Chapter Select: Season 2, Episode 8 – God of War: Ragnarök Predictions

Photo by Neil Rosenstech, designed by Max Roberts

The hype for God of War: Ragnarök is immense. With the release date officially announced for November 9, 2022, we have decided to share this special episode from the Season 2 – God of War archives. Fresh off beating the 2018 game for the season, Max and Logan dive into their predictions and theories for the sequel. Originally recorded in December 2021, we hope you enjoy this time capsule of speculation and excitement for Ragnarök.

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God of War: Ragnarök

  • Developer – Sony Santa Monica Studio
  • Platform – PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5
  • Release Date – November 9, 2022

This episode was originally recorded on December 20, 2021.

@ChapterSelect

Max’s Twitter @Max Roberts143

Logan’s Twitter @MooreMan12

Researcher, Editor, and Producer – Max Roberts

Hosted by Logan Moore & Max Roberts

Season Art Statue Photo by Simone Pellegrini on Unsplash and designed by Max Roberts

Episode Cover Art Forest by Neil Rosenstech on Unsplash and designed by Max Roberts

Looking Back on Chapter Select Season 2 – God of War

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.

Numbers and Performance

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.

Guests

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.

Audio

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.

I invested in some new audio software to help clean up rougher audio. I bought iZotope RX 8 Essentials on sale to help remove clicks, hums, and pops. I am certainly unqualified to use this software, but it has definitely helped make some audio better. I’ve even used it to clean up six year old episodes of Millennial Gaming Speak to use as clips.

Video Production

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.

Art

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.

I don’t think Episode 6 – God of War III could have had better art.

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.

The Future

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.

Looking Back on Chapter Select Season 1

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!

Chapter Select: Season 2, Episode 7 – God of War (2018)

Photo by Wes Grant, designed by Max Roberts

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.

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God of War

Metacritic – 94/100


This episode was originally recorded on December 20, 2021.

Max’s Twitter

Logan’s Twitter

Researcher, Editor, and Producer – Max Roberts

Hosted by Logan Moore & Max Roberts

Season Art Statue Photo by Simone Pellegrini on Unsplash and designed by Max Roberts

Episode Cover Art Boat by Wes Grant on Unsplash, designed by Max Roberts

Chapter Select: Season 2, Episode 6 – God of War III

Photo by Cooper Baumgartner, designed by
Max Roberts

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.

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God of War III

Metacritic – 92/100


This episode was originally recorded on November 24, 2021.

Max’s Twitter

Logan’s Twitter

Researcher, Editor, and Producer – Max Roberts

Hosted by Logan Moore & Max Roberts

Season Art Statue Photo by Simone Pellegrini on Unsplash and designed by Max Roberts

Episode Cover Art Fields by Cooper Baumgartner on Unsplash, designed by Max Roberts

Chapter Select: Season 2, Episode 5 – God of War: Chains of Olympus

Photo by Alec Krivec, designed by Max Roberts

We head back to Ready at Dawn’s original attempt at putting the power of Olympus on the PSP. Developed alongside God of War II, Kratos’ first prequel feels more like a traditional sequel. Max and Logan decide whether or not putting God of War on the go was a killer idea or just beating a dead centaur.

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God of War: Chains of Olympus

Metacritic – 91/100


This episode was originally recorded on November 15, 2021.

Max’s Twitter

Logan’s Twitter

Researcher, Editor, and Producer – Max Roberts

Hosted by Logan Moore & Max Roberts

Season Art Statue Photo by Simone Pellegrini on Unsplash and designed by Max Roberts

Episode Cover Art Fields by Ales Krivec on Unsplash, designed by Max Roberts

Chapter Select: Season 2, Episode 4 – God of War: Ghost of Sparta

For the first time in the series, Kratos is on a journey for salvation rather than vengeance. Released just eight months after God of War III, the Marked Warrior returned to the PlayStation Portable in grand fashion. Max and Logan sink the city of Atlantis to find out if Kratos can save his family before he seeks revenge.

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God of War: Ghost of Sparta

Metacritic – 86/100


This episode was originally recorded on November 2, 2021.

Max’s Twitter

Logan’s Twitter

Researcher, Editor, and Producer – Max Roberts

Hosted by Logan Moore & Max Roberts

Season Art Statue Photo by Simone Pellegrini on Unsplash and designed by Max Roberts

Episode Cover Art Water designed by Max Roberts

Chapter Select: Season 2, Episode 3 – God of War II

Photo by Luigi Boccardo, designed by Max Roberts

With a new director at the helm, God of War II helped end the PS2 on a high note with the promise of an epic conclusion on Sony’s brand new PS3. Special guest Grant Huff joins Max and Logan to find the edge of the world and challenge fate itself.

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God of War II

Metacritic – 93/100


This episode was originally recorded on October 26, 2021.

Max’s Twitter

Logan’s Twitter

Grant’s Twitter

Researcher, Editor, and Producer – Max Roberts

Hosted by Logan Moore & Max Roberts

Special Guest was Grant Huff

Season Art Statue Photo by Simone Pellegrini on Unsplash and designed by Max Roberts

Episode Cover Art Statue photo by Luigi Boccardo on Unsplash and designed by Max Roberts

Chapter Select: Season 2, Episode 2 – God of War: Ascension

Photo by Jaime Spaniol, designed by Max Roberts

The God of War franchise enters the proverbial Colosseum with its multiplayer debut. God of War: Ascension was one of the PlayStation 3’s swan songs and it could have been the same for Kratos. Max Roberts and Logan Moore go back in time to 2013 to try and figure out what happened to the Ghost of Sparta.

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God of War: Ascension

Metacritic – 80/100


This episode was originally recorded on October 13, 2021.

Max’s Twitter

Logan’s Twitter

Researcher, Editor, and Producer – Max Roberts

Hosted by Logan Moore & Max Roberts

Season Art Statue Photo by Simone Pellegrini on Unsplash and designed by Max Roberts

Episode Cover Art Soldiers photo by Jaime Spaniol on Unsplash and designed by Max Roberts

Chapter Select: Season 2, Episode 1 – God of War

Photo by SHOT, designed by Max Roberts

Season 2 sets a course through the myth of ancient Greece with God of War.
Max Roberts and Logan Moore travel back to God of War, not to be confused with 2018’s God of War. Has Kratos changed all that much since 2005? Does the quest for vengeance hold up?

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God of War

Metacritic – 94/100


This episode was originally recorded on September 25, 2021.

Max’s Twitter

Logan’s Twitter

Researcher, Editor, and Producer – Max Roberts

Hosted by Logan Moore & Max Roberts

Season Art Statue Photo by Simone Pellegrini on Unsplash and designed by Max Roberts

Episode Cover Art Coals Photo by SHOT on Unsplash and designed by Max Roberts

Chapter Select Season 2 is God of War

Photo by Simone Pellegrini, designed by Max Roberts

I am excited to announce that the focus of Chapter Select Season 2 is the
God of War series. First appearing on the PlayStation 2 in 2005, God of War, Kratos, and the Blades of Chaos are still a proud titan within the PlayStation Studios catalog. God of War has arguably never been more relevant than with the upcoming ninth game, God of War: Ragnarok for PS4 and PS5, thanks to the series’ legendary relaunch in 2018.

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You may have noticed a new link in the middle there — YouTube. I have decided to create a video version of Chapter Select going forward. I have to play the games anyway, why not capture them as I go along? I was actually recording gameplay of Season 1, Episode 1: Paper Mario, but lost some footage and then never picked it back up after a brief pause in production. Recording Sticker Star would have been tricky too. Thankfully, I have the means to capture all of the God of War games. You won’t see our faces: This allows me to use the same audio edit without odd cuts in the video. The gameplay will be what I actually did for the season, along with additional relevant clips woven in. I am very excited for folks to watch and listen to the show going forward.

As for this season’s slate of episodes, here is the order we have for Season 2:

“Why is God of War (2018) at the end of the season?” you may be asking yourself. We delve into this in the first episode, but Logan convinced me to go about Season 2 this way. Since the reboot/reimagining of God of War is so stark to the first six games, we agreed it’d be best to save the Norse iteration for the end. Plus, when God of War: Ragnarok comes out in 2022 (🤞🏻), we have a nice line-up throw in a new episode to the season.

Sorry God of War: Betrayal fans, I couldn’t convince Logan to play it.

As far as the seasonal and episodic art, I spent a ton of energy finding real pictures that fit the themes and environments or each game. Nearly every photo was found on Unsplash and is properly credited in the show notes. Like
Season 1’s art, I have taken immense pride in the theming and visual design you’ll find in Season 2.

I hope you are as excited for Season 2: God of War as I am. The first two episodes will be launching next Wednesday, with new episodes following in a fortnightly manner. Subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts! 

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Update: Episodes 1 & 2 are no longer launching together. The release dates have been changed to reflect that. For more about the delay, please read about it here.