Game Director on Grounded
VP of Publishing, Coffee Stain
[MUSIC PLAYING] LARRY: Hi, it's Larry Hryb, Xbox's Major Nelson. Welcome to the official Xbox Podcast available on YouTube, Spotify Apple, Google, Podcasts, everywhere where you're better podcasts are found. And that's because you can find this gang here, Rebecca over on the right, Jeff on the left. Hello, friends.
LARRY: Welcome back.
REBECCA: Thanks for having us. We're makes a better podcast because-
LARRY: Where we are.
JEFF: -I'm not sure how we--
LARRY: Where this show is.
JEFF: Oh. Oh. We're moving up.
LARRY: That's how we make it. Anyway, Rebecca was out last week on holiday. Welcome back, Rebecca. It's good to see you.
REBECCA: Thank you. Yes, it's been a good summer but I'm back. My team is very busy getting ready for Minecraft Live. There's a bunch of other stuff going on at the end of the year. So there's a lot do.
LARRY: Minecraft Live, can we talk about that for a second because I know, like I said, you're working on that. But it's coming up pretty quickly. And I want to make sure people know about it, because everybody loves Minecraft.
REBECCA: Yeah. It's funny. I feel like the summer ended. And then all of a sudden, it's like, all right, it's almost October. And so yeah.
LARRY: Tell us about it if you would, please.
REBECCA: Yeah, sure. So Minecraft Live is the once annual broadcast that the Minecraft team puts on weeks where we announce the next big update that's coming to the game. We talk about some other things across the franchise, Minecraft Dungeons, education. But also this year, we have very exciting. We announced Minecraft Legends around the summer in June. And so we're going to be showing another look at that, talking about the game.
So yeah, there's a lot to get excited about. Well, after Minecraft Live happens, it'd be great to-- I'm happy to talk about what happened. Maybe we can bring someone from the Minecraft team onto the show.
JEFF: Would love that.
REBECCA: But yeah.
JEFF: I'm hoping you do the annual mob vote, because--
JEFF: All right, OK, because--
REBECCA: Yes, that's happening.
JEFF: I think I've got-- if I vote for it, it's not good again. That's generally been my experience.
REBECCA: Great. I'll tell you which one to vote for then.
JEFF: This would be my--
REBECCA: The vote has been really exciting. Every year we host the vote on Twitter. And every year we are at the top of-- trending on Twitter and not just like trending in games but just trending worldwide.
LARRY: Worldwide, yeah.
REBECCA: Yeah, which is really exciting. I think anyone who-- something that you work on and then is trending worldwide, it's really exciting. But it's just great to see people getting really excited about, what's going to come into the game next, and to have that kind of control over it to you to basically, crowd-- not crowdsource but take a community input like that, so. It's fun.
LARRY: Yeah, it's fun to see it trending. And you never when you open up that trending because sometimes you see a celebrity's name and you're like, uh-oh, right?
REBECCA: I know.
LARRY: But this is usually--
REBECCA: It's always the did this person die? Yeah.
JEFF: Or every Friday, it's Free Code Friday contest or whatever-- what is it? Because you trend every week. And every week, you'll send a screengrab. You're like, did it again.
LARRY: Yeah, Free Code Friday which is a contest I do on my Twitter @majornelson once a week, usually once a week. And we're working with our game partners. We give away game codes and have something-- you're right Jeff. It's usually-- there is a little bit of a struggle sometimes with some of the K-pop artists.
JEFF: It's that or if there's a soccer game that-- like a Friday night soccer game in the UK. It's like, OK, well, second place. We'll be fine with second place.
LARRY: But not bad. But yeah, it's going to be great to see what Minecraft Live has to do. Where do they find information out about that, Rebecca?
REBECCA: So minecraft.net is where we host everything. But it's going-- I think anyone who works on Minecraft or is affiliated with Minecraft is going to be heavily telling people where and when to tune in all these things. We have different-- we have different content creators that are going to be rebroadcasting in different languages. So it's localized a little bit. So yeah, it's a very big team effort. I'll have more to talk about soon.
LARRY: After, of course. Now, you've been away on holiday, but I didn't know if you had a chance because while you were gone, we-- Deathloop is now available. I didn't know if you had a chance to check that out.
REBECCA: Yeah. So I actually started playing Deathloop on a friend's-- I think I mentioned this couple times-- I started playing it on a friend's PC earlier this year.
LARRY: Yeah, when it was released on PC, yeah.
REBECCA: Right. But it was friend's PC, so I didn't really have great access to it. So I never got to finish. But so then when I saw this coming to Xbox, actually after I got back from vacation, I was like, OK, I'm back, I should figure out something to download. And so I saw Deathloop was out. But because it's on xCloud, it was available within a minute to start playing.
LARRY: Yeah, you start going.
REBECCA: Yeah I've actually-- maybe I'm a newbie when it comes to xCloud and Cloud Gaming. But I've never had that experience happen before. It was just available and just ready to start right then and there, so.
LARRY: It's interesting because I was-- first of all, again, it's available on Game Pass and it's on xCloud like you said. But I was talking with some of the Cloud engineers. And I think I want to get someone on because I've asked them all like, how do you update all of the Cloud immediately. I remember, Jeff, when you and I were going to talk about Grounded in just a minute, it went 1.0. And that morning, I signed in five minutes after-- on the xCloud-- five minutes after, it went 1.0. And it was already updated. I'm like, how do they do this, how do they have all the games available and all the updates are there like this? I got to figure-- I've got to get somebody on to talk about that, so apologies.
REBECCA: You guys have been-- yeah. I, honestly, can't even fathom how it happens. I just trust that the technology works. But the two of you have also been playing Deathloop, right? I think everyone on our team has been.
LARRY: Yeah, Jeff and I we've talked a little bit on the show last week. We started it. I don't want to speak for you, Jeff. But I'm not finished it. Jeff, you finished it so you're playing as well.
JEFF: I beat it on PC last year. And I love it so much. I think this is going to be a game I'm going to play through every year, because I remember a lot. But then there's plenty of things that I was like, oh, yeah, didn;t forget about that nuance. And so I'm very close to beating it a second time. And actually, my brother's gotten into it. So he was over this weekend. He was sitting like-- I don't know what happened. I disappear, I come back, he's like playing on the living room. And I was like, fine, so I grab my iPad.
JEFF: I sit down, and I grab a controller, and I started playing through the Cloud right next to him. And I was like, there may be spoilers, I don't know. But--
REBECCA: Have-- have either of you played as Julianna?
REBECCA: To protect the loop, no?
JEFF: No, but I haven't-- so that was different from-- so when I played on PC, I must have had that shut off. And Julianna, when she comes into a game, the AI controlled, not the hardest adversary. I didn't realize I had it turned on. And very early in the game--
LARRY: Jeff, can you explain the feature?
JEFF: Sure. So once you get past a relatively early part of the game, at the very beginning, you can either-- most of the game is playing as Colt, you're trying to break the loop as it is. And then-- but you could be Juliana and--
Right. And so you can jump into other people's games as her. They'll know you're in the game. There's a huge reward if you're able to beat a Juliana, and you will encounter Julianna multiple times usually when you least expect it, because it is not scripted. And she's usually has high level lewd, a lot of residuum, which is this currency that you use to save things from play through to play through. But they can be player controlled if you have the setting.
And the first time I encountered a player controlled Julianna, I was like, oh, my God, they've really tuned the AI. She's jumping around the room. She's teleporting around, totally wrecked me. And I was like, OK. But then I thought about turning it off, and then I didn't.
And I ended up getting a great cat and mouse game in Updom, I want to say, with someone. And they were using Julianna to hack all of these bots, these turrets. And we're throwing them all over the place. But I had the invisibility.
LARRY: Right. So it was the counter.
JEFF: And I have that-- and so not only that, but I have a perk that goes on that slab that allows it so that if you don't move, you don't use up anything. So I went to where I think they might have been a nice central location, went invisible to sat there for a minute. And eventually, they showed their hand.
LARRY: You and all predators styles.
JEFF: And I unloaded all of that. And it was so satisfying. So I'm leaving that on because facing the human Julianna has been really thrilling, I guess. And I've lost more than I've won against a human once. And as you can tell it's an AI, and they're not that good.
But yeah, it really just adds this level of unpredictability and emergent gameplay. And the rewards are amazing when you do-- when you you are successful. So it's such a great game.
LARRY: You and I were playing it. And Phil Spencer and I were talking about-- Phil joined us the other night in the party, and we were talking about that. It reminded me of Sniper Elite because remember that--
JEFF: Yeah, it's a lot like that.
LARRY: In Sniper Elite where one of the-- you can leave your game open and somebody joins as the other AI or one of the AI characters and just completely messes things up, but yeah.
JEFF: Dying Light has that feature as well where a player controlled zombie can come in. And so if you don't want that, you can turn that off. AI Julianna's will come in from time to time. They're relatively easy to dispatch. You just need to be a little careful.
But if you want to really mix it up or you're confident in your skill set, go ahead and turn that on. You can also set friends only, so it will more limit the amount of people. So I think once I finish the game again, I might go in there and just wreck-- mess with people. There's some achievements for it as well.
And they've actually added new abilities to her slab as well. So she has-- she's able to disguise herself. And I think she has a new ability where she can disguise herself as Colt, which I'm sure if I ever ran into another Colt would be disconcerting.
LARRY: That would be pretty appropriate for the Deathloop universe, right? Where you write it yourself.
LARRY: So-- but yeah, that's-- we're playing that. Rebecca, Jeff and I we're going to talk about a little bit later on. Jeff's got it on the screen behind him, we played a little bit of Grounded, now available on Game Pass. Have you-- did you play any of Grounded in game preview, Rebecca?
REBECCA: No, I didn't.
LARRY: OK. Because it's now time. It's now time. Jeff and I-- Jeff and I played at the other night, made a lot of fun at that, didn't we?
JEFF: We did. I was reminded what it's like to have a small child, someone who needs to be instructed to eat and drink. And there's a lot of, I'm hungry, I'm thirsty--
LARRY: Wait a minute.
JEFF: I'm dying.
LARRY: Whoa, whoa. Let's be clear.
JEFF: How do I build this?
LARRY: You had played a lot more of it in game preview than I did. So you were like all of a sudden on the other side doing things. And I'm like, I'm dying, I'm dying over here.
JEFF: You also did the thing that you always do, Larry, when we're playing a co-op game which is, where's Larry. And then it's like, oh, my God, I stirred up a bunch of ants, they're mad at me. And it's like, Larry. And then what you do, you start running back to us. And I'm like, no don't bring that here.
LARRY: A sea of red eye ants coming at Jeff. It was not fun.
REBECCA: Every team has one.
JEFF: Yeah, "team" is a strong word here. The key thing is we did survive the first night. We built the lean too. We actually managed to, without dying--
LARRY: Without armor?
JEFF: --managed to stave off starvation, dehydration, angry ants, mosquitoes--
LARRY: --ladybug. [LAUGHS]
JEFF: Yeah, well. This ladybug that's the size of a Volkswagen Beetle just sort of like ran right through the middle of the camp we were building and--
LARRY: And plopped down and started--
JEFF: And just plopped down and seemed to take a nap. And we were like, let's just--
JEFF: --leave her alone. Yes.
LARRY: And we didn't know--
LARRY: Should we-- what's going on here? Is it going to attack us? Is it going to bring something over? Well, we didn't really know what to do. But we--
JEFF: We steered clear. And it was for the best.
JEFF: So yeah, we'll be playing a lot of-- you should play with us because it's-- the best way to play that game is in co-op. And it's come a long way. We'll talk more about it with Adam Brennecke, the game director.
But it's really impressive. It's so much more performant. The sound design is amazing. There's so much to do. And if you like Minecraft, which--
LARRY: And there's a story.
JEFF: Yeah, there's a story, but--
REBECCA: Minecraft is OK.
JEFF: Yeah, but the idea of taking these elements finding out what they do, learning recipes, and surviving through the night. If you like those elements, then there's a very different flavor of that in Grounded, but a really good one.
REBECCA: Yeah, I've been wanting to try Grounded. I actually interviewed Adam after the Xbox showcase that we did in June, and I talked to him. Because at the time, they announced that the game was going to be fully launching later this year, which now it's time. So I kind of made a joke that I'm sure he's heard 1,000 times, I was like, so does your team just really love Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and wanted to turn that into a game? And he's like [LAUGHS]. So yeah.
But he's a nice guy, so I'm excited to see your interview with him.
LARRY: Yeah, we'll have that coming up later on. What else am I playing? Oh. Ni No Ki Nuni. I'm still working my way through that.
JEFF: I'm sorry? What was that?
LARRY: Ni No Kuni.
JEFF: Couple more syllables. Ni No Kuni. Ni No Ni Kuni.
JEFF: Ni No Kuni.
REBECCA: So cute.
LARRY: --pronouncing it poorly.
JEFF: That's fine.
LARRY: So yeah. So that's kind of what I've been up to. Jeff, have you been playing anything? What's your--
JEFF: Yeah, one other game I've gotten into this weekend was DioField Chronicle. It's a Square Enix strategy RPG, but it's very different from-- if you played like Triangle Strategy on the Switch this year, which was amazing game-- it's a little different. There's a lot of RTS elements.
All the battles happen in real time. When you select-- so you think, oh, an RTS on console? That can be really confusing. You only are really controlling four characters at once. And so while it's a little frantic, it's always under control.
So it's really threading that needle. I'm going to be, yeah, spending a lot more time with that once I finish-- I'm very into Deathloop. So let me finish that loop and then we will go back into it and talk more about it.
But it's great to be enjoying that game on Xbox. And it has a really cool look. You're playing on these little dioramas, it looks like. I don't know if that's where the name comes from. But it's just like these beautiful sort of sets that you go through.
LARRY: Fun. OK. We've got, like I said, Jeff said, we got a couple of interviews coming up later on. We're going to talk about Valheim, which sold millions on Steam. It's coming to Xbox-- it's coming to PC Game Pass, so we're going to talk to-- I'll be talking with some folks from that team.
But Jeff, we got a little bit of news coming up here that I think we can probably roll into right now. If you're ready to go I am.
JEFF: Let's do it. All right. First of all, well, Grounded 1.0 release. There is so much that's added there. And while we do have the interview, I think you should make sure you check out either Grounded on Obsidian site or a more truncated version on Xbox Wire, which is news.Xbox.com. Talks about all the different additions.
There's new bugs, there's new achievements, there's new areas, there's new recipes, new weapons. I mean, just so many different things. We've sort of-- if we haven't landed if, you haven't played the game since it first came out in 2020, go back. It is so much bigger, so much better.
And I'm really just having an amazing time. So you can read all about it first, and then you can check it out. And of course, it's available with Xbox Game Pass on Cloud, console, and PC.
A game that has got quite a bit of history-- we've been talking about Grounded for two years-- we've been talking about Age of Empires since 1997. It's celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
LARRY: Quarter of a century.
JEFF: And so, that is not a lot of games you can really, really say that about.
LARRY: We've got Solitaire, Flight Sim, and Age are almost that-- they're all--
JEFF: Yeah. Flight Sim;s closer to 40--
LARRY: Yeah, right.
JEFF: --maybe? And Solitaire as well. So we announced this week that on October 25th there will be a 25th anniversary Age of Empires broadcast. We'll be making announcements and surprises. And so you'll be able to watch that on Twitch or AgeofEmpires.com. That's again, October 25th.
But also announced, they'll be releasing the Age of Empires IV anniversary edition on Steam and Microsoft Store. It includes the base game, all these updates, new civilizations like the Ottomans and the Malians.
JEFF: If you already own Age of Empires IV, you will get the anniversary update for free, which is great. You'll get new achievements, those civilizations, new maps, biomes, et cetera, et cetera. So a lot of cool stuff for Age IV. And also, a lot of new language support.
So if you would prefer to be playing in Hindi or Greek or Portuguese-- you just got back from Portugal, Rebecca-- Age of Empires IV is adding--
REBECCA: [SPEAKING PORTUGUESE]
JEFF: --those languages. Yes. In addition to all the languages that it already launched with.
JEFF: Something that we also announced last week-- it was actually announced right when the show launched, so we didn't have a chance to talk about it, which was Project Amplify, which is an effort to support Black youth that are interested in gaming industry careers. So you should check out news.Xbox.com. We have it elevated there towards the top of the page.
And it talks about basically our efforts here to inspire more Black game creators to come-- get into the industry. There's all sorts of tools. You hear from people here at Xbox, and so there's a video there. And when I say tools, like how to get started.
Like, how do I get started making a game? How to get started in Unity, How to learn C, how to program in C.
LARRY: We're going to get somebody on the--
JEFF: The Unreal Engine.
LARRY: --show in the future to talk about the program, so stay tuned for that.
JEFF: That'll be great. There's some--
JEFF: So some information to get you started, to just read if there's curiosity there. News.Xbox.com, look for Project Amplify.
LARRY: Thank you, Jeff.
JEFF: A couple other things we want to point out real quickly. We heard from the good folks at Asobo this week. Asobo, if that name is familiar, they not only worked on Flight Simulator-- Microsoft Flight Simulator, the most recent version-- but also A Plague Tale: Requiem.
LARRY: Greatest crossover in history right there.
JEFF: Which is going to be coming-- rats on the plane. We got to make this happen. So A Plague Tale: Requiem, a sequel to A Plague Tale Innocence, I want to say, coming out October 18th. I'm very much-- this is the next big game I'm really looking forward to.
Of course, is coming to Xbox Game Pass. It is available only on Series X and S. It's a next gen-only game. And PC, of course. Why is that?
Well, the team came on to talk about the tech that they're running and why it needs next gen-power. And so very excited to read that, to see that, to play that in just a few weeks. A Plague Tale Requiem. Again, that's October 18th that we'll be playing it on Game Pass.
And then just some new updates. Rumbleverse, which has sort of taken the world by storm, from good folks, Iron Galaxy. There's a mid-season update, so if you've been playing that, there's new--
LARRY: Adam's over there, isn't he?
JEFF: --moves and weapons. Huh?
LARRY: Adam Vasone? Wasn't--
JEFF: Adam Boyes? Yeah, I want to say he's one of the co-presidents or something like that. So a great team over there. They've found a lot of success with Rumbleverse here in this first month. And then in terms of games coming out, of course, we got Grounded, but also Moonscars, available on Game Pass. It's a 2D platform slasher. I've been hearing a lot of good things about.
There's a game called Work From Home. I think we're playing that now. I like the description. A co-op party game of one to four players where players act as workers who slack off behind their boss and pretend to work when their boss is around. I feel like that's what this show is.
REBECCA: That's funny. Yeah. [LAUGHS]
JEFF: Valheim, as we talked about. So we'll hear more about that. There's a game called Caffeine: Victoria's Legacy, which is out now. And cheers to that. And then FIFA 23. So if you had the deluxe edition, you can play it earlier in this week. But everyone gets to play, if you have the ultimate edition.
Now, it's available-- being today, if you're listening today, on Friday. And really great announcements. Obviously, on a World Cup year FIFA is a little bit more exciting.
JEFF: But I don't know if you saw, they announced that AFC Richmond, the fictional team from Ted Lasso, is in the game. And you'll be able to play--
REBECCA: Oh my gosh.
JEFF: --the actors. If you want to be Jamie Tartt--
REBECCA: Oh, how funny.
JEFF: I'm gonna-- Roy Kent. You're going to be able to be them. Coach Lasso and Coach Beard are in the game.
JEFF: They put the stadium in there. And they upgraded the jerseys, because they're like some-- in this show, they have some fictional sponsor. but it actually is-- they have Nike kits in the game. So good for AFC Richmond, they're moving up. Promoted. Yeah. Hopefully they'll qualify.
LARRY: Is Rebecca on the sidelines or up in the box?
JEFF: You know what? That's a really good-- that's a really good-- how I love that show.
REBECCA: Get them Roy Kent. Harder. No, just kidding.
JEFF: He's here, he's there, he's every effing-where. I think that was the chant.
JEFF: So that's available now. And I'm very excited for that. And of course, for the World Cup, which will be in November this year. So yeah, going to be Turkey plus World Cup this Thanksgiving. It's going to be an interesting one.
REBECCA: Isn't it usually in the summer?
JEFF: It is usually in the summer, but this year it's not. It's going to be in November.
LARRY: Isn't it because it's in the--
JEFF: It's in Qatar.
LARRY: It's in Qatar.
JEFF: Or Qatar, I'm not sure.
LARRY: Which is not livable in the summer, outside.
JEFF: Right, I think they're all dome stadiums and everything. But anyway, it's going to be very interesting. And you know what?
JEFF: Black Friday, US plays England. That's just going to be a very--
LARRY: That's a very strange thing.
JEFF: --dynamic. I'm used to the summer and going and watching outside. Instead it's going to be sort of that holiday feeling. I'm going to a pumpkin spice latte, or maybe I'll be moved on to eggnog lattes by then.
LARRY: I drink eggnog at that point.
JEFF: Yeah, by then. I do love a good eggnog latte. Larry?
LARRY: Yes, Jeffrey?
JEFF: Do you have any reason to put the gloves on today?
LARRY: You know what? I do. Got the gloves right here. I'm going to get them all ready to go. Because I don't know if you noticed this week, but we announced--
JEFF: Rebecca, will you do the honors?
LARRY: Look at this thing. This is--
REBECCA: I would gladly--
LARRY: You sure you don't want to--
JEFF: No, no--
JEFF: I don't have it.
LARRY: There it is.
REBECCA: All right. So here we have the new Xbox wireless controller, Mineral Camo Special Edition, which is the fourth addition to our Camo Series. We've also got Night Ops Camo, Arctic Camo, D Strike Camo. But this one is really pretty.
So this one features a bold mineral blue, bright purple, aqua, dark purple camouflage pattern. It's inspired by geode crystals and ocean tones. Finds the perfect balance between striking and subdued. OK, but more practically, it comes with a lot of amazing features.
So we have a hybrid d-pad, textured grip on the triggers, bumpers, and back case. And because it is-- you can use the Xbox accessories app to remap the buttons, create a custom controller profile for your favorite games. We also have the share button so that you can capture those moments, share highlights with your friends. You can plug-in a compatible headset with the 3.5 millimeter audio jack--
LARRY: Well, you're hitting all the points, aren't you?
REBECCA: Yes. Sorry, I just want to be very thorough. And lastly, it comes with wireless and Bluetooth technology. So it's compatible with console, PC, mobile phones, and tablets. And MSRP is $69.99 US dollars.
LARRY: And those are available--
REBECCA: But wait, there's more.
LARRY: They're preorder right now, but I believe they're going to start being available--
JEFF: No, I think they're available now.
LARRY: OK, I'm making a little bit of a mess over here because we've got something else, don't we, Rebecca?
REBECCA: Yes. Also available for purchase today from Microsoft Store in the US, or Razer in all other markets, for $49.99 US dollars MSRP is the Razer Universal Quick Charging Stand for Xbox, in matching mineral camo. So pretty. This might be my favorite of the Camo Series.
LARRY: Let me--
LARRY: --this up so that people can see it while you're reading some of the factoids on it.
REBECCA: Please do so. This charging stand is compatible with both Xbox Series XS and also Xbox One controllers. It can get you ready for the game in three hours or less. It uses the same materials, the same geode inspired camouflage pattern. It's the perfect way to get ready for every adventure. And I have to say, it looks pretty, pretty cool.
LARRY: And this is actually really important because it has a separate wireless charging-- and it's in the case here-- wireless charging module that slides in the back here. So that you can kind see the context on the case there. So this one, you drop it and it just makes the contact on the back and start charging.
JEFF: It's nice to pick it up and always know it's charged.
LARRY: Yeah, so that's--
JEFF: You have a nice place to put it down.
LARRY: This is the-- as Rebecca said, it's the universal quick charge. And now this, as you said, this will work with every Xbox controller, except the, I think, the Elite Series 2, right?
REBECCA: Mm-hmm. Yes. Yes.
LARRY: So anyway, so those are available-- and a little light comes on, it's kind of cool. And it has a little USB-C connector in the back for all those USB-C fans out there. I know I'm one.
LARRY: So that's--
REBECCA: It's got a magnetic contact system. Yeah, it's pretty cool.
LARRY: You're really making it happen. Anyway, that's kind of--
That's the whole thing. Two different items available over at the Microsoft Store, so go check those out. Let's get back--
REBECCA: Pretty cool.
LARRY: --shall we? And then also, we should probably get into the interviews right now. So why don't we go ahead and do that?
LARRY: Rebecca, do you have those interviews ready, if you would?
REBECCA: Yes, absolutely. So first up, as we talked, about Grounded, we have Adam Brennecke coming on to chat with Jeff. And then we also have Larry interviewing Albert Safstrom from Valheim. So let's take a look.
JEFF: It's not too often it's going to take you two years to beat a game. But since Obsidian's Grounded first launched into game preview in late July of 2020, it actually hasn't been possible to beat the game until this week. Grounded graduated from game preview just a few days ago, and whether you've been playing along all of these last two years or you're just starting out in the backyard for the first time, there is a ton to see, do, and experience.
Here to tell us more is Adam Brennecke, the game director of Grounded, joining us from SoCal. How are you doing? Second launch week, right?
ADAM BRENNECKE: Yeah, thank you. Thanks for having me on the show. And yeah, the team, everyone at Obsidian, super thrilled with how things have gone in the last day, with our launch. And it's fantastic to be out there, finished with the entire yard, and having people play through it. So thanks. Thanks for having me, I'm happy to be here. And I'm super happy to talk about Grounded.
JEFF: Awesome, because that's what we're going to be doing for the next few minutes. I really feel like Grounded is-- and you're going to have to just excuse me for any puns, unintentional or otherwise--
ADAM BRENNECKE: Oh, no, no. That's part of the fun.
JEFF: I feel like Grounded is something like "the little game that could," in a way. Like we've heard tons of-- over the past couple of years like, this is a team that was only about a dozen that built this game. Up to now over 10 million players. And that was beginning part of this year that was announced, over 10 million players had experienced Grounded.
It's been a real journey, so I would love to just hear about how that time was spent, how you worked with the community, and really, how the team is feeling over the course of that. Because it's really a very different development cycle, I feel like.
ADAM BRENNECKE: Yeah, so we launched two years ago. And if you know the history of Obsidian, if you know our games, we make RPGs and big fantastical worlds, usually science fiction or fantasy. And so Grounded being a survival game set in a backyard environment with a stylized look and feel was a big departure for us at the studio. So a lot of the stuff that we were doing is really new, experimental for us.
And we wanted to try it out. And thankfully everyone at Obsidian and Xbox really supported us along the way in this journey. And we wanted to get it in players' hands as soon as we could, just because we weren't really quite sure if people would like it. We weren't sure if we were making the right decisions. And so just getting it into people's hands, having the community try everything out and give us the feedback along the way has really shaped Grounded into what it is today.
And just made a much better game. And it let us iterate over our ideas as game developers and designers. And the product and the end result shows. It's such a fun and really polished experience. And just super happy to be able to grow the community over the last two years as well.
All those fans, all the continual support, has just made it that much easier on some of the harder days of development. And made us-- push us over the finish line. And it's just fantastic.
JEFF: You had mentioned Polish. And I'm one of those people who-- my daughter and I, and I think Larry as well-- we played through what parts of the story that were there when the game first launched in 2020, and meeting Burgle and then it sort of leaves on a cliffhanger. And I was like, all right, well, first of all, I love achievements, so I'm going to wait. And then I was like, I'm just going to wait for 1.0 and then come back.
And when you do that, Polish was readily apparent. I was like, I don't remember the game running this smoothly. Granted, I was playing on-- I was playing on a previous generation of hardware. A lot has changed in two years in many different ways. What are the things that you want to make sure people do notice if they are coming back for the first time in a while?
ADAM BRENNECKE: Yeah, so I think there's a couple of things. One is our full story. So as you said, yeah, the experience when you played two years ago, when it first launch, we didn't have the full story. It was only a very, very-- it was like the first little chapter of this story, of all the mystery of how you got into the yard and how you're going to get home as a teenager stuck in this environment.
And so you learn about Burgle. And now you get to learn a little bit more of how you're going to get out of this mess. So that's the first thing. The second thing is, how many more environments and different features we have. So we started off with a fairly small part of the yard. And over the last two years, we've been building out all kinds of different environments.
We have a koi pond, a giant koi pond, which adds a lot of interesting water exploration and deep diving, where you have to craft different material-- different equipment and materials to be able to go down deeper and deeper into this koi pond. We have a giant sandbox with a really cool feature that I'm super thrilled about, is the sand is hot in the sandbox during the day.
And you have to hide in the shadows because the sand is so hot to stand on. So you have to kind of play this game with the time of day. And so you can adventure in there at night, but it's more dangerous at night. I really like that.
And then we also have-- with our 1.0 release, we've really expanded into the upper yard area. And that's kind of the end game areas. It's probably a third of the yard. There's so much more content now in that part of the yard.
The other thing that I think, for players that are coming into this fresh or coming into it with-- new after two years of being an early access and game preview, is we developed a lot of the systems. And that's one thing, being RPG makers at Obsidian, we added a lot of ways of customizing your character. Either through gear choices or with-- we have a lot of different ways of upgrading, such as, we have this system called Milk Molars.
And it's silly, but you find these-- they're vitamins in the yard. And you crack them open and you can upgrade your character in different ways. And so we have different ways of providing character builds. We also have weapon and armor upgrades.
And so there's different paths to take your weapon and armor with different status effects. And I think that provides more RPG flavor that I think differentiates us from other survival games.
JEFF: Yeah, I think if you were to take just the last 20 seconds of the thing you said and just excised it, you could place it into other-- that's the Obsidian that everybody knows. And bringing those elements into the game-- look, I love a good skill tree. So I love to see that as well.
ADAM BRENNECKE: Yeah, lots of stats, lots of gear. Lots of choices and trying to figure out what gear is best for the different situations. I think that's super fun. The other thing that-- people are enjoying this, and we have this mode called Peeper, which is super silly. But it's our take on a bestiary in Grounded, where you can take photos of creatures throughout the yard.
And when you do take a photo of a new creature, it actually provides you with their stats and their strengths and weaknesses. And so you can use that to kind see where you can take advantage of their weaknesses, if they have a weak point, or if they're weak against a certain damage type. But it's super fun to collect all the cards. You get these little playing cards every time you take a picture. And we do have achievement if you collect a lot of them--
JEFF: I was just going to-- I was just going to get to that part. Exactly. And I saw the percentage of people-- not enough people are taking advantage of that ability. So get the achievement-- come for the achievement, stay for the intel.
ADAM BRENNECKE: Yeah, yeah. And it's cool, there's so many different like features that we've developed over the last two years. I think the one other thing that I think is super cool about Grounded is we provide a lot of ways to customize the experience too. So if you're not a survival game player, you can turn off some of those options. You can play in creative mode if you just want to build.
I know we have a lot of awesome ways of building cool forts and bases. And if you just want to enjoy your time building and use all your pieces to build a really cool base, we provide mechanisms with creative mode, to not really worry about the other mechanics of the game and you can just have fun building with your friends.
JEFF: Yeah, there's a ton of options. I want to talk about that. A lot of hey was made, originally, about the arachnophobia slider. It's welcome in this house. My daughter has crushing arachnophobia. And that thing was just a ball. So scary, its own way, but not in the same way.
I was looking through the accessibility options. And everything from-- things that might control difficulty, the amount of pressure, I think, that you feel under for thirst and hunger. But I would just love to hear just about the philosophy of the studio in terms of ensuring the most amount of people can play and enjoy the game.
ADAM BRENNECKE: Yes. From day one that was our goal with Grounded, is to make an accessible and approachable survival game. And it was actually a really awesome thing because we actually had that idea before we were acquired by Xbox. And so at the studio, that was something that we really wanted to do. And it fit really well with Xbox.
That is something that we're all really proud of at Xbox and at Obsidian, is just having gaming for everyone. And we wanted to provide as much control and make the game the way-- customize the experience to however you want to play. Whether that be accessibility options, as you mentioned, arachnophobia mode was a big one that we developed early on.
But also just adding a lot of gameplay options for difficulty. And adjusting different things about the game. And we're always listening too, so I think that was a big thing for us. Just listening to the community, seeing what players liked and disliked about that experience and seeing what we could do to address other accessibility-- and making the game available for everyone.
JEFF: Yeah, I highly recommend anybody, even if you don't necessarily think that you require accessibility needs or-- for the game to-- really look through there. There are some things where you might look and go, you know, actually, this is the way I would prefer to play. And I was really impressed with the amount of-- there is no right way to play.
And so, find what works for you because the options are there. And thanks for that. So thinking back to two years ago, and I remember we would come across an aunt, a spider-- which is horrifying-- aphids. And now looking at some of the new insect additions, spiky water flea. Multiple types of firearms. A Tiger mosquito. Multiple types of spiders.
Brood mother, black widows wolf spiders. Do you have an entomologist on staff? And more specifically, do you have an entomologist audiologist? Because hearing the different-- the sounds of the different insects is so interesting. And I'm like, oh, the sound you're making makes me think you're cute and cuddly, so I'm not going to stab you with my makeshift spear. And others I'm like, a lot of this. A lot of this.
So I'm just curious, how much you've learned about insects in the last--
ADAM BRENNECKE: A lot, yeah. And I think that was one of the goals of the game, is to provide cool behaviors for each insect type. And we wanted each insect type to really feel like they feel like in the real world. So for example, our ants behave like an ant colony. They have-- we call it a hive mind-- and the ants will scour for food in the yard.
They'll actually make ant lines to-- and communicate with each other where the food items are. So if you do find a rotten apple in the world, you'll see a line of ants going back to the anthill to the food item. Which is really, really cool. Our spiders, they sleep at night. They also look for food, so they hunt. And they make their spider webs where they want to live.
And it's cool to see this world being very reactive to what you're doing in it. And it's also kind of a living world outside of you. So every insect is surviving just like you are. And with our big release, we did provide a lot more insects, as you just said. So there's also a praying mantis, which was a big ask from our fans, our community. And we were able to deliver on that.
So it's a pretty much an end game boss fight. It's actually pretty hard. And we also have a-- in the mid-game, there's a brood mother, which is a big spider. And you can go into her den. But yeah, there's a lot of cool insects. I'm super happy that we have a roly poly, that's one of my favorites.
And it was one of those ones I'm like, ah, we really need to have a roly poly in this game. And I'm glad that we were able to do it.
JEFF: Yeah, I think that, regionally, I think we called them "pill bugs" growing up.
ADAM BRENNECKE: Yeah, pill bugs. Yeah. Roly polies and pill bugs. [LAUGHS] And then for audio, that's an interesting one. So insects don't really make noise. So it's one of those things where we have to have our-- push our creativity in how we approach different insects. And as you said, a lot of our cutesy creatures that are maybe friendly or neutral have more friendly and inviting sounds.
And then the creepy crawlies that you probably don't want to really face in combat, or you probably should turn the other way and run, those have really nasty sounds. And so we really had to kind of figure out a good balance of sounds that really fit together. And our audio designers are awesome and they're able to produce that soundscape to make those creatures feel really alive. And that really pushes all those creatures over the top.
JEFF: Last question for you Adam. Learning all about these insects and team modeling them with the care that they deserve, or maybe don't-- more than they deserve, in some cases. Has your outlook on just like insects in your backyard changed over the last few years? Do you squish a bug if you see one now? Or do you--
ADAM BRENNECKE: Even from day one and working on Grounded, going outside-- and I hear this from players too, of Grounded, just going in your natural environment, outside of your house, and looking around and looking in the grass and seeing what you can find, and you definitely have a different perspective now on looking-- through your grass blades and seeing different insects. And yeah, I think that's something that I'm glad that people have a-- Grounded's providing a little more appreciation for going outside and kind of experiencing that, nature in a different way.
JEFF: Yeah, I'm still a squish on-sight, at least inside the house.
ADAM BRENNECKE: [LAUGHS]
JEFF: --has not changed that yet. But Adam, thank you so much. Congrats again to you and the full team at Obsidian on launching 1.0 of Grounded. It's available on-- you can play it on Cloud, console, and PC, through the magic of Game Pass. If you bought the game previously, back as far as 2020, it is upgraded to 1.0. You'll notice the Game Preview banner is gone.
So enjoy the game. Let Obsidian know what you think. And get out there in the back yard and try not to get eaten.
LARRY: PC gamers, you've probably heard about Valheim. You're probably even playing it. It's got over 10 million copies sold in early access. And joining us today is Albert Safstrom, who's the VP of publishing at Coffee Stain. Albert, thanks for joining us.
ALBERT SAFSTROM: Thanks for having me.
LARRY: I'm very excited to talk to you today about Valheim, which is coming to PC Game Pass-- it's now available on PC Game Pass. Tell us a little bit about Valheim, because I know that a lot-- there's a lot of console gamers, and we're talking about that in just a second-- that listen. This audience, a lot of a PC gamers. But they've heard about this on Steam. Tell us about what type of game this is.
ALBERT SAFSTROM: Yeah, so Valheim is set in the 10th realm in Viking mythology. And you basically play as a slain warrior who has to prove themselves worthy to Odin to gain entry into Valhalla. It's a crafting survival title with a focus on exploration. And I guess what sets this game apart from other games is that the team has crafted a procedural world that feels like the Swedish wilderness.
It's not just a random world, but a place with purpose and history. And it's a place that you want to explore, a world that you want to make your own. And it's a game with a clear progression. If you look at other crafting survival games, sometimes you're thrown into the midst of things and you're not really sure what to do. But in this game, you have to slay these giant bosses to prove your worth to Odin.
And then this gives your adventure a strong sense of direction and purpose. And then, coming back to this thing about it being a survival game, it does have this survival tropes where you need to build the shelter and you need to gather food to eat. But in Valheim, the game kind of wants to reward you instead of punish you. So you won't really starve to death if you don't eat, but if you spend time preparing and eating special foods, your character will get buffs that helps you in exploration and combat.
And when it comes to the shelter, if you rest in a shelter, you become rested and that makes your character gain experience faster, and you regain your stamina faster. And the cozier you make your home, the longer this rested buff will last. So the game isn't trying to punish you. It's like a huge and epic challenge.
And it might feel brutal and forgiving, but the game really wants you to succeed. And this thing about, make your home and you make it cozy and then that gives you buffs, if you compare that to a lot of other games, if you're a hardcore gamer and you want to mean max and do the optimal thing, oftentimes those things in games are not the most fun way to play the game.
But in Valheim, you become the strongest you can be by really immersing yourself in the world. The more Viking you try to be, the stronger you will be in this world.
LARRY: Yeah. Now first of all, it's a lot to digest. Now this is available on PC Game Pass right now. You've been out on steam for quite some time, a little bit over a year in the early access program over there. Tell us about that success. Because as I said right at the beginning of the interview, released in 2021, over 10 million copies sold. And it's still in early access.
I mean, that's got to feel incredible. What has that enabled you to do with your vision?
ALBERT SAFSTROM: Yeah, so the team that originally created the game was only five-man strong. And they have this way of thinking about making games where it's important that quality takes time. And Valheim is a game that it's like, it's like an intricate puzzle where if you kill a creature and you get some loot, there is no trash loot in the entire game. That everything has a purpose, it's there by design.
And so, what this success has allowed us is to really make sure that we take the time to deliver future updates that are as well-designed and as-- work in this interlocking way, that the 80 to 200 hours that's already in the game, that we build on that success and make something that is truly special.
LARRY: Now in some of that-- and if you're watching this on YouTube or on Spotify, we've showed a little bit of gameplay here. And we've seen some of the construction. But some of the things as Vikings, at least with me growing up, there you go. You got to have your Viking ship. So I mean, there's a lot of elements of the Viking lifestyle in this game.
And you have to prove yourself, some of the things you just talked about. Tell us about how accurate it is for what we know about Vikings? Or have you guys taken a little bit of liberties with some of what we know about Vikings, right?
ALBERT SAFSTROM: We have taken quite a few liberties, but it really rests on Nordic folklore. So you would see a lot of the creatures are like mythical in nature. And we don't actually have huge blue trolls running around in our dark forests here in Sweden, so we've taken some liberties here.
LARRY: Yeah, I mean, that's part of it, is making it fun. And the game loop is fun. And we talked about it, it's a third person survival game. But you start out with nothing, right? You're essentially there as if you were like you were brought into this world with absolutely nothing, and you have to work your way through. For those folks on PC Game Pass that are downloading it right now and going to check it out, can you kind of guide us what we should-- what are the areas, maybe, they should focus on for the first half hour or 45 minutes?
ALBERT SAFSTROM: So you will be taken to this starting biome called "the meadows," that's quite calm and serene. You shouldn't have any immediate huge threats. One of the things you want to do quickly is to build a shelter so that you can rest overnight. But you also need to keep in mind that this is a world that is also driven by physics.
So if you go to chop down a tree, you need to be wary of the direction that the tree is falling because getting hit by a tree branch will hurt a lot.
ALBERT SAFSTROM: And the way they bounce around on the terrain makes it so that even an experienced woodcutter in this game can get surprised by a falling tree.
LARRY: [LAUGHS] By the way, thank you for that tip. Because right, you don't want to be killed right out of the gate by your own inability to cut down a tree properly, so that's good to know. We talked about-- you mentioned that there's different biomes in there. Tell us about some of the biomes and what those-- we've got some-- I assume some unique enemies in those bombs. And of course, you need bosses, right?
ALBERT SAFSTROM: Yeah, exactly. So the game progresses through biomes that are based in the Swedish nature. So you start in a meadow and then you go to a black forest and then you get to go to a swamp. And these biomes are procedurally generated. And you will get your own unique map to play in.
And so it doesn't really help-- there's no map to look at online to get the guide for how you should progress. You need to truly explore your world and figure out where the closest dark forest is. And each of these biomes, they have their own end boss that caps the biome experience.
And I won't spoil those for you, but in the first couple of hours you should be able to gather enough strengths, along with your friends, to take on the first toss in the first biome, and then you will be ready for the dark forest.
LARRY: To become a true Viking?
ALBERT SAFSTROM: Yes.
LARRY: Tell us about-- we talked about it's been available on Steam and early access. It's now available on PC Game Pass. There's going to be a cross-play element, if I'm understanding that correctly? Tell us about that and what the multiplayer is.
ALBERT SAFSTROM: Yeah, so you can play up to 10 players. And since the game has been live and people have created their worlds on Steam beforehand, we wanted to make sure that players who join on PC Game Pass have an opportunity to join the worlds that their friends already have created.
So you can play with people who are more experienced, as well as invite your more experienced players to your world on PC Game Pass. We just wanted to-- there are some amazing worlds that people have created with these structures and villages, and just taking the building mechanics so much further than we ever had anticipated. And being able to share those across the PC Game Pass and the Steam community, it's going to be so awesome.
LARRY: Yeah, I'm really looking forward to seeing what people are going to do. And again, it's a great idea of having the Steam audience, which has been in there for quite some time, being able to kind of jump start the PC Game Pass audience. So really excited that Valheim is now available on PC Game Pass. Today, go check it out. No reason not to.
Albert Safstrom, VP of publishing at Coffee Stain, really appreciate you telling us a little bit about Valheim today. Not too much, because you've got to go check it out yourself. And let's get you on again sometime when you-- I know you guys are constantly updating it, but you're welcome to come back on the show.
ALBERT SAFSTROM: Looking forward to it. Thank you.
REBECCA: Thank you to Albert and Adam, but also Jeff and Larry, my fabulous co-hosts, for those interviews. A lot of exciting stuff coming out this week. I'll definitely have to jump into Grounded. But yeah, thanks, guys.
LARRY: Hey, I want to point something out. When we were in the break there while we were rolling the interviews, I noticed-- I mean, maybe some folks noticed this before, maybe you guys noticed it, but I didn't because I was too busy showing them off, is it's kind of cool the way the-- and let me go full screen. I mean, it's kind of cool the way the camo pattern continues. You can kind see other here--
REBECCA: Hmm. Oh, I love that.
LARRY: Yeah, so it kind of continues on to the-- so it's all seamless.
JEFF: So thoughtful.
LARRY: So when it's sitting there--
REBECCA: Oh, it's really neat.
LARRY: So, just wanted to point those out. Anyway, kind of nifty.
REBECCA: When it's sitting there in your blue room, you won't be able to see either of them. Because it's camouflage.
JEFF: Larry, you got a camo one behind you too, don't you?
LARRY: So I--
REBECCA: Where? Just kidding, sorry. I'll stop.
LARRY: Well, that's pink one that was part of Xbox Design Labs. Because the camo is--
LARRY: Now I've got this one now. I mean, I've got so many controllers. I have too many-- I got a-- Jeff, I know you've got-- you have a rack up there, right? Don't you?
JEFF: Yeah, there's a handful of them here. So I have some on the wall over here. My favorite, my force of one. I've got the Sea of Thieves one, which I think is still one of the best ones ever. A custom Yakuza one that was done. And then also one that we did from XO 19, which has the River Thames going through, and a camo pattern.
And then a few up there that were just custom stick-- one was a Design Lab and then one of them is Gears 5, which is that one.
LARRY: Got a bunch of those.
LARRY: We got a bunch of--
REBECCA: Very cool.
LARRY: Anyway, the mineral camo one, thanks for reading all of that information off on it, Rebecca. If you're look for something for the holiday, we found it for you. So if you're looking for something--
REBECCA: Yeah, it's a really nice package, honestly.
LARRY: Yeah, they did--
REBECCA: Put the two in the things.
LARRY: Nice little thing together. Anyway, Rebecca, welcome back. Will you be around next week to join us? Jeff and I?
REBECCA: Yes, yes, I will.
JEFF: All right.
LARRY: Lovely. Well, we'll come back next week. For everybody that's listening to us, wherever you're listening to us, whether it's watching us on YouTube or Spotify or listening on Spotify, Apple, drop by, let us know in the YouTube comments, or hit us up on Twitter, if you're interested in letting us know how you feel. And I'll put our Twitter handles up right now if you're watching.
You can kind see them right under us there. But if you go over to mine @majornelson on Twitter. I follow--
REBECCA: Free Code Friday. Don't forget.
LARRY: And Free Code Friday, don't forget. Let's get--
REBECCA: Let's get trending. Just kidding.
LARRY: Oh, thank you for that. All right, gang. We'll see you guys next week. Bye-bye, everybody.