Episode 14: I Have It In My Contract to Write About Survivor with Ricky Frech

Ricky Frech teaches Max about the wide world of sports video games and Survivor. Then the two compare their guide writing practices before swapping worst wiki experiences.

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DoubleXP Rebrand

How Guides Have Changed

The Toughest Guides

GameFAQs

Ricky Teaches Max about Sports Games

Survivor

Wrap-Up


Max Frequency

Chapter Select

Max’s Twitter @MaxRoberts143

Ricky’s Twitter @RickyFrech

Metal Gear Solid 4 Revisited at 4K 60FPS – Digital Foundry

Metal Gear Solid 4 Revisited at 4K 60FPS! Today’s Emulation, Tomorrow’s Remaster? by John Linneman for Digital Foundry 

John has been on fire lately with DF Retro. The Gran Turismo two parter and now a look at PS3 emulation through the lens of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. It wasn’t so long ago that I replayed the first four MGS games. I have to admit I don’t remember these technical hitches that the game has on PS3. I was so immersed in replaying the series that I was riding the Kojima narrative high. It’s the kind of storytelling I savor. I was quite positive on MGS4 both times I have played it. Who knows how I’ll feel next time around? 

The emulation scene is impressive and John’s breakdown of its current successes and shortcomings is educational on the status of PS3 emulation. even with one game as the focus. Perhaps someday Sony will crack official emulation of the PS3 and offer it to consumers. I hope so.

Knotwords “Book talk” and reveal – Zach Gage & Jack Schesinger

Knotwords “Book talk” and reveal by Zach and Jack on YouTube

Zach Gage and Jack Schlesinger’s new game is out this Thursday—Knotwords. To reveal the game, the pair did a live stream exploring prototypes and explaining their new word game. An insightful stream for undoubtedly another grand slam for the duo.

A real interesting bit is that there are three tiers/versions: a free version with no ads, a subscription version with more puzzles, or a one-time payment of $12 with the same range of puzzles. On PC, solely the paid version is available. The barrier to entry is so low without the incessant nature of ads.

I love it when developers are open about their creative process and iteration. You know I will be downloading it immediately.

Lessons in Streaming

I’ve been dabbling in the world of streaming. Making Chapter Select videos made me think about my ability to capture gameplay footage. Born out of frustrating incompatibility with macOS, I’ve assembled a system that gets the job done. It’s lean; working silently on my pencil-thin iMac. Cables are routed. Systems strategically placed. Hard drives overflowing.

In between producing Chapter Select, I figured I should use this equipment somewhat regularly. Hone my skills and build a collection of game footage to use someday. I’ve done three streams as of writing this post. I intentionally varied them to push my streaming/capturing abilities.  

Here’s the set up: I’m using an Elgato HD60 mounted on the back of a 21” display. The USB cable and the long HDMI cord are routed in the arms of the VESA mounts. USB goes to the Thunderbolt 3 Dock and the HDMI reaches the “console corner” of my desk. There is one more HDMI cord connecting the HD60 to the TV. That is a 1′ HDMI 2.1 cable to prevent dangling.

When it is time to record, I just plug this other end of the routed HDMI cable to the console of choice and open Elgato’s Game Capture software on my iMac. I can’t use OBS or the like because the HD60 is not recognized outside of Elgato’s own software on macOS. As restrictive as the Game Capture software can be, I was done letting ideal set-ups be the barrier (i.e. excuse) between me and creating. Keeping it simple has reduced the friction in starting. I just use the iMac’s built-in camera and my Shure Beta 87A. Who cares about the camera quality on a podunk stream when the image size is that of my thumb?

When it came to streaming VR gameplay, it turned out I already had all the equipment I’d need. The Oculus Quest 2 can wirelessly stream its display out to any Chromecast-enabled device. Thanks to Stadia, I have a 4K Ultra Chromecast lying around. The catch is HDCP, which is baked into the Chromecast. The HDMI splitter I bought for capturing PS3 and PSTV gameplay strips that out though. This allows me to capture the Chromecast output with ease. The Quest 2 streams at 1080p60, giving me a quality video wirelessly. The hit on battery life doesn’t appear to be major. Plus, spending more than a couple hours  at once in VR is tiring. 

On the choice of YouTube or Twitch, I pick YouTube. Twitch is overwhelming in its features. They are the platform for live gameplay, but I figured familiarity and simplicity would be best. I’m content with it. 

Now we get to the actual games I played. The selection was Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, and Pistol Whip; a platformer, a visual novel, and a rhythm, on-rails shooting game. 

Playing the games themselves is fine and looks good with this particular arrangement of cables and software. The real challenge (which I’d wager everyone faces when streaming) is learning to play and talk to an audience simultaneously.  

Platforming, talking, and keeping an eye on chat are tough muscles to build. Especially when I chose a tough platformer with monkeys. It was fun when some friends and my wife hopped in to roast me. Knowing people that are interacting helps tremendously. 

Pivoting to a visual novel makes having something to talk about easy. That’s the crux of the gameplay. I was able to spitball theories, crack the case, and be engaged. Playing a lawyer game is far less desirable to watch for an audience when you are just testing streaming out. No engagement made solving the mystery the same experience as playing by myself, just out loud.

Streaming in VR removes the chat element. I can’t see it or engage with the audience. Playing a loud, rhythm game for the first time was also an interesting approach. I had also just run four miles. My legs were jelly. It was far from ideal. Lesson learned there.

I think the most important element of streaming is streamlining the process. Configuring a set-up that is plug and go has been instrumental. The excuse list becomes shorter and it makes work easier. I know have the capabilities to capture any system in a few clicks. Which has lead to the new problem of needing way more hard drive storage…but that’s a problem for future Max.

LG C2 OLED Reviewed for Modern & Retro Gaming – My Life in Gaming

LG C2 OLED Reviewed for Modern & Retro Gaming – 2022 C2 vs. 2021 C1 vs. 2017 C7 by My Life in Gaming on YouTube

I haven’t written about it here yet, but I recently did buy an LG C1 thanks to a 5-year-warranty and a few dead pixels on my LG C9 OLED. It turns out that I bought the LG C1 right before the LG C2 went on sale. I chalked it up to off timing, but have mostly been happy with the C1. It does have a couple of quirks that my C9 did not have, like slower timing to show the image when watching TV/movies and the insistent need to dim the picture even further when in a dark scene for more than 30 seconds (yes, all the auto / AI dimming is off. This is something baked into the OS and only alterable from a service menu it seems).

Turns out I may have dodged a bullet though with the C2. Try over at My Life in Gaming went through the wringer with the C2, which has whacky input-lag issues and other issues. He produced a deep dive into comparing his five-year-old C7, the C2, and the C1. OLED TVs promise a great future for newer games and consoles, but they handle some older aspect ratios poorly. I wish TV manufacturers would let their televisions just be a TV, instead of cramming it with what they think people want and bloated “AI.”

The Next Generation

Last year, I replayed The Last of Us in late June, early July. This isn’t new for me. I think it was my eighth time through the beginning of Joel and Ellie’s time together (correction: turned out to be my ninth) . This time was going to be a different go around though. This run was going to be the last time I’d play the game before becoming a dad.

My wife Abby and I had found out she was pregnant a few weeks prior on my birthday.

In the middle of July, we lost the baby.

In late November, I played God of War for Chapter Select. Just one week prior to starting, Abby and I lost our second pregnancy.

I wasn’t trying to make a distinct BF (before fatherhood) and AF (after fatherhood) playthrough of some of my favorite games. I didn’t see the positive pregnancy test and think “Aw man, I better take Ellie to the Fireflies for the ninth time!” or hear Kratos say “Boy” for the umpteenth time. I have to scratch that itch to play The Last of Us far too often and Chapter Select dictated my return to Midgard. But the idea that I would soon become a dad influenced my perspective of these games and the world.

I processed everything different after these miscarriages. A new filter has been placed over the lens in which I view the world. I have a newfound empathy for Joel and Kratos. Not that losing / killing your own child is close to our miscarriages, but we’ve experienced loss of something entirely out of our control. When a second chance came back around for these anti-heroes neither of them let go of control, and in the cases of those narratives, often to their detriment.

After beating The Last of Us, I dove into Part II. My fourth round with Ellie and Abby (not my Abby) didn’t last long. I was not in the space to play a darker tale on parenthood, especially considering two pregnant women play prominent roles.

I get that it is odd, or even out of touch, to work through and talk about miscarriages through video games. Even as I write this, I feel like there is a twinge of diminishment. I can see it as a coping and/or processing method. But now my life is even more tied to those games than I ever could have imagined.

Miscarriages are common. This was news to me. You never think it will happen to you. The entire process of a miscarriage is excruciating, both physically and emotionally.


There was a seemingly endless flood of baby announcements entered our lives. I am extremely happy for these couples, truly I am, but bitterness creeps in.

“How did they get pregnant the first time?”

“Why is theirs sticking and ours isn’t?”

It’s hard not to be pelted with imagery of how easy becoming pregnant is in media. Just look at a woman the wrong way and she’ll become pregnant. Reality is far from it. Deciding to get back on the saddle is emotional investment. Rigid schedules can sap out the intimacy.

Outside of the emotional hole you find yourself in, the physical toll on the mother is immense. Hormones are produced rapidly. Then when the loss occurs, they deplete bit by bit. A miscarriage takes months of recovery. Then you hope that it sticks the next time around.

We had family and friends support us through each loss. There’s an inherent desire to surprise the world with the news that you are having a baby. It starts out as the best secret spouses could share. Then you creep closer and closer to the ultrasound only to see emptiness. No one truly knows why this happened; what didn’t sync up. It’s remarkable how blind parents are while a little human is supposed to be growing inside them. I imagine visibility doesn’t improve too much once the child enters the world.

After a year of trying, we finally saw someone on the inside.

Say hello 👋🏻

This little human would not have been possible without the strength and resolve of Abby. She was and continues to be stunning throughout this entire journey. She is remarkable. I am in awe.

Another helping hand was reading and hearing other stories of couples that had difficulties conceiving. Those stories taught me how difficult creating little people can be and how vastly different challenges manifest themselves.

They are part of why I wanted to share ours. Maybe it can help someone, some day.

These miscarriages have been the toughest situations in both our lives and our marriage up to this point. I would never wish this on someone. As we move further away from the miscarriages themselves, Abby and I do see how it has drawn us closer together. As difficult as it has been, I wouldn’t want to go through this with anyone else. It all culminating with a pregnancy certainly helps too.

I also know that this may be another success story to those in the throes of trying to have a baby. A year and some change may seem like a blip to some struggles couples have had. I do hope our story kindles encouragement and hope for you.

Our little human makes their debut in October. I’m not sure I’ll scratch The Last of Us itch until after they arrive. Maybe the rumored remake and Ragnarök will come out after they are born. All I know for sure is that after October 2022, our lives will never be the same. We cannot wait.

Wiki Stories #9 – The Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone

Back to writing about The Witcher 3 already? While the summer of 2015 was almost entirely Witcher coverage, the release of the first big DLC Hearts of Stone kept me on the beat well into the fall. It helped tip the scales of pay just over a grand and let me stay in the lands of Novigrad and Velen a smidge while longer.

I was (and still am) concerned with writing about the two DLC expansions that I worked on. When I write so extensively on the base game, I’m worried how much is actually left for me to explore with the DLC in these letters. These games can blur together in the throes of writing. Tack on seven years of separation and it becomes difficult to parse out what were the base game assignments and what were the DLC tasks


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.

Wiki Stories #8 – Until Dawn

The last letter kicked off by mentioning the new Witcher game announcement. Seems fitting that Supermassive announced a new teen slasher game dubbed The Quarry when I’d be writing about Until Dawn. Dying Light 2 and spin-off sequel to a Borderlands just came out. Seems like I waited just the right amount of time to dig back into my wiki work.

I’ve been dying to share the story of this guide in its full gory detail. This one was unique out of all the guides I wrote. It was a fusion of my work up to that point: There were gobs of collectibles (Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze), branching narrative paths (Tales from the Borderlands), and plenty of “winging it” (all guides past and future). I was also provided a rare opportunity to have the game substantially early, something that only happened twice in my five years


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.