[MUSIC PLAYING] LARRY HRYB: Hi, it's Larry Hryb, Xbox's Major Nelson. Welcome to the official Xbox podcast. You have found us. You've liked us. You subscribed to us. You're here. We're with you. We are going to bring in the rest of the gang. Here they are. There he is. There's Jeff. We got Malik in this week. Malik, good to see you.
MALIK PRINCE: Glad to be here. Good to see you both. We have you, and we have both Malik Prince here. That mistake was a good one, but I love the comment last week. Thanks for having me. I'm so glad to be back. I will say-- and, Jeff, maybe you don't even know this-- that after the last time I was on this show, Hollywood's been hitting me up.
LARRY HRYB: Oh, yeah, it happens.
MALIK PRINCE: They saw my appearance.
LARRY HRYB: Oh, we don't use the term Hollywood and hitting anymore. We don't use that.
MALIK PRINCE: Oh, that's a good point. That's a good point. Good to be here, though.
LARRY HRYB: OK. It's great to have you. Jeff, nice to see you over there as always.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Yeah, we've got both Maliks on the show this week, so we meet at last.
LARRY HRYB: So for those of you that don't know, last week-- because I produce the show. I'm the host. You'll see me doing different things here. When I bring up this little thing, which we call the lower third, I still had Malik over there in the right box in the lower third. So I fixed it, but now we're all set. We're all in the right place at the right time.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: The good news is Rebecca gets to meet Malik next year. And Malik is more like a title. It's your name, but it's also a title.
MALIK PRINCE: It is. It is a title.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: And Rebecca will be the Malik of the week.
LARRY HRYB: Malik of the week.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Malik of the week.
MALIK PRINCE: Malik of the week.
LARRY HRYB: All right, let's get into what we're playing. We've got some cool stuff. You know what these mean, right?
MALIK PRINCE: It means it's about to get real.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Would mean someone just got back from the doctor.
LARRY HRYB: No, I've got some stuff to show off today. We've got some fun, fun props here to show off. We're going to do that. But first, we're going to talk about what we're playing. And, Malik, I think I'm going to have you go first, so why don't you tell us what you're playing?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Wait, which Malik?
LARRY HRYB: OK, right Malik, not left Malik.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: All right, last one, last one.
MALIK PRINCE: Got you.
LARRY HRYB: What are you playing, man?
MALIK PRINCE: I'll go, I'll go. I love the commitment to the bit. Yeah, so for me, as we all know, last time I was on I talked about my love of Apex, which I will always say that I'm playing that game. It's my constant, and Apex Legends is great. And so this week, what's really great is that they put out the next gen update. So I know since the series X and S came out, people have been clamoring for the update, and it's finally out. So 4K, 60 frames per second. They added HDR, which was previously on the Xbox version, with auto HDR, which is a feature that the great platform team implemented. But now it's built into the game, so it looks even better.
LARRY HRYB: Native.
MALIK PRINCE: I think the audio's actually changed a little bit because the bass of the grenades is way stronger.
LARRY HRYB: So the audio's HDR, too?
MALIK PRINCE: No, separate from the HDR. I feel like the bass is so increased, which actually makes you feel like you're definitely in Kings Canyon, Olympus, or Storm Point. But I'm loving the game, and so that has been amazing. And eventually, all three of us will play and get a few victories, right?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: We were very big fans back in the day.
LARRY HRYB: Well, what's funny, Jeff, and I, and his daughter used to play all the time, and I think she's moved back over to Overwatch. So, Jeff, I think you, and I, and Malik should totally roll in there. Now, I can't speak for Jeff. But, Malik, I am a little bit rusty, but I'm happy to play.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: He's your pathfinder.
MALIK PRINCE: Let's go. Let's do it.
LARRY HRYB: I'll be your Pathfinder or your bloodhoonder.
MALIK PRINCE: "Blooth-hunder". That's how you say it. No, I try to do the best impressions of the Apex characters as I can. Working on it still, though, as you can tell. But outside of that, I'm also playing WWE 2K22, just released not too long ago, this month. And the game is amazing. The team took off a year to really focus on the gameplay, and it really shows. One, the graphics look amazing. The gameplay is more true to life than ever before, and they brought back a mode that hasn't been in the game for over a decade, which is-- any wrestling fans who are watching this right now, they know what I'm talking about-- MyGM Mode, where you get to take over a whole brand on the show. And you get to run the show.
Now, you don't get to set concession prices or anything like that, but you do get to decide almost everything else. And it's a really great mode. And I'll say, the create a wrestler mode is really awesome. You might have seen some of the great folks at Kinda Funny.
LARRY HRYB: Yeah, I saw that.
MALIK PRINCE: There's a community member who's made them in the game, and it's so impressive. So a shoutout to the folks over there at 2K. WWE 2K is back, love it.
LARRY HRYB: OK, so here's your homework. Why don't you go create Jeff, and I, and yourself?
MALIK PRINCE: Ooh, OK. Honestly, I haven't dabbled into it myself. But if you want to put that challenge out there--
LARRY HRYB: It's there.
MALIK PRINCE: --I will do that, and I will tag you both. Give me a week. Give me a week.
LARRY HRYB: And you know what? You take as much time as you want. We'll get you back on the show, and you can reveal it right here on the show. How's that sound?
MALIK PRINCE: Ooh, OK. Oh, that's a lot.
LARRY HRYB: Don't do it on social.
MALIK PRINCE: I'm down.
LARRY HRYB: I want you to do it here on the show, so you can get our real time reaction.
MALIK PRINCE: Get an Xbox podcast exclusive. I'm down for it. All right, I'm excited for that. And then the last game that I'm playing is a game called A Memoir Blue. And so, as many folks do, with Xbox Game Pass-- the best value in gaming. That's my thoughts, maybe a little bit biased. But I will say that whenever I'm looking for a new game to play, I go through the Xbox Game Pass library. And what really strikes me is one, first, the box art of the game. That really often tells you a little bit about the tone of the game, and that leads me to look into it a little bit more.
So I downloaded A Memoir Blue. It's a really short game. I think it's less than an hour.
LARRY HRYB: Oh, wow.
MALIK PRINCE: And I played it at the end of the night last night, so I haven't finished it yet. Only a few minutes. But it's from the folks at Annapurna, who does a great job at making interactive games, games that are a little bit different. So if you ever check out A Memoir Blue, even if you just check out the trailer, it's a really great art style. It's about a young girl-- her name is Miriam-- unpacking her relationship with her mother. And so I won't spoil the rest of the story.
LARRY HRYB: I'm looking at that.
MALIK PRINCE: Also, I haven't finished it. But it looks awesome. And so that is a game that I'm going to be playing and finishing tonight.
LARRY HRYB: Yeah, and if you're on Steam, it's on PlayStation. Of course, it's on Xbox, for Game Pass, or Switch. So it's on multi-platforms. But of course, you're going to play it on Game Pass because you're a Game Pass subscriber. But yeah, this looks really great. It's got this nice watery action going. Oh, look at that. Look at that. That looks cool. Thank you for the tip there, Malik. That's cool.
MALIK PRINCE: Yeah, of course, always happy to give the recommendations.
LARRY HRYB: I know Jeff has got a pretty good story for his side, so I'm going to deliver what-- I've been playing Tunic pretty much nonstop since it came out.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Love to here it.
LARRY HRYB: Malik or Jeff, have you played much of the game?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Played the demo. I'm waiting until I'm done with-- I have to finish Elden Ring before I can get into it.
LARRY HRYB: Fair point. How about you, Malik? Have you played it yet?
MALIK PRINCE: I also played the demo. I have not jumped into it. I'm a little bit afraid of how hard it might be. Some people said it is. But I'm going to jump into it.
LARRY HRYB: Well, if you watch last week, Jeff gave the tip of you can put on God mode, which allows you-- it basically never decreases your health, and you're just hacking the enemies. But it is still rather challenging. The puzzles are challenging. And I didn't realize it until-- seriously, I'm probably 10 hours into the game. You have to go to these shrines and pray. Press and hold A to pray, never knew it. So there's a lot in this game that doesn't get explained, but I'm having a great time. I may actually reroll my character and start over.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Press A to pray.
LARRY HRYB: Press A to pray.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: That's good to know. That's good to know.
MALIK PRINCE: I love it. And it's on Xbox Game Pass.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: That's where I've been going wrong all these years.
LARRY HRYB: All right, Jeff. I can see from what you've got queued up behind you-- we'll go full screen here.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Oh, yes, that.
LARRY HRYB: You're back in it?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Yeah. So as we talked about last week, Fortnite, in the new chapter it's part of the storyline that building is gone. They took away building.
LARRY HRYB: How do you feel about that?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: I didn't like building. What would happen is early in the game it's fine and for going up hills and stuff. Or traversal was necessary the way the game was set up. But at the end of the game, the people at the end, it would get real sweaty. They'd build these giant towers, and then jump down, and one-shot you. And I didn't enjoy it. I didn't enjoy it. But I would go ahead and buy the skins because nobody has better crossovers, like with Silk Sonic or with Naomi Osaka, Chloe Kim. An amazing job of putting people in the game-- Master Chief, as you can see over my right shoulder there.
So they took building out, and I was like, let me jump in. And jumped in. The other thing that pushed me over the edge-- and we talked about it last week-- is that all proceeds from them and on the Xbox side are going to support Ukrainians, who certainly need that support. So I felt really good going in, buying a battle pass, buying for my daughter the Chloe Kim super pack for however many V-Bucks that was, picking up some other stuff. And it turns out we love it. No build mode is totally for us. It actually was confirmed this week that no build mode will be a permanent addition-- or zero build mode, I guess they call it.
LARRY HRYB: But there's still the mode where you can build, right? They still got that in it.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Well, I'm sure that will come back at some point based on the story. I don't have any insider info, but it's clear that, as part of the season, you're supposed to be helping to restore building. But I think the success of it-- so because there's no building, you're faster. You can mantle. You can climb up stuff. There's more traversal options, and you have a sprint mode, where you can run much faster than you could in the traditional version of the game.
We were playing PUBG back in the day. After that, we got very much into Apex, which is a first person, and there's a huge difference between a first person and a third person shooter. And playing back into that third person battle royale mode is really fun. You're standing behind a tree, and you're cheesing the camera to see if they see you and all that. And anyway, we ended up getting, within three games, our first victory royale--
LARRY HRYB: Well done.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: --which was actually the first I had in like five years. Wait, what's this? What's this? Apparently, we have the footage.
LARRY HRYB: We have the footage.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Roll it.
LARRY HRYB: I was able to pull it off Xbox Live, and here it is.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Here's me, with my Psylocke X-Men skin. I would go in and buy skins. I was like, that's an awesome skin. I love the X-Men Jubilee era, so I had to pick this one up. And then we came around. My daughter's using the Chloe Kim skin right there. You can see the silhouette there.
LARRY HRYB: Look at that.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: There it is.
LARRY HRYB: Number one.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: That was the first one, felt really good.
LARRY HRYB: Amazing.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Not exactly super amazing play. And then, yeah, I always finish with the golf clap. So last night, jumped on in a full squad. Second game, we got our victory royale. And so we're going to be playing with a couple of streamers actually tonight, and so I'm fully back into it.
LARRY HRYB: Good for you.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Great job for them. Great job. Of course, I don't know what the latest numbers are, but it was at least, I want to say, like $70 million raised so far for Ukrainians between Epic and Xbox. So it's a great cause. So I'm buying every skin in sight because they update every day. There's Jordan skins. There's all kinds of cool stuff that I've missed because I really haven't played in the last couple of years.
LARRY HRYB: You haven't played it much.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: So great job there. And then when I'm not playing that, I'm now in the Capital in Elden Ring.
LARRY HRYB: Oh, Elden Ring.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: So I think I'm probably 70% to 80% through the game. It's amazing. I love it. But yeah.
LARRY HRYB: We know you love it.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Good stuff.
MALIK PRINCE: Even as hard as it is-- I don't know how you all have the heart to do it.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: I have the build. I am not a git gud type of person. Sunhilegend-- I know we've talked about him in the past. He's an amazing player. You see him on Twitter, the way he works Margit, and it got like 20,000 retweets-- dismissive of this huge boss that totally took me 15 tries to beat. I'm playing on a range build. You get these Ashes of Grace, I think they're called. And I have basically a twin, who-- we'll be honest-- does a lot of the work, distracts the boss. I'm throwing lightning bolts into them.
LARRY HRYB: You're Tom Sawyering this.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Yeah, someone else is doing the work, if that's the reference you're making because I never read that. Right? Maybe? So was I wrong?
LARRY HRYB: No, you're right. It's a little bit of American literature that I should not be bringing up, I guess.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Wrong podcast, Larry. That's on your other show.
LARRY HRYB: That's my AM lit show.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: The game could be hard if you're not prepared. But once you get over it and you're like, I'm not going to be scared-- and by the way, I'm going to cheese things. You take every opportunity to cheese these enemies whenever you can. Otherwise, the odds are stacked against you. And I'm cruising. I'll be honest. I'm cruising. I'm loving every minute in that world.
MALIK PRINCE: Love the dedication.
LARRY HRYB: Well, I need to invite you back into my world, so I can do some more co-op after I finish Tunic.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: I'd love to.
LARRY HRYB: But we should totally get some time, if you can take a break from Fortnite, and roll in some Apex with Malik and I.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: I do want to see the update, so I'm all about it.
LARRY HRYB: Yeah, so that's good there. That's what we're playing this week. We've got some news coming up in just a minute. Jeff, do you want to bring us in the interview? Because I'm really excited about the interview this week. It was such a delight to talk to Kiki Wolfkill. Amazing.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Awesome. So we know Kiki Wolfkill is the head of transmedia over at 343. And you say, well, what does that mean? Well, she's very involved with the Halo TV series, which is currently running on Paramount+. By the way, if you say, I don't have Paramount+ and you have Xbox Game Pass, guess what? You have a month of Paramount+. So go in. Check those perks. Watch the show. Listen to this interview. And you'll be all set.
LARRY HRYB: Halo the series is on Paramount+ right now. Joining us is Kiki Wolfkill, who's a good friend of mine. Kiki, it's good to finally see you.
KIKI WOLFKILL: Oh my gosh, I'm so happy to be here. I'm so happy to be here with you, so thank you for inviting me.
LARRY HRYB: Well, first of all, I know we tried to get you on last week because the series premiere, and that's why you're here. We'll talk about that in a minute. But you were down in LA, doing the red carpet, hopefully not hitting anybody. But you were down there on the red carpet.
KIKI WOLFKILL: No.
LARRY HRYB: And it looks like it was a lot of fun.
KIKI WOLFKILL: It was. It was. I have to say that it's been a long journey. So I wasn't ready to believe that we were actually there until we were on the red carpet. And I think that's when it was really real for me that this is happening. We're doing this. We're going to release an episode at midnight tonight. It was a pretty intense feeling.
LARRY HRYB: Well, I want to talk about that because we talk about the journey. This has been an epic journey to bring Halo to the TV screen-- not as a game because certainly there's been tons of games that come to the TV screen. But I'm saying as a live action episodic experience, and it started a decade-ish ago. Is that accurate?
KIKI WOLFKILL: Yeah, it's been about a 10-year journey.
LARRY HRYB: Tell us about that. What took so long? This is not specific to Halo. There's a lot of projects that take a long time to go through the system, right?
KIKI WOLFKILL: Yeah. I think it was a couple of things. I think you're right. These things, they do take time. And for us, this was the one Hollywood project we were doing. And for a lot of other people, it was one of a dozen projects they had. But I think more than anything it was we needed to get the right team together, and that took time. And we tried a few things, and it didn't work.
And we also were being really ambitious with what we wanted to do in terms of production value and the scope and scale of the show, and that took a lot of planning as well. And we were in production for a while. We spent almost three years shooting-- going home for six months for the COVID hiatus. But it was definitely a Herculean task, I will say, to bring this to life.
LARRY HRYB: Will you talk about that for a second? Because I know a lot of folks that work at the studio, that work with you, work for you. And I would always be like, where's Kiki? You were away shooting. You were actually on set for pretty much the whole thing. Can you tell me where you shot it and that experience?
KIKI WOLFKILL: Yeah. I will say, what an extraordinary opportunity to be this far into my career and get the chance to learn a whole new production pipeline and way of working. So we shot in Budapest. We shot in a few areas outside of Budapest, but we had seven huge soundstages that are all ours there. So our production offices, et cetera, were all there.
And so we shot on the stages. We had a physical condor on a gimbal that's built on one of the stages. And then we shot in a few other locations around Hungary. And yeah, we started prepping a few months before we got to Budapest. Actually, you're seeing now inside Soren's quarters is a physical set, and then obviously we augment a lot with CG.
But yeah, it was an extraordinary experience. I was on set literally every single day, working with the directors, and the showrunner, and the talent. And it was an incredible experience. It was exhausting. We talk about game hours. Shooting hours is a whole nother thing, I have to say, because you're physically there together all the time.
LARRY HRYB: As somebody who's shot a lot of television and been on film sets, there's a lot of waiting, right? You got to wait to set the shot up, and you got to wait till the sun is in the right position or whatever. Wait for the practical effects to get in position, right?
KIKI WOLFKILL: Yeah. But for us, for all that waiting, because we were shooting so constantly, we would be having meetings on set all the time about an episode we were shooting in two months, about costume decisions, about things we were shooting the next day. And so while there was a lot of waiting, that was also time we were using always for being ready. We were literally laying the track as we went along, and so that time was super valuable.
LARRY HRYB: What was it like seeing-- you've been in the games industry for a long time. Tell us a little bit about a few of the games you've worked on. You were one of the original women at Xbox back in the day. You joined before I joined. Everyone thinks I started Xbox. I had nothing to do with it. I was behind the path. You were blazing the path in so many ways. Tell us about some of the titles you worked on and your journey into the Halo universe.
KIKI WOLFKILL: Yeah, I have been there for every console launch. So before even Xbox, I was working on PC games at Microsoft. But Project Gotham Racing was my baby when we launched the original Xbox-- and worked on a lot of racing games. I have a soft spot for the racing games-- but worked on Mass Effect, the original Crackdown, Fable and Fable II.
So came up through art. I was an art director, ultimately the director of art for Microsoft Game Studios, now Xbox Game Studios. And so I'd done some work with Marcus and the team on Halo 3, really supporting what they were doing with the game at the time. And it wasn't until we formed 343 in 2008 that I moved from an art director role to an executive producer role, which was something I'd been talking to Shane about for a while.
LARRY HRYB: Shame Kim, who used to run Studios.
KIKI WOLFKILL: Yes, Shane Kim, who I ran into recently, by the way, at a hockey game. But yeah, so the chance to join 343, I had always been a huge Halo fan, always a huge Halo fan. So to be able to build that Halo 4 team and ship Halo 4, as our first 343 game, was an incredible experience. And storytelling, and the Chief and Cortana journey, and those big themes, and the world building, and immersion of Halo were the things that I love the most.
So to be able to take that, and move it into live action, and move it into the television space-- beyond doing the TV ads. We have an incredible marcom team, who I've always worked really closely with. And that was always like being able to present these amazing slivers of story in the universe. And so being able to do it in long form, do it in nine hours was incredible opportunity.
LARRY HRYB: We always talk about the linear television, where you sit down and you watch linear storytelling versus games, which are non-linear storytelling, where the player decides they want to go through that door. They want to jump through the window. They want to spend an hour in this room or two seconds in the room. How is the transition for you making it from non-linear storytelling into a linear storytelling universe, where the director and the producer control exactly what you're going to see at any moment versus a player which may be over here and over here. And who knows where they're going to go?
KIKI WOLFKILL: Right. Right. That's what I love. Visual storytelling has always been the thing that has drawn me to games. And I love both mediums, right? I love film and television, and I love games. And I love how the level of immersion, and interaction, and agency in games, how that makes me feel. But I think the things that are the same are having that very clear vision for the story that you want to tell, having a very clear idea of what you want the audio to feel, whether they're participating as one of the characters or not.
So those things are very similar, but you are telling a story from a specific point of view, with film and TV. And so it, A, does allow you to do some more character exploration than maybe you can do easily in a first person game, not to say that it's impossible. But there is a level and depth of character development that is easier to do in film and TV. And I think that's really why the series was exciting for us, having this nine hours to tell a story about the Master Chief, to tell a story about John. The game-- you really are the Master Chief, and most of the storytelling is focused on moving you, as a player, forward through the story.
But the world building and creating an amazing sci-fi world, all of that is the same. What in some ways makes it a little bit easier is we get to point the camera in a direction, and we know what it's going to hit, right? We don't have to worry about what's outside of the frame in a way that in games you do. As to your point, you have to have that 360 view. And so there's a relentless attention to detail that goes with that, that lets us, at least on the television side, really focus the attention. We know where you're looking, and we know what you're hearing, and we know what is going to happen next. And that's a little bit of a different dynamic.
LARRY HRYB: Here we're seeing some of the iconic characters, of course, Chief there and so forth. How do you translate a battle like this that we just saw on screen, with Chief and the Covenant? How do you translate that from something that gamers have known for over 20 years? And they know what the energy sword is like, and they know what the Covenant sound like. Thank you for the wor, wor, wor.
KIKI WOLFKILL: I'm so glad you heard that.
LARRY HRYB: I know a lot of people heard that in the first episode. How do you make that transition to bring something that was before digital, now in some cases in real life in the case of Master Chief?
KIKI WOLFKILL: Yeah, there are so many different layers actually to answering that question. I think the first is, how do you take the things that people are familiar with and put them in this different space? And there the challenge is, how do you make it feel grounded, and real, and something that you feel like you could really touch in real life, that it's not made of pixels, even though much of it may be? And then it's you do want those emotional hooks. When we hear the shield sound, we all have a reaction to that. It's built into our DNA as Halo players. And so you want to be able to do that.
But I think the important thing with the battle and with any of those pieces of gameplay that you may bring in, it has to be moving the story forward, right? At the end of the day, that's the first priority through this kind of storytelling is every decision has to be adding value to the story. And even from a battle perspective, right? That battle you see in episode one, there is a story there, right? It is the story of Kwan, and what happens to this outpost, and the people in it, and the Spartans coming in. And so you need to be able to follow that thread that can be different than it is on the game side.
And then, frankly, there's a lot of things you can do in the game physically because we can cheat a lot of physics. And we can't cheat physics in quite the same way in live action. So there's all sorts of things we're like, oh, and he'll do this. And it's like, oh, wait. He can't actually do that because he can't actually get his arm up above here because of physical limitations. For us, we can cheat a lot of things in the game, same with how Elites move and all of that. So there is definitely a translation process.
LARRY HRYB: When you're working on there, and you're working on set, and you're surrounded by some of these great actors that you got to work with, did they have familiarity with the game in the universe? Or are they coming in as professional actors? Or where there actual fan boys and girls there?
KIKI WOLFKILL: Yeah. Oh, there was such a mix, and I would say this of all the crew. There were people who had played when they were younger but hadn't played for a long time, right? Their lifestyles had changed. So they had this fondness, and this nostalgia, and this love, but maybe not a recent experience with the games. Then you had people who are die hard, die hard fans, knew every single detail, which was amazing, especially because we had some of that on our VFX team. And we had it in some really critical places.
And then you had people who were completely new to Halo. We did a Halo boot camp for everyone coming in to the show, so I think we did something like 15 boot camps, which was really about giving background on what Halo is, who are the Covenant, what is a Spartan, that basic knowledge. And then there was a lot layered on top of that. What does this character mean to our audience? What does this relationship dynamic mean to fans? What are the things that are really, really precious, and why? And what is the universe about?
Because it's not just, what is Halo Infinite about? What was Halo Combat Evolved about? It's, what does the universe mean to people? Because that's the thing that we have to capture and to be able to deliver. And so they would leave that both with a great foundational knowledge of Halo but also I think a real sense of responsibility to the audience and to the fans to deliver something good.
LARRY HRYB: As you and I record this, episode one aired last week on Paramount+. You can watch it exclusively there. Episode two is coming up. It will have aired by the time this interview airs, so I have not seen it yet. I know you've seen it, even though you told me you were going to get me copies of it--
KIKI WOLFKILL: So many times.
LARRY HRYB: --so I could take a look at it early. But we'll talk about that off the air.
KIKI WOLFKILL: No, I'm glad I didn't because we literally finish these things right before they air. And I want you to see it and hear it in its full glory.
LARRY HRYB: Yeah, and it does look spectacular. So we've got nine episodes, right?
KIKI WOLFKILL: Yep.
LARRY HRYB: We've got nine episodes.
KIKI WOLFKILL: Nine episodes.
LARRY HRYB: It's going to air every single week on Paramount+. And we announced also-- this is not news. But you were already picked up for a second season. That's amazing.
KIKI WOLFKILL: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, no, that feels good. It feels good mostly because we wrapped season one, at least production-wise. And we plowed in to season two, and started thinking and figuring out what we were going to do, and going with the hopes that they would actually renew us because we know how hard and how long it takes to build this. But we learned so much on season one, just like version one of a game. You learn a ton, and you come out of the experience with a 10-page list of all the things you want to do differently, and better, and how you want to take all those learnings forward. And I think all of the cast and crew are excited to do that. So to have it actually confirmed that we can do it is incredible.
LARRY HRYB: I didn't get a chance to do it the first time because, thanks, pandemic. But hopefully, I can come and do a set visit and maybe do a little something on the set now that you've got a little bit more of the world out there and people have seen some of the sets and, of course, the characters. So I'd like to talk to you about that. We're not going to talk about it now.
KIKI WOLFKILL: You are welcome any time.
LARRY HRYB: Thank you. All right, Kiki, listen, I could talk to you forever. It's so lovely to talk to you and learn more about Halo the series, now on Paramount+. Check it out. And also, for Game Pass members, get a free 30-day trial. So what are you doing? Go redeem it at Microsoft Rewards.
KIKI WOLFKILL: That's right. Do it now. Do it now.
LARRY HRYB: Do it now. All right, Kiki, thanks so much, and I'm looking forward to seeing the next bunch of episodes. And congratulations on season one and, of course, getting picked up for season two. And best of luck to you all.
KIKI WOLFKILL: Thank you so much.
LARRY HRYB: It's always great to talk to Kiki. I could talk to her for another hour or two. She's been at Xbox forever, as you heard her journey, and now she's off in Budapest-- Budapest, I'm sorry-- working on the show. And it's great to see Halo-- have both of you watched the series so far? As we record this, episode two airs this evening, so episode one's behind us. Jeff?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: I'm waiting for them to be--
LARRY HRYB: You want to binge, OK.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: I want them to be stacked up, so I can watch multiple in a row. So that's what I'll be doing.
LARRY HRYB: All right, what about you, Malik?
MALIK PRINCE: Yeah, I actually don't have Paramount+. So I know that, as Jeff mentioned earlier, with Game Pass, I'm going to be able to grab that. So I think I'm going to wait for a few of them to come out and then check them out.
LARRY HRYB: And binge.
MALIK PRINCE: Kiki Wolfkill-- I met her a few years ago at an actual live steam Xbox was doing, and she's got this rock star personality. And so I'm so excited to see all the work the teams have been doing because that thing's been in development for quite some time.
LARRY HRYB: Decade.
MALIK PRINCE: And the reception online has been great. And so super excited.
LARRY HRYB: Thanks, Kiki. Anyway, we'll get her on again. Jeff, actually, and, Malik, I know that this is way far ahead, but Jeff and I haven't been-- Malik, I know you're newer to the team, but we used to go every August to Gamescom. And basically, we were invited to visit the Halo set. I don't know if they're going to be in production, if we go to Gamescom, because it's going to be up in Hungary. So there we go. Let's talk about that, Jeff.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Yes. Yeah. I would love to go.
MALIK PRINCE: Can I tag along?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: I've never been to Eastern Europe.
LARRY HRYB: Absolutely.
MALIK PRINCE: OK, all right, sweet.
LARRY HRYB: But only if you finish those WWE caricatures.
MALIK PRINCE: Oh, yes, I got to write that down. I already forgot about-- my memory is--
LARRY HRYB: There's your homework.
MALIK PRINCE: Maybe send me an email or something like that. I don't know.
LARRY HRYB: I'll send you a message.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: We'll cover it off in the next team meeting.
LARRY HRYB: We'll keep going. I got some show and tell to do here. But first, I know we got a little bit of news there. And, Jeff, I noticed that your wardrobe is a little more casual than usual. What do you got there?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: No, no, this is activewear. Activewear is the new business--
LARRY HRYB: I'm sorry. You're a little bit more active than usual.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Yes. Can't you see? I've clearly come straight from the gym or the pitch, as they call it. So this is a 20-year-old French Football Federation Thierry Henry jersey. He's the greatest of all time. And the reason I'm wearing it is not just because he's the greatest all time and [FRENCH], but because Xbox has become the official gaming partner of the French Football Federation.
LARRY HRYB: Oui oui.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Yes. So you're going to see Xbox together with some of the best players in the world-- Kylian Mbappe. And I love Giroud. He scored the scorpion goal, which was maybe the best goal in Premier League history-- amazing players on the French team. And we get to work with both the men's team, who are the reigning World Cup champion, and the women's team, who are amazing. We always think about the US as being the top team, and they are over the course of the last 25 years. But the rest of the world has gotten really, really strong, and the French women's team ranked number four in the world as we speak, really good. And, of course, it's really great watching.
In fact, some of the players play here as part of the Reign. I don't know if you've ever been to a Reign match here. They're moving back to Seattle. So that is really cool. So you'll be seeing, again, both the Xbox team and the French team connected, and it'll be really cool to see what that leads to.
LARRY HRYB: Is that a custom jersey? Did they put your name on the back of it? Can we see?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Well, so they had sent me a jersey. It didn't get here in time. And so I was like, wait a second. I'm pretty sure I have a French national team jersey from World Cup 2002, and indeed I found it last night. So looking forward to my French jersey.
LARRY HRYB: If I look in the background there, that's what that closet is. It's all your soccer jerseys.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Oh, I've got tons of them. I'll start wearing them next week. So Xbox Day will be May 21 at Clairefontaine, which is the training center. There's a lot of information here about this connection, and that is over on Xbox Wire. So I would say take a look at that, and [FRENCH].
LARRY HRYB: [FRENCH]. All right, thank you, Jeff. Any other news over there? Because I know, Malik, you've got a couple of pieces on your side for news that you're going to cover. You want to pop on those?
MALIK PRINCE: Definitely. So let's talk about Minecraft because who doesn't love Minecraft?
LARRY HRYB: Everybody loves Minecraft.
MALIK PRINCE: The new MLB home run derby update is out, where you can get a jersey from all 30 teams, I believe, which is pretty cool. It's that time of the year. If you're a big baseball fan, you look forward to every single year, opening day. And so me being a Yankees fan, I know. Feel free to send me your hate mail. Listen, sometimes you're the best team, and people can't accept that. Regardless, you can jump into Minecraft and check out that home derby DLC, which allows you to play in this virtual cavernous ballpark, which is really cool.
And so I love to see partnerships like this. And, of course, MLB: The Show is coming to Xbox Game Pass for the second year in a row. So the folks who make that game-- such a great simulation game for purists, like myself, who enjoy the game. I don't watch baseball as much, but I love getting out there, and going through the season, and losing a lot, but having a good time doing it.
LARRY HRYB: You went to the games at the old Yankee Stadium, right, Malik?
MALIK PRINCE: I did. I did.
LARRY HRYB: Remember it was right next to the prison?
MALIK PRINCE: Yeah, exactly. And so I haven't been to the new one. But I would take the train from Brooklyn to the Bronx and check it out. So yeah, go Yankees. Go Minecraft, home run derby DLC. And check out MLB: The Show '22, coming out pretty soon.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: If I'd been better prepared, I would have my Phillies jersey on top. Back when I worked at Sony and worked with the MLB team-- Sony San Diego Studio builds this game, and it's the best baseball game there is-- they gave me a game-worn--
LARRY HRYB: And now it's on Game Pass.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Yes. And they gave me a game-worn Ryan Howard jersey. Ryan Howard is his playing days--
LARRY HRYB: Do you still have that?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: I do-- 6 foot 4", 243 pounds. Basically, it looks like I'm wearing my dad's dress shirt. Next week.
LARRY HRYB: Fantastic.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Next week.
LARRY HRYB: Fantastic.
MALIK PRINCE: The Mets and the Phillies had some pretty good matches. I also went to a few Mets games. I love the Mets as well, but Yankees boy right here.
LARRY HRYB: Mets fan.
MALIK PRINCE: There you go.
LARRY HRYB: All right, Jeff. You've got a couple of pieces of news, and then we got some show and tell to show you guys off.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Yeah, real quick, real quick. Did your parents ever tell you, you're not going to get anywhere playing those video games? You can't play video games in school.
LARRY HRYB: Oh, yeah.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: I got that. I got that.
LARRY HRYB: We all did.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Mom, look at us now.
MALIK PRINCE: Look at us now.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: It wasn't exactly a direct line for us. There was certainly some studying involved at times.
LARRY HRYB: It never is, though, is it?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Well, actually, very interesting that you should say this-- amazing segue. We have a headline. Apparently, the University of Arizona and Age of Empires IV are combining. And current and future University of Arizona and Arizona online students can earn credit towards their college degree by playing--
LARRY HRYB: Is this a three-credit class?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: --Age of Empires IV. So there's a lot of details here. My cousin went to University of Arizona, and she works for the Department of Justice now-- great school. And she did not get credit for playing Age of Empires IV, but I'm sure she would like to have. Of course, there's lots of really cool--
LARRY HRYB: Wo lo lo lo lo.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: --historical lessons in the game-- besides the wo lo lo, which may or may not have been historically accurate. There are, as you play through the campaign, really cool stories about, let's say, the Hundred Years' War, for example. And there's a lot of details in here. But, of course, Age of Empires IV is available to play today through PC Game Pass. And if you want to learn about University of Arizona and playing your way to success, check out Xbox Wire.
LARRY HRYB: I'm going to be very disappointed if it's not in the course catalog online as Wo Lo Lo 101. So I'll be very disappointed.
MALIK PRINCE: 100%. And I did want to bring up another piece that I saw that caught my eye earlier this week, which if you didn't see, feel free to go check out YouTube or news.xbox.com. So there's a new video that was put out. It's called Beyond Xbox: A Player Like Me. And it's in partnership with Xbox and Gamers Outreach, which that partnership has been around for years. Gamers Outreach is such a great charity organization that puts GO Karts in hospitals so that kids who are in hospitals can play games during their stay.
And so they put out a video that had-- let me make sure I get their names right-- Megan Shaw and Jordan Strong. And these are these two players who are on the opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Jordan I believe is in Atlanta, and Megan is in Scotland. And it's really about the story of these younger folks who are in a time when they are going through something. I believe Meghan has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Hopefully, I said that right. But it caused her to faint a lot. And Jordan's actually doing some therapeutics inside of a hospital. And it really speaks to the power of video games.
We often talk about how we can play together, but we live in the same area. But when you think about how huge this world is, gaming is a great connector. And so this video, it does a great job of communicating how these two very different people, going through similar but not the same circumstances, can come together over video gaming. And I love seeing these stories because so often we hear about them, but we don't get to hear it in their own words.
And so be sure to check it out. It's called Beyond Xbox: A Player Like Me, and it's on the Xbox YouTube channel, highly recommend it. And shoutout to the folks at Gamers Outreach, Zach Wigal, who's Forbes 30 under 30, CNN's-- I forget the title, but it's some prestigious title. But the great work that they do is unbelievably impressive.
LARRY HRYB: And you talked about it. Zach Wigal, who's a good friend of ours-- I should get him on the show. I've known him for a decade or so, and I remember when he was starting this. And I was like, this is a great idea. And it has now grown into this incredible international organization that touches hundreds, if not thousands, of kids in hospitals. Go look it up at gamersoutreach.org, and I think you'll really, really warm your heart. But yeah, thank you for that call out to the video.
MALIK PRINCE: 100%
LARRY HRYB: That's definitely a must-watch. Anyway. Jeff, you got anything else there? Or should we get into some show and tell?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Last bit really quick. One of my favorite games of last year, Lost Judgment DLC came out this week. You get to be Katio-san. He is the wild and crazy guy compared to Yagami, who's cool and maybe a little more withdrawn. So you get to be him for the first time in the series, and I'm super excited. So I'll be playing that this weekend.
LARRY HRYB: All right.
MALIK PRINCE: I get so excited when, Jeff-- real quick-- when you talk about Yakuza, or Lost Judgment, or any of those kinds of games. Your eyes light up, and I'm jealous of that excitement. It's truly awesome.
LARRY HRYB: He's their number one influencer, I think, or at least in the top 10.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: There is nothing that makes me happier than when someone says, I played it because of you. And it's happened a lot. And they're like, and you were right. And I was like, you're damn right I'm right. The series is amazing.
LARRY HRYB: Well done.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Please play them. They're on Game Pass. And then after you play them, pick up Lost Judgment and Judgment. They're both excellent detective games.
LARRY HRYB: All right.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: All right, I'm done.
LARRY HRYB: I've got a couple of things here. You know what's coming out, Jeff-- hold on-- and Malik?
MALIK PRINCE: As he fades away.
LARRY HRYB: We got Star Wars.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Yes, coming out next week, The Skywalker Saga.
LARRY HRYB: The Skywalker Saga, it's coming out, and the folks at Star Wars sent me this amazing droid that apparently is a puzzle. So I have to take this apart. It's made out of LEGO. Let me pull it in a little closer, so you can see. It's made out of LEGO. And let me go full screen to really bring it home. So apparently, if I take this out, there's a series of things I have to do to solve the puzzle, and there's something inside here. So I may be doing that for the weekend. Nifty.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: That's awesome. Yeah, the game looks really good. It covers all three trilogies, so the stories of those nine movies. And if you've thought, hey, I've played LEGO Star Wars before, it's from a third person perspective. It really is an entirely new game. So yeah, I'm really looking forward to that one next week.
LARRY HRYB: All right, next, Jeff, I texted you this morning. FedEx was banging on my door at 7:15. I had to sign for a package, and I'm like, what is this thing?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Did they have my French jersey in there?
LARRY HRYB: They did not have your French jersey.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Did they send it to you?
LARRY HRYB: But what they did have is-- let me go full screen here. Hang on a second. We talked about it last week. And now I have--
--the Sonic controllers, which, as you can see, I'm now going to open them up. They are covered in fur.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: You're not allergic to fur, are you, Larry? I would hate for you to start sniffling, tearing up on the show.
LARRY HRYB: It doesn't matter. Here we go. Check those out.
MALIK PRINCE: It's like an animal. It's like a pet.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: It is. It's like a tribble or something.
LARRY HRYB: And there's the Knuckles one. And then in the box is an Xbox Series S. Let me see if I can pull that out. But, Jeff, do you have the details of the contest? Because people can win this from Paramount Pictures and Xbox.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Yes. Well, I would say that your best bet is to head over to Xbox Wire, as we frequently tell you to do. But that's where all the news goes. And do a quick search for Sonic, and you will find it. It is the top story that will come back.
LARRY HRYB: Look at this. Look at that. That is a black Xbox Series X for Sonic 2.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Series S.
LARRY HRYB: Series S. But what's interesting is-- there's the ring.
MALIK PRINCE: Beautiful. Perfect. Worked perfectly.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: So don't forget the movie is coming out-- and I'm hearing good things about it-- on April 8. And so basically you have to retweet the tweet, and you have until April 4. So it's not too late, but it's getting there. Like I said, go over to news.xbox.com. Hit that magnifying glass at the top, and type in Sonic. It will be the first to appear.
LARRY HRYB: You want that.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: That's a showpiece. I don't think you play with that one.
MALIK PRINCE: Yeah, I got a chance to hold it last week, and they had it in the studio on campus. And yeah, I think you're right, Jeff. The reactions have been interesting online. But yeah, you probably don't want to play with it. If you happen to win it-- which, again, most people won't ever get to play with it. But if you happen to win it, maybe put it on the shelf. Maybe don't play with it because-- I don't know.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: It's dry clean only, and the costs add up really quickly.
LARRY HRYB: It certainly is.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Exactly.
LARRY HRYB: It is.
MALIK PRINCE: It's so cool, though. It's so cool, though.
LARRY HRYB: Check that out. We've got an amazing partnership in promotions department that does all these really creative things. So we've got a lot more planned. In fact, you know what we should do, Jeff and Malik? I don't know if you know the head of the department that works on this, but he's a really great guy, listens to the show all the time. And that's why he keeps sending all these things. He's like, hey, you want to talk about this? We're going to get him on the show to talk about some of the cool stuff that he's working on and that his whole team is working on. But thank you for sending all that over. And go over to see Sonic 2, the movie, and register to win. So there we go. That's what we got.
MALIK PRINCE: That's right.
LARRY HRYB: I don't think I can top it after that. Between the French jersey and the upholstered controllers, I don't know what more I can do.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: I need the fuzzy Sonic version of this shirt. That's my new goal.
LARRY HRYB: No.
MALIK PRINCE: No. Jeff--
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: No? Maybe not?
MALIK PRINCE: --I don't think that's a good idea, man. I will say, where's my free stuff? We need to get me something free.
LARRY HRYB: Well, we like to show things off a little bit here, Malik. You know what? We need to fill that room up with some swag.
MALIK PRINCE: Yes. And the walls are-- that's embarrassing.
LARRY HRYB: They're blank.
MALIK PRINCE: They're really embarrassing.
LARRY HRYB: Before we go, I want to point out a couple of things. First of all, Malik, thank you for joining us this week. Rebecca, I believe, will be back next week. She'll be back in the near future. So thank you, Malik, for joining us. Jeff, thank you for practicing your high school French with us. That was excellent.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: [SPEAKING FRENCH]
LARRY HRYB: And also, I would like to point out--
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: I got to practice that.
LARRY HRYB: Jeff, you didn't call me out this week, but you called me out last week. And I wanted to be very clear.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Your hair looks great today, Larry.
LARRY HRYB: I have pants on.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Larry, where is the show going here?
LARRY HRYB: Last week, you accused me of wearing shorts or something. And I was like, I want to be very clear. So that's where it's going.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Wow.
MALIK PRINCE: There you go.
LARRY HRYB: All right.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: We'll cut that part.
LARRY HRYB: All right, gang, we'll let you go. Malik, you have homework to do. Do you remember your homework?
MALIK PRINCE: Yes, I forgot it again, but I'm going to write it down.
LARRY HRYB: Write that down.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Send it to me.
LARRY HRYB: We'll have you back on the show after you hit that. Jeff, will you be around next week to join us?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: That's the plan.
LARRY HRYB: OK, we'll see you guys next week. Thanks, everybody. We'll see you next time. Thank you for liking and subscribing. You can check us out on all your major podcast platforms, including Google. Of course, we're on Spotify, all the great places. If you're on YouTube, thumbs up. Hit the Subscribe, the bell, the whole nine yards. And we'll talk to you later. Bye bye, everybody.