Creative Director at Sledgehammer Games
ANNOUNCER: Games in this podcast range from E to M.
- Hello, everyone, and welcome to the official Xbox Podcast. My name is Tina, and I'm here with my favorite hosts of all time, Jeff and Malik. How are you guys doing?
- That's high praise.
- I know.
- All time, that is like a-- that's like forever.
- That is like forever, and into perpetuity in the future as well. So--
- Well, you're our favorite host.
- --you got to keep it up.
- You're our favorite host of all time.
- Good. I would hope for nothing less.
- There you go.
- We've got a fun week and a fun show going on right now, because the great year that is 2023 just keeps on giving with those incredible video game releases. And we've been playing two of those video game releases that are brand new. I've been playing Alan Wake 2, but both of you guys have been playing Jusant. And I haven't had a chance to play that beyond a Gamescom demo. So I would love to hear what this meditative action-adventure climbing puzzle game is all about, aside from what I just said, of course.
- Yeah. Well, so Jusant is by one of my favorite-- I remember a few weeks ago I said "ju-sant" and I got-- I just-- it was like, oh, my god, you idiot.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: It's French!
- I know it's French. No. So Jusant is actually developed by DON'T NOD who are amazing developers, who have made some of my favorite games of all time, Life Is Strange 1 and 2. Those games taught me how to feel in video games. The stories are amazing.
But what I love about developers that we're seeing a lot of is risk-taking. There's this idea, they could have continued making Life Is Strange, but they decided to go a little bit different. And so--
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: A lot bit different.
MALIK PRINCE: A lot different, for real. This is a platforming game, very serene, very amazing art style, almost like-- I don't know if you want to call it-- it's not water paint. What would you call this art style, Jeff?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Sometimes you hear this referred to as a painterly style.
MALIK PRINCE: Oh.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: I think it's like deliberately not detailed but very stylized. And so--
TINA AMINI: Glowy.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Yeah, exactly. It looks nice.
MALIK PRINCE: That's right. And so it's nothing like Life Is Strange. It's basically a platformer where you're simply just climbing-- at least, I've only-- full disclosure, I'm only an hour in. And so Jeff is going to take you a little bit deeper into the game. But it's a platformer where you're literally climbing up the side of this mountain, all these different structures. And you use your left and right trigger to grab onto things. And at first, it's a little disorienting. For me at least, it was, because it's well, I'm not climbing.
TINA AMINI: You get used to it.
MALIK PRINCE: But then, it's like, oh, this does make sense. You release with the left trigger grapple, grab with the right trigger, and you keep going. And then, they slowly introduce you to different elements in the game. And so as of where I am, there's not much dialogue. The character makes little grunts, as one would when they're climbing up a mountain. But it's just really cool, really serene. And you just can take in the sounds of nature. But Jeff, I know you've been playing a lot further.
- Yeah, yeah. So this game jumped out of nowhere, and it's one of my favorites. It's in Game Pass. So you don't have to trust me. You can just download it and try it for yourself. It's also a game that you can beat in, I'm told, five to six hours.
MALIK PRINCE: Oh, love that.
- I'm a little more than halfway through that point. So Jusant, it tells you-- it's very nice at the beginning-- like, what does this even mean? It's a tide that has flowed out. And you're basically-- you start off-- you're on the bottom of an ocean that dried out. And early on where you're in-- I think in chapter 1-- you're like, is this Earth in the future? What is this? That becomes more-- you become more aware of OK, this is not-- I don't think this is Earth. It's definitely a lot different.
But essentially, society had lived or a big chunk of it in this giant tower. But it's natural, that went all the way down to the bottom of the Ocean, and people just would live a very vertical life. And as the ocean dried, out, then people had to be like, OK, well, we need to figure it out. And it seemed like-- and you uncover the story through notes and other things like that. Everyone's gone, and you're going up. You're going upstream. And I think just it's really about exploration. What's up there?
Now, the thing that I think is really cool from a mechanical perspective about this game is-- I just got done playing Assassin's Creed. I've played all the more recent Tomb Raiders and Uncharted. And I love those games, and those games all feature-- God of War-- a lot climbing. But you're never-- it's not like-- you don't really have to think about the climbing. The character itself is like, oh, my-- whoa!
- Yeah, we'll find it.
- But you're like, if you put the controller down, they're just going to hang there. It's not a big deal, and it's not complicated. This, it's all about the climbing. And you have to think about the climbing. And that is the game. And at the beginning, like you said you were disoriented, but right trigger grabs your right hand. Left trigger grabs your left hand. OK? Easy to wrap your mind around. And the left stick, just whatever your free hand is, you look for a handhold. And so it's all about saying, OK, what is going to be the way up here? And how do I figure the best path up there? There is a--
TINA AMINI: Stamina bar.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: --meter that-- stamina bar. It's pretty permissive, I would say. You can at any point, if you get to a good spot, you can hold down--
MALIK PRINCE: Rest, yeah.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: --the left stick. And you shake your hand out, and you get some of that back. So it's not quite as tense as Zelda, or Genshin Impact, or one of those games where you're constantly falling off. I have yet to fall. I've come close. Where the gameplay really opens up is you have three or four of these pitons-- [IMITATES FRENCH ACCENT]
- Yeah, there you go.
- I've been watching--
- The French.
- --Lupin on Netflix.
TINA AMINI: Perfect timing.
- Do not mess with my French pronunciation. You can at any point jam this thing into the rock, and that allows you to extend out from where you're at. And then, you can repel down, and you can get momentum. You can go back and forth. And it evolves into this point where I'm swinging across canyons and grabbing onto a part of a ladder. And then, there's these pebbles, which are these movable bugs that you can grab onto. It really opens up, and you feel really accomplished. And there's this relief when you finally get to another ledge. And you can climb up, and you can take a breath.
Anyway, I did not expect this game to grab me. As we were talking about earlier, I'd gotten Alan Wake and Jusant at the same time. I know I'm going to love Alan Wake. That seems a bigger game I want to hear from you, by the way, Tina. Jusant, five-to-six-hour game. I'm like, let me just play this first. And I'm so glad I did. So I implore you, give it a try. It's on Game Pass. And I would say make it to chapter 2, because that's when you start to realize what this game is and some of the other elements of the game-- I'm trying to say without spoiling-- that really make this more than-- it's not just a plain old climbing simulator.
MALIK PRINCE: 100%. I'm still in chapter 1. And I was starting to wonder like, OK, so what is going to change in this game? And so I have to get a little bit further in. But to your point, I think what we're really loving in this period are the different games that are coming out.
And when I was playing it last night-- We'll talk about it a little bit. I don't have my console right now. So I was playing on cloud gaming, which, by the way, if you haven't played in a while, there's like no input latency lag. It's just really impressive what that team has been able to do. And so I had a great experience. But it was just really cool, because it was just really calming. And it was like-- I don't know. I just felt at peace playing the game. And then, half an hour flew by. It was so cool.
- And for you, that's saying something.
- I know.
- So maybe you should be playing this game more often.
- Yeah. How was the Apple Watch doing at that point, the hard tracker?
- Exactly. So I need to play more games like this rather than multiplayer games, because it definitely put me at ease. It's just a beautiful game. And to Jeff's point, it is just-- I don't know. It's just awesome. I love it.
- And the mechanics seem like super rhythmic too. It's obviously not a rhythm game, but you're falling into a pattern with the climbing, including with taking breaks too to gain up that momentum as well.
- The one thing in this game that I might regret later is it making me think, oh, climbing is easy. I could do this. I cannot do this.
- I rock climbed once, and I was-- I al-- before this point, I was like, how hard could it be to rock climb? Come on. You just hold this thing and you go to the next one.
TINA AMINI: Three points of contact, use your legs to lift.
- Yeah. How hard could that be?
- That's it.
- And I did it one time. And I was like about to die. I was like, this is the hardest thing in the world. And so--
- But then, if you let go, you also die.
- Yeah. So--
- That's how hard it is.
- That's the tough part. It's a tough decision.
- Not the rock climbing gym, you don't.
- Speaking-- That's true. Speaking, if you have a good belay-- So speaking of heart rate monitors, Alan Wake 2 had to have your watch pinging.
- Yeah, and I didn't have the watch on. But if I did, I'm sure it would have. And I've had a houseguest, which is great timing, because I get to have a companion that helps me get through. And I didn't quite realize how much I emote when I play horror games. So it's a lot of the screaming at the TV. What are you doing? That's not what I told you to do. Move! Get out of there. And so we're just laughing at my freak-out moments, which has been a nice extra layer.
But it's well deserved freak-out, because Remedy are quite talented as a studio at putting together not just horror games, because it's arguably easy to do jumpscares, same in movies. There's a lot of cheap shots in a lot of ways. And there are those kind of moments. But they're balanced with a lot of just interesting storytelling.
And it's very meta in a sense, because if you're not familiar with Alan Wake, the whole conceit is you are a very-- you play as a very successful writer. You're in this-- This is Alan Wake 1. You're in this writer's block mode. You go to Bright Falls, Washington, which feels very appropriate for us, playing a game set in Washington while living in Washington, with a lot of the spooky mist and fog that's been happening around us lately.
And he's trying to get over-- well, theoretically, he's trying to get over his writer's block. And then, there's this dark presence that starts to create a bit of chaos and shadowy enemies in the town of Bright Falls. And you start to realize that Alan's writing can actually impact the story. And all of this is to do with the dark presence under Cauldron Lake, and how that's changing the town, and how Alan is coming to terms with that and learning some of those mysteries.
So Alan Wake 2 picks up at the end of Alan Wake 1, which I won't spoil, even though it's a 13-year-old game. And if you haven't played it, and you're going into Alan Wake 2, you certainly don't need to have played it, I would argue. But there's so much that unfolds in one that makes your appreciation of seeing return characters and what happened to certain narrative threads, I'll say, into it just makes it that much more worthwhile. So I would recommend that.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: First game is a great game. I played it really late. I had bought it back in 2013 or 2014 and sat on it for literally like close to a decade. I think I played it during the pandemic. And I was like, oh, we have backward compatibility. And I literally had the disk and popped it in. And even though visually it looked very much like a 360 game, very quickly, the atmosphere, it transcends that, the audio design, and just the light and the dark. I got so into it. And even though that's not technically a horror game, Alan Wake 1, it scared the heck out of me at multiple times.
- I'd call it a horror game. Horror is a vast genre.
- Well, that's what worries me and what I want to hear from you is now, we're really doing survival horror. I was like, I was already scared. So--
- Yeah. I mean, the setting is scary. The storytelling, a lot of the enemies are scary. You do play with light and dark in terms of how-- you actually do need to use your flashlight to weaken enemies and then shoot them afterwards. So it's an interesting mechanic, which they've carried over into the second game.
And there's some slight adjustments in terms of very baseline skill trees, not quite like a skill tree, but there are skill elements involved. So there's a variety of weapons and flares that you can use at your disposal in various combinations. As the game goes on, you unlock more of these things, as you would imagine.
But the scares are both in jumpy moments-- and you've seen it in the trailers. You've seen the negative effect, the faces morphing into scary things. Those will come at you all of a sudden. So it'll be just a peaceful walk in nature, just taking a hike as you're investigating. You also play as FBI agent Saga Anderson. So she's just on a peaceful walk after investigating a murder of a dude getting his heart cut out, like just a Wednesday, really, just a regular day.
- It happens.
- And then, suddenly, this flash happens. And you start to wonder, what is the significance of the flash? When you switch between Saga and Alan, and he experiences those flashes. He goes into the dark place and experiences a total different kind of level design as well. So there's a lot at play. His sections, I would say, are a lot creepier in that sense, because you're literally in the dark place. And there are a lot of creepy things that are happening, unexpected things that are happening.
Even as Saga, you'll get into certain boss fights that loop on itself. So it's the terror of the just surprises that they throw your way, the jump scares, the setting overall, the concept of what's happening. Saga herself-- I won't spoil it, of course. But Saga herself gets very invested in the story as things go on. As you can imagine, it's not a very straightforward case for the FBI. And there's a lot of interconnections between some of Remedy's other worlds, like Control.
So I've said this before, I love horror. And Alan Wake is several different kinds of horror. It's that survival horror mechanism. So you are scavenging for batteries for your flashlight to continuously use them for ammunition, for health packs, as you can imagine. But there's also psychological thriller horror. There's the supernatural element.
So there's a lot at play here. And I think it bounces around in terms of the story and the gameplay mechanics. Bounces around in such a way that it keeps you on your toes. But man, I love the pacing for it too. You have enough of that story element in between, enough of that comment, combat rather, and then those looping boss battles that throw you for a loop and can surprise you as you're-- it's not a straightforward like, there's your enemy, you're hiding behind this thing, like reloading, whatever.
You are doing a bit of that. But you're navigating suddenly you've hit the end of a path, and you don't know where the enemies are. And you're like, wait, I've been here. I saw that same cabin. You just have to go through and start to touch things around you and what's going to gain you access to the next chapter, essentially.
MALIK PRINCE: It's so impressive. And to your point, the team Sam Lake and the team at Remedy, I'm such a huge fan of their games, like Control, Quantum Break, one of my favorite games of all time. I love Quantum Break, and it's just so really cool seeing them craft a story. And it's good to see online Sam Lake getting all of his flowers, because he is one of the greatest minds in video games, legitimately.
But I don't know how much you've played the game. But I've been hearing-- and of course, we're not going to spoil. But I've been hearing that this game has one of the most cinematic 15 minutes inside of a game. I don't know if you've reached that yet. Is--
- I think I might know--
- Do you know what they're talking about?
- --what you're talking about.
MALIK PRINCE: Because I'm so ready to play the game.
- Yeah. There's definitely-- I'll say this. The way that when I experienced it, which was last night, it truly was, I experienced it. So it's an experiential level, if I think I know what you're talking about. So I won't say more than that because you really-- I've seen some people-- I was spoiled on it just a little bit before getting to it online. People have been excitedly talking about it. So as usual, be careful out there on the PSA front.
But it's still surprising when you go through the entirety of it. What's happening, what I can say about it is that what's happening to both Alan and Saga is contending with that dark presence. And as these pages, this manuscript is being written, which has been a thing since the first game, you're making the dark presence more powerful.
The dark presence is preying on, feeding on the townspeople, both in terms of how it's becoming more omnipotent and also how it's just literally taking over the townspeople. And they become its soldiers, essentially. And they're all after you. Obviously, you as Saga are trying to unravel this mystery. Alan was trying to do the same thing in Alan Wake 1.
The dark presence won, arguably, because poor man was trapped there for 13 years. And he's now struggling to come out of that, connecting with Saga, in a way. You sense that there might be something special about all the cast of characters that are involved in this story. But that's also what I love about the storytelling is just that you're learning so much about the mystery as you go. But you're still having to piece it together incrementally.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Yeah. Can you talk about that part? Because I know there's that Charlie Day strings on there.
- The investigation, the mind place.
- The mind place, yeah.
- Yeah. So the mind place is a new mechanic for Alan Wake 2. And initially, I was thinking like, I don't know if I need this as a pacing element. But it's really much more than a pacing element. Early on, they're just teaching you the structure of OK, you have these main cards, main part of your investigation.
And then, you have these threads are like, OK, so there's a cult. OK. So who's involved? What's their goal? What was the purpose of that ritualistic sacrifice? What are the de-- And then, that branches off. What are the details of those ritualistic sacrifices? So ultimately, early on, they're giving you very small elements to work with, because you're just learning the mechanic for the first time, understanding it. So it was a slow grow for me.
But at the end of it, I'm in love with the mind place. And it feels a good way to decompress, take stock of what's going on, but also keep track of the story, because as much as I'm keeping track of the story, when you think about it from an FBI investigator's point of view, you're really analyzing it on a different front and able to start to understand the mystery as it's unraveling. So it's just a really nice mechanic to help you understand the multifaceted threads that Sam Lake and the team have written into this story.
And it feels like Alan Wake 1 was a good opportunity to get introduced to this kind of world, this concept of rewriting reality, and how that's impacting the small idyllic theoretically town. And Alan Wake 2 is really about having a little bit more mastery over it, despite still feeling like you're at such a disadvantage, because this dark presence is still a mystery somehow, despite how much you've learned about it and how much Alan's learned about it over time.
- So you mentioned in the mind place decompressing, but I've heard that if you go into the mind place and you're not alone, you're not-- That's not a pause menu.
- Mm, it's not a pause menu, that's for sure. So it's interesting, because it's not just the board. Your map is there. You can upgrade your skills or your weapons there. So Saga has a skill tree, so to speak, loose term there, where you just upgrade your weapons as you gain these little puzzle pieces. And then, Alan Wakes is a little bit more to do with comprehensively, him as a person as well as his skills and his weapon abilities.
So it's a place to do that. It's a place to look at your investigation. But when you're looking at the investigation, once Saga has completed a thread, she steps back, and she speaks to herself. And occasionally, she has these visions of other characters in the story that are also helping fill out elements.
So early on, she's talking to witnesses of the murder at the start of the game. And she can tell that they're lying, because they're basically telling her-- in her own mind place, they're telling her the details that they're unwilling to say out loud. And so she comes back out of the mind place. And she's like, so you're lying. And I would like to the rest of those details. I'm like, how did you know? So there's a mystery within that too. How did she know? What is this mind place? And she almost takes it for granted. She's like, oh, yeah, it's just this thing that I do. It's the most normal thing for her.
So it's mystery on mystery, horror genre on horror genre, such an advancement in a lot of ways, audio design, the art style, the lighting from Alan Wake 1 because, obviously, it's been 13 years for Alan and it's been 13 years for us as well in waiting for the sequel. So it's just it's an incredible achievement for Remedy, and they're getting very well due--
- High praise.
- --praise right now.
- High praise. And honestly, they deserve it. The game-- A lot of people called Alan Wake, for better or for worse, they called it a cult classic, because it came out at a time when there were a lot of multiplayer games out there. And it was trying to tell this story. But I love that it came back better, harder, with a better story--
- Faster, stronger.
- --with a new-- faster, stronger, there you go. That's-- There's a phrase.
- All the words, yeah.
- And now, to this game that, to your point, Tina, has been getting a lot of critical acclaim. And so I'm so happy for the team. And I can't wait to play it. I have not been able to play it. And I've been looking forward--
- It's really good.
- --to this game all year. So I'm excited.
- The big pro tip I'm taking from you is make sure someone's in the room with you.
- It certainly helps.
- Backseating is welcome.
- I will say, though, there's a lot of quiet moments as well. There's a rhythm to each of the new areas that you discover. And I've really fallen into that rhythm, including with the mind place. So I have a system now. I go in. I do some exploration. Both Saga and Alan have these experiential puzzle-solving, like environmental puzzle-solving, essentially. And that also helps with the pace.
And for Saga, she'll find-- there'll be like lock boxes from the cult. So you can get additional loot, which for a survival horror game is important. And then, there's also these nursery rhymes that you have to solve. So there are these slower-paced moments, where there's still combat, because occasionally, you solve one of those nursery rhymes and then suddenly these wolves are on you.
So you have to-- you really go in between the pace of the game. And I think it works out really well. So there are moments where you know-- you have a little bit more confidence. You can run down rather than creep down and look at every corner before you totally round it. So I've been appreciating that it hasn't kept my heart rate up the entirety.
There are a lot of cutscenes. There are moments to appreciate the story. I'm about 10 hours in, I think. I've heard the game is roughly around 20, depending on how much time you want to spend exploring and finding all of these nursery rhymes that unlock little charm buffs, essentially, that you can put on a bracelet for Saga. There's a lot of those moments.
And then, for Alan, his environmental puzzles are totally different. So he's spending a lot of time, when you're controlling him, he's spending a lot of time in the dark place, where there are slightly different shadowy enemies. And he's got his own personal mysteries to unravel, because again, the guy has been trapped in the dark place for 13 years. And he's starting to understand what's been happening in the world outside of his trapped world.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: He's missed out on so many things. He doesn't have TikTok in there.
TINA AMINI: Yeah. He doesn't even know.
- How could he live without TikTok?
- Is it a clock? What is this about?
- He's like, I could have spread the warning about the dark presence much sooner if I had TikTok. He's just been a classic writer. But his environmental puzzles are much more about light. They're much more integrated to the real spirit of the first game. And you can switch reality by going in-- like grabbing light from a lamp post, let's say, and then taking that to another lamp post, switching the light there.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: There was some of that in Control, I think--
- --now that I think about it.
- There's a lot of really need connections.
- Or dimming the lights at the right-- OK.
- All right.
- So there's a lot of supernatural stuff that happens in Control, and there are some characters and elements and connected paranormal things going on. And I love that. I love that Remedy thinks thoughtfully about their storytelling beyond even just that individual game. There's so much belief in that story, in that world, in the characters that they're willing to take on a multifaceted project in that way.
And then, the other thing I'll say too about how they bring that warped reality storytelling into play with Alan Wake 2 that I think they do most successfully, they play around with live action, which they've done previously before.
- On a break.
- Going back, we had 30-minute breaks.
- Oh, yeah.
- Yes, exactly. But the approach is so different for Alan Wake 2, and I'm loving it. I think it can be hit or miss for some people, because it's a style thing. You don't necessarily vibe with every artistic style. So maybe live action in video games is not your thing. But man, it's really well done in Alan Wake 2.
And it really fits with that warped reality context. So there's a meaning and a tool to it, a storytelling tool, to using this different kind of approach, this visual approach. And it's interwoven. It's not like breaks in that sense. It's really interwoven into the story and some of the cinematics. So I've just, from front to end, all the details, I've really been enjoying it.
MALIK PRINCE: You sold me.
- Yeah. Maybe you can come over while I'm playing, because--
- Yeah, I know.
- --that is a lights on--
- Yeah. You guys can be each others' security blanket.
- --no headphones sort of thing for me. All right. So we've got maybe the most sophisticated horror game ever made. We've got probably the most sophisticated climbing game ever made. A lot to play this week. Also, a little thing called Call of Duty.
- What's that thing?
- This is something-- Yeah, exactly. Modern Warfare 3. This is something they've done now for a couple of years that I think is really smart, because there's always the campaign, and there's multiplayer. And when those came out on the same day, I feel like at least streamers-- everyone's going straight to the multiplayer. But they released their early access for the campaign. And you have a week to play that before the servers kick in, and everyone's playing multiplayer, and zombies, and all the myriad modes that they've got.
I always loved these campaigns. This one's a direct sequel to Call of Duty, Modern Warfare II, captain Price and all those familiar faces. So I need to make time for these, because there is no better FPS campaign, big budget blockbuster. The closest thing to Mission Impossible movie-level experience in games-- and it's been this way for a long time-- are these campaigns.
- I mean, not to belabor the point, but I always would jump straight into the multiplayer until the last Modern Warfare II when it gave me an opportunity to sit down and take my time through the story, which I love. To your point, Call of Duty single campaign, single-player games, or single-player campaigns, are some of the most well put together blockbuster moments in the year. And so I am excited to jump into that I believe November 2nd, yes.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Yeah. By the time you hear this, you're able to play that.
- Absolutely, yeah.
- Right. What day is it?
- Are we in the future?
- We live in the past.
- Yes, exactly. Another game that I'm hearing great things about, especially in the vein of this is not what I thought it would be is RoboCop, Rogue City. Now, I grew up in-- I was way too young when I saw RoboCop and definitely scarred me, for sure.
TINA AMINI: It's different times back then.
- Do not show your single-digit-age kids this movie, because there's a lot of gore and messed up stuff. Thanks, mom. I'm working through this--
- Trauma, trauma.
- Typically on the show.
- But, man, did it set you up for this video game.
- There you go.
- Yes, exactly. But there was an arcade game at the time, which I wanted-- I enjoyed playing, which was like a side scroller. It was really hard. I did not even last like 60 seconds in that game. Again, as a child, I should not have been playing it. This game is more of like an open world situation, where you're going through old Detroit. And hearing about it and the experience, I was like, wait a second. This might be very much my style. So I'm going to put my childhood trauma away and go back to RoboCop, Rogue City. A lot of fans.
I heard it really nails the over-the-top '80s humor, which I remember that also. There was like the dad from That '70s Show was a-- I'll buy that for $1. He was like this TV personality. It was weird. The '80s were weird. And from what I remember about it, besides the trauma of seeing a guy's hand get blown off as a nine-year-old, it was just weird stuff. And apparently, this captures it really well. So there's that.
Now, here's the contemplative game, The Talos Principle 2. The original one came out on Xbox I want to say like 2014, so close to a decade ago. And I remember at the time, there were quite a few first-person puzzle games, not puzzle platformer, but exploring the area. I think The Witness was maybe the best known of this type of game.
Talos Principle, I remember Larry was super into it. And so Talos Principle 2 is out now, very thought-provoking. And there's a whole story where humanity is extinct, but humans are-- our culture is going through being preserved, I guess, through robots. Anyway, sounds really interesting. And so if you like the original one or you like The Witness, Talos Principle 2, available now. You might want to check it out.
A couple more games this week. Gangs of Sherwood. So as the name might indicate, has something to do with Robinhood but through a very fantastical almost Souls-like type of look. I don't think it's necessarily a Souls-like, maybe more of a Dynasty-Warriors-like. And you can play with other folks. The key thing that I took away from this game is that there's a boss called Jeffrey of Nottingham. So I hope he's really tough--
- That's you.
- --or at least really funny.
- Is that you, Jeff?
- I'm not from Nottingham, but perhaps if you go back far enough. Also probably not an ancestor.
- Maybe the next Halloween costume.
- Yes. Jeffrey of Nottingham is definitely going to be my Halloween costume next year. And one last one I want to call out is Thirsty Suitors. So this was a game that was announced at the Game Awards back in 2021. And I didn't know what this game was. But now that I'm seeing more of it as it's coming out, it is an RPG. But there's skating involved, active turn-based combat, cooking. There's a lot of stuff. It has a really cool art style. So also worth checking out Thirsty Suitors.
Oh, one more, because we were talking about the pigeons, which is Headbangers, Rhythm Royale. So it's basically a series of rhythmic challenges. Apparently, there's like 30 different types of modes, very quick. I was getting WarioWare vibes, where it's like you're doing something different every few seconds, but there's pigeons involved.
TINA AMINI: Lots of mini games--
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Yes, exactly.
TINA AMINI: --party games.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: So each one of these games, dramatically different from another.
MALIK PRINCE: Very different.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: So I think-- The question I would have for you all is 2023, where does this rank for you? Is this the best video game year of all time?
- That's a hard one, because I was just reflecting on 2007 a little bit.
- I think that's number one.
- Yeah. I think 2007. And we're a little bit biased because 2007 you look back on fondly. You have this element of nostalgia too.
- 2007. So original Assassin's Creed. You had Call of Duty, Modern Warfare, the first--
MALIK PRINCE: First one, yeah.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: --Modern Warfare. So Call of Duty what? 4 it was. You had BioShock, as I recall it. You had Halo 3. Probably missing a few.
MALIK PRINCE: Guitar Hero--
TINA AMINI: Mass Effect, the original.
MALIK PRINCE: --Rock Band, Mass Effect.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Yeah, Mass Effect.
MALIK PRINCE: Super Mario Galaxy.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Uncharted 1. There was a really good Ratchet & Clank game.
MALIK PRINCE: Super Mario Galaxy was--
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Super Mario Gala-- I mean, that was an incredible year. But I think as we look back at this year, I think this year goes absolutely toe to toe with 2007.
- Yeah. I think 2007 was great for setting up the franchises that we know today as these massive franchises. And this year is really the year of the very developers hitting their strides, also, with variety, as we've been talking about, the different kinds of games coming out, and just hitting back to back. And I don't know. It's tough. What would you say? I know you brought up 2007. So what would you say? Which--
- Yeah. I think Mass Effect holds such a special place in my heart.
MALIK PRINCE: It does.
- As is BioShock. There's a lot of-- BioShock has a lot of those horror elements to it as well, a lot of really incredible breaches into new types of storytelling or just, obviously, things that launched these franchises, these very successful franchises. So there's an element of history there now that 2023 just can't possibly have, because it's our present day.
But there are a lot of games, a lot of mixture of games, and then, to both of your points earlier, that combination of like those real big heavy hitters that are continuations of franchises, or it's new steps in franchises, and then some of those smaller surprises, those hidden gems. So there's so much diversity this year that's really something to celebrate too.
- We didn't have Game Pass in 2007. So--
- There you go.
- The fact that so many of these games--
- Oh, my-- That's a good point.
- --are just there.
- And several of the games--
- So I'm giving it to 2023.
- --we've talked about today are also on Game Pass, including Headbangers, including Thirsty Suitors, and, of course, Jusant, as you two mentioned earlier too.
- And look, we-- And here's the other thing about 2023. It ain't done yet, and there's amazing games coming out.
- Can you imagine?
- That's right.
- I have including-- And maybe this won't be at your end-of-year list. But Like a Dragon Gaiden, The Man Who Erased His Name--
TINA AMINI: Oh, hell yeah.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: --is coming out next week, a week from today. And so I can't-- the year's not even over yet, and I know I'm going to love that one. Actually, we just announced all of the Game Pass games that are coming out for the first half of November. So do you want to take this or do you want me to-- I feel like I've talked so much, Malik. Here. Just take that.
- You share some love.
- Take this laptop. All right. Sweet. So as Jeff mentioned, we always announce the new Game Pass games. We've talked about Headbangers, Jusant war tales--
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Dual wielding your laptops here.
- I appreciate it. Coming out November 6, we have Football Manager 2024. And if you're in America, that is soccer. I don't want any-- I don't want any smoke.
- No confusion.
- It's not called Soccer Manager, though.
- I know. That's right. And of course, this is a management simulator, where you are literally-- what do they call the-- it's not called the coach? What do you call the person in charge of--
- The manager?
- Oh, they just call it the manager?
- I think the manager.
- There you go. That works.
- Yeah. There you go. See it right in the title.
- The boss. I think they call someone the boss or the gaffer.
- Oh, the boss.
- The gaffer.
- Oh. I like that. I like that.
- I can do bad French and UK.
- Only if they're familiar with that.
- I don't think it was that bad. I thought it was great. November 6. So if you're into that, that is on Cloud Console and PC. We have Dungeons 4. Oh, do you have-- Dungeons 4, which is basically-- I'm not even sure. It's build a cozy and comfortable dungeon to suit your creature's needs and rule over them. So it sounds like a little bit of--
- Cozy gaming. Cozy gaming.
- --a little bit of cozy game.
- Cozy rule, mm.
- I know. I know. November 9 on Game Pass. And as Jeff mentioned, Like a Dragon Gaiden. Oh, Jeff, for those who-- what's-- I know you could go on all day about this.
- Oh, it is so special.
- What's the 32nd pitch for this one?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Sure. So Yakuza 6, The Song of Life put an end seemingly to Kazuma Kiryu's story. And it did tie up a ton of loose ends, and that was going to be it. But then, if you played Yakuza, Like a Dragon-- and if you haven't played Yakuza, Like a Dragon, it's also on Game Pass, more of a turn-based RPG. --at some point in that game, Kiryu shows up. And you're like, wait a second. I thought you were gone.
TINA AMINI: You were retired.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Right, because several years have passed. This game is like, well, here's what he's been up to. And from what I've played-- I played it at Gamescon and at Pax-- it really changes up the gameplay. And you've got some spy gadgets. And so Kiryu is pretending to be someone named Joryu, like that'll fool them. But he does have different hair, too, and sunglasses. So no one will know it's him.
But because of that, he seems to be-- and I don't the story yet. But you're using completely different mechanics that really seem to change the game up. And that will bridge the gap between Yakuza 6 and Like a Dragon. And then, we all move forward with Like a Dragon, Infinite Wealth in--
- --January of 2024. There's also a demo for it that is built in. You remember the days of-- I remember like when the Final Fantasy X demo came with-- I can't even remember what game it came with. But it was like, you got me here, you know. And so Like a Dragon, Infinite Wealth looks so crazy with Dondoko Island, which we saw at the partner preview, that-- And apparently, it's a pretty meaty demo. It has like two modes. So I'll be playing all of that, and really that's what's been through the year.
- And I have to really emphasize what's special about it is Kiryu coming back, because fans have been following his journey. He is the Yakuza series, truly, until Like a Dragon. And it will thread that story before we hit Infinite Wealth, which is exciting. But there's a lot of loose ends too, a lot of personal elements. And I'm really expecting a heartbreaking tale in both Gaiden and in Infinite Wealth. But it'll just be really fascinating to see a fan favorite brought back and how specifically.
- And it's day one on Game Pass. So I have-- you might think I've got control over Game Pass, because all these Yakuza games are in there.
- I don't.
- Again, look at all of Jeff's favorites.
- Someone on the Game Pass team just really loves me.
- Yeah, clearly.
- You know what, I love it. And so excited to jump into that on November 9. We have Wild Hearts, which, as you know, a part of Xbox Game Pass is you get a little bit of-- ultimate is you get a little bit EA Play in there. And so you can jump into Wild Hearts. Spirittea, a little bit-- another cozier game, if you like Stardew Valley, Spirited Away. Those are-- That's a game that's in that vein. And Coral Island, November 14 on Cloud and Xbox Series X and S. And I don't know. I like to call it the leaving soons, because--
- Go on.
- --this is really important for people who are playing Game Pass.
- Your last chance.
- This is your last chance to jump into these games, Coffee Talk, Exapunks, Ghost Song, Gungrave, Football Manager 2023-- so as the new one comes in, the old one leaves-- Lapin, and Townscaper.
- The good thing is most of those games, if not all of them, go on sale.
- Usually, yeah.
- So if you know it's leaving Game Pass, but you're deep into it, and you want to keep playing it, there's usually a pretty healthy discount on those.
- Yeah. So there you have it. Those are your Game Pass updates.
- Take back your giant laptop.
- Thank you. That is absolutely messy. I'm like, oh, smudges everywhere.
- That's what gives it personality.
- What else is going on this week?
- There's still so much more things happening, not just video game releases. But BlizzCon 2023 is happening this weekend, which is just a festival celebrating all things Blizzard games. And if you've tuned in in past years, there's been a lot of news updates as well. So it's a really exciting moment for everyone who's looking out for what's happening with World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Overwatch. There's just tons of updates that--
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Diablo, yeah.
TINA AMINI: --always ends up being like omnipresent.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Have you ever been to a BlizzCon?
- I have never been to a BlizzCon.
- Me neither.
- I've reported on it back when I was in media before. So always paid attention to it. If you're not able to attend, happily the panels are streamed. There's always an opening ceremony. There's a lot of always interesting remarks and news happening in the opening ceremony, but a couple other panels for what's next for some of their key franchises.
So always an educational opportunity. But in person looks like just so much more--
- We need to go next year.
- Fun! Yeah. We should all go.
- All right. So we're now teammates, as you know. I'm like touching the cheese couch. It is softer and less cheese-like than you--
- It's growing on you.
- --it might look. Slowly. So we now work with folks from Blizzard. And this all came together a little late for us to be able to do anything. But I ended up talking to some of the Blizzard folks late last week. And they did say, you're welcome to come. And I was like, oh, I'd love to be there. What would really be great is if we could do this show there.
- Live from BlizzCon 2024.
- Yeah. And they were like, we can work on that next year. And they were like, well, we would love to have you. So calling it now, manifesting it, 2024.
- Putting it out into the universe.
- Field trip! Field trip! Let's do it!
- Yeah. That sounds like--
- I would love to go--
- --a lot of fun.
- --to a BlizzCon. So we'll-- So us, this group and probably many of you out there who are not going to be in Anaheim, we'll be able to watch starting at 11:00 AM Pacific on November 3. That's Friday. They'll be broadcasting the keynote on YouTube and Twitch.
- Yeah, Twitch and YouTube. Yeah.
- Lots of chances--
- Do that.
- --to check it out even if you're not in person.
- So something to do that the Overwatch team has been talking about for a couple of weeks now and is out now before BlizzCon even starts is this integration with LE SSERAFIM, which is a-- we are a K-pop household, I can tell you. So I saw this, and I was very excited. And there was a music video that got released earlier this week.
And there was a mode. It's a three-on-three capture-the-flag type of mode where you can unlock a legendary junkrat skin. And there's all kinds of skins for a number of the characters that are LE SSERAFIM K-pop stuff, so obviously D.Va, not surprising, but a number of the other characters, Sombra, and a few others that have skins. So I got to figure out how to unlock those, but really cool design.
I always like to see when music comes together with games. And I know a couple of the LE SSERAFIM members are gamers, because one of them we sent an Xbox to. And so more to come there. I'm sure. I'm guessing. So really excited about that. And you can play it now.
- That's awesome.
- There you go.
- I love the connection with music too, which is another thing about Alan Wake that's incredible. But anyway, I've talked enough about Alan Wake. Before we get to the rest of this lovely podcast, we actually-- we talked about Call of Duty, Modern Warfare 3 with early access this week. But we've got a little bit more Call of Duty goodness for you, a little extra treat for the Halloween week. Rebecca actually got a chance to sit down with the Sledgehammer team and find out more about the game, so as well as some new open combat missions. So check that out. Enjoy.
- It's really good to be back on the podcast. I'm Rebecca Gordius. I'm on the Xbox communications team along with Jeff, Malik, and all the others. And joining me today is David Swenson from Sledgehammer Games. Welcome to the podcast.
- Thank you very much. It's great to be here, Rebecca.
- So do you mind just starting off by telling us a little bit about yourself and your history with Sledgehammer?
- Yeah. You bet. I've been around Sledgehammer since the beginning. I'm the creative director of the campaign at Sledgehammer Games. And so we just wrapped up Modern Warfare 3, and it's got the campaign early access tomorrow. And so really excited.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Awesome. Yeah. By the time that this podcast airs-- it'll actually be today-- I think maybe--
- Oh, sweet.
- --even available.
- Oh, even better.
- So even better, yeah. So I know that, obviously, we have the open combat missions and then even zombies coming to Modern Warfare 3. What else is new with Modern Warfare 3 broadly?
- So Modern Warfare 3 was a really exciting project for us to work on, because it's the first-ever direct sequel in a Call of Duty game year after year. So we've never done this before. So it was very exciting for us to be able to have this opportunity to work on a game that would be directly following. And that means we can do a lot of things.
Narratively, the team at Sledgehammer worked very closely with Infinity Ward. It takes years to make a game. And so while we were working on Modern Warfare 3, infinity Ward was wrapping up and shipping their game last year. So we're able to collaborate with them and talk to them and say, hey, you know, how can we set something up in this game that we're going to pay off in Modern Warfare 3? And so it was a cool collaboration. It was a very unique first time in Call of Duty's history that we're able to do a direct sequel like that.
- Yeah. I heard there's even some carryover with player items and things like that, which is-- I don't think I've really heard of that before. So that is pretty neat.
- Yeah. When we started making this game as a team, we always start with pillars. What are the thing-- a guiding pillar is something that we base every decision off of or really look to as we're making decisions. And for us, the main pillar was honor the player.
So it was all about, what can we do to honor the player? And so one of those, obviously, is the carry forward. Players have spent a lot of time in the live season and have weapons they've earned and so forth. And to bring all that, carry it forward into Modern Warfare 3, was really important to us, and we're excited for that to be part of the game.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah. I love that kind of player-focused development strategy. I think that the open combat missions bleed into that. But why don't you tell us a little bit more about the open combat missions, the OCMs?
- Yeah. Open combat missions are the-- it's a huge innovation for the campaign, something we're very, very excited about. When we started making the game, it was early, early days, and we were talking about, how-- we've been making Call of Duty-- This was my second Modern Warfare 3. So Sledgehammer, of course, is part of the original Modern Warfare 3. And so making these campaigns for a long time.
And we really were thinking, how can we evolve this? How can we make something better? How can we make really the campaign that we want to make? That was what we were pushing for. And that's where it was born, the idea for open combat missions. And that was, how can we create a bunch of player choice, much more player choice than we've ever had in a Call of Duty campaign before?
So our campaign includes, of course, the epic cinematic missions that Call of Duty is known for. So players will still get that. The story is still there. It'll be-- It's an incredible story. And now, there are these open combat missions that also complement all of this. They work very seamlessly.
So players will-- it'll be a very seamless experience. You'll not know you're going in and out of one type of mission to another until you're in and actually playing it. But the story is all part of it and woven into all the different levels. But when you get into an open combat mission, you just have more choice than you've ever had before. You jump in, and you're basically given objectives. And the world is at your fingertips now, and you can jump in and tackle that mission any way you want.
- So you start out with a specific loadout, right? But then, everything else you pick up, like items through like crates along the way. Is it random or can you be specific in how you want to play?
- That's a great question. So yeah. So you go into the open combat mission for the first time with a specific loadout. Again, we want these to feel very, very seamless. And so like all Call of Duty levels in between, the Call of Duty-- from one mission to another you'll have a beautiful cinematic. And you'll get more story progression. And then, you'll load into the level with a specific loadout.
But yeah. As you're saying, once you're playing the level, there's, again, it's huge. And there's a lot of opportunity to find stuff. So there's crates. There's weapons that you can pick up. Not just weapons, but you can pick up tacticals, lethals. Even killstreaks you can find in the world. And once you have these weapons, tacticals, lethals, they become part of your inventory.
So when you die-- And these open combat missions, by the way, are challenging. We've done a lot of work on the AI to make the AI smarter and able to adapt to what the player is doing. And smarter AI means more formidable enemies. And so they're challenging missions. But when you die, before you respawn, you're given the opportunity to now set your own loadout. And so based on weapons that are in your inventory, things you found in the level of different tacticals or lethals, you can set it up.
So if, for example, you've been in, you've seen the level, you're like, OK, I want to try to do this more stealthily, I'm going to be real quiet and I'm going to sneak in, and you found a bunch of suppressed weapons and night vision goggles and throwing knives, you can leave the frag grenades at home and load up with suppressed weapons, throwing knives, go in, and be super quiet, take out all the enemies, complete the objectives without anybody knowing you were there. Or conversely, if you want to just go in loud, you can strap on your LMGs, and armor plates, and Semtex, and go in and just start blowing things up.
- OK. Do you have a specific play style you usually go through? I mean, you mentioned two very different strategies right there. Do you usually default to one or the other, or what's your play style?
- Me, personally, I've always been more of a stealth guy. And it's so fun. Certainly, with weapons, I tend to really gravitate toward the suppressed weapons. I just think it feels so cool when you're just going in, and you just click, click, click, click. You're just like taking players out or taking the enemies out.
But again, what's really exciting and fun about this is, as I've been playing missions, is if I decide, hey, you know what, I'm going to change things up, and I'm just going to go loud, I'm going to jump in this vehicle, and I'm going to stick a turret behind it, and go on, and just roar through the map, and blow stuff up, throw Semtex everywhere, you can totally do that. And it's a lot of fun. So really, depending on how I'm feeling, sometimes my stealth gameplay goes out the window, and I get real loud.
- Yeah. I feel like it would be a good opportunity for players to try out different things too and see, because--
- --I personally also usually default to stealth and sniper modes. But yeah. Maybe it could be a good opportunity to try something a little bit louder.
- So let's see. You mentioned that these are-- players, it'll be like seamless with the campaign. So are these actual chunks on the story journey? Or is it a side thread? How are they integrated?
- Yeah. It's a great question. They're definitely not a side thing. That was really important to us. We didn't want it-- We didn't want to feel like we were popping out of the story ready to go play this thing and then popping back into the story. It was really important that this all felt super seamless. So again, you're playing as your favorite characters.
And as we typically do in Call of Duty campaigns, the player character switches up often. So you'll play as captain Price. You'll play as Soap. You'll play as Ghost. You'll play as Farah and many others. So you get a chance to play as all the different characters in the campaign.
And you'll have your allies with you in these missions as well helping out. There's a mission where one of your-- you're playing as Farah-- one of your allies-- I won't mention who. I don't want to give too many spoilers away. But you'll have one of your allies will be on overwatch and sniping for you. So you'll pop around a corner. If you maybe didn't see someone you were looking for, all of a sudden, boom, a bullet will whiz in and take them out. And you'll have comms with your allies.
So anyway, lots of cool story constantly happening. And really, hats off to our awesome narrative team. It was a real challenge to do this, because most typically, Call of Duty levels, there's one way to play them. And so therefore, there's one set of dialogue and one set of performances from the actors and the characters. And when we jumped into these, really, you just didn't know how players would play them. You had to be ready for every possible scenario.
And so our dialogue team wrote a tremendous amount of dialogue, like 10x the amount of dialogue they'd normally do, because if you were in stealthily, all the players need to be talking, whispering to you, talking over the radio, being quiet. And everything has to contextually fit with that. But if you go loud, and jump in a vehicle, and start blowing things up, they have to react accordingly. And so there's all the dialogue to support that. So the story is still going along. But it'll always be tailored based on how you're playing.
- Yeah. So OK. So then, my initial hunch was right. So when you talked earlier about having developing the game with that kind of player-first pillar, I think this is really cool, because you're creating a way for them to have the campaign be a little bit more tailored to their play style. And they get to be a little bit more custom with it instead of just having that same kind of template that everyone else is going to receive. So that's really cool. I like that a lot.
- Absolutely. You get to choose your own strategies. And that's what's really cool. Death is an interesting. It's almost something to be celebrated with, these open combat missions, because you get to take another whack at it. Right?
DAVID SWENSON: And now, you get an idea of what's going on, maybe where some of the enemies are, what some of the AI is doing. And then, you can decide, OK, I'm going to change up my strategy. I'm going to go this way rather than that way. Or I'm going to grab this vehicle this time.
Or oh, man, I found this cool killstreak from something I-- you'd never see in campaign that's always more of a multiplayer thing. But now you have this. And so you can call in a chopper gunner or call in a precision airstrike, or a mortar strike, or something, and to be able to take out enemies and complete your objectives.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah. I think it's really good for replayability too.
- Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. In fact, there's-- one thing that was really-- as we were making the game, oftentimes, our MP team, it's really useful to bring them over. And they can play test for us, because it's in the building, and we're still experimenting and so forth. So we brought our MP team over, and they started playing.
And it was awesome to watch them play, because they were doing things that we had never anticipated. They were tackling these objectives. And we're like, oh, my gosh, I never thought of doing it that way. But they were totally doing it. And it was really exciting. And it just showed how much replayability, how much different strategy can be applied.
And there's a lot of fun things that were born out of that. The MP team, they were grabbing controllers from each other saying, no, no, no, I'm going to speedrun this time. I can do this level better than you. And there was this cool couch-with-your-friends experience that I remember when I was younger. And now, to be back in that mode, it was a lot of fun.
- Yeah. I remember that too. You would play through the campaign more than just once, but you try to do it a different way every time. I definitely remember speedrunning. It usually didn't go very well. All right. Well, the full game launches November 10, very close. This isn't your first Modern Warfare game either. So how are you celebrating this launch? Do you have any traditions or anything you've done to celebrate past games?
- Oh, man. I always-- My favorite thing is to be with the team. Unfortunately, I'm often sent out to different locations around the world to celebrate with the fans as we do launch events. And so I'm going to be-- I'm actually going to be in Amsterdam at the-- we have a launch event in Amsterdam. There's actually in Europe a few launch events. There's a launch event in London. There's a launch event in Berlin and then one in Amsterdam. I'll be at the Amsterdam launch event with the fans there, hanging out and getting ready to play Call of Duty.
REBECCA GORDIUS: That's cool. I'm sure there will be some other team celebrations once you're back in the office. But getting to meet with the community, the people who are most excited, oh, I'm sure that that'll be really good too.
- It's so awesome. It's always a real treat.
- Cool. Well, OK. Well, thank you so much for your time. Like I said, early access out today for campaign, and then the full game coming very soon. So I know you have a lot to do. If anyone wants to stay in the loop or learn more about Modern Warfare 3, where do you think that they should check out?
DAVID SWENSON: So they should certainly hit all of our social media channels. You can go to callofduty.com--
REBECCA GORDIUS: Not hard to find.
DAVID SWENSON: --of course. Yeah. Sledgehammer Games. And we're excited to welcome everybody in and get playing Modern Warfare 3.
- Awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time, David. It's been really great talking to you.
- Awesome. Thanks for having me.
- All right. Back to you, Tina.
- Thanks so much for that, Rebecca.
- All right. So it has been a little bit since we've been back on the show. It's been about a monthish.
- A little over a month.
- Month and a half, a bit over a month.
- Episode seven.
- We made it.
- We're almost in-- What are we in? First grade or second grade? I don't know.
- Yeah. We just started school.
- Yeah. There we go.
- Is it like a dog years for podcast?
- Yeah. Something like that. Something like that. But what's been really cool is, as we took a little bit of attempt at trying something different, changing up the format a little bit, and all along the way we've been asking for feedback from you, the community. And it's been really great seeing what you all like, what you all didn't like, specifically the couch. I've seen the comments about the couch.
- Some people like the couch.
- What's not to like about the couch?
- I guess the color is--
- The reality is--
- --exactly it.
- --I think we have to keep the couch now, because it's a topic of conversation.
- 100%. We've officially--
- The gray couch, no one ever mentioned.
TINA AMINI: --against the couch hater, Jeff.
- Yeah. Well, I think there's going to be haters. There's going to be lovers. But specifically, even last week when we-- there's a number of comments that I'll get to from last week. But I did want to call out, we filmed last week's show before the partner showcase went out, partner preview went out. And so we really didn't know what the reception was going to be like. And I remember telling you that it's going to be great, but you're like, I don't know.
- I know. You predicted it. I appreciated the faith, by the way.
- But yeah. How were the-- How would you say the reception has gone in some of the comments that we've seen? I can bring some of them up, but from your perspective.
- Yeah. I promised I would be reading and watching all of the reactions, because a lot of people were live-reacting to the show, which was really fun. And I like to see what people pick up on. And did that thing that I thought was going to play in that way play in that way that I wanted it to? So it's been fascinating, and it's been just really incredible to get a lot of direct feedback from people too.
The consensus that I'm getting is that you all like the format. So we're definitely going to be investigating that further. But there was some really good feedback too of things that we might want to consider, because, obviously, we want to make shows that everybody likes. And I love that this podcast is also just a platform to be closer to the community and get an opportunity to see what you think about the podcast, about what we're doing with our shows, about what you want to see more of. We're always keeping our ear to the ground. And it's been really cool just to get a lot of love from the community.
MALIK PRINCE: And you called--
- So thank you all for that.
- 100%. And you called it out a little bit on Twitter. But we have an application for voiceover in one Greg Miller. And so from funny. And so, well, I'm sure--
- I'm still reviewing. I don't know.
- Review. But this person said they were interested in how that all came together. So I think people just really love getting a behind-the-scenes of how things work here at Xbox, which is really cool. It was also our Halloween Edition. We filmed it a little bit before Halloween. And so we have comments about each of our costumes that I was able to get. These are from YouTube, and--
- Everyone was like, why did you guys abandon Tina in the Barbie idea?
- I didn't see that.
- There was only maybe one of those.
- I didn't see that, but somebody did say really great to see you hit your stride and fun to see you in costumes. Tina really rocked the '70s Barbie style.
- Thank you.
- There you go. Now, Jeff, you were from Lies of P.
- And we have a comment from mikeybeeee07 who said, I thought Jeff was Prince. And you know what, going back, I could see it.
TINA AMINI: It's the hair, the wig.
- Yeah, and the shirt.
- Yeah, game blouses is what I should have said. But Prince and I, same birthday, may he rest in peace.
- Wow, incredible.
- Also, he has talent--
- --or have, whatever.
- You have talent.
- Yes. Not with the guitar. What about you? Did you-- Did Jaleel White respond? I saw you tagged him.
MALIK PRINCE: No. Jaleel White didn't reply.
TINA AMINI: Still waiting for you, Jaleel.
- To be fair, though, I believe his last tweet was like in August of 2022-- 2023. Or yeah, this year, August 2023.
- Do we need to do a wellness check on Jaleel White?
- I think I might. I think so. I think so. But somebody said, I thought bro was actually Urkel. And you know what, that's good enough for me. I will also say, what we've been doing on this show, as you saw this episode and as we've been-- all of the episodes we've done so far, is really recommending games. And I think it's really interesting, because the community has always called out that it seems like all of us are really passionate about the games we were talking about.
And one that you recommended a few weeks ago was actually El Paso, Elsewhere. And bm7042 said, whoever recommended El Paso, Elsewhere some weeks ago was right. Music was nice and overall very fun too. So--
- Such a good game. I'm going to recommend it again, and again, and again, because it's that good. And I'm glad. I'm glad people have discovered new games through the podcast, but especially that game. That game is really good.
- Where do you get the-- Xalavier Nelson Jr.?
- Yeah, yeah. I'm sure he loves talking about his game as he rightfully should, because so much of him is in that game. And you can see that passion and creativity come through. So yeah. I'd love to know some of the behind the scenes. And also, I would like the whole soundtrack to just walk by my-- lead my life through day by day. That would be nice.
- 100%. And then, one to leave-- one last comment to leave this section off is how I think we're all feeling, which is paulgoodwin6697 saying, loving Xbox at the moment. And I think in our conversation about whether 2023 is the best year of all time in video games--
- It is.
- --and Jeff thinks it is, we're a little bit on the fence. But I think we all can agree it's been a great year between Game Pass, games like Starfield, Forza even. It's just been a fantastic year, and probably no better time. I know it sounds very marketing-y.
But there's probably no better time to be an Xbox gamer than right now. And so thanks for your comments. Again, we are reading-- I literally-- I don't know about these two, but I think they do. I can speak for myself. I read every single comment, because I'm like, what do they say about me? Did they say he was-- But yeah.
TINA AMINI: Well, there are actually a couple of other comments about you.
- Oh, really?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Yeah. Mostly about snapping the suspenders, that you nailed that.
- Oh, really? Yeah.
- Well, I was actually thinking about the comments that haven't been posted yet, because there will be many sad comments that you're moving.
- What a great transition, Tina.
- Look at you.
- You're moving from Cal-- This is my-- You had a prediction last week. I have a prediction this week. My prediction is the sad comments about your move to California. Although, not so sad, because you've been talking about San Diego for some time. So even though I just moved to Seattle, and--
- I know. Well, it's because of that.
- --now you decide--
- Not room in this town for the both of you.
- Exactly. It's because you moved. No. I'm just kidding. Yeah. No. So I'll be gone after this week.
- You're staying at Xbox.
- I'm staying.
- Just to make that very clear.
- Yes. I'm still going to be here at Xbox.
- Gone from the Pacific Northwest.
- Yeah. So I'm going to San Diego to live, but I'll still be here on team Xbox as well as occasionally making-- if I'm in the area, I'll drop by and sit on this very orange-yellow couch and say hello. Maybe doing some interviews here and there. But yeah. I got to get some sun. I can't deal with these Washington winters of gray and rain.
- But imagine playing Alan Wake without the nice tree backdrop--
- That's a good point.
- --and the mist and the fog.
- Imagine if Alan Wake was set in San Diego.
- Different game.
- Yeah. I'm out on the beach. And oh, the dark, don't worry, don't worry about it. Pass the sunscreen.
- There is no dark place in California.
- Very different game. Yeah. I am going to miss that, some of the spookier games. They felt better here in the winter. But again, it's been great being on this podcast. And again, this is not a goodbye forever. I'll be here here, here and there. And I'm still at Xbox. And so it's not a sad thing. It's a--
TINA AMINI: Yeah. You'll still be on the podcast. You'll be doing interviews remotely too.
- Yeah, 100%.
- We'll still have your voice on the podcast. We wouldn't have it any other way.
- Oh, that's so kind. That's so kind.
- We'll miss you here on the couch, though.
- Yeah. How are we going to fight about--
- I'm going to miss this couch.
- I'm going to lose my companion against Jeff--
- I know.
- --on the yellowness of the couch.
- Yeah. We're now the even 50-50.
- What am I going to do?
- This thing could be in the dumpster in another week.
- I know. Let's carry it outside.
- Can't do it myself. That's the one thing.
- Yeah, you need somebody else, yeah.
- So yeah. We're definitely going to miss you. We've got some thoughts about who will-- no one can take your place, but who's going to keep this couch cushion warm. And the reality is, you're not going to be here next week either, Tina.
- I know. Now, this is payback for last week. Now, I abandon you, Jeff.
- So lining up a very special guest for next week, a special guest host. And you could probably-- well, potentially could guess a podcaster who is on a temporary hiatus and who might be very excited about Like a Dragon Gaiden. So looking forward to having her join next week. And we'll just have some other folks. It does give the opportunity for us to bring other folks from within Xbox here to join us. And I will say, personally I'm going to miss you here. You're going to miss the rain. I think that.
- No, I don't think.
- You're like, perfect weather? No, no, no.
- I don't think so. I don't think so.
- We'll get you back on this chair eventually. But stay warm. Don't rub it in too hard.
- I won't. I won't.
- Don't send too many pictures--
- I won't send pictures--
- From the beach.
- --single week when you guys are about to go live with the show.
TINA AMINI: That's nice of you, even though that was sarcastic. Well, on that note, that's everything that we have for you this week. But we hope you enjoy Malik and mine's absence next week, and Jeff filling in, as well as our special guest host. And we'll see you next time. And we'll be reading those comments too.
- See ya.