Noclip Podcast #04 – Mikey Neumann

Noclip Podcast #04 – Mikey Neumann

(soft music) – [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. (chuckles)
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. (chuckles) – [Mikey] Well, it’s Virtua, thank you, sir.
– I’m sorry. (laughing) – [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.
(exasperated cry) 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. (soft laughs) 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 (imitates popping) 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. (soft chuckles) – [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. (soft chuckles)
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. (laughs) 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 like (chuckles)
he 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. (laughing) ‘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. (laughs) It’s interchangeable though
’cause people will call Band of Brothers Bros in Arms. (laughing)
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. (chuckles) 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.” (laughing) 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. (laughing) – [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? (laughing) – [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! (laughing) – [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, 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. (laughs) 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.”
(laughs) 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. (laughing)
– 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 and
(chuckles) it’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. (chuckles) 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… (laughing) 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. (laughs) – [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.
(laughing) 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, oh sorry, it’s It’s, that’s right. – [Mikey] Yeah,
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… (laughing) 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 if
you’re interested in that. And
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. (soft music)

16 thoughts on “Noclip Podcast #04 – Mikey Neumann

  1. Hey folks! Excited to start the new weekly version of the show. Let us know what you think. I also just wanted to make a note that this interview was recorded BEFORE all the Gearbox news this week so take that context into account when you're wondering about the questions we asked, and Mikey's responses. Let us know what you think. And if you sub on iTunes or anywhere else don't forget to like / review our podcast so we can take over the world. Thanks!

  2. Fascinating listen in light of the gaming news that has been happening this week. But it's good to get multiple perspectives on things.

  3. All this talk of Half-Life makes me wanna hear Ross Scott on here, Freeman's Mind was a journey and a half that took damn near a decade but he never gave up or put out something that didn't feel like his signature style in my opinion. Hell I can't play through it now without wishing his dialogue was an in game option of some sort.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *