Behind the Pixel – How Roger Pokorny Mashes Hip-Hop and Video Games Together

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. I hope you enjoy.

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The worlds of hip-hop and video collide, not in the world of DJ Hero, but in the artistic stylings of Roger Pokorny. Through his spunky video essays, Roger takes the energy and vibrancy of hip-hop to talk about pop culture and games. From unique perspectives such as the state of rebooting franchises to the insanity of defending Arkham Origins, Roger’s infectous spirit and style rubs off on all his viewers.

Dope Facts about Roger Pokorny

  • He is the only* other person who understands why we need a new Splinter Cell game.
  • His Tinder profile was edited by Greg Miller.
  • He is a self-taught editor.

(Listed in order of publication date)

Mozerella Sticks are wild.

Roger Pokorny via Twitter on Jan. 5, 2018

This episode was originally recorded on December 21, 2017.

Behind the Pixel – GrandPOOBear Turned Playing Games from a Hobby to a Career

 

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. I hope you enjoy.

RSS Feed

Overcast

Apple Podcasts

Spotify

David “GrandPOOBear” Hunt is a prominent Twitch streamer and Super Mario speedrunner. What started as a hobby as a way to kill time while healing from a snowboarding accident, Poo has gone full time as a streamer with an engaged community. From taking world records for notoriously hard Mario ROM hacks to saving the frames, Poo shares an inside look to the world of speedrunning and Twitch.

Follow GrandPOOBear on Twitch
Follow GrandPOOBear on Twitter
Check out Poo’s podcast Warp World

Dope Facts about David “GrandPOOBear” Hunt

  • Poo is always wearing a snapback hat.
  • His favorite game console of all time is the Super Nintendo.
  • Poo is married and his wife is one of the few people that still call him David.

Links to articles mentioned in the interview

(Listed in order of publication date)

“The worst people on the Internet are not representative of 99.9% of the people on the Internet.”

— David “GrandPOOBear” Hunt on Behind The Pixel

This episode was originally recorded on August 29, 2017.

GMTK is Making a Game

What’s next for GMTK? by Game Maker’s Toolkit on YouTube

Mark Brown of Game Maker’s Toolkit has launched a new series where he shows the educational and creative process of making a game. And he is the one making said game.

I enjoy the idea and am excited to see how the series (and the game) shake out. The first proper episode is out where Mark explains which game engine he choose and the initial learning process he experienced. His lessons already learned are insightful and, frankly, applicable to learning anything for the first time (or the second or the hundredth time).

Exposing Fraud And Deception In The Retro Video Game Market – Karl Jobst

Exposing FRAUD And DECEPTION In The Retro Video Game Market by Karl Jobst on YouTube

You may have seen last month a copy of Super Mario 64 sell for $1.5 million. I even joked how my mostly sealed copy of Ocarina of Time could make me a millionaire. Well, Karl Jobst has dug into how the market has spiked so dramatically in the past couple of years all thanks to WATA Games and Heritage Auctions.

Karl’s research and reporting is thorough and damning. This video is well worth your time.

This helps explain (along with a spike in collecting due to people staying home during COVID-19) why game prices, even for loose games, has skyrocketed.

Since March 2021, I’ve been on a Pokémon game collecting kick. I know it is poor timing given the franchise’s 25th anniversary is this year, but some of the prices I have seen just don’t make sense. In March 2019, Pokémon Emerald was roughly $40~ loose, $100~ Complete-in-Box (CiB). Two and a half years later, it is $90~ and $400~. Pokémon Diamond was $15~ loose, $20~ CiB. Now it is going for $30~ and $60~, with a peak of nearly $100~ earlier in the year.

GameCube games have blown up. Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes has doubled. Billy Hatcher too. I understand those aren’t super popular GameCube games, but these spikes have never happened before.

This upward trend is clearly influenced by WATA Games grading and these extremely high, anonymous sales at Heritage Auctions. These auctions and grades are inflating the market until it will, eventually, burst.

Just the other day, I snagged a copy of Pokémon Silver at my favorite local shop. The owner shared with me how the prices have shot up and that even they have to pay heftier prices to get the trade-ins for their business. He talked about how just a couple years ago the Pokémon games were $20 maybe $30 a pop, now much more in the $70-100 range.

This also appears to solely be impacting the North American market. The same games for Japanese or European consoles have kept reasonable prices. Pokémon Diamond from Japan is selling for $35~ CiB. Emerald is $76~. That same store I shop at has all of Gen 1 and 2 cartridges for Pokémon at or below $30. If the game’s were for the North American market, the prices would double or triple.

Excellent reporting and research from Karl. I hope this bubble bursts sooner rather than later.

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.

Game Pass is the Ultimate ‘Pile of Shame’

Maybe Your ‘Pile Of Shame’ Is A Problem – A Short-Sighted Take from Kotaku

Game Pass provides its subscribers access to hundreds of games.

Games that they don’t own. Games they will never have time to play all of. Games that come and go as contracts and deals expire.

I suppose paying $15 a month for instant access to a game library is foolish then, by Luke Plunkett’s logic.

It doesn’t matter if that’s $[15] you were never going to spend, there’s a button being pressed inside our brains that says hey, this is a lot cheaper than it used to be, get it, because you’re saving and saving is smart. Not like those idiots who paid full price at release. [Subscribe to] it.

Right?

I know that’s a radical suggestion, but you’ll be OK. You’ll get through this. We live in a digital world. Those games are going to go on sale again, and they’re never going to run out of stock. Enjoy the games you’ve got and are still playing! 

Games exist to serve one purpose: to be played. If you’re buying them and not playing them, maybe you’re doing it wrong.

Maybe Your ‘Pile Of Shame’ Is A Problem – Kotaku

Maybe Your ‘Pile Of Shame’ Is A Problem by Luke Plunkett for Kotaku

A backlog shouldn’t need to be unpacked like this. If you’re still playing a game, and liking the game, and you already have another 1-2 sitting there unplayed, maybe…don’t go buying any more? I know that’s a radical suggestion, but you’ll be OK. You’ll get through this. We live in a digital world. Those games are going to go on sale again, and they’re never going to run out of stock. Enjoy the games you’ve got and are still playing!

Try saying that to PS3 and Vita owners in two months.

Games can be delisted. Stores are closed. Physical game prices rise and fall. Buying games digitally is just long-term rentals. Folks have to accept that with their digital purchases. 

Games exist to serve one purpose: to be played. If you’re buying them and not playing them, maybe you’re doing it wrong.

Games serve more than one purpose. Sure, playing them is at the heart of their existence, but one purpose? I guess Plunkett just writes about them for free like me? 

What a shallow take to kick off Kotaku’s month-long coverage about gaming backlogs.

UNBEATABLE – Kickstarter

UNBEATABLE – A game where music is illegal and you do crimes by D-CELL GAMES — Kickstarter: via Josh Scherr on Twitter

UNBEATABLE looks like a ton of fun & I backed the hell out of it, but I want to call out how the promo video exudes the same style & tone of the game itself; really effective & worth studying for anyone looking to promote their work!

Josh’s point on the tone of the trailer is what drew me in. Always down to see great examples of people’s work.

This trailer is bonkers good. 

I went from “I’ve never heard of this game” to “please come to console someday” in a beat. Excellent looking work. Also, killer tag line.

MiSTer FPGA Thoughts and Impressions – My Tool for Researching the Past

I have been writing about Analogue since the start of Max Frequency a year ago. For those unfamiliar with the company, Analogue makes specialized HD retro consoles that use chips called Field-Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs). The gist is that FPGAs allow for hardware-level, cycle accurate emulation opposed to software-based emulation. These chips can be reprogrammed to emulate a plethora of game systems. They have rapidly become essential in the retro gaming space as a means to play and preserve games and their hardware. You can really see the lengths the community goes to in Part 3 of My Life In Gaming’s docuseries Analog Frontiers – Preservation and Replication.

Analogue is far from the only FPGA-based console manufacturer. I only mention them because I have been familiar with them and their work for the longest. Posts I’ve written about them are often my most engaged articles. The demand for their products is high and the relative scarcity of them only amplifies that.

Other contenders are things like the AVS, which plays NES and Famicom games in HD. Plenty of HD mods for consoles use FPGAs as well like the GBA Consolizer, PS1Digital, and both the upcoming N64Digital and Retrotink5x Pro. While those are not emulating the hardware, it shows both how diverse FPGA application is and how essential they have become in bringing retro hardware to the modern era.

There is one other name in the FPGA scene that stands tall, often stacked against Analogue products—the MiSTer.

MiSTer is an open-source, DIY FPGA computer. Based off a readily available FPGA board (the DE-10), folks can buy components and assemble their own or even buy fully assembled kits from vendors like MiSTer Addons. The key differentiating factor is that MiSTer is not limited to one console like most Analogue products. Being open-source, there are countless people working together and developing numerous consoles, known as “cores,” for the platform. It can play NES, Sega CD, GBA, Atari Lynx, Galaga, Capcom’s CPS2 arcade board, and so much more. It is the swiss-army knife of FPGA retro gaming. And I bought/assembled one.

I’ve been aware of MiSTer for a couple years. Once you dive down the rabbit hole that is FPGA-based emulation, it won’t take long to stumble across the project. I never bought in before for two primary reasons:

  • I do prefer using carts/discs when possible. There is something about the tangibility of media that makes it feel more real. I know this has been embedded in my brain by growing up in the final, physical-only years of gaming, but I can’t shake it.
  • The cost. The MiSTer is not cheap when you spec it out with the highly recommended upgrades like RAM and the I/O Board. All-in-all, I spent just over $300 to buy the components and assemble my own MiSTer.

I changed my tune recently thanks to my journey to digitize and preserve my own game collection. Specifically, having my entire SNES and GBA collections–save data and all–available at my fingertips has bridged the physical-first mentality I have had my entire life. With enough searching, you could find any game online, whether you own it or not. That’s been a fact of life for a long, long time. But digitizing my copies of my games has tricked my brain into being happy with that. I’m not out here downloading any and everything; I am keeping the access at my disposal focused.

But those are games I have modern ways to play. I can play GBA games on my GameCube via GBI, plus my Pocket is coming soon. My SNES collection is fully playable on my Super NT. I do own some games that I have no way to play or play on original hardware.

Last year, I bought a copy of Naughty Dog’s third game, Dream Zone (yes, Math Jam counts). This game came out for the Apple IIGS, the Amiga, and the Atari ST. A few weeks ago I reached out to an Apple hardware collector to try and find a way to collaborate on my Naughty Dog book. He has the hardware, I have the software. This person is quite busy and understandably and politely declined. One sentence in their email did hit me with a dose of reality though:

…and my IIGS didn’t power on last time I tried it.  :(

I own none of those early computers and buying them individually, per PC game/platform, is financially unfeasible for me. When factoring in that some of these machines are also 35+ years old and that I don’t have the skills to repair and upkeep these devices, it doesn’t make sense to invest in them for one or two games specifically. Time is not on my side.

But with MiSTer, I have access to incredibly accurate hardware emulated cores for the Apple II (Ski Crazed), the Amiga and the Atari ST (Dream Zone and Keef the Thief). Plus, the Genesis (Rings of Power). There is even ongoing work on a PS1 core! Maybe the 3DO (Way of the Warrior) can magically run on MiSTer someday, if the community and hardware power is there; I’m not sure of the technically capabilities or not. The MiSTer gives me an ability to accurately capture these games at high resolution! I can actually experience these games and help visually preserve them for my book. This gives me value far beyond a new way to play Game Boy games. The MiSTer becomes a tool for my own research.

Assembling and setting up my own MiSTer was relatively simple. I used two key tutorials for the set up process and turned to the MiSTer Discord for help with some odds and ends. I do have a couple suggestions, if you are setting up your own and need some help.

When it is all set up, the MiSTer is slick beyond belief. I can run simultaneous output to my monitor and CRT, with a capture card in between. Thanks to my wide assortment of controllers, I can use USB-C cables and play SNES/GBA games with actual SNES controllers. I even bought the 8BitDo Arcade Stick for sweet, sweet arcade games and tate supported games (both on MiSTer and Switch).

I have had my eye on MiSTer for some time and finally found enough justification beyond “I want that” to bite the bullet. It’s a powerful retro-focused system and tool with insanely talented people behind its development. I am simply reaping the benefits. I cannot wait to see it side-by-side with the Pocket, which promises multiple core support in your hands with a technically impressive screen. MiSTer has a solid foundation and a bright future. It is actively breathing new life into old games and making them more accessible than ever before.

Noclip is Changing Today

Noclip is Changing Today – YouTube

Noclip has announced a reinvigorated focus for its company of two and their mission to create free video game documentaries. It’s been four and a half years since the company’s launch.

I actually had the pleasure of interviewing its founder, Danny O’Dwyer back in May 2017 for my old podcast Behind the Pixel. Noclip’s documentaries are something the industry desperately needs more of and they prove it can work and work well. Gaming is more than sales, emotes, etc. It’s the stories of the people that made them and how games came to be. Noclip finds and tells those stories exceptionally  well.

Preserving and Rediscovering My Game Collection

This all started when one day last month I had a concern: I became very worried that the PSN for PlayStation 3 and Vita would shut be shut down with very little notice. I had recently started rebuilding my PS3 collection. I have an 80GB “Phat” model and realized I couldn’t download all the games I had digitally acquired over the years.

Thankfully, Sony seems to have always made hard drive swapping in their consoles user friendly. I swapped in my original PS4 500GB hard drive and went download crazy. I also took out an old orange USB stick with all my old PS3 save data.

Back when I sold my PS3 and collection, I did have the foresight to backup all my save data. I never lost track of that USB stick. I keep it with my Wii U stick, a friend’s PS2 memory card, and an old 3DS SD card. It felt comforting to know that I made the right call by backing up that save data.

Then a train of thought rolled into the station.

What about all my games? I have got plenty of cartridge based games. The GameCube is my favorite system ever, how can I save that data? How do I preserve and protect my collection from the cruelness of time and the elements?

Continue reading “Preserving and Rediscovering My Game Collection”

Big Three Predictions 2021

The new year would not be complete without a healthy chunk of industry predictions. My second post ever on Max Frequency was my 2020 predictions. It is a sacred pastime and one I enjoy throughly. Before we recap my 2020 predictions and look into my crystal ball for 2021, here are the rules I have set for myself:

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

And that’s it. I do three predictions each for Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. I also close them all out with a “Kiefer”-level prediction. This is some outlandish, over-the-moon prediction inspired by the wackiness of having Kiefer Sutherland be the voice of Venom Snake in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

Let’s see how I fared in 2020.

Nintendo

  1. The next 3D Mario game is revealed and released in 2020.
  2. Switch revision with more power is announced. Switch lifetime sales will surpass 70 million units.
  3. The next Mario Kart game announced.

No strictly new 3D Mario game was announced nor was released in 2021. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury was announced but is releasing on February 12, 2021. So some new 3D Mario content, but off by two months!

No new Switch model, despite earlier rumors. The Switch console most assuredly surpassed 70 million units sold though. The last official numbers were reported on November 5, 2020 with 68.3 million units. That specific quarter was 6.86 million consoles alone. Since this was before the traditional holiday shopping season, I feel safe claiming that the Switch has surpassed 70 million units by the end of 2020. We’ll find out officially on March 31, 2021 when the annual shareholders meeting occurs. Still doesn’t give me the point though.

Not quite what I had envisioned, but a new Mario Kart game was announced and released this year! If only I didn’t have carpet in half of the new apartment…One point locked for the Nintendo chunk!

PlayStation

  1. PS5 will be fully revealed in a Wired article with a press event around E3 that reveals price and date. Backward compatible with all systems, including PS3 and Vita.
  2. Horizon Zero Dawn sequel will be launch window title for PS5.
  3. PS VR 2 will be mentioned by Sony. 

So believably wrong. The reveal of the PS5 was whacky, cancelled E3 or not.

What is a launch window anyway? Completely subjective, I’m sure. The closest thing to a release date for Horizon Forbidden West is a window of the second half of 2021. While it possibly could happen within the first year of the PS5, I don’t think it counts as a launch window title. Wrong again.

While Sony didn’t talk about the PS VR 2 in the way that I had hoped for, they did talk about VR on the PS5 and the future of their VR plans.

“PlayStation believes in VR. Sony believes in VR, and we definitely believe at some point in the future, VR will represent a meaningful component of interactive entertainment. Will it be this year? No. Will it be next year? No. But will it come at some stage? We believe that…” – PlayStation CEO, Jim Ryan in an interview with The Washington Post on Oct. 29, 2020

Is that specifically mentioning PS VR 2? Who’s to say? No one is here to stop me. So I give myself the point.

Xbox

  1. Series X will be the only “next-gen” Xbox available this holiday shopping season.
  2. While Halo Infinite will be a lunch title, it will have some differentiating feature from the Xbox One edition of the game, despite being cross-generational.
  3. The Initiative’s first game will be revealed.

I just did not believe the idea that Microsoft would launch two consoles simultaneously and undercut themselves in price, performance, and game design limitations. I do think that them launching two consoles and Sony launching two variants makes for a far more interesting, if not unprecedented, market.

My Halo prediction could still come true, except for the part about being a launch title.

All hail Geoff Keighley and The Game Awards. This was almost too close for comfort. I never played Perfect Dark on the N64, but this new game seems pretty dope. I am curious how building an entirely new studio from scratch to revive an old IP will pan out.

Lastly, there is the matter of last year’s Kiefer prediction:

The next 3D Mario game will be Super Mario Odyssey 2 and will launch this summer, while Nintendo’s big fall game will be the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Oh so very wrong. Well, maybe we could drop the “very.” Like I mentioned before, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is on the horizon. While Nintendo’s big Fall game wasn’t the sequel to Breath of the Wild, we did get the prequel to it with Age of Calamity. Maybe we can say I was “oh so close, yet so far away.”

Out of all the predictions, I nabbed 3/10. That is terrible. I hurt myself with some two-sentence predictions. Don’t worry, I’ve learned my lesson. I will fare much better in 2021.

Nintendo

  1. Nintendo will acknowledge the GameCube’s 20th anniversary.
  2. For The Legend of Zelda’s 35th anniversary, Nintendo will release a 3D Zelda collection, just like they did for Mario in 2020.
  3. There is no new “Pro” Nintendo Switch model released in 2021.

2021 is a huge anniversary year for the Big N. The biggest by far is The Legend of Zelda. There was a huge celebration when Zelda had its 25th anniversary, most notably with the release of Skyward Sword. I can’t imagine a 2021 where Nintendo doesn’t celebrate Zelda’s 35th anniversary. It also happens to be Metroid’s 35th anniversary, but hoping for any major form of celebration is a fool’s hope.

The other notable anniversary is the launch of the GameCube, arguably my favorite Nintendo console of all time. Ideally (read as another fool’s hope) Nintendo would do some sort of GameCube library like they currently do for the NES and SNES on Switch Online. The GameCube is the second Nintendo home console (I see you Virtual Boy) to not have any sort of digital presence on Nintendo’s current consoles and shops. It’s time for the GameCube to get the respect it deserves.

Since the rumors were so prevalent heading into 2020, I’m deciding to swing the other way when it comes to the Switch Pro. I think Nintendo is happy riding out one more year before releasing the Switch Pro. That’s not to say they won’t announce it this year, but I don’t see it releasing in 2021.

PlayStation

  1. Sony will buy Bluepoint Games.
  2. Naughty Dog’s next project will not be announced in 2021.
  3. Backward compatibility will come to the PS5 for more than the PS4.

Sony and Bluepoint Games have an incredibly tight second-party relationship. I think Sony will look to lock that in as a first party. Sony has an incredible library of games that would thrive off a full-blown remake from the best of the best. Demon’s Souls being a launch title for the PS5 continues to showcase the prowess of Bluepoint Games and Sony’s hardware. It’s time for Sony to lock Bluepoint down.

Historically, Naughty Dog doesn’t wait long to announce their next project. I say they pivot and fully embrace the silence that they took for the bulk of the development of The Last of Us Part II. Now, I could be proven wrong in January or February when they announce a PS5 port of The Last of Us Part II with some fully featured multiplayer game, but I’m thinking the Dogs may be quiet for awhile.

This is my vague way to say that Sony better let us play those digital PS1 and PS2 games we bought back in the day. Heck, go the way and figure out PS3 compatibility and bring along the PSP and the Vita. Make the PS5 the end-all-be-all PlayStation.

Xbox

  1. Halo Infinite is delayed again.
  2. At least two games previously confirmed for cross-generational support will drop their Xbox One versions.
  3. Microsoft will announce that the Xbox One consoles will receive an xCloud app, turning them into streaming boxes.

As much as it pains me to write it, I feel like Halo Infinite is going to slip again, likely to early 2022. Maybe 343 will release a multiplayer beta to soften the blow, but I think Chief slips one more time.

Which some what ties into my next prediction, I think this cross-generational support is going to slowly vanish from Xbox. I can’t see Halo Infinite making its way to Xbox One. Throw Fable, Forza, or whatever else in there too. It’s already begun with Microsoft Flight SimulatorAfter both Sony taking the “announce cross-gen titles as they come” approach and the utter debacle of Cyberpunk 2077’s console launch, I can’t imagine Microsoft will want their studios to support six different platforms.

And building upon the blow that would cause, I think Microsoft will announce that an xCloud app will come to Xbox One consoles. Most likely the One S and One X, since they both can output 4K video. If my phone can “run” The Master Chief Collection, I think the One S and One X can stream some games. Not only would this technically mean that you can play these games on your older hardware, but it also helps bolster Game Pass Ultimate subscriptions, which is what Microsoft and Xbox really want their customers to sign up for.

I’ve kept you waiting for my Big Boss Kiefer-level prediction, haven’t I? Well no longer! Behold!

Nintendo will release a 3D Zelda collection that includes an HD port of Ocarina of Time 3D and Majora’s Mask 3D, as well as Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess HD. The long-rumored HD port of Skyward Sword will be a standalone release.

I think what makes this “Kiefer”-levels is the versions of the 3D Zelda games I chose. The biggest shock would be porting the 3DS remakes of the N64 classics in HD. Nintendo could easily just use their N64 emulation from Super Mario 3D All-Stars and call it a day. I think they’ll go above and beyond for Zelda though and utilize those recent remakes. They already gave the GameCube Zelda games the HD treatment and have been porting Wii U games left and right. Releasing Skyward Sword alone would be inline with other decisions that Nintendo has made with new releases of older games.

2021 feels like it will be a banger of a year for video games to me. There’s just enough shrouded in fog that amps my excitement. Nintendo could really come out with all the pomp and circumstance for Zelda, Metroid, Super Nintendo World (the theme park, not the similarly named, theme park inspired Wii U game Nintendo Land). PlayStation can keep the train chugging along by making big purchases and popularly demanded features a reality. Xbox can continue their resurgence with a laser focus on playing their games on any screen that will have their app. There is plenty of potential, all that remains to be seen is if the industry goes for it.

Favorite Games I Played in 2020

2020 was a wonderful year for video games. The end of the generation always seems to show off developer’s ability to squeeze every ounce of power out of the older consoles and explore the new potential of the next generation of home console gaming.

It was also a year where folks could sink their teeth into their back catalogs and replay their favorite games. Needing to stay inside more than usual greatly lent itself to playing games. At least, that’s part of how I took advantage of being furloughed earlier this year (outside of writing 18,000 words about Naughty Dog).

So here are my ten favorite games I played in 2020 with a little bit on each one. They are listed in alphabetical order, although I’m sure you can guess what my favorite game was this year.

Astro’s Playroom

From a pack-in demo on the PS4 to a VR Platforming marvel to a full-blown launch game pack in, Astro has had quite the rise during the life of the PS4. Astro’s Playroom is a charming and engaging 3D platformer. It masterfully showcases the DualSense controller and its possibilities while making you all nostalgic for PlayStation consoles of year’s past.

Death Stranding

This is certainly not the game I thought I’d come back to this year. Maybe it was because I had time on my hands. Or the fact my friends gave me an impossibly hard time for selling my Death Stranding PS4 Pro for the The Last of Us Part II variant. Kojima out of the shadow of Metal Gear is a sight to behold.

Donkey Kong Country

DKC never looked so good.

On a slightly more serious note, I never actually played the original SNES version of Donkey Kong Country. I only had the Game Boy Color version as a kid. DKC was one of my earlier pickups when I was given a Super Nintendo. I finally decided to play it when I bought a new wireless SNES controller from 8bitdo. No better way to test input lag than with a wireless controller. There is a clear reason why DKC, both the original game and the series as a whole, has stood the test of time as a pillar of platformers.

Hades

I’ve been aware of Hades since Noclip started their documentary series two years ago. I even tried to buy it on the Epic Games Store for my MacBook Pro, but it isn’t available for macOS. I snagged it late-ish November/early December on the eShop because it was on sale and I had points expiring.

What a rock solid action game. I love the constant tug of decision making to increase your chances of making it further in each run. I could see myself get better with each run.

I do wish the narrative sucked me in more. I “beat” the game twice and felt satisfied. I still have eight more runs to see credits roll apparently. I just don’t feel a pull to keep going though.

Halo 3: ODST

Furlough and quarantine presented the perfect opportunity to replay the Halo series with my pals. And ODST is the best campaign followed closely by Reach. Halo is at its best when the stories feel smaller in the sprawling conflict. The way the narrative is stitched together; chef kiss.

Luigi’s Mansion 3

A Christmas present from last year, my playthrough ran into this year. The game is an absolute delight and a treasure for series fans. The animation and art direction will ensure that Luigi’s Mansion 3 will always look good. Just add another feather in Nintendo’s cap of timeless and charming art direction. The only real issue I had was the terrible final boss design. It was definitely a roadblock and totally crushed my pacing in the narrative.

Night Trap

Night Trap is utterly timeless thanks to its infamy. I had watched a documentary a few years ago and grabbed a copy for Nintendo Switch from Limited Run Games back in 2018. I had never played it and always thought it’d be a fun group game.

This summer I visited my parents and decided that one afternoon would be perfect for it. My wife, my parents, and my friend Logan were all there and we fumbled around the house as vampire ninjas abducted friends left and right.

We were captivated by the cheesiness of it all. After failing on our own a few times, Abby pulled up a guide and was shouting out rooms and timestamps. I bounced the cameras around the home while trying to watch teens dance and vampire ninja’s plot.

We were doing great until a poorly executed command on the final life or death scene; the final boss, if you will. It kicked us back to the half way point. I couldn’t convince the group to sit through another 13ish minutes. What a fun, goofy, unforgettable afternoon.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Ori is an absolute masterclass in fluidity of movement. I’d be hard presses to think of a game I’ve played in 2020 that had better movement.

The game’s soundtrack gave me Grant Kirkhope and David Wise undertones. The game world gave off both DKC and Hollow Knight vibes. Ori is definitely evocative and engrossing.

While the combat felt great, I wish I was more enticed to swap powers/weapons more. I kept the sword and the health recovery equipped always. I felt like the weapons I found and bought weren’t worth engaging with regularly.

Beyond that, I’d say Ori is an essential metroidvania game for any fan. And it got robbed at The Game Awards 2020.

Super Metroid

A consistent theme I tried to adhere to this past year was playing one game at a time. This also was applied to books and TV shows. I have a bad habit of starting and stopping games.

Early on in the year, Super Metroid was one of my first “I’m gonna finish this” games. I had myself a FAQ from GameFaqs and would play in the morning.It happened to be after buying our new TV. I really started getting my money’s worth out of the Super NT this year.

There’s a reason that “metroidvania” is a term used for exploratory adventure games with upgrades. Super Metroid is part of the reason games like Ori, Hollow Knight, and Guacamelee soar.

The Last of Us Part II

It’s rare for a sequel to not only surpass the original, but to elevate it as well. Despite covering the game so closely, The Last of Us Part II surprised me continually. I played it three times. While this list may be in alphabetical order, this was far and away my favorite game of 2020.

For my spoiler-filled thoughts, check out my review. If you’re interested in the game’s history, check out Chasing the Stick: The History of Naughty Dog during the PS4 Era.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

As a part of research for Chasing the Stick, I replayed all of the Naughty Dog Uncharted games. Not a bad way to research if you ask me. I think this was my fourth time playing the game and it continues to stand tall as my favorite in the series. Some didn’t care for the pivot to a more grounded Drake and adventure. For me, making it personal for Drake, Elena, and Sully was the only way to take Uncharted as a whole to the next level. It’s part of what makes Uncharted 3 better than Uncharted 2 in my book. Uncharted 4 has personal connection and consequences as a cornerstone of its design and it  pays out in spades.

Why is it so Difficult to Emulate Apple IIGS Games?

I am practically at my wits’ end. I just want to play three Apple IIGS games, two of which seem to be exclusive to that particular iteration of Apple’s famous computer. Search after search has led my to various apps and emulators that either run Apple IIe tier games, are not 64-bit compatible, or require odd web browsers and extensions.

Maybe I don’t know enough about older computing commands, coding, etc. I can’t even really figure out if something like the Raspberry Pi can emulate the Apple IIGS and its games. Maybe this kinda of emulation is easier on Windows PC (which would be ironic to say the least).

This strikes me as so odd for this sort of game emulation to be so convoluted. It is easier to jailbreak an iPhone, install emulators, and play Nintendo DS games on the phone. Why does this era of early home PC gaming have such a technological hurdle to even attempt? I’ve even looked into Amiga ports for the games I am looking at and the emulation doesn’t seem any more clear on that front. Maybe it is due to having to emulate an operating system underneath the game’s code?

These past two or so weeks have been incredible frustrating for this little side project. I just want to play a few obscure Apple IIGS games? Is that too much to ask for?