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Doublejump Digest: August 30, 2021


This week in gaming: Gamescom 2021 packs a punch, the California vs. Activision-Blizzard lawsuit continues, Elden Ring looks great in new screenshots, Saints Row returns, and more!


In the spirit of keeping our readers up to date with what’s happening in the video game industry, the Doublejump Digest is a brief collection of the major news stories from the past week. Keep an eye out for the Digest every Sunday night, and head on into the archive for news from weeks gone by!


FROM DOUBLEJUMP 

  • Edward has grown suspicious of Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ Gulliver, so he broke down some evidence that proves that the seagull sea captain is keeping a secret from us all.
  • Ruby played through the sword dating simulator Boyfriend Dungeon, which she found “offers a fun new take on the otome formula” and is well worth a look if you like a bit more action in your dating life.
  • John reviewed Garden Story which, despite having some room for improvement, is “a gorgeous and heartfelt ode to the notion of community and the people who live in them.”
  • Abir gushed over Microsoft’s new limited edition Halo Infinite-themed Xbox Series X hardware.

MAJOR NEWS

California amps up its lawsuit against Activision-Blizzard

According to a new Axios report, the California Department of Fair Employment & Housing (DFEH) has expanded its toxic workplace lawsuit against Activision-Blizzard to include “contingent or temporary workers” and not just employees.

Furthermore, in the court documents, the DFEH also alleged that Activision-Blizzard has hindered the government agency’s efforts to “investigate, prosecute, and remedy” by making employees and workers sign non-disclosure agreements and inform the company before speaking to the DFEH as well as by using controversial law firm WilmerHale as its protective bulldog.

In response to this report, an Activision-Blizzard denied the DFEH’s interference claims and added that the publisher “complied with every proper request in support of its review”.

“With regards to claims that we have destroyed information by shredding documents, those claims are not true. We took appropriate steps to preserve information relevant to the DFEH investigation,” the spokesperson said. “We have provided the DFEH with clear evidence that we do not have gender pay or promotion disparities. Our senior leadership is increasingly diverse, with a growing number of women in key leadership roles across the company.”

Blizzard is changing McCree’s name, will no longer name characters after employees:

Blizzard has committed to changing the name of one of Overwatch’s most popular characters after his namesake, former Diablo 4 lead designer Jesse McCree, was pictured in the “Cosby Suite” — and the related group chat — mentioned in the sexual harassment lawsuit that the state of California has brought against Activision Blizzard.

Noting that the change “will take time to roll out correctly”, Blizzard’s Overwatch team revealed that it will necessitate a delay to a major story arc that was set to begin next month, “of which McCree was a key part.” That story arc has been replaced with a new Free-For-All map, and Blizzard has also made it clear that “in-game characters will no longer be named after real employees, and [it] will be more thoughtful and discerning about adding real world references in future Overwatch content.”

The team has not revealed what the gunslinger’s new name will be, nor has it committed to a concrete date — only mentioning that it’s delayed the aforementioned story arc to “later this year” — but it did assure fans that “work on these updates is underway” and that it will provide updates as the process continues. Of course, that means we will provide updates as the process continues.

Check out these new Elden Ring screenshots

Elden Ring fans, prepare to feast your eyes on this slate of new screenshots of FromSoftware’s hotly-anticipated action title:

Elden Ring is scheduled to be released on January 21, 2022 on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.

Marvel’s Midnight Suns is XCOM meets Marvel Comics

At Gamescom 2021, Firaxis Games announced that its XCOM team is working on a new turn-based RPG based in the Marvel Comics universe.

Marvel’s Midnight Suns is set in the Rise of the Midnight Sons storyline (which saw a group of heroes and villains including Blade, Doctor Strange and the Ghost Rider band together to stop the necromancer Lilith from taking over the world), but Firaxis is set to take some liberties with the playable heroes involved: this version of the arc will feature some of the more “brand-name” Marvel Comics heroes such as Captain America, Captain Marvel and Wolverine, who seek help from the Midnight Sons to combat Lilith’s threat.

The player, meanwhile, will be cast in the role of the Hunter, the character resurrected in the game’s reveal trailer. The Hunter is an entirely new character designed by Firaxis in partnership with Marvel Comics to serve as the player’s vessel within the game, and will therefore be extremely customisable: Firaxis’ Jake Solomon told Polygon that players will be able to choose between more than 40 different superpowers, ranging from “light” to “dark” to mirror the game’s selection of heroes and villains.

Interestingly, despite the team’s pedigree, Solomon also noted that “there are zero mechanics shared between XCOM and the Midnight Suns,” so it’s going to be interesting to see what happens there. We’ll all find out together when Marvel’s Midnight Suns arrived on PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S in March.

Volition is working on a brand new Saints Row

Saints Row developer Deep Silver Volition finally unveiled its latest project during Gamescom: a reboot of its most popular open-world series.

Simply titled Saints Row, the new game trades the original’s fictional Michigan-based Stillwater setting for a fictional New Mexico-esque setting of Santo Ileso and tasks the player with starting up a new gang named The Saints.

Saints Row is slated for a February 25, 2022 release on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.

343 Industries announces Halo Infinite’s release date, details multiplayer progress

After accidentally revealing it on the Microsoft Store earlier that day, Halo Infinite developer 343 Industries announced the game’s December 8 release date during Gamescom’s Opening Night stream. The company also released the cinematic intro for the game’s first multiplayer season, which introduces players as the next generation of SPARTAN recruits. Fuck yeah!

In potentially disappointing news, however, Halo Community Manager John Junyszek has since revealed that Halo Infinite players will only be able to level up by completing multiplayer challenges instead of the traditional method of earning XP every match. He noted that this applied for the game “at launch” and that only the most dedicated of grinders would run out of daily challenges.

EA shares Apex Legends ping patent to encourage more accessibility

In an attempt to help other developers make their games more accessible to people with disabilities and other medical issues, Electronic Arts has released five of its “accessibility-centered technology patents” for royalty-free use by “every developer in the industry” without threat of patent infringement.

The Patent Pledge for Increasing Accessibility includes Apex Legends’ widely praised ping system, along with a number of systems to assist colourblind players and an as-yet undeveloped patent that “[generates] personalised music based on a user’s hearing information and stylistic preference to best comport with that user’s hearing issues.”

In a follow-up interview with GamesIndustry.biz, EA’s executive vice president of Positive Play, Chris Bruzzo, urged other developers to follow his company’s lead “[for] the greater good of players everywhere.”

The company also noted that it “may add additional patents to this pledge at a later date,” making it something to keep our eyes on.

Epic Games and TIME partner for a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. exhibit in Fortnite

Epic Games has partnered with TIME Studios to put together an interactive exhibit about the 1963 March on Washington, entitled March Through Time: D.C. ‘63 and created entirely in Fortnite Creative.

Held on August 28, 1963, the event officially known as the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was one of the most significant moments in the US Civil Rights Movement. Although there were numerous celebrities in the crowd – along with a handful of stirring musical performances from such names as Mahalia Jackson, Marian Anderson and Bob Dylan, and speeches from civil rights leaders – the March is best remembered as the stage from which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

A recording of that famous speech serves as one of the centrepieces of the exhibit, which takes place in “a reimagined Washington, D.C. built by [Fortnite community members] ChaseJackman, GQuanoe, XWDFr, and YU7A” that features a recreation of the Lincoln Memorial and the United States National Mall where the March was held. It also includes “museum-inspired points of interest”, where players can learn more about the Civil Rights Movement, as well as ten “collaborative mini-game quests” that “progress players through the experience and bring to life important themes of Dr. King’s speech: we move forward when we work together.” Players who complete all ten mini-games will earn themselves a D.C. ‘63 locker spray.

The “year-long educational event” began on August 26 and can be accessed by changing the Fortnite game mode to March Through Time.


NOTABLE GAME RELEASES

  • Psychonauts 2 (PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S)

VIDEOS AND TRAILERS

Forza Horizon 5 — Official Initial Drive Trailer

Playground Games showed off the first eight minutes of its upcoming open-world racer.

Metroid Dread — Trailer 2

A familiar villain returns.

Psychonauts 2 — Official Launch Trailer

Raz and his motley crew of mindful miscreants are back!

Destiny 2: The Witch Queen — Reveal Trailer

Savathun can now control Light…

Destiny 2: The Witch Queen — Gameplay Trailer

Even with the Light in hand, the Hive can be chopped down just as easily as before.

Destiny 2 — Season of the Lost Trailer

Oh, and everyone’s favourite Queen has still got stuff going on…

Dying Light 2 Stay Human — Decide The Fate of The City

Player choices are a bigger factor in this sequel.

Dying Light 2 Stay Human — Official GeForce RTX 4K Reveal Trailer

Holy shit, ray tracing is majestic…

Lost Judgment — Story Trailer

Sometimes justice isn’t fair.

Assetto Corsa Competizione — PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S Announcement Trailer

Kunos Simulazioni’s revered take on the FIA GT3 championship is heading to current-gen consoles as a free upgrade.

WarioWare: Get It Together! — Overview Trailer

It ain’t Rhythm Paradise, but I’ll take it!


INDIE SPOTLIGHT

Sands of Aura is the latest indie Souls-like to hit Early Access: 

Chashu Entertainment and publisher Freedom Games have announced that their take on the Souls-like formula is on its way to Early Access next month. The interesting-looking action-RPG sees players “take up arms with the Order of Remnant Knights and protect what remains of humanity” after Talamhel’s Hourglass of Time is destroyed, “scattering sand across the world and leaving it vulnerable to the Night Plague.” It features a range of different combat styles and a vast range of NPCs to receive side quests from.

Sands of Aura is set to be released on October 21, in Early Access on both Steam and the Epic Games Store. Neither Chashu Entertainment or Freedom Games have announced any other platforms as of this writing.

There’s a SMALLAND demo coming to PC in October:

Merge Games debuted a new trailer for its upcoming open-world, online multiplayer survival game, SMALLAND, at the Future Games Show, which not only showed off some beautiful environments and character designs but also revealed that there’s a playable demo on its way to both Steam and the Epic Games Store in October.


OTHER NEWS

  • Gamasutra is rebranding as Game Developer: Official
  • Dying Light is the Switch’s latest unlikely AAA port: Kotaku
  • Horizon: Forbidden West is slated for a February 18, 2022 release: PlayStation Blog
  • Microsoft adds Humble games to Game Pass: GamesRadar
  • Square Enix donates US$62k to Japanese Red Cross: Kotaku
  • Frontier Developments releases new Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters video and screenshots: Eurogamer
  • Another Metroid fan project has been Nintendo’d: Kotaku
  • DrDisrespect says that he plans to sue Twitch for banning him: Forbes
  • Gearbox Software has set up a new office in Montreal: GameSpot
  • Wargaming suspends several staff members for sending dodgy messages in World of Warships promo codes: Kotaku
  • Former professional Valorant player Rowan Crothers has won Paralympic Gold for Australia: Twitter
  • Unity’s CEO promises to not allow US armed forces to create deadly projects using its game engine: VICE
  • PUBG Corp. announces a new fantasy games: The Verge
  • Goodboy Galaxy is the first GBA game announced in more than a decade: Eurogamer
  • Check out three of Starfield’s locations: Kotaku
  • Splitgate’s Season 0 is out now: Engadget
  • Will Smith’s Bad Boys character is Fortnite’s latest Multiverse star: GameSpot
  • Bungie escalates its legal battle against Destiny 2 cheat makers: Kotaku
  • Naughty Dog has begun hiring for its upcoming standalone multiplayer project: Eurogamer
  • Yes, that NES Google Maps April Fool’s port is now a real thing: Kotaku
  • Lance Barr, the man who helped design the NES and Super Nintendo, leaves Nintendo: Eurogamer
  • Former Stunlock Studios and Riot Games developers set up new studio: Gamasutra
  • 343 Industries adds a new Halo 3 map to Halo: The Master Chief Collection: Kotaku

Jake Colosimo and Abir Chowdhury contributed to this article.


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