The Grind: This week on Track Changes, Paul and Rich chat with Postlight’s Head of Engineering Jeremy Mack about all things video games. Jeremy teaches us about current video game trends. We learn about loot boxes, battle passes, pay-to-win games and the controversy surrounding these types of monetizations. We also get some great indie game recommendations and chat about the future of gaming. Warning for anyone playing the game Journey, this episode contains some spoilers.
- PlayStation 4
- Jeremy Mack - Twitter
- Ultima Online
- World Of Warcraft
- Super Mario Brothers
- Age of Empire
- PlayStation 4 Pro
- Call of Duty
- NBA Playgrounds 2
- NBA Jam
- Stardew Valley
- Harvest Moon
- Dead Cells
- Nintendo Switch
- Wii U
- Black Desert Online
- Half-Life: Alyx
- Half-Life 2
- Oculus Quest
Paul Ford And the future is people with a helmet and a backpack, opening loot boxes in virtual reality [music plays alone for 18 seconds, ramps down]. Rich?
Rich Ziade [Chuckles] Hey!
PF You know what I think is probably a truth after three years of podcasting?
RZ What’s that?
PF You and I don’t have to keep being the only two people on this show.
RZ What’s that supposed to mean?
PF Only good thing—
RZ This sounds like a power play [music fades out].
PF That’s right, I’m gonna be taking over Track Changes. No! We have a lot of very funny, very bright, very talented people who work in this company and it is time that more of them are on this podcast.
RZ Cool! I’m [stammers] for this. Cuz I’m not ego-driven.
PF [Laughs] Ok. Alright—
RZ So what sort of airport business book topic are we gonna talk about today?
PF Well this is actually one that you brought up. People may not know this about you but you’re a PlayStation 4 gamer.
RZ Oooooh [descending].
PF Yeah, I know, we just lost, like, several, several possible engagements [Rich laughs]. Oof!
RZ I wouldn’t call myself like—I don’t have the headset that glows and all that. I’m not that hardcore. I am a casual gamer—is the best way to categorize me.
PF No, casual gamers play Tetris on their phone. You bought a PlayStation.
RZ I bought a PlayStation for my large television and I just wanna veg out once in a while and see what’s goin’ on—
PF Listen, you and America!
RZ You and me and America. Exactly.
PF Alright, first of all, we’ve brought in an expert to help us understand the phenomenon. So I think what we need to do is—is you’re gonna describe a set of challenges and confusing things about the world of video games in 2020.
PF And our expert is gonna help us understand them. Our expert is named Jeremy Mack. Jeremy, hello.
Jeremy Mack Hello, Paul. Awesome to be on the show!
PF Ah! It’s so good to have you. Well, welcome back. You’ve been on before. Jeremy runs engineering at Postlight.
RZ He is our Head of Engineering, Managing Partner. A huge, huge part of Postlight’s success. No doubt about it.
PF And, there’s one thing to know—there are many things to know about Jeremy. He is a multifaceted human being.
RZ Very complex!
PF Exactly. [Jeremy giggles] And so I won’t even make the typical like, “What a surprise that our Head of Engineering is also a dedicated gamer!” But! It does so happen that our Head of Engineering is a dedicated gamer.
RZ He knows the world very well. Various worlds! In fact. I own a couple of consoles but he owns, I think, seven.
PF J Mack, give us a little gaming biography of yourself.
JM You could say that I know various virtual worlds, even. So, yes, I have been gaming since, ah, let’s see probably the just post Atari age with the Nintendo. I have probably used every console system and every PC iteration that has come since then and I was a huge fan of massively online games for a little bit there. And I credit that with getting me interested in programming, actually. I quit soccer my freshman year of high school to go play Ultima Online and subsequently was fooled into losing all of my items and went crying to my parents but it was a very formative experience and kind of mirrored the rest of my highschool experience, actually.
PF I’ve seen you pull up things that you used to build to help you gain economic power in games.
JM Mm hmm! I have built some software for gaming the economic market of various massively online games. It’s a nice way to veg out, as Rich puts it—to kinda execute on cornering the market for gold ore, for example, in World of Warcraft and figure out how to turn the biggest profit without, you know, risking any of your actual real assets. It could be fun in that world.
PF Here’s what’s fascinating there, right? Is that you start out playing Super Mario Brothers and a few years later you’re thinking about economics and the market forces that make up the community that drive the game forward. And that, in turn, like the game companies are like, “Oh, well, we need to make better swords so they buy more of them.
RZ And look—I wanna jump in here: I’m ok with that. I mean I grew up watching games and actually really admiring games like Civilization and Age of Empires where there were almost these sort of petri dish societies that you create and all the dynamics—SimCity was, I think, a game changer in terms of open ended games. I’m cool with that category! Let me frame it though: I also know—there’s the genres of games. There’s racing, there’s fighting, there’s role playing and whatnot.
PF So you bought a couple games for your brand new PlayStation.
RZ I’m a great case study here because I left the world of gaming for about ten years [mm hmm] and now I don’t really communicate with my family anymore, so I got a PlayStation 4 Pro.
PF Mm hmm.
RZ I figured I’d go get FIFA. FIFA is wildly popular around the world. It’s essentially soccer or European football. I don’t wanna say soccer cuz it makes me sound too American. I load it up. And I just want it to be Messi for the night.
PF Play some soccer in a big stadium!
RZ In a big stadium! I want everybody to cheer for me and—
PF Or be on—Barcelona, ok.
RZ The thing loads up, I’m in a schoolyard. I have a very particular identity. And the other kids are lookin’ for a fight. Like literally a plot kicked in, right before—I couldn’t even get to the menu. I think they wanted to show me this mode of the game, I think, is what was happening cuz after I loaded it again it went right to the menu. And they were like, [aggro] “What are you guys, doin’ here?!? This is our schoolyard.” And I’m like, “What the hell’s goin’ on? I’m already Messi. I’m incredibly popular and wealthy. Why am I in a schoolyard?” And I sort of let it go. I was like, “Alright, they’re tryin’ a thing.” Then I loaded a racing game and it let me race to learn the game.
RZ Driving, yeah. It was vehicles and stuff and I raced for a while and I ended up in what looked like an outdoor shopping mall for cars. Again, I was a character in a story and this whole notion of what I owned, who I was, what my status was became a thing. And I just—I wanted to play soccer for 20 minutes. Or I wanted to race where I could either be first or second or third. And I found myself in these incredibly rich, complex places where economics were at play and my identity was an issue—like usually you had no identity. This was a racing game—nobody wants to know who Rich is.
PF You’re the car.
RZ Am I the car?!? I don’t think I was the car, dude! I could buy hats!! They were selling me hats!
JM Yeah! Yeah. So what you’re struggling with is user retention tactics that have kinda started up inside of mobile games and made their way into console games. The really common thing you’re gonna see is progression. Progress bars, experience points. Those have gotten added to almost every single genre of game that’s out there. And you’ll actually even see them in some software as a service—like your onboarding will have a progress bar with some little ticks that you’re trying [mm hmm] to complete along the way and what they realized is if you can get people on a treadmill of some sort—and this is—even gamers will refer to it as a levelling treadmill or the grind. You can get them playing your game a lot longer. They sort of start to forget about whether they’re having fun and start to focus on whether they’re progressing through the game mechanics. Whether they are getting the highest numbers to show up on the screen. It’s called minmaxing or earning more stat points or more loot or more valuables. And once you start fixating on that the game’s quality starts to matter a lot less to you and so you’re just gonna keep playing. And as you get more invested, more time gets invested into the game, you’re much more likely to wanna spend some money to circumvent some of those levelling mechanics. So maybe they unlock, you know, a new, shiny paint job for your car and you see an even nicer one but it’s gonna take you another two days of grinding and kinda boring matches—maybe you’d rather spend a little bit of real currency to get that right now. But they start you off in that grind, that, you know, start from nothing—
RZ Ok, so wait, you just glossed over something here. So they offered me these rims for my tires that even when my car stopped they kept spinnin’ but I couldn’t’ get ‘em. They’re like, “Nah! Nah! Dude! You’re not ready for this!!”
PF You’re not ready for spinny rims?
RZ They just wouldn’t let me get ‘em and I didn’t—and then but you mentioned real money. Like I could’ve spent five dollars or ten dollars or whatever. I don’t even know what you spend. I could shortcut the grind, essentially, right? And actually get what I wanted by spending real dollars, right? Is that what games are now?
JM Yeah. I would say Triple-A games have almost all become this thing. Every major Triple-A game that’s getting published by the large studios, like EA or Activision, Ubisoft—all those games are going to have some form of progression in them that you can go through and feel like you’re getting rewarded along the way. The place where this isn’t as common and in fact there’s a bit of a rallying cry against this sort of behavior is in the indie game market. And you’re seeing a lot of indie developers become really actually quite—quite popular and big, making games that have none of this in them and people flocking to those games.
PF So the pressure that’s being put on the Triple-A developers—so a company like EA is just pure market pressure, like well this thing needs to break a billion dollars in sales.
PF So who cares if it’s fun? Just get me that money.
JM And they need to show profit throughout the year from the game, too. It’s gonna take them two, three years to develop a new Call of Duty title, they need to show that that title doesn’t just stop making money the moment it gets released because what happens to all software after it gets released is it gets heavily discounted shortly. You’ll find, even within the first week of a game’s release, you’ll see sometimes ten, 20% discounts because that was the only moment where they could capture those 60 dollars.
RZ There’s this game I got called NBA Underground 2.
PF Mm hmm.
RZ It’s essentially a cartoonish version of basketball. It’s really fun [mm hmm]. It’s kind of goofy, it’s not as serious, everybody’s head is big. It kind of harkens back to a game called NBA Jam that was really popular many years ago. And it’s goofy and fun. So I’m playing this. I was like, “Ok, I wanna be this player or that,” and then I get to the section and it’s literally graphic representations of shrink wrapped playing cards. It’s like—You know, you go to the candy store and you wanna buy baseball cards or basketball cards and they’re wrapped and they’re closed and I couldn’t open ‘em! And I click on ‘em and they say, “Well, you could either play like another 20 games or you can buy a card pack?” Which means you’re gonna essentially open a virtual pack of playing cards that’s gonna be random, by the way, so I may not get the players I want or I can buy, like, “The Legend’s Pack” and pay another 30 dollars and just open the whole thing up.
PF Ok, this is all profoundly depressing. To me as—
RZ It is depressing?
PF Yeah, like to me this is incredibly depressing. What about you, J Mack? Like what’s your relationship as a pretty serious gamer, like, what’s your relationship to this world?
JM Yeah, so Rich, what you stumbled into there is loot boxes. Loot boxes are a big deal right now in the gaming world. They come in card packs like that for sure. They also come in actual boxes. And, of course, they’re heavy on the random elements. And the reason loot boxes even exist is because video games are fun due to their random elements. You know, you don’t know if you’re gonna win or lose or get a great outcome from something you do. Maybe you kick the ball just right and it’s gonna hit the corner of the goal or maybe it’s not. You don’t really know that outcome and so you’re kind of enjoying that randomness the entire time. And they turned it into loot boxes and I mean anybody—even people who aren’t in games know there’s a large amount of controversy about loot boxes.
RZ Oh interesting.
JM Oh yeah, some countries are now banning loot boxes from video games or requiring them to be marked as ‘adults only’ or in some countries they’re actually being required to disclose the actual statistical probabilities of what items you will get from those loot boxes.
RZ It’s gambling. I mean—
JM It’s gambling.
RZ It’s gambling in like a really shitty sort of like state lottery sort of way—
PF You can’t win money.
RZ You’re going and you’re betting—you’re buying 50 dollars worth of lottery tickets and beer at the end of the week and it’s bad. And it’s really ba—It’s gambling. I mean, essentially.
JM It’s gambling and it’s gambling targeted at children. I mean it’s gussied up and it’s also gambling that in some cases doesn’t require a monetary investment to start. So imagine if lottery tickets were handed out, you know, in high schools at no charge and gave you a few chances to win. You know, how much more likely would you become a person who would purchase lottery tickets? That’s exactly what these video games can sometimes come preloaded with is a progression system where you get maybe one box every two hours.
JM But you could get ten boxes right now if you wanted to have that dopamine kick right then.
RZ I think you’re right, I think the indie gaming scene is in many ways a reaction to that. It’s not geared towards that. It’s really geared towards a sort of classic, “Please buy my game. It’s 19 dollars and—”
PF “Play the game and have fun.”
RZ “And I’m gonna make my money if you purchase my game.” That’s the beginning and end of it.
PF How expensive are Triple-A games to produce now?
RZ I’m gonna guess tens of millions to hundreds of millions of dollars.
JM Hundreds of millions of dollars, absolutely.
RZ Yeah, I mean they’re Blockbuster movies. I mean Call of Duty will make a billion dollars, right?
RZ It’s to that scale. There are also—I mean, look: we’re technologists here. They are incredible feats of engineering. They’re just beautiful. I mean we’re reaching a point where you cannot distinguish—the FIFA game I was talking about before, the way the jersey, the clothing is like waving and clinging to the body—it’s just really spectacular. I mean the production quality of these things is amazing. Frankly, the craft behind what makes a great game is lost in that, I think. Some of the great indie games—what makes them so amazing is that some of them are incredibly simple but engaging at the same time. They’re art in my mind.
PF What are some great indie games? Cuz I’m totally out of this world.
JM There are some really impressive success stories over the last few years. One of them I would point immediately to: Stardew Valley. Stardew Valley is a solo developer production that kinda blew away all expectations. It’s a farming simulator. Has no loot boxes. No extra purchases after you get the base game. And if anyone listening was familiar with Harvest Moon, it is essentially a redo of Harvest Moon but with modern game mechanics. And that solo developer has done really well, and it’s one of those games that, you know, there’s a little bit of combat but there’s not anything like you would expect out of a Triple-A studio for sure. There’s others that are really great that are in the roguelike genre, like I would say Dead Cells is another really impressive side scrolling roguelike game that has hit great acclaim. There’s plenty and there’s a lot of good lists out there of them on Steam. You know, you can go and look at them but they are a lot of times on PC and on Nintendo Switch now because Nintendo has made a heavy emphasis on supporting the indie game community, something they messed up in previous generations of their consoles and in this generation they doubled down on it. You’ll see more indie games on the Nintendo Switch than any other console. They’ll even allow the one dollar indie games on there that may or may not be having savory tactics. Kinda more like a mobile game. But yeah, the Nintendo Switch has more of them than you would expect.
RZ I wanna throw out one game. It’s very popular, actually. It’s called Journey. It’s actually out on iOS too and I think Android, I’m not sure but it started on PlayStation. It’s another one of those—very beautiful, the music’s kind of amazing, and very open-ended. I have two little kids and these kinds of games where there’s sort of just exploratory and open-ended and not very complex, and there’s no dying are pretty cool. So Journey is another good one. And you know what it is? After a couple of years these games are like five dollars. It’s kinda funny. It’s just eventually it’s just sittin’ there on the bargain bin.
JM Mm hmm.
PF Oh software. It doesn’t cost anything to reproduce.
RZ Exactly. The Switch is fascinating and I want you to talk for a minute about the motivations behind Nintendo and what Nintendo has—I feel like has never waivered off of what its sort of mission is around fun, and approachability, and worrying a little less about production value, and utterly focused on, “Is a family of four gonna have fun?” I have a Switch as well. I mean the horsepower of the PlayStation is way, way stronger but I think their appreciation for just what the experience around the game is, not even just the game itself but, you know, how you even engage the thing is really amazing. But gimme your thoughts there cuz you’re a Switch fan too, right, J Mack?
JM Oh yeah, yeah. I mean the interesting thing about the Switch is it’s not trying to compete with Sony or Microsoft, like against the Xbox or PlayStation. It is intentionally trying to be its own thing. And one of the oddities of their competing with these huge brands that are targeting specific age group and demographic is that they ended up with the lowest power system that also starts up the fastest. The Switch is easily the lightest weight, fastest, easy to use system. Their interface is minimal, beautiful, easy to navigate, so much better than PlayStation [true] or Microsoft [yeah]. It’s an impressive feat that they kept it so simple. I also think that they made an impressive Switch to game carts over CDs. And it seems that the next generation of consoles from both Sony and from Microsoft will probably still have disc based drives in them.
RZ Which is what nowadays? Blu Ray? I don’t even know what a disc drive is anymore.
JM Yeah, dual-layer Blu Rays that have, I think, 50 or 100 gigabytes of storage. Often you’ll find when you get those—those at the store you still have to download a patch of 50 or 100 gigabytes to play the game in some cases.
RZ They’re massive. It’s unbelievable how big they are.
PF Well the assets are huge, righ? Like eight zillion textures.
RZ The detail level is so high, yeah. That’s right, that’s right.
JM The strange thing that’s happened with the Switch is that they—The Wii U was an incredible failure. And it had some great titles. And they were able to reproduce those titles on the Switch very shortly and release them and a lot of people hadn’t seen them yet and those titles worked really well on a portable environment.
RZ Aren’t the innards of the Switch essentially a Wii U just very thoughtfully redesigned or something close to it?
JM Yeah, I believe it shares a similar CP architecture. I don’t think the GPU is similar but yeah, I believe it’s able to emulate a very similar environment for those games. I know that there’s an emulator out there for the Wii U that can also run Switch games, I believe in some contexts. So I believe it’s possible.
RZ Do you watch people play games? On the internet?
JM I sure do! Yeah, I definitely consume my fair share of Twitch streams.
RZ Explain this to me.
JM So, yeah, watching people play games. Why—why would anybody do that? Sometimes some games, the ones that have those progression systems in them especially, might take 20 hours a week of time investment to get anywhere of worth in them, and you don’t wanna do that but what you would like to do is see what it looks like to play as someone who has invested 20, 40 hours a week in those games. Whether that be that they attained better skill in those games or that they reached an endgame area that you were never going to get to, and in some cases, you may never be able to play that game because you just don’t have the time for it but being able to watch somebody play it for two, four, eight hours you might experience almost all the things you wanted to from that game and feel like you consumed that content. That I got to see the ending of the new Spiderman game and I didn’t actually have to play it is actually a nice thing if you’re someone who appreciates this art form.
RZ You said the word ‘depressing’ earlier. Between these starter packs—what do you call ‘em? Loop kits?
JM Loot boxes.
PF [All crosstalking] No, I see—I see this as two foundationally different things. One is, “People like to play this game very much and we will make it kinda fun but then because it’s such a giant platform, we’re gonna slowly monetize all the human behaviors that we can find in order to keep the platform at a certain scale. It’s just about not an individual dynamic relationship with this property but rather an aggregate relationship with humanity.” Like, “It doesn’t matter if you enjoy it or not just put more money in the box.” So that’s depressing.
JM Lemme introduce you to another—another catchphrase that everybody in the gaming community knows which is ‘pay-to-win’. If a game gets branded with pay-to-win, that’s probably one of the worst things a game can get branded with. It’s when the game is effectively selling power in the game to the user and that’s a concept that right now is perhaps the most reviled thing—is a game that turns into a pay-to-win game. What I mean by ‘turns into’ is perhaps the game launches and then it doesn’t have as many sales as it wants at the beginning, they have to lower the price drastically, and they get more copies sold and then eventually they realize that they still aren’t making the revenue they needed from that game and they decide to introduce items that are so tantalizing to purchase because they increase the power of your character over other people who just paid the cheaper cost for the game. And that’s when the game becomes pay-to-win or ‘P’, number two, ‘W’ [P2W] which is the branding of this—this concept. And you will see endless conversation on gaming forums and on Twitch streams and other places around whether a game is or is not pay-to-win. “Is this game—do you get an advantage if you pay money past the initial purchase price in this game for an advantage?” And you’ll see people quantify it in terms of how many hours does it take to obtain an item. “Ok it only takes two hours to get that item that you could pay for.” That’s not pay-to-win. But it is pay-to-win if your character is a little harder to see than all the other characters out there because they have better camouflage. So that’s kinda pay-to-win if nobody can get that by just playing the game.
RZ Meaning it’s only available through actual dollars.
JM Or through an incredible amount of work that nobody would be able to reasonably do.
PF Wait! What are some famously pay-to-win games?
JM I can think of one off the top of my head. It’s Black Desert Online. I believe it’s a Korean massively multiplayer online game and they launched it in American market and they took out many of the pay-to-win aspects of the game, and then sadly, over time, reintroduced those—those gameplay mechanics very subtly. In other cultures it is accepted to have pay-to-win mechanics especially in free-to-play games. Free-to-play games—it’s hard to argue that there shouldn’t be the ability to buy power—
RZ Well they’re free.
JM They’re free!
RZ I mean Fortnite is free, no?
JM It is free. It is indeed free and it has no purchasable mechanic that you can buy that gives you an advantage over other players. There have been ever so slight instances of things that could give you a small edge but they weren’t intended to do so. So, yes.
RZ So what do you pay for?
PF Cool outfits.
JM [Crosstalking] You pay for outfits, emotes, skins, vehicle wraps, all sorts of different things, loading screens.
PF See I’m cool with that, actually. That I’m ok with. You’re gonna get together with your friends, play a silly game—
RZ Buy an outfit.
PF Buy—and you wanna represent yourself and you’re gonna spend ten bucks.
RZ That you’re cool with?
PF Yeah, why not?
PF Yeah, cuz it’s not—that’s just people spending their money on folly. Like that’s—
RZ Well it’s not gambling, right? It’s not—
PF It’s not manipulative in a—it’s manipulative in a marketing way but not in a like human psychology hack way where, “We’re gonna compulsively make you buy outfits.”
JM And here’s your last—let’s say ‘gaming phrase’ of the day is that Fortnite also introduced a concept that has made its way into I assume at this point hundreds of games and they were the first to do it in terms of monetization. They introduced the concept of ‘the battle pass’. And that concept has made its way into Call of Duty and many other games including sports games. So, I’m sure they found another way to call it. But essentially it’s a deterministic line of loot that you are going to earn from playing that game just by playing the game, and it shows you everything you’re going to earn if you put the work in on a giant timeline. If you get to level ten, you get this great new pickaxe. If you get to level 20, you’re gonna be able to play as this new skin. And battle passes are revolutionary marketing vehicles for selling progression based unlocks to players without it sounding and looking like a loot box. You’ll actually see that if somebody did kind of a [sic] archeological looking back on this that Call of Duty tried to adopt the battle pass but then they at different steps along the way, added loot boxes to it. So at level five you get a loot box because they thought, “Maybe we won’t get in trouble if we just put our loot boxes in occasionally. But, yeah, the battle passes is currently I think the biggest trend you’ll see in games is the idea of paying or even for free getting access to a progression that you can see.
RZ I think these are all manipulative, to be frank, I think they are all about progress and achievement and I think the common denominator here between, frankly, NBA Underground 2 and Facebook is about revenue extraction. I think ultimately you are a node in which there are very smart people, very thoughtful—frankly, product managers just sitting in front of a whiteboard and thinking about how they can present opportunities for value where it can be extracted from the individual, sometimes subtly, sometimes not so. I’m glad there’s a place like the Switch where you—yeah, it’s 60 bucks. The games are expensive but it’s Mario Kart and it’s great. And it’s just the whole game is right there in front of you. J Mack, did you ever play Journey?
JM Yeah! I played Journey. I cried at the end. Once I made it to the very end I could not beli—It was a very emotional experience. I think it is for a lot of people and in the end of it I was blown away by how just interesting it could be with no dialogue and just another person interacting with you. It was—
RZ Let’s highlight this for the listeners and Paul, in the game you’re alone in the desert—
PF Mm hmm.
RZ—and then at one point—
JM We should say: this is a huge spoiler if you haven’t played Journey, by the way. You should probably skip this section if you haven’t played Journey.
RZ Yeah, no, no, you run into a person, another person. And all it is is another person playing Journey. You can’t talk to them. They look a little different than you but it’s pretty much the same person and you interact just by kind of cluing each other through your actions. And they pair one to one—a multiplayer—And so that’s it. That’s it.
PF Ok so it’s not non-player. It’s an actual human being.
JM And there’s no indication that it’s another player. So you actually—for the first however long you suspend—
RZ For the first hour playing the game it feels like one-player game and then this person shows up and it’s just another player that they’ve plucked out of the—
JM [Crosstalking] And you have no idea. Yeah. It seems like a really intelligent AI at first, perhaps. Where like, “Wow! I’ve never seen that kind of random behavior.” It definitely takes a minute to realize.
RZ This has been great. I mean, I’m a little sad. I thank God for the Switch and thank God for the indie gaming scene. There are some beautiful, beautiful indie games.
PF But wait, we’ll put some in but where does this go? What is the future of Triple-A games if they’re just gonna become—like how many more polygons do we need?
RZ Did you think after Transformers the movie came out did you think they were gonna be able to do anything else? [Laughs]
PF Oh God.
RZ It’s the splintering off, right? I think you’ve got the big budget blockbuster summer movies and then you’ve got, you know, the indie films that are actually the ones that are really interesting oftentimes and engaging.
JM It’s going to virtual reality. That’s what you were wondering, by the way, is: where is it going? Virtual reality is what we have to conquer next. It has to have a good user experience and the end of this month is when the first Triple-A virtual reality title comes out. Half-Life: Alyx comes out at the end of this month.
PF It’s another Half-Life! I want it real bad! That’s the last game I really took to.
RZ Half-Life 2 was spectac—I mean—
PF Are you doin’ it, J Mack?
JM Of course! Of course. I’ve been a VR early adopter and I may get motion sick in many of the titles but I still wanted to experience it and yeah, I’m very excited.
PF What’s the helmet I should buy?
JM The Oculus Quest is the easiest entry level helmet that you can get because it’s a standalone unit; you don’t have to have a high power PC to drive it and it has a lot of titles on it. That said, I don’t think the Oculus Quest is getting Half-Life: Alyx right away. I believe you’re gonna need to have a PC for that.
PF Are you plugged in via—
PF Oh boy.
RZ It’s all tangled up.
JM So for the Quest you’re not plugged into anything. The Quest is a battery powered headset that you wear on your head but for the PC, for the most part you’re plugged in. There are some really bleeding edge ways of having a not-plugged-in experience that involve wearing a backpack.
RZ Yeah, I mean, look this is a parallel world to our world but it is fascinating to see where it’s gone—
PF It’s hundreds of billions of dollars—
RZ It’s hundreds of billions of dollars; it’s a little sad; it’s a little seedy.
PF You could say the same about building software as a service when, you know, the web used to be wonderful and open and transparent.
JM Or collecting watches. Whatever.
PF Yeah, you’re right.
RZ Oh shit!
PF Literally everything Rich does.
RZ That’s messed up. That’s messed up. [Paul laughs] J Mack! Thank you so much for doing this. Really fascinating.
PF I like knowing about these whole worlds. You know, as I’m listening, I’m like, “Boy, is this too basic for people?” But it’s all news to me.
RZ Well, to me it’s about interactivity. I don’t know who has better thought through the onboarding experience of anything than game designers.
PF Yes and no because, for God’s sake, sometimes you’re like 20 menus in and you’re like, “I don’t wanna pick my knee pads. I wanna just fly the spaceship.” [Music fades in]
RZ There’s this snowboarder game and they’ve got the—they nailed the physics and the math around—
PF Snow just shoots everywhere.
RZ Not just that, it’s like you had to kinda walk through it cuz it was knee high and it was mush—squishing in and I start snowboarding and I’m like, “My God, this is incredible.” And I finished it. It was like a training run.
RZ So I could learn the mechanics and the button assignments and all that. And I finish it and I was like, “Alright! Let’s race.” And the guy goes, “Hey, dude, aren’t you cold? We gotta get you a jacket!” [Laughs] [Paul sighs] [Laughing] Next thing I know I’m shopping for scarves and hats!
PF Yeah, yeah.
RZ I’m like, “C’mon just let me just snowboard.”
PF No, you need a scarf.
RZ Lemme just snowboard. Anyway, we are not a game developing studio.
PF No, but we like to understand the big digital world.
RZ We do. All aspects of it [mm hmm]. And we are Postlight.
PF email@example.com is how you can reach us.
RZ How you can reach us—we are a digital products studio here in New York City. Amazing design; engineering; and product thinking brought to bear for all your digital needs!
PF Let us build something big . . . with you.
PF It’ll be great. We’re good at it. Alright, friends, firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll see you soon.
PF Bye [music ramps up, plays alone for three seconds, fades out to end].