes pregnancies go on just a little too long. The scientists at Vault-Tec have figured out just what’s going (and so has Bethesda, which patched the game today).

In addition to maternal evictions that are more timely, the new update adds a photo mode. No doubt this will come in handy when your Dwellers say weird things (which is pretty much all the time).

The patch also fixes some crashes and hangs, so you can find out if your Dwellers survive the killer radroaches resulting from a failed rush attempt. Fallout Shelter is free on iOS now. An Android version is coming soon.

Here are the full patch notes:

  • Overseers are encouraged to record any bizarre dweller behavior with the new Photo Feature. Sharing with those outside your Vault is optional, and will not result in your replacement or termination.
  • Vault air filters have been causing some mothers to not deliver babies and we understand this is causing long term discomfort. We have solved this (not the discomfort, the baby coming out part).
  • We’ve also done general maintenance to improve sudden Vault shut down and removed some other pesky issues with the capacitors inside various aspects of the simulation. 

[Source: Bethesda]

 

Our Take
I’m still hooked on Fallout Shelter and have entered the “must have symmetry” phase of my play. I’m just at about 100 Dwellers, thanks in part to great radio station (but mostly because of running a baby factory out of the basement).

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Music composers and sound designers in VR: The headphones problem

God of War composer Winifred Phillips on music for VR: “I’m going to share what I learned about the issue… including a conclusion which may indicate an imminent problem for some VR gamers.” …


Gamasutra News

Destiny’s Solo Problem, And How To Solve It

As I noted in my write-up about House of Wolves, now is the best time for lapsed or new players to get into Destiny. The Prison of Elders arena mode and end-game PvP Trials of Osiris event round out an already compelling package of activities. At the same time, the endgame experience is increasingly group-centric. Lone wolf guardians (or just players who hop on at odd hours) are at a severe disadvantage, both in activities they can enjoy, and in the rewards they can reap. However, Bungie already has the tools and mechanics in place to solve the problem, and in the process the developer could enrich the anemic storytelling that has plagued the title since launch. The answer lies in further embracing the potential of the bounty system.

This isn’t a revolutionary idea. Commenters on the robust Destiny subreddit and the Bungie forums have regularly touted the desire for more bounty options. The Dark Below introduced quest line bounties from Eris Morn. While there were only a few of these, they added a layer of storytelling and provided activities for solo (or group) players to try out. And yet, House of Wolves, for all its successes, seems to have moved backward rather than forward with the plans for expanding bounties and quests. The patrol-based Fallen hunting missions from Petra are simple, one-step affairs that have little to no story contextualization. A new exotic bounty was also added, but it’s locked behind a random drop at the highest level Prison of Elders arenas. 

As it stands, Destiny is at risk for alienating some of its player base. The excellent Trials of Osiris competitive mode is a blast with a strong team at your back, but players doing random groups are in for a rough ride. And Prison of Elders is proving itself to be an extremely challenging gameplay loop, with later bosses often beatable by some teams only if they opt in to fast, opportunistic strategies using specific weapons. In short, the bulk of the newest content isn’t welcoming to solo players, casual engagement, or as I’ve heard from several fellow Destiny fans, even some experienced raid players. 

Moving forward, I’d love to see Destiny supplement these types of group-oriented activities with a more robust take on the already existing bounty system. Additional bounties or quest lines should be available throughout the social spaces of the game, from many of the existing vendors. These new bounties should provide commensurate rewards to both the effort involved in completing them and matching up with the equivalent group activities. New bounty activities can be multi-part, and veer throughout the game’s activities, from Crucible matches and raids to patrols and story missions, much like the existing exotic bounties. Whether through dialogue or text, these new bounties would give us a chance to learn more about the quest-givers, and further flesh out the lore behind weapons, jumpships, or even shaders and class items, all of which could be rewards for completing the tasks. Bounties of this type needn’t replace existing reward-incentivized group activities. Instead, they provide engagement for players as an alternative to those group-required activities like nightfall strikes or Trials. 

I’d love to see new bounties allow solo players to acquire level-capped gear, but these new bounties can do more than lead toward armor and weapons. Consider Variks and his tokens of flight. While I appreciate the option to get a new ship, there’s little narrative context behind the exchange. Consider instead if Variks told you that he had access to an old Fallen jumpship, but it was missing a critical engine component. The part is long broken, but the Vex Axis Minds use a similar component, necessitating a run at the Nexus or Undying Mind strike. In turn, that component needs to be fueled up by the energy released by Cabal soldiers when they’re destroyed. And so on, until after several steps, you finally turn the component in to Variks for a ship that isn’t just cool looking – you remember how you acquired it, and everyone else in orbit knows the challenges you endured to get it. Isn’t that cooler than turning in a randomly acquired token?

This approach lines up with Bungie’s guiding mantra – become legend. Legends are stories, tales that are so epic in scope that they stick in the mind, and slip into memory not just because of the end reward, but because of the path the hero took to reach that reward. Most of Destiny’s best rewards are currently governed by the fickle fate of a random number generator; it would be exciting to have more projects to undertake in the game that resulted in clear, concrete rewards. While quest lines with definitive loot at the end helps solve the problem of engagement for solo players, it’s hard to imagine that implementing such a change wouldn’t also reward the entire player base, who above all things desire variety in their Destiny gameplay experience. 

Story-based bounties offer a chance to flesh out the numerous underused characters already in place within the game. Sure, I can spend 150 vanguard marks to get a new scout rifle from the enigmatic robotic quartermaster. But if I could get an elemental version of the same scout rifle, if only I return with a relic of the lost age for the robot’s growing secret collection of trinkets, wouldn’t I do that? Not only do I get a cool new legendary weapon (for about the same amount of effort it would take to farm the marks) but I’d also get a tidbit of story about the eccentric vanguard quartermaster as a nerdy Wall-E-like gatherer of antiquated objects. 

Bounties in this structure also let Bungie tease out upcoming content in more compelling ways. What if Brother Vance, in addition to his role as the Trials vendor, is seeking out information about his long-absent mentor, Osiris? A quest line could give us more detail about the mysterious warlock and his whereabouts, and in a way far more rooted in the game than grimoire cards. Or what if the Speaker offered a quest line that in the process of completion detailed the part that Prince Uldren of the Awoken played in the war against the Fallen, thus setting the Queen’s brother up as a more significant figure in a subsequent expansion?

I recognize that as a layman to game design, it’s never as easy as it might seem to implement new systems into a game, and a broad reinvention of the bounty system isn’t a simple request. However, Destiny bills itself as a game built for long-term investment by its players, and broader lore development and high-value activities for solo players are increasingly necessary. 

Rather than detract from engagement with other high-level activities, like raids or arenas, solo players would be more likely to join in on the fun if they can get to the end-game on their own terms. If someone can hit the current 34 level-cap as a solo player, they are much more likely to jump in and help another player with a level 35 run at Skolas’ Revenge, because they feel like they’re ready to contribute meaningfully, rather than being a drag on the team. 

I’ve had a great time with House of Wolves so far, and I’ve lucked out into some strong teams that have helped me cap out my Guardians. However, I’m increasingly aware of how little I now have to do in the game if members of my curated friends list aren’t around when I log in. I’d love to have a new ship to shoot for, or a cool shader to aspire towards, with a clear path to completion, which could keep me busy while I wait for an opportunity to join up with friends. 

Check out this companion article, with over twenty ideas of bounties that could enrich the Destiny experience. Would you feel more engaged by a broader selection of bounty quest lines, if they led to an alternate path to cool legendary weapons, ghost shells, or sparrows? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed