The Sports Desk – The Golf Club 2019, Tennis World Tour & MLB The Show 18's Diamond Dynasty
This week there are a variety of details to cover for a trio of games, and instead of breaking it up into separate columns, I figured I'd just run it all in one jam-packed Sports Desk. Enjoy.
HB STUDIOS DISCUSSES THE GOLF CLUB 2019
A new Golf Club has been announced less than a year after the last title – The Golf Club 2 – was released. The fall title is being self-published, and comes as a little bit of a surprise since the developer previously said it would not release games for the series at a yearly clip. Regardless, the title features golfer avatar customization options, increased career mode depth, online wagers, and more.
We talked to HB Studios CEO Alan Bunker about the transition to TGC 2019, what they've learned from last year, and some of the new features.
Is the feature set for TGC 2019 what was planned as updates to TGC 2?
No. There is a tremendous amount of work that is going into The Golf Club 2019 and none of the core features we have planned would have been ready or feasible for a release in the previous version.
The Golf Club 2's launch was marred by some online issues. What has the studio done to make sure the launch and post-release of TGC 2019 is smoother on this front?
Launch week is a difficult time for any game that relies on an online connection for the majority of the game. We have continued to expand on our load testing for each server to improve our chances of a clean start out of the gates. I believe we're doing everything we can to identify the risks and addressing them well ahead of time.
Will TGC2 be updated at all going forward since TGC 2019 has been announced? In the future, will HB go back to preferring to update TGC 2019 rather than putting out a separate, annual title such as TGC 2020, for instance?
Our focus is on The Golf Club 2019. The roadmap for The Golf Club after the release later this year is still TBD. With that said, we are planning post-launch support for several months after launch day, the content of that is still in discussion.
In your opinion, how did societies go in TGC 2? Did users use them and interact with each other in the ways you expected?
Societies are a great addition to the franchise and have continued to evolve in The Golf Club 2019. A core percentage of our user base has latched on to this and their feedback has been important in the growth of the feature in the franchise.
Are there new ways you can upgrade your clubhouse such as more options to tweak the interiors, as opposed to your society upgrading by buying a whole new clubhouse?
Clubhouse progression remains the same, but many of the interiors will have a new, updated look. The depth in customizations for Societies has expanded as well. Presidents will now be able to promote members to Admins to help maintain their season schedules and we have also added additional event types and settings to name a few.
I've seen players in the forums claim that the gameplay swing is different on different consoles. Is this the case, and does TGC 2019's new swing mechanic address this at all?
Controllers from each manufacturer can have different dead zones tied to them, which could result in different results across users if the discrepancy is large enough. The difference from playing on one platform to the next with an officially supported device has been negligible in our experience, though.
With the updates we have made to the swing mechanic, we will visually see more information about the swing. This could help determine the type of controller a user is playing with and if they have potentially made modifications to their input.
Can you talk about the philosophy behind TGC 2019's improved swing mechanic and user feedback? Did people want gameplay to be easier?
There has been a mix of feedback from users about the swing difficulty. In order to continue appealing to a broad audience, we will be maintaining the three club sets, and the tempo aspect moving forward. However, we have given the feedback HUD a visual overhaul and re-tuned how tempo and swing direction impact each shot type. With these changes we are looking for a finer balance between the club sets and a learning curve accessible to a broader user base. The feedback HUD changes give the user actionable information to improve from shot to shot, while the new tunings have further improved the authenticity of ball flights from all locations on the course.
Will there be any microtransactions in the game?
There is paid for content planned for The Golf Club 2019 and there will be more information to come. With this we want to focus on content that isn't intrusive to the user or gate them from gameplay. No pay-to-win mechanics will be introduced since one of the core pillars is for the game to be a level playing field for all users. Paid-for content may include additional licensed courses, as an example.
Is a Switch version of TGC 2019 a possibility in the future?
Our current focus for The Golf Club 2019 is PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC release. Switch is always a possibility!
Will there be a new iteration of TGC VR?
Nothing planned at the moment. The game is still selling well and we receive regular inquiries from VR arcades around the world for them to include TGC VR in their portfolio of available games.
In terms of the pre-approved courses for online matchmaking, does this address some form of cheating or is it about keeping the community together?
The main focus for having approved courses for matchmaking is to ensure a consistent experience for all users on each platform. We will be able to curate these to ensure optimal performance for everyone and difficulties manageable for each skill level. We are also able to define a list of the top courses, whether TGC Official or user-generated, to help set up quick matchmaking times to get you in the game and playing.
Similarly, are there any constraints on the match wager system to prevent friends from throwing matches or to address any other potential abuses?
Wager matches will only be available through matchmaking. It would be difficult for friends to guarantee they are matched up together. If they did, this process would be a grind and would likely yield negative results for all the matches they quit before finally matching up together.
How much will the game cost?
We haven't confirmed pricing yet. We want to bring the price closer to what we saw with TGC1, though, but this is very much subject to change.
Tennis World Tour comes out this spring (PS4, Xbox One, PC & Switch), and we grilled producer Romain Ginocchio and creative director Etienne Jacquemain for all the details we could get our hands on regarding the title.
- You start with a created character at the bottom of the rankings, aiming for the top. You can't use an existing, licensed pro (the game ships with 30 of them).
- Character customization features include your face, serve animation, attitude (how you visually respond to events during matches), handedness, and even your "groan." The creation suite isn't designed towards replicating existing players. Sorry. You can create multiple players.
- Players set up their schedule by the week, and you have to balance scheduling training sessions, tournaments, preparing for tournaments, vacations, sponsorship meetings, and more with making sure you get rest. The tradeoff is earning money, XP, and loot equipment, with the possibility of running down your player and increasing the chance of getting them hurt.
- The developers worked with a coach from the French tennis federation to study players' schedules.
- Players can get jet lagged if they travel too much.
- Training sessions (like volley training) can be chosen for a bonus in your next match.
- Players can be lightly injured and still play a tournament, suffering debuffs to your speed and power, and risking a long-term injury.
- Vacations help you recuperate, but when you're not playing tournaments you risk lowering your ranking.
- There is no simming past tournaments to get a result.
- You can sign/change coaches, agents, and equipment manufacturers for bonuses and equipment. These come with requirements for your player such as being a certain level or ranking, or attending a certain event.
- There are 100 pieces of non-licensed equipment (racket, grips, shirts, dampeners, socks) that unlock as you progress, but there are no microtransactions in the game. Equipment – which has rarity levels – is also awarded randomly for winning matches, and a rare sponsorship, for example, gives you rare-level equipment.
SKILLS & ATTRIBUTES
- There are over 100 skills in the game, and before matches you can equip up to five of them. Some are passive, while others activate at specific times, like getting a power boost at the start of a point that decreases with each shot. There are no skills related to specific court types.
- You can see which skills are active during a point via an onscreen indicator. You can also see the skills your opponent is tapping into.
- Skills level up through three tiers.
- You earn attribute points during your career and these are applied to three player archetypes: Attack, Defense, and Serve/Volley. Putting points into any of these three categories then changes specific character attributes (like control, power, etc.) and your strokes. So, you don't put points specifically into your forehand, for example, but that will grow at a variable rate depending on which archetype you invest points in. Characters level up to 30.
Last week colleague Brian Shea and I talked about some of our gameplay impressions of an early version of the title (see below), and here are a few other tidbits:
- In terms of the game's assistance that Shea and I reference in the video, the developer says there will be some level of assistance to, "keep a realistic and playable animation system," but any movement assist "will be less noticeable [in the final game] and leave more freedom to the player than in the alpha builds." If I had to guess, it felt like the build we played had a relatively high level of movement assist.
- The wind may affect the ball.
- The game features quick match, ranked, tournament, and create-a-match online modes.
- Create-A-Match allows for custom time of day/weather.
- Tournaments feature seeding.
- Ranked matches require your character is at level 25, with randomized time of day/weather. Ranked matches also have a league system where you're matchmade with players within your league.
PRESENTATION, DLC & MORE!
- Tennis legend John McEnroe is the game's English-language announcer. Retired pro Guy Forget handles the French track.
- Other classic players will be announced at a later time, and there are players which are being added after release.
- There are no official tournaments or stadiums, but the studio is in talks with some licensors.
- Doubles play – including mixed doubles – will be free DLC after launch. The developer isn't sure yet if doubles will be available during your career or just in exhibition mode.
- There are stat overlays during matches for things like fast serves and long rallies.
- The game will have 4K support for Xbox One X and PlayStation Pro.
- There is a Tennis Academy tutorial section with different levels of training.
MLB The Show 18 developer San Diego Studio continues to roll out details for the March 27 title. The studio's latest Twitch stream for the game dives into the popular Diamond Dynasty mode, discussing the new Immortals program as well as how those greats have changed the title's attribute scale.
In less exciting news, this year's game will not feature an online franchise mode like in the past. San Diego Studio says that the feature had to be sacrificed due to this year's online technology overhaul, and the feature couldn't be ported over as is. Given the game's online troubles in past years, this is a step that needs to happen, but it doesn't make it any easier for fans of the feature.
Meanwhile, the popular Diamond Dynasty feature includes new tweaks, including:
- The Immortals Program: Completing them are the only way to get max. attribute legends like Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson – these players aren't in packs.
- New Attribute Max: To accommodate the Immortals, the attribute cap is being raised to 125, which Immortals will have in their appropriate attributes. Other players aren't being made worse; it's just to make the Immortals stand out.
- Program Interconnectivity: Getting to the Immortals program requires doing other programs first (like ones for specific positions and career arcs), which give plenty of other rewards along the way. Some programs have shorter missions that can be completed in only a few games.
- Program Rewards: Individual programs grant players to use along the way (including some just for starting the program), and not just at the end. You'l also get souvenirs like signed baseballs and bobbleheads. These can be used in other programs and in exchanges.
- Created-Player Decisions: There are programs for each created player position, and you can only play one created player at a time. You start out with a low-rated created player and there are branching decision points in the program where you'll choose in which direction to take the player, like going for control as a hitter versus power. Once you decide on a path, you can't go back, so it's not like you'll be able to make that player powerful in all areas.
There's much more in the Twitch stream, including gameplay details about player tiers, create-a-team options, and more.
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A quick rundown of some of the sports news from the week
Out of the Park Baseball 19 Will Be Available Through EA's Origin PC Service Via Distribution Deal
Also check out some new screenshots.
Parody Golf Title What The Golf? Meets Crowdfunding Goal
Click the headline link above to download the prototype.