Tom Olsen Celebrates Metal Gear Solid 2’s 20th Anniversary Early

Tom Olsen Twitter Account

Do you know what day it is today?

Another day, another dollar

via Twitter

I highly recommend starting at the beginning and following the month-long journey. What a perfectly Kojima-inspired way to celebrate Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. And, honestly, a good look at how the message of the game still rings true to this day.

I have really enjoyed following the Big Shell Incident through Tom’s eyes. Maybe I’ll revisit the Big Shell myself before too long.

Returnal’s 3D Audio is a Mechanic, Not a Feature

The King of Custom – PS5 Specs Revealed by Me March 2020

My two cents on the custom audio tech inside the PS5 when it was announced just over a year ago at GDC by Mark Cerny.

I thought the most custom element was the 3D audio tech that Mark detailed. Sony wanted to offer great audio for all players, not just those with fancy sound systems or headphones. So they went ahead and built custom hardware to help create 3D audio from any set of speakers (eventually). Headphones are the gold standard due to one speaker per ear, but Mark even talked about generating 3D audio from TV speakers. With it included in every single PS5, that gives all players and all devs the opportunity to experience/use 3D audio. It reminds me of the leap from standard definition to HD, but for our ears. Pardon the pun, but it sounds bonkers.

I’ve spent an hour or so playing Returnal with some headphones on.

Holy. Smokes.

Besides just sounding incredible, I was surprised at how intuitive and essential it was. I heard wild alien creatures whipping around me in the level. I instinctively turned toward the sound and stopped immediately on the enemy.

This was more than standard surround sound pointing me in a direction. I locked-in on the enemy with my ears before I did with my eyes or gun. In a fight-or-flight scenario, my ears did their survival job.

Then I got thinking about PSVR2 again…

When you combine these [haptic feedback and adaptive trigger] elements with the PS5’s Tempest audio engine, PSVR 2 has incredible potential to really put users in a place.

PlayStation’s pursuit of immersion this generation is off to a stellar start and promises to be a transformative addition to gameplay. I can’t wait to feel, hear, and see more.

Behind the Pixel – Alex O’Neill – How He Created His Own Gaming Site and Podcast

Part of creating The Max Frequency Podcast was to restore all the episodes of Behind the Pixel, an interview show I did in 2017 for seven episodes. These will be mixed into this feed so that the show can live on podcast services once more. Below are the original show notes, with some light editing. I hope you enjoy.
 

Continue reading “Behind the Pixel – Alex O’Neill – How He Created His Own Gaming Site and Podcast”

Returnal Shows that Sony can still be Weird and Daring – Eurogamer

Returnal Shows that Sony can still be Weird and Daring by Martin Robinson for Eurogamer

This isn’t the Housemarque you might know from Resogun or Nex Machina yet it’s also exactly like those boutique classics, mixing demoscene flex with arcade precision but on a much grander scale. There’s an intensity to the action, a readability to enemies and attack patterns, an immediacy that all harks back to the hard-edged classics of the arcade, but the spectacle is something else; Robotron with raytracing, the resulting action worthy of an Amiga classic that plays out like Ridley Scott in crisp 70mm on the big screen.

I suddenly cannot wait for Returnal. Logan Moore’s incessant hype and this preview sent me from “not a care in the world” to “is it April 30 yet?

Like Death Stranding this is an indie that’s epic in scope, and likewise it’s not a game that comes up short when it comes to spectacle. Is it triple-A or isn’t it? I’m not sure if there’s a scientific way to determine that one way or another, but I can tell you that Returnal’s credits run just as long as any Hollywood movie (just under 18 minutes, if you must know – I felt compelled to find out myself, anyway) and you can probably tell for yourself that it looks frankly outrageous.

I love this perspective on Death Stranding. Kojima’s odd and marvelous package delivery game ended up being one of my favorite games I played last year. Big budgets and wildly creative people being able to make bolder titles is great to see. This is how Sony has and continues to set itself apart in the market.

Spiritual Successors and Reclaiming Dormant IP

Non-Fungible Taylor Swift by Ben Thompson for Stratechery

Ben Thompson had a great free weekly article about Taylor Swift reclaiming her music by using her fans.

It’s not just Fearless, it’s Fearless (Taylor’s Version); which version do you think that Swift fans will choose to stream (which, after all, is where most of the residual value of Fearless lies)? That’s the part that Logan forgot: when it comes to a world of abundance the power that matters is demand, and demand is driven by fans of Swift, not lawyers for Big Machine or Scooter Braun or anyone else.

It’s easy to see how this plays out going forward: Swift probably doesn’t even have to remake another album; she has demonstrated the willingness and capability to remake her old records, and her fans will do the rest. It will behoove Shamrock Capital, the current owner of Swift’s masters, to buy-out Braun’s share of future upside and make a deal with Swift, because Swift, granted the power to go direct to fans and make her case, can in fact “change history, facts, and re-frame any story [she] want[s] to fit with any narrative [she] wish[es].”

I’ve never even listened to Fearless outside of its hit singles, but I already am anticipating Spark’s Fly (Taylor’s Version) and Red (Taylor’s Version), if those ever see the light of day.

Thompson’s analysis of Swift and Dave Chappelle taking back their work got me thinking about video games. Has gaming already had its reclamation boom? Can developers take back their original games when the publisher / rights holder seemingly does nothing with the IP? It seems far more convoluted for say Hideo Kojima to just retake Metal Gear Solid. Games often take a proverbial village to “raise.” While Kojima and Metal Gear Solid go hand-in-hand, legally, commercially, and in their development, Kojima is just one person from a team. Compared to music or comedy or stories, games have to be far more difficult to reclaim like Swift and Chappelle have done.

In light of the legal and developmental hurdles, devs have turned to Kickstarter and the like. There is a cry for a new Castlevania game and Konami seemingly won’t deliver one. So Koji Igarashi, the man who put the “vania” in Metroidvania launches a Kickstarter for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, earning $5+ million. Same for Mega Man through Mighty No. 9 and Banjo and Kazooie through Yooka-Laylee. These developers take fans of games and genres, reunite the team of old, and make a new game to satisfy fan demand and their own creative desires. The spiritual successor has become the means for reclaiming art/design/gameplay/characters for developers.

‘Not to Get Zealotrous’, with Craig Mod – The Talk Show

‘Not to Get Zealotrous’, with Craig Mod – The Talk Show

Craig Mod joins the show to talk about writing, designing, filmmaking, what makes for good software, and building a successful membership program to support independent art. And: pizza toast.

From start to finish a stellar episode of The Talk Show. I gleaned ideas and inspiration for my own book project. And what’s not to love about pizza toast?

Sony Reverses Decision to Shut Down PS3 and Vita Stores

PlayStation Store on PS3 and PS Vita Will Continue Operations by Jim Ryan for the PlayStation Blog

Recently, we notified players that PlayStation Store for PS3 and PS Vita devices was planned to end this summer. 

Upon further reflection, however, it’s clear that we made the wrong decision here. So today I’m happy to say that we will be keeping the PlayStation Store operational for PS3 and PS Vita devices. PSP commerce functionality will retire on July 2, 2021 as planned.

We see now that many of you are incredibly passionate about being able to continue purchasing classic games on PS3 and PS Vita for the foreseeable future, so I’m glad we were able to find a solution to continue operations.

I’m glad that we can keep this piece of our history alive for gamers to enjoy, while we continue to create cutting-edge new game worlds for PS4, PS5, and the next generation of VR.

Vita does mean life.

Emily is Away <3 Review

In college, I had to read a book for an interactive media/graphic design course called The Medium is the Massage. Yes, “massage,” not “message.” That juxtaposition was the crux of the course; using media, design, and art to convey a message to an audience.

That idea that the medium is the message stuck with me. Thinking about it, that’s part of why I love storytelling in video games. The marriage of stories with interactivity elevates the experience for me. Throw in lessons from film and captivating music, and video games become a powerful amalgamation of entertainment and art. This is undoubtedly why I love games that put “it” on the stick.

Emily is Away <3 encapsulates that design philosophy wholeheartedly. The medium is two-fold, both the online Facenook world that creator Kyle Seeley has loving crafted as well as the actual laptop I played the game on. Clicking and clacking my way through the 2008 time capsule that is Facenook felt familiar and comforting. It was like wearing rose-tinted glasses, looking back at the way I used to interact with people online, without that pang of longing for time gone by. Facenook is perfectly balanced in its design of lighthearted jokes, throwback references, and focusing on the story at hand. There is no bloat here.

This entry is more than just a story about your relationship with Emily or Evelyn. In building a faux-social network, Kyle has made this game truly about the friends you have at the end of high school. I loved the richness in those friendships and seeing them play out beyond my messaging interactions through photos, posts, and events. This group of people Kyle has created feels real. And even if you don’t meet or interact with a character due to a choice you made, it doesn’t mean that they have no depth: It just means you’ll have to play again to dig a little deeper.

This is easier to do now with a decision tree at the end of each chapter showing that chunk’s critical choice. You can compare your response with the percentages fueled by other folks’ decisions. It’s a fun mechanic to see how much of a monster you may or may not be. It can also be a tool to use to replay chapters to dig deeper and learn more about the people surrounding your profile and to change your decisions.

There was a chunk in Chapter 4 or so when Emily shared an indie music playlist with me she made on YouToob. I listened along and kept the tracks going as I played through the chapter; chatting along and exploring new pages and invites. As the playlist and chapter went on, a character posted a new status that was lyrics from the song I was listening too. It was this lightbulb moment that these playlists were curated not simply because of their significance in 2008-09, but as music to elevate the game, just like any other game with a bopping score. Even longer songs that built over the course of time mirrored the rising tension in conversations and decisions.

Kyle fully leverages the medium, understanding the way social interactions used to be far beyond just looking like websites of old. He understands the essence of being a senior heading off into the unknown of college navigating the new social pressures of profiles and Facenook official status. There is nothing quite like trying to save a relationship over the sound of clacking keys late into the night. The story is a portal to years past that has an awareness and maturity I certainly did not have in high school. 

Emily is Away <3 is wonderful game that understands putting you in the heart of the narrative, not just by becoming emotionally invested, but by leveraging the medium of games to elevate the story beyond the written word.

Game Pass is the Ultimate ‘Pile of Shame’

Maybe Your ‘Pile Of Shame’ Is A Problem – A Short-Sighted Take from Kotaku

Game Pass provides its subscribers access to hundreds of games.

Games that they don’t own. Games they will never have time to play all of. Games that come and go as contracts and deals expire.

I suppose paying $15 a month for instant access to a game library is foolish then, by Luke Plunkett’s logic.

It doesn’t matter if that’s $[15] you were never going to spend, there’s a button being pressed inside our brains that says hey, this is a lot cheaper than it used to be, get it, because you’re saving and saving is smart. Not like those idiots who paid full price at release. [Subscribe to] it.

Right?

I know that’s a radical suggestion, but you’ll be OK. You’ll get through this. We live in a digital world. Those games are going to go on sale again, and they’re never going to run out of stock. Enjoy the games you’ve got and are still playing! 

Games exist to serve one purpose: to be played. If you’re buying them and not playing them, maybe you’re doing it wrong.

Maybe Your ‘Pile Of Shame’ Is A Problem – Kotaku

Maybe Your ‘Pile Of Shame’ Is A Problem by Luke Plunkett for Kotaku

A backlog shouldn’t need to be unpacked like this. If you’re still playing a game, and liking the game, and you already have another 1-2 sitting there unplayed, maybe…don’t go buying any more? I know that’s a radical suggestion, but you’ll be OK. You’ll get through this. We live in a digital world. Those games are going to go on sale again, and they’re never going to run out of stock. Enjoy the games you’ve got and are still playing!

Try saying that to PS3 and Vita owners in two months.

Games can be delisted. Stores are closed. Physical game prices rise and fall. Buying games digitally is just long-term rentals. Folks have to accept that with their digital purchases. 

Games exist to serve one purpose: to be played. If you’re buying them and not playing them, maybe you’re doing it wrong.

Games serve more than one purpose. Sure, playing them is at the heart of their existence, but one purpose? I guess Plunkett just writes about them for free like me? 

What a shallow take to kick off Kotaku’s month-long coverage about gaming backlogs.

Robert Kirkman Interviewed by My Friend Logan Moore

Comicbook Nation season 3 Episode 15

My dear friend and colleague Logan Moore had the wonderful opportunity to interview Invincible co-creator Robert Kirkman. Great questions from a fan of the comic series about how the show has been laid out so far. Plus, Logan shares his pitch for an Invincible video game.

My wife Abby keeps asking me when the next episode is out. She may end up reading the comics. This show has turned out better than I had even hoped for. So stoked for my friend to have the opportunity to interview one of his favorite creators. Dreams do come true.

Ask Iwata Book is Out Now

Ask Iwata: Words of Wisdom from Satoru Iwata, Nintendo’s Legendary CEO on Amazon

This collection of writings, speeches, and lessons from Iwata-san has finally been translated to English and released. I’ve only read the preface and have already gotten choked up. Iwata-san was and still is a legend with a clearly joy-driven personality that truly shined at Nintendo. His “Iwata Asks” series at Nintendo is a fountain of insight, one I often go to when looking up special stories of Nintendo and its games.

He shepherded hundreds of millions of people from all walks of life into the world of video games like my grandmother through the Game Boy, the Nintendo DS, and the Wii. He played a critical role in bringing joy to gamers around the world. It wasn’t some exclusive club to him. It was a way to bring people from all walks of life together through play and joy.

I am excited to learn more about his way of thinking, his love of play, and his legacy. If you want to have a good cry, you can watch the videos I linked below.

Remembering Satoru Iwata at The Game Awards 2015

Satoru Iwata Game Developers Choice Awards Tribute

The AIAS Game Maker’s Notebook: Naughty Dog Co-President, Evan Wells

The AIAS Game Maker’s Notebook: Naughty Dog Co-President, Evan Wells

Ted Price chats with Naughty Dog’s Evan Wells about his path towards the games industry, Naughty Dog’s early years, their studio culture, thoughts on leadership and studio growth, their approach to storytelling and how they’ve raised the stakes over the years.

Downloaded and ready to listen. This episode ought to be good.