Behind the Pixel – Yacht Club Games on Kickstarter and the Future of Shovel Knight

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 – Yacht Club Games on Kickstarter and the Future of Shovel Knight”

Chapter Select Season 1 is Paper Mario

I am happy to announce that Season 1 of my new podcast, Chapter Select, is all about Paper Mario! Logan Moore and I will be tackling the paper-inspired RPG series with special guests along the way. Yes, I convinced Logan to hook up a Wii U to his 4K TV in the year of PS5 and XSX. Missed the announcement of Chapter Select earlier this week? Here is the pitch:

Max Roberts and Logan Moore pick a video game series and bounce back and forth between its entries, exploring their evolution, design, and legacy. Each season explores a different series with guests joining our hosts along the way to explore video games outside of individual titles.

Season 0 is live right now and focuses on The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part II! But with only two games in the series, the show format couldn’t really shine. To now use Paper Mario as the example, here is the release order and structure of Season 1:

You may notice that there are dates tied to the first three episodes but not beyond that. The first three episodes are already recorded, edited, and ready! We are still playing the back half of the series, currently playing Color Splash. We have a schedule in mind and guests lined up for the rest of the season, but we don’t want to commit to dates yet.

Playing through Paper Mario, Origami King, and Thousand-Year Door in that order has really convinced me that this structure brings something new to discussions surrounding these games and video game podcasts as a whole. Sure, I have bias, but I genuinely think you will enjoy the discussions we have as we play through all sorts of video game series in this manner.

I am stoked to finally roll out the show. If you liked Season 0 or like the sound of Season 1, please subscribe wherever you listen to your podcasts. And just you wait until you see the episodic art I whipped up for Paper Mario! See you all on Wednesday!

Update (July 14, 2021) – Updated with links to published episodes.

A God of War Story in Three Parts

A fun little ride tonight over the course of Sony’s Investor Relations 2021 Meeting.

Also genuinely surprising to see them maybe just confirm God of War: Ragnarok as the next game’s official title?

After we’ve all spent so long calling it that, makes sense to lean in, I suppose!

Jonathon Dornbush on Twitter

Roughly 30 minutes later, from Cory Barlog, director on both God of War II (PS2, 2007)and God of War (PS4, 2018).

And another 30 or so minutes later, from Gematsu.

Pulled the story about God of War: Ragnarok being the official title of the new game for PS5 because apparently Sony Interactive Entertainment, in an official IR Day presentation, Google Image-searched a fan logo for its own game.

A little Google searching pulls up the used logo rather quickly. Oh to be a fly on the wall during the meeting with the person that made this keynote…

Announcing Chapter Select: A New Seasonal Podcast with Logan Moore

And you thought I’d only do one new podcast this year.

Chapter Select is a season-based podcast. Myself and Logan Moore pick a series each season and play all its entries alongside guests. The twist is we play the first game and then the most recent game, bouncing back and forth until we meet in the middle; allowing us to explore a franchise’s design, legacy, and evolution.

Season 1 is launching next week on June 2, 2021. There is also a test run we did in 2020, focusing on The Last of Us. If you wanted my thoughts on The Last of Us Part II hot off beating it, they have been recorded and on my hard drive for nearly a year.

You can listen to the first two episodes now:

S0E1: The Last of Us


S0E2: The Last of Us Part II

Chapter Select is an idea I have had for nearly three years. It’s been in development for roughly one of those years.

Back in college, I discovered a fun show called James Bonding, where hosts and guests watched the Bond films in this same manner Dr. No then Skyfall then From Russia with Love and so on. Unfortunately, that show in its entirety is behind a paywall now, but this format always stuck with me. I like it quite a bit and wanted to expand its potential.

At the end of college, I left the podcasting scene. While there is more to the story, one element that wore me down was a rigid weekly schedule. Having a seasonal show allows us a few luxuries:

  1. No inherent crunch
  2. Structure how we like, bank episodes
  3. Gives listeners (you) a higher quality product

It also lets Logan and myself really pick and choose which game series to tackle each season. We already have a slew of ideas and have Season 2’s focus locked in.

Here at launch, we have already released what we affectionately are calling “Season 0,” with its two episodes about The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part II. Then, throughout the month of June, we will be releasing (at least) the first three episodes of Season 1. We are still in the process of playing and recording the back half of Season 1.

Now if you’ll indulge me, I wanted to share some of the little touches we are using in the production of the show. Up first are what I consider standards for podcasts I produce at the moment – chapters. Seems like all major podcast players outside of Spotify fully support chapter markers and chapter art, so I’m happy to have them there.

Speaking of art, there is both seasonal and episodic show art. When you look up the show, it will have art tailored for the specific series we are covering at the time. Each episode will have art for the game we are talking about. This seems to be supported in most major podcast players at this point. I have had a blast making this custom art, especially for Season 1. I cannot wait to share it with you all.

This has been a project on my mind for a long time and I am immensely excited to finally release it. I truly think this a great show. I haven’t been this excited to engage in conversation about games in years.

It sort of reminds me of Logan and I’s early efforts to lean into the “Millennial” part of Millennial Gaming Speak. We’d play old games we had never played before and try to do it in a weekly fashion. It was far too taxing, even on a college schedule, but it lead to us playing some of gaming’s all-time greats and exploring them through our lens. The one game I actually beat at the time was Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. I see immense potential in us evolving that core idea into this Chapter Select format. I hope you all enjoy.

Chapter Select: Season 0, Episode 2 – The Last of Us Part II

In this inaugural test season of Chapter Select, Max and Logan dig into Naughty Dog’s post-apocalyptic series The Last of Us. Hot off the heels of its release in 2020, we sink our teeth into Naughty Dog’s divisive sequel. Did PlayStation’s top team capture earn the “Part II” in the title? How does The Last of Us Part II affect the legacy of the first game?

Game Info

The Last of Us Part II

Developer – Naughty Dog
Platform – PS4
Release Date – June 19, 2020
Director – Neil Druckmann
Narrative Lead – Halley Gross
Game Directors – Kurt Margenau and Anthony Newman
Composers –Gustavo Santaolalla and Mac Quayle

Metacritic – 93/100

Links

Episode Cover Art by Sebastian Gromann

This episode was originally recorded on June 23, 2020.

Max’s Twitter

Logan’s Twitter

Chapter Select: Season 0, Episode 1 – The Last of Us

In this inaugural test season of Chapter Select, Max and Logan dig into Naughty Dog’s post-apocalyptic series The Last of Us. Weeks before the release of the sequel, Logan and Max replayed the PS3’s swan song to explore how it aged and explore its impact on the video game industry in the past seven years.

Game Info

The Last of Us

Metacritic – 95/100

Links

Episode Cover Art by Nick Gindraux

This episode was originally recorded on June 11, 2020.

Max’s Twitter

Logan’s Twitter

Episode 8: Announcing Chapter Select – A Seasonal Podcast with Logan Moore

Chapter Select is a season-based podcast. Myself and Logan Moore pick a series each season and play all its entries alongside guests. The twist is we play the first game and then the most recent game, bouncing back and forth until we meet in the middle; allowing us to explore a franchise’s design, legacy, and evolution.

Chapter Select

Chapter Select: Season 0, Episode 2 – The Last of Us Part II (CtS Edition)

In this inaugural test season of Chapter Select, Max and Logan dig into Naughty Dog’s post-apocalyptic series The Last of Us. Hot off the heels of its release in 2020, we sink our teeth into Naughty Dog’s divisive sequel. Did PlayStation’s top team capture earn the “Part II” in the title? How does The Last of Us Part II affect the legacy of the first game?

Continue reading “Chapter Select: Season 0, Episode 2 – The Last of Us Part II (CtS Edition)”

Chapter Select: Season 0, Episode 1 – The Last of Us (CtS Edition)

In this inaugural test season of Chapter Select, Max and Logan dig into Naughty Dog’s post-apocalyptic series The Last of Us. Weeks before the release of the sequel, Logan and Max replayed the PS3’s swan song to explore how it aged and explore its impact on the video game industry in the past seven years.

Continue reading “Chapter Select: Season 0, Episode 1 – The Last of Us (CtS Edition)”

Dolphin Emulator Ported Natively to Apple’s M1 Processor

Dolphin Emulator – Temptation of the Apple: Dolphin on macOS M1: by JMC47 and Maylmilae for the Dolphin Blog via John Gruber at Daring Fireball

The blog post is technical, but there is a short section with two charts that is insanely clear cut: Apple’s M1 processor is wicked fast, powerful, and efficient.

How does the M1 hardware perform when put up against some of the beasts of the GameCube and Wii library? We also included data from two computers featured in Progress Reports previously for comparison.

There’s no denying it; macOS M1 hardware kicks some serious ass. It absolutely obliterates a two and a half year old Intel MacBook Pro that was over three times its price all while keeping within ARM’s reach of a powerful desktop computer. We were so impressed, we decided to make a second graph to express it.

The efficiency is almost literally off the chart. Compared to an absolute monstrosity of a Desktop PC, it uses less than 1/10th of the energy while providing ~65% of the performance. And the poor Intel MacBook Pro just can’t compare.

Gruber quoted that final line as well. 

To put this is in perspective (and to wrap my head around it), the M1 they are testing is the M1 MacBook Air with the 7-core GPU. The lowest end of the M1 line, costing $999. And the M1 is the consumer-level processor as Apple makes this transition from Intel/x86 to Apple Silicon/ARM. This is only the beginning of macOS with the power of ARM.

The PC the MacBook Air was tested against had an Intel Core i9 9900K processor with the brand new, top of the line Bitcoin mining (and gaming) GPU from Nvidia, the RTX 3090. Those two alone cost $1875~. You’d still require a motherboard, power supply, case, RAM, cooling, monitor, and a hard drive. Casually clicking around PC Part Picker, trying to match certain specs where I could (to help the PC out!), the equivalent build would cost nearly $3000!

Again, the Dolphin team was able to get the performance above on a 13’’ laptop with no fan and 7-integrated GPU cores.

Holy smokes! I cannot wait to get my own Apple Silicon-based Mac and see Apple’s professionally aimed chipset in the coming year. Wow.

Episode 7: A Literal Golden Mine with Alex O’Neill

No fancy interview this time, Alex O’Neill joins the show to assess how the new consoles are going and share his disappointments in The Last of Us Part II. Plus, we chat about why 100 hours in Persona doesn’t actually feel like 100 hours.

Welcome

PAX 2019

Hosting Kinda Funny Games Daily

The Status of Next Gen / Current Gen

Alex’s Take on The Last of Us Part II

Wrap-Up

The Animation of Mega Man – Video Game Animation Study

The Animation of Mega Man by Video Game Animation Study on YouTube

An extremely insightful and fun look at how Mega Man’s movement and animation has and has not changed in 30 years. I really enjoyed the wide range of games, remakes, ports, and whatnot that they looked at in this study. I was surprised that Mega Man 9 and Mean Man 10 were not included, but that could be due to the fact Capcom co-developed those games with Inti Creates. Nevertheless, there is a rich well of animation history to dig through here. It was a blast to watch while work videos exported.

Craig Mod’s “Where are all the Nightingales?”: A 30-day Kumano Walk and Newsletter

Where are all the Nightingales? Day Two by Craig Mod

About twenty minutes into my walk today, I saw an old man leading a group of even older women in front of a small temple. Come come, he motioned to me.

Placing his head uncomfortably close to mine we peeked through the temple window, and in pidgin English he began to explain the dark interior. It wasn’t making much sense, so I cut in in Japanese saying, Oh this is the famous jizo temple, yes? And just like that he flipped to fluent Japanese, breaking down the various bodhisattvas and buddhas enshrined along with the jizo.

Damn, I love this road, I told him as his gang of ladies listened from a safe distance. I’ve walked a bunch of Japan and this road is so quiet and oddly well preserved.

And he said, Yes yes, this wasn’t firebombed during the war like the industrial areas north of here. So this road — the Ise Kaidō — is in good shape.

Craig started this walk just two days ago as of this writing. Even this short into the journey, I have found these daily newsletters stirring. There is warm nostalgic glow for a place I have never been to. The way Craig is using technology to bring the quietness of Japan is comforting. His photos, to me, are finding subtle beauty in what is likely just background noise to local people. 

Day Two’s newsletter in particular reminded me of A Graveyard of Fireflies, which is quite a way to start my morning. Not in a somber way, but in grounded, realized way.

If you’d like to read, see, and watch (he’s doing binaural 4K videos too) while Craig is on the walk, you can sign up here. Once the walk is over, Craig is just deleting everyone’s email from this list. One and done.

This particular project of Craig’s has me thinking about the world of newsletters and how they have reemerged (not that Craig is new to this at all), but that’s a post for another time.

Hunting for a New Microphone – Wave 3 Thoughts and Impressions

It’s time to upgrade my microphone and recording set up. I’ve been rocking a Blue Yeti for nearly 8 years. Now that I’m back in the podcast game with a personal focus (i.e. obsession) on quality, I wanted to finally bite the bullet and upgrade to a “real” microphone. Torn between two options, I hemmed and hawed over which microphone to buy. At the beginning, I was lured in by the sleek hardware over there at Elgato.

Elgato want to be the one stop shop for live streaming, recording, studio design, etc. They have practically everything one may need, including the Wave 1 and Wave 3 microphones. I’m a big fan and user of Elgato’s capture cards and I own a Cam Link 4K. When they announced their Wave line of microphones last summer, I kept them in the back of my mind, curious how they worked.

I’ve seen the mics everywhere. All of Kinda Funny seems to be using them. Sponsored streamers pop up in my Twitter feed on the daily. The Wave 3 in particular has some nifty sounding features. “Clipguard” to keep you from distorting audio when you get hype. A cardioid pattern mic, which just means it focuses on the sound in front of the mic more than to the sides or behind. It also has USB-C, auxiliary out for real time monitoring, and a capacitive mute switch for silent muting. Pretty solid on paper and all for $160. After asking some friends that have a Wave 3 and hearing their positive experience, I went ahead and snagged a Wave 3 with its proprietary pop filter and shock mount, bringing the total to roughly $220~.

Before talking more about my experience with the Wave 3, I need to share one more tidbit about the Wave 3. The other major focus on the product page is a software program called Wave Link. This is essentially Elgato’s crack a digital mixer. It reminds me of Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack or Loopback. This software is what completely ruined the Wave 3 for me.

No where on the page (as far as I could tell) does Elgato share the most important fact about the Wave 3 and Wave Link: The microphone will not work without the software. Not even under System Requirements (Settings for you Windows 10 users)!

“Why is this a problem,” you may be asking me through the screen, “Aren’t you just using your own computer?”

Well, no I’m not just using one computer. That’s not the main issue, but it is a significant one. This automatically means travel with the mic is contingent on the computer wherever I go. It means it won’t work on an iPhone or iPad, despite the USB-C connection, since it can’t run the software.

The bigger issue is the dependency on the software. I plugged the mic in before installing software, simply because I assumed Wave Link was optional. I chose the mic as my input and output and got bupkis. It simply requires this Wave Link to work on macOS or Windows 10.

This means the mic’s entire future is dependent on software support from Elgato. I’ve rocked my Blue Yeti for 8 years, zero software. I’ve had an Elgato Game Capture HD since 2013, it still works. But my new Elgato 4K60S+ doesn’t have compatibility with the Mac (I knew this when I bought it). Looking at Elgato’s position in the streaming market, under Corsair ownership, I’m not entirely confident in rock solid or equal macOS support for the next decade.

Bringing it back to the present, the software they have delivered today in 2021 is just not good for standard recording projects. To hear yourself and the audio through your computer, you have to balance a mix between PC audio and mic input. The two sources are intertwined: No independent slider for the mic or the computer. This mixed slider is also a dial on the mic, but it stifles the computer audio if you go below 100% PC output on the mix. The dedicated volume controls on my computer are separate making the computer sound muffled and restrained in my headphones. I just want to hear myself and my computer simultaneously, no software fuss. Maybe 8 years of the Yeti just doing this with its volume knob and my laptop volume has trained my brain. There’s an allure of simplicity and function in the physical knob on the Yeti (really just physical knobs and switches in general) that makes this process easy.

I did record one show with the Wave 3. It was delivered roughly 90 minutes before I had to record. There is no rush quite like setting up a brand new mic that you have zero familiarity with before having to record. With my minimal (self-inflicted) time to fiddle, the recording sounded great! Definitely a step up from my Yeti. It did seem catch different sounds of the echo in my office, no foam in here. No complaints as far as the actual quality.

I did have the gain low—real low. My co-hosts that evening said I was coming in softly, which isn’t ideal for them. Possibly further tweaking on my end could have corrected that.It definitely helped emphasis some of my poor mic etiquette—mouth noises, little pops, breathing—all the sounds folks love to hear in their ears. This is good to be more aware of, as the speaker, so I can focus on getting better at not making those sounds.

Despite the nice sounding quality, my gut said that a software reliant microphone was the wrong call for me, especially considering the financial investment and how long I would want to get out of whatever microphone I bought.

So what did I buy? After Amazon refunded me, I turned around and bought the Shure Beta 87A microphone to use with my H6 Zoom. I have had my eye on this microphone for years, thanks to the Mega-Review from Marco Arment. This is probably what most people picture in their mind when they hear the word “microphone.” It uses an XLR cable, which is why I have to run it through the H6 Zoom to my computer. The H6 can act as a USB interface for the microphone. I do want to get a dedicated interface (I already have my eyes on one), but I already own the H6 so it will tide me over until I can buy dedicated hardware.

My initial tests of the Shure Beta 87A sound great. I’m actually recording the next episode of The Max Frequency Podcast soon and can’t wait to give it a real test run. I did have some issues setting it up. I made the mistake of running the XLR cable right by at least three power supplies tucked under my desk. This lead to hisses, pops, and cracks in the audio. I rerouted all the audio cables to the side and made sure they were far away from power cables.

In the end, the Wave 3 just was not for me. That’s not to say it is a bad mic or won’t work for you. If I had known up front that the Wave 3 required software, I never would have bought it. Software dependency is not something I’m down with for a microphone. It did help that I did not care for the implementation of the software either. The Wave 3 seems like a great fit for streamers and people looking for a decent mic to set up quickly. Call me old fashioned, but I just want my mic to work without dependency on software.