Hunting Sea of Thieves’ most elusive shark, and more from Speedrun

Secrets are scarce in modern video games. And I don’t mean easter eggs that anyone with a working internet can find hours after a game releases — I mean actual, honest-to-god secrets.

So it should come as no surprise that the Speedrun crew had to return to 1997 to find one. In the years when message boards and forum threads reigned supreme, something as innocuous as a hazy island in the 64-bit distance could drive players into a frenzy. Such was the case on the Dam level in the FPS classic Goldeneye 007. Through the lens of a sniper rifle, players could see a small pack of buildings across a large reservoir. Was it a bonus area? An allusion to the movie? The end point of some secret passageway hidden earlier in the level?

With the help of GameSharks and noclip cheats, players eventually discovered what many had feared: it was nothing. Just a leftover production asset the team at Rare never got around to finishing. But at that point, it almost didn’t matter. The myth of the island had already taken root.

This serves as a gateway into the idea we explored in this week’s episodes of Speedrun: how players, just as much as developers, create the stories in the games we play.

This led us to a more recent legend: the Shrouded Ghost in Sea of Thieves . The massive, glowing shark is one of the open-world pirate game’s most elusive achievements. Our West Coast correspondent Mari Takahashi joined streamer BBXH to investigate the legend surrounding the Ghost, and the results were not disappointing: even with such a dedicated player base, no one actually knows what spawns the shark, or where it’s going to appear at any given time. In many ways, the legends surrounding the Shrouded Ghost are more exciting than the actual Ghost. I’m reminded of the scene in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, when Bill Murray and his crew come face to face with the fabled Jaguar Shark they’ve been hunting for so long. It comes, it lingers, and then it’s gone again.

Lastly, we explored the bizarre story of Warframe’s most infamous character, Clem. Although he began as a community creation — an inside joke, really, in the early days of Warframe’s now massive community — he eventually made his way into the game. We spoke to Alex Mcguire, the tumblr artist who first created the character in his comic series “The Chronicles of Clem,” and Rebecca Ford, one of the developers responsible for adding him into Warframe proper. It’s a reassuring story about the relationship between a studio and its players, at a time when “living games” are a dime a dozen.

So, yes — legally speaking, studios and publishers own the games they make. But in a broader sense, it’s often the players that really make a game. They lend it their own imagination, their own conspiracies and head canons and politics. They search every nook and cranny for something undiscovered, only to discover that there’s nothing left to find. And at that point, they do the only thing they know how: they create something of their own.

Next week on Speedrun, we’re bringing on comedians Reggie Watts, Adam Conover, and Mike Drucker to explore the untapped potential of comedy in video games. We had a blast making those episodes, and as always, they’re come of my favorite yet. I’ll see you then.


The Secret movie, Host, and everything else you can now watch at home

The release date for Christopher Nolan’s Tenet has been bumped around several times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it looks like things might finally have settled down for the new movie. The film is set to open in 50 territories at the end of August (including Canada, the United Kingdom, and Korea), and will open in the U.S. in states that have reopened theaters on Sept. 3.

Regal Cinemas are among those set to reopen, as the chain plans to reopen locations beginning Aug. 21. According to the new safety guidelines on their website, masks will be required in the lobby, hallways, and restrooms, but not in the theaters themselves, where patrons will be allowed to eat and drink.

Meanwhile, the first coronavirus romance show is already on the way, in the form of Love in the Time of Corona. Someone actually did it.

As for what’s available to watch right now, here are the new movies you can catch from the comfort of home.

The Secret: Dare to Dream

Where to watch it: Rent on digital, $19.99 on Amazon, Apple, and Google Play

Katie Holmes and Jerry O’Connell in The Secret: Dare to Dream. Photo: Roadside Attractions

The popular self-help book The Secret gets a movie adaptation in the form of The Secret: Dare to Dream, which stars Katie Holmes as a widow doing her best to raise her three children. Josh Lucas co-stars as a mysterious handyman who brings the power of positive thinking into the family’s life.


Where to watch it: Streaming on Shudder

a video chat window in ho=st Image: Shudder

Filmmaker Rob Savage shot a horror movie entirely in quarantine. The result is Host, which focuses on a group of friends’ weekly video call. The most recent activity they’ve decided on is holding a séance, and though it’s originally just a prank, the séance actually allows a demonic presence to cross over and wreak havoc on their lives — all seen via video chat.

The Fight

Where to watch it: Buy on digital, $12.99 on Google Play, $14.99 on Apple, $19.99 on Amazon

a look inside the aclu offices in the fight Photo: Magnolia Pictures

The documentary The Fight follows five lawyers at the American Civil Liberties Union as they fight four cases, including that of a migrant mother being separated from her child, and of a transgender soldier at risk of losing his career. As the ACLU becomes an increasingly pivotal force in the fight for justice, this documentary provides a concrete look at what the organization does, and how hard the people involved work to protect our freedom.


Where to watch it: Rent on digital, $3.99 on Amazon, $6.99 on Apple

Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Gemma Arterton in Summerland. Photo: Lionsgate

Gemma Arterton stars as Alice Lamb, a writer who, due to her reclusive nature, is thought of by the local children as a witch. Things begin to change when, as a part of the war effort during World War II, she is made the caretaker of a young boy. As she reluctantly takes on her new responsibility, she also recalls a past relationship with another writer, Vera (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), with whom she’d once been in love.

Yes, God, Yes

Where to watch it: Rent on digital, $6.99 on Amazon, Apple, and Google Play

natalia dyer in yes, god, yes Photo: Vertical Entertainment

Stranger Things’ Natalia Dyer stars in this coming-of-age comedy as a Catholic teenager coming to terms with her sexuality. Her guilt over masturbation sends her to a religious retreat, but her urges only become harder to suppress when one of the other campers starts flirting with her. But maybe being good and devout is more than just being chaste.

New on Netflix this weekend

And here’s what dropped last Friday:

The Rental

Where to watch it: Rent on digital, $5.99 on Amazon, $6.99 on Apple and Google Play

Alison Brie as Michelle in Dave Franco’s THE RENTAL Photo: IFC Films

Dave Franco’s directorial debut focuses on two couples (played by Alison Brie, Dan Stevens, Sheila Vand, and Jeremy Allen White) who rent a vacation home, but begin to suspect that the house’s owner is spying on them. From our review:

In film, voyeurism is only as interesting as the person committing the act. […] Because voyeurism films are psychological to a fault, they often lead to rich character studies by asking why the antagonist or protagonist is spying on someone. Because of a paraphilia? Because of a latent trauma? Or are they just nosy? The Rental, the directorial debut of actor Dave Franco (Now You See Me, The Disaster Artist) sidesteps those questions to its own detriment while following two couples renting a lavish coastal home for the weekend. The dialogue-heavy script, written by Franco and Joe Swanberg (Netflix’s Easy), positions The Rental as a character drama rather than a prototypical thriller. As the story unfolds, it reveals simmering tensions between the couples, due to their respective secrets.


Where to watch it: Buy on digital, $3.99 on Amazon, $6.99 on Apple and Google Play

Two people at the bottom of a staircase, looking up, in Romola Garai’s horror movie Amulet. Photo: Nick Wall / Magnet Releasing

Romola Garai also makes her directorial debut this week with Amulet. The film, which Garai also wrote, stars Alec Secăreanu as a homeless ex-soldier who is offered a place to stay by a young woman and her dying mother. The ramshackle house they inhabit, however, seems to be home to an eerie, supernatural force as well.

Fisherman’s Friends

Where to watch it: Buy on digital, $3.99 on Google Play, $4.49 on Amazon, $4.99 on Apple

a group of men singing Photo: Samuel Goldwyn Films

This romantic comedy tells a sort of fish-out-of-water story as Danny, a cynical big-city music executive, falls for a prank that involves his signing a group of shanty-singing fishermen. His attempt to bring them to stardom comes into conflict with their insistence on putting their community first and how little they care about fame, but ends up teaching him the importance of friendship and love.


Where to watch it: Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

rosamund pike as marie curie Photo: StudioCanal

Rosamund Pike stars as Marie Curie in this biopic of the pioneering chemist. The film, directed by Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis), is based on the graphic novel by Lauren Redniss, covers both Curie’s work and her personal life, from her discovery of polonium and radium to her relationships with her partner Pierre (Sam Riley) and her colleague Paul Langevin (Aneurin Barnard).


Beyond Good & Evil movie coming to Netflix

A film adaptation of Beyond Good & Evil, the cult-classic 2003 adventure from Ubisoft, is in the works at Netflix from Detective Pikachu director Rob Letterman, a Ubisoft representative confirmed to Polygon.

“We’re excited to work with Netflix on the Beyond Good & Evil feature film and we look forward to sharing more in the future,” said Ubisoft in a statement.

The news, which was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, comes only a day after reports of an animated Splinter Cell series also coming to Netflix.

The movie will be a “hybrid live-action/animated feature,” according to The Hollywood Reporter, similar to Detective Pikachu. It will be produced by Jason Altman and Margaret Boykin of Ubisoft Film & Television, the French publisher’s internal division for big- and small-screen projects. The Hollywood Reporter reports that the project is in “early development,” saying that Letterman and the producers are currently searching for a writer to adapt the video game — although it’s currently unclear how closely the film will hew to the game’s plot.

Beyond Good & Evil debuted in late 2003 on GameCube, PlayStation 2, Windows PC, and Xbox. Set more than 400 years in the future, the story follows a photojournalist named Jade in her attempt to expose an alien conspiracy. Despite being a commercial failure, the game became a cult classic over the year. In 2017, Ubisoft announced a prequel named Beyond Good & Evil 2, but the publisher hasn’t said much about it since E3 2018.


Hellpoint beginner’s guide

Hellpoint asks “what if H.R. Giger and Dark Souls had a baby” (or Facehuggered a new game into Dark Souls, in this case). It blends a creepy, space station in hell atmosphere with the brutal difficulty and general confusion found in a FromSoftware game.

In our opening hours with Hellpoint, we made some avoidable mistakes. In this guide, we’ll teach you how to avoid some of these pitfalls, so you can focus on surviving the game’s first few areas.

Go slowly, make a plan, and watch your feet

Hellpoint player character with a sword
The Hellpoint player character stands in a dark room
Image: Cradle Games/Tiny Build

Hellpoint is deeply committed to FromSoftware’s obfuscation of systems and desire to kill you. From the moment you leave your first Breach (Hellpoint’s equivalent of a Dark Souls bonfire), you’re in danger from all sides.

When you’re adventuring into areas you haven’t seen before, go slow. Ease forward and peer around corners. Make a mental note of where enemies are in a room. Determine your attack plan: Is it easiest to take out the difficult enemies first, or do you need to clear the fodder so you don’t get overwhelmed? Before you enter a new room or walk by an alley, swing your camera around to see any enemies waiting to ambush you.

This hyper focus can also be your undoing. At least one enemy — the Angelic Knight near the start of the game — can attack you from below and at a distance. If you’re looking around a new room for foes, make sure to keep your eyes on your back and your feet. Something may just try and take advantage of your own blind spots.

Spread your Attribute points around

Hellpoint player fights a snake lion boss
An early boss in Hellpoint
Image: Cradle Games/Tiny Build

If you’re familiar with Souls games, you may go in knowing that you like big, heavy weapons and be tempted to dump all of your attribute points into Strength. Don’t force yourself into a corner too soon. Early in Hellpoint, spread the love between multiple stat points, as many weapons require both Strength and Reflex.

There is no class selection in Hellpoint, so you’ll start at a baseline every time. Give yourself at least four points in Strength, Reflex, Health, and Stamina before you get too specific.

Once you have some weapons and armor you like, then feel free to specialize a bit more. But for your first few levels, you should even yourself out a bit.

Experiment with weapons before you invest in them

Hellpoint character with a sword and shield
Many areas in Hellpoint are multi-leveled
Image: Cradle Games/Tiny Build

Finding a weapon you love is important in any difficult game like Hellpoint. Many weapons require serious stat investment before you can use them properly and deal serious damage. But you can start playing with weapons even before you have the required stats.

Wielding a weapon you don’t have the stats for only hinders its lethality, not the flow of its combos. If a weapon seems appealing, equip it and try a few swings before you invest a bunch of Attribute points in its direction.

Use weapons to unlock abilities

Enemies standing around a body in Hellpoint
There are loads of demons around Hellpoint’s futuristic space station
Image: Cradle Games/Tiny Build

After you find a good weapon in Hellpoint, use it. Some weapons have special abilities that you can spend Energy (mana you recharge by striking enemies) to activate. But to unlock these abilities, you’ll need to use your weapon in combat.

You can also use currency to upgrade weapons so they deal more damage. You’ll need to sink precious resources into these weapons to power them up, so it’s best to spend on something you know you already like. Stick what you know, and only swap when you find something that fits your play style better. Remember: Test before you invest.

Look up and around

A big tower and the player character in Hellpoint
Hellpoint is a mix of occult and sci-fi
Image: Cradle Games/Tiny Build

One of Hellpoint’s only major departures from the Souls games is the inclusion of a jump button. Thanks to this mechanic, we’ve seen at least one extensive and optional climbing section. If you complete this obstacle course (located on the roof of the Observatory), you can pick up some loot and a ton of Axions (currency like Souls).

Hellpoint rewards jumping around and exploring different areas, and you can give yourself a huge boost in Axions, offensive, and defensive gear just by clearing out an area and exploring a little. That last bit probably sounds familiar for Souls players, so just keep in mind that Hellpoint also wants you to look up, too.

Go home

Hellpoint man using a sword to fight a multi-limbed boss
Bosses range from cool to creepy in Hellpoint
Image: Cradle Games/Tiny Build

The Observatory is your home base in Hellpoint — the equivalent of Firelink Shrine in Dark Souls. It houses a crafting station, a healing station, and a weapon augmentation station. Return here and power yourself up on occasion, especially if you’re struggling, but make sure you have Axions before you travel.

Key services like upgrading your weapon costs Axions, as well as special materials you find while playing. If you spend all of your currency upgrading your Attributes, you might arrive home too poor to upgrade your weapons. If you know a return to the Observatory could come soon, make sure to save a few thousand Axions.

Save your Breach Synchronizers

Hellpoint character fighting an enemy with a gun
Hellpoint offers a wide variety of enemy types, including these flying bird reptiles
Image: Cradle Games/Tiny Build

Getting back to the Observatory isn’t always easy. To fast travel, you need to infuse a Breach with a Breach Synchronizer. In our time with the game, we’ve only found a handful of these. Once you infuse a Breach, you can’t get your Synchronizer back, so choose wisely. We created one per area and just hoofed it the rest of the time.

It’s worth noting that you can use large Breaches, which seem to spawn after you kill a boss, to fast travel back to the Observatory, or even other Breaches without needing a Synchronizer.

Visit nearby Breaches frequently

Image: Cradle Games/Tiny Build

Resting at a Breach does not respawn all of the enemies you killed, nor does it refill your health items.

Since you don’t respawn enemies when you visit a Breach, you can level up your character without having to clear an entire area again. This makes depositing your Axions the safe thing to do before adventuring forward. You’ll drop all of the Axions you’re holding if you die, and you’ll need to return to your body to retrieve them.

If you’re heading into an unfamiliar area with a boatload of Axions, make a quick trip back to empower your character.

As you deal damage, you’ll regain charges for your Healing Injection — visiting a Breach won’t restore any charges. If you’re low on health and Healing Injections you have three options: go heal at the healing station in the Observatory, fight enemies until you get more Healing Injector charges, or die. When you die, you’ll respawn with two Healing Injector charges.


Halo Infinite multiplayer will be free-to-play

Halo Infinite’s multiplayer experience will be free-to-play and will support 120-frames-per-second action on Xbox Series X, developer 343 Industries confirmed Friday afternoon.

The information was first published on an Irish toy retailer’s website. According to The Verge, Smyths Toys Superstores — a large retailer in Ireland and the U.K. — briefly published a promotional page with information about the Xbox Series X and Halo Infinite. The page was removed, but cached version are available online.

On the website, Smyths wrote that Halo Infinite will have a “groundbreaking free-to-play multiplayer experience.” It also noted that gameplay will run at 120fps with “greatly reduced load times.”

Following up on the information, an Xbox leaker also added that Halo Infinite will have a battle pass system and “customization options completely new to Halo.” This leaker has previously provided accurate information on Halo Infinite, according to The Verge.

Developer 343 Industries revealed Halo Infinite gameplay during the Xbox Games Showcase on July 23. However, 343 Industries declined to comment on the game’s multiplayer, noting that new information would be available in the coming months. In a blog post published Thursday, 343 Industries said it’s not sure “what is going to be possible” with regards to a potential multiplayer beta period. “We still hope to have an opportunity for broader public hands-on before release,” the developer said.

A number of games have moved to the free-to-play multiplayer format following Fortnite’s success. Battle royale games, in particular, have made the format quite popular, whether that’s with Fortnite, Apex Legends, or Call of Duty: Warzone.

Halo Infinite is expected to be released alongside the Xbox Series X later this year. It’ll come to Xbox Game Pass immediately.

Update (4:55 p.m. EDT): The team at 343 Industries confirmed Friday afternoon on Twitter that Halo Infinite’s multiplayer will be free-to-play and will support 120 fps on Xbox Series X. We’ve updated the original article to reflect that.


Pokémon Go Dragon Week 2020 event guide

Pokémon Go is hosting a dragon-themed event as a reward for fulfilling goals from Pokémon Go Fest.

Dragon Week takes place from July 31 at 4 p.m. ET until Aug. 7 at 4 p.m. ET. Keep in mind that these times are not in your local time.

During the event, dragon-type Pokémon and Pokémon that evolve into dragon-types will be spawning in abundance, which means this a good chance to grab Gible. Dragon-types will also be hatching out of seven kilometer eggs, so make sure to open gifts from friends to get a chance at Gible and Deino. These two Pokémon are very rare and they evolve into complete powerhouses.

Deino is also getting its Shiny form released.

Deino, Zweilous, and Hydreigon stand next to their Shiny forms, which turn their blue body green. Graphic: Julia Lee/Polygon | Image sources: Niantic/The Pokémon Company

Rayquaza will also be showing up in five-star raids during the event period, and it’ll be available to nab Shiny, if you’re lucky.

There’s Timed Research to complete as well. Players who complete the research will be able to grab two Deino, so make sure to use Pinap Berries on it to collect as much candy as you can.

Ultra Unlock 2020 Step 1 of 5

  • Power up Pokémon 5 times (3 Hyper Potions)
  • Make 5 nice throws (500 XP)
  • Catch 3 dragon-type Pokémon (5 Poké Balls)

Reward: 500 Stardust, Dratini encounter, 1 Silver Pinap Berry

Step 2 of 5

  • Evolve 3 Pokémon (3 Revives)
  • Make 7 nice throws (500 XP)
  • Catch 5 dragon-type Pokémon (7 Poké Balls)

Reward: 500 Stardust, Bagon encounter, 1 Silver Pinap Berry

Step 3 of 5

  • Win a raid (1 Fast TM)
  • Make an excellent throw (1,000 XP)
  • Catch 7 dragon-type Pokémon (5 Great Balls)

Reward: 500 Stardust, Deino encounter, 1 Silver Pinap Berry

Step 4 of 5

  • Defeat 3 Team Rocket grunts (1 Dragon Scale)
  • Make 3 excellent throws (1,500 XP)
  • Catch 9 different species of Pokémon (7 Great Balls)

Reward: 1,000 Stardust, Alolan Exeggutor encounter, 1 Silver Pinap Berry

Step 5 of 5

  • Claim reward (2,500 XP)
  • Claim reward (2,500 XP)
  • Claim reward (2,500 XP)

Reward: 1,000 Stardust, Deino encounter, 1 Silver Pinap berry


The personal experiences that Lev and Yara’s actors brought to The Last of Us Part 2

Both Ian Alexander and Victoria Grace had never worked on a video game before, and neither had any prior experience with performance capture. However, in a recent interview with Polygon, both agreed that playing the Seraphite siblings in The Last of Us Part II was one of the most transformative experiences they ever had.

Alexander plays Lev, a former member of the in-game extremist religious sect called the Seraphites; he accompanies Abby throughout much of her journey. Alexander previously had live-action acting roles in Netflix’s original series The OA as Buck Vu and Vic in the 2018 film, Every Day.

Naughty Dog actually reached out to him directly — well, almost directly. At the time, Alexander didn’t have any representation, so Naughty Dog contacted The OA’s director, Zal Batmanlij, in order to ask him to pass on information about the role of Lev to Alexander and his mother. While he didn’t live in Los Angeles at the time, Alexander submitted a few self-taped auditions, and then he booked the role.

Alexander told Polygon that he spent the next three years working on The Last of Us Part II, during which time he felt incredibly supported and appreciated by the Naughty Dog team. “I remember feeling so special to have been selected for the role of Lev and having the opportunity to bring my own lived experience as a trans person to the table,” he said.

Grace, on the other hand, said that she was already familiar with The Last of Us and was well aware of the first game’s achievements and accolades within the video game industry. She played the role of Yara, the older sister of Lev. Her mother had actually found the opportunity through a job listing that contained a breakdown of Yara’s character.

At that time, The Last of Us Part II was described under a code name and the project was highly confidential. After sending an audition tape, Grace got invited to the motion capture stage for her callback. She met with Neil Druckmann and acted in a few scenes with Laura Bailey and Halley Gross.

Victoria Grace and Ian Alexander
Victoria Grace (left) and Ian Alexander (right) pose for a photo in their motion capture suits.
Image: Victoria Grace

Eventually Grace found out she had landed the role. She was especially happy, she said, because Yara’s description in the initial job posting had resonated so much with her: “I was immediately attached to Yara because of her strength, bravery, and selflessness.” Grace continued, “Her character breakdown described how she was willing to sacrifice everything she’s ever known for her younger brother. After reading it, I admired her and everything she stood for.”

Grace is the youngest of her five siblings. She noted that her views about family unconsciously carried over to her portrayal of Yara. Of course, Grace can’t relate to being an older sibling, much less living in a zombie apocalypse. However, she described how her close bonds with her own family allowed her to better understand the motivations behind Yara’s actions to protect Lev in The Last of Us Part II’s brutal world. “I would take a hammer to the arm for any of my siblings, and I know they’d do the same for me,” she says, referring to the graphic violence Yara endures during the scene in which the two siblings get introduced.

That very first scene introducing Lev and Yara was especially memorable for Grace; it’s quite the explosive entrance for both characters. Being thrown into an action sequence immediately was exhilarating, Grace recalled: “I got knocked down onto mats, I got to kill people with styrofoam hammers, and I got to scream my heart out! It was a blast!” When Grace wasn’t filming, she said that it was fascinating to watch behind-the-scenes as everyone else performed their parts. She would sometimes arrive early just to sit back and watch the other actors.

Lev and Yara from The Last of Us Part II
The Last of Us Part II creative team introduced fans to Lev and Yara’s characters at the PlayStation Experience 2017 event, using this image as an illustration.
Image: Naughty Dog

A big turning point in both Grace and Alexander’s journeys was the PlayStation Experience 2017 event, or PSX. This was when both Yara and Lev were publicly introduced for the first time to fans. For Alexander in particular, he felt empowered by all the support that the community showed him during the event. A fan actually came out to Alexander as trans during a signing portion at the event, and told Alexander that they were so happy to see a character like Lev included in their favorite game franchise of all time.

“I remember seeing how their face lit up the moment that they saw the transgender symbol necklace I was wearing,” Alexander explained. “It makes me smile to be able to provide authentic transmasculine representation for other people like me.”

Alexander told me that his prior acting experiences playing trans characters prepared him to handle critique, as well as to be his own authentic self during his performances. His parents struggled to accept his gender identity, even as he took on roles in The OA and Every Day that put a spotlight on the trans experience. Alexander described how he was able to draw from his personal experiences when portraying Buck Vu and Vic, respectively. Portraying Lev was a much more rigorous adventure than his previous ones, he said: “Each role I’ve played has felt like an extension of myself, and so I definitely felt like Lev was the braver, post-apocalyptic version of myself.“

Lev’s storyline and portrayal as a trans character in The Last of Us Part II has inspired a lot of deep analysis, particularly around the way that Lev’s status as a trans person is revealed (the other Seraphites call Lev by his birth name). Waverly at Paste Magazine described Lev’s storyline as a trans narrative as told through a “cisgender voyeur” lens. Other critics, like frequent Polygon contributor Carolyn Petit, praised the game for portraying Lev as someone who “doesn’t hate himself” and who believes he deserves better.

Alexander told me that he completely understands where people are coming from in their criticism. Trans representation is still a new concept to a large number of executives in the entertainment industry. Alexander said that he feels providing full agency for trans characters to disclose their gender identities can make for powerful storylines, when told through a trans person’s perspective.

Alexander also explained that he felt like The Last of Us Part II accurately portrays his own personal experience dealing with transphobia in real life, as well as his own personal turmoil over the religion he grew up with, Mormonism, and his acceptance of his own gender identity.

“From my perspective as a transmasculine person who has faced transphobic discrimination as a result of religion and overall ignorance, it’s not uncommon for me to be misgendered by a stranger or by someone from my past,” he explained. He said that he personally did not feel triggered or retraumatized by the use of Lev’s birth name during the game. However, he also clarified that his experience is solely his own and that he cannot speak on behalf of every trans person.

There are some similarities, and also some differences, between Alexander’s and Lev’s life stories. Rather than abandoning what he was taught as a Seraphite, Lev decided to use his faith to comfort him through hardship. In the game, he tells Abby that the Seraphites have misinterpreted the words of the prophet that were supposed to be about peace and unity, and they have instead chosen violence and hatred.

Alexander told me he did the complete opposite of what Lev did. In order to cope and heal from the discrimination he faced from his own family, he chose to disconnect from his own faith. Even so, he elaborated that he believes that Lev’s own principles are what actually drives his actions, with his religion being the motivation for his empathy.

Although they took different paths, this is where Alexander said he could really see himself in Lev. “Even when his faith is used against him by other Seraphites or Abby, he still holds onto his moral compass to guide him … We both just want to be true to ourselves, do the morally right thing, and to protect the ones we love.“

He also told me that the racial diversity represented in The Last of Us Part II meant a lot to him. Lev and Yara are Asian American, but their racial identities don’t really have anything to do with their own character arcs. For Alexander, he said that it’s refreshing to see Asian, Latinx, and Black characters just simply exist in the game’s world and not have to be defined by their own racial identities.

Grace agreed, noting that when it comes to characters of color, it is common for the story to place an emphasis on their backgrounds. She said that she felt like The Last of Us Part II provided a truer picture of representation, one that reflects the real world.

“If someone asked me which characteristics I would use to describe Yara and Lev, ‘being Asian’ wouldn’t be my first thought, because Neil and Halley are so great at developing three-dimensional characters,” Grace said.

Motion capture actors working on The Last of Us Part II Image: Victoria Grace

Both actors believe that being involved in this game will open the door for more opportunities for themselves in other realms of the entertainment industry. Alexander acknowledged that he has absolutely seen a difference in the industry in the last few years, especially now that trans people are more visible than ever.

Alexander also emphasized the importance of trans people being involved in every step of the production process, both in front of the camera and behind it. “I’m also really eager to see how the industry will uplift Black and Indigenous trans voices, who have been ignored and silenced for far too long.”

Grace is grateful that Druckmann took a chance on her to be a part of Naughty Dog’s latest story. “As far as representation goes, I’m hoping that Part II will inspire other creators and writers to push for more inclusive stories. Not only in video games, but in the media as a whole.”

Hopefully, having played such important characters in Part II will lead to more roles in future video games for Alexander and Grace, too. Since Grace had such a fun time on set, one of her new goals is to participate in more performance motion capture roles.

At Grace’s call back, Druckmann asked her if she played video games. Although she was familiar with The Last of Us, she replied honestly by saying “No, I’m not really allowed … ” and he laughed, nodding his head in understanding. “That wasn’t a very smart thing to say, from a business perspective, but what was done was done,” she recalled with a smile.

As a result of working with Naughty Dog, she has started playing more video games and absolutely loves them. “I would now call myself a gamer, albeit not a very good one, but I’m getting there. It’s thanks to Naughty Dog and Part II.”


The Cowboy Bebop soundtrack is coming to vinyl this fall

One week after the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack debuted on Spotify comes news of a new physical edition: The music will be released globally on vinyl this fall, Milan Records announced Friday.

Known as Cowboy Bebop (Original Series Soundtrack), the 22-track double-LP gatefold set is scheduled to be released Nov. 6. It will mark the first time that the music from Shinichirō Watanabe’s acclaimed late-’90s anime — by Japanese band Seatbelts — has been available on vinyl outside of Japan.

cover artwork for the vinyl LP set Cowboy Bebop (Original Series Soundtrack), featuring Faye Valentine sitting on the left and Spike Spiegel smoking on the right
The cover artwork for Cowboy Bebop (Original Series Soundtrack).
Image: Toshihiro Kawamoto/Milan Records

The package will come in a variety of colors, with different ones available at Milan Records, Mondo, Light in the Attic, Right Stuf, and Newbury Comics. And it will feature exclusive cover artwork by Toshihiro Kawamoto, character designer and animation director on Cowboy Bebop. Pre-orders for the vinyl set will go live Aug. 6 at Milan Records’ store. The company has yet to announce pricing; we’ve reached out for more details, and we’ll update this article with any information we receive.

Cowboy Bebop debuted in Japan in 1998 and ran for just 26 episodes, but became one of the world’s most famous and beloved anime. The show follows a bounty hunter named Spike Spiegel and his crew on adventures throughout space. Cowboy Bebop is particularly renowned for its jazzy soundtrack by Seatbelts, including its opening theme, “Tank!”

If you’re looking to rewatch Cowboy Bebop itself, it’s streaming on Hulu. In addition, Netflix is currently producing a live-action adaptation starring John Cho as Spike Spiegel.

Here’s the complete track list for Cowboy Bebop (Original Series Soundtrack):

Side A

1. Tank!
2. Rush
3. Spokey Dokey
4. Bad Dog No Biscuits
5. Cat Blues

Side B

1. Cosmos
2. Space Lion
3. Waltz for Zizi
4. Piano Black
5. Pot City

Side C

1. Too Good Too Bad
2. Car 24
3. The Egg And I
4. Felt Tip Pen
5. Rain
6. Digging My Potato
7. Memory

Side D

1. What Planet Is This?
2. Diamonds
3. Mushroom Hunting
4. Einstein Groovin’
5. Pearls


Xbox reportedly to match PlayStation, remove Xbox Gold for F2P games

A new report from VentureBeat report Jeff Grubb states that Microsoft plans to remove Xbox Live Gold requirement from playing online and making MP free on Xbox platform for free to play games.

In a tweet posted on his account, Grubb says that it is “going away and playing online multiplayer will be free,” which would be massive for the platform.

Right now, there’s an entry barrier to play F2P MP games on Xbox. On Xbox, you cannot play free to play games either without Xbox Live while PlayStation lets you play F2P games without PS Plus.

But he does say in another tweet that “it’s going away entirely.”

Some reports have noticed as well that Xbox has removed the ability to buy 12 month or 24 month subscriptions on Xbox Live Gold.

Microsoft moving away from Xbox Live requirement for MP for F2P would be massive shift to align with Sony.

We will keep you updated.

The post Xbox reportedly to match PlayStation, remove Xbox Gold for F2P games appeared first on Charlie INTEL.


Epic Games Store adds mod support, MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries up first

The Epic Games Store is adding another piece of functionality that it lacks compared to competitors like Steam: mod support. The first title to participate in the beta launch of Epic Games Store Mods is MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries. An update is available to the game, and players will be able to mod the title through the Epic Games Store Launcher.

Adding mods can add massive appeal to a game and help to extend their lifespan. They allow players to change parts of the experience to suit their needs. Traditionally, mods had to be sort of hacked into a game. But, in 2011 Steam introduced the Steam Workshop, which allows players to manage their mods within the store client itself and automatically apply them to the game files stored locally on their machine. Now, Epic finally has a beta of that same technology.

In a blog post on the game’s official site, the MechWarrior 5 developers Piranha Games recommended a handful of mods that can change core mechanics, overhaul systems, expand enemy AI, and even turn the first- and third-person action game into a real-time strategy game. From Thursday’s announcement:

MechCommander Mercenaries by the MCM Team is a recently-announced and highly ambitious real-time strategy conversion of MW5. A complete genre change like this really speaks to the capabilities and flexibility of making mods for MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries in the Unreal Engine!

MW5 Mercs Reloaded by NavidA1, the most prolific creator in the MW5 Modding community, is not just a near ground-up expansion of ‘Mechs and the MechLab, but an ongoing rework of many core systems and a collection of great quality-of-life improvements.

MercTech by MagnumForceGB is a comprehensive overhaul of many core mechanics related to ‘Mechs and the MechLab, introducing an array of new weapons, equipment, and features inspired by traditional BattleTech systems and rules.

The TableTopRulez Lancemate and Enemy AI Mods by Oraeon1224 are two significant expansions on the AI systems in MW5, bringing greater complexity and visible levels of intelligence to the in-mission AI.

The MW5 Mod Compatibility Pack by Sketch is an amazing effort to increase compatibility between disparate Mods, enabling creators to focus their work and coordinate with other creators to unlock even greater potential in their Mods.

MechWarrior 5 will serve as a test case for Epic’s mod integration. This is just one of the features that Epic plans to add to their exclusive games launcher. In May, Epic Online Services launched, which provides a suite of tools like cross-play, cross-progression, unified matchmaking, and more free for developers. More quality of life improvements are coming to the Epic Games Store, like the ability to maintain a shopping cart and send gifts.