Returnal’s 3D Audio is a Mechanic, Not a Feature

The King of Custom – PS5 Specs Revealed by Me March 2020

My two cents on the custom audio tech inside the PS5 when it was announced just over a year ago at GDC by Mark Cerny.

I thought the most custom element was the 3D audio tech that Mark detailed. Sony wanted to offer great audio for all players, not just those with fancy sound systems or headphones. So they went ahead and built custom hardware to help create 3D audio from any set of speakers (eventually). Headphones are the gold standard due to one speaker per ear, but Mark even talked about generating 3D audio from TV speakers. With it included in every single PS5, that gives all players and all devs the opportunity to experience/use 3D audio. It reminds me of the leap from standard definition to HD, but for our ears. Pardon the pun, but it sounds bonkers.

I’ve spent an hour or so playing Returnal with some headphones on.

Holy. Smokes.

Besides just sounding incredible, I was surprised at how intuitive and essential it was. I heard wild alien creatures whipping around me in the level. I instinctively turned toward the sound and stopped immediately on the enemy.

This was more than standard surround sound pointing me in a direction. I locked-in on the enemy with my ears before I did with my eyes or gun. In a fight-or-flight scenario, my ears did their survival job.

Then I got thinking about PSVR2 again…

When you combine these [haptic feedback and adaptive trigger] elements with the PS5’s Tempest audio engine, PSVR 2 has incredible potential to really put users in a place.

PlayStation’s pursuit of immersion this generation is off to a stellar start and promises to be a transformative addition to gameplay. I can’t wait to feel, hear, and see more.

Behind the Pixel – Alex O’Neill – How He Created His Own Gaming Site and Podcast

Part of creating The Max Frequency Podcast was to restore all the episodes of Behind the Pixel, an interview show I did in 2017 for seven episodes. These will be mixed into this feed so that the show can live on podcast services once more. Below are the original show notes, with some light editing. You can check out the original posts here. I hope you enjoy.
 

Continue reading “Behind the Pixel – Alex O’Neill – How He Created His Own Gaming Site and Podcast”

Returnal Shows that Sony can still be Weird and Daring – Eurogamer

Returnal Shows that Sony can still be Weird and Daring by Martin Robinson for Eurogamer

This isn’t the Housemarque you might know from Resogun or Nex Machina yet it’s also exactly like those boutique classics, mixing demoscene flex with arcade precision but on a much grander scale. There’s an intensity to the action, a readability to enemies and attack patterns, an immediacy that all harks back to the hard-edged classics of the arcade, but the spectacle is something else; Robotron with raytracing, the resulting action worthy of an Amiga classic that plays out like Ridley Scott in crisp 70mm on the big screen.

I suddenly cannot wait for Returnal. Logan Moore’s incessant hype and this preview sent me from “not a care in the world” to “is it April 30 yet?

Like Death Stranding this is an indie that’s epic in scope, and likewise it’s not a game that comes up short when it comes to spectacle. Is it triple-A or isn’t it? I’m not sure if there’s a scientific way to determine that one way or another, but I can tell you that Returnal’s credits run just as long as any Hollywood movie (just under 18 minutes, if you must know – I felt compelled to find out myself, anyway) and you can probably tell for yourself that it looks frankly outrageous.

I love this perspective on Death Stranding. Kojima’s odd and marvelous package delivery game ended up being one of my favorite games I played last year. Big budgets and wildly creative people being able to make bolder titles is great to see. This is how Sony has and continues to set itself apart in the market.

Spiritual Successors and Reclaiming Dormant IP

Non-Fungible Taylor Swift by Ben Thompson for Stratechery

Ben Thompson had a great free weekly article about Taylor Swift reclaiming her music by using her fans.

It’s not just Fearless, it’s Fearless (Taylor’s Version); which version do you think that Swift fans will choose to stream (which, after all, is where most of the residual value of Fearless lies)? That’s the part that Logan forgot: when it comes to a world of abundance the power that matters is demand, and demand is driven by fans of Swift, not lawyers for Big Machine or Scooter Braun or anyone else.

It’s easy to see how this plays out going forward: Swift probably doesn’t even have to remake another album; she has demonstrated the willingness and capability to remake her old records, and her fans will do the rest. It will behoove Shamrock Capital, the current owner of Swift’s masters, to buy-out Braun’s share of future upside and make a deal with Swift, because Swift, granted the power to go direct to fans and make her case, can in fact “change history, facts, and re-frame any story [she] want[s] to fit with any narrative [she] wish[es].”

I’ve never even listened to Fearless outside of its hit singles, but I already am anticipating Spark’s Fly (Taylor’s Version) and Red (Taylor’s Version), if those ever see the light of day.

Thompson’s analysis of Swift and Dave Chappelle taking back their work got me thinking about video games. Has gaming already had its reclamation boom? Can developers take back their original games when the publisher / rights holder seemingly does nothing with the IP? It seems far more convoluted for say Hideo Kojima to just retake Metal Gear Solid. Games often take a proverbial village to “raise.” While Kojima and Metal Gear Solid go hand-in-hand, legally, commercially, and in their development, Kojima is just one person from a team. Compared to music or comedy or stories, games have to be far more difficult to reclaim like Swift and Chappelle have done.

In light of the legal and developmental hurdles, devs have turned to Kickstarter and the like. There is a cry for a new Castlevania game and Konami seemingly won’t deliver one. So Koji Igarashi, the man who put the “vania” in Metroidvania launches a Kickstarter for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, earning $5+ million. Same for Mega Man through Mighty No. 9 and Banjo and Kazooie through Yooka-Laylee. These developers take fans of games and genres, reunite the team of old, and make a new game to satisfy fan demand and their own creative desires. The spiritual successor has become the means for reclaiming art/design/gameplay/characters for developers.