Hand Animating the Faces in The Last of Us Part I

Since announcing The Last of Us Part I, Naughty Dog has shared two side-by-side character comparison clips; first one of Tess and then one of Joel. These are great comparisons that emphasize the new character models, lighting, and environment detail. They look less shiny and young and more like 40ish-year-old smugglers in a post-apocalyptic Boston.

The game is using the exact same performances from the original game. The nuances gained in these new models and animations convey way more subtly. Watching these clips, I remembered that the original game, while using mocap for movement and performances, did not use facial capture. The faces were hand-animated.

“We don’t do facial capture. We don’t track eye movements on stage. It’s just the motion capture data. Everything that you see on the faces is hand keyed. You can see this is all her mo-cap data. And so when I am doing something like this I go back and forth to performances she was giving and I watch just this section over and over and over again.” – Marianne Hayden

My brain then wonders, “Is Naughty Dog re-hand-animating these faces?” Thankfully, Neil Druckmann addressed this during the reveal at Summer Game Fest.

“Yeah, actually we came up with a process were we could take the original animation that we did for the faces and kind of like retarget it on these new rigs that have a lot more fidelity. Animators went back and – [Geoff interrupts about side-by-side shots] everything is rebuilt from the ground up. The same art director re-art-directed the whole thing from the ground up. But the great thing about these faces is that they’re closer to the original performance. All the animators went and studied those videos and got it closer to what you [Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker] did on set then we could have achieve before.”

To me, a person with zero programming experience, it sounds like the studio is taking the facial animation data from the PS3/4 game and pointing it to these new PS5 character models. My brain imagines that skeleton song: the PS3 eyes are connected to the PS5 eyes.

It’s much catchier in my head.

Then, just like they did in the early teens, the animators studied the facial reference footage of the performances to give us the results we see today. Wild to see techniques used two hardware generations ago be adapted to modern development practices, but still have that human touch of hand animation.

Another note on these particular comparison shots: They are presented at 720p resolution. That’s the native resolution of the PS3 version. Part I likely will have a native 4K output option – nine times the amount of pixels. Toss in inherent compression from web video and the PS5 shots here are being crushed from their native performance. The clips do say that the PS3 clip was captured on said console. I wonder how much we are missing solely from the compression.

One more fun tidbit: According to Naughty Dog Senior Editor Samuel Prince, any clips longer than seven seconds have to go through the ESRB.

Michael Mumbauer has Left That’s No Moon Entertainment for Web3

Michael Mumbauer has left That’s No Moon Entertainment roughly one year after founding said developer. That’s No Moon was co-founded with a three other devs, including former PlayStation and Naughty Dog developer Taylor Kurosaki. Michael’s new studio – Liithos – is co-founded with John Garvin of PlayStation studio Bend fame.

The studio has assembled an impressive roster of award-winning talent including Michael Mumbauer, former Head of Visual Arts at Playstation (The Last of Us, Uncharted) and John Garvin, writer & co-creator of the massively successful open-world title Days Gone.

— Hedera on Twitter

They are wholly leaning into Web3. A slate of NFTs already for sale.

I wonder how long Michael will stay at Liithos.

Update: Michael and John were clearly not in the room together when this photo was taken/made. Reminds me of Beyoncé.

GMTK Platformer Toolkit

I Made a Video Essay That You Can PLAY by Mark Brown for Game Maker’s Toolkit

Mark Brown has just released a free game that allows players to fiddle with platformer mechanics and controls to learn about game design. This looks delightful. A great expansion of the GMTK pool of resources.

It’s playable in your browser or can be downloaded to you PC or Mac. If you are curious, you can check out the toolkit here.

Wishcasting for The Last of Us Part I

My third post since announcement. Can you tell I’m excited?

I’ve seen some criticism for The Last of Us Part I for being the same exact game, just prettier. Besides being a shallow opinion, it’s short-sighted as well. All we have is a blog post, a cinematic trailer, and some comparison screenshots. At the time of writing, there’s no details on the gameplay, modes, and features.

Those concerns could all come true! But, until we know more let’s speculate / wishcast! Nothing like tossing out hopes to properly establish expectations.


The documentary, not the mode. I think they should keep Grounded: The Making of The Last of Us included with this remake. It was available to both the PS3 and PS4 versions. I think it is important to provide access to this in-game.

One Night Live

In a similar vein, I say go ahead and include a copy of the One Night Live performance with the extended ending that was only performed for the folks there live. Turns out that scene is essentially the start of The Last of Us Part II. It would make total sense to include that now. I have no doubts that was recorded. The show was unique. It’d be nice to see it attached to the game itself.

The Alternate Ending

If Naughty Dog is going back and animating everything again from the mocap sessions, I say it is time to animate the true ending of The Last of Us.

Seriously, they have the reference footage and the character models. Make it an unlockable. Bring some goofy, easter egg, video game-ness to this remake.

Load Up on Concept Art

Both games have unlockable concept art. Keep the train going with design doc scans, interviews, and more art. My brain views this remake as a celebration of The Last of Us. Allowing for a broader peek behind the curtain of the development would truly be celebratory.

Graphics Toggle

If at all possible, I think a toggle to flip between the PS3/PS4 graphics and these new PS5 ones would be wild. Always loved that in Halo 2: Anniversary.

What’s unclear at the time of writing is how much of a 1:1 remake this is going to be. Has Naughty Dog reimagined or expanded some combat scenarios? Are some environments reshuffled around?

If it is a 1:1 remake spatially, I think a toggle like this would be neat to show the leap in visuals. But I would take reimagined environments over this any day.

“New” Mechanics

We do know for a fact that the combat and gameplay have been enhanced.

We’ve implemented modernized gameplay, improved controls, and expanded accessibility options in this single-player experience to allow even more individuals to enjoy the game. Effects, exploration, and combat have all been enhanced.

What we don’t know is the scope of those improvements. We can imagine accessibility features in line with those found in The Last of Us Part II. What about combat though? Is Joel gonna be diving around like Ellie? How will Ellie play in Left Behind since she doesn’t have the same experience as in the sequel?

I’d love to have the MGS3-inspired combat across both games, but the question is does it fit within the encounters of the first game? This sounds like fitting a square peg in a round hole. Unless the environments and scenarios are redesigned (see previous wish).

If Naughty Dog does go down the redesigned route, I would like to see some tech from Left Behind incorporated. Those Infected vs Hunters vs player encounters were unique. I recall Bruce Straley mentioning it was cut from the base game due to time. It’d be nice to see that vision incorporated properly into the original story.

It’s fun to have the game be so close to release while simultaneously knowing so much and so little about it. In this rare window before release, it’s fun to speculate. I think additions like this would help entice those that think the price is too high. These would be fun surprises and enhancements to offer players that’d be truly unique to this PS5 version. Time will tell though come September.

Chapter Select: Season 3, Episode 3 – Banjo-Tooie

Font by Oakland Elliff, designed by Max Roberts

Has there ever been a more perfect name for a sequel? Max Roberts, Logan Moore, and special guest Brian Henken explore the Isle o’ Hags to see if Banjo-Tooie is more than just a clever name. Is it possible to have too much of a good thing?

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  • Developer – Rare
  • Platform – Nintendo 64 and Xbox 360
  • Release Date – June 29, 2000 (Apr. 29, 2009 for 360)
  • Game Director – Gregg Mayles
  • Producer – ?
  • Composer – Grant Kirkhope

Metacritic – 90/100 (73/100 for 360)

This episode was originally recorded on May 17 , 2022.

Max’s Twitter @MaxRoberts143

Logan’s Twitter @MooreMan12

Brian’s Twitter @BrianHenken

Researcher, Editor, and Producer – Max Roberts

Hosted by Logan Moore & Max Roberts

Font by Oakland Elliff. Art designed by Max Roberts.

Metal Gear Solid 4 Needs to Be Remastered Now More Than Ever – Logan Moore

Metal Gear Solid 4 Needs to Be Remastered Now More Than Ever by Logan Moore for Comicbook.com

Well, MGS4 is a game that has never been released on a platform outside of PlayStation 3. As such, the most accessible way to play the game in recent years was likely through PS Now. Assuming your Internet connection was strong enough, this allowed users on PS4 and PS5 to still play the game on their consoles without needing to have an actual PS3 at their disposal. In less than a week, though, this might no longer be true, which means that Metal Gear Solid 4 could be gridlocked entirely on PS3…

…To not have the full Metal Gear Solid series playable and easily accessible in 2022 is essentially a crime against video games. Not to mention, Metal Gear Solid 4 is just an awesome game in its own right that more people need to revisit or be able to play for the first time without having to jump through so many hoops. This entry is one of the most unique in the series and serves as the chronological end to the franchise’s sprawling, insane narrative. To be unable to see the end of the Metal Gear story arc without owning a legacy PlayStation console is just disappointing.

Considering I just let a friend borrow my PS3 and Metal Gear Solid 4, I’d have to agree that a proper port is over due.

Responding to the Pricing of The Last of Us Part I

The Last of Us Part 1 Feels Like a Blatant Money Grab by Sony by Logan Moore for Comicbook.com

My pal Logan Moore wrote up an opinion piece on The Last of Us Part I and its pricing. I thought it’d be fun to respond bit by bit. We’d normally discuss this on a podcast, but given I’m out of town, this asynchronous blog response feels like an in-depth way to keep our usual conversation alive. (Although we have already discussed this yesterday after the reveal).

It’s hard not to feel like Sony‘s upcoming PlayStation 5and PC remake of The Last of Us, which is formally being titled The Last of Us Part 1, is being created for any reason other than to bring in easy money. Perhaps that’s a stupid thing to say given that the entire point of video game development in the first place is for companies to generate profits, but this latest re-release of The Last of Us feels different. Not only is the game not going to contain everything that was seen in the past two versions that were released on PS3 and PS4, but Sony is also asking for a considerable more amount of money to boot.

A considerable amount of more money is $10-20? When The Last of Us launched on PS3 it was $60 and the PS4 remaster started at $60 before being dropped to $50. Monetarily, launching at full price is in line with new releases for Sony.

The question lies in is the narrative and gameplay experience of The Last of Us worth full price in 2022? Anyone could go to a local shop and snag the PS3 game for $10. Millions snagged the PS4 game when it was included with PS+ in October 2019.

I do find it strangely interesting to think about the quality proposition and accessibility. The Last of Us is one of the greatest games of all time and is quite accessible. Compare that to other all timers, like Ocarina of Time. Playing Zelda’s first 3D outing today requires an expensive cartridge, plus the hardware to play, a remake on 3DS, or an $80 a year subscription. In contrast, The Last of Us is playable on three generations of PlayStation hardware and is coming up on nine years since release. Does a younger age and more accessible title make paying new prices undesirable? People will always complain about full prices – look at Skyward Sword HD – but I do enjoy pondering the dynamics of timing and access.

What is surprising, though, is that Part 1 doesn’t even contain everything seen in The Last of Us Remastered. That version of the game, which came out in 2014 on PS4 (for a cheaper-than-normal retail price of $49.99) contained the base game, Factions multiplayer, and the Left Behind DLC. The Last of Us Part 1 is going to contain all of the same single-player content, but Factions is now being left out entirely, likely because a new Naughty Dog multiplayer game in this vein is already on the way.

I agree wholeheartedly that this new Factions game is why there is no Factions in Part I. No multiplayer was included in either Uncharted collection. Is that right? I’m not sure. Those modes are still available on PS4 until those servers get shut down someday, just like the PS3 servers. How many people are clamoring for Uncharted multiplayer?

The unique position of having both the single player and multiplayer in development hasn’t been pulled off by Naughty Dog before. Their multi-team development goal has finally come true it seems. Taking resources away to refresh the original version of Factions with what sounds to be a full-blown sequel to that mode seems wasteful. If this multiplayer game wasn’t a real deal, then its absence in Part I would be significant to me. Knowing a newer (and hopefully better) version—that is its own game—makes that okay to me. Perhaps I’m too easy going or an apologetic fan, but I think this absence is paving the way for a bigger, bolder, better game.

The other reason that this release from Sony feels bizarre is because no one has really been asking for the publisher to remake The Last of Us whatsoever. Despite coming up on the tenth anniversary of its first release, The Last of Us Remastered on PS4 is still a more-than-adequate way to experience and play the original game. The graphical work that has been done in Part 1 seems impressive on Naughty Dog’s part based on what has been shown so far, but this also isn’t a game that seemingly needs to exist right now.

It could be argued that Sony is really only aiming for new players to pick up The Last of Us Part 1, especially since the HBO TV series based on the game is set to release early next year and will by proxy expose new people to the property. And while that would be a feasible conclusion to jump to, PlayStation itself isn’t even marketing the game in this manner. The tagline for The Last of Us Part 1 on PlayStation’s own website is encouraging people to, “Relive the beloved game that started it all – for the PlayStation 5 console.” Sony is merely looking to tap into the audience that has already played The Last of Us because it knows that these same customers will just look to buy it once again. After all, why spend five or more years creating an entirely new game that may not sell well when you can spend a fraction of that development time to re-release an old title that will surely bring in revenue.

I love Logan, but this is a shallow perception of the remake’s existence. While tapping into the existing fanbase is assuredly an angle, new fans and a much wider market are the true goal Sony is chasing. The HBO show is a clear promotional opportunity, which Logan rightly mentions. I suspect sales from both games will get that HBO bump.

The Last of Us as a franchise has sold 28-30 million copies within the last nine years. I feel confident in saying it is PlayStation’s most successful new IP, especially given a series quantity to sales ratio. Before that, the answer would likely be Uncharted.

Now God of War for example, had sold 51 million copies by 2020. With the PC port of God of War (2018), that has likely exceeded 53 million. It took Kratos 17 years to reach that over eight games. The Last of Us has reached over half those numbers in half the time with just two games. The opportunity for growth is substantial.

Sony projects PS5 to surpass PS4, while also anticipating massive growth in PC ports. With Part I coming to both PS5 and PC, the market the company is tapping into far surpasses the fans of the original. It can be hard to think that there are millions that haven’t played The Last of Us, especially when it’s been a part of the conversation ever since it arrived. In some ways, this just feels like a quick stop on the way up even higher.

For the past couple of years, Sony has been making a number of moves associated with PlayStation that show the company is more focused on profits above all else at the moment. Bend Studio’s inability to get Days Gone 2 greenlit, despite the first game selling rather well, is one example of this that we’ve heard about in the past year. The shuttering of Japan Studio last April is another notable occurrence. Despite creating or assisting with the development on a number of beloved games, Sony seemingly decided to do away with Japan Studio just because it wasn’t a division of the company that ever made a ton of money with its releases.

I agree with Logan here. A lot of decisions – by Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo – feel safer than ever before. All these mergers and acquisitions have a feeling of staying ahead and/or alive. If it doesn’t bring in millions, move on to the next thing that will. I’m reminded of a statement I hear Colin Moriarty tout. I don’t have the exact quote, but it follows the line of an opportunity taken means closing the door on others. An example would be Insomniac making a Wolverine game means they are not making some new Resistance game or new IP. Companies are becoming more risk adverse it seems as gaming continues to be the largest grossing entertainment industry in the world.

But with Naughty Dog, Sony is sort of having their cake and eating it to. There’s this remake of one of their most successful games. Then a massive sounding multiplayer game based off that same IP in 2023, which undoubtedly will have microtransactions and/or battle passes. And finally, the team also has a brand new project – presumably a new IP – in development.

Now, is risking all this development on Naughty Dog that big of a risk? No. They are one of, if not the, best developer Sony owns. This is safe-ish. But why spend millions at Bend making Days Gone 2 when Naughty Dog could use some of those millions? Or let Bend make a new IP multiplayer game, which is happening. It’s interesting to see what risks are being taken and what are not.

This $70 price tag on The Last of Us Part 1 also resembles the “controversy” that PlayStation found itself in last year with the upgrade path for Horizon Forbidden West. While it previously seemed apparent that people who bought the PS4 iteration of Forbidden West would later be able to freely upgrade to the PS5 version, Sony instead tried to squeeze a bit more money out of this group and revealed that they would need to pay a small fee to get the next-gen iteration later if they wanted to. After widespread fan outcry Sony ended up reversing course on this decision, but the fact this was even a problem in the first place highlights how PlayStation is operating at the moment.

Xbox has made this cross-gen leap so simple. It’s consumer friendly and inviting. Sony really borked the Horizon and GT7 upgrades when initially announced. At least now there is a clear “you will pay from here on out” line in the sand. Personally, I’m happy to pay the little extra because people work hard to make these games. I can spend ten more bucks. I get that I also have a financial privilege to be so hand wavy about it.

I know this isn’t what Logan is saying here, but I did see some tweets implying that Part I should be a free upgrade. That’s just plain stupid. Clearly this remake is brand new development and will share little with the original game in terms of production. People worked hard on this and deserve to be paid for said work. Now, consumers should vote with their wallet to communicate what price they think this game is worth. It’ll be on sale by the holidays and be discounted beyond that. It’ll hit $50, heck maybe even $40 within its first year on shelves. It’d be nice if Sony had a more competitive price up front, but they don’t. I’m a terrible example anyway: I’m buying the $100 edition. Maybe Logan will be too…

Everything that I have said here is perhaps hypocritical considering that I’m one of those customers that will absolutely be looking to play The Last of Us Part 1 for myself when it hits PS5 in the coming months…

But let’s look at Logan’s final statement.

Still, I can’t help but feel like this is yet another instance where PlayStation is becoming more of a faceless corporate entity that is looking to drive revenue in any way possible rather than trying to meaningfully engage with its audience and listen to what they want. Time will only tell if this proves to be damaging to the company’s reputation, but in an age where Sony quite literally can’t keep up with demand for the PS5, I have a feeling that those operating at a corporate level within Sony are feeling more than happy about where PlayStation is heading.

This, to me, feels like getting old. As I get older, I feel like the wonder and magic is largely gone from the game industry. It can crop up, but the stretches of excitement and hype grow further apart. Corporate ambitions are more clear where charm vanishes. Nintendo consoles used to have catchy tunes and quirky details. Xbox championed voice control in games. PlayStation would throw its own fan event. Now that all has vanished for subscriptions, TV shows, and strategic marketing. The chill of calculation has crept in where the warmth of youthful anticipation used to be. It can be biting.

The days of summer vacation and playing The Last of Us are far behind me. Now I just wait to find time to play a reimagined version of one of my favorites. Perhaps I’m too much of a fan or settled in my preferences. God knows I love a Naughty Dog game. I find discussions surrounding remakes, the market, and development fascinating. Now it’s come for one of my favorites. I’m just happy to have these options at all. Let’s see what Naughty Dog reveals about this remake in the coming months before writing it off entirely.

The Last of Us Part I Announced

Looks like round 10 will have a shiny new coat of paint.

We’ve implemented modernized gameplay, improved controls, and expanded accessibility options in this single-player experience to allow even more individuals to enjoy the game. Effects, exploration, and combat have all been enhanced. Leveraging the PS5’s powerful hardware, we also implemented 3D Audio*, haptics, and adaptive triggers. Both returning fans and new players alike will have the opportunity to experience both The Last of Us Part I and its prequel story Left Behind in a whole new way.

The Last of Us Part I appears to be bringing parity to the duology; on par visual fidelity and gameplay.

I’m impressed with the leap in graphical quality. Neil Druckmann said on the stream that the animators went back to the original mocap footage and referenced Troy and Ashley’s performances. Neat to see the original recordings can still be used. Reminds me of the clip in the Grounded documentary showing off the hand animation process.

Sure the character models are striking, but look at the background. The furniture and environment detail is far more realistic. The camera shot itself has a more cinematic feel. These changes speak to the power gap between the PS3 and the PS5. I wonder when we will think the PS5 version looks old.

The trailer gives off that cinematic feel. It’s one of those strange moments when the remake looks and feels like I remember, but looking back at the launch trailer on PS3 you see how far technology has come. From 720p and an unstable 30fps to 4K 30 or 60 (we’ll have to wait and find out the visual modes) is quite the leap on top of the graphical changes. The PS4 remaster I believe goes to a checkerboarded 4K with 60fps and HDR. We should also remember the cutscenes were pre-rendered on PS3/4. I assume on PS5 they will be real-time. Color me excited for the inevitable Digital Foundry analysis.

As a big fat fan and collector, I’m happy to see a special edition of the game. The Firefly Edition is exclusive to PlayStation Direct. It comes with a stellar looking Steelbook and a re-release of the American Dream comic with new covers all designed by David Blatt. You know I ordered my copy.

What I’m most curious about are the gameplay tweaks. There was no outright mention that the gameplay was being lifted from Part II. It would be quiet difficult to “copy and paste” the fluidity from the sequel into the original scenarios in the first game. They’d have to be redesigned to allow for that range of mechanical freedom.

We’ve implemented modernized gameplay, improved controls, and expanded accessibility options in this single-player experience to allow even more individuals to enjoy the game. Effects, exploration, and combat have all been enhanced.

It’s possible they’ve expanded areas and redesigned combat encounters. Maybe they brought in cut ideas like having Infected and Hunter encounters come up outside of Left Behind. There is interesting potential with a ground-up remake. I’m excited to learn what opportunities the team has taken.

The studio has promised more in the coming weeks and months. With the game only 84 days out, it’s great to have it in our hands so soon.

Episode 15: “Absolute Absurdity” with Logan Moore

It is that magical time in the Summer where Max Roberts and Logan Moore get together to predict E3/Summer Games Fest.

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The Other Podcast – Chapter Select

E3 is Dead, Long Live E3

PlayStation Predictions

E3 2022 – Xbox Predictions

  • Logan’s Xbox Predictions
    1. Starfield gets a trailer at Summer Games Fest then gameplay at Xbox showcase with no new date.
    2. Jedi Survivor gameplay is revealed.
    3. A Fable trailer with gameplay premieres.
    4. Wolfenstein 3 is officially announced and revealed.
    5. Three new first party games are announced.
  • Max’s Xbox Predictions
    1. Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is shown on Xbox’s stage.
    2. A Banjo-Kazooie game is announced.
    3. A Game Pass streaming stick device is revealed.
    4. The Indiana Jones game is shown off.
    5. The Last Night reemerges.

E3 2022 – PlayStation Predictions

  • Logan’s PlayStation Predictions
    1. God of War: Ragnaök gets September 2022 launch date announced before June ends.
    2. The Last of Us Remake confirmed and Factions will be packaged with it. The game won’t be announced until September.
    3. A new Sly Cooper game is announced. It is a reboot.
    4. A new Infamous game featuring Cole is revealed.
    5. Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is shown on PlayStation’s stage.
  • Max’s PlayStation Predictions
    1. Half-Life Alyx is coming to PS VR2.
    2. A major title gets a day and date launch on PC.
    3. Insomniac announces a PS VR2 game.
    4. Death Stranding 2 gets a whacky Kojima trailer.
    5. Sony announces local PS3 emulation on PS5.

E3 2022 – Nintendo Predictions

  • Logan’s Nintendo Predictions
    1. The sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild gameplay shown off, but still no official title.
    2. Bayonetta 3 is delayed to 2023.
    3. Shigeru Miyamoto reveals the first trailer for the Super Mario movie.
    4. A new Donkey Kong game finally revealed.
    5. Metroid Prime 4 is still nowhere to be found.
  • Max’s Nintendo Predictions
    1. Bayonetta 3 release date revealed: It is October 28, 2022.
    2. The next DLC pack for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is out “today!”
    3. Game Boy games/systems are announced for NSO.
    4. Hollow Knight: Silk Song actually shows up.
    5. Metroid Prime 4 gets a trailer.

Max Frequency

Chapter Select

Max’s Twitter @MaxRoberts143

Logan’s Twitter @MooreMan12

Chapter Select: Season 3, Episode 2 – Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

Font by Oakland Elliff, designed by Max Roberts

After an eight-year long slumber, Banjo-Kazooie comes out of hibernation with a brand new owner. Max Roberts, Logan Moore, and special guest Michael Ruiz pick up the pieces left behind by Rare and try to understand what Rare built on the Xbox 360. Are the bones of Nuts & Bolts strong or does it all fall apart under scrutiny?

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Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

Metacritic – 79/100

This episode was originally recorded on May 6 , 2022.

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Michael’s Twitter

Researcher, Editor, and Producer – Max Roberts

Hosted by Logan Moore & Max Roberts

Font by Oakland Elliff. Art designed by Max Roberts.

Chapter Select: Season 1, Episode 6 – Paper Mario: Sticker Star

The Season 1 finale has our hosts play through the Paper Mario game that changed everything. Max and Logan peel back the sticky layers of the Nintendo 3DS exclusive Paper Mario: Sticker Star to get a grasp on the influence of Shigeru Miyamoto. How has this portable game defined the franchise for the last decade?

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Paper Mario: Sticker Star

Metacritic – 75/100


This episode was originally recorded on August 4, 2021.

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Researcher, Editor, and Producer – Max Roberts

Hosted by Logan Moore & Max Roberts

Episode Cover Art by Max Roberts

Chapter Select: Season 1, Episode 3 – Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

It feels like it has been 1,000 years since Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door came out for the Nintendo GameCube; mostly because there hasn’t been a game like it since. Max, Logan, and special guest Scott White return to the seedy town of Rogueport to see if The Thousand-Year Door is a grand, epic stage production or a sloppy side show in the series.

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Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

Metacritic – 87/100


This episode was originally recorded on May 5, 2021.

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Researcher, Editor, and Producer – Max Roberts

Hosted by Logan Moore & Max Roberts

Episode Cover Art by Max Roberts

Chapter Select: Season 1, Episode 1 – Paper Mario

Season 1 is all about Paper Mario! Dusting off their Wii U consoles (?) Max and Logan play and dissect the paper-inspired RPG that started it all. Is Paper Mario really all it’s crafted up to be or is it a soggy mâché of a game?

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Paper Mario

Metacritic – 93/100


This episode was originally recorded on February 10, 2021.

Max’s Twitter

Logan’s Twitter

Researcher, Editor, and Producer – Max Roberts

Hosted by Logan Moore & Max Roberts

Episode Cover Art by Max Roberts

Announcing Chapter Select: A New Seasonal Podcast with Logan Moore

And you thought I’d only do one new podcast this year.

Chapter Select is a season-based podcast. Myself and Logan Moore pick a series each season and play all its entries alongside guests. The twist is we play the first game and then the most recent game, bouncing back and forth until we meet in the middle; allowing us to explore a franchise’s design, legacy, and evolution.

Season 1 is launching next week on June 2, 2021. There is also a test run we did in 2020, focusing on The Last of Us. If you wanted my thoughts on The Last of Us Part II hot off beating it, they have been recorded and on my hard drive for nearly a year.

You can listen to the first two episodes now:

S0E1: The Last of Us

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S0E2: The Last of Us Part II

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Chapter Select is an idea I have had for nearly three years. It’s been in development for roughly one of those years.

Back in college, I discovered a fun show called James Bonding, where hosts and guests watched the Bond films in this same manner Dr. No then Skyfall then From Russia with Love and so on. Unfortunately, that show in its entirety is behind a paywall now, but this format always stuck with me. I like it quite a bit and wanted to expand its potential.

At the end of college, I left the podcasting scene. While there is more to the story, one element that wore me down was a rigid weekly schedule. Having a seasonal show allows us a few luxuries:

  1. No inherent crunch
  2. Structure how we like, bank episodes
  3. Gives listeners (you) a higher quality product

It also lets Logan and myself really pick and choose which game series to tackle each season. We already have a slew of ideas and have Season 2’s focus locked in.

Here at launch, we have already released what we affectionately are calling “Season 0,” with its two episodes about The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part II. Then, throughout the month of June, we will be releasing (at least) the first three episodes of Season 1. We are still in the process of playing and recording the back half of Season 1.

Now if you’ll indulge me, I wanted to share some of the little touches we are using in the production of the show. Up first are what I consider standards for podcasts I produce at the moment – chapters. Seems like all major podcast players outside of Spotify fully support chapter markers and chapter art, so I’m happy to have them there.

Speaking of art, there is both seasonal and episodic show art. When you look up the show, it will have art tailored for the specific series we are covering at the time. Each episode will have art for the game we are talking about. This seems to be supported in most major podcast players at this point. I have had a blast making this custom art, especially for Season 1. I cannot wait to share it with you all.

This has been a project on my mind for a long time and I am immensely excited to finally release it. I truly think this a great show. I haven’t been this excited to engage in conversation about games in years.

It sort of reminds me of Logan and I’s early efforts to lean into the “Millennial” part of Millennial Gaming Speak. We’d play old games we had never played before and try to do it in a weekly fashion. It was far too taxing, even on a college schedule, but it lead to us playing some of gaming’s all-time greats and exploring them through our lens. The one game I actually beat at the time was Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. I see immense potential in us evolving that core idea into this Chapter Select format. I hope you all enjoy.

Chapter Select: Season 0, Episode 2 – The Last of Us Part II

In this inaugural test season of Chapter Select, Max and Logan dig into Naughty Dog’s post-apocalyptic series The Last of Us. Hot off the heels of its release in 2020, we sink our teeth into Naughty Dog’s divisive sequel. Did PlayStation’s top team capture earn the “Part II” in the title? How does The Last of Us Part II affect the legacy of the first game?

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The Last of Us Part II

Developer – Naughty Dog
Platform – PS4
Release Date – June 19, 2020
Director – Neil Druckmann
Narrative Lead – Halley Gross
Game Directors – Kurt Margenau and Anthony Newman
Composers – Gustavo Santaolalla and Mac Quayle

Metacritic – 93/100


This episode was originally recorded on June 23, 2020.

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Researcher, Editor, and Producer – Max Roberts

Hosted by Logan Moore & Max Roberts

Episode Cover Art by Sebastian Gromann