Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Perfect Dark Reboot Studio Reportedly Sees Staff Departures Due to 'Slow Development Progress'

A new report suggests that Microsoft's The Initiative, the studio developing a reboot of Perfect Dark, has suffered significant staff departures over the past 12 months. Staff are apparently leaving the company due to "a lack of creative autonomy and slow development progress."

The report from VGC is complied from interviews with unnamed ex-Initiative employees and analysis of the studio's structure. It notes that around 34 people have quit within the last year, including much of the senior design team. Game director Dan Neuburger appears to have left the team this year, and previous departures include design director Drew Murray, lead level designer Chris O’Neill, principal world builder Jolyon Myers, and several more from the core team. Additionally, VGC notes that two senior writers recently left, as well as the technical director, technical art director, lead gameplay engineer, lead animation, quality assurance lead, and more.

VGC's interviews with former Initiative staff suggests that the departures have come "fast and furious", something that has impacted the momentum of the project.

Reasons given for staff departures predominantly include a feeling that the studio was not a collaborative place to work. It was apparently built as a top-down hierarchy, starting with Neuburger and studio head Darrell Gallagher, who heavily dictated the creative decisions. Staff apparently felt unheard by their seniors on issues such as development priorities, project planning, and team staffing. The alleged result of this was a project that developed "painfully" slow and a lack of company culture.

“Making games is hard enough, let alone when you feel like you can’t get through to people making the decisions that affect everyone," one source said.

VGC's sources claim that the culture problem was part of the reason for bringing Crystal Dynamics on board as a collaborator studio. Gallagher and Neuburger were previously studio head and game director respectively at Crystal Dynamics, and It was hoped that a team familiar with their management methods would work well with them.

In a statement to VGC, Gallagher (who remains as studio head at The Initiative) said, "In this journey, it’s not uncommon for there to be staffing changes, especially during a time of global upheaval over the last two years, and there’s plenty more work in front of us to deliver a fantastic Perfect Dark experience to our players.

“We wish all our former colleagues the very best, and I’m confident in the team we have in place, the new talent joining, and we can’t wait to share more with the fans.”

The report's sources suggest that the large change in staff and the inclusion of Crystal Dynamics may well have triggered an internal soft reboot of Perfect Dark, and that a final release could well still be years away.

Matt Purslow is IGN's UK News and Entertainment Writer.

source https://www.ign.com/articles/perfect-dark-reboot-staff-departures-slow-development

Ms. Marvel: First Trailer For Disney Plus Series Shows Kamala Khan Becoming A Hero

Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, PC
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal
Release: (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Stadia), (PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S)
Rating: Teen

Disney has released the first official trailer for its upcoming Disney Plus series, Ms. Marvel, and it features Kamala Khan attempting to navigate the blinding lights of the life of a superhero. 

Hitting Disney’s subscription service on June 8, Ms. Marvel is, as the name implies, a series all about Ms. Marvel. However, before she becomes a hero, Kamala Khan, played by Iman Vellani, must work through all the responsibilities of her normal life while juggling what her world becomes thanks to some newfound superpowers. 

Click here to watch embedded media

Marvel has also released a fantastic poster to accompany today's trailer, too: 

For the uninitiated, Ms. Marvel is a superhero-loving teenager from Jersey City who has a particularly strong love for Captain Marvel (Ms. Marvel was Carol Danvers' original moniker in the comics). Unlike Carol Danvers, whose claim to fame is super strength, super speed, the ability to fly, and the ability to fire proton bursts out of her hands, Ms. Marvel traditionally has the ability to polymorph her body. She can "embiggen" herself to stretch her limbs, become massive or, for example, she can simply enlarge her fist right before it smash crashes into an enemy’s head. It’s quite a fun superpower that’s been explored greatly since her comic series began in 2014 and in 2020’s Marvel’s Avengers game. 

However, the Disney+ series has Kamala display new abilities such as generating force fields and other forms of cosmic energy projections (such as creating platforms) using her bracelets. The trailer does show her creating a giant fist, but it's unclear if Kamala's power suite has been completely overhauled or if these new powers are just additions to her usual abilities. Given the upcoming Fantastic Four film, though, it's not hard to imagine Marvel Studios wanting to differentiate Ms. Marvel from its more famous stretchy hero, Mr. Fantastic, by giving her something new. 

If you’re curious about that game, which features Kamala Khan as its main protagonist, check out Game Informer’s Marvel’s Avengers review

Are you excited for Ms. Marvel? Let us know in the comments below!

Monster Hunter Rise Sunbreak Expansion Confirmed For June Release, New Amiibo Announced

Platform: Switch, PC
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Release: (Switch), (PC)

In a presentation this morning, Capcom revealed plenty of new details on the upcoming Monster Hunter Rise expansion Sunbreak, including the announcement of its release date.

Sunbreak, an expansion Capcom has repeatedly described as being "massive," will release on June 30 for both Nintendo Switch and PC. The digital edition of the DLC will be available for preorder today, producer Ryozo Tsujimoto revealed. Along with the base edition of Sunbreak, existing Monster Hunter Rise players will have the option to purchase a deluxe edition, which comes with additional cosmetics like Layered Armod, hairstyles, poses, and gestures. Preordering will net hunters a pair of adorable Palamute and Palico Layered Armor that make the animal companions look closer to their real-world pet counterparts.

Those who are new to Monster Hunter Rise, but want the whole experience when Sunbreak releases can purchase the Monster Hunter Rise + Sunbreak Set which bundles the full base game and the expansion together into one tidy package.

A patch will be coming for all Monster Hunter Rise players on June 30 regardless of Sunbreak ownership status. The update will require about 13GB of storage space and will accommodate for weapon balance changes and new content coming to the game with the release of Sunbreak. This patch will be required for online play moving forward.

If you're interested in trying out Monster Hunter Rise with Sunbreak looming on the horizon, Nintendo is offering a free trial for Switch Online subscribers this week.

Babylon’s Fall: Square Enix Sends Survey To Players Asking How To Improve The Game

Babylon's Fall Square Enix Surveys

Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, PC
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Platinum Games
Rating: Teen

Babylon’s Fall, the latest from PlatinumGames and Square Enix, did not pan out well critically, with a 42% on Metacritic for PlayStation 5 versions and an even lower 37% on Metacritic for PC

It’s one of PlatinumGames’ worst-reviewed titles ever, but it seems Square Enix isn’t ready to give up on the live-service title just yet. That’s because the publisher has reportedly sent out surveys to players asking them how the game can be improved, as reported by Eurogamer. More specifically, the survey recently sent out is all about the graphics and visuals of Babylon’s Fall, and finding a way to “bring everyone an even better game experience.” 

Eurogamer reports that the survey asks players about their thoughts on the visuals of characters, equipment, NPCs, enemies, locales, battle effects, the UI, and the overall oil painting “brushwork” art style of Babylon’s Fall. The survey concludes by asking survey-takers what specific element of Babylon’s Fall’s visuals would need to be changed before they’d consider recommending the game to someone else. 

However, as anyone who’s played Babylon’s Fall or has read reviews for it know, there are multiple problems beyond the visual elements that make it hard to recommend. Perhaps Square Enix will canvass players about all of the elements viewed more negatively in the game and then fix each one so that with all of the fixes together, people might be able to recommend the game to someone. That remains to be seen, of course. 

If you’re curious about checking the game out yourself, you can do so thanks to a free PlayStation demo for Babylon’s Fall that’s available right now. For more info about the game, check out Game Informer’s Babylon’s Fall hub

[Source: Eurogamer]

Have you played Babylon’s Fall? Let us know what you think of it in the comments below!

A Modder Turned a Fake GameCube Portable Design into a Real Handheld

Back in 2007, a fake GameCube portable design spread across the internet. In 2022, someone has actually made it a reality.

YouTube user GingerOfOz has 3D printed, wired, and modified the handheld to look exactly like the original mockup - and it actually works.

There were a few hurdles, of course. The original design features a disk slot but both the GameCube and Wii disk drives are bigger than the new handheld itself.

The slot on front of the handheld is therefore just for show, as GingerOfOz instead opted to run all the game digitally using a Wii motherboard.

He admitted this would be a point of contention, as the machine wouldn't have the GameCube start screen and menus, so modified the software to run both of these as expected.

The video shows GingerOfOz piecing it all together, from the beginning where he reverse engineered (read: smashed open with a hammer) a Nintendo DS Lite, to the casing pieces being sealed together to mark the finished product.

The result is very impressive. GingerOfOz shows the machine playing a range of GameCube games including The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, and Metroid Prime.

He even tracks down the designer who sent the internet into a frenzy in 2007, who explains he made it just for fun and that he's since gone on to become a game developer at companies including Ubisoft and Epic Games.

Official support for handheld GameCube games is sadly less of a reality. While GameCube controllers do work on Switch, we still haven't seen any sign of GameCube virtual console games on Nintendo's hybrid handheld, despite multiple reports saying they were coming as far back as 2016.

Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelancer who occasionally remembers to tweet @thelastdinsdale.

source https://www.ign.com/articles/a-modder-turned-a-fake-gamecube-portable-design-into-a-real-handheld

Daily Deals: Xbox Series X In Stock and Amazing Discount on Xbox SSD Expansion Card

Xbox Series X has been the most consistent new-gen console in terms of stock in 2022. If you want to get an Xbox Series X, you absolutely can right now. I'd even wager that we may start seeing some amazing bundle deals or even discounts by the end of the year.

Other deals today include an Xbox Series X/S 512GB expansion card for just £124.99. This plugs right into the back of your console, and can seamlessly play new-gen games at the same lightning speeds as the base console. Down from £159.99, this is a top discount for Xbox users at the moment.

You can also pick up Horizon Forbidden West for just £45 (see here). Just buy the PS4 copy from Currys (using code SWNEXTDAY at checkout), and upgrade it to PS5 for free if you're on that system. We've also just seen the return of a beloved Kindle Unlimited deal, now available for free for your first 2-months.

TL;DR - Our Favourite UK Deals Right Now

Xbox Series X In Stock at Currys

Xbox Series X/S 512GB Expansion Card for £124.99 (was £159.99)

Free 7 Days of PS Plus with GTA Online on PS5 (New and Inactive Subs)

Players who redeem GTA Online Standalone (which is available for free) on PS5 and don’t have an active PlayStation Plus subscription will be able to claim a 7 day PlayStation Plus trial from in-game at launch from 15 March 2022.

Protect Your Data: 50% Off ExpressVPN Right Now

Horizon Forbidden West for £45 at Currys (Use Code SWNEXTDAY)

PS5 Console Covers In Stock Again in the UK

Latest Incredible Tech Deals in the UK

Best Elden Ring Deals Right Now

Pokemon Violet and Scarlet Preorders Are Live in the UK

Robert Anderson is a deals expert and Commerce Editor for IGN. You can follow him @robertliam21 on Twitter.

source https://www.ign.com/articles/uk-daily-deals-xbox-series-x-in-stock-ssd

Grand Theft Auto 5 New-Gen Load Times Are Going To Save You A Lot Of Time

Grand Theft Auto V New-Gen PS5 Xbox Series X Loading Times

Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar North
Release: (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360), (PlayStation 4, Xbox One), (PC), (PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S)
Rating: Mature

Grand Theft Auto V is out today, again, this time as a new-gen game for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, and perhaps unsurprisingly, its load times are great. 

They’re so great, in fact, that playing on new-gen consoles is going to save you a lot of time in Los Santos. That’s because load times are more than 150% faster in some cases and even at the new-gen versions’ worst in terms of load times, it’s still demonstrably faster than PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect: 

GTA V Xbox Series X vs. Xbox One Loading Times – Brand New Game:

  • Xbox One: One minute and 59 seconds, according to MrWilliamThor’s comparison video on YouTube
  • Xbox Series X: 59 seconds, according to MrWilliamThor’s comparison video on YouTube

GTA V PS5 vs. PS4 Loading Times – Brand New Game:

  • PS5: 39 seconds (in my own personal experience – however, IGN reports that their new game only took 11 seconds to load)
  • PS4: 2 minutes and 18 seconds, according to IGN

As you can see, the new-gen versions of GTA V feature significantly faster loading times and as a result, you’ll be saving a lot of time in Los Santos. What’s more is that these faster loading times translate to all types of loading in GTA V. While we highlighted the new game loading times, other load times on new-gen versions, such as starting the game from an autosave, showcase similarly fast loading times.  

For more about GTA V, read Game Informer’s GTA V review and then check out the new-gen pricing and upgrade paths. Read about how GTA V has surpassed a massive 160 million units sold after that. 

Are you jumping into new-gen versions of GTA V today? Let us know in the comments below!

Devolver Co-Founder Announces New Publisher Focused on Games That Improve Mental Health

Devolver Digital co-founder Mike Wilson is beginning to make a habit of turning career disillusionment into hope.

He’s been candid in the past about how the fall of his first major endeavor, Gamecock Media Group, was a good thing — its efforts to humorously lampoon the industry were more bully than benevolent. But its demise led to the founding of Devolver Digital, keeping the good-natured snark while redefining indie relationships with publishers. Wilson also co-founded Good Shepherd Entertainment in a further effort to push back against what he saw as harmful practices in indie publishing, and joined the board of gaming mental health charity Take This. And he’s done numerous speaking engagements on the importance of good mental health, often drawing from his own struggles and personal experiences to offer encouragement to others.

Not long ago, Wilson found himself once again disillusioned with his career path, and feeling like he was “part of the problem” in an increasingly crowded, messy, often toxic, and at times predatory games industry. He tells me he felt “done with digital everything.”

It was in that headspace during a period of pseudo-retirement that Wilson met Ryan Douglas, a roboticist and former CEO of medical device company Nextern, who was in a similar state of disillusionment with the med-tech industry. The two began playing tennis together and talking about their respective fields…eventually arriving on the ways in which others had tried, and failed to bring games and health together.

From Wilson’s perspective, he had seen firsthand the numerous benefits video games had on mental health especially. For instance, he had been receiving letters from all over the world about how Devolver-published Fall Guys had helped with people’s depression during the height of lockdowns. And more personally, he was watching his son play games with his friends during that same time, socializing and enjoying himself even when they couldn’t meet in person.

But while games certainly had that impact anecdotally, mainstream gaming was unable to capitalize on that power without the medical knowledge, tools, and resources to scientifically prove the effects were real.

Meanwhile, on Douglas’ end, plenty of medical and wellness companies were making games and apps. But no one wanted to play them because they focused so heavily on the wellness elements, they ended up not being any fun.

We're just terrible at doing things that are good for us, unless we happen to also enjoy them.

“We're just terrible at doing things that are good for us, unless we happen to also enjoy them,” Wilson remarks.

What Douglas and Wilson agreed those companies were missing was that 40 years of work had already gone into figuring out what makes people enjoy video games. Wellness companies working in the space were implementing the exterior trappings — scores, rewards, and so forth — but none of the thoughtful design. Douglas compares these attempts to gamify wellness to a company that makes cans, then decides to “space-ify” them and become a company that makes “space cans.” Without something more behind it, it’s a meaningless endeavor.

“If you create [a pill that cures cancer] and people won’t take it, have you really created a treatment, a solution? I think that we need to start saying that the answer is no,” Douglas says.

So Wilson and Douglas decided to combine their respective expertises, and are today announcing a new company: DeepWell. DeepWell is a new games publisher explicitly dedicated to both developing and publishing games that provide proven health benefits, as well as partnering with existing developers and publishers to win similar health approvals for games already out in the world.

Wilson says that DeepWell will include games that are beneficial to both mental and physical wellbeing, but will have a heavy emphasis on mental health. That’s in part due to Wilson’s own background in promoting mental health, but as Douglas explains, there’s been a disturbing trend in recent years - especially during the pandemic - of serious increases in depression and anxiety across the population, but not enough doctors and therapists to treat these issues. And those that do exist are often inaccessible to many due to cost, insurance concerns, racial and wealth inequality, or numerous other reasons.

If you create [a pill that cures cancer] and people won’t take it, have you really created a treatment, a solution?

While they’re not ready to announce any specific games just yet, we won’t have to wait long — Wilson says he hopes to have some things to show in late spring of this year. In the meantime, he breaks down what we can expect from DeepWell into three types of games.

The first will be original, internally developed titles made from the ground up to be therapeutic as well as entertaining. Importantly, he says they will “look just like games,” and will aim to interest audiences who may not specifically be looking for health benefits. He wants them to be accessible and widely available, too, so no wonky peripherals or specific proprietary tech. They’ll be on platforms most gaming audiences already have access to.

The second and third are both in partnership with existing game developers, especially indies. DeepWell hopes to partner with third-party developers who are already in the process of making games that might meet its standards for being therapeutic, and guide them through the process of getting them approved as such. And finally, DeepWell will work with already-published games that could have health benefits to get those benefits recognized.

“We can take these preexisting, very therapeutic games and get them out in the world in a way that they can be deliberately presented to people with issues, and help them get treatment,” Douglas explains. “Build real adjunctive therapies that can relieve pressure for depression, anxiety, stress in a world where there [are] just not enough therapists to go around.”

Even as someone who loves games and finds them beneficial to my own mental state, it’s hard for me to wrap my brain around how exactly a video game could be classified as medicine. Wilson and Douglas reassure me that the paperwork is in order, though. Part of their confidence comes from Wilson’s experience with games already.

Imagine you just load your favorite game, it says, ‘This has been indicated for treatment of anxiety, depression, addiction...'

“A lot of just the way that games are designed, like the core tenets of good game design, have you working through challenges and puzzles and achievements and putting you in fight or flight scenarios, and having you survive those and get through it,” he says. “And a lot of it is already quite good for people in the same way that other types of therapies are good for people. In working through those, we're doing it subconsciously, because we're just doing something we enjoy when we game.

“...And so imagine you just load your favorite game, whatever you're playing at the moment, all of a sudden it says, ‘By the way, don't stop seeing your therapist or taking your medication, but this has been indicated for treatment of anxiety, depression, addiction,’ whatever it might be for that particular piece of software.”

But on the regulatory side, it’s Douglas’ expertise that’s getting games their due. His extensive med-tech background and connections have been critical, but he says another key to all this being possible has been the great strides made during the COVID-19 pandemic with how regulatory bodies look at digital therapies, including more studies, more financial and academic support, and more wide recognition of the benefits. The environment is right, he says, for collaborations to open up between medical professionals, scientists, and game developers to make games that are both fun and good for people.

And they’re not the only ones who think so. DeepWell has involved over 40 game designers, creators, scientists, and medical researchers all donating time and resources to help define and regulate a set of core tenets of therapeutic game design. On the games side, this includes id Software co-founder Tom Hall, Hellbent Games design director Zoe Flower, independent developer and speaker Rami Ismail, Oddworld creator Lorne Lanning, and Quake engineer American McGee, alongside numerous doctors and medical research experts.

“We have what we need right now to bring the first games out into the marketplace, and we are working on the things that would make it broad and easier over time for game developers to be able to access this without stopping being game developers,” Douglas says. “And to not stop using the tools, like Unreal, that they use. And it's coming together very, very well. It's connecting in a way that things only seem to connect when they're supposed to happen.”

Whether it's music or you play improv or you play video games, you play board games…play is good. It is good for us.

Wilson wants to emphasize that what DeepWell is publishing won’t be just a single genre — we’re not talking exclusively about “wholesome” games or non-violent games, though those are certainly a part of it. After all, part of their mission is to make games that are entertaining, and not everyone is entertained by the same things.

“To be relatable and therefore to do some of the things that are necessary from a therapeutic standpoint…it may not be rainbows and sunshines that you're going to be able to relate to,” Douglas says. “And sometimes going on a darker journey gives you a moment of distraction and self-actualization, that allows things to happen differently in your mind and could be very, very cathartic. And that's what you've been seeing people say about these games for a long, long time.”

Wilson’s hope for DeepWell is that its attitude toward gaming doesn’t just stop at gaming. He believes that interactive entertainment isn’t the only possibility for media as medicine, and that they could be able to open doors to eventually get literature, music, or film recognized as therapeutic as well, if they can get the science behind it. Similar to how Devolver endeavored to flip the relationships between publishers and developers around, he wants DeepWell to flip the relationship between science and entertainment, empowering artists to be able to tangibly, quantifiably do what he believes they’ve wanted to do all along.

“For me it's all about: what is your intention as you set out to do this, whether you're a developer or a publisher or whatever? Is it to take as much money and time from somebody as you can? Or is it to create something that's meaningful to you that you might also enjoy that you want to share with the world? And that's what I believe the vast majority of game developers are doing, certainly in my experience.”

That’s an enormous mission, of course. But Wilson and Douglas’ first steps are firmly within the crossover between their own familiar spaces, and really just emphasizing ideas we’re all already familiar with: playing video games is fun, often social, and can make us happy.

“The word play, I think, is more important than the word game,” Wilson says. “Because if you think about all the things you could play in this life, almost all of them, or all of them are going to be beneficial for you in some way. Whether it's music or you play improv or you play video games, you play board games, you put on a play, whatever it is…play is good. It is good for us.”

Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.

source https://www.ign.com/articles/devolver-co-founder-new-publisher-games-improve-mental-health

Monday, March 14, 2022

Sonic The Hedgehog 2: Final Trailer Reveals New Knuckles Footage And More

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Final Trailer Knuckles Tails

Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sonic Team
Release: 2022

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 hits theaters in just a few weeks, on April 8, and today, Paramount Pictures has released the final trailer for the sequel. 

If you’ve been watching the trailers for Sonic the Hedgehog 2 as of late, then you know Paramount and Sega are unsurprisingly pushing the return of Robotnik and the introduction of Tails and Knuckles to the fray. Also, unsurprisingly, Robotnik, Tails, Knuckles, and of course, Sonic look great in this final trailer. 

Click here to watch embedded media

As you can see above, this trailer features the most footage of warrior echidna Knuckles yet, including the blue blur dodging all but one of his punches. Unfortunately for Sonic, one punch is all Knuckles needs to land to do some serious damage. Elsewhere in the trailer, we see more of Tails, with some scenes revealing that Sonic and Tails have taken to each other quite nicely, becoming the friendly duo fans of the Sonic series have known them to be for decades. 

We’re excited to see how Knuckles joins their duo to turn it into a trio, but for now, everyone’s favorite echidna remains an ally and pawn to Jim Carrey’s Dr. Robotnik. 

Paramount also released a new movie poster to accompany today’s trailer and if you're a fan of Sonic, you'll recognize how well of an homage to the Sonic the Hedgehog 2 game poster this movie poster is – it's brilliant: 

Click here to view embedded media


Plus, if you see the movie at AMC, you might get an exclusive collector print, which looks like this: 

For more of the blue blur, check out this awesome poster for the movie, and then watch the first trailer for Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Read about Sonic Frontiers, which drops the blue blur into his first open world game, after that. 

Are you excited for Sonic the Hedgehog 2? Let us know in the comments below!

Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands Will Feature Crossplay Across All Platforms At Launch

Tiny Tina's Wonderlands Console PC Crossplay At Launch

Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Gearbox Software
Rating: Teen

Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is right around the corner, hitting PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on March 25 and we now know it will launch with full crossplay support across each of these platforms. 

Gearbox Software’s own Randy Pitchford revealed the news with a tweet thanking the engineers behind Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands for making crossplay happen. He draws specific attention to Sony and PlayStation, which isn’t necessarily surprising given that between it, Xbox, and PC, it’s usually PlayStation that is void of crossplay with other platforms (although Pitchford isn’t necessarily drawing attention to them for that reason). Developers revealed the struggles of crossplay on PlayStation back in 2019 if you’re curious about that. Nonetheless, crossplay will launch with Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands later this month. 

“Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands will ship on March 25 with full crossplay for all platforms at launch, including PlayStation. Incredible work from the engineers at Gearbox Software with thanks to our partners at 2K games, and 1st parties, including Sony, for working together on this.”

 News of crossplay support in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is especially great given that the game features four-player co-op. Plus, thanks to two-play splitscreen on PS4 and Xbox One, and four-player splitscreen on PS5 and Xbox Series X, playing with your friends and family will be a breeze. 

Click here to watch embedded media

For more about the game, read Game Informer’s exclusive Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands preview and then check out the latest info about its endgame, the Chaos Chamber. Read about Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands’ season pass, which includes four content drops, after that. 

Are you excited for crossplay in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands? Let us know in the comments below!

Elden Ring: George R.R. Martin Seemingly Hid His Initials In Plain Sight

Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin appears to have hidden his initials across Elden Ring's world, by way of many of its characters.

The game's opening cutscene introduces one of Elden Ring's gods, Queen Marika, and players eventually meet her various relatives and offspring.

Spoiler warning: This story going forward contains several names and relationships of Elden Ring characters from deep into the game.

But the main four, as noted by PC Gamer, are Godfrey, Rennala, Radagon, and Marika. Their initials combine into G.R.R.M, not unlike George Raymond Richard Martin.

In fact, all of Elden Ring's gods and demigods have names beginning with these three letters: Godfrey, Godwyn, Godrick, Rennala, Radagon, Radahn, Rykard, Ranni, Renna, Marika, Morgott, Mogh, Malenia, Miquella, and Maliketh.

Martin crafted the backstory and history of Elden Ring years ago in an opportunity that was "too exciting to refuse". This included the naming of many of its characters, though game director Hidetaka Miyazaki thought Martin might be shocked by what became of them.

Miyazaki also placed important restraints on Martin's contributions because "story must always serve the player experience", but overall he described working with Martin as "like speaking with an old friend".

When the game was released on February 25 it became one of the best reviewed games in modern history, and Martin said he was very happy with how the game turned out.

Developer FromSoftware likely is too, as Elden Ring dominated U.S. sales and became the best-selling game of 2022 so far. It's also the UK's biggest non-FIFA or Call of Duty release since 2018 and on Steam it grew in popularity day by day before becoming the sixth most played game of all time.

Elden Ring has proven somewhat of a cultural phenomenon, with crazy adverts, a streamer's Twitch chat playing while he swept, someone using the Nintendo Switch's Ring Fit Controller to beat a boss, and it's even got its own candy.

In our 10/10 review, IGN said: "Elden Ring is a massive iteration on what FromSoftware began with the Souls series, bringing its relentlessly challenging combat to an incredible open world that gives us the freedom to choose our own path."

To make those choices with the best available information, check out our guide that features everything you could ever hope to know about Elden Ring, including collectible locations, boss strategies, and more.

Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelancer who occasionally remembers to tweet @thelastdinsdale.

source https://www.ign.com/articles/elden-ring-george-rr-martin-seemingly-hid-his-initials-in-plain-sight

The Batman, Gotham Knights, And Nearly A Dozen Books You Should Read | From Panel To Podcast

Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Developer: Warner Bros. Games Montreal

This week's episode is hitting a little later than usual. The reason? Our local comic shops in Minnesota didn't get any Marvel comic books last week. We felt the show would be a little light without them, so we held off until we could get our hands on those books. The wait was worth it: The first issue of Strange is an absolute delight and a fantastic direction for the Sorcerer Supreme to go in.

Most of this episode is dedicated to new comic book releases that hit this week and last. We also dive into The Batman, which I give a score and review to, and also discuss Gotham Knights' new release date!

If you would like to follow us on Twitter: Andrew Reiner (@Andrew_Reiner) and Philip Hoff (@bnow23).

From Panel to Podcast is a weekly show created by two lifelong comic book readers who offer suggestions on which comic books you should be reading each week. Each episode also dives into the latest developments for comics in video games, movies, and television shows. We'll even discuss comic book collectibles and anything we think you should know about that pertains to this entertainment medium.

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Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin Review

Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin asks and answers the question of what the world of the first Final Fantasy, which came out in 1987, might look like in 2022 if it were reimagined with a modern action combat style. Its overly complex story and one-dimensional NPCs don't pay off until the final hours, but the freedom available in its challenging combat and extensive character customization is consistently rewarding from the start until – and after – the credits roll. It's a love letter to its own source material, filled with references and homages to the series’ history that seem designed to give fans of any Final Fantasy something to enjoy.

Like the show Lost and other stories that revolve around some grand mystery, Stranger of Paradise's plot had me theorizing and scratching my head until the very final moments, when all is revealed in a way that brings everything together. However, where Lost used memorable characters and turning-point moments to carry the story forward prior to the big reveals, Stranger of Paradise misses the mark on its cast and instead solely relies on its solid action gameplay, only offering vague and often indecipherable clues to what’s going on. Its lack of real character development beyond your party of five run-of-the-mill characters making small talk and reiterating their need to find and kill an entity known as Chaos that threatens the world means I won’t be uttering their names in the same breath as Final Fantasy greats like Cloud and Yuna – or even necessarily remembering them a month from now.

And yet, while the early hours of the story did a poor job of keeping me engaged (especially as main character Jack and his starting companions Ash and Jed all revealed varying levels of amnesia and constantly remarked on their deja vu wherever we went) it turned out to be an effective buildup: the tail end did the exact opposite by answering all the questions I had. That said, I took the time to explore and find most of the memento collectibles as I played, which allowed me to connect the dots between the story the main story shows you and the story behind what's really happening in the world. Some filled in smaller gaps, like the origin and importance of the dark crystals that drew our starting party together in the first place, and others helped explain the meaning behind the titular stranger and the paradise they hail from. However, they’re easy to miss, and the ending and its big reveals might not have resonated as strongly for me if I hadn’t had their important context.

Koei Tecmo's team seems to have found inspiration in similar areas from other Final Fantasy games.

While this isn’t a direct remake of the original Final Fantasy, it thoroughly reimagines many of its locations. The main city of Cornelia is where that first adventure began; and places like the Chaos Shrine and the Cavern of Earth dungeon have had new life breathed into them by Koei Tecmo's team, which seems to have found inspiration in similar areas from other Final Fantasy games. It merges in factories reminiscent of Final Fantasy 7 Remake's Mako Reactors, a pirate cove filled with Sahagin (like the Sastasha dungeon in Final Fantasy 14), and even something that strongly resembles Final Fantasy 13's Sunleth Waterscape's weather-changing mechanic makes an appearance in one of the wetlands you'll adventure through. There are plenty of other great locations that I won't spoil for you as it's equal part a treat and a puzzle for fans to discover which game inspired each of the stages in Stranger of Paradise. The fact that nearly every stage has a unique look kept exploring their ins and outs refreshing, and in the background there are new music arrangements from other FF games that are sure to catch the ears of longtime fans.

Graphically, though, even the PlayStation 5’s HDR Quality mode couldn’t make Stranger of Paradise look better than average most of the time. Some cutscenes look great and instantly had me snapping away with the screenshot button, but those were few and far between. In-game it looks fine, with decent character models and textures that resemble Final Fantasy 13, but never good enough to make me wish it had a photo mode. After spending my first playthrough in Quality mode – which didn’t have any noticeable frame rate drops below 30 throughout the entire campaign, I made the switch to Performance mode and never looked back. The jump up to 60 frames per second makes dodging and parrying much easier for my playstyle, and some of the flashier combo abilities were even better because I was able to more reliably cancel out of them by swapping jobs to extend my combo even further.

Even the PS5’s HDR Quality mode couldn’t make Stranger of Paradise look better than average most of the time.

Stranger of Paradise offers five difficulty modes: casual, story, action, hard, and Chaos (which unlocks after your first playthrough), and the temptation of higher-level item drops led me to play on hard for my first run. It took me just under 30 hours to roll credits, and that included undertaking a good number of side missions I considered essential to raise my gear score, unlocking job roles for allies, replaying missions in up to three-player co-op, doing tons of inventory management, constantly upgrading/customizing my party’s loadouts, and no small amount of dying – especially when testing specific builds and multiclass combinations in boss fights to determine their suitability.

At this setting just about every enemy posed a threat to my survival, from the lowly roundworm that turns into a wheel of purple flames to ever-deadly Tonberrys and their deadly chef’s knives and powerful area-of-effect attacks. There were even times where my own carelessness allowed a group of bats or skeletons to simply overwhelm me, rendering me unable to escape. It’s dangerous out there! You can always adjust the difficulty at any checkpoint, though, so if you find yourself under-leveled you can choose to make any single fight easier if you want – which is certainly preferable to grinding it out.

Stranger of Paradise is actually pretty forgiving when it comes to death.

Despite a lot of obvious Souls influence in its combat style, though, Stranger of Paradise is actually pretty forgiving when it comes to death: you keep all of the experience, materials, armor, weapons, and even additional potions you might have found – and the PS5’s speedy load times put you back in the action almost immediately. It’s not without consequences, though – other than having to run past or fight through the same swathes of enemies – you suffer a temporary decrease to your maximum MP, which nearly every combat ability is centered around. Spells like Cure and Fire, command abilities like Lancet and Lightbringer, and even class-based combo abilities like a Dragoon's Jump and a Warriors War Cry all require MP to function, so there’s an urgent need to recover all six sections as soon as possible. (Limiting the number of mana segments available is also a callback to the original Final Fantasy, where you had a limited number of spells you could cast before needing to rest at an inn or use the cottage/House recovery item to restore your MP.)

Thankfully, MP can be recovered in a few ways, including by depleting an enemy's Break gauge and finishing them off with a Soul Burst, which causes an explosion of crystal shards that knocks back other enemies in the process. These come with a variety of over-the-top animations that bring some nice levity to the combat – using Soul Burst on the Guardians of the Flying Fortress stage, for instance, has Jack pile-drive them into the ground, which is immediately followed up by a curbstomp to their nether regions to really add insult to injury. Soul Bursting Cactaurs, meanwhile, picks them up and flings them; he also gives the malicious Tonberrys a simple pat on the head before shattering them into pieces. He has a broad range.

Jack pile-drives them into the ground, immediately followed up by a curbstomp to their nether regions.

There are 28 jobs in total, each with their own skill trees, so there’s a lot of room to experiment and find combos that synergize well in your party, defining your playstyle. You can equip any two jobs on your character (and one on each of your companions, who you indirectly control), and while you can only have one active at any given time the fact that you’re able to swap between them at the press of a single button lets you extend combos creatively and synergistically. You can mix and match jobs however you like, such as combining two glass-cannon Mage jobs to build up your Intellect stat and make your spells hit harder and stun enemies by rapidly overwhelming their Break gauge, or you might combine Berserker and Warrior so that you can use the Warrior’s War Cry HP-regeneration skill to offset the Berserker’s inability to use healing potions while maintaining your Berserk status, which increases your offensive and defensive powers for a limited time. Alternatively, tanky jobs like Paladin and Knight can be combined for increased HP and stamina to reduce the impact incoming damage has on your Break gauge.

My personal favorite, though, is multiclassing Sage – which blends black and white magic and grants access to the devastatingly powerful Ultima spell – with Dragoon, bestowing the abilities to maneuver around the battlefield with Jump and to poke down enemies with short chains of rapid attacks for good damage. It reduces my damage output a bit but the tradeoff in survivability in combat is well worth it for my preferred hit-and-run style.

In addition to whatever two jobs you pick for him, Jack also functions as a Blue Mage, meaning that he can absorb certain attack moves with a properly timed Soul Shield and turn them back on the enemy. Absorbing attacks like a bomb’s Fire spell and then throwing it back at them, causing them to self-destruct, is one of the most satisfying moves in Stranger of Paradise. Soul Shield can also be used in rapid succession, and I've managed to parry entire laser beams from bosses like the six-headed dragon Tiamat (one of the four ancient fiends from the original Final Fantasy). Parrying exciting moves like that reminded me of my time with Street Fighter 3: Third Strike.

Stranger of Paradise’s inventory management system is on the weaker side of things.

Combat and customization are strong, but Stranger of Paradise’s inventory management system is on the weaker side of things. The good news is that you can sort your Item menu to your heart's content and organize by job, stats, perks, and anything else that appears on a piece of gear. The problem arises once you go to your Equipment menu, which doesn’t have the filter options and simply sorts based on new items, level, affinity, defense, and type of gear. This doesn't sound terrible on paper, but when you have 500 pieces of equipment and are looking for a specific one that has the highest bonus for your two equipped classes, you end up spending a lot of time looking at a menu instead of slashing enemies to score more loot.

There is a shortcut to help gear up quickly but it’s not the most effective. Tapping on the touchpad on a character will equip them with all the highest-level gear available that their class can currently use, but it often won’t be beneficial to their specific class. For instance, you may wind up with Mage gear equipped on your tank if it’s the highest level. The menu also restricts your ability to send gear to your stash, effectively locking efficient inventory management to checkpoints in the level. If your bag fills up, you're forced to sift through your inventory to discard the least valuable pieces – that feels very old-school, especially in a co-op game where you don’t want to be waiting around for someone to figure out what to drop.

It’s very common to fill up because while most games with gear scores you spend hours grinding away, hoping to get a new piece of equipment that will work for your build, but Stranger of Paradise does the opposite: it generously showers you with items – roughly 80 to 120 per mission – and it offers specific rewards upon the first completion that are visible before you begin. I can't think of another game that has made loot hunting this efficient from day one. Also, because Stranger of Paradise is hub-based and you will spend most of your time between missions looking at the map, it's simple to forget to dismantle unnecessary gear and accidentally start the next mission with a full backpack. I may have done that once or twice.

source https://www.ign.com/articles/stranger-of-paradise-final-fantasy-origin-review

Stranger Of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin Review

Reviewed on: PlayStation 5
Also on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Koei Tecmo
Rating: Mature

Even if you love Final Fantasy games, expect to feel like a stranger in a strange land when playing Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin. This violent retelling of the original Final Fantasy game from 1987 largely sidesteps the series’ adventurous spirit and heartfelt mysticism to focus on muscle, attitude, and everything extreme. Square Enix labels this remake as a “hardcore action/RPG,” an apt description for a game that rarely relents in its aggression. When swords are drawn and giant beasts enter frenzied states, this edgy experiment shines, as the battlefield lights up with a flurry of combos and magics against awesome monsters that pose a real threat. When the swords are holstered and the characters need to converse or explore, Stranger of Paradise hits lows rarely seen in Final Fantasy's storied 35-year history.

Don’t be surprised if you let out your first audible groan within minutes of meeting protagonist Jack. Showing the emotional range of a brick, Jack is a blank slate of a lead, offering little in terms of backstory or personality, yet he amuses for all the wrong reasons given how frequently he talks about wanting to kill a dark being named Chaos. He growls this dark ambition to almost anyone who will listen, sometimes dropping f-bombs along the way because he’s that angry. The story clings for dear life to the silly Chaos thread, which offers a couple of interesting twists near the conclusion, but mostly falls flat and does little to build up the characters or world around them.

Jack eventually befriends a handful of like-minded individuals to journey with, but they are just as lifeless as he is, and the reasons they are together are flimsy at best. At one point, Jack meets Jed and Ash on a road, and after conversing about Chaos and crystals for just a few seconds, they agree to journey together and cement the occasion with a fist bump. The fist bump is as awful as it sounds, and is oddly notable, as you’ll see this gesture many times, each one as unintentionally comedic as the last. I didn't care for most of the story, but did enjoy where it ends. No, the final moments don't make the journey worthwhile, but at least it ends with a bang.

The hunt for Chaos unfolds within the land of Cornelia, a place lush with most of the fantasy tropes this series is known for. Developer Team Ninja does an excellent job of changing up the locales frequently within its level-based progression – throwing the party into lava caverns, icy mountains, and glowing forests filled with wild beasts. Most of these places are confusing in design, sending Jack and company down mazelike paths, some featuring puzzle qualities that require backtracking to solve. Without a map, expect to get lost periodically. In an odd twist, the party can dart through swarms of enemies uncontested, meaning you can cover ground quickly and find your bearings again. You can also run from the start of a level to the concluding boss without confronting a single foe – a design flaw I exploited to speed up exploration in some of the more confusing levels.

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It’s not that I didn’t want to engage in combat. As messy as Stranger of Paradise is in its story and world, it fully embraces the rage of a warrior to deliver an exceptional combat experience. The nicely implemented melee combat and long-range magic sizzle with excitement, and Jack can switch between them on the fly. Enemy movements and unblockable attacks are easy to read, making all fights feel fair and a true test of skill. Even the two A.I. companions who join you are competent and rack up kill counts of their own, even against bosses if you need to keep your distance. Some bosses are incredibly challenging, and your allies may not be enough of a help, but you can always lower the difficulty for this one fight at any save point – another nice touch.

The combat mechanics are robust, allowing for Jack to bombard the enemy with abilities at a liberal pace. The evasive move works well, as does the soul shield counter that allows Jack to bank magic and send long-range attacks hurling back at his attacker – the latter is quite ingenious, yet is sometimes difficult to use given how frenzied battles can be. When foes are giving you fits, saving up magic to activate devastating Lightbringer attacks can turn the tide. Best of all, when an adversary’s break gauge depletes, you can execute them immediately with a stylish finishing move that even delivers splash damage to any other enemy nearby.

Jack lives up to his name as a jack of all trades on the battlefield. Rather than focusing on just one job, Stranger of Paradise encourages the player to use over a dozen of them, switching to whichever style best fits the situation at hand. Each class is fully featured and fun to use. I enjoyed being able to morph in the blink of an eye from a samurai with precise sword strikes to a black mage that carelessly rains down death from afar. Figuring out which jobs work best with each other is part of the fun and reason to experiment often.

Applying points to skill trees allows each job to grow more potent in the way the player wants. Specific armor pairings also deliver worthwhile statistical bumps. Each class can reach a master rank at level 30 and offer a variety of nice customizations, like determining which special attacks trigger at specific points on combo chains. Again, the combat absolutely sizzles in Stranger of Paradise and gives you a true sense of ownership over it.

Almost every defeated enemy drops a weapon or armor, and you quickly learn that you must pace how often you dive into the menus to tinker with each character’s loadout, as you could spend just as much time in menus as combat. The weapons offer almost every kind of attribute bump you would expect, and armors deliver cosmetic changes galore. The "cool" factor of the gear is tied to their levels, meaning at level five, you are wearing leather, and at level 105, you glisten in an awesome dragon-scale suit.

Having so many different options at your fingertips – from the gear to jobs – is where Stranger of Paradise shines the brightest and delivers excitement. These thrills extend to two friends in online cooperative play, but only if they keep pace with your combat level. If you aren’t in the same level range, you must play at the lowest player’s level, which can be a bust if they are just starting and you are in the mid- or endgame.

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Stranger of Paradise is the strangest Final Fantasy game yet, bounding wildly between awful and fantastic. If you can tolerate Jack (and that’s a big ask), the excellently crafted combat is worth a look. You may be coming to this game for the story and Final Fantasy experience, but it’s all about combat and little else.

Score: 7

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Sunday, March 13, 2022

Why Austin Wintory Re-recorded Journey's Soundtrack 10 Years Later

On March 13, 2012, 10 years ago to the date, thatgamecompany released Journey, quickly called one of the greatest games of all time. Its quiet, meditative approach to gameplay and emphasis on multiplayer that promotes connection rather than competition was, for the time, especially novel. The game accrued a massive fan base, countless awards, and recognition from not only the game industry but the art world at large. 

More personally, it completely changed composer Austin Wintory's life. Nowadays, he's one of the more recognizable names in video game soundtracks. Though it wasn't his first job, or even his first time working with Thatgamecompany (he composed the soundtrack to the studio's first commercial game, Flow), it was the project that put him on the map. Since then, he's composed for the Assassin's Creed series, The Order: 1886, dozens of films, and many, many more.

And according to Wintory himself, he owes it all to Journey. 

In celebration of the game's 10th anniversary, today, Wintory released a re-recorded, re-imagined version of Journey's soundtrack recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Voice choir, and cellist Tina Guo – who played on the original soundtrack. 

To learn about revisiting one of his most recognizable works a decade later, we spent time speaking with Wintory, getting an in-depth view into the creative process behind this project.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

Game Informer: How did you start brainstorming, like, "I want to re-record Journey's original soundtrack?"

Austin Wintory: I don't mean to say it this way, but it's like I can't escape it. But I don't want that to sound like that's a problem. I feel so lucky that I have had one thing in my career that is just seemingly nonstop of interest to people. You know, a lot of composers could go their whole career – even very successfully – and never have something that quite strikes a nerve with people in that way. And I give all credit to the game for that. The music, I think, is one of those where I just tried to stick to what the game offered, and then was lucky enough that people liked the music on its own. But I think the game is the reason why I get that attention.

So, all of that said, because Journey is always around in some way or another and involved in conversations, I found myself thinking maybe seven months ago [...] "The tenth anniversary of the game is coming, and I ought to do something about that." If nothing else, I want to signal to the world my gratitude [for] the fact that the world seems to care about this album and this score and this game. So, what can I do that would offer something interesting or fun? I found myself trying to think of what I might do. And then a few things sort of converged. 

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[The London Symphony Orchestra] actually reached out to me a number of years ago and said, "If you ever have something, here's how to reach us. We're interested in finding a chance to work together." I record in London all the time, but I usually don't record traditional orchestra. You look at a game like Assassin's Creed Syndicate, we did all that at Abbey Road, but it was with a small chamber group very purposefully chosen of, like, three violins, three violas. You know, a tiny group that's very kind of visceral and close. Or Abzû we recorded there. We recorded choir. I did a room of all harps. These are not traditional orchestra, though. So, I was like, "I don't really do traditional orchestra very often." I did that growing up, and I loved it and it feels so old-fashioned. Even though I love that kind of music, I don't tend to find myself writing that so much. Or if I do, it's modified somehow. 

And so, I really wanted to work with them, and they seemed open to working with me, but I couldn't think of the right thing. With that in the back of my head, about six months ago, it dawned on me [Journey's 10th anniversary was coming up]. "What if I kind of merged these two threads and were to do a London Symphony re-imagining of the score?" And then, right as I was trying to search for the words for what I was trying to achieve [...] somebody tagged me on Twitter and gave me the most perfect succinct description of what I was doing. They knew better than I did what I was trying to achieve. So, I have to credit this Twitter [user]. I don't even remember their Twitter handle. They tagged me in a tweet. They were responding to somebody else, but they effectively said, Journey is their number one pick for if they could go back in time and experience something for the first time again. The idea that, If I could erase my memory and Men In Black de-neuralize – or neuralize, I guess – and have the feeling of this thing that meant so much to [me], and yet it's new again.

So, this project gave me the chance to, of course, not do that. But to do something that's as close as, I think, we can get to that. That's my goal. I don't know if I achieved that. But the aspiration is, for people who really care about this music – and if there's even one person in the world, consider me grateful – hopefully, this gives them a chance to have that feeling of, "This is familiar, and yet I haven't heard this. I don't know this version of it." That became the guiding light. "How do I offer up a thing that doesn't just rehash it. It takes the opportunity to offer up something new."

GI: When we jumped on the call, we were talking about how there are a lot more electronic elements in the original soundtrack. How did you transpose that into something that now utilizes a full orchestra? 

A: I mean, I don't know if I have a good sort of, "I just did X and Y and that took care of it." It was a lot of exploring and experimenting and being very frustrated [laughs]. Because the original kind of borders on new age music until the very end. It's very meditative. The electronics are very smooth. Other than a few little key sections, like the [sand] surfing section that we call "Road of Trials" and whatnot, it's pretty inward-looking and deliberately low-key, right? 

Austin Wintory

So, I thought, "Okay, if that's a new age album, how do I do something that's almost more like a Joe Hisaishi [Castle in the Sky, Spirited Away] album?" Where it uses the orchestra in a very expressive and colorful way. And what was before a single note being held by a synthesizer might now be a note that swims around in flutes and french horns and violas. It's the same note, but I'm passing it around so that it feels like the original is almost grayscale, and now it's bursting with color. Hopefully. We'll see if it feels like that to anybody else. But that was the goal. 

As you might imagine, it became really easy to overdo it, and suddenly it stopped feeling like Journey. I would get all excited and I would work on something, and I'd be like, "Oh! I can do this!" And it would become this thing where the orchestra – especially the size orchestra we had, which was gigantic – it's really easy to kind of unleash the fireworks. It's very tempting because it's so fun. It's so satisfying, you know? When you listen to just absolutely off-the-hook rambunctious orchestral forces marshaling together, there's no thrill quite like that for me. But that's not really what Journey is. So, then it became, "Okay, how quiet can I keep this?" Because this is over a hundred musicians, and if I can make them all play together generally on the quiet side, that's its own thrill.

GI: Any creative at all, like, even your magnum opus will have one or two things in it that you're like, "Ah, I would do that differently." Was there anything from Journey that sat with you for 10 years, and this was the opportunity to be like, "I'm changing that thing right there?"

A: The funny thing is, I had to resist the temptation, because once you start doing that kind of thing constantly, all these little changes that might be imperceptible start to really aggregate, and it really starts to feel very different. That could be a problem. So, I had to kind of reel myself in and say, "You know, I was 24 when I started writing Journey. I'm 37 now." I'm a pretty different composer than I was then – hopefully a better one. I see things, though, more clearly than I did then. There's a certain innocence of my confusion that I think is part of what makes Journey what it is. So, I didn't wanna sacrifice that. I didn't wanna make it something that it wasn't. Which meant I had to kind of pick those moments where I sneak in slightly more, dare I say, sophisticated things. 

But then there's also things that are more obvious. For example, the really big one, on the final song, "I Was Born For this," in the original, I worked with this absolutely spectacularly amazing singer named Lisbeth Scott. She is a legend. One of my favorite bragging points about her is that John Williams wrote a solo for her personally for the Spielberg movie Munich that is one of the most haunting things I've ever heard in a movie. Around that same time, she also was the singing princess in Shrek when the bird and the princess are singing higher and higher and higher and the bird explodes. The voice of the princess in that moment is Lisbeth. She's in a million soundtrack recordings, and she writes her own scores. I had worked with her. I worshiped her. And I hired her to sing "I Was Born For This." Well, "I Was Born For This" is written in five languages. It's in Latin, French – and technically not modern French, because it's Joan of Arc, so it's more like Middle French, but it's effectively French – Middle English, which is not the same thing as modern English at all, it's a fully different language [...] Japanese and Greek. Ancient Greek. 

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I've always thought, "How cool would it be to have each language represented by somebody for whom that language is native?" That was always one of [the things in the] back of my head. "If I ever redo this piece, it would be fun to do that." Now, three of the five languages are not modern languages, so it's really just the Japanese and the French that I can do the pure version of this. But I was able to get a Russian singer for the Latin section, and I was able to get a fabulous French singer, a Greek Singer, a Japanese singer, and then [...] I have a friend who's from Mexico who I've worked with a million times and I just always look for more excuses to collaborate with. I told her, "You get to do the Beowulf Middle English because there's nobody that speaks that anyway." She's just a superb singer, anyway. When the final verse comes in and we get this kind of big powerful statement of the main theme set to the words [of] Joan of Arc, her final words before she died, "Do not grieve for me, for I was born for this," I just reached out to a bunch of people that I've either worked with for years and love working with or I've always wanted to work with. So, all told, there's 11 singers that all pile on top of each other for the finale of "I Was Born For This." 

It's as much a reflection of the road I've taken. I've met all these people over the last 10 years precisely because of what Journey enabled about my career. I crossed paths with all these amazing talents just because of where my career has taken me in those 10 years. It seemed like a fun way to bring it all back home, and say, "I would never have met you if I hadn't worked on this. So, now let's work on this together." That's a big change. 

GI: Are Sony and thatgamecompany involved with this? 

A: Jenova [Chen, co-founder of thatgamecompany] and I talk fairly regularly. I told him I was going to do this, and he seemed to be excited about it. As you can imagine, I don't know how closely you follow their current game, Sky, but it's massive. So, he's just 24/7 busy with Sky. So, it was kinda like, "Oh, that sounds really cool! Let me know how it goes." I invited him to London. I said, "If you wanna come and hang out while we rerecord the orchestra, it would be genuinely an honor to have you there." He was, like, 10 days away from his wife giving birth to their second kid, so he said, "I suspect I will not be able to come to London." And so, he knows about it and was excited about it. 

And Sony, similarly, they were not involved in any creative or pragmatic ways. But of course, I let them know that I was doing it. They've always been very supportive of all my shenanigans. I've conducted the music live, and I've made alternate versions of some of the tracks that work better for live performances, and they've always been supportive of that.

GI: So, does that mean – were you self-funding this whole thing? 

A: I did [laughs]. Yeah. I and a friend [Ready At Dawn co-founder Andrea Pessino]. Originally, I was dreaming of a more scaled-down version. As I let my imagination run wild with it, I found myself thinking, "This is starting to get to a place financially that is a bit far of a reach." 

[Andrea] basically said, "How can I be involved?" So, we came out to London. I solicited his feedback throughout the whole process. He's the co-founder of Ready At Dawn and also their chief technology officer. The engine that The Order [1886] runs in, he basically built himself. So, he's this engineer and programming savant. I mean, he's just this genius. But he's also this deeply intuitive and talented musician. [He was a] conservatory student growing up in Italy as a kid – essentially a child prodigy pianist. He could have easily had a career in music but chose something very different. [...] So, he always wanted to be more involved in music, and basically, the idea was, "Well, what if we produce this album together?" So, that meant we shared the costs, but also he was a creative confidant for me, and a sounding board, and attended the recording sessions, and helped every step of the way. I'm eternally grateful for it. It would've been something different if he hadn't been part of it. 

GI: How many musicians played on the original soundtrack? 

A: Maybe 22, 23 players max? Basically, it caps out around or just shy of probably 30 musicians on the original score. 

GI: So, the jump up to the new soundtrack is adding 70 people, basically?

A: About 100. I think it's, all told, over 130 total musicians. Because we had a 91-piece orchestra and a 32-voice choir. And then something like 11 singers? 

[In the song "I Was Born For This," there is] a big moment where the orchestra builds, and then you hear just two violins alone going right before the big climax and the Japanese section begins. That's actually a separate musician. A violinist who lives in the Detroit area named Taylor Davis, who's a big YouTuber who I've worked with many times over the years. She was, like, the featured star soloist of the Banner Saga trilogy that I worked on, and just one of my favorite people. We've done live shows together, and I just adore her. 


The reason we met is she did one of the most amazing Journey covers that anyone has ever done. There's this great video on YouTube where she's playing in the sand dunes, and then in the snow, in a full Journey costume, playing her violin. [She] does this absolutely amazing thing. When that came out, it was the first time I had seen somebody go to that length – with a full music video and everything – of my work. And so, I reached out to her and said, "I can't believe you did this," and we've been friends ever since. She did an amazing music video when Assassin's Creed Syndicate came out with another musician. So, I said, "I have to find somewhere for Taylor to be involved in this. So, there's a little bit in "I Was Born For This," as well. 

So yeah, all told, I haven't actually done the count, but whatever that is. It's somewhere in that neighborhood. 

GI: It's a huge jump regardless.

A: It's a completely different animal, yeah. 135 or so.  

GI: On the tracks, is that all of them playing together? Like, live tracking 135 people? Or did you do it in chunks? 

A: Almost. The orchestra is always playing together. But the choir was done on a separate day. And there's a lot of reasons for that, but honestly, the main one was Covid [laughs]. It was daunting enough to record 91 musicians right as [the Omicron variant] was starting to appear in London. We had to do daily testing. Everyone in the orchestra, obviously, not only had to test, but if anybody had somebody show up at home that tested positive, even if their test was negative, they would switch out the musician for a backup on the day. That kind of thing. 

The recording studio that we were in, which is the recording studio that the London symphony owns, it's a converted 18th-century church in the middle of central London that they bought and retrofitted as their primary recording studio and rehearsal space for when they give concerts [...] when they go on tour, we recorded there. It's sort of their home territory. 

The room, you could fit the choir in there if you really wanted to jam it in. But we would've been really tempting fate in a way that would've essentially been unethical to jam that many together. Also, when you're recording, the more instruments you get into the room, the more you lose control of your ability to mix it afterward. Because now it's just like, "Whatever happens in the room is whatever you get." You can imagine, like, if the mix is placing the listener's ear somewhere, you can kind of move the ears around a little bit when you've got a huge number together. But you can't do things, like, "Oh, the french horn is too loud, let's bring them down," because they're going to be filtering into every microphone in the room a little bit. So, the only way to bring them down is to bring the whole thing down. And so, this is partly why a lot of times on video games and on films, you'll often record things in smaller portions, so that you have maximum control, and you don't have to just have a master volume ride up and down. But for this kind of thing, I thought, "It would be just so heavenly to do it the old-fashioned way." 

GI: You're recording this for the 10th anniversary of Journey. What do you think will be the stories and anecdotes from this process that are going to stand out to you 10 years from today? 

A: Oh man, that's a great question. I also just realized that, of all the people to leave off that initial list, this is the most horrifying and embarrassing, but Tina Guo, of course, comes back and plays the cello solos again. We recorded her at Capitol Records here in Los Angeles, so she was also separate from the orchestra. It's blasphemy to not mention her because she's the heart and soul of it. Although, I did change the cello's relationship to the music. 

In any case, the reason that triggered is because that was the first thing I thought of, is going into the studio with her. You know, she and I have known each other now [for] about 15 years. We started working on Journey together 13 years ago. It came out 10 years ago. It was a big launching pad for both of us. You know, she's now one of the busiest musicians, probably, on the planet. Not just because of Journey. In fact, Journey probably least so at this point. I mean, my God, she's a featured soloist on Dune and a million other things that signal boost her quite effectively. But there's something very nostalgic about it and she and I.

When I'm recording, obviously, I do this as a profession, so I tend to go into a little bit of a battle mode. Now, I'm very cavalier, and I joke around. I tell jokes all the time. The first day with the London Symphony, I tell all my jokes, and they're being very typically stoic British people and having a very stiff upper lip with me about my jokes. But by the second day, they warmed up to me, and we were enjoying each other. We were being more jokey, as I tend to be, and very irreverent. Just having fun! Because I say, "Look, we're making music! How crazy is this? Our job today is to walk away with something that hopefully just sounds beautiful. Some people have dangerous jobs, or very grueling jobs, or very boring jobs. And this today is our job, so f-----g hell, let's enjoy it. Let's make sure it's fun, and it doesn't feel overly serious." But, that said, if you're not serious enough, you're gonna fall behind schedule, and then you're going to have an incomplete project. Because it's not like you can just record as much as you want and run the clock 'til midnight. This stuff gets pretty pricey [laughs].

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So, I tend to be very, very particular, and I plan things very anally and all that. Nonetheless, I knew we would probably have a little extra time, which means we could probably take our time, and I wanted to end with "Apotheosis." I just thought that piece, that seven minutes and change, completely and totally changed my life. It just feels so fitting to bring this almost spiritual experience of a recording session to a close with that one. And as focused and warrior mode as I can get while I'm working – despite the joking – when we first recorded it, we do what's called a sight-read. Which is like a rehearsal. Sight-read means they have not practiced this. They are reading the music by sight for the first time, the first playthrough. There wasn't a rehearsal the day before or something like that. You go into the studio, they look at the music, they give it a quick glance, and they [go], "Okay. Ready." And they can play it almost perfectly the first time. It is sorcery. It shouldn't be possible. Especially because as minimalistic as a lot of Journey can be, it's actually not the easiest music to play. Particularly "Apotheosis." [...] They're not playing random notes; it's a very specific thing they have to play. If they play a wrong note, everyone can hear it. 

And so, it's not hard, but it's not easy. Of course, the goal is not just to get it right. The goal is to make it sing. The goal is to make it feel expressive and beautiful as if they've been working on it and practicing it their whole life. So, it's my job as a conductor to really set them up for that. Part of what we do is say, "Let's just read it down, top to bottom." It's like a table read for actors on a TV show. "Let's just read around the table. You don't have to worry about being in character yet. You don't have to worry about, like, what's your body language gonna be. We just wanna know what the words taste like, and then we'll start to piece it together." We do a thing very similar in a recording session. So, I said, "Let's just run through it and read it." Because "Apotheosis" ends with this long, high cello solo of Tina's, where she's playing as the character's walking into the light. Spoiler alert. 

GI: I've played it, don't worry.

A: Yeah, I suspected you did. So, I ask the principal cellist of the London Symphony, "For now, that part will be recorded in Los Angeles when I come back home. But, so that the rest of the orchestra will know what we'll be missing, will you play it? Just for now, for our first time through." So, he has to sight-read this really high and delicate [part]. You know, cello is a low instrument, and [this is a] really high-end part. Tina, that's one of her specialties; she can play up where the violins play because she's just a monster. But cellists, that's not a normal skill in cello. But of course, these are the world-class cellists, so they can all handle it, too. 

So, we just read it down. All seven and a half minutes of all this music, they played it very nearly perfectly from start to finish, including Tina's solos as a placeholder. I absolutely felt my eyes well up while I was conducting. It's not that I broke down in tears, but it was overwhelming. It's not that I react to the piece the way someone else might, and get moved by it because I'm too aware of what it took to make it. But the piece's become – it's like this old friend. It's like if you see a friend from college that you used to spend all day every day with and you stay in touch, but you haven't seen each other in a long time. 

So, all that came together at once, of this old friend visiting for the first time in years, and just knowing how much I've missed this experience. It was overwhelming. I'll never forget it. [...] I'm conducting the London f------g Symphony Orchestra on this piece that changed my life, and we're making music together, and this is incredible, and I'm in one of my favorite cities in the world. I just can't fathom that any of this is real, and this is somehow my life. It really got me in that moment. All that stacking on top. I became very emotional. I'll never forget that.