Welcome to Part IV of Chasing the Stick: The History of Naughty Dog during the PS4 Era.
I decided to break-up the six parts of my history into individual episodes as well, for more choice for you, the listener. This episode dives into the rapid, slammed development of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. From pre-production to release in just 15 months, The Lost Legacy is a marvel to explore. I hope you enjoy.
Razbuten has made a stellar video that explores just one element that helps Avatar: The Last Airbender stand tall creatively. His exploration of creating emotional payoff through forcing characters to behave and react outside their usual behavior is spot on. Heck, even his essay performed some tearbending on me as I remembered why I love this show, its characters and world so much.
I had been putting off watching this one for a bit. I am super glad I finally got to watching. I grew up watching Avatar: The Last Airbender and have my fair share of memories wrapped up in this classic show. I’ve had an itch for a few months to rewatch it, especially since it has been widely discussed after its return to Netflix. Razbuten’s video didn’t scratch that itch; it actually was like rolling in an ant hill and made it all the worse. It’s finally time to watch my Blu-Ray set.
Sony has spent a lot of time talking about the PS5’s new sound technology, and now Microsoft is using Halo Infinite‘s new “acoustic engine” as a selling point (and to distract people from the dull graphics). This is all well and good, except for one thing: nobody cares about sound.
This isn’t 1995, we’re not buying Soundblasters and begging game developers to use MIDI. Good sound is incredibly missable: you can’t hear all that fancy audio when you’re watching trailers on your phone, and you can’t hear it when you’re playing on your TV’s tinny-ass stereo speakers. It’s difficult and invisible, which means it’s bad for marketing.
Nobody caring about sound design is simply not true. Bad sound design sticks out like a sore thumb. Great sound design can entirely change a game. Look at Dead Space, PT, the Kurosawa Mode in Ghost of Tsushima, Return of the Obra Dinn, and even Super Mario Bros. It can make all the difference in a racing game like Forza Horizon. Sound is essential in a game like Rainbow Six Siege. Heck, it even can make a game more accessible to different players.
Sony has put tons of money into developing their own 3D audio engine that claims to change how sound is perceived and experienced across multiple sound output devices—from fancy headphones to “tinny-ass stereo speakers.” This needs to be tested out in the real world, but the potential is immense. And with a company like Sony, that has invested millions and developed countless audio devices and platforms, investing in video game’s audio future, it is easy to imagine it being successful.
Audio is one of the most immersive elements in games. It can blend seamlessly into the setting and subconsciously amp the engagement the developer is going for. It can be right in your face and move you emotionally like Journey. Audio makes truly immersive VR possible, something Sony definitely has stake in.
I think audio is about to get a major and long overdue upgrade in console gaming. I believe this is going to be like the jump from 2D to 3D games for our ears.
Analogue has come forward and shared all the latest details surrounding their hotly anticipated console — Pocket. After a tease last week, Analogue has announced that pre-orders for the Pocket will begin next Monday, August 3, 2020 at 8:00 AM PST. Most of Pocket’s accessories will also go up for pre-order at the same time. There is a limit of two Pocket consoles per order, presumably to help mitigate demand.
The hardware itself has gotten some tweaks and clarifications as well. The “start,” “select,” and “home” buttons have been moved from the lower right corner to the bottom middle. The super high-resolution display retains its incredible specs and is now confirmed to be made out of Gorilla Glass. Another super snazzy feature is what Analogue dubs “Original Display Modes.” These allow users to mimic Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance screen properties—think scan lines for Game Boy systems. I wonder how far this kind of feature can and will go. The Pocket will support Game Boy and Game Gear (I think, but more on that in a bit) right away. Could features like mimicking Atari Lynx or Sega Game Gear screens become a reality? What about just the diverse screen types within the Game Boy line itself? Could I chose between a regular GBA, a frontlit GBA SP, a backlit GBA SP, and a Game Boy Micro? What about the DS screen? There is plenty of potential for this kind of feature and I wonder how far Analogue will take it.
There is also a sleep/wake feature built into the hardware; simply pressing the power button will put the Pocket to sleep and suspend gameplay. The Pocket has a 4300 mAh battery that can support 10+ hours of sleep time and 6-10 hours of game time. Recharging happens over USB-C and folks may use an 18W fast charger if they’d like.
I found the biggest surprise from today’s announcements to be the plethora of accessories for the Pocket. The Dock got its time in the spotlight with its own improvements. Now there is a small recession to provide better stability for the Pocket itself. The Dock comes in at $99 and goes up for order the same day and time as the Pocket. It has two USB-A ports for wired controllers and supports both Bluetooth and 2.4g wireless controllers for up to four controllers at once. As someone who just bought a 2.4g 8BitDo controller, I am super stoked for its inclusion.
Besides all of the Game Boy games, Pocket will support Sega Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket, and Atari Lynx. These adapters take their design language from Analogue’s Mega SG adapters and the DAC. The slick transparent design is right up my alley. Based off the images, the adapters appear to sit flush with the bottom half of the console. These adapters are $29.99 a pop and only the Game Gear adapter will be up for pre-order next week. I assume this is because Analogue already has the core for it thanks to the Mega SG. Since says that the Game Gear adapter will also ship in May 2021, I assume that the Pocket will also have Game Gear support out of the box, if you have the adapter. The other adapters only have a date of 2021.
There are cables out the wazoo for the Pocket. Besides a traditional style link cable, there are cables for connecting the Pocket to various music devices thanks to the inclusion of Nanoloop music software. There is a MIDI-IN cable, analog sync, and USB-A. All of these connect to the Pocket through the link cable port, just like one would use Nanoloop on a real Game Boy. I wonder if it would be possible to route it through the USB-C port though. I doubt it is a question of hardware, but rather software. It’d be nice to see this as an option down the line, instead of through a older port. All of the cables are $19.99, except for the traditional link cable and a USB-C to USB-C cable, both of which run for $15.99.
The Pocket has a few other odds and ends as far as accessories go. There is a clear plastic hard-shell case ($29.99) that also doubles are a vertical stand for the console. You can buy a tempered glass screen protector for $15.99 and a fast charging USB-C Power Supply for $19.99.
Analogue came out of with more than just hardware announcements today. They also announced two developer initiatives. First, Analogue has partnered with GB Studio to let people make Game Boy games and run them on the Pocket. GB Studio pitches itself as an “easy to use drag and drop retro game creator.” Analogue has also opened up a developer form for folks to apply for an Analogue Pocket FPGA dev kit so that developers can create their own cores before the system’s release next summer.
The Pocket feels like the end-all be-all for Analogue. It is more than just an FPGA console for the Game Boy, but this amalgamation of games, music, and development. I can’t wait to actually get my hands on one just to see how it feels and plays. I want to push its limits and explore the legacy that Pocket actually provides access to.
If you want to read more about the Pocket, I wrote a whole preview back in April based on everything Analogue publicly talked about. I compared the price to the competition, whipped up charts comparing resolutions, and broke down the software design.
For this review, I am going to delve into the entire plot of The Last of Us Part II. I want to fully discuss this game’s narrative, themes, and how they are explored through mechanics and design. Don’t worry, this will be here when you finish the game.
Two birds with one stone in this announcement: Interesting to see The New York Times put their bid in the podcast space. Rather than buying a preexisting podcast network, the Times has purchased a production company. This is also better than a service exclusively buying Serial produced podcasts, like Spotify with Joe Rogan. Serial now has better financial backing to make better and more shows that will be available as an open and available podcast.
Nice White Parents sounds right up the alley of Serial-style podcasts. Excited to listen to it when it airs on July 30.
Ask Iwata: Words of Wisdom from Nintendo’s Legendary CEO invites you to learn more about the president, game developer, and gamer who forever changed the video game industry as we know it. Coming directly to you Spring 2021 in print and digital.
Glad to see this book is finally being brought West. The five year anniversary of Satoru Iwata’s passing just passed on July 11. After Steve Jobs, Iwata is the first CEO I ever truly recall being able to identify. He always struck me as a gentle, quirky person that was an effective leader and shaped Nintendo for generations to come, not just in the console sense of the word.
It did not take long for me to return to Controlled Interest. Jerrad invited me back to dig into The Last of Us Part II with himself, Dom, and Chris Nunes. It was actually the first spoilercast for the game I even engaged with as I’ve stayed away until I could finish my own review (which is finally in the editing process). The four of us had an engaging discussion and I personally had a great time. I hope you enjoy.
Last month, I wrote about what Xbox needs to standout against the competition.
What Xbox needs to expand is their library of games. They have strong titles like Halo, Forza, Fable, and more, but the Xbox One generation has felt lackluster compared to both Sony and Nintendo. This must be a huge factor in the decision to go buy studios and create some from scratch. It will take years to build up properly, but Microsoft is getting all their ducks in a row.
And as June came to a close with no new Xbox information, I reiterated this fundamental need for games.
Microsoft needs to come out swinging in July with games. Make the next Xbox more enticing than numbers on a spreadsheet and flashy features in a sizzle reel. The Halo teaser from last week zapped my pulse for Xbox hype back to life. There are rumors that Fable will make an appearance. What is The Initiative working on? I hope Microsoft answers these questions and teases more.
The big July showcase finally aired and Microsoft did come out swinging. While it favored its tried and true IP, Microsoft did throw in enticing new IP and partnerships. The heart of the message wasn’t “Xbox Series X is where you get to play all these games.” Instead, Xbox spent an hour selling audiences on Xbox Gamepass and why subscribing is the best option for them.
Xbox showed off a diverse library of games with at least on game for everyone. For everyone else, you can try any of the games out through Gamepass and maybe discover a new game to love.
Halo Infinite started off the show and it looked like Halo. I was incredibly happy with its showing. The campaign is supposed to run at a locked 60 fps but they didn’t say it’d be native 4K. I cannot wait to see the performance breakdown across all Xbox platforms when it releases.
A new Forza and Fable game were both announced. Forza is back in the hands of Turn10 this time around, while Playground Games is tackling Fable. I wonder what this means for Forza Horizon: Is Playground Games big enough for two teams?
Obsidian announced their next sprawling RPG titled Avowed and it sure looks a lot like Skyrim 2. I bet this game is roughly five years away. I wonder which will release first, Avowed or Elder Scrolls VI. Heck, maybe Avowed will release before Starfield. Not my cup of tea, but I know plenty of folks that are jazzed for this kind of game.
Tetris Effect: Connected was revealed. The same Tetris Effect I love, but with multiplayer included. This is exactly what I would have included in Tetris Effect, so much so that I mentioned it in my review of the original game in 2018.
If there was anything I wish I could add to Tetris Effect, it would be some sort of versus mode. I always enjoyed putting Tetris skills to the test against another player in a head-to-head battle. With the online leaderboards in place, I think they’d be a cool addition. There are Weekend Rituals that happen for 24 hours, starting on Saturdays. These involve the community coming together and working toward a goal in a specific mode. If the goal is met, participating players unlock new event-only avatars and game levels. It’s cool for the community to come together, but I’d like to be able to put my skills to the test against others in a real time game, rather than just high scores on a board.
The last game that stood out to me was As Dusk Falls. It’s an “interactive drama” from a brand new studio called INTERIOR/NIGHT headed up by Caroline Marchal, formerly a lead game designer at Quantic Dream. Here’s the pitch:
As Dusk Falls is a multi-generational story set in the American Southwest about resilience, sacrifice and how the mistakes of the older generation transmit to the younger. What begins as a focused tale of two families trapped in a hostage situation, becomes a sprawling epic about how people grow and change over decades.
Xbox had a strong showcase today that really fleshed out the reason Gamepass is their future and not necessarily the Xbox consoles themselves. With the fact that xCloud will be included with Gamepass Ultimate, there is no need to buy a new beefy box. All you need is a subscription, controller, and a compatible screen. Maybe old Xbox One consoles can become the xCloud compatible box for people’s televisions. While this may be the future Xbox as a company wants, they smartly are still pouring millions of dollars into developing powerful and capable hardware. Giving consumers choice about how and where to spend their money and time is helping Xbox themselves become ubiquitous with modern gaming.
After roughly nine months of silence, Analogue has teased some sort of Pocket update. This could be preorders or just an update for the ambitious handheld device. Back in April, I whipped up a preview that went in to detail on everything we know about the Pocket.
Monday is going to be exciting.
Update: I reached out to Analogue and they seem very excited about the Pocket.
Nolan films are always an event to me: I only watch the first teaser and then go dark until opening night. It is sad it took Warner Bros. this long to just indefinitely delay the movie. At least it isn’t premiering in Fortnite…
iOS game developer wizard Zack Gage has revealed their next game and it is coming out in three days. Made by Zach and Jack Schlesinger, Good Sudoku pitches itself as more than a clean puzzle app, but also as an AI-powered teacher to make players better at the game.
I grew up doing sudoku puzzles thanks to my grandmother and Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day. I’ve always wanted a clean, straight-forward Sudoku app for my phone, but found the offerings on the App Store to be flimsy and or sketchy. Good Sudoku looks like what I have been waiting for.