Endure The Gauntlet In Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3’s First DLC Pack This September

Curse Of The Vampire

The much awaited first DLC bundle of characters for Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order is arriving on 30th September. The pack, entitled Curse of the Vampire, contains a line up first revealed at San Diego Comic Con with Blade, Moon Knight, Punisher and Morbius joining the fray. That’s not all you’ll find included in the expansion, though.

A new Gauntlet Mode will enable up to four players to run a series of challenges in quick succession in order to earn rewards. There’s also an Endurance Mode – no prizes for guessing what that entails!

Outside the DLC Expansion Pass content, there’s also a bunch of free updates on the way which will bring alternate costumes for all the playable characters. This starts on the 30th August with new threads for Spider-Man, Hulk and Captain Marvel. That day will also see the release of Cyclops and Colossus as playable characters, too.

Marvel fans may be a little miffed at the news that Spider-Man is no longer planned to be part of the MCU, so perhaps diving into this full-fat Marvel melange would be a good way to forget all the bureaucracy surrounding the movie rights. Much like Smash Bros. Ultimate, everyone is here. Check out our guide for a look at the entire roster side-by-side with their most famous movie counterparts.

The Expansion Pass, which includes three packs (with the Fantastic Four and some X-Men scheduled next), is the only way to get your hands on this DLC. The packs aren’t sold separately and the whole caboodle will cost you $19.99 / £17.99.

Excited to get your hands on the Marvel Knights or are you more of a Fantastic Four fan? Let us know in the usual place.

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Game stores: you need more real-time charts!

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


So, it’s time for some advice for game platform stores, rather than actual developers. Which you might think cuts down the intended audience for this piece to, uh, about 7 or 8 companies! (But actually, it’s got important info for you regular devs, too.)

So here’s the thesis. Although Steam is much-maligned for its discovery mechanisms -and I think it could do better curated features for promising games – it does a lot of things right by allowing ANY game to flow up the discovery tree.

For example, its ‘New & Trending’ front page (below) uses a threshold on the number of sales/reviews to pop your game into a prominently featured spot in real-time, no matter who you are. And it’ll stay there for a good while.

On Steam, you can even sell enough copies to make it into the big ‘Featured & Recommended’ section at the top of the page automagically, I believe – without Valve intervention.

And of course, its ‘Top Selling’ chart is real-time for each geographical location and updates very swiftly (every few minutes). And you can also see Global Top-Selling separately to regional!

Anyhow, the point is – this whole Steam ecosystem lends itself decently to launching a game and having it ‘break out’ on public store pages, especially with pre-release wishlisting added in. And Steam’s user base is excited to try new games from new creators. (Not saying Steam doesn’t have existential supply/demand issues, like many stores, and that it doesn’t still select games for special treatment.)

That’s Steam. But let’s talk about some of the other stores out there and what they do.

Nintendo Switch – I’ll do a deeper dive into Switch discoverability in due course. But the Switch has a very prominent ‘top-selling games’ chart as part of its (fairly sparse!) top-level store navigation.

This is great, because this levels the playing field. If you can get in the top games, people will notice you and you’ll sell more games. (Although there has been some minor manipulation of this via over-discounting – we’ll also talk about in that separate piece.)

But the ‘top games’ chart doesn’t have multiple pages to scroll through. You can just see the Top 30 or so, which is a real shame, because they tend to be 20 of ‘the usual suspects’ or Nintendo stalwarts, plus 10 games you’re intrigued to see in there. Why not a Top 100 or even Top 200?

And Switch also doesn’t have any kind of ‘Top New Games’ chart. This should be ‘games that came out in the last 30 days that have sold more than X copies, or have reached a certain sales velocity at a certain point’. And I really think they should add it.

But I do think Nintendo has done the best job for ‘natural from-scratch store discoverability’ of any console store. That may just be because they’re minimalist in their approach to store feature, and don’t have the third party relationships to keep up that Sony and Microsoft do. It could still improve, though.

Microsoft Xbox – probably another half-notch down in terms of natural discoverability for new games not by ‘big devs/pubs’. This is because the Xbox dashboard has a LOT of things to promote, including Mixer (which gets a whole tab), Xbox Game Pass (which also gets a tab, naturally), and then TV and movie purchases and discounts.

In addition, there’s quite a lot of featured store spots that tend to get taken by big discounted/featured AAA games or movies. The front page of the store actually DOES have a ‘Summer Spotlight’ for indies right now, but the other ‘above the fold’ featured panes went to Apex Legends, the Godzilla movie, a Lego video game sale & Fortnite.

(On these console stores, there’s less algorithmic chances to pop into front page features like Steam. This is partly because Xbox and PlayStation have a lot of pre-existing relationships with large publishers who expect them to promote their games.)

When you do get to the front page of the store, best-selling games (which I’ve clicked through on below) are one of the top options. Though you do have to scroll to the right and click to open the submenu up and see all the games.

When you get in there – yep, this is likely a real-time-ish chart, and you can keep scrolling down for ever, which is great!

But despite all the filters above, you can’t sort by ‘Top new’ or otherwise have a ‘games released in the last X amount of time’ as an option. And since you’re already 3+ actions deep (multiple-tab across to Store page, click to enter store, click to see all paid games), the value of this promotion is probably lower vs. Switch (where you just tab down to Best Selling.)

So this is all decent, especially if you’re Gang Beasts or No Man’s Sky or someone who can be a big chart hitter. But if you’re launching a new game on Xbox and you can’t get it into best-selling charts quickly, it’ll be on the front page of the store for as long as it takes 6 other Xbox games to be released, even if it’s selling in a promising fashion. (Hint: that’s not very long.) Then you won’t see it again unless it gets a LONG way up best-selling.

Sure, there are some different special categories that happen to hit the store front page. But some of them are a little random, like ‘latest titles in Game Preview’. (Not that No More Robots is complaining in this case, since Descenders benefited from that for months, but… ‘Top New Games’ should probably be one of the categories too!)

Sony PlayStation – if anything, the PlayStation Store is even more cluttered and full of complex and overlapping options. For panes/tabs on the Store page, there’s What’s Hot, Deals, Popular, Just For You, then two rotating custom panes (currently Celebrate Summer.. and Death Stranding), _then_ PS Plus and PS VR, and then Games.

Most of these have editorially featured big/medium icons for them. You’ll need to scroll to the right for two or three pages in order to click through and see a full list (in this case, the Games / New Games submenu is shown below!)

I’ll also note that the top-selling games for PlayStation is labeled as being ‘for the last 7 days’ – so maybe they get manually entered every week? (Or in some way aggregated over a longer period of time!)

Either way, these PlayStation best-selling charts are in no way updated in real-time like Steam, so if a game comes out and it’s capturing a surge of attention, you wouldn’t know it based on the PlayStation Store. Which is a shame, I think.

(Related – there are no ‘Top New Games’ at all. You can either look at the best-selling titles, which may include games that have been out for years, or trudge through a mass of ‘all new’ titles. Whyyy?)

For both Xbox and PlayStation, getting into an ‘editorially featured’ bucket, aka ‘you have a good enough business relationship for them to feature you’ – looks fairly important.

But it’s rough for your average game when massive publishers – who may have 20+ years history with the console, back from when it was only retail games – are pushing to be prominently featured.

This is what Nick Suttner meant when he gave his GDC talk ‘Platforms Are People Too: The Importance Of Finding Your Champion’. (Which curiously has a bunch of downvotes on YouTube, maybe because people don’t want to acknowledge that the real world works like this sometimes!)

In any case, it’s not that PlayStation (or Xbox, or even Switch with its ‘Featured’ tab) don’t care about the average game, it’s just that they have a LOT of stakeholders to make happy.

And they haven’t come from the engineer-led Steam mindset – pop up ‘hot new’ games in real time, feature them if they do very well. Rather, the ethos is coming from the traditional retail-first model where there are formal publisher relationships to preserve, and the store isn’t meant to surface games ‘on its own’. (I think it should.)

A couple of bonus mini-comments:

Epic Games Store – ha ha. (They are famously ‘lean’ right now, but I hope they do some of this when they start rolling out more store features!)

Apple & Google Play Stores – there are scrollable ‘top X games’ lists in paid and free categories, if not an algorithmic ‘top new games’ list. (And overall, they do a lot of good editorial curation, though free to play dominates. And organic reach is massively down because of the continued rise of ‘pay to acquire via video ads’, unfortunately. It’s a whole different beast.)

A final, and important thought for game developers. All this helps, but you shouldn’t be relying on a storefront to sell copies of your game. In a previous era of game discoverability, maybe – but that’s just not the case nowadays.

You should already have a robust set of fans before you launch your game, because featuring or chart inclusion will help to take you over the top, but if demand isn’t there to start with, then you’re not going to get in those charts.

After all, it’s possible that we are all reading this the wrong way around – that sales actually aren’t majority affected by store placement, and we just want access to these charts to see what is happening under the surface anyway.

But besides the thirst for sales stat knowledge, I think more agile real-time charts would genuinely help games break out on almost all of these platforms. So let’s do it, game platforms! That’s all.

[This article was published as part of the Game Discoverability Weekly newsletter , a regular look at how people find – and buy – your video games. Or don’t. You may know Simon from helping to run GDC & the Independent Games Festival, and advising indie publisher No More Robots, or from his other newsletter Video Game Deep Cuts.]

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PlayStation Productions joins the Uncharted movie as another director exits

PlayStation Productions, the film studio launched by Sony Interactive Entertainment back in May, has joined the production team of the long-gestating Uncharted movie. 

The fledging production company was established to turn PlayStation properties into movies and television shows, and is apparently taking some inspiration from the successful business model used by Marvel Studios.

As reported by Deadline, the arrival of PlayStation Productions coincided with the departure of director Dan Trachtenberg, who is the latest in a number of filmmakers to have exited the troubled project. 

The movie is due to begin production early next year and will star Tom Holland as a young version of Nathan Drake, the quip-happy protagonist of Naughty Dog’s acclaimed Uncharted series. 

PlayStation Productions, which is being led by PlayStation marketing veteran Asad Qizilbash, will now hope to get the film back on track with the help of fellow producers Chuck Roven, Avi Arad, Alex Gartner, and Ari Arad.

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Riot Games settles gender-discrimination class action lawsuit

League of Legends developer Riot Games has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit that alleged the studio allowed gender-based discrimination and fostered a work culture that favored men.

The suit was filed in November last year by one current and one former employee, who argued that Riot had violated California’s Equal Pay Act, and asked for compensation on unpaid wages, damages, and other penalties. 

It arrived after several other employees pulled back the curtain on Riot’s toxic workplace environment in an article on Kotaku that detailed incidents of sexual harassment and bullying, while the settlement comes after over 150 employees staged a mass walkout over the company’s forced arbitration policy.

Rather than fight the lawsuit, Riot has settled in a bid to reiterate its “commitment to owning our past, and to healing the company so that we can move forward together.”

“We realize that this is a path that many companies in our position may not have chosen, but we felt it was the strongest statement we could make to Rioters, and prospective Rioters, that we’re prepared to go over and above in order to move forward,” reads a company statement.

“While we believed that we had a strong position to litigate, we realized that in the long run, doing what is best for both Riot and Rioters was our ideal outcome.”

The attorney representing the two plaintiffs said the settlement represented “meaningful and fair value to class members for their experiences at Riot,” and suggested it’s a clear indication that the studio is committed to improving and evolving its culture and employment practices. 

Those sentiments were echoed by Riot chief exec Nicolo Laurent, who claimed the studio will try and do better in the future.

“We are grateful for every Rioter who has come forward with their concerns and believe this resolution is fair for everyone involved,” said Laurent. “With this agreement, we are honoring our commitment to find the best and most expeditious way for all Rioters, and Riot, to move forward and heal. 

“Over the past year, we’ve made substantial progress toward evolving our culture and will continue to pursue this work as we strive to be the most inclusive company in gaming.”

Both parties will now move toward seeking court approval of the proposed settlement. Riot will provide additional details about its terms when that filing takes place. 

Review: Snooker 19 – One Of The Best Snooker Games Ever, But Not Without Its Faults

When it comes to nailing a sports simulator, it’s all about finding that sweet spot between authenticity, realism and fun. Even when that sport is a little more niche in its mainstream appeal, if you can’t capture the magic that makes that recreational pastime so unique, then you’re doing its fans a serious injustice. We’ve seen some real howlers in the world of snooker games over the years – which is probably why it’s been so long since we’ve had an officially-licensed title – but snooker aficionados should breathe a sigh of relief because Snooker 19 is a sturdy and confidently authentic recreation of balls and baize.

British studio Lab42 has a bit of an odd pedigree to its name (having developed a version of Football Manager for mobiles and ports of Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami for PC), but in partnership with publisher Ripstone (which has plenty of experience with pool simulators), it’s managed to tick all the important boxes. With that official licence, you get 128 of the world’s best players, face-scanned for some impressively accurate character models, alongside every single real-life venue from the official circuit.

For those that have grown tired of winning frames in generic locales, being able to nail a maximum break under the lights of the Crucible or Alexandra Palace really sets Snooker 19 apart from the years of unofficial and often inconsistent snooker games we’ve had to endure. Sure, those character models move a little stiffly, but visually, it’s such a convincing product you half expect to get a whiff of stale lager, fag smoke and body odour.

Switch-based sports sims often experience some form of content sacrifice or are forced to run on inferior engines, but this one really doesn’t. It has its faults, but all of these are present in versions available on other platforms. If you really want to take your snookering on the go, you can do so with the full package.

It goes without saying, but authenticity and Ronnie O’Sullivan’s gurning visage can only take you so far. Physics mean everything when you’re getting ready to break on the table, and Snooker 19 isn’t ready to ‘snooker’ itself in this department (ahem). You can tweak so many aspects of your game, including holding ‘ZL’ to refine shot positioning and adding side or spin to the cue ball by pulling back the analogue stick to find the right amount of power.

It takes a while to get used to, and even on the lowest difficulty, those really tough shots (such as lightly spinning around the black to hit a red or striking two cushions to land in the corner pocket) remain just as challenging. For snooker purists, this full-on commitment to realism will have them loosening their bow tie in anticipation – just don’t expect an arcade approach that leaves much room for error.

In terms of content, Snooker 19 ticks most of the boxes you’d expect. There’s plenty of modes to tackle offline, including a Career mode that divides its roster into a Pro Seasons grouping (focused on the big names in snooker) and the self-explanatory Rising Stars. There’s also support for online play, with standard ranked matches and regular tournaments (such as the Paul Hunter Classic, due to kick off this month). It’s a pretty standard set of modes, but the online tournaments easily stand out with the ability to earn special rewards based on your performance.

As we’ve mentioned, the presentation is pretty good overall. However, there are some issues. Those aforementioned player animations really don’t do the quality of their character models justice, but hopefully, a little mo-cap in a potential future instalment might help rectify that. There’s also commentary from David Hendon and Neil Foulds, but it’s easily one of the weakest aspects of the game, often coming off (at best) as half-baked and (at worst) completely irrelevant to the match unfolding on-screen. Again, this is the best snooker package Ripstone has ever put out, it just needs some rough edges smoothing out beyond its authenticity and licence.

Conclusion

Sports simulators continue to raise the bar of quality on Nintendo Switch, and Snooker 19 keeps that upward curve moving with an officially licensed recreation of all things baize-based. With an impressive number of facially-scanned pros and real-world snooker halls, and an incredibly precise simulation of striking the ball and setting up future shots, you’re treated to one of the best snooker games of the last decade. While still very rough around in the edges in terms of animations, commentary and accessibility, this is a must for snooker devotees who want an officially-licensed sim on Switch.

Random: Nintendo Posts About Mario Enjoying Sunshine, Internet Goes Wild

One of the drawbacks of being a massive company with a long history and a massive amount of IP is that almost any message you publically release – no matter how innocent – could be misinterpreted or read into a little too much by fans.

That may well be the case with a tweet recently posted by Nintendo of America, which includes the words “Mario” and “Sunshine” – although it’s worth pointing out that these words are separated by other words. Still, that doesn’t stop the internet!

To add fuel to the fire, it was then pointed out that Nintendo has been randomly positioning fruit on its Gamescom coverage:

Could Twitter be onto something here? Why is there fruit all over the tables in Nintendo’s Gamescom booth? Could we get a new Super Mario Sunshine, or is this a tease for a HD remaster of the (oft-maligned) GameCube original? Answers on a postcard, please.

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HomePod now available for purchase in Japan and Taiwan

 

Apple has launched the HomePod in Japan and Taiwan, giving Apple fans the chance to snag the smart speaker for themselves.

Apple HomePod

The HomePod is now available to purchase in both Japan and Taiwan, following an announcement made on August 15.

Buyers can pick up their own HomePod either in brick-and-mortar Apple Stores, or purchase them from select mobile phone retailers.

In Japan, the HomePod retails for 32,800 yen ($310), and in Taiwan for NT$9,900 ($315). Users can purchase a HomePod in ether white or Space Gray.

When announced, the Japanese press release mentioned popular artists such as Aimyon and One OK Rock, whose music would be available to stream from Apple Music. Also mentioned are regional playlists, such as Apple Music’s Top 100: Japan.

The smart speaker debuted in the U.S., UK, and Australia in February 2018, a half-year after being shown at Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference. Since then, Apple has expanded availability to China, Hong Kong, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, and Spain.

The HomePod is on track to receive some notable upgrades this fall with the release of iOS 13. The update list includes multi-user voice recognition, enhanced Shortcuts integration, and song Handoff with iPhone.