I’ve seen Jonathon Dornbush of IGN share his Art of the Level series since he started it, but never got around to watching it myself (even though there is an episode on The Last of Us Part II). I have finally corrected my own mistake today with the new episode on the Madagascar chase in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.
Shaun Escayg and Kurt Margenau shared the behind-the-scenes for one of the franchises most iconic set pieces and legendary E3 demos.
The Madagascar chase works extremely well as both an Uncharted set piece and as a demo for press and fans. It ups the ante for the franchise, thanks to the power of the PS4 and all the experience under Naughty Dog’s belt. It has a wonderful sense of escalation. I actually think Dunkey put it best in his Videogame Structure Evolution video. Uncharted 4 has an undeniable cadence in its design.
I wonder if this set piece made it into the movie…
Predictions are arguably my favorite pass time in the video game space (besides the games themselves). The possibilities feel endless and hype swells at just the mention of an IP. Then all those hopes are dashed upon the rocks of reality throughout the year. It truly is a blast.
This is my third year of Max Frequency, which means it is time for my annual predictions for the Big Three (Nintendo, PlayStation, and Xbox). I did not do so hot in 2020, but my 2021 predictions are looking up. 👀
Before breaking down 2021 and sharing my predictions for 2022, I want to share my particular rule for predictions:
Everything written down must come true for the prediction to be counted as correct.
Let’s rewind the clock and see what I thought was going to happen in 2021.
Nintendo will acknowledge the GameCube’s 20th anniversary.
For The Legend of Zelda’s 35th anniversary, Nintendo will release a 3D Zelda collection, just like they did for Mario in 2020.
There is no new “Pro” Nintendo Switch model released in 2021.
I did the best with the Big N this year! But I also fell flat on my face with specificity, especially in the Kiefer-level prediction. I was genuinely surprised when Nintendo of America tweeted out a celebration of the GameCube’s 20th anniversary. Really, the controller has far outlived the console, and the library is still essentially stuck on the platform. Hopefully someday the GameCube’s great library becomes reasonably accessible again.
Nintendo did celebrate Zelda, just in an entirely different way than with Mario. When you think thye’ll zig, they zag.
This third prediction was dicey. Before 2020, the rumors of a “pro” Switch were flying, so I pivoted to say no chance of a “pro” Switch release in 2021 (zig v zag). While the Switch OLED was revealed and released last year, there is no performance or gains over the original hardware. The quality bump comes to the display and form of the device. Plays the same games and the same quality. I was very close to losing this one.
Sony will buy Bluepoint Games.
Naughty Dog’s next project will not be announced in 2021.
Backward compatibility will come to the PS5 for more than the PS4.
Sony went on quite the shopping spree in 2021, buying a total of five new studios to fold under the PlayStation Studios brand. Arguably, Bluepoint was the most obvious. It was also the funniest, thanks to a tweet from PlayStation Japan roughly three months before the acquisition was announced.
This prediction hurts the most. The spirit of the pick was Naughty Dog’s next new project, but I failed to write that. The Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection actually comes out in just over two weeks. I am stoked to see Uncharted running at 120Hz, but it also made me miss the prediction…
At least two games previously confirmed for cross-generational support will drop their Xbox One versions.
Microsoft will announce that the Xbox One consoles will receive an xCloud app, turning them into streaming boxes.
Halo Infinite was not delayed in its entirety, in fact, the multiplayer dropped early! But 343 did delay co-op campaign and Forge mode. This has been one of the strangest AAA releases I’ve ever seen. Microsoft needed to start getting a return on their investment. In the end, no one will remember the game was released in a chunky way.
And to round off 2021, here is my Kiefer Prediction:
Nintendo will release a 3D Zelda collection that includes an HD port of Ocarina of Time 3D and Majora’s Mask 3D, as well as Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess HD. The long-rumored HD port of Skyward Sword will be a standalone release.
I leaned too hard on them celebrating Zelda the same as Mario. Rumors of the Wii U Zelda HD remakes getting ported to Switch is almost as old as the Switch itself. I thought scaling up the 3DS remakes would bring something new. I did correctly guess that Skyward Sword HD would be a stand alone title. Sometimes I do wish I got half points…
All together, I got 4/10. That is one correct prediction over 2020! I am hoping for more improvement this year.
The sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild launches in 2022.
Game Boy (GB/C/A) games join Nintendo Switch Online.
A new Donkey Kong game is released on Nintendo Switch.
I actually don’t believe my own first prediction. Zelda games always get hit with delays. But I am playing for points here! If I think Nintendo will delay the game (zig), then I need to say they will release the game on time in 2022 (zag). For points!
This addition to NSO was rumored for last year, even before the N64 and Genesis tier. This feels obvious, which probably means Nintendo will not do it. If they do though, I’m curious what the NSO-exclusive controller will be modeled after.
It’s time for the big ape himself to return. With the Super Mario movie out next year, Donkey Kong being voiced by Seth Rogen, AND a Donkey Kong movie reportedly being in development…It. Is. Time.
Naughty Dog’s new game will not be released in 2022. This is not The Last of Us remake rumor swirling around.
PlayStation’s Game Pass and xCloud competitor is released at a lower annual price than Game Pass Ultimate. It will include first-party games on “Day One.”
Insomniac Games has made four VR games and two mixed reality games. With the size of the studio and the sheer quality and quantity they are outputting, I’d actually find it hard to believe they are not working on a PS VR2 game.
Yes, yes; this is a clarified version of last year’s prediction. The current rumor-sphere is that the remake of The Last of Uswill drop later this year. I could buy that, assuming my theory of them adopting the engine tech and gameplay from The Last of Us Part II to the original game is correct. It could be wildly different than that and still come out in 2022. More importantly, I think the notion that their multiplayer game will not release in 2022 is the key takeaway here.
To be honest, I haven’t read about or dug into the latest stories on PlayStation’s competitor to Game Pass, seemingly dubbed “Spartacus.” I’m just shooting my shot. PlayStation already has an online subscription for play and free games – PlayStation Plus; and a online game streaming service – PlayStation Now. They’ve had these for years, but have seemingly botched the marketing on PS Now. What makes sense to me is to combine Plus and Now (just like Xbox with Gold, Game Pass, and xCloud to make Game Pass Ultimate) and offer it at one price. How they’ll make it cheaper is by having fewer third-party games in the service and no access to PC titles. PlayStation could have this service include Day One games and focus on the sheer quality of their titles.
Starfield is delayed.
The Last Night by Oddtales gets a release date and launches in Game Pass.
Game Pass and/or xCloud will come to a competitor’s platform.
I’m sorry to be so negative with Xbox. I just don’t believe that Starfield could have a date before Halo Infinite and them stick to said date, especially in these remote work times. Throw in the fact that Halo Infinite is incomplete, I just don’t see Starfield hitting their date and if they do, it being a buggy or incomplete mess. Mind you, I personally don’t think it will be a big delay, but a delay nonetheless.
I just want The Last Night to come out soon pretty please.
In continual pursuit of their mission to get Game Pass on every screen, Xbox will succeed in forming a deal with either PlayStation or Nintendo to bring game streaming to the platform.
Both Nintendo and PlayStation will provide access to older games and generations not previously available via their subscription programs.
Okay, the writing may come off in a general way, but here’s the vision. The GameCube and, to a certain degree, the Wii are no longer playable on modern hardware. While the 3DS had an Ambassador program and the Wii U offered a Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS Virtual console, those platforms have too been widely unaccessible for years. Some of these consoles and their games should come to the Switch via NSO.
Similarly, PlayStation Now offers access to PS4, PS3, and PS2 games. Although, there seem to only be 21 PS2 games available. I think in this launch of the “Spartacus” program, Sony opens the floodgates and adds a plethora of PS1, PS2, PSP, and Vita games.
There’s no real reason to include Xbox in this since their backward compatibility is astounding. I’d love it if Sony would let PS3 discs or digital purchases be recognized and streamable to the PS5. Same with PS12 and PS2. It’s time to open the vaults and give as much access as you can with your own first-party titles and through third-party relationships.
2022 could be a real repeat of 2017 and 2018 with top-tier titles on the horizon. There should be Zelda and God of War: Ragnarök. Horizon Forbidden West is out in just over one month. Bethesda is releasing their first game since 2015. Big companies seem to be on the path of providing some form of official access to older games, making the celebration of games easier to the most people. I’m excited for what this year has to offer. Here’s to a great 2022!
It’s time to put away the Blades of Chaos because Season 2 is done!
I am so proud of this season and the show on the whole. We successfully executed our vision of two seasons in one year. We were on time and had a great time creating the show. As I said in the Season 1: Paper Mario wrap-up, this show has been my creative highlight of the year.
With a second season under our belt and a total of six months of data, I wanted to pull back the curtain on the production and reception once again. I think this type of analysis and behind-the-scenes enriches the show’s own narrative and, personally, helps me learn how yo make the show even better next time.
We slightly shook up the format this season. Instead of a true “first release to most recent” bouncing back and forth formula, we placed the most recent game (God of War, PS4) at the end of the season. This was Logan’s idea and I am immensely glad he convinced me to do so. At first, I was against the notion, insistent on adhering to the show’s purest structure. After thinking about it and listening to Logan’s reasoning, I agreed to make the change.
I could not be more happy that we did so. The show would have been worse off if I had vehemently stuck to my guns. It let us have a rich evolution of discussing the Greek games without being bogged down by a fresh play-through of the reimagined entry. It also gave listeners a little bait to stick around to the end of the season for what we imagine is the most desired game in the season. Plus, it leads perfectly into God of War: Ragnarök, which we plan on making an episode about once it releases sometime this year.
I recently was reminded of the saying “kill your darlings.” Chapter Select’s pure bouncing back and forth is my proverbial darling. It makes the show unique and leads to new conversations. Being convinced to tweak it slightly led to a better season. This doesn’t mean that the structure is being thrown out — far from it — but it does give me breathing room I didn’t think we had before.
The show started well enough with a growing base, transitioning from Paper Mario to God of War. November had a sizable bump to 1,206 downloads. I pegged this to mostly SEO blessing us with “God of War 2” pulling up our show for those Ragnarök searches.
What neither of us expected was a surge nearly four times larger in December to a whopping 4,605 downloads. Even when signing up for the advanced stats from Libsyn, I couldn’t quite figure it out. The top download agent was Safari at the time I checked with over 3,000 downloads. The next closest was Chrome at 113. I find it hard to believe that so many Safari users are downloading the show. I’m certainly not opening the show that many times on my devices. Podcast numbers are tricky to be precise. I wish I could figure out a way to truly get actionable data.
Arguably the two largest providers of podcasts are Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Both provide numbers, but not terribly well. Apple Podcasts Connect doesn’t seem to update data too often, with some episodes not having any data. Apple reports the shows all time numbers at 426 plays with 13 listeners, as of this post.
Spotify reports 216 “starts,” 88 “streams,” 82 “listeners,” and 7 followers. I can assume the difference between “listener” and “follower” is a subscriber. That makes sense. I wonder what the threshold is for turning a “start” into a “stream” or a “listener.” How long into an episode is that cut off? Why are downloads not accounted for on Spotify? It seems packed with the wrong kind of terminology. I would prefer “downloads,” “streams,” and “subscribers.” If retention is going to be tracked, I’d prefer concrete numbers over popular terms. Spotify does share a “wrapped” summary for podcasters like they do for music. That seems trendy and I like it.
One other avenue of performance to look at is YouTube. I’ll touch on the video production process below, but bringing the show to YouTube seemed like another popular and accessible avenue for listeners. Currently, all the episodes for this season total 283 views. By far the most popular episode is S2E7 – God of War (2018) with 168 of those views. That’s no surprise considering it is the most popular entry and the PC release is this Friday.
Our guest plans for this season didn’t go quite like I hoped. We were only able to get one person to join along with us this time, which somewhat surprised me. I totally thought people would be more willing to play these short action platformers over 30~ hour RPGs. Grant Huff joining us for God of War II was a treat, especially for one of the best games in the series.
For these first two seasons, we recruited guests with a cold call-to-action tweet so we could preserve the surprise of the season’s focus for launch. We’ll continue to do that for now, but I also plan to politely reach out to friends I feel could be interested in certain seasons/games. This may help us expand the range of voices you’ll hear alongside Logan and myself.
The show’s primary medium is still an audio podcast. Delivering a high-quality sounding podcast with chapters, art, and show notes is the driving force behind production. I make all decisions for delivering the show through this lens (or rather through this filter? Speaker? Insert your sound analogy of choice here). I tried something new by pre-recording show credits. I like the idea of it as padding between the show and any easter eggs. It also can let us put Twitter handles and sites in credits to not clutter the natural end of the show. I’m still feeling this idea out and will experiment more in season 3.
The biggest addition to the show’s production this season was video versions of the episodes. As I said above, the focus is audio, which is why you don’t see our faces in the video versions. This allows me to make the cuts and edits I want without it looking weird with so many jump cuts. This also allows for parity between chapters and show notes
Since I have to play the games for the podcast, I figure I could easily record the gameplay and splice together video versions to make the show accessible on YouTube. This process has been a great opportunity to flex some creativity. I take notes while editing the audio to know what clips or scenes to layer over when I make the video version.
It has been so much fun. In S2E4 – God of War: Ghost of Sparta, Logan offhandedly mentioned how the plot was “Mortal Kombat levels of ridiculousness.” Listening to the show, that carries its own weight in humor. But while researching for an episode, I stumbled across the announcement that Kratos was added to Mortal Kombat (2011). Remembering this in the editing process, I included that trailer over Logan’s joke to amp it up, to great effect I think. This editing process lead to plenty of easter eggs that, at the very least, made me chuckle.
Another angle of the video version was the visual quality. I made the decision early on to not stretch or scale footage beyond its original resolution. This resulted in three different resolutions used; 720p60, 1080p60, and 4K60. While this definitely impacted file size, I enjoyed working in the native resolutions. I’m a stickler for quality and trying to have the best in whatever medium I’m working in. I didn’t want to stretch footage without a proper way to upscale footage to 4K across the board. Maybe in the future it should all be the same resolution and framerate for consistency, but I like the range as an accurate representation of the gameplay when we did these episodes.
Originally, I wanted the God of War (2018) to be presented in HDR alongside the 4K60. I edited the entire episode in that 10-bit color space. Unfortunately, pushing the M1 processor to export nearly 2 hours of 4K60 HDR proved to take too long: After nearly two hours, the export was only at 2%. I couldn’t wait (theoretically) three days just to export the footage, especially when YouTube takes over four days to process 4K60 HDR footage in my testing.
Once a season’s focus is locked in, I spend the early weeks planning the look for the art. I want unified styles that tie together the franchise and the individual game being discussed. Paper Mario was easy with the crumpled paper background and textures. For God of War, my mind immediately went to the Greek gods and statues. There are plenty surviving pieces of art from ancient Greece. I thought having a statue of the game’s main god would be a neat way to showcase the games while unifying the season visually.
I liked the idea, but high quality and royalty free images of these statues proved to be not as accessible as I expected. So I pivoted to real images of objects or places that tie into the games’ themes.
I knew Episode 1 – God of War had to be burning coals or ash. The curse placed on Kratos defines his character, design, and motivations. For Episode 2 – God of War: Ascension, I wanted to find something to convey the multiplayer aspect. Thankfully, I found this wonderful picture of toy Spartans charging into battle. It was a dream come true.
Episode 3 – God of War II uses a statue of a winged man holding an hourglass. It totally captures Icarus and the time travel introduced with the Sisters of Fate.
The picture I chose for the Ghost of Sparta episode is not actually from Unsplashed. It’s a screensaver on the Apple TV. Being underwater captures both Atlantis and the pressure Kratos was under to save his brother.
The other PSP game, on the other hand, is an open field bathed in golden light (or as my wife calls it, “golden hour”). It reminded me of Elysium, which was essentially all I remembered from Chains of Olympus before we played it for the show.
The finale’s art was the episode that I designed the most. I found the picture of a boat in Hardangerfjord, Norway. The body of water looks surrounded by mountains reminded me of the Lake of Nine. The boat is shaped similarly to what Kratos and Atreus use. Knowing the picture was taken in Norway made me feel a level of “authentic-ness.” I added the reflection of the logo in the ripples on the water to give it just a smidge more omph than the others.
Season 2 has an interesting cloud looming over it in the form of God of War: Ragnarök, set to release this year. Our plan from the beginning was to make an episode when that game is released and to add it to this season. In fact, that was an element that led to us shaking up the recording formula a bit and placing God of War (2018) at the end.
As for Season 3, the series was decided quite a bit ago. Just like between Seasons 1 & 2, we’ll have a few months off here to work, play other games, and then jump into full production for the next season. This one will be a shorter season, like I’ve previously discussed.
We realized that we ought to work on longer games and/or series throughout the year, banking episodes and keeping that season for the back half of the year. As for the front half of a year, that can be a season focusing on a shorter series, whether in game quantity or actual game length. You will definitely see that approach taken for seasons 3 and 4.
Season 4 has a few ideas, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. I’ll announce Season 3 shortly before it makes its own debut.
God of War has been a blast of a season to tackle. I haven’t played some of these games in a decade, while others I’ve replayed a few times. Revisiting the entire series with the current context of the franchise and PlayStation has opened my eyes to the lasting legacy that has had to evolve to survive.
Plus, getting the Platinum trophy is every game back-to-back was oh so satisfying. Now, I only need to play God of War 1 & 2 on Vita for all the Platinum trophies…
Each season we’ve done so far continues to prove to myself this is the right type of show to be making right now. I’m proud of the improvements we’ve been able to make in just one season and am looking forward to what we release here in 2022!
In celebration of the company’s one year anniversary, PixelFX has provided insight both to their journey throughout 2021 and for their future. The big news is details on their scaler dubbed Morph and an entirely new product called the Infinity Switch.
The Morph now features BNC connectors and HDMI ports (one input and one output, I believe). Previously, it was to have component, VGA, and S-video. By pivoting to BNC, the Morph is now a module scaler. It can accept numerous video inputs and evolve over time.
This is all further expanded upon by incorporating the Infinity Switch, a plug ’n’ play switcher with modules to let customers pick the inputs they want for their scaler. You could have your entire console collection connected to and running through the Morph at once. Users can use multiple methods to switch inputs turning them all into one output through a presumably powerful scaler, based off the N64Digital.
Set to launch in Summer 2022, this is going to be huge for retro game scalers. Between this and the RetroTINK 5X-Pro, we have truly entered the next-generation of retro game scalers. Hot dog I want to get my hands on one of these.
That’s a wrap on year two of Max Frequency! I’ve had a blast developing and refining this site throughout 2021. It’s been a creative haven during a year we all arguably thought was going to return to normal.
Last year’s “In Review” called out the introduction post when I launched Max Frequency. This year, I want to highlight a specific passage within:
It also opens up the possibility for audio content if I ever get behind the mic again.
I got a bit ambitious going behind the mic again this year…But before all that, per tradition (because I can say that now), let’s look at the site’s numbers in 2021. For reference, 2020’s total site view count was 2,619 with 1,702 visitors and 260 articles published.
Total Site Views – 5,546
Total Site Visitors – 3,729
Most viewed articles:
The Home Page had 1,004 views
Analogue DAC Thoughts and Impressions – 603
My Journey to Playing with Super Power – Thoughts on the Super NT – 313
MiSTer FPGA Thoughts and Impressions – My Tool for Researching the Past – 280
Number per top countries:
USA – 3,438
UK – 344
Canada – 309
Most downloaded item:
Chapter Select Season 1 Announcement (CtS Edition) – 28,300~
Total Articles published – 304 (Plus 91 more imported from Go Left Gaming, PlayStation Insider, PlayStation Wire, and DualShockers)
The overall increase is more than double! It certainly helps having a back catalog of a year’s work for people to find while you create new things. Clearly, the big trend on my own site was FPGA gaming and those FPGA consoles that Analogue makes.
The article count nearly tripled, thanks to increased output on my end along with finally merging my previous online writing to Max Frequency. I felt like I wrote less this year, but it turns out I wrote 50 more articles than last year. Maybe that is in part to not having one 18,000 word story done in the year.
The most baffling number is the 28K downloads on the Chapter Select Season 1 Promo I uploaded to the Chasing the Stick feed to just cross promote the show. I talked about it briefly in the Chapter Select Season 1 look back post, but these numbers just don’t make sense. If anyone knows why this particular WordPress hosted podcast feed spiked, I’d love to know.
Speaking of Chapter Select, here are the overall numbers for both it and The Max Frequency Podcast. You can find more on Chapter Select‘s performance in the seasonal breakdowns (Season 2 – God of War will be live next Wednesday [01/12/22])
If you tally all the totals together (besides the mysterious 28K), over 12,300 people engaged with Max Frequency in some way this year. I’m super proud of these numbers. Really, I’d be psyched with just one person, because the element I am truly proud of is the work itself.
Here’s a small collection of the posts and projects I am most proud of throughout 2021. Year 2 had a theme of creativity. I wanted to expand back out of writing into podcasts and video. I did just that with two new shows and rediscovered creative vigor. Thank you for taking the time to read or listen to my work. I truly appreciate it and hope you have enjoyed. Onto Year 3!
The second of two podcasts I started this year, but its cool if I start with it, right? This was far and away my creative highlight of the year. It was engaging, rewarding, and satisfying to play, record, and produce the first two full seasons of Chapter Select. The pairing of Paper Mario and God of War is even better than we initially thought now that the year is over, I think. Very excited for this year’s seasons!
If Chapter Select was the cannonball of podcasting creativity for myself, then The Max Frequency Podcast was dipping my toes back into the podcast world. I am disappointed in myself that I wasn’t able to upkeep the original vision of three episodes a month, instead regressing back down to one a month. Expanding the pool of guests is still tough. I am happy to have put Behind the Pixel back out there and even touch base with some of that’s show’s guests for the new show. It’s comforting to have a neutral podcast feed that I can play around and experiment with.
A big plan I had for the site this year was to migrate to Squarespace and redesign the look; add some modern features that I’ve wanted from the beginning. None of that went according to plan, but it did lead me to finally merging my past writing at my first blog Go Left Gaming along with shared freelance posts, all searchable in an archive. This then led me to reviving the Millennial Gaming Speakpodcast feed and creating back-dated posts to save nearly 150 episodes where Logan Moore and myself cut our podcasting teeth.
Reviews Thoughts and Impressions
Scattered throughout the year, I reviewed some games, a piece of hardware, and another book! All except for Death’s Door, I was fortunate enough to be given review copies. I’ve never taken these opportunities for granted and am always humbled that folks would be willing to work with me like this, especially on my own. Here are the reviews, or as I call them, Thoughts and Impressions, I wrote this year.
The major theme in my game collection this year was preservation combined with accessibility. It all started when the PSN store was going to be shut down for the PS3 and Vita. Thankfully, that decision was reversed, but it did lead me to finding ways to back up my save data and games. Nearly my entire retro collection is now backed-up digitally.
Then I went down the MiSTer rabbit hole, before prices spiked and availability was scarce. I absolutely love the MiSTer project. With the PSX core on the horizon, there really is not a better all-in-one machine.
Analogue has had quite the 2021 with delays, restocks, and finally delivering the first wave of Pocket consoles. My top articles this year were posts I wrote last year about Analogue. People are passionate about this company and FPGA tech. If I had to pick one Analogue post from this year, it’d be the deep dive into Analogue OS and trying to gauge Analogue’s first real software offering. Right now though, it’s all just a check waiting to be cashed on the Pocket sometime here in January 2022.
Sony has provided more details on the next iteration of PlayStation VR, including officially calling it PS VR2. At CES 2022, the company provided hardware specs on the headset for the first time and the previously revealed controllers. The headset sounds great! I wanted to take a look at the specs and compare it to what I’d consider the top of the line current VR headsets — the Meta Quest 2 and the Valve Index.
The Quest 2 is by far the most popular VR headset thanks to its wide availability and ease of use; just slide of the headset and go. The lack of friction is paramount to the Quest 2’s dominance.
The Valve Index is the powerhouse VR headset, even after nearly its release three years ago. I’ve not had the fortune of trying one out yet, but as far as I can tell, it is still the top dog in the PC space, possibly paired alongside a Quest 2 with the PC link cable.
Here’s a quick summary of those headsets main technical specifications, along with the PS VR1:
Quest 2 has a resolution of 1832 x 1920 per eye with an LCD panel. It supports 72/90/120 Hz refresh rates, with the 120 being an experimental feature as of publication. It’s Field-of-View (FOV) is 90°. The Quest 2 requires no wires for standalone play and comes with two controllers. It uses inside-out tracking via four external facing cameras to gauge where your controllers or hands are in the space. There are built-in speakers. The Quest 2 is currently sold for $299 or $399, depending on the storage size chosen. It was originally released in 2020.
Valve Index has a resolution of 1440 x 1600 per eye with an LCD panel. It supports a wider range of refresh rates at 80/90/120/144 Hz. It’s FOV is 130°. It connects to a powerful enough PC via one cable. The tracking is done with base stations, providing room-scale VR. There are built-in speakers as well. The price ranges from $500 to $1000: the headset alone costs $500, controllers $279, and a single base station costs $149 (two are required). The complete bundle costs $1,000. The Index was originally released in 2019.
PlayStation VR1 has a resolution of 960 x 1080 per eye with an OLED panel. It supports 90/120 Hz refresh rates. It’s FOV is 100°. It connects to a PS4 and a necessary processor unit. The tracking is done with lights on the headset and controllers through the 3D camera accessory for the PS4. There are no built-in speakers. The price started at $400 with no camera or controllers, but is currently bundled with the required accessories and a couple of games for $350. PlayStation VR was originally released in 2016.
The Quest 2 and Index will reach two and three years of life here in 2022, respectfully. The tech is older, especially in a rapidly developing tech space. Their viability is a testament to their design with the foresight of where this space was going in the near-future, particularly in the realm of tracking hands accurately and reducing the barrier to playing in VR.
Here are the specs for PS VR2:
PS VR2 will have a resolution of 2000 x 2040 per eye with an OLED panel, providing 4K HDR picture quality. It will support 90/120 Hz refresh rates. The FOV is 110°. It will connect directly to a PS5 via one USB-C cable. PS VR2 will have inside-out tracking and eye-tracking. It’s price is not yet announced. It does not seem to have built-in speaker, but it will have haptic feedback built into the headset as well as the new PS VR2 Sense controllers. It does not have an official release date yet, but I suspect it will be released in 2022.
The leap in technical specifications over all three of these headsets makes sense for a new consumer headset in 2022. As the technology gets better and smaller, more can fit inside a head-mounted device.
The standout features are eye-tracking and haptics in the headset itself. I’ve yet to experience eye-tracking in a VR headset — I’m not even sure of a consumer headset capable of it — but the promise of a new, natural form of input is exciting in a literally immersive gaming experience. Moments like looking in the mirror of Batman: Arkham VR can have added realism not previously possible.
The PlayStation 5 is leaning greatly into added layers of immersion through 3D audio and the insane haptics of the DualSense. It makes sense that the new PS VR2 Sense controllers would feature similar haptics, but I was surprised to read that the headset itself will also have haptic motors in it. I am incredibly curious to feel this in action. It’s not quite a synesthesia suit, but this combined with the controllers definitely sounds like a major step forward in physical feedback.
On paper, PS VR2 sounds like the next generation of VR, not just for Sony, but the current landscape of consumer, gaming-focused VR. Meta is hard at work on their Cambria project, which promises features like eye-tracking and face-tracking. Who knows when and if Valve will make a new generation of the Index or if that expansion slot will ever be truly tapped into. I am eager to try out PS VR2 and get my head and hands on one as soon as I can.
The Season 2 finale takes our hero Kratos to an entirely new realm. After nearly 15 years, Sony Santa Monica Studio attempted to prove both the God of War franchise and the studio itself could change. Max and Logan examine this pivotal title to find out if change is for the better.
What a transparent and honest way to kickstart 2022. Carlos’ words ring true with my own story of realizing I didn’t want to play the game of chasing games journalism. I have a passion for writing and video games, not the game of making it my job (as that game currently stands). Carlos has worked extremely hard and is fortunate enough to have actually make producing these covers his job. He’s made a big move to start 2022, which sounds like the right one after listening to him.
The end of the Greek Pantheon is finally here. Kratos brings Mt. Olympus crumbling down as he extracts his revenge on his father, Zeus. Max and Logan rip through Sony Santa Monica’s version of Greece one final time to discuss where Kratos’ journey has taken him and see where he was left before entering the realm of Midgard.
After a year and a half, my Analogue Pocket finally arrived. I am stoked to have yet another way to play Game Boy games at high-fidelity, a pursuit I have been on for over 15 years. It’s not the end-all-be-all of course, but it is another tool in my video game console tool belt.
I wanted to whip up some initial impressions, instead of reviewing it full stop. Let’s use that to segue into the first takeaway.
The Pocket has uncashed checks. At launch, there are no third-party cores, major features are pending on AnalogueOS 1.1, and Analogue’s own promised core support via adapters. The future, like a modern console (or game) is contingent on software support. I’m confident it will be delivered. Heck, the jailbreak could be dropping any day now. It’s still early, but after two years of hype, I was hopeful for more at launch.
This also applies to the Dock. I was shocked to find out the Dock does not support Analogue’s own DAC on day one. There are no Display Modes on the Dock. Settings feel like the bare minimum. I know the Dock was supposed to launch after the Pocket released. It’s safe to assume the delays allowed Analogue to launch them simultaneously, but the Dock feels unfinished. It performs as advertised, but it’s a far cry from Analogue’s usual baseline.
Why is there no Game Boy link cable support while docked? Maybe it can come someday via UBS. I tried using a USB-C extension cable, but all it did was charge the Pocket. Someone on reddit claims they got one to work, but haven’t shared which cable or shown proof. All I want is the Tingle Tuner in 1080p to capture it…
My last complaint at launch is why no Phil Fish boot sequence? The home consoles from Analogue all have neat boot animations with a pleasing tune. I really wish there was more than a white Analogue logo. I miss the Game Boy boot as well, but I understand why that can’t be officially included for copyright reasons. Maybe with the jailbreak I can get my chime back.
I’ll throw out one specific praise of the console: the Display Modes absolutely deliver. I learned from My Life in Gaming’s review that due to the displays high pixel density, Analogue is able to use the pixels and sub-pixels to create these modes. It’s not a mask or filter. I’m truly floored by their performance. I do wish we could tweak them or create our own. Maybe that comes someday with software.
The display truly is unlike anything else. You really couldn’t ask for a better display, especially in the current market of replacement IPS panels.
The Pocket is solid hardware that is now living under the cloud of future software to truly unlock its full potential. With orders backed into 2023, we’ll see what kind of experience those owners will have on their own launch of the console.
A copy of Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon was provided for review by Yacht Club Games.
When Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon was revealed last year, I saw a puzzle game featuring Shovel Knight and his pals (and frenemies). I thought that it was a neat spin-off idea for the franchise. The game reminded me of the matching, explosive games my wife plays on her phone everyday. Although I’ve personally never ventured into that realm of puzzle games, I was excited to give it a shot with a band of characters I am quite fond of. After the reveal, I just waited for release, knowing that I’d be down with whatever game had Shovel Knight slapped on the box.
Nearly two years later, I was graciously given a review code and was excited to dig into this new block-destroying puzzle game. I had an impending trip and I do not own a laptop, so I only could dabble a bit before leaving.
Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon is not the game I thought it was.
It’s a rougelike/lite, puzzle, combat game that has been kicking my butt from the very beginning. The buttkicking has diminished slightly as I have developed my skill-gluts and tweaked the gameplay to a more puzzle-focused style. There’s been a personal learning curve, not just in the Puzzle Dungeon, but also in the realm of PC gaming, which has been a convoluted mess of its own that I’ve tried to solve.
Pocket Dungeon puts your character into a square grid that fills up with blocks, enemies, bombs, and treasure. You move around bashing into enemies and items to clear a quota to find the exit. Enemies hit back though! Everything has a health meter and you have got to keep an eye on your own while deftly moving around the grid.
The real trick is chaining together your targets. Any connected tiles that are the same enemy/item/block will all take damage together. You can easily wipe out 10 Beetos with two quick bumps. As you move, more tiles fall from above, forcing you to manage and line up chains as best you can.
Based off how many lives I’ve lost, I’m not very good at the whole battle aspect of this game. Up front, you can chose a single stock “roguelite” where you lose the run if you die or the board fills up or an infinite stock “puzzle” mode where you can die however much you want, but lose if the board fills up, and it fills up fast while you respawn.
I tried the single stock approach first. That lasted all of maybe two runs. I did up the stock count, but that also did not last. I just opted for the infinite stock approach, which I definitely prefer and recommend.
Having infinite lives helped me not feel so bad when I’d blow a run. Sure, I still had to start over, but it felt more like “I could have solved that puzzle,” instead of “why did that kill me?!” This was definitely a “me” mentality.
Every few levels there is a boss fight, which is quite fun. They’ve captured the spirit and movement of familiar foes, as well as create all new knights that feel fresh. If you beat a boss, you unlock them back at the base camp to play as. Each knight has unique perks and drawbacks that keep the roster balanced, as well as adaptable to your play style. Scrap Knight let’s you bag an item for later, so you best believe I snag potions for when I stop paying attention to my health bar. I wonder if you can bag an enemy…
Another element that helps me not feel so bad is how short the levels actually are. At my level of play, I seem to be averaging 1:30 per level. It never feels that long though. The pace is zippy; making digging in for another run an enticing proposition.
The biggest deterrent for starting another run is the lack of a midrun save option. If I was playing on Switch or PlayStation, I could put the console in its rest mode and go on with my day. On my Mac, there’s no option for that. I guess I could minimize the application, but that leaves the play-clock running (I learned that lesson with my 20 hours in Emily is Away <3). I often found myself with 5 minutes here and there, but not willing to commit to a run I’d have to quit due to a time constraint.
Let’s continue down this rabbit hole of PC gaming: PC gaming is complicated. I kept having to remap the various controllers I synced up, because a keyboard is far too foreign a control scheme for me (why use three fingers to move when I can use one?).
Then, somehow, I ended up with two entirely different saves that will load depending on the method of launching the game.
I decided to move the game application itself from this Steam directory to my own applications folder. Yes, I know, bad idea. I did this so I wouldn’t have to launch the bloated and slow application known as Steam. That works just fine. When I realized that Steam handles the updating, not the app itself, I downloaded a new copy and just created a shortcut to launch from Launch Pad. I accepted starting over from scratch: I knew I screwed up.
If I launch the game before Steam, my original save loads in. I deleted that copy of the app. I have no earthly idea how it is still here. If I launch Steam and then the app with the shortcut I made, I get the new second (and now much further along) save. It’s a mess that just would not exist on a console. It’s a mess I couldn’t even make on a console. End rant.
At least playing on my iMac enticed me to try multiple controllers. I ended up testing the game with a SNES controller, a Genesis 6-button, and an arcade stick. I was surprised to prefer the 6-button over the SNES. The softer D-Pad and the button layout felt better for this kind of game. Although, the best was the arcade stick. The click of the stick with the big buttons was ultra satisfying for this type of gameplay. I could easily see this being in a cabinet somewhere drawing players in with all the gems, treasure, and enemies. With the short level playtime and difficulty curve, this would totally suck quarters out of people’s pockets.
In the end, the whole roguelike and lite genre is one I struggle with regularly. I dipped out of Hades the first time due to it being the same mindless and easy thing over and over with a narrative hook that failed to sink into me. When I came back on PS5, I played for the trophies and ultimately quit that too because Achilles just would not confess his love.
I quit Returnal because I am just really bad and losing is such a defeating feeling (duh).
Even though Hollow Knight isn’t rogue at all, I stopped because I kept losing my spirit and money at the same spot over and over.
But why do I love games like Tetris, Resogun, or Nex Machina? How is an arcade game or a puzzle game any different? Is Tetris a roguelike game?
I think a part of it is the puzzle nature of them. Tetris, obviously, is a straight up puzzle game, if not the puzzle game. Resogun is memorizing patterns and triggers for saving all the little humans. The puzzle angle feels conquerable. I can solve this.
That’s what makes Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon stand out. It balances those two genres expertly, giving plenty of players reasons to play just one more time. It’s this fusion of game types that celebrates both. The combination actually makes both elements better than if it was just a puzzle game or just a rogue game. That’s no small feat and the team at Yacht Club Games and Vine solved their own puzzle dungeon to deliver a special game.
Both excellent reviews from great people. The examples in each video are so, so good.
My main takeaway from both of these (and others) is that the full promise of the Pocket is over the horizon. Quite a few of the Analogue OS features like the Library and Save States are coming next month, according to My Life in Gaming. Delaying these features to version 1.1 was previously announced, but I have been surprised at the feature set in version 1.0.
Even more surprising is the lack of features currently in the Dock. At launch, it doesn’t even support Analogue’s own DAC. The Dock was originally scheduled to launch after the Pocket. Maybe after so many delays for the console itself, Analogue saw fit to launch them together, which could have led to rushing the Dock’s feature set out of the box? That is all speculation on my part, but I wasn’t anticipating needing a firmware update via USB to the Dock.
It also seems that there is no additional cores from third party developers at the ready. I’m curious how long it will take to port those from the MiSTer or create new ones. I’m itching to see how SNES games look and run on the Pocket. Plus, there is the looming cloud of an unofficial “official” jailbreak to allow for ROMs to run off the SD card, which would be required for third-party developed cores outside of the handheld console space.
It sounds like the Pocket is solid out of the box, but with a lot of unfulfilled promises looming. I’m confident they’ll come to fruition, but I am surprised and disappointed that more of them were not fulfilled by day one.