Aug 23

Thoughts on Streaming Speedruns, and *GDQs

These are some thoughts that I had about streaming and the Games Done Quick marathons.

On Streaming As A Skill
I tend to lurk, and occasionally post on, the Twitch subreddit. A common question for awhile was “How do I get a bigger viewership?” or “What are some games I can play that can get me more viewers?” This is perfectly reasonable. After all, if we didn’t want other people to watch our streams, we wouldn’t bother sending our gameplay over the Internet (More on this later). But to my mind, it’s the wrong question to ask for someone just starting out. I went over this in a thread I created on the subreddit, but I feel like people don’t always appreciate that the things commonly thought of as requirements to build an audience/be a good caster, such as talking and interacting with your chat while playing your game/s of choice, is a skill, and one that takes time to develop. If you go back and watch Classic Games Done Quick, the very first SDA marathon, and compare it to Summer Games Done Quick 2014, the most recent, the ability of the participants to talk and play at the same time (Or, alternately, to realize they can’t do that, and have a couch/commentary crew capable of picking up the slack) is like night and day. You should obviously stream games you enjoy, but within that set, when first starting out, you should also stream games that allow you to develop the game-while-interacting skillset. It’s not like interacting with your friends on the couch, or even in online gaming, since your chat is A. not playing with you and B. probably out of your line of sight, so glancing over at your chat is something you have to develop as a skill. You also have to develop filling dead air, so to speak, so that when someone comes in, they see you engaged and are more likely to say hello. These are important to building viewership, though not the only factor.

On Streaming For Popularity
As I mentioned above, one reason we stream is because we want others to see those streams, whether you’re a “variety” streamer, a speedrunner, or go back and forth between the two (Crumps is an excellent example of the latter–he runs Final Fantasy IV, but also plays a lot of MLB the Show ’14, to name just two of the games he typically streams). To put it bluntly, if you claim that popularity isn’t in at least the back of your mind when you stream (Or submit a speedrun to SDA/Youtube/whatever), you’re lying–if you were really “all about the run, maaaaaan”, you’d either not submit to those places, or submit anonymously.

And there’s not anything wrong with that! Hugo Award winning author John Scalzi made an excellent post on his blog where he basically says “What do you mean ‘No one goes into writing to get rich?! I did!” I feel more or less the same way about streaming.

Now, despite Scalzi’s blog post, I’m not saying that you should stream (Be it speedrunning, variety, or hybrid–I disagree that a person has to be one or the other exclusively, hence the introduction of Suffering Saturdays to my weekly schedule) primarily or exclusively to make money or to get popular. This is for a couple reasons–first of all, much like hitting it big in music or writing or some other creative profession, the odds of it actually working out for you are long (Many authors, including some bestsellers, still hold down day jobs). Again, more on this below. Secondly, if you don’t honestly enjoy streaming, it’ll show in an inferior product. Third, as with anything, turning something from a hobby into a career changes a lot of the dynamics around it.

But if you honestly enjoy streaming, and you’re good at it, and you’d continue to do it even if you never hit it big, so to speak, there’s nothing wrong with trying to make some money at it, be it via Twitch partnership/subscriptions, donations, or some other cross-selling that I haven’t thought of. Luckily, as more and more speedrunners have gotten subscription buttons from Twitch, and the hobby hasn’t collapsed from the introduction of “Twitchbux”, the attitude of “How DARE you get PAID to do something you LIKE” that was prevalent in speedrunning a year or two ago seems to have largely gone away.

Indeed, I would argue that more speedrunners doing so full-time is good for speedrunning. Look at American sports for an example of what I’m talking about–whatever else you think about sports players and their salaries, the fact is the quality of play in sports improved markedly starting around 40 years ago, when the rank-and-file players began to make enough money that they could focus on sports as their full-time year-round profession, rather than having to hold down a separate job in the offseason. I think more people spending more time on speedrunning will, similarly, lead to higher quality speedruns and speedrunning streams.

On Games Done Quick Game Selection
Let me preface this by saying that overall, Mike (Or in SGDQ’s case, romscout) and the selection committee do an excellent job of selecting the games that will raise the most money for charities. I’ve told rom in the past that he can feel free to link the donation tracker to past marathons and just say “Scoreboard!” if I ever excessively complain about game selection. I also think that, in general, people’s cries of “salt” or “bitching” about game selection is overstated. Is there a substantial amount of disappointment when someone’s game doesn’t get in? Of course, for some reasons I’ll get into below. But at least on SDA, most of the disappointment and question is polite (There are exceptions, of course), and even when things get heated, there’s a legitimate point as often as not–I maintain that, when rejection reasons were still public, “We think this game could use a break” was a terrible rejection reason in itself. Again, more on that below.

That said, raising the maximum amount of money for charity is, or at least seems to be, the primary goal of Awesome Games Done Quick in particular. There are other factors, of course, but AGDQ is for the charity first, the viewers second, the runners third (Mike Uyama’s contract with PCF should remove all doubt in this regard). Compare this to something like European Speedster Assembly, where that order is reversed. This informs the game selection quite a bit.

It’s also true that the GDQs are by far the most popular speedrunning event each year in terms of viewership. Some people take this to mean “If I can just get my game into a GDQ, I’ll have mega-popularity after the fact!” Well, I’m living proof that this isn’t true. And I’ll admit that for awhile, I felt like the one person at AGDQ2013 who didn’t see a massive viewership boost (Or indeed, any at all).

With some perspective, I now realize that this is due to confirmation and survivorship bias. People, myself included, tend to remember the few examples in which GDQ exposure directly or indirectly leads to someone’s stream blowing up in popularity, while forgetting the many times where it doesn’t happen. The fact is that even if your game makes it in, your getting more popular after the fact outside of the substantial follower boost is still a longshot. Any examples you can think of were likely already established streamers with a core viewership that put them in the top 1% or so of streamers on Twitch before they ever ran at a GDQ (If you think I’m kidding, hit Random on the Twitch directory and marvel at the sheer number of streams with single-digit viewers. Getting into the top 1% takes less than you’d think). In other words, going from 10 viewers to 1500 just doesn’t happen (Even the example you’re no doubt thinking of didn’t happen that way, I promise).

That said, of course people want to play their game in front of an audience regardless. And I’m not going to tell people not to be disappointed when their game gets rejected–I think Uznare hit on why people take rejections so personally in this post (You’ll probably need to scroll down a bit; Taiga Forum’s direct links don’t work quite right). As mentioned above, the primary focus of a GDQ is to raise as much money as possible, which means a certain amount of “AAA” series (Not necessarily games. I had a conversation earlier today where I realized the homogenization of the marathons isn’t as bad as it sometimes seems. Take Mega Man as an example. I believe at one point or another, every Mega Man game in the “classic” series has been at an GDQ. That’s ten different games, but in my head, I tend to just think of them as “Mega Man”, so I don’t blame people for thinking “Great, another 5 hour Mega Man block at another GDQ” even if those blocks have some variety from marathon to marathon) will always get into a GDQ. That proportion is only likely to increase as time passes. So while it’s easy to say “Being rejected isn’t a big deal, just wait 6 months or a year and submit again”, I agree with Uznare’s sentiment–if a game doesn’t get into a given GDQ, does it really have a chance in future GDQs given what I wrote above? I feel like the answer is “no”.

I also noticed, and maybe this is confirmation bias again, that a lot of the people saying it’s not a big deal if your game doesn’t get in are the same people who never have to worry about not getting to represent their game at a GDQ, either because their games are so popular that they can’t be denied, or because the person is so well-loved that all they have to do is say the word and they have multiple games in (Heck, two years ago, I was probably one of those people, though I have no idea where my standing in the community is now. If I had to guess, I seem to be more well-known and highly regarded by other speedrunners than by the viewership at large). It’s a lot easier to “tsk tsk” someone about something you don’t have to worry about.

On that note, kudos to the staff in the thread for being more transparent about the process in general, and more specifically, the fact that yes, certain games and runners have a leg up on others in the selection process. This was something of an unwritten rule before, and I’m glad it’s being acknowledged publicly. As I related above, “We think this game could use a break” was terrible justification in itself, when there are games that will be automatic “ins” no matter how many times in a row they appear (And with good reason. I love Super Metroid, for instance, but if I’m a runner of Spyro the Dragon, for instance, and I submit it, don’t tell me Spyro can use a break when Super Metroid is in for the [#of GDQs there have been]‘th time in a row. Sure, tell me the reception wasn’t good, or it didn’t raise a lot of money, or you just don’t like Spyro, or I’m not popular/well known enough in the community, whatever. But the attempts to be diplomatic and avoid hurt feelings just made it look like Mike was trying to BS people as to the real reason their game didn’t make it in. I won’t say “don’t be disappointed if your game is rejected”, but I will say “be prepared to hear some hard truth about why your game is rejected”). It does satisfy me to see that aspect of the selection process out in the open so everyone understands it instead of being confused about why Game A made it in and Game B didn’t–the answer probably boils down to “Game A will raise more money for one reason or another”.

I’m aware how long this is. I’m not even sure it’s coherent. But hopefully it’ll provoke some discussion.

-EE

Aug 10

Introducing the Suffering Saturday Streams!

In the last month or so, I’ve tried to come up with an actual schedule for my stream. To that end, I stream 4 days a week when I can, for anywhere from 3 to 6 hours a day. Yesterday, I tried (And failed) to beat Blaster Master on stream. Despite that the Wall2 controls of Blaster Master made me want to throw my NES out the window, I had fun with it, and it gave me the idea to make something like that a weekly thing.

To that end, I’d like to announce Suffering Saturdays. This will be a weekly event in which I try to beat a game from my childhood (Or just a super-tough game in general) that I never beat before, whether because it defeated me as a child, or because I just never got around to playing it seriously. I figure people enjoy watching streamers suffer through games, and this will represent a chance for people to laugh at my misery (And for me to possibly add a few games to the Games I Beat In 2014 series).

But how will the games for this series be chosen? That’s where you come in. Every week, I’ll present a mini-list of three games, and you vote for the game that you want to see. The game with the most votes will win; if by some miracle I manage to beat the game quickly enough, I’ll then start the game with the second-most votes on the list, and so on. Each week will be a new poll, with at least one new game.

For this first poll, I’m putting in two “GnG” games, the series that’s known for its hero parading around in underpants after taking a single hit (And crumbling into a pile of bones on a second hit). If you so choose, you can also grant me a rematch with Blaster Master, which is difficult mainly due to its length and limited continues (And, oh yeah, the stupid Wall2 controls) combined with its lack of a save system.

So! Choose my fate! Which game should I play?

Which Game Should I Play For Suffering Saturday #1?

  • Super Ghouls N' Ghosts (SNES) (45%, 22 Votes)
  • Ghosts N' Goblins (Arcade) (29%, 14 Votes)
  • Blaster Master (NES) (26%, 13 Votes)

Total Voters: 49

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May 31

State of the Emptyeye- March through May

It’s been awhile since I did one of these. Let’s get to it.

First of all, I’ve started my new job. It’s the same title as my previous one–Systems Analyst/Programmer–but my actual work is quite different. Without getting too into specifics, my first big job is moving data in an Access database out of Access and onto SQL Server (We’ll still be using Access as the frontend). It’s a cool challenge, and I’m learning more about Access than I ever wanted to know, which will hopefully help me in the future. I’m also learning Perl, and while I haven’t been able to apply it yet, it’s something I can see being useful in certain contexts.

Last week, I hit my weight loss goal, getting down to 146.4, about a half pound below my goal of 147. As a bonus, I have something approaching muscle definition. I’ve been adjusting my workout routine of late, incorporating principles of Starting Strength to see what happens. It’s bizarre to be able to answer the question “Do you even lift Bro?” in the affirmative, even though I’m still at a very beginner level.

On the gaming front, the Games I Beat In 2014 series is rolling along, with 33 entries and over 24000 words in it. There are another couple entries to write over the next couple days, too, so stay tuned for that.

In short, I’m doing pretty well. Hopefully the momentum continues.

-EE

Mar 06

State of the Emptyeye- February/Early March

Let’s check in with how I’ve been doing of late, shall we?

The Games I Beat In 2014 series continues to grow. It now has 17 entries, six of which are games I had never beaten before. The most recent (As of this writing) in the series, Metroid Fusion, was a fun, expected entry that I may pick up and speedrun at some point. I’ve now written over 10000 words in the series to this point, and hopefully I can keep up that pace through the entire year. After that, I may see about collecting them into an E-Book of some kind, particularly if I can keep that pace up.

On the weight loss front, the pace of my losing weight has slowed, but I am still continuing to do so. At last weigh-in, I was 150.8, down about three pounds from the last time I checked in here. Weighing as much as I did in college is a little weird, although I still have four pounds or so more to lose. That would put me at what I think is a healthy weight for my size, even if the ridiculous Body Mass Index would put me slightly overweight.

The big news is that I once again have a job. Not only that, I’ll be returning to the place I worked, with the same title in a different department. This new job, from what I can tell, will entail a lot more responsibility for a lot of different systems/programs. I’ll be working close (Location-wise) to my old department, too. Suffice to say that this new position will be a challenge, but it should be fun too.

Oh, and I managed to do this. I now have the Metroid II 100% world record by about a minute and fifteen seconds.

Suffice to say I’m in a much better place than a month ago.

Jan 31

State of the Emptyeye for January

So I should use this “blog” thing I have more often. Since I made a Resolutions Post early in January, let’s see how I’ve done with those so far!

Lose Some Weight: This is generally going pretty well–though my rate of weight loss has slowed down, I’m a little over halfway to my weighing-147-pound goal (At last weigh-in, I was 154). My clothes feel looser, and I’m actually wearing stuff that isn’t t-shirts and sweatpants more often when I go out and about. Self-Respect! It’s a thing!

Play More Games: So far, so good I guess. I started a Games I Beat In 2014 series, which got off to a blistering start. Things have since slowed down a bit, what with my next game in the series being Final Fantasy II, one of the most forgotten games in the series (In the US anyway). I am playing the Dawn of Souls version, which makes things quite a bit easier, in part by giving out “charity HP ups” every so often. I’m confident I’ll beat it eventually, and then the pace may pick up again depending on what I pick up next.

Get A Steady Source of Income: Um…I doubt “severance and/or unemployment” really count for purposes of this discussion. I am getting more phone interviews and whatnot, but a personal interview or two, but so far, nothing that’s led to a solid position. I do have two more months of severance, so I’m not panicking yet, although that may change shortly.

Overall, I’m doing okay.

-EE

Jan 03

Resolutions

2013 was not the best year, to say the least. As we start 2014, I am currently Unemployedeye, among other things.

I was never one for making resolutions. But with this being a year of big transition, I figure this is as good a year as any to do so.

So with that, my first resolution is to drop some weight. More specifically, I’d like to get down to the 147 pound range. That would be about 10 percent of my bodyweight lost, and I think 145-150 pounds is a good weight to be at 5-foot-4. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to put some muscle on too, making me even slimmer. Between tracking my calories on the Lose-It! app, and logging my exercise on Fitocracy, I have the framework to do this, now I just need the discipline.

My second resolution is something of a childish one, that being to play more games. All my life, I’ve loved video games, and I’ve lived long enough that, at this point, I have too many old games to go through to even worry about new ones. To that end, since I’ll be doing more streaming on the Rize Up Gaming Stream in 2014, I figure that’s a great time to try and knock out some of my backlog of games. Sometime soon, I’ll write up a post that will include the games I’ve beaten on-stream for the year. Currently, the only one I’ve done is Metroid, and even that was technically started last year. Hopefully the list will grow soon.

While I’m here, I should definitely make my third resolution to find a steady source of income. Ideally, that would be either similar to my previous position, or streaming full-time, and I know the odds are long on the second one. Still, since I’ll have free time after polishing up my resume (One of the steps that the management company I’m working with has you do is basically improve your resume before you send it anywhere), I’ll be streaming more too, so we’ll see where that goes.

I will say I’d also like to do more creative things, be they writing, game creation, music, or something else. Who knows what form, if any, that creativity will ultimately take though.

-EE

Dec 23

The Twitch.TV 2000-Follower Special Poll!

As of this writing, I have 1908 followers on my Twitch.TV page. That means, much like I did for the 1000-follower threshold, it’s time to make a poll for what I should play for the 2000-follower special. Since I’m not going to Awesome Games Done Quick this year, and since I’m starting farther out than last time (About 90 followers away, as opposed to the 45 or so followers I was away from 1000) , I don’t expect to run into the “quickly obliterate the milestone” problem I had last time.

Anyway, vote for what you think I should do for said special! Please only vote once. If the “Selected Mega Man Games” wins, I’ll probably do a separate poll to pick the games, probably enough to fill 6-8 hours of streaming.

What Game (Or Games) Should I Play for the 2000 Follower Special? Pick ONE

  • Classic Games Revisited (Battletoads/TMNT/Kung Fu/Marble Madness/Rygar) (26%, 42 Votes)
  • Metroid II 100% Tutorial (24%, 39 Votes)
  • Half-Minute Hero (17%, 28 Votes)
  • Super Meat Boy 106% (360 version) (12%, 20 Votes)
  • Selected Mega Man Games (9%, 14 Votes)
  • Other: Leave a Comment! (7%, 11 Votes)
  • Mega Man X6 (5%, 7 Votes)

Total Voters: 161

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-EE

Nov 17

Game Review- Scribblenauts Unlimited

Nowadays, it’s rare that I actually play a game that could conceivably be called “current”. The last time I did so was probably Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. With the advent of the latest Humble Bundle (As of this writing, the Humble WB Bundle), I decided to grab some games I had been meaning to pick up, for a total of $5. One game in the bunch that I hadn’t necessarily intended to play, but was intrigued by, was Scribblenauts Unlimited.

Released in 2012, Scribblenauts Unlimited is the fourth game in the Scribblenauts series. I had remembered the hype surrounding the original Scribblenauts, which revolved around the fact that, essentially, anything you could think of, you could draw in the game. Not owning a DS or iDevice, I missed out on actually playing the games prior to Unlimited, but jumped at the chance to play it in the Humble WB Bundle. I have to say that I’m glad I did.

The plot of Scribblenauts Unlimited revolves around Maxwell and his sister Lily. Maxwell has a magical notebook that can create anything he can think of. One day, he and Lily come across an old man who begs for some food. As a prank, Maxwell creates a rotten apple for the man. Angered by this, the old man places a curse on Lily that will slowly turn her to stone. The curse can only be broken with Starites, which are obtained by making people happy and solving their problems.

There are actually three ways to earn more Starites. The first is by completing multiple-part levels-within-levels that earn you complete Starite, such as defending against a zombie invasion or finding Santa, who has gone missing. The second is by helping people within the larger levels–these people usually need a single item or adjective, and helping them gets you a Starite Shard, ten of which form a complete Starite. The third method is “Object Shards”, essentially a “bonus” method of earning shards by creating specific objects that the game is looking for. Fortunately, the game gives you hints as to what objects will earn you these shards. Further, if you get stumped during the multi-part complete Starite tasks, the game will usually all but give you the answer if you wait along enough and then click the question mark that appears above the person’s head.

Graphically, the game can best be described as “whimsical”, which helps the fun factor, and prevents you from getting too creeped out if you do what I do, which is to try and find the most ludicrous solution possible that the game will nonetheless accept. I cancelled Christmas multiple times, most notably by turning a reindeer radioactive to help it glow. Yes, it killed Santa and everything else in the immediate vicinity–but darn if that reindeer didn’t shine bright! The music is unobtrusive and relaxing for the most part, which is about all you can ask for in a puzzle game like this.

In terms of challenge, I was able to solve most everything either myself, or given the in-game hints. There were about five Starite shards I needed to Google certain terms in the hints given to find the exact word the game was looking for, one I stumbled on mostly through dumb luck after Googling turned up nothing, and one where a person in my stream chat gave me the answer. Even in the case of that final one, though, I was on the right logical path, I just hadn’t fully grasped the mechanics of the game (IE you could add adjectives to things/people). Still, you only need to grab slightly more than half of the total Starites to beat the game.

While you only need to get 60 of the 106 total Starites to beat the game, I went ahead and got everything in it, which took me about 20 hours according to Steam. For the next 42 hours or so as of this writing, this is available as part of the latest Humble Bundle, where paying more than the average price (Currently $4.76) gets you not only Scribblenauts Unlimited, but a bunch of other quality games, namely the first two Batman Arkham games. Even if you only get Scribblenauts Unlimited itself at that price, it’s worth it.

-EE

Sep 14

On Charity Video Game Marathons

On Twitter and the like, various members of the speedrunning community have given their thoughts on the seeming glut of marathons in the community. Because I am a shameless trendchaser, these are my own thoughts on it.

I have joked on Twitter about my less-than-stringent methods for choosing whether or not I will participate in a gaming charity marathon. While this is an exaggeration, I do really like charity marathons and try to participate in as many as I can, to the point that Mrs. Emptyeye once asked me “Can you please have a week where you’re NOT involved in a marathon?” Some of this is due to my involvement in Rize Up Gaming, which holds a marathon (Most of it not speedrunning-related, save when I decide to play Metroid II or some other game I’m decent at running) every month. Even before I joined Rize Up, though, I was of the opinion that there’s no such thing as “too many marathons”.

Really, this so called “glut” of marathons is nothing new. For the last several years, you could find a gaming marathon going on every weekend if you looked hard enough. The big issue people seem to be having is a perceived increase in marathons dedicated to speedrunning over the last three months. But even in 2012, you had the Lindsey Layne Kingathon, #smw, and the Sandython within roughly a month of one another. So the saturation issue isn’t just popping up now, as much as people are suddenly paying more attention for one reason or another.

The other main concern about this concerns people who only want to do marathons for exposure, and don’t take the time to polish their runs to a high level. I’ve noted before that I lack the holier-than-thou how-dare-I-get-paid-for-something-I-like-to-do reservations a lot of the speedrunning community seems to have about an individual speedrunner getting popular/streaming as their job/whatever (I am very much the Gene Simmons of the speedrunning community. Accuse me of being a sellout and my response will be “Yeah, and what’s wrong with that?”), so I’m not exactly sure what the issue here is. As long as people know going in that being in a speedrunning marathon (Up to and including a Games Done Quick) is not a guarantee of future superstardom, and do some research on the charity (If there is one) being represented, let them, I say.

As for people not practicing their runs, well, there are reasons the GDQs now have not one, but two “rules” relating to practice. This is always going to be a concer, even in the “big” marathons. That’s just the risk you run in letting people into marathons.

In sum, I don’t think the “glut” of marathons is either A. A glut, or B. Necessarily a bad thing. The more, the merrier, I say!

-EE

Aug 31

Chubbyeye

So earlier this week, I weighed myself and found I weigh 163 pounds. This may not seem like a lot, until you consider the fact that I’m, in the words of Primus, “Standin’ tall at 5-foot-4″.

As such, I’m trying to do something about it. First off, I’m trying to go to the gym several times a week, never working out the same thing twice in a row. This is something I’ve done before to good effect. Something I haven’t done to this point, though, is calorie counting. One of the things that would frustrate me during previous efforts to lose weight is the fact that what I ate during a week seemed to have no correlation with whether I gained or lost weight. Hopefully, actually seeing how many calories I’m eating each day (And trying to keep some semblance of control of that) will help me slowly lose this weight.

I’ve heard that a person shouldn’t crash-diet, which isn’t what I’m doing. I’m giving myself a pretty wide caloric range per day, anywhere from 1500-2000 calories per day, which isn’t starvation by any means. Additionally, I’ve heard that a person should start by aiming to lose 10% of their body weight. A quick bit of math shows that that would get me down to 147, which is honestly about where I’d want to be, weight-wise.

We’ll see how this goes!

-EE

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