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Welcome to Noclip, a podcast about the people who play and make video games. Each episode Danny O'Dwyer tells a story from inside the world of gaming. Learn about how your favorite titles were made, discover gaming communities you couldn't have imagined, and gain a deeper appreciation for the people behind the code.

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Jan 14, 2019

In the first episode of the all-new-format Noclip podcast, we talk to Mikey Neumann about media criticism and his time working at Gearbox on games like Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, Brothers in Arms & Borderlands. (Recorded January 8th)

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Hosted by @dannyodwyer
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TRANSCRIPTION;

- [Danny] Hello, and welcome to the NoClip podcast, the fourth episode of the NoClip podcast. Though, in many ways, kind of the first episode of the NoClip podcast. There's a whole new format. Less edited, less produced, more chatty and conversational. If you still like those ones, don't worry. They're still gonna drop in on the feed. But generally it's gonna be a weekly show now, just me sitting down with a bunch of interesting people from the world of video games be it people who are in development or people who are streamers or journalists or maybe just somebody who plays games who's got an interesting story. Speaking of interesting stories, we have a person here who writes quite a lot of them. Or at least did in a prior life at Gearbox Software. Today, you can find him as a... I don't wanna say film critic. Maybe film connoisseur? Maybe he prefers to be called a YouTuber? I'm not quite sure. Let's ask the man himself. I am talking, of course, about the one and only, Mikey Neumann. Mikey, how you doing today, man?

- [Mikey] I'm good. Now you've given me like an existential crisis to worry about 'cause I used to worry. Like, what do you call yourself?

- [Danny] Yeah, I don't know. The one that keeps coming to mind is like content creator, but that sounds worse than YouTuber.

- [Mikey] Yeah, I get in trouble a lot 'cause people call themselves content creators, and they're people that I think are making incredible art leone.

- Right.

- [Mikey] And they're like, I'm a content creator. And I'm like, that's so dismissive. And they're like, why? The only one dismissive is you. They're just words.

- [Danny] Yeah, I feel like the people who are actually content creators are those 3D model farms that game developers use that are in Singapore. You know, like the outsourcing places. Like that's content creation. They're making fridges and tables, they're creating content.

- [Mikey] Teaching moment, for real, you actually do have good relationships with those different outsourcers. They tend to be with artists and designers 'cause at the height of a game, you might be using eight to 10, even more. Like if you're Red Dead Redemption, I'm sure they use like all of them. But it's not just throw it over the fence. I think the good games and good studios build a really good relationship with those outsourcers. So, it's never just throw it over the fence.

- [Danny] Yeah, it came up in our Horizon documentary, and we'll get more into the development stuff in a little bit. But I remember we were talking to... Is it Herman? God, I should remember his name, just feels terrible. The lead over there at Guerrilla, and they're not that big a studio, but Horizon Zero Dawn is a really big detail game. So, they basically created an outsource management team within Guerrilla to do that. And he said it was like the game changer for getting that game out the door because before it's just there's too much stuff to make now, and it's 4K, and it takes forever.

- [Mikey] And you call it content because it does describe all of it 'cause content can be sound effects, it can be how using those sound effects in the audio engine. There's so much content that I think, in the game sense, that word actually does work really well.

- [Danny] There you go, we've solved it. You're not a content creator. So, we now have to figure out what your real job is. Yeah, Herman Hulst is his name. It's funny 'cause we're gonna get into development shot, which I feel like we do at all that often in the world of video game podcasts. I mean, there are some really good ones out there that do this sort of stuff for developers, but I'm hoping we can sort of break a little bit of new ground on this one. But we're not gonna do that for the first section 'cause I just wanna talk to you about what you've been playing at the moment.

- [Mikey] Number one, I'm not really ranking them, but it's sorta like... I order them like how much I'm playing them.

- [Danny] Okay, quantity, not quality.

- [Mikey] Well, yeah, just to properly describe how much I'm playing Slay the Spire. It sort of combines everything I love, which is like a strategic, rogue-like, card collecting, card deck building, RPG, climb a tower. It checks all my boxes.

- [Danny] I think those are the same boxes that make me fearful. I think any one of those. I mean, I love rogue-likes, but I think it's the word card, and I think it's the screenshots when I see cards. How much is it a card game and how much is it just the cards are a part of the interface? And you're just there--

- I mean, the cards are the game. I mean, it's an attack and defend game. You're making choices about how much damage you're trying to do, or how much you're trying to protect against. So, it's math fighting in the same way that one of my favorite games ever, and I used to exclusively play against UD engineering students because they were the best ones, Virtua Tennis. Like the first one.

- Oh really?

- [Mikey] It's math fighting.

- [Danny] How come?

- [Mikey] Because it looks like tennis on the surface, but actually--

- [Danny] It's virtual.

- [Mikey] Well, it's Virtua, thank you, sir.

- I'm sorry.

- [Mikey] Sir. No, it's... And Mario Tennis ended up using these mechanics, and a lot of other people did. Never as punishing as Virtua Tennis where like you select a spot to hit the ball from, and the faster you get to that spot, the harder and better angle you can hit it at.

- [Danny] Okay.

- [Mikey] So, your ability to setup in time sort of makes it like you can hit it better and make it harder on the opponent, but they're also doing that to you. So, the exchange of basically fighting with angles and timing is Virtua Tennis. It looks like tennis because that's how tennis works, basically also, just not as mechanically solid.

- [Danny] And just speaking to that sort of beautiful era of games when they were mechanical to the point where you could predict things. Obviously, sport games now are like kind of, they're supposed to be these massive simulations that are ultimately sort of like, you know, there's a lot of RNG involved in what they're doing. But that was not the way it was before.

- [Mikey] I was waiting for that term. I was like, when's he gonna say RNG because Speedrunning grabbed a hold of us. I like that because it put it in the Lexicon.

- [Danny] It's the wrong term though, is it? Or is it too broad?

- [Mikey] It's sort of like, god, you're gonna get me in trouble. One of my old pet peeves was, and I try never to bring this up anymore. But if you watch Speedrunning or Esports, really, people say hitboxes in place of the term collision. And it drives me bananas 'cause hitboxes were what we used in Counter-Strike and Half-Life because you add rudimentary boxes sort of overlayed over the model, and that was collision. Collision's not that simple anymore.

- [Danny] Actually, this is really what I wanted to get into later as well, which is the sort of disparate ways in which we do communicate about this sort of stuff. Do you think, in using the word like hitbox, it's reducing it? Like it's not talking about it in the way it should be? Or does it just irk you because it's the wrong term?

- [Mikey] I think it irks me because I'm a pedantic moron. I think what isn't annoying about it is that the term hitbox is quote unquote sort of grew up to mean collision. Which is sort of synonymous, they're just not generally boxes. Collision tends to be people-shaped in people-shooting games.

- [Danny] What other games you playing?

- [Mikey] The one that's your fault, and I'm about to get back to Zen, I'm playing Half-Life one again.

- [Danny] Oh, wow, okay. And that's, you worked on--

- Direct result of watching your incredible documentary.

- [Danny] Thank you, you're too kind. Sorry we didn't actually meet. We did have lunch after I interviewed Randy Pitchford for that documentary.

- Yeah, I met you at Gearbox, it was a fun day. We went and got barbecue.

- [Danny] It was delicious. We ended up talking a bunch about Counter-Strike and Half-Life stuff 'cause of course you worked at Gearbox during a lot of that time. All of that time? When did you start at Gearbox?

- [Mikey] Actually, specifically, 2001.

- [Danny] Okay.

- [Mikey] This is actually... You know how you can't find a word 'cause I almost said this is awesome. And then I was about to--

- Thanks.

- [Mikey] I was about to say, no, I was like, it was awesome, 9/11 happened two months in, and I'm like, that's not awesome at all. Awesome in magnitude, not in quality.

- [Danny] Good save.

- [Mikey] Thanks, but we're working on Counter-Strike Condition Zero, a game at the time you could play as the terrorist.

- Oh yes.

- And we're like, that's not great. Everybody, is that great? Oh no, that's not great? Okay, and then I remember it became counter-terrorist only. And the game actually got better 'cause we did a game that will never see the light of day now but.

- [Danny] Yeah, so how much of the Gearbox stuff was actually in the one that came out? Because it got passed, I think Gearbox was the second team to work on it and it ended up going through Turtle Rock and then Ritual, and it changed. It was like Valve's weird version where they wanted it to be a single-player game.

- [Mikey] Well, it was Rogue first, right?

- [Danny] Yes.

- It was Rogue?

- Was it Rogue? Yes, I think it was Rogue. Then you.

- Yeah, the Alice developers, I believe. And by the way, I could be totally wrong. I'm just going off the top of my head here, memory-wise. It went Rogue, Gearbox, Ritual. It's still in Dallas, actually, they just drove it across the street. And then, Dallas isn't really that small, I'm kidding. And then it was Turtle Rock, which Valve ended up having a really interesting relationship with.

- [Danny] Right, 'cause of the Left for Dead. But when you played the released version, was there any of the Gearbox DNA in there?

- [Mikey] I don't know how much I'm permitted to say.

- [Danny] Right, that's fair enough.

- [Mikey] I mean, it's been awhile. I don't know. I don't think so. Off the top of my head, I would imagine no, but again, I haven't looked at it or anything in a long time. I think everybody that worked on that, which is really interesting and something I can say, is I think everyone did really cool work with what they were given and what they were trying to do. Ritual made some really cool art that Turtle Rock ended up using in their version. And Rogue had some cool stuff that we... To me, it was a lot of cool stuff and not necessarily knowing what to do with that brand at that moment.

- [Danny] Yeah, bit of an impossible task trying to make a single-player portion of this beloved multiplayer mode. It's almost like you're trying to paddle the wrong way up the stream.

- I can only speak for ours, and I can really all I can say is that it was really fun, and stuff we added did make it through like the Galil and the FAMAS. That was us that added that to Counter-Strike, and that ended up mirroring all the way back into 1.6. It's really interesting how that all kind of bounced around.

- [Danny] Crazy, yeah, and people still play 1.6 today. And people still playing Half-Life today. So, what was it like going back and playing Half-Life? Considering you're sort of history with the franchise. When was the last time you played it?

- [Mikey] Right when Half-Life Two came out.

- [Danny] Okay, 2004.

- [Mikey] Yeah, it's been a bit, it's been a bit.

- [Danny] What are the parts that sort of shout out, or any specific levels or moments of it that you really like?

- [Mikey] I think what I was doing was sorta, 'cause to me, what I really wanted to see again was that feeling of being Gordon. Half-Life one does something so brilliant, I've never seen any game replicate it, including Half-Life Two. Which is you're just a dude who is late for work. And everyone is like, ugh, Gordon? Ugh. And you feel like a piece of garbage. You're an MIT graduate, and they're treating you like nobody, and I just love that because it weighs into all of the gameplay through the whole. Like that guy hiding in the trashcan that we all threw a grenade into. But, you know what I mean? I love that sort of moral gray area that they played with because undoubtedly the hero, but they don't really treat you like one.

- [Danny] Yeah, it's not like a sort of traditional, I don't know, hero. There's the mountian, go climb it kind of hero's journey type thing. It's a bit more of the everyman.

- [Mikey] And you get to Half-Life Two, and every person you meet is like, Gordon? Gordon Freeman, the Messiah of Black Mesa? Oh, Gordon! I've heard every story about! You know, like everyone reacts huge to you, and it made me feel like less of a hero in a way. It sends me back to all those thoughts.

- [Danny] Does it make you feel like a bit of a fraud almost? Because it's likehe kind of lucked his way through, like it wasn't exactly a charitable mission he was on. He kind of just had to survive in the first game.

- [Mikey] Yeah, and there's like weird alien suit-wearing men that pull all the string. He's really not in control of anything.

- [Danny] Right.

- [Mikey] And it was funny 'cause what your documentary did that has never been done was you gotta remember, Half-Life Two was, obviously you remember, but it was huge. And it came out and it was massive and everyone loved it, and they're like wow, this is the best first-person shooter of all time. And I'm like that ends on a massive cliffhanger.

- [Danny] It's funny, I forgot about that element of it. 'Cause to me, I just thought, oh people want more Half-Life.

- It's huge.

- [Danny] But actually, when I went back and replayed Episode Two as well, it's kind of like, oh yeah, this does totally suck. It's bizarre. I think it was difficult to separate the baggage from the game. And even the memory of playing of the game. You were talking about turning up late for work. When I went back to play it recently to capture footage, I tried to as much as possible to remember the first time I played it, and you do get that sense of when you turn up for work late when people are already making their lunch, and they're already sitting down at their desks and you haven't even gotten into your uniform yet. You know? That way about it, which I feel like now when I play Half-Life, I'm thinking this meta-version of Half-Life that's just me playing my nostalgia, not necessarily playing the game. So, it's cool that you actually got to go back and play these games. You haven't played in quite a long time. Kind of feel it authentically that first time. So, are you interested in playing the episodes? Or are you gonna just be pissed off by the end of it?

- [Mikey] It's tough to play Half-Life Episode Two and not just feel sad. You know what I mean? 'Cause there's a lot of effort spent on no, it's not over. So, you gave us a massive cliffhanger and then said but it's not over. But it really it was. That's a huge disappointment, I think, that has weighed on people for a long time. I wanted to say that your section on Half-Life Three actually did give me closure.

- Ah, nice.

- As like a game player. I was like, it doesn't matter. All these people are making all this cool stuff, that's fine, go check that out. It is what it is, I guess.

- [Danny] Right, it felt like, you know? It just felt weird to do with the doc, and for that to end on a cliffhanger would just suck. Everyone was saying you should release it in three parts and just never release the third part or something. Even the idea of making anyone watch a retrospective on this game, and then to make them feel shit about it again by the end just felt really wrong. Although who knows now? Eric Wolpaw has rejoined the Campo Santo-infused Valve. So, I don't know, maybe they're making games with writers again.

- [Mikey] Yeah, well they're definitely making one 'cause they brought everyone from Campo Santo in. I think you could say the same nice things about Portal one as well 'cause Portal one, you start in a cage, you're a prisoner, and it's like you are trapped. And the climax of that game is the realization for the player, oh I can escape. And that twist was my favorite thing ever 'cause that moment when you're going up that ramp with the stair car on it, that moment I was like, oh sorry GLaDOS.

- [Danny] So, it's similar to Half-Life one and Two then where, in a way, they just kinda have to... Everyman, everywoman, aspect is completely lost. The twist is gone, and now we have to kind of, I don't know, justify the lure of the first game in the second game when also just not making the first game. Did you like Portal Two?

- [Mikey] Absolutely. I thought the writing was incredible. There's so much good content in Portal. I got to that word, and I was like caution signs, but Portal Two doesn't have that central promise. And I think that's what fantasy fulfillment is about. Portal one, you're in this scientific facility getting lied to about cake. And that's kind of the, you know what I mean? That's kind of the game, and you get to accomplish the fantasy of, you know what? I hate you, I'm getting out of here. I'm not living this life anymore. And you get to feel what it's like to be a prisoner, and then escape. You get all those kind of emotions. I don't know, I just like games that give me something more that sort of inform my actions in an interesting way.

- [Danny] You enjoy good writing, which makes sense because that was your job, right?

- Sure, sure, sure, sure.

- For a decent amount of time. So, when did you can start doing writing at Gearbox, right? That wasn't always your focus, right? 'Cause even before you were at Gearbox, you were, was it Dave Defeat was the mod that you were working on?

- [Mikey] Yeah, I did art on Dave Defeat way way back in the day when we're still rockin' DoD WAD files.

- [Danny] Hey, man, John Romero is still selling them in 2019, so.

- [Mikey] There is... wait, really?

- [Danny] He's making a Doom WAD, yeah. But it's unofficial like he's releasing the Wad for free, but they're putting out a special edition box of it. And I forget what it's called, I should remember what it's called. I mean, if you type in John Romero WAD, it'll pop up, I'm sure.

- [Mikey] I don't feel like that's what I wanna type on Google.

- Yeah, maybe have safe search on when you do that.

- [Mikey] That's cool though. I love John. That's super smart.

- Yeah, that's rad.

- [Mikey] Super neat. Back on DoD WAD files, if you go into the Day of Defeat box copy, there is, in fact, a WAD file called Mike Zilla Loves Ketchup.WAD. 'Cause I used to rock Mikey Zilla back in the day.

- [Danny] That was your handle?

- [Mikey] Yeah, I figured I could just shorten it to my name, which made it a little easier.

- [Danny] That's great. Does that mean that Valve had to pay you for the WAD, Mikey Zilla Loves Ketchup?

- [Mikey] Yes.

- [Danny] Fantastic, congratulations. What was the first game that you were writing then? Was it one of the--

- Brothers in Arms.

- Brothers in Arms?

- Was the first credited write 'cause I was pushing some stuff even before that. But, again, I was a texture artist that painted sky boxes, and I'm over here being like, I can write, and they're like okay kid, we got it. 'Cause you also have to understand that I started at Gearbox when I was 19.

- [Danny] Oh my goodness.

- [Mikey] Yeah, I was a baby.

- [Danny] So, what did writing look like on a project like that if you're just getting involved?

- [Mikey] I mean, if you're a guy that fancies himself a screenwriter, not naming any names, me. Like I did. 'Cause we were trying to define what video game writing even was back then. Brothers in Arms one, I was working with this programmer, he's still at Gearbox. His name's Neal Johnson, he's one of my favorite people. He coded the battle dialogue system, which is all the barks and shouts and like, reloading! No one had done that. All the games kinda came out at the same time 'cause we all kinda solved that problem at the same time. But I remember thinking it was genius to figure out the exact number of variations you would need. 'Cause also when somebody said reloading in a game back then, they said it one way, and I had 20 variants per character, and depending on which character they were, they said it differently. Some people were more scared of bullets, while others were less, and that wasn't like a programming thing so much as just trying to be clever with the systems we designed, you know? Like make characters feel individual.

- [Danny] So, the writing, it wasn't just a case of writing a script or a documented setting often team. Like you're part of a collaborative process of just trying to figure out narrative as a whole.

- [Mikey] Yeah, and part of being a game writer is finding value in the bad thing. And by that I mean the thing you wouldn't want 'cause you're not, the writer is not the person that just decides everything. You have to write a game based on what you have, and I remember the voiceover stuff with Matt Baker and the Brothers in Arms games, with the red line on the screen where he's just talking like this. That was created because we had a load, there was still loading to be done. So, I could have a moment to just bloviate about the existential crisis of war. I remember, and I'm gonna paraphrase the lesson I learned, not necessarily the words said. But Randy Pitchford, when we're going through Hell's Highway and I remember, 'cause that game was really important to me, but I was like I'm gonna make everyone feel terrible. And you're gonna be like, war is bad, and everybody already knows that, man. But I was gonna go for the jugular and just, 'cause heart socket's paralyzed and all this horrendous stuff and I remember after that game did okay, Randy said to me something to the effect of it's hard to sell people loss.

- [Danny] Right.

- [Mikey] When you're making a product, your first instinct shouldn't be, I'm gonna make everyone cry all the time and you gotta feel terrible, and I'm gonna, you know? And it was just really interesting 'cause I never thought about it in those terms. And I don't think that's an absolute statement, but it's a good statement. You can't just sell people bad all the time 'cause they'll stop buying it.

- [Danny] So, Hell's Highway didn't do particularly gangbuster you're saying because that's my favorite Brothers in Arms game.

- No, it did really good. It just didn't, I think, it didn't position itself as what Call of Duty was positioning itself as by that point.

- Right, yeah. That was a game that was part of the sort of before Gearbox got the IP back, right? 'Cause Ubisoft were publishing all of those games. Is that right?

- [Mikey] Yeah, Ubisoft published all the Bros in Arms games, yeah.

- [Danny] Right, do you have any insight into, we had a question actually from one of our Patrons. Let me see if I can get it here. This one from Raymond Harris, he said, "What ever happened to that new Band of Brothers games, the..." Sorry, I'm gonna have to repeat this question 'cause I'm sure he meant Brothers in Arms.

- [Mikey] Oh, yeah, I've seen that mistake made a record, a hundred million times.

- Really? That's so funny.

- [Mikey] It's the most common mistake. It's interchangeable though 'cause people will call Band of Brothers Bros in Arms. The thing is, they're actually kinda close together and hard to keep track of.

- [Danny] Yeah, I can see that.

- [Mikey] Which I think ended up helping both of them. So, it's fine.

- [Danny] Yeah, there's probably not many people who were buying box sets of Band of Brothers and trying to stick them in their Xbox 360s and wondering why a movie is playing. But Raymond asks, "What happened to that new "Brothers in Arms game that disappeared into the darkness?" I'm assuming he is referring to Furious Four.

- Furious Four.

- Which was--

- I cannot in any way comment on anything.

- Oh really?

- I'm sorry.

- Okay, fair enough. We found--

- I'm not even sure I know all the story, but absolutely not. I was the Creative Director of that game.

- [Danny] Oh you are? Oh my goodness. Okay, I can tell why you probably can't talk about it then. Let me ask you a different question then. What is your most proud moment of working at Gearbox? 'Cause we haven't even talked about all the work you did on Borderlands, which was a lot of writing.

- [Mikey] Well, we're gonna segway in very naturally here. When Borderlands one came out, I still had this dream in my head that mattering. Like Brothers in Arms was still the thing that mattered, and Borderlands was like, ha ha, goofy fun. And I was making that distinction in my head like, Brothers in Arms matters, Borderlands is just fun. Which is a bad distinction to make, and I don't think fair. For whatever reason, whatever arbitrary guideline led me to this, I always had this dream that I would of made it when someone tattooed a line I wrote onto their body. And in my head, that... And I can only imagine that other writers have done this as well, but in my head, that only applied to Brothers in Arms. I was like, your writing such beautiful soliloquies. Thinking that mattered, and I remember the first line anyone ever tattooed on their body. Do you remember Zombie Island of Dr. Ned? First DLC for Borderlands one, and it's right at the beginning, Claptrap wheels up one of the other Claptraps, and he looks you right in the face, and he goes, "I pooped where you're standing." And that was the first thing anyone ever tattooed on their body that I wrote. They came up to me at a con and they're like, "Check this dope shit out!" And I was like, yo!

- [Danny] Where was it tattooed, crucially?

- [Mikey] Right on their arm, right on the bicep, just a massive Claptrap with a speech bubble that said, "I pooped where you're standing." And at that moment, at that exact moment, I went, all that matters is that you entertain them and give them joy. That became my whole thing after that one moment.

- [Danny] How big was the writing team on something like Borderlands?

- [Mikey] Borderlands one, it sorta passed through a few hands. Ultimately, I wrote the words that are said. I actually sort of think of it like Speed. The process of Borderlands one was sort of like the script passed through a few hands, and then I just rewrote all of it. Exactly the number of lines and the way they would go, and the reason I use the Speed example is if you look back at the movie Speed, the movie was written and ready to go for Jan de Bont to direct, but the script was kinda weak in terms of character.

- [Danny] Right.

- [Mikey] So Joss Whedon, back when he was a script doctor for Hollywood, he was hired to rewrite every single line in Speed by the person who says it at the time they say it at the length they say it. But rewrite all the lines.

- [Danny] Wow.

- [Mikey] But keep everything exactly where it is.

- [Danny] So, the production can change, nothing else can change, but we're just go in and ninja this part of the production, change it. Go in, change it, go out, and nobody's none the wiser.

- [Mikey] Yeah, so I got a big plot 'cause all the plot stuff was pretty much in place. So, it's a little loose in Borderlands one, but that's on purpose. When I got it, it was just make it funny. And that wasn't even a decision I think everyone agreed on at the outset.

- [Danny] Was this because of the sort of the big change that happened? 'Cause obviously the Borderlands, the graphics, the art side of that game was obviously changed in sort of, maybe not the 11th hour, but pretty late in the process, right?

- [Mikey] Yeah, it's funny 'cause if you type healing bullets on YouTube, you'll still get this video and like I, so long ago. I'm such a baby in that video, but I did an interview at PAX about healing bullets. And the thing that basically made me realize that game should be funny and try to get you interested in the world and the characters was we were play testing it, and the game was pretty much what it was. It just wasn't over-the-top with title cards and it's goofy. Roland has a box in his skill tree for if you shoot your teammates, it will heal them. But the gun you have determines how much you can heal. So, if you have the bombest shotgun in the whole world, you can be a combat medic in the middle. But if you just wanted to be a long-range sniper, you could literally snipe health into people. And I was like, and I had nothing to do with this decision at all, and I was like, wow, you don't care about realism 'cause why would you. That decision is show genius, I can't even. And that was the moment on Borderlands where I was like, oh, this is funny. This is a game that does not care about the existing restrictions of realism, and just make it make sense to that world, you know?

- [Danny] It's interesting to hear you talk about the process because I think, maybe this is just my assumption, and we have a pretty good divide I feel of people who work in development and people who are, you know, just people who play games like myself who watch ourself and listen to ourself. So, maybe I'm speaking for other people as well, but I feel like whenever I'm thinking about writing in games, I think about writing in film where it's like if something gets done really early in the process, and then it's locked down and it's content-locked, but it sounds like that's not the case at all.

- [Mikey] I don't think that's the case in Hollywood either because I think there's a desire to make it appear like that's the case, but you see screenwriters on movie sets a lot rewriting a scene while they're shooting the scene. That's insanely common. So, I think writing is just more complex than people think it is in general.

- [Danny] Do you miss it? Has it been two years since you?

- [Mikey] Yeah, it's coming up on two years. 'Cause I think... It's hard to remember 'cause I was out of the hospital for multiple months, and then I finally one Sunday just kinda resigned 'cause it was time.

- [Danny] For people who don't know, were you diagnosed with MS around that time? Or had you been suffering with it for a longer time and it was getting worser.

- [Mikey] No, it was just an incident. That's a whole other... That'll be a podcast all its own.

- [Danny] Right, yeah, and you should go check out. Is all that stuff on the FilmJoy YouTube channel or is that a different YouTube channel? All your retiree stuff?

- [Mikey] There's a short film called Get Off the Floor on FilmJoy that fills you in on all the stuff that happened last year, which wasn't technically MS that caused the original thing, but then it is exact... When you have my body, all of that stuff just mixes all the time, and then you find what fixes it, not necessarily the key to solving all of it. But just enough to get better for a second, and you just accept that and move on.

- [Danny] Right. I mean, obviously, you're working for yourself now. You're working on your own project. I can empathize with you a lot on the struggles of kind of that thing 'cause we kind of got very similar styles of projects, I feel like mostly. But what are the things you miss most about game development? Is it working with other people?

- [Mikey] Yeah, absolutely. I don't need to listen to the other options, yes.

- [Danny] And what else? Is it just a social thing or is it like collaborating or?

- [Mikey] I think I am most effective in a collaborative space. And I've sort of designed this new life and new persona that doesn't do that. I think, we have a show called Deep Dive where me and my friends watch bad movies. I know, so creative, right? But Deep Dive, the rule is, and the rule to like be on the show 'cause I made us all agree to this upfront. And they're all better at it than me now, but the rule is you have to find something to love. We're not here to make fun of it and destroy it. 'Cause people spent effort on it whether you care or not.

- [Danny] Actually, I wanna talk to you a little bit about that 'cause recently I got into a bit of a... I don't know if I call it a beef on Twitter, but I said something on Twitter and I really pissed off a bunch of game star lists.

- [Mikey] Oh, I did that this morning.

- [Danny] Oh, did you?

- [Mikey] I did it yesterday too with Speedrunners.

- [Danny] Oh really? I was making a point that I was really irked that so much of, not just YouTube, but also so much of the sort of op-ed space of games coverage was... Critiquing games is fine, but just saying games are bad because you don't like them. Saying you don't like something and saying that it's objectively bad because of x reason when I imagine just from, I feel like I empathize with developers more now that I hate watching videos or reading articles where people say, oh the developers should have done x 'cause it's like they fucking know, and they made that decision because of something. It was a decision, not an error. Not all the time, but a lot of the time. So, I wanted to ask you, as somebody who sort of has been in the development world and now is essentially sort of like in the criticism world, is that something that used to irk you when you'd read things or listened to podcasts from journalists and they're talking about games, and you kind of shrug your head and say they don't know what they're talking about? How did you feel?

- [Mikey] I think, well one, yes, absolutely that irked me. Yeah, like I'm responding to it. I think it informs my entire being because I spend all of my effort to be like, wow they really tried in these ways, and it's worth respecting these people here for this. Just point out the good stuff because bad stuff, quote unquote, I don't know. What ever thing is making people mad about games right now, they'll also tend to be like, and here's why 'cause one person just hates gamers. And it's like, probably it was some cross section of money, personnel, and time.

- [Danny] Right.

- [Mikey] You know? You have those three things, you have limited quantities of all of them, you must decide the best way to... Generally, it's actually just business that causes stuff to be quote unquote bad. It's never someone was like, yeah, let's get 'em. Let's show 'em!

- [Danny] Does that extend at all to the way in which Gearbox itself was reported on? 'Cause I feel like there's been quite a lot of anti-Randy sentiment in the media over the years. And obviously someone you worked with closely.

- [Mikey] That is the most unfair question. 'Cause I can't really answer it, but I can say I think everyone has a not great reading on Randy, and that's on purpose. He's one of the most personal, personable, kind, caring people who is very serious about running a business and rewarding his employees and doing that. And it matters so much to him that he's just willing to take the bullets for the... And I think that's very respectable. It's huge, that's what a boss is supposed to do. I think Randy's a great boss. I said it!

- [Danny] Quoted. So, I guess you say, is that why? I mean, the name of the channel is FilmJoy, right?. Was that a big part of sort of passion behind it was to try and not glad-hand, but just to speak to a different facet of film and not just sort of go for the easy thumbnail or the easy title?

- [Mikey] It's also sort of about even though I'm not necessarily part of the business, I understand the entertainment business and I have a lot of friends in that business. It's explaining that things you don't like are often more complicated than you think they are, but it's okay to love stuff and to celebrate it. So, I try to use that methodology where even if I needed to talk about something that people perceive as negative in my opinion, you then kinda show them why we're the value of the thing in a way they haven't thought about it. A lot of times, it just comes down to perspective, honestly. You can give someone a perspective on a movie, and it will change the movie entirely.

- [Danny] But now we live in a world where Lindsay Ellis is making amazing videos, and loads of people are watching them.

- [Mikey] You have this sort of cabal 'cause we all know each other, and we're all friends, and we're all supportive of each other. But we're also trying to make people happier and looking at art as art because if there's one goal, I think for me, it's that let's appreciate the struggles of art. Let's appreciate the failures of art for what they are, or what they went for. Let's not just look at movies as this throwaway thing. That you just go to a theater, you turn your brain off. My least favorite piece of advice people give, just turn your brain off! All die!

- [Danny] Do you think we have someone like that in the world of games? 'Cause it kind of requires somebody to be like, have experience in the field, or be a scholar of that field. And I think we've really good critics and some good analysis. People like Mark Brown or Super Bunnyhop. And loads--

- Mark Brown's great.

- [Danny] You think he's the closest, probably, we have to somebody who does that work?

- [Mikey] Intellectual, I would say, like Mark Brown is more in that Lindsay Ellis direction, which is highly valuable and highly great. I would put up, and this isn't intellectual criticism, it's emotional, which kinda is more in-line with me, I would say that the video game creator on YouTube that speaks to sort of my direction is NakeyJakey.

- Oh yes.

- You ever heard of him?

- Yes, he did a, he has a really good Red Dead Redemption video I've watched recently.

- [Mikey] But it's like mature and it makes good points, but it's also from a place of, I love everything and I wanna keep loving it. Here's some thoughts, here's some, I don't know. I really love his content.

- [Danny] Alright, let's jump into some Patron questions. These are questions from the folks who support us on NoClip, patreon.com/noclip. Also, if you subscribe with the five dollar tier, you get this podcast early. Would you imagine? And you also get to ask a bunch of questions. This first one comes from Tony Voots Zaninga, which may or may not be that individual's legal name. "What is your favorite movie licensed game?" Anyone's pop out in particular? I'm a big fan of a Die Hard trilogy on the PlayStation one.

- [Mikey] That's funny. Does the West... wait, what was the company name? The people that made Command and Conquer.

- Westwood.

- Was that Westwood?

- Yeah, yeah.

- [Mikey] Do you remember that Bladerunner game?

- [Danny] Oh, yes, I do.

- That point and click.

- I thought you were gonna say Dune, but yes, that Bladerunner game, absolutely.

- [Mikey] Also, Dune is good too. But the Bladerunner one is kinda the movie, kinda not. It's tough to say.

- [Danny] What is it about it you like?

- [Mikey] I am a sucker for point and clicks, so.

- [Danny] Did you like the old... I've recently been re-watching the Indiana Jones movies 'cause my wife had never seen them, and we were talking about Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, which I played on the Amigos old Lucas Arts one. Did you ever play that one?

- [Mikey] Yeah, you actually just reminded me of another Randy quote. It was, "Fate of Atlantis is the third best "Indiana Jones movie." And I was going like, yeah.

- Yeah, I could see that.

- Yeah, 'cause like it could be fourth, but it caused a conversation where we're like, is Fate of Atlantis a better Indiana Jones movie than Temple of Doom. And I was like, if you can create that conversation in one question, awesome.

- [Danny] That's interesting 'cause Temple of Doom is my favorite one. That wouldn't be my number three.

- [Mikey] Yeah, but it could be number four as long as Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls is not your number one.

- Absolutely.

- I respect the opinion, and I give you the floor if it is.

- [Danny] The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull deserves to be in the top three best indie movies?

- [Mikey] No, if it was, I respect your right to have that opinion.

- Okay.

- [Mikey] I'm not gonna be like, no. I'll make the joke 'cause Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is eh. But it also actually does have some really good scenes in it, and I don't know. It's worth a re-watch for the first 40 minutes. That scene with Harrison Ford and Shia LaBeouf where they're passing the beer off the train back and forth, you know what I'm talking about?

- Yeah, that's, yeah, that's pretty good.

- That's classic Spielberg. The rest of the movie isn't, but that--

- [Danny] That is, it's like a... I think it's a oner, is it? You know, one of his shorties that's sort of like, it plays with props and has your eye moving around the frame, where is then you go to the fridge nuclear explosion andit's a hard swing.

- [Mikey] But even that 'cause that scene destroys Indiana Jones, but it also welcomes it into the nuclear age in a single shot 'cause the one of him against the mushroom cloud, even though everything leading up to that is like, what? That shot is so iconic of a world where Indiana Jones entered the nuclear age. That was a perfect shot.

- [Danny] It's coming up. I keep telling my wife 'cause the Blu-ray pack I got came with all four of them, so it's on the list. So, I guess I'll know soon enough.

- [Mikey] Oh, hey, what you do today, Mikey? Oh, I went on Danny O-Dwyer's podcast and defended Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to prove that I know movies. Oh, my show's canceled? Ah. Okay.

- Kristoff Shepherd wants to know what games you played last year that you think were sort of like under-deserved or underappreciated. Was there anything that popped out to you?

- [Mikey] Last year?

- Yeah.

- No, actually, I can't answer that 'cause my body didn't work for most of the year, so I skipped out on a lot of games.

- [Danny] Did you really?

- [Mikey] I couldn't play. I would do the Rocket League test every day to see if my fingers worked.

- Wow.

- [Mikey] When I got out of the hospital, it was five months before I could control a game like Rocket League sort of where I was. 'Cause I played hardcore.

- [Danny] God, I'm so sorry. It's that fine motor skill that--

- [Mikey] Yeah, my professional gaming career has ended.

- [Danny] You don't have the... What is it? I thought that happened to all Cannon Strike players when they reach 30 anyway, right? You lose your fine fibers in your hands, and suddenly you can't be a Starcraft pro no more.

- [Mikey] Well, I'm also, at this point, 40 to 60 percent blind, so. Those dreams have sailed, they have gone. I'm not gonna be the number one League player.

- [Danny] Does that inform what you're deciding to play now then? 'Cause I know it's not like you're feeling completely perfect now or anything. It sways on a moment to moment, day to day basis, right?

- [Mikey] There is... So, specifically, one thing I cannot do at all is play VR games.

- [Danny] Right.

- [Mikey] 'Cause my balance is so bad that if I stand up and put that on, I would immediately fall over.

- [Danny] Really?

- [Mikey] Yeah, you ever do that thing where you're trying to stand on one leg and close your eyes? You just can't do it? That's me most of the time with my eyes open. But if I cover them up, I'll just fall over. And I can't really see in 3D anyway, so it doesn't matter.

- [Danny] So it's not like even Astrobot sitting down or anything would be doable?

- [Mikey] 'Cause it's also just like how bananas the game is. I mean, we were talking about what games I was playing, and like Slay the Spire and Half-Life are pretty chill. I could do Mario Party, I'm good at that. Still got the Mario Party gene 'cause some of those games are just smash a button.

- [Danny] Do you like the new one? Have you played the new one?

- [Mikey] I think the new one is the best Mario Party they've ever made.

- So do I! I don't know why people don't like it. It's me, you, and Dan Ryker are the ones that actually enjoy the new Mario Party.

- Hell yeah.

- [Danny] I think it's great. I think the dice stuff is wonderful, and they, not to use the term RNG again, but they pulled back a little bit on the random bullshit at the end of each game where like it doesn't matter how well you did.

- [Mikey] The thing about Mario Party is it doesn't matter who wins or loses. You're playing to have fun with your friends. Don't forget that part. Don't forget that step. It doesn't matter, nobody gets anything for winning. It's fine, the game will lie to you and bullshit you out of a star. It's okay. You're playing 'cause it's fun.

- [Danny] But Mikey, we're so used to video games letting us win all the time. If we wanted to lose at games, we'd play board games or card games.

- [Mikey] If you don't like RNG, play checkers.

- [Danny] I got a question from Raymond Harris here, let's make this the last one. He says, "What is the culture like working at Gearbox?" Yes, you were there for a long long time. From my very brief time in the office, it seems like there were a lot of people who worked there for a long, 10 years. Is that the case? Has it grown a lot in the time you were working there?

- [Mikey] I was like employee 32, somewhere around there. When I left, it was like, god, between 300 and 400. I don't even, it's over 400 now.

- [Danny] And would that have just been in Dallas?

- [Mikey] Yeah, that's just in Dallas.

- [Danny] Just in Dallas? 'Cause they also have that studio open in, well everyone has a studio in Quebec now--

- I never went to that studio, so I don't know anything about it, but yes. So, it's massive, and I was part of building that thing. Like helping build that with all the amazing people there, but the culture was supportive and nice and you made good money, and people stuck around. That's still true. So, it's great there.

- [Danny] Was there much of people bouncing between there and maybe age work in Richardson down the road? There's a couple of other studios around the sort of greater Dallas area?

- [Mikey] There were, like 3D Realms was out there.

- [Danny] Of course, yeah.

- [Mikey] God, it's been so... Like now, I feel like... 'Cause the Words with Friends guys are or were here. I haven't thought about it in awhile, but.

- [Danny] And that was the biggest game in the world for a hot minute there.

- [Mikey] Yeah, and then they got bought by somebody. I don't even remember. It's so complicated, but I remember they were out there, but other than that, it's id and Gearbox pretty much. id, actually, when they built their new building, it was right down the street from Gearbox. So, the employees that knew each other, we'd eat lunch all the time together and catch up, especially after Doom came out, you know? The reboot.

- [Danny] Right.

- [Mikey] And we're like, this is the greatest shooter ever! It's just fans. The reality is a lot of game makers are just fans of each other. It's okay that they're friends.

- [Danny] It's also cool that there's so much history between those two studios, and the RPG 3D Realms. And so much of that studio also being at Gearbox.

- [Mikey] I remember one of our first interactions that I remember. I'm sure there were ones before it. When we did Tony Hawk Pro Skater Three for PC, we added the Doom guy from Quake Three, I think.

- [Danny] Right.

- [Mikey] On PC, if you type the cheat code, it's either iddqd or idkfa, but if you do that in Tony Hawk, it gives you the Doom guy. Well, we did that with id. They gave us the actual re-Doom guy model. I think, again, not sure, it's been awhile, but.

- [Danny] That's awesome, especially from somebody who runs a company called NoClip. I remember walking into the studio the first time and then being like, oh yeah, we really like the name. And I was like, that's good to know 'cause I was worried Bethesda were going to sue me.

- [Mikey] I never actually thought about it in context now. You typed, idkfa was weapons. Iddqd, I think, was keys. Yeah, specifically noclip was noclip, right?

- [Danny] Yeah, yeah, noclip was turn off collision. Clipping, clipping, clipping, clipping.

- [Mikey] One of those sounds like a cheat code, and one of those sounds like a programmer, you know what I mean? Half of those probably were cheat codes, and half were actually just test things. Which is really interesting.

- [Danny] It's different to like Impulse Nine or Impulse 101 we used to do for--

- Right, oh god! Impulse 101! You take me back, Danny. Wow.

- [Danny] Mikey Neumann, thanks so much for coming on. Before we let you go, can you tell us what you're working on? What's going on over on... It's patreon.com/, oh sorry, it's patreon.com/movieswithmikey. It's youtube.com/filmjoy, that's right.

- [Mikey] Yeah, youtube.com/film joy and go check out our stuff. I have a big cork board across the room. I just did my schedule for 2019 and Movies with Mikey episodes. There's some real good stuff on there. Actually, I should hit my 100th episode this year.

- [Danny] Congratulations, and congratulations on over 200,000 subs on the channel and on finishing your monster, three-part Harry Potter Series which myself and my wife have been enjoying. We still haven't watched the last section of it. Does it feel good to get those out? Just to have them done when they've been in your brain that long?

- [Mikey] It felt amazing up until the Pottermore Twitter account tweeted that stuff about students shitting in the hallway and just erasing it with magic, and I was like... Ah, cool, cool. I tried to talk about how this is a serious exploration of death, and it all just disappeared in shit. Like that destroyed anyone talking about my thing. Now, it's a business, and that's the thing the third episode's about is like how Harry Potter is actually an exploration of multiple sclerosis. Which I didn't even know when I started it, and that messed me up when I went into the last episode and I was reading all these old interviews with J.K. Rowling about... So, when J.K. Rowling was 15, her mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and just under the 10-year mark after that diagnosis before J.K. Rowling is 25, it kills her. Her mother passed, not directly, but it was MS, and you don't see that a lot. Harry Potter is about dealing with the death of your parents and not accepting simple answers. That destroyed me to know that the disease I have leaves these holes in people, these Horcruxes, if you will. That was so monumentally world-shifting to me that I was like I can't talk about any of this other stuff, even though it's interesting.

- [Danny] Mikey, this is why I love talking to you because whenever I'm enjoying a movie or in our chats up in Dallas, playing a game, I feel like your analysis always gives me further sort of layers to either enjoy or understand something, or understand myself, or how I should react to it, or even wide our culture a little bit more. And I think that's really important. Thank you so much for your work, man, and thanks so much for coming on today. I'd love to have you back any time, any time we shoot the show.

- Any time you want me, man.

- [Danny] Appreciate it, dude, and thank you so much for listening to this, the fourth, slash first episode of NoClip podcast. We'll be back next week with Stephen Spohn, the CEO of AbleGamers. Good friend of mine. Talk about all the games he's playing and the work that he does. If you have any suggestions for guests or questions or anything, go over to the subreddit that's r/noclip. Hit me up on Twitter at Danny O'Dwyer. The podcast is available on everywhere podcasts are sold, iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, FlamBlam, all the Google Play. I made one of those up. We also have a new YouTube channel as well, which doesn't have a tiny or a small, sexy, URL yet, so you're just gonna have to take my word for it and type in NoClip podcast into Google or into YouTube and it should pop up. Yeah, five bucks a month to get you the show early, but of course, these are all free anyway for everyone. Thank you so much for supporting our work. Thanks to all our Patrons for keeping this stuff ad-free, and patreon.com/noclip if you're interested in that. And youtube.com/noclipvideo if you wanna watch our documentaries. Mikey, thanks again. Thanks to you for listening, and we'll see you, would you believe it, next week.