Wiki Stories Letter #3 – Hitman GO

It’s strange and exhilarating to go back through my early work. Without a journal to actually keep track of that period in my life, I’m left to trawl the sea of my memories in hope nuggets come up from the murky depths. The emails I sent that summer seem to be the only concrete documentation I have from my time working on Hitman GO in the muggy August of 2014…

Wiki Stories is a 25-week limited run newsletter where I’ll be sharing my stories from my five years as a video game guide writer. You can read today’s letter in full here. You can sign-up for free. If you prefer a good ol’ fashioned RSS feed, there’s a link for that too.

The PS VR2 Headset is Revealed

First look: The headset design for PlayStation VR2 by Hideaki Nishino for PlayStation.Blog

I rarely embed images directly into a post here on Max Frequency, but this seemed appropriate. The four cameras have a spider-like look to them. Inside-out tracking is going to make this headset far more accurate and versatile.

PlayStation is very excited about the vent design, which I believe can be seen in the profile shot. Vents are essential in a VR headset. I only hear them on my Quest 2 when installing a game. Thanks to wearing over-ear headphones, fan noise is a nonissue.

The back headband is likely where the haptic motor is located. At the base of the skull, I am curious about the physical sensation it will provide. The back is also where the lone cable protrudes from. I am curious how long the cable will be. My gut check says 16 feet.

PlayStation says devs have their hands on dev kits. I take this as a great sign for the product. Hopefully, we see games in action this summer before release. Heck, I really hope release is this Fall.

Uncharted (The Movie) Thoughts and Impressions – They Did It

What an amalgamation of the four main line Uncharted games. Bits and bobs from each Nathan Drake game were stitched together to turn the Hollywood-inspired game series into a game-series-inspired blockbuster. Sitting in the theater, I noticed these connections. My wife on the other hand, did not. I don’t think time with the games enhanced the viewing experience. We both left having a fun time. 

Sully is a bit more greedy and less loyal for it. Mark Wahlberg just isn’t old enough for the Victor Sullivan fans know; even the Uncharted 3 flashback version. The movie acts like a sort of Sully origin story. Some scenes feel remnant of when Mark was cast as Nate himself, like the funny encounter in a fine pizza establishment.

On the flip side, Chloe was much closer to her PlayStation counterpart. Clearly capable, crafty, and loves a treasure hunt. I do wish she was more sarcastic and could have shown off her driving skills. She had a meaner, darker streak à la Uncharted 2. If and when there is a sequel, I hope they can lean more into Chloe’s character in the later games.

Where on Earth was Elena? I hope she shows up in the future.

For all the pieces lifted out of the source material, the villains were not. Some character traits and motivations were, but these baddies were original. I was surprised and delighted to see that play out.

As for Nate himself, there were some missing elements. First, he did not straight-up murder enough people. This was an origin story and I suppose every mass murderer starts somewhere. Some quips landed and others did not. Hopefully, they can dial more Nate-isms in down the road.

For all my doubts about casting Tom Holland as a young Nate, there was the moment near the end where he slung on a gun holster with a half tucked shirt. He swung into a fight as the theme from the games swelled in the background. At that moment, I believed Tom was Nate.

I only saw the original trailer, meaning I had no idea about the climactic set piece of helicopters flying pirate ships. That was an Uncharted set piece. Naughty Dog should steal it. I want to play that.

Uncharted (the movie) is a fun ride, through and through. I couldn’t believe it when the credits rolled. My bar may have been set too low, leading to this surge of praise. The real proof was how much fun my wife had with the movie. She was laughing and grinning and caught up in the thrill. To me, that proves that they nailed the spirit of Uncharted.

Also, I was the only one that cheered when Nolan North appeared. 

Horizon Forbidden West – PS5 vs PS4 vs PS4 Pro – Digital Foundry

Horizon Forbidden West – PS5 vs PS4 vs PS4 Pro – Can Cross-Gen Deliver For All Gamers? by Digital Foundry on YouTube

Here was what I said at the end of my post about DF’s comparison video for Forza Horizon 5.

While it does look amazing on old hardware, I still have to imagine what the game could have been if they had dropped Xbox One support from the outset. We’ll find out with the inevitable Forza Horizon 6.

I also can’t wait to see how Sony’s development teams fare in their upcoming cross-gen titles. I have a tough time imagining scalability and performance of this caliber. Bravo Playground Games, bravo.

More credit where it is due. I am real impressed that both PS4 consoles keep a stable 30fps. I feared it would have quite a few more hiccups. The quality difference in assets is also profound. Guerrilla Games appears to have kept the experience intact, even on nearly ten-year-old hardware.

But again, you have to wonder what design and developmental decisions would have been if Horizon Forbidden West started out as a PS5-only game. I’m aware that this particular title started out as a PS4 game. That question is always lingering in my mind for these major cross-generation first-party titles. With Gran Turismo 7 and God of War: Ragnarok still on schedule for this year, I wonder how much longer the cross-generation game will be sticking around for the PS5 and Xbox Series consoles.

Wiki Stories Letter #2 – Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

The night before Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze launched, I remember deciding I’d just do the guide for IGN. I had no idea how their process worked or if they even had someone assigned to the write a guide (they did). I just plopped down my $60 and preloaded the game the night before release. I was in my freshman year of college at the time, so I may have had no classes that Friday and just spent the entire day working on the guide…

Wiki Stories is a 25-week limited run newsletter where I’ll be sharing my stories from my five years as a video game guide writer. You can read today’s letter in-full here. You can sign-up for free. If you prefer a good ol’ fashioned RSS feed, there’s a link for that too.

Wii U and 3DS eShop Shutting Down March 2023

Wii U & Nintendo 3DS eShop Discontinuation via an official tweet

As of late March 2023, it will no longer be possible to make Nintendo eShop purchases for the Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS family of systems.

As of August 29, 2022, it will no longer be possible to use a Nintendo eShop Card to add funds to an account in Nintendo eShop on Wii U or the Nintendo 3DS family of systems. However, it will still be possible to redeem download codes until late March 2023.

It was inevitable, but that does not make it less disappointing. Nice of them to give consumers 13 months worth of lead time. The concerning bit is that Nintendo claims to have no other plans to release or provide access to older games outside of NSO. I should say claimed, since the statement has been deleted. Frank Cifaldi of the Video Game History Foundation gives your permission to find access.

At least there’s a neat site that shows you your top played games on each of these platforms.

Uncharted and 3D Audio

PS5 3D audio is a game-changer in Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection by Adam Vjestica for TechRadar

When you’re clambering across the face of a cliff, hundreds of meters above the ground, you can distinctly hear the sea thrashing violently below you. Move through the lush flora of India’s Western Ghats, and bugs will buzz past your ears, almost making you instinctually swat them away. Fire a gun, and you’ll hear the shots reverberating from the other side of the canyon.

But it’s not just firefights and the games’ death-defying moments that benefit from 3D audio. It can also be surprisingly subtle. For example, the auction scene in Uncharted 4 sounds noticeably different from how I remember it. The auctioneer’s voice echoes around the marble halls, which makes it feel as though you’re standing directly alongside Nate, Sully, and Sam as the bidding begins.

The games’ stealth sections, which tend to be the weakest parts of any Uncharted game, are far easier to navigate, too, as 3D audio helps you determine where an enemy is before you accidentally expose your position.

Speaking of Uncharted and immersion, it sounds like the implementation of the PS5’s 3D audio in the Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves collection is top notch. The 3D audio on PS5 can go beyond immersion and become a gameplay feature. While the PS4 Uncharted games may have been designed with that console’s own 3D audio capabilities in mind, the future of PlayStation Studios games designed from the ground up for PS5 is extremely bright.

The Haptics of Uncharted

Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection and the art of the remaster with Naughty Dog’s experts by Rachel Weber for GamesRadar

“The boat in the opening of the game was the very first thing people experienced so we were like, ‘OK is a big deal, we want to make sure that this feels good,'” says [Kurt] Margenau.

“We know where the body of the boat is scraping against the water, so we’re actually modeling that in stereo. When the boat turns to the right, you’ll not only feel that on the right side of the controller but also through two other layers of feedback. There’s a g-force meter, so any impact to the boat is being reflected on a pulse, which is based on the physics of what’s happening. And there’s a ‘propeller chop value’ in the simulation of the boat, which is like the propeller getting out of the water and skipping; we have a special haptic just for that. All these layers of those things are all running at once.”

I haven’t bought the Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves collection yet, but man oh man, the stuff I am reading that they did for the remaster has me beyond jazzed to replay these games on PS5. They modeled the boat’s propeller movement for Nate’s sake! The DualSense is a real selling point for me. I can only imagine the impact the haptics will have in PS VR2.

“We had to build a new pipeline to author them because it’s such a higher fidelity haptic experience than the old controller rumble. So we had to think about it in a different way and involve audio programmers, because the fidelity of the haptics is so high that it’s an audio signal that we’re sending to the controller,” says Margenau, with the saintly patience of a man explaining a very technical system to a total layperson. “So when you get shot, you can feel it only on the side of the controller where you got shot.

It’s fascinating to think of haptic feedback being sent as an audio signal to the controller. You could think of it like the vibration creating different frequencies, like a song, but the sensation creates texture instead of a tune. Neat to see this applied to remastering a PS4 game.

This implementation actually reminded me of a Twitter thread that Kurt Margenau wrote back when The Last of Us Part II received a PS5 patch. I found the thread and wouldn’t you know, sound was mentioned.

As many of you are jumping back into TLOU2 on PS5, you may notice the haptics feel better. This is actually thanks to a firmware update to the DualSense controller back in April. THREAD:

A few months ago, I got to give feedback to the Sony DualSense team to help improve certain timing, intensity, and “texture” of haptics when in backwards compatibility (BC) mode to closer achieve the feeling we authored for the original DualShock 4 for our games.

Which is pretty wild considering the physical mechanisms for achieving the haptics in the two controllers is quite different. How can a backwards compatibility mode even work in the first place?

The DS4 has two different-sized rotating weights inside, and the DualSense has two weights that move forward and back and can express frequency and amplitude at extremely high fidelity and low latency (almost like a speaker).

So the controller firmware in the DualSense has to receive the “old” signals that are meant to spin up a motor (which has much higher latency), and emulate the resulting FEELING in the controller using a completely different mechanical method.

This includes accounting for all the timing differences in the authored rumble that’s built-in when designing for the DS4, and emulating the inherent variation and “rumbly” feeling that comes with a rotating motor.

This is all done inside the controller without the game code changing at all.

So hat’s off to @toshimasa_aoki and the entire DualSense team for making this incredible controller in the first place, and to the firmware team that works so hard to create and improve features like BC mode!

The DualSense controller’s weights moving forward and back and frequency and amplitude must be a part of the secret sauce that creates the texture PS5 games can create. According to iFixIt, the DualSense uses a voice coil actuator to make the haptic magic happen. The power of magnets moving forward and back inside of a coil.

Imagine what Naughty Dog and the rest of PlayStation Studios will do with PS5 games developed from the ground up.

Inside Google’s Plan to Salvage Its Stadia Gaming Service – Business Insider

Inside Google’s Plan to Salvage Its Stadia Gaming Service by Hugh Langley for Business Insider (subscription required); Apple News+ link

When Google announced last year that it was shutting down its internal gaming studios, it was seen as a blow to the company’s big bet on video games. Google, whose Stadia cloud service was barely more than a year old, said it would instead focus on publishing games from existing developers on the platform and explore other ways to bring Stadia’s technology to partners.

Since then, the company has shifted the focus of its Stadia division largely to securing white-label deals with partners that include Peloton, Capcom, and Bungie, according to people familiar with the plans.

Google is trying to salvage the underlying technology, which is capable of broadcasting high-definition games over the cloud with low latency, shopping the technology to partners under a new name: Google Stream.

Yours truly, last year:

Google’s own studio didn’t even last two years.

Google hired former Head of Sony Santa Monica, Shannon Studstill, not even one year ago.

This is, unfortunately, not surprising. The clock is ticking for Stadia on the whole. Real glad I got a controller and Chromecast for free late last year. When Google is practically handing out hardware, you know the end is near.

None of these rumors are surprising in the least. The technology powering Stadia is good. I was impressed when I got a Stadia set-up in late 2020 for free.

On a wired connection, they all felt rock solid. It’s no secret that I have been skeptical of game streaming’s ability to perform soundly. Color me impressed.

In a precision platformer like Celeste I didn’t notice any perceptible latency when using a wired connection. Over Wi-Fi on my iPhone, Celeste just off enough that I’d have to adapt to its off kilter timing…

Stadia is better than I thought. Game streaming impresses me just as much as it did when I played Just Cause 3 on my Vita for guide work while at my girlfriend’s (now wife) house. The technology is cool, convenient, and additive. It’s nowhere near replacing dedicated hardware for myself, but I am curious to see where it goes from here.

In all honesty, the Stadia controller has sat in a drawer since then. All the games I play are on other platforms and it’s one less subscription for me.

Google is trying to extract as much value from it as it can. Internally, some employees have floated the idea of using Google’s technology for nongaming purposes, such as 3D modeling and other high-intensity tasks that could be performed over the cloud.

Shopping the tech around outside of gaming is the right move to salvage any value out of Stadia’s corpse. Google spent who knows how much money building the technology behind Stadia. While they may kill off the gaming subscription and service someday, it does not mean that the servers and programming that make it all possible have to be shut down. Streaming is going to become table stakes for game companies, just like it has become for music, TV and film. Each company will have their own subscription and library—heck, EA, Ubisoft, Microsoft, Amazon, Sony, and Netflix already do! It makes sense for Google to shop their own system around.

Last year, Google entered conversations with Peloton to be a back-end provider for games running on the fitness company’s bikes, three people familiar with the situation said. Peloton unveiled the first of those games, titled “Lanebreak,” in summer and ran a closed demo late last year that was supported by Google’s technology.

This is an interesting example outside of traditional gaming. Peloton can diversify their workout offerings and their own subscription service with these games. The quality of gameplay isn’t the point. The workout mechanics are the essentials. I don’t own a Peloton device, but I assume they have to connect to the Internet anyway for their workout courses. Having this library of games be streamed to the bike or treadmill makes sense. The hardware doesn’t need to process anymore than a video feed and “controller” feedback. This could allow hardware play these games without requiring new bikes.

Google last year also pitched its technology to Bungie, the developer behind the “Destiny” franchise, which was exploring a streaming platform of its own, according to three people familiar with the discussions. Under the proposal, Bungie would own the content and control the front-end experience, but Google would power the technology that beamed the games to users’ screens.

Talks between Google and Bungie made “considerable” headway, according to a person familiar with the plans. Sony, which owns PlayStation, announced this week that it would acquire Bungie for $3.6 billion. While Bungie said it would continue to support Stadia, insiders did not know if the merger would affect plans between Google and Bungie…

Sounds like Sony came in with a much better offer. The rumors surrounding Sony’s own Game Pass-like competitor named “Spartacus” seem inevitable. Remember, streaming and subscriptions are becoming table stakes.

Sony already has their own game streaming service though with PS Now. They bought the cloud gaming service Gaikai for $380 million back in 2012. And Sony knows gaming far better than Google does. I’d wager the Google deal is dead.

After Google closed Stadia’s internal game studios, known as Stadia Games & Entertainment, insiders said the directive was to build out what was internally dubbed a “content flywheel” — a steady flow of independent titles and content from existing publishing deals that would be much more affordable than securing AAA blockbusters, two former employees familiar with the conversations said.

“The key thing was that they would not be spending the millions on the big titles,” one said. “And exclusives would be out of the question.”

Sounds like executives said “Minimize the bleeding.”

Google also struggled to hold on to users. Harrison and other executives set a goal to reach 1 million monthly active users by the end of 2020, which they missed by about 25%, according to a person familiar with the conversations. “Retention was a real problem,” this person said.

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Game Pass just announced 25 million subscribers since the service’s launch in 2017.

Despite Google’s ability to throw its financial weight around, Stadia (the service) continues to be on a clock. Stadia (the technology) does not need to be on the same timer. The idea that Stadia could be the heartbeat behind other more appealing game streaming platforms doesn’t seem likely. Most other major players in the industry have the streaming tech, the subscription service, and the know-how to thrive with consumers. It feels like there’s little room left on the grid of the game streaming tech arms race. Outside of traditional gaming, there is plenty more room and that’s where it sounds like Google is headed.

Announcing Wiki Stories — A Limited Run Newsletter

Wiki Stories is a journey back through my time as a freelance guide writer from 2014 through 2019. I wrote or helped write 23 guides for (mostly) games during those five years. I worked on some of the biggest game launches during that period of time, if not all-time. I was a part of the teams for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Red Dead Redemption 2, and God of War. I worked on games I knew would be a big deal before most, like Celeste. There were games I had no clue would become massive successes like Dying Light or Hitman, Season 1. I worked on some straight-up silly stuff too.

Guides are the backbone of gaming sites. They are (or were) often a starting point for writers trying to break into the industry. I’m digging back to share my successes and shortcomings as a guide writer so others can learn from my experience.

This newsletter will run for 25 weeks, starting on February 10, 2022. No tracking. No spam. No cost. At the end of the run, the email addresses will be deleted and posts archived. If you decide to join me — thank you. I hope you enjoy.

You can read the first letter right here on Max Frequency, which talks about how I landed on the idea of a newsletter at the bottom of a creative rut. All future letters will get an excerpt on the blog with links to the letter online, the RSS feed, and the subscription page. I want this to be opt-in for readers to hopefully curate an interested community directly.

Wiki Stories Letter #1 – Closing the Gap

Wiki Stories is a 25-week limited run newsletter where I’ll be sharing my stories from my five years as a video game guide writer. You can sign-up for free here. This first letter is published in its entirety below. All future letters will simply have an excerpt and link here on Max Frequency. If you decide to join me—thank you. I hope you enjoy.

Bottom of the Rut

“My brain is bouncing all over with plans to work on this and that. Projects get started and then stopped. Ideas are stuck in creative purgatory.”

Yours truly on September 1, 2021 talking about my own creative process and being in a rut. I ended that post with the following thesis.

“My ideas are big. I need to break them down. I need to build up into the big ones. So, I’m going to try and break them down. I’ll create smaller pieces of them, publish them, and move on to the next one…Instead of ideas that take months of work and skills I haven’t fully developed, I need to tackle shorter turnarounds and develop those skills.”

I was so wise six months ago.

The creative process and the answers to said process can sometimes feel shrouded in mystery. As people that want to make and do, we find those that have gone before us and take inspiration from them. At that point though, we are seeing the current end product. We likely have not seen the struggle it took to get there. Every poorly written story, each botched podcast, the hours of grainy webcam-filmed reviews that established the creator’s foundation. I often forget this crucial fact.

Entering 2022, I decided that I was going to tackle a project I’ve had in mind for a couple years. I have wanted to write down and share my stories from my years as a freelance wiki guide writer for IGN. The main reasons would be to save what memory of those years I have and to offer (hopefully) valuable insight to that process in the video game industry. I started production in December 2021.

My plan coming into the new year was to make the limited series threefold: a written article, a podcast, and a video. The inception for this was Jason Snell’s 20 Macs for 2020. I thought (and still do think) this would be a great idea that makes these stories accessible. Producing the show would also help me develop the skills necessary to create bigger and better series down the road. I was totally ignoring the “break down big ideas and crank them out” mantra that I proclaimed just half a year earlier.

Cooking and Writing are Essentially the Same Thing

Last week, I read Craig Mod’s annual year in review essay “Memberships Work.” I always take away insight and inspiration from Craig’s work, ever since I discovered him on The Talk Show with John Gruber. [1] Just six paragraphs in, Craig mentioned a quote from Ira Glass about taste and talent. Forgive me, but I am going to quote half of it here. The other half is real good too.

“Nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish somebody had told this to me — is that all of us who do creative work … we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there’s a gap, that for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good, OK? It’s not that great. It’s really not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good. But your taste — the thing that got you into the game — your taste is still killer, and your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you, you know what I mean?

A lot of people never get past that phase. A lot of people at that point, they quit. And the thing I would just like say to you with all my heart is that most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be — they knew it fell short, it didn’t have the special thing that we wanted it to have.”

I think my palate is decent: I’m certainly picky enough. This distinction between taste and talent was a realization to me. I have let my taste on writing, podcasts, and videos be the excuse to not send out the completed dish of words, thoughts, and ideas. [2]

This has happened to me with real food over the past five or six years where I’ve intentionally been learning to cook. When my parents moved away, I realized that my mother’s high bar for cooking meals had elevated my taste. With her gone, my talent in the kitchen was far below said bar. My taste and talent were misaligned. I knew I had to learn to cook.

I remember one of my first lessons in the kitchen. I was trying to make a homemade mac and cheese. The recipe called for a roux, this combination of flour and milk to make the gooey cheese half of the dish. I forget the exact measurements, but something was off. The roux was dry and not coming together. I was going to chuck the dish, but my roommate came in and said it could be saved. All he did was add more milk and whisk constantly over the heat.

I never thought to step outside of the bounds of the recipe. When it became a bit too runny, he added more flour until a smooth roux came together. The dish was saved and I learned that improvisation were necessary in the kitchen.

Since then, I’ve spent my evenings cooking for my family. We did Blue Apron meal kits for two years. Then we quit that to handle meal prep and shopping ourselves. Now I have my own sourdough starter chilling in the refrigerator for whenever I feel like making a loaf. My talent still is not aligned with the taste my mother established, but it has gotten much closer over time. When the food is messed up or the ingredients are wrong, I adapt. I can count on one hand the times I’ve thrown out an entire meal. So why is it that in my own writing or production I am throwing out so many “meals” before they reach the table (i.e. audience)?

The Side Road

When producing the first wiki story, I went to record the video version. The vision was to take the written post and read it like a script. I had my fancy camera, the lighting, and the microphone all set up. I was trying to read it off my phone and use jump cuts to chop up the footage, like MKBHD does. That failed due to a technical issue [3]. Then I tried a different set-up to read the script off my iMac. My excuse there was no teleprompter. Why on Earth do I need a teleprompter? How is that pane of glass stopping me from creating? Ridiculous.

Then I figured that the videos could be ad-libbed and loosely follow the written post. I thought this idea was the “breaking down of a larger idea” I had written about last year. I shot the video, sat down to edit, and closed Final Cut mere minutes afterward. I knew my talent wasn’t matching my taste. I threw out the dish before it was even done being cooked.

I was letting my taste stunt my talent as a means to defend myself. I’ll never get better at what I enjoy that way though. I had to deconstruct this three-course idea for this limited wiki series. I had to get it out the door and on the table.

Another nugget from Craig’s Memberships Work post was a point on creating for the masses compared to creating for members.

“The membership program is like a private club where I’m more willing to be “open” about processes in ways that would feel too exposed on my normal mailing lists or public YouTube livestreams. With SP members, the audience for many of the members-only newsletters (like the writing diary I’m currently running) is in the hundreds or, for livestreams, dozens. All paying, supportive, “fans.” (But really, more like co-workers.) My normal newsletters go out to tens of thousands of strangers. You can understand why one space might feel like a safer & less stressful place to be emotionally & creatively exposed.”

I don’t run my own membership. Unfortunately, any community I have garnered is unknown to me. Max Frequency has been mostly a one-way street. When thinking about stripping down the three prong wiki project to a singular medium, that open road suddenly didn’t seem so appealing to walk down. My mission for these stories is to be honest about my journey writing guides, chasing a career in video game coverage, and the lessons I learned. It’s not a scandalous tell-all, but it is designed to be a far more personal project. It is wholly unique to me.

I am going to intentionally take a side road. It’s not a shortcut, but I expect it to be the scenic option. This journey will be a newsletter.

Newsletters have been an idea I’ve wanted to tackle since the inception of Max Frequency. Heck, the site almost started of as a newsletter instead! The idea returned to the forefront when I scrubbed to a random time in Craig’s recent membership Q&A. [4]

“If you can’t do a free newsletter for three months and commit to that – you can’t do a membership. You can’t do anything paid. You don’t have those muscles built up yet. That’s what’s critical.”

This newsletter is not going to be paid: That would be flying directly in the face of Craig’s statement. I need the muscles though. I worked on twenty-three unique wiki guides. Throw in this post and an outro gives me a solid twenty-five week deadline. That’s more than three months – it’s actually closer to six – but the subject matter gives me a narrow path to walk along and document.

Not everyone will want to join me on that path though. That’s why the idea of opting in to reading these stories appeals to me. We can chose to explore together and see what I can dig up.

When the journey is over, that’ll be it. I’ll archive the posts and unsubscribe everyone (and delete any and all email addresses, if Buttondown will let me). Business-sense would say to keep all the email addresses and use it for future business-like ventures. That just feels creepy to me. If at the end of this limited run, you walk away and enjoy my writing, you’ll follow my work at Max Frequency or on Twitter. If not, then you don’t ever have to worry about me bugging you in the future. I want an open and honest relationship from the start.

This also means all the tracking and analytics options will be shut off. I don’t like spy pixels in email I receive, so why would I put them in newsletters I send out? Again, business-wise, probably not “smart,” but it makes me feel a whole lot better. I think it will make you feel good too.

The Rules

We’ve already established a timeline. The twenty-five weeks starts now and will end on July, 28 2022. Each letter will go up at 5:00 AM EST that way you could start your day with it or save it for a convenient time.

The list of games and the order of the newsletters will be the order that I worked on the guides. You can find that list here. Originally, I was going to bounce around at my heart’s content, but decide going in the natural order made things simpler.

Okay. It’s time for the other half of that Ira Glass quote.

“And the thing I would say to you is everybody goes through that. And for you to go through it, if you’re going through it right now, if you’re just getting out of that phase — you gotta know it’s totally normal.

And the most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work — do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week, or every month, you know you’re going to finish one story. Because it’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you are actually going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions. It takes a while, it’s gonna take you a while — it’s normal to take a while. And you just have to fight your way through that, okay?”

I’ve given myself the deadline. I know I am going to finish this story. It is time to close the gap and bring my talent a bit closer to my taste.

Thank you for joining my on this little journey. I hope you enjoy.

If you like the sound of this newsletter, you can sign-up for free here. If you’d like to throw the RSS feed into your reader of choice, go for it!

[1]: Which apparently was only one year ago?! That actually makes me sad. Think of all the time I haven’t been following Craig’s work. I certainly absorbed a ton of it in that year though. ↩︎

[2]: This line of thinking is also brought up in Stephen King’s On Writing, which I’ve been reading. For a writer, there’s nothing like having little imaginary versions of Stephen King and Ira Glass sitting on your shoulders telling you the same thing: “Do, do, do.” ↩︎

[3]: Pro tip: Always check your batteries. ↩︎

[4]: I told you I get a lot of inspiration from this guy. ↩︎

Gran Turismo 7 State of Play Vibes

Gran Turismo 7 – State of Play Deep Dive 4K | PS5, PS4 – YouTube

My friend Logan Moore told me yesterday that the Gran Turismo series is “all about vibes.” After pouring a cup of coffee this morning and watching the half-hour State of Play, I understand what he meant. Cafes, museums, science lessons on how clouds are formed are not tidbits I would have expected in a car video game showcase. Nevertheless, they were effortlessly embedded in the discussion in a soothing manner. 

I’ve gone from “Gran Turismo isn’t for me” to “Yes, please.”

Yacht Club Games Announces a new IP – Mina The Hollower

Mina The Hollower – Yacht Club Games

Yacht Club Games has announced their next game and it is a brand new IP. Mina The Hollower is a mash-up of Game Boy era Zelda games (Link’s Awakening and the Oracle titles) with Castlevania

It’s up on Kickstarter now. Within thirty minutes of this writing, they have raised a third of the $311,503 goal (one dollar more than Shovel Knight made). I’m curious to see what stretch goals, if any, the studio rolls out. I would bet that multiple, playable character campaigns is not one of them. 

Compared to our original Kickstarter, we’re not in dire straits! We’re financing a majority of Mina the Hollower‘s development internally. Our main reason for launching a Kickstarter this time is to build a brand new universe in the same way we did with our first game, Shovel Knight—with our community involved in creating something special along with us! Every backer that joins the development will help to make a more robust game. Together, we’ll break new ground!

Yacht Club Games has garnered incredible goodwill and praise since Shovel Knight’s own Kickstarter. I like seeing them leverage the buzz and excitement of a Kickstarter to foster a community. Direct engagement with a fanbase is a powerful tool for creators, if not the most powerful in the toolbox. It’s not entirely about the initial influx of cash: It’s about fostering a community that will help keep that revenue stream following during the remainder of development and post-launch. 

The current window for Mina The Hollower is December 2023. That’s a solid two more years of development time. Eager to see how this one lands.

“Go Back to Daddy Microsoft” with Tomas Franzese

Tomas Franzese joins the show to help digest the beefy $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard. We also chat about Tomas’s new job at DigitalTrends and discuss Hollywood tapping into the well of video game IP.

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