If a Tree That Was Never Announced Falls in a Forest Does It Make a Sound? – Daring Fireball

★ If a Tree That Was Never Announced Falls in a Forest Does It Make a Sound? by John Gruber for Daring Fireball

More John Gruber input on the Apple AR/VR headset. Sounds like the external battery is gospel for gen one. More interesting is Gruber’s understanding about the outward facing display and the requirement for external headphones:

My understanding is that there is no front-facing screen, but that Apple’s team had long joked about such an idea, and perhaps someone who heard the joking mistook the idea as real and passed it along to Ma. It sure sounds like a joke to me, but maybe my understanding is wrong. Unless I’m forgetting something, Gurman has never reported on a front-facing screen. (Also, the headset has built-in headphones — why in the world would a $3,000 gadget that goes around your head need external headphones?)

Kinda kills my most of my headline from last week. The headphones bit feels mute to me. I don’t recall reports saying there were no built-in speakers, but rather that the only option for headphones would be AirPods. Currently in the Rumor Mill, that stands.

Anyway. Something is definitely coming from Apple from this team this year, and I get the sense the company thinks it’s going to be something special. If true, that means it will likely also not be what most people outside the company are expecting. Outsiders inevitably base expectations on the current state of the art. But the iPhone was not an iPod phone. Apple Watch was not a Fitbit with a higher price. If Apple is still Apple, this first headset should be much more than a slightly nicer version of VR headsets as we know them.

I’m inclined to agree with Gruber. The real pinch hitter for Apple is their marriage of hardware and software. That union is vital for immersion in VR.

Two days in a row now, Apple has made hardware announcements. New M2 chips, Macs, and now the revival of the HomePod. They seem to be clearing the deck. It won’t be long now until a spring event invite hits the press’ inbox.

Big Three Predictions 2023

I won’t lie; I have struggled with this year’s annual predictions. 2023 feels like an late-generation year with big pop off titles announced and a foggy back half. Nintendo is in Year Six of the Switch. Microsoft and Sony are breaking the chains to decade old hardware with fewer cross-generation games.

Microsoft has been in a Game Pass fog with no real first-party substance. Sony is launching a new peripheral in a few weeks with little to no fanfare. Nintendo is quiet beyond Tears of the Kingdom. The companies aren’t giving me fertile soil to plant my annual predictions into this year.

On top of that, my records haven’t been solid since I started Max Frequency. You can see the previous years and their performance at your own risk—2020, 2021, and 2022.

For those that are new to my annual predictions (or for those that need a reminder), I have only one rule to score points in my self-made game:

  • Everything written down must come true for the prediction to be counted as correct.

It is an easy rule to follow, but a hard one to nail. I have also have an over-the-top prediction dubbed the “Kiefer”prediction. Named after the wild fact that Kiefer Sutherland was the voice of Venom Snake in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. I stole this name from my pal Peter Spezia, who is far more clever than I am.

As is tradition, it is time for me review 2022’s annual predictions and see how I faired. Lord, help me.

Nintendo

  1. The sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild launches in 2022.
  2. Game Boy (GB/C/A) games join Nintendo Switch Online.
  3. A new Donkey Kong game is released on Nintendo Switch.

Well, turns out my plan to out zag Nintendo’s zig turned out with them out zagging me. What I wrote below that prediction was the correct answer.

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!

For (0) points indeed.

The Game Boy felt like such a slam dunk given the rumors. But somehow Nintendo has the online multiplayer exclusive license for GoldenEye 007. 🤷🏼‍♂️

Donkey Kong December may have just come to an end, but Nintendo didn’t celebrate at all.

PlayStation

  1. Insomniac Games will announce a new game for PlayStation VR2.
  2. Naughty Dog’s new game will not be released in 2022. This is not The Last of Us remake rumor swirling around.
  3. 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.”

The roll out of PS VR2 news was strange throughout 2022. It’s hard to believe the next gen of virtual reality is just one month away. I still think Insomniac will crank out a VR game given their pedigree and efficient output, but launch was not the time for it.

The Last of Us Part I was released. Thankfully (for point’s sake), Naughty Dog’s multiplayer game did not hit shelves. I suspect we’ll hear more about that game in 2023. I doubt we hear about The Last of Us Part III until 2025.

My prediction was the smart move to make. The new tiers of PlayStation+ are a mess, but Sony gonna Sony.

Xbox

  1. Starfield is delayed.
  2. The Last Night by Oddtales gets a release date and launches in Game Pass.
  3. Game Pass and/or xCloud will come to a competitor’s platform.

This was a total “knew it in my gut” prediction. No way a Bethesda RPG could have a release date locked before Halo Infinite, which was a 2021 release, had a date. Xbox needs first party exclusives. I hope they turn the ship around in 2023, even if Starfield is not for me.

I give up predicting The Last Night finally dropping. I guess that means it’ll be out this year.

I suppose Samsung is a competitor of Microsoft? Pity point please?

And to round off 2021, here was my Kiefer Prediction:

Both Nintendo and PlayStation will provide access to older games and generations not previously available via their subscription programs.

If I had just dropped the Nintendo requirement…I definitely double dipped with both PlayStation and Nintendo offering more retro games.

All together, I got a merciful 2 out of 10. What an abysmal showing this year. I really need to start doing better. Speaking of this year’s predictions, let’s do it!

Nintendo

  1. Both the rumored Switch ports for Metroid Prime trilogy and the Zelda HD games will finally be released.
  2. Game Boy or Gamecube will come to NSO.
  3. A Kid Icarus game will soar onto Switch.

I had the toughest time cooking up Nintendo predictions. The end of their year is shrouded in mystery. The Switch feels like it is nearing the end of its life, so big pop-off games feel unlikely.

I am banking on the endless slew of rumors surrounding these two ports. Zelda HD does mean Wind Waker and Twilight Princess. If that comes to pass, all of the 3D Zelda games will be on one console. Metroid Prime is also floating out there in space. My order for Metroid Prime 4 – which was placed on August 26, 2018 – was just delayed to arrive on December 31, 2023. Here’s to hoping Nintendo even mentions the game.

I’m really cheesing my way to points with the use of “or” here. There were the rumors of Game Boy titles hitting Nintendo’s subscription service awhile ago. I still find it bonkers that Gamecube has never been apart of Nintendo’s “virtual console” strategy. If Gamecube arrives, the official Wavebird could rise from the ashes. I can’t stand third-party GC controllers.

Kid Icarus feels like an end-of-console IP these days. Sorry to sound harsh. There were rumors that the 3DS game was being remade in HD for the Switch. I would love to see Nintendo start remaking 3DS games for modern hardware now that the stores are shut down.

PlayStation

  1. Dreams comes to PS5, PS VR2, and PC.
  2. Bloodborne is announced for PS5.
  3. Resistance is revived as PS VR2 game.

My PlayStation predictions are shorter than last year’s guesses, but they are clear in their conciseness.

Dreams feels like a slam dunk “I guarantee it” kind of prediction. I’m shocked it hasn’t happened yet. Sony’s embrace of the PC market could help Dreams excel in a way it can’t on PS4 and PS5 alone. More robust tools and features could be implemented. Sony invested so much into developing Dreams and letting Media Molecule spend years doing so. They need to spread the toolset and platform around.

I’m giving into the people’s dreams here. With Elden Ring cleaning up so well last year, I feel like Sony could fill the 2023 void by offering exclusive FromSoftware action. I am playing it safe with my language here. “Announced” could indicate a PS5 patch, version, remake, or sequel. It’s one of my carefully worded predictions of the year. The risk is all in the IP. I gotta try and get some points.

This is my double-down prediction. I believe Insomniac is working on a PS VR2 game. They have the talent and knowhow. I like to think Sony cares about PS VR2, despite the lacking promotional campaign and news. So I went specific with what Insomniac could be making. Resistance 3 supported 3D and the PS3 Move Sharp Shooter. That’s sort of half-way there?

Xbox

  1. Game Pass has a price increase.
  2. Starfield launches in the summer.
  3. We FINALLY see Perfect Dark.

I promise I came into this year wanting to make positive predictions for Xbox. Let’s start with the sole negative one.

Game Pass Ultimate is not sustainable at $14.99 a month. Word is Microsoft is getting ready to cut 5% of their staff. Microsoft needs to cut cost and increase revenue. Game Pass cannot be cheap for Microsoft either. So I suspect that alongside the $70 Xbox games, Game Pass will also bump up in price.

Time for positivity! I think Starfield hits the front half of the year. I could even see it landing the week of E3, close to Final Fantasy XVI. Now, searching for confirmed launch windows did crop up a rumor that Starfield has been internally delayed to the latter half of the year. I’ll stick to my guns, but Bethesda probably needs all the time they can get. Xbox needs this one.

I just really want to see what The Initiative has been cooking. Come on.

Kept you waiting, huh? It’s time for my Kiefer-level prediction!

Both the Factions multiplayer game and The Last of Us Part II launch on PC, with Factions launching day-and-date with the PS5 version. Factions will have both a free-to-play element and a physical version (for PS5). There will be a season pass. The main narrative of Factions will be 20+ hours of game play.

It is the tenth anniversary of The Last of Us this year. Part I hits PC in March and I think Part II is not far behind. Sony has embraced the PC market. It will have been three years since release and Naughty Dog’s engine has now been piped over to PC. With the show, the remake, and the anniversary, I feel like this year is the time to complete the pair on the PC market.

I also think the Factions game is due out in 2023. It has been in development alongside Part II, coming up on seven years of active work. Sony is planning on releasing 12 live service games by 2025. This is one of them. I believe that a PC audience is vital to reaching critical mass for these types of titles. The best way to reach that audience is to launch alongside the console versions. Hermen Hulst suggested that launch day-and-date would be possible for their live games in October 2022.

“I think going forward, we’ll see at least a year between our own platform, PlayStation, and on the PC platform…possibly with the exception of live service games.”

Another critical angle is free-to-play. Look, I will happily give Naughty Dog $70 for Factions, but I don’t know a single PC gamer that will pay full price for anything(?), especially from AAA developers. I suspect Steam has influenced the “games gotta be cheap” mindset. There should be some sort of free hook to snag players. Sony will be competing for players’ time from games like Fortnite. Competing with free is difficult. Revenue can (and will) come through enticing players and season passes are a part of that. Gotta look good in your post-apocalyptic game.

The last element is the Factions narrative. I think this game is huge. I expect all the traditional Naughty Dog trappings of cutscenes and set pieces. Multiplayer story moments can hit hard, even when they are primarily gameplay focused. The raids in Destiny come to my mind. I don’t expect Naughty Dog to have puzzle-filled raids, but bringing players together to experience moments like that can be powerful. Those moments are also a goal for the studio.

“It might start with an idea world or an idea of a mechanic or, even more recently, a certain feeling that we’re after. And then we will explore, okay, ‘what kind of world can evoke that feeling? What kind of mechanics can evoke that feeling? What kind of psychological situations can we put multiple people in that speak back to the theme that we’re after…”

Buckle up for Naughty Dog to go hard in the paint.

That will do it for my 2023 predictions. I feel confident, but I feel that way every year. We shall see how the year shakes out. Here’s to a big, bold 2023!

The Last of Us Ep. 1 – “When You’re Lost in the Darkness” Thoughts & Impressions

We have entered the PlayStation era of television. What was once the swan song of the PS3 is now leading a flock of games-to-television adaptions. The bar has been set high by a multitude of factors. The Last of Us games are two of the highest rated games of all time. The show is apart of HBO’s premium lineup, with leading Game of Thrones alum to boot.

There is quite a bit riding on the wings of The Last of Us‘ success, not just for Naughty Dog, HBO, etc., but for the future direction of PlayStation as a whole. With four movies and three TV shows in the works, ranging from Twisted Metal to God of War to Horizon, PlayStation is investing in expanding their IP outside of video games.

I mention all this to convey one thing—pressure. The Last of Us has never known life without pressure. It was a gamble for Naughty Dog to split in to two teams at peak popularity. After smashing every goalpost, work on the sequel began. That development was long and filled with strife as the team chased ambition with a bold, divisive story and gameplay direction. Now there is the studio’s first standalone multiplayer game, also set in the world of fungi, and the rumored Part III. And now this television adaption is shouldering a part of this legacy.

Pressure.

In the world of the game/show, Joel doesn’t know life without pressure. A single-father raising a daughter, only to have her ripped away at the beginning of a global pandemic. An older brother trying to help and keep the younger alive. A smuggler dancing the delicate line of staying out trouble and staying aloft. And at the end of episode one, a man charged with delivering the cure of the disease to the Massachusetts State House.

Pressure.

All of the main characters in the show life under pressure. Sarah worries for an overworked father struggling to makes ends meet. Tess is trying to keep her and Joel alive. Robert tries to sell bad merchandise–twice. Marlene is leading a failing rebellion when the possible cure falls into her hands. Ellie is charged with knowledge and a secret.

Pressure.

To top it all off, there’s the expectation put there by the world, the fans, and myself. Expectation is dangerous. If there is too much and the whole thing will be crushed; too little and it can swell to impossible size the next time around. Expectation can get the better of all those involved.

Pressure.

Despite all of this weighing down on the franchise, the companies, the creativity, and (most importantly) the people involed, the first episode does not crack. The tone, emotional, and captivation are all there. It’s a strong start, but that’s just where we’re at—the start. I was eager to watch it all unfold before the premiere, but now I am even more so. I hope the expectation doesn’t get the better of me.


So, that wasn’t the direction I envisioned taking that review, but here we are! My personal goal is to review each episode this season. I’ve never reviewed a TV show (in the traditional manner), so I thought this would be a good creative exercise for the year. I know the review above doesn’t dig into the episode itself, so I wanted a list of the bits and bobs I noticed in the episode. I may do this with each episode. We’ll see.

  • Poor Jimmy was rewritten to be the owner of the burning farm, rather than the neighbor that turns.
  • I had not heard that spores were swapped with tendrils. I’m not thrilled with this decision from a artistic perspective, but I do understand the logic behind it. The clouds of spores offer such a visually striking opportunity. The gas masks are gritty and it provides an in-world way to convey Ellie’s immunity to other characters without having to explain the whole scar. On the other side though, animating tendrils in the video game would have been way harder than spore clouds. The inverse applies to the show, the spore clouds would keep things foggy and hide actors’ faces, while tendrils provide a spooky visual that conveys danger. C’est la vie.
  • The makeup and site design are spot on. The infected caked in the wall is stunning. I cannot wait to see Clickers next week.
  • I loved the twitchy, fast nature of the Runners. Feels like the right adaption of them to film.
  • Marlene and Ellie’s relationship has been (at least so far) fundamentally changed. In the game and the comic, Ellie has known Marlene her whole life. It’s no mystery to Ellie why she is in the FEDRA school/orphanage. Marlene stills knows Ellie in this adaption, but I feel like keeping Ellie in the dark her whole life until this immunity revelation robs Ellie of that direct line to her mother. It isolates her and her drive to do good in an effort to make her mother Anna and Marlene proud.
  • Having a truck battery be the merchandise from Robert is better than weapons we never see. It ties into the motivation in Bill’s Town (assuming the show sticks with that) and with Marlene’s need to get out of the city. It’s more cohesive.
  • Joel is the little spoon.
  • Tess came off as subdued to me. She wasn’t as powerful as her in-game incarnation. The show has her a prisoner of Robert at the start. The game, Tess was no one’s prisoner and was a far clearer leader in the community. This version is more broken and therefore probably more human. It may grow on me here, but how much time do they really have left?
  • Bella Ramsey nails Ellie. Her delivery of a few lines got me to laugh out loud. Captivating performance and introduction. Excited to see her’s and Ellie’s range be explored.
  • Joel was the character I had the most issues with. Pedro is fantastic; all my nitpicks stem from their reworking off the character.
    • Joel has clear ties to Tommy still. Heck, his drive to leave Boston in the first place is to go save Tommy. Their falling out in the game is a creative void were the player imagination soars. How dark was the time for Joel as a Hunter that it drove Tommy away? Now, I’m not sure how fractured their relationship is, especially if Tommy is at least checking in with his brother. It’s different. We’ll see how it pays off.
    • I don’t care for Joel drinking and taking drugs. This is a clear break for me from the game where he doesn’t “want…one” when Tess offers whiskey. This feels like a crutch to convey sad dad energy. Joel was absorbed in his own depression just fine in the game. I wouldn’t surprise me if Joel did have a substance abuse issue in the past of the game, but not partaking conveys a much lonelier place and the show has lost that.
    • The snapping and murder of the guard also felt out of touch with the source material. I do appreciate the situational PTSD and conveying that. It works for the show. But Joel defending Ellie felt too soon and conveys to the audience care for the girl he shouldn’t quite have yet. Perhaps they’ll weave more PTSD scenarios that help Ellie peel back Joel’s layers. It is certainly a change forced by being an adaption. Now, we need to see how they leverage the medium.

The Last of Us (HBO) is Almost Here – Andy Gavin

The Last of Us (HBO) is Almost Here by Andy Gavin

I’m not going to spoil anything, but I just wanted to say that what I saw was pretty darn awesome — flawless really. Not that I’m unbiased, but the tone was a pitch-perfect match to the games. And, hey, the music was the same — which is incredibly important in forging an emotional tie in for fans.

I love that Andy Gavin was invited to the premiere. He and Jason may have left Naughty Dog almost 20 years ago, but they are still thought of as the company makes new things. I wonder if Jason was also in attendance (I would assume he was invited too).

The show is upon us. Only 8ish hours to go as of this writing. I am excited and nervous. Back when I did karate as a kid, before tests my sensei would say “being nervous just means you care.” I care about The Last of Us. I am curious about its implementation, removing the “on the stick” storytelling will be a fascinating hurdle to see the team tackle.

Apple’s Outward Focus to VR

Knee-Jerk Reactions and Thoughts Regarding The Information’s Latest Report on Apple’s Upcoming Headset by John Gruber for Daring Fireball

Apple Will Talk Up Its Mixed-Reality Headset in 2023 But Not Much Else by Mark Gurman for Bloomberg

2023 is going to be a big "VR from companies that Max likes." PS VR2 is a whopping six weeks away and Apple is heavily rumored to make their VR/AR headset debut this year.

Last week, The Information had a report1 on the new product line from Apple and Gruber gave his aptly named knee-jerk response to said report. Since then, Mark Gurman also wrote some news about the impending headset. Procrastination wins again?

I recommend you read both articles for yourself, but I wanted to comb through this smattering of news and comment on it myself. Let’s hop to it.

[Gurman] Up until fairly recently, Apple had aimed to introduce the headset in January 2023 and ship it later this year. Now the company is aiming to unveil it this spring ahead of the annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June, I’m told.

Sounds like March-April is the event timing, looking back at previous spring events. I agree the headset has to be unveiled before WWDC this year. Announcing new hardware and a new OS at WWDC would rob the event of all other conversation.

[Gurman] Apple has already shared the device with a small number of high-profile software developers for testing, letting them get started on third-party apps. The device’s operating system, dubbed “Borealis” inside the company, will be publicly named xrOS

I like Borealis. I don’t care for xrOS. It feels odd in the lineup—macOS, iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, watchOS, and xrOS. I had to look up what "XR" represented in the VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality, and MR (mixed reality) space. Apparently, it just encompasses all three of those.

[Gurman] With the current plan, Apple could introduce the device to consumers — likely under the name Reality Pro…

It seems strange to me for Apple to introduce a "Pro" named device before a non-pro version. I don’t think the company has ever done that before (they have!2). Now to pivot to Ma and Gruber.

[Ma] For example, the headset will use small motors to automatically adjust its lenses, ensuring that the wearer has the best possible viewing experience. A physical dial on the headset will allow users to quickly toggle between complete immersion in VR and the ability to see their surroundings.

[Gruber] A “digital crown” -like dial for switching between AR and VR jibes with what I’ve heard, too.

While this sounds elegant, the crown is going to have to be placed in an easy to access spot on the device, possibly even larger than the digital crown on the Apple Watch and AirPods Max. Tapping around looking for a dial with the headset on your face won’t be a good experience, especially if you are trying to transition between AR and VR. I find myself running my fingers along the side of my Quest 2 looking for the headphone jack or the power button.

If the dial allows for a blended, smooth transition, that’ll be neat. If it acts more like a switch, how is that any better than double-tapping the side of the Quest 2 for pass-through mode?3 The Quest 2’s (and PS VR2’s) black-and-white pass through isn’t exciting; it’s functional. With Apple tackling both realities, they need to have color.

[Ma] As of last year, the headset used an external battery pack tethered by cable as opposed to a battery integrated into the headband. The design choice has been controversial among Apple’s engineers given the company’s preference for cable-free designs.

[Gruber] …I’m in no way prejudging Apple’s headset — which I know very little about — but a battery pack tethered via a cable sounds to me like a deal-breaker. Either Ma is wrong, Apple is about to jump the shark, or this device is going to be so utterly compelling that a tethered battery is worth the hassle.

Cables are the most cumbersome element of engaging with VR. The Quest 2’s wireless nature is its most compelling feature. Being able to go in and out by just putting on and taking off the headset is the lowest barrier to entry and Apple should be striving for integrated power.

The trade off for a cable is raw power. PS VR1 required one cable that split into two from the headset into a processor pox that split the HDMI signal and had it’s own dedicated power. Now PS VR2 has one single cable. That is tremendously enticing, since the PlayStation consoles for both those headsets handled the actual game rendering power. Apple attaching a battery back, while would increase single run usage, isn’t bumping up the technical chops of the headset itself.

[Ma] Apple’s headset is also expected to be far more expensive than most of the company’s other devices, as well as other VR headsets: It has discussed pricing it around $3,000 or more depending on its configuration, according to four people with knowledge of the conversations.

[Gruber] It was widely reported in the run-up to the iPad’s debut that it would start at $1,000, but in fact started at just $500. But even if off by a factor of 2, $1,500 would be pricey. If it really does cost $3,000, I don’t think that’s a deal-breaker, but it’d be a sign that the platform is still years away from large-scale adoption.

$3,000 is a hard no for me at launch. $1,500 is a big ask (and my wife would probably say no). If these are the prices in play, Apple’s headsets won’t be adopted on a large scale by general consumers at the start, like Gruber says.

[Ma] The headset has inward-facing displays for each eye and a large outward-facing display on the front of the device. The external display can show the facial expressions of the person wearing the headset, along with other types of imagery, to people around the user, which is meant to reduce the isolation users might otherwise feel when wearing the device.

It’s an interesting idea to try and combat the odd feeling folks around the headset user may feel, but I fail to see how this helps the wearer. Eye-tracking is becoming a standard feature in VR headsets.4 So far, the feature has been targeted at user input and experience (navigating UI, foveated rendering, accurate facial representation in-game, etc.). I’m not sure if focusing efforts on the outward-facing experience should be a primary focus. Comfort for the non-user would come with more and more people using VR/AR devices.

[Ma] Third-party bluetooth wireless headphones won’t work well with the headset as this results in too much lag between what users see on the screen and what they hear. There also isn’t an audio jack on the device to plug in wired headphones.

[Gruber] Wait, is Ma writing for The Verge or for The Information?

I appreciate the joke, but a headphone jack is tremendously helpful for immersion. Audio lag can pull you right out of VR. Why be averted to a wired headset when there is reportedly a battery pack attached via cable? Since third-party wireless headphones are reportedly too janky, this only leaves AirPods. The noise-cancelling on the Pro and up line of AirPods will be great. This does add another $129-549 on top of the $3,000, which is chump change at that entry price.

To avoid just pasting a wall of text, Ma reports Apple sees videoconferencing and 3D models as the killer apps of the device, not a focus on games. Games are the focus of VR right now. I’ve heard videoconferences are dope in VR, far superior to a webcam and Zoom, but no one is going to pay $3,000 for a Teams meeting. You can barely get me to cooperate with a 2D Teams meeting, when Teams decides to even work.

This gives me major Apple Watch Series 0 vibes. It’ll unlock you hotel room. It’ll control your house. You can make calls. Apple didn’t have the laser focus on Fitness that the Watch has now. Sounds like a lot of throwing pasta at the wall and seeing if it sticks.


[Gruber] …the fundamental question remains: What’s the point? Think back to Steve Jobs’s presentation announcing the original iPad — the nut of the whole keynote was Jobs explaining where the iPad might fit between an iPhone and MacBook. If it didn’t serve some tasks not just a little but a lot better than either an iPhone or Mac, there was no point to the iPad. The same is true for this headset. And if it costs $3,000 and/or requires a tethered battery strapped around your waist, the “this better be an awesome experience” bar is raised even higher.

[Gurman] While Apple still has many kinks to work out with the device —involving hardware, software and services, as well as how it will be marketed and sold — the company is banking on the product as its hot new introduction for this year.

It feels like the headset is coming in hot, which is a strange feeling for a device that has reportedly been in the works for seven years. The iPhone came in hot, but the vision was clear. The iPad, like Gruber mentioned, was presented as a device that fit between and complimented the iPhone and Mac. The Watch started as an extension of the iPhone and evolved into a health-focused piece of hardware.

Where does the "Reality Pro" fit in the lineup of existing Apple products? What will compel a person choose to interact with Messages or Mail or FaceTime on the headset instead of any of the other major products? Why a reportedly strong focus on the outward experience instead of the user experience? It sounds like Apple isn’t quite sure either. I hope they figure it out here in the next few months.


1. The Information is a pay-walled site. If you do not have a subscription, MacRumors had a summary, which Gruber also linked too.

2. Turns out they did introduce the MacBook Pro line before the MacBook. The Pro was introduced in February 2006 and the regular MacBook was released in May 2006.

3. In defense of a physical dial, I have never gotten the double tap to work on my Quest 2.

4. I am eager to experience it first hand with PS VR2 next month.

Chapter Select: Season 5, Episode 1 – Resident Evil

Episode art generated by DALL-E 2 with the following prompt written by Max Roberts - "Resident Evil 1 Spencer Mansion surrounded by a haunted forest diorama at night time horror"
Illustration generated by DALL-E 2, prompted by Max Roberts

It’s time to turn out the lights and lock the door. S.T.A.R.S Agents Max Roberts and Logan Moore creep through the Spencer Mansion to explore where Resident Evil began. Do ink ribbons and static cameras still hold up or has survival horror outgrown its restricted roots?

Download (38MB) — Episode Transcript

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Resident Evil

Metacritic – 91% (same for GameCube)


This episode was originally recorded on August 30, 2022.

@ChapterSelect

Max’s Twitter @MaxRoberts143

Logan’s Twitter @MooreMan12

Researcher, Editor, and Producer – Max Roberts

Hosted by Logan Moore & Max Roberts

Illustration generated by DALL-E 2, prompted by Max Roberts.

The Unanswered Questions for PS VR2

PlayStation VR2 is just shy of six weeks from launch. CES 2023 has passed and I feel like we still have unanswered questions. I remember during the build up to PS VR1 that I felt more informed.1

The roll out of PS VR2 news has been inconsistent. There was official confirmation PS was making a next-gen headset in February 2021, then a name drop in January 2022, followed by the device design reveal in February. Things were quiet until the summer with a glimpse at the user experience. First hands-on reports cropped up in September and then a date, price, and portion of the launch lineup were announced in November.

Since then, there has been a drip of announcements expanding the list of launch games. At CES 2023, Jim Ryan said the headset would launch with at least 30 games. As of this writing, 23 have been announced; glancing at the list, I spot seven PS VR1 games making the jump (some with free upgrades, others not so much). We are missing seven titles so far to meet that 30 game launch list. Sure, there are six more weeks (and hopefully one or two big pop-off titles), but I feel like we need to know the full lineup ASAP.2

Speaking of games, will there be physical copies of Sony’s first-party titles? If Call of the Mountain is digital-only, why not say so up front? I would have pre-ordered the bundle and saved $10 (and gotten the cooler box), if that was announced. Sony hasn’t abandoned the physical game market, so why the hush-hush nature on physical PS VR2 titles?

How long is the cable? Quick searching suggest that the single cable is longer than PS VR1’s cable.3 One rumor even claims the cable is detachable/replaceable. That would be swell! We know just about every other spec of the device. Perhaps we will find out, when and if Sony does an official unboxing.

I think the biggest unanswered question (besides if Half-Life: Alyx will come to the system) is PC compatibility. Over the last two years, PlayStation has been far more open to putting their games on PC. The VR game library is strong on PC. With PS VR2 only needing to connect via on USB-C cable, there is no apparent reason why the device wouldn’t work with a powerful enough PC. I hope the headset is compatible, as it would be a sign of goodwill and an understanding of the current market.4

Don’t let my pondering as a lack of excitement; I am stoked for next-gen VR. I have been a believer in VR ever since I first tried it in the Engineering Building in-between classes at UCF. Heck, my current joby job is for a company that does tons of VR work. But this is one of the oddest platforms launches in awhile; stranger than the PS5 itself. It feels like PlayStation isn’t putting its back all the way into the console’s launch. I hope to see the conversation amp up here in the coming weeks.


1. Scrolling back through the PlayStation Blog in the Summer of 2016, there was at least one post a week about PS VR; some new game preview, announcement, behind-the-scenes, and more. That headset launched in October 2016. To be fair, PS VR was a first-gen headset for PlayStation, they were pushing retail store demos (which I attended twice), and it was a different PlayStation.

2. That’s not to take away from the big titles at launch. I cannot wait to play Horizon: Call of the Mountain, Resident Evil Village, and Gran Turismo 7. Those are major games. Personally, I’d love SuperHyperCube to make the jump, alongside Tetris Effect and Rez Infinite. And where is the new Astro Bot game that has to be in the works?

3. I would hope so.

4. I remember when PS VR1 launched and people quickly found out you could plug in any HDMI source and it would display the image. You didn’t have the snazzy UI or full blown VR, but the capability was there. I even wrote about it for IGN’s wiki guide. You could even use the Nintendo Switch with it through some cable wizardry and play Breath of the Wild with its VR mode.

The Year of The Last of Us

Reflecting on a Big Year to Come for The Last of Us by Neil Druckmann for Naughty Dog

Even as it turns 10 years old, it feels like The Last of Us has only just begun, and this busy year will certainly show why.

All right, last The Last of Us post for the day. I’ve been chipping away at those interviews and articles for the past week, wanting to share tidbits I found interesting. This quote about a busy year for The Last of Us had me thinking about all of what a year of TLOU would entail. Here’s what I got. Up first are the confirmed milestones:

The HBO Show (duh)

The Last of Us TV show starts this upcoming Sunday. I am jazzed to see this interpretation.

The Last of Us Part I PC Port

Out this March. I really need to build a gaming/capture/streaming PC some day.

The TLOU Board Game

This went up on Kickstarter at the end of 2022. I backed it right away. It’s currently slated for the end of 2023, so we’ll see if it hits that window.

A Decade of The Last of Us

This is fairly obvious. June 14, 2013 was launch day back on the PS3. I’ll never forget the power blip I had an hour or so into the game. Thankfully, I saved after the opening chunk. Now for the unconfirmed stuff…

Factions Multiplayer Game Actually Launches

Feels like it is time for this one. The drip feed has been slow. I suspect (and hope) the pipe bursts this summer. I think this game will be huge.

I do wonder which platforms it will come to at launch. The PS5 is a lock. Do they also release it on PS4 (I hope not) and on PC (they should)? The PS4 is enticing because of the install base and the fact the game is undoubtedly built off The Last of Us Part II‘s engine. It is time to let the PS4 go though.

The PC on the other hand, is the perfect spot for a multiplayer game to launch alongside the PS5 version. Add cross-play, trophies, and bam, you have opened the gates to wider success. The PC efforts at PlayStation and Naughty Dog have not gone unnoticed. I would think this could launch day and date with the PS5 version.

The Last of Us Part II Comes to PC

Speaking of the PC, porting Part II feels like another slam dunk. PlayStation’s pipeline is there, whether it is done by Nixxes or Naughty Dog itself. This would put the entire series on PC, help promote the Factions game. I don’t see why this port would not happen.

The Last of Us Multiplayer Game is going to Pop Off

Neil Druckmann Explains Why Naughty Dog Hasn’t Revealed Next PS5 Game Yet [Exclusive] by Logan Moore for Comicbook.com

My good friend and co-host Logan Moore interviewed Neil Druckmann and Merle Dandridge for the HBO show The Last of Us. Logan took a shot to ask about why so mum on new projects over at Naughty Dog. I was interested in what Neil said, in particular, what he said about the multiplayer game.

Neil: You know, we did mention that there is a Last of Us multiplayer project that we’ve been working on, for a long time, since even before The Last of Us Part II shipped. And that’s our most ambitious project we’ve ever done which is like, you know, expanding the world even further, continuing to tell a story, but in a multiplayer space. I won’t say too much about that.

The timeline makes sense, considering the multiplayer was originally supposed to launch as a part of The Last of Us Part II. It splintered off after the scope grew beyond an additional mode. This line on storytelling in a multiplayer setting has been the teams’ goal for over five years now.

"We wanted to address multiplayer in The Last of Us Part II. As we’ve stated, the single-player campaign is far and away the most ambitious project Naughty Dog has ever undertaken. Likewise, as development began on the evolution of our Factions mode from The Last of Us Part I, the vision of the team grew beyond an additional mode that could be included with our enormous single-player campaign. Wanting to support both visions, we made the difficult choice that The Last of Us Part II would not include an online mode.

However, you will eventually experience the fruits of our team’s online ambition, but not as part of The Last of Us Part II. When and where it will be realized is still to be determined. But rest assured, we are as big a fan of Factions as the rest of our community and are excited to share more when it’s ready.”

*Italics added

Bruce Straley would even chime in via Twitter on the next day. Straley said he knows the ambition of both the single-player and multiplayer for The Last of Us Part II and the separation and delay for Factions would be worth the wait.

Naughty Dog themselves provided an inkling of what that ambition was in a multiplayer design pitch video they published in October 2017, well into the development of The Last of Us Part II.

“What we don’t want is multiplayer to feel like a mode. We want it to be almost its own game—its own experience. It might start with an idea world or an idea of a mechanic or, even more recently, a certain feeling that we’re after. And then we will explore, okay, ‘what kind of world can evoke that feeling? What kind of mechanics can evoke that feeling? What kind of psychological situations can we put multiple people in that speak back to the theme that we’re after,’” Druckmann said.

When I hear them pursuing a certain feeling, it takes me back to the original Factions multiplayer when the game launched. The multiplayer excelled at creating tension. When thinking about Naughty Dog’s driving force of connecting the player to a story and experience through the controller, it’s easy and exciting to entertain all the possibilities.

Sorry for the long quote from Chasing the Stick, but this is the vibe Naughty Dog is aiming for with this new multiplayer game. I’d wager this game has cutscenes, set pieces, the whole shebang that Naughty Dog is known for. They are going big with this one. Don’t underestimate it.

History is Repeating Itself

How ‘The Last of Us’ Plans to Bring the Zombie Genre Back to Life by James Hibberd for The Hollywood Reporter via Tom Ivan at Video Games Chronicle

As for this show’s ending, expect the debut season to cover the entirety of the Last of Us game. Druckmann and Mazin hint — but don’t outright say — that their second season will cover the table-flipping narrative of Naughty Dog’s bold Part II sequel (“I don’t like filler,” Mazin says). Part II cannot be described without spoilers, but it caused such an uproar that Druckmann received death threats.

Likewise, Druckmann cannot reveal whether a rumored Part III game from Naughty Dog is coming, but says: “I think there’s more story to tell.” Either way, Druckmann isn’t worried about falling into the same trap faced by Game of Thrones, when the HBO drama famously surpassed author George R.R. Martin’s source material. “We have no plans to tell any stories beyond adapting the games,” he says. “We won’t run into the same issue as Game of Thrones since Part II doesn’t end on a cliffhanger.”

This sounds familiar.

After the release of Left Behind, Druckmann and Straley had a brief opportunity to kick around new ideas. One of these was a sequel to The Last of Us. Druckmann had actually pitched the idea for the sequel to Ashley Johnson, the actress who plays Ellie, when pitching the story of Left Behind, which presumably happened back in 2013. By the time Left Behind was done, Druckmann claimed it was a “50/50” shot that there would be a sequel during a reddit AMA.

In an interview with Laura Hudson for Wired that focused on Left Behind, Druckmann was more open about the ideas floating around in his head for a potential sequel. This interview was published on February 18, 2014, just four days after Left Behind released.

“I still have this script written, this story about Ellie’s mom [for] an animated short we were going to do, but it fell through. I’d love for that to see the light of day sometime, maybe as a DLC or a comic book,” Druckmann said. “We’re brainstorming the next [Naughty Dog] project right now; some of the ideas are sequel ideas and some are brand-new IP. We’re just trying to see where our passions lie. Is there more to do here [in The Last of Us] both on a mechanical level or a narrative level, so we’re not repeating ourselves? Or is it [sic] this a good point to say goodbye to the characters in this world? It’s a very heavy decision, because whichever direction we go in commits us for the next three to four years. So we’re going to take several weeks to make that decision.”

I have no doubts that The Last of Us Part III is in the works at Naughty Dog.

Making Podcast Transcriptions with Pixel 7

Production on Chapter Select Season 5 – Resident Evil is in full swing. A new element you will find with each episode is a complete* transcription. I’ve wanted to provide this for some time. Now, with the Pixel 7, I am taking the plunge.

A major part of why I bought the phone was for the live transcription via the Recorder app. I wrote about my plans back when I got the Pixel 7:

I tested this feature out just this morning by playing a few minutes of Ben Thompson’s interview with Mark Zukerberg and Satya Nadella about partnering in the Metaverse. The transcription is almost realtime. With decent grammar. When Google releases the update to their recorder app to add speaker labels, I plan to use this to make passable transcripts of Chapter Select and The Max Frequency Podcast. It may not be that perfect transcription, but the out-of-the-box accuracy and ease of use makes offering this type of resource affordable to me. It is magic.

I had been holding out for the Speaker Labels update (which I also wrote about since I tried to sideload the update).1 With the update out in the world, I started figuring out the best way to turn the show into a transcript.

There’s no import feature in the Recorder app, so the bare bones solution is just to playback the episode out loud for the Pixel to hear and record. The obvious catch with this method is that no one can make noise while recording is happening. Not that the transcription is 100% accurate to begin with, but additional dialogue would throw the entire recording off. I needed a way to turn audio output in to a microphone input for the Pixel 7.

The first required piece of hardware was a USB-C to AUX dongle for the Pixel. Pretty sure I remember Google taking a dig at Apple for dropping the headphone jack, but I guess that doesn’t matter for Android users now that Google has their own wireless earbuds. I snagged this Anker USB-C to AUX braided cable. It’s a bit steep at $20, but I use a ton of Anker products and trust the build quality.

I have a few high quality wireless microphones at my disposal: I’ve got a Sennheiser AVX-MKE2 and a Rode Wireless Go. I tried taking those fusions of input and output into the Pixel, but made no progress. The only time a microphone was recognized as such on the Pixel was when I plugged in an XLR input adapter that came with the Sennheiser. The catch was I didn’t have a way to connect the sound to the input receiver.

It was a snake’s nest of cables strewn across my desk as I tried making a connection. By far my wackiest chain was using the Pixel’s included USB-C male to USB-A female dongle to a Lightning cable with the outer housing removed so it could be plugged into an Apple Pencil gen 1 adapter to the Apple AUX dongle to an AUX cable plugged into my iMac’s headphone jack. I assume the Apple Pencil adapter doesn’t transmit sound/data. 😅

I was over-engineering my solution. Turns out I had all I needed right in my PS5 capture set-up. Before God of War: Ragnarök came out, I bought Elgato’s Chat Link Pro. I wanted to record all of Ragnarök, but with a baby in the house, I also wanted to be able to use headphones. When you plug in a headset to the PS5, all sound is routed to the controller. This Chat Link Pro is a glorified AUX cable and headphone splitter. It worked as advertised and I could play with my headphones on, while capturing all the sound.

The other key feature of this cable is in the title—Chat. It can also capture your microphone and party chat. Remembering this, I took a guess that the Pixel 7 would recognize the cable as a microphone. I was right.

The only thing missing was another AUX cable to connect to the phone, since the Chat Link Pro’s mic-in side was being plugged into my iMac. If this beefy braided cable was meant to capture party chat, why not use the wired connector that came with my PS5 Pulse headset. That would be a mic too. Boom bada bing, I had an external mic input to the Recorder app that was transcribing my iMac’s audio output. All it took was one dongle and two cables. So simple.

When Season 5 kicks off here soon, you’ll see a link to grab a PDF transcript of the entire episode. Turns out that the speaker labels don’t migrate to the Google Doc, which is a huge bummer. Fix that Google. But whatever Google thinks we said is laid out for you to read.

I’m aware that this is a far cry from a human-proofed transcription, but I feel like this is better than nothing. And sort of like my attempts to complicate this capture solution, sometimes the simplest option can work out best. This method is free for me to use, which is vital at our current scope, and it gives listeners (and now readers) an option for assistance/enrichment. If these transcript help just one person better enjoy the show, then it will have been worth the time and effort.


1. Turns out that the sideloaded version stopped working, so I just had to wait for the official Play Store to update anyway. Thanks Google!

Max Frequency 2022 In Review (Year Three)

Year three of Max Frequency has come to a close.

This year feels like a blur. ’21 and ’22 have meshed together in my brain. Perhaps that’s my newly developed dad brain already losing all sense of time and sleep.

Despite the meld, I achieved some lifelong goals this year with the blog and podcasts. I am improving at my craft. It was a year of personal growth and refinement.

Here are the site’s numbers in 2022. As a reminder, 2021’s total site view count was 5,546 with 3,729 visitors and 304 articles published.

  • Total Site Views – 5,996
  • Total Site Visitors – 3,792

Most viewed articles:

Number per top countries:

  • USA – 3,822
  • UK – 411
  • Canada – 275

Most downloaded item: N/A

During WordPress’ transition to new tiers, the download statistic died. I no longer can see what folks are downloading, primarily the Chasing the Stick audio episodes.

Total Articles published – 407


My output, numbers wise, was consistent with 2021. I wouldn’t have surpassed last year’s view count if not for my chat with Colin Moriarty. I knew his episode would do well, but I underestimated how well; talking with Colin was a highlight of 2022 to be sure.

Outside of Colin, the people seem to want to engage with my Analogue and PixelFX coverage. The demand for high quality FPGA emulation and scalers is ever ascending. I should write about my RetroTINK 5X Pro sometime this year…

I do feel like I would post more here at Max Frequency if I wasn’t on Twitter, which is why I left last week. I felt similar when writing Wiki Stories. Cross-posting zaps me more than I expected. I am curious how this year’s output will look now.

Here are the numbers for my podcasts throughout 2022:

  • Chapter Select Total Downloads – 39,188 / 6,140 with 20 episodes published
    • 6,480 with 15 episodes published in 2021
    • Gain of 32,708
  • The Max Frequency Podcast Total Downloads – 39,462 / 4,064 with 6 episode published
    • 2,190 with 20 episode published in 2021
    • Gain of 37,272

And as a new addition for the yearly round up, let’s throw the YouTube channel stats in too:

  • 6,596 total views
  • 1,422 live stream views
  • 15.5K watch time minutes
  • 2,701 live stream minutes
  • 98 likes
  • 19 new subscribers

The top three viewed videos of 2022 were:

I love that a video I produced for DualShockers somehow ended up on my YouTube channel. I made that comparison footage for my review of the GCHD MK-II. It quickly became my most viewed video.1

I am proud that the game collection tour has been received so well. Nice to see it enter the top when only published in November. As for Ragnarök predictions, hype was high and we capitalized on that energy.

When you tally everything up across the board, over 75,000 people interacted with Max Frequency in some way this year.2 Writing this up, I feel ambitious enough to hope for 100K in 2023. Consistency is key. I hope to improve my own here and better channel my creativity. Thank you all for the support this year. Here’s to 2023!


Here’s a list of the posts, shows, and projects I am most proud of from 2022.

Eloise Siobhan Roberts (duh)

There is no one or nothing I am more proud of being apart becoming a dad thanks to my daughter Eloise.

Wiki Stories

I mentioned it above, but posting in two places wore me down. Missing my own deadlines made me feel guilty. But the stories I wrote were great and the stories I haven’t told need to be shared some day. I am super proud of the art and animation. Dang, I’m good.

Chapter Select

Season 3 – Banjo-Kazooie and Season 4 – The Fast & The Furious were prime. Creating them was a great push to learn new techniques and explore new mediums. Both of 2023’s seasons are well underway. There’s no doubt that this year will be the show’s biggest and best yet.

If I could call out only one Chapter Select-related bit, I would pick the trailer for Season 3 – Banjo-Kazooie. Writing the rhyme and having Michael Koczwara mod it into the ROM was picture perfect.

The Max Frequency Podcast

The year’s output was lower than I would have liked. The consistency is not where I would like this show to be. The quality of 2022’s episodes though, that was quite high. I had the privilege of finally chatting with Colin Moriarty, I recorded a time capsule with Casey Liss before becoming a dad, and talked with many dear friends. I already have some episodes lined up for this year and more ideas to explore with guests and topics.

Reviews Thoughts and Impressions

I wrote fewer "Thoughts and Impressions" pieces this past year. I have quite a few dead drafts in my folders, like Resident Evil 3, Horizon Forbidden West, and Knotwords3. I happened to share about two books this year; Stephen King’s On Writing and Alyse Knorr’s Goldeneye 007. I’ve enjoyed the self-imposed challenge of reviewing book that started with Max Frequency. It helps keep me sharp, I think.

I tackled my first movie review. which happened to be for the Uncharted film. I was surprised by that one and I suppose it helped get me in the mindset for tackling a season of Chapter Select on bombastic movies…

I also took on writing my first review for Apple hardware, just four years after launch. When upgrading to the iPhone 14 Pro Max, I wrote an exit review for my out going iPhone Xs Max.

I bought a Pixel 7

I finally entered the realm of Android. The Pixel 7 isn’t my daily driver. I bought it as a tool; specifically a camera and a transcriber. I’ve enjoyed having it around and I’m excited to use it more in my workflow.

RIP Stadia

Speaking of Google, the day we knew would come has finally arrived. It’s good that Google is fully refunding all purchases. They possibly had to for legal reasons. Good night streaming prince, for we hardly knew ye.

The Year of Acquisitions

Sony and Microsoft went all out in buying up studios, publishers, and talent. While I didn’t write up about every acquisition, I did cover big ones. Some as posts and some on a podcast episode. I suspect more acquisitions will happen throughout 2023.

The Odd Drip Feed of PSVR2 News

This was one piece of hardware I wish I covered better during the year. I have my unit locked in and am eager to try the consumer bleeding edge of VR next month.

Kratos Posture

Happy I finally whipped up this four year old idea.


1. Funny enough, a livestream I did playing GameCube is one of my most viewed streams as well. People must love the GameCube! Or retro scalers. Or both.

2. This was tallied from WordPress, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Libsyn, and YouTube for the year.

3. One word thoughts on those three games would be: Masterpiece, bloated, and sublime.

“Trawling Through the Wayback Machine” with Matt from I Finished A Video Game

When I watched I Finished A Video Game’s 7+ hour Castlevania retrospective, I had to know how it was made. So I reached out to the creator, Matt, and invited him to the show. We talk about both the history of Castlevania and the daunting task of chronicling the entire franchise.

Download (47MB)

RSS FeedOvercastApple PodcastsSpotify

A Dad Update

Welcome

The Start of IFAVG

Why Castlevania?

Playing 33 Games

What can Castlevania do next?

IFAVG’s Next Video

Post-Show: FPGA Emulation


I Finished A Video Game

Max Frequency

Chapter Select @ChapterSelect

Max’s Twitter @MaxRoberts143