Monday, November 23, 2015

Getting started doing Let's Plays?

I originally intended to post this in a reddit thread on the subject, which is in reference to this article, but the longer a comment gets the less likely I am to post it on reddit.  So instead of it having the amazing visibility it would get if I had posted it on reddit, I am instead posting it here where it'll get zero visibility.  Go me.

I've been considering recording and uploading an LP or two to YouTube, just to test the waters, but there's so much that's necessary to do these days.  Regardless of your tone and style of commentary, you have to be ridiculously professional on the backend.  The copyright and content ID systems ensure that it's really just a matter of time until you get dinged for something and then suddenly, someone else is profiting off of your hard work.  Getting permission to put the content up, as the article I'm referring to (and linked above) sort of states, varies from publisher to publisher.  Nintendo is behind the times and will claim whatever you upload, most are okay with it, and the better publishers have a publicly available YouTube video policy.

Then there's equipment costs, both hardware and software.  I'm sure my headset (the Logitech G930) is good enough to get me off the ground, but I'd need to get a professional XLR microphone and audio interface if it actually takes off.  My computer is nowhere close to recent and would need to be essentially completely replaced with all-new hardware, monitors, and peripherals, which will run me a grand at the very least.  Then comes the inevitable face reveal and real life videos, so I'd need a decent 1080p video camera to record some face-time stuff, plus a decent webcam because people like facecams for some reason.

Software-wise, my understanding is you basically need all of the recording software options because some games just refuse to be recorded by certain ones, but not others.  Therefore, it's necessary to purchase Fraps and Dxtory as well as download OBS.  Then there's the video editing software, which is stupidly expensive because the companies producing it assume everyone is purchasing it for corporate-coffer-backed enterprise-level video production.  All of that, just to get in the door, and it makes me think twice even though I really want to do it.

Then, if/when I get established, there's travel costs.  LPers have set a precedent of being accessible to their fans at events.  I do attend one video gaming event yearly (MAGFest), but this would probably mean coping with the inanity that is trying to get a badge for any of the PAXes even though they sell out within minutes of going on sale.  Ain't nobody got time for that.  Organizing meetups is another thing, and while I'm familiar with event staffing from my 9 years staffing MAGFest, I know nothing about event organization.  Then there's the rather large brick wall of me being an introvert with social anxiety.  Large gatherings exhaust me, and being around a lot of people I don't know who won't leave because they're there because I'm there kind of terrifies me.  Working through the social anxiety will make me a more fit person, yes, but the introversion is still a blockade.  I can keep up a façade, but there will be hell to pay in the days afterwards.  I also know this from attending MAGFest, where I basically go full extrovert for four days, and then spend anywhere from a week to a month recovering.

I've considered just streaming, which is an option, but I don't really watch random Twitch streams.  I only ever watch streams from people I know of from elsewhere (friends in real life, Mindcrack, etc.), and I don't particularly enjoy having to devote 5+ hours of my day to watching a stream that rarely takes a break.  Is watching random Twitch streams a thing that people do?  Just randomly browse Twitch and stumble upon new-to-them streamers?  Can Twitch even be "browsed"?  Basically, it seems to make far more sense to me to build up an audience on YouTube and then transition to Twitch, even though I don't want to have an abandoned YouTube channel just sort of sitting there gathering dust and content ID claims.

Finally, there's finding my audience.  As I've stated, I'm an introvert with social anxiety.  Self-promotion basically isn't my thing.  While there's still a lot of demand for Minecraft videos, the market for those is incredibly oversaturated and you'd need an absolutely amazing never-before-seen twist to make your LP stand out from the rest.  I enjoy myself some JRPGs and racing games, but nearly all of the titles I enjoy in those genres are on console, so go back up to the hardware costs and add in a capture card and any necessary adapters for older composite-only consoles.  I also enjoy games on older consoles a bit more than games on newer consoles, simply because the hardware restrictions meant developers had to be more creative to make their games look, feel, sound, and play the way they wanted them to.  I would want the channel to have a focus on older games, which is fine, and in the genres I'm comfortable with, which is also fine.  However, once I start uploading videos, naturally, I'm going to need to strike a balance between games I personally want to play, and games my audience would like to see me play.  I suppose that would just happen naturally, but I still feel like I'd desire a level of control over it that isn't actually feasible.

So basically, doing Let's Plays is a bigger undertaking than you might have expected.  It's not just a simple "get recording software and a microphone, record game with commentary, upload to YouTube".  The higher quality your production is, the larger of an audience you'll get, and it'll be easier to keep that audience, because that's the precedent that's been set.  You can't just pull a Cinemassacre and say "lol it's just web video does HD/widescreen even matter".  The quality of your production indicates how much you care about your production, and nobody wants to watch videos on a channel where someone's just pooping out videos left and right with no thought process involved.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Mario Kart 7

I'm a bit late to this party, as I am to any 3DS-related party really, but regardless...  I just got Mario Kart 7, and here's my thoughts.

Well, in a moment.  There's background, and I'm a crotchety old man that wants to tell stories when he's not busy yelling at kids to get off his lawn or whatever.  The first Mario Kart game I owned, and the only one I owned up until this point, was Mario Kart Double Dash!!.  I've played Super Mario Kart, Mario Kart 64, Mario Kart Super Circuit, and Mario Kart Wii either through friends or through emulators.  I feel like I generally know what I'm doing when I'm playing Mario Kart.

So, right away, when I fired up Mario Kart 7, I was greeted with what any other game in the series has: a simple menu that's straight to the point.  It basically asks you "ya wanna play singleplayer, with a few people nearby, or on the internet?"  Notably absent is an options menu.  The StreetPass/SpotPass portion of the game has a few options, but I was really hoping for the controls to be at least slightly configurable.

As far as a Mario Kart game is concerned, Mario Kart 7 earns its place in the series quite easily.  In fact, other racing game series could maybe learn a thing or two.  In Mario Kart 7, there are 32 tracks, split into 16 new tracks and 16 tracks taken from older Mario Kart games and given a facelift and a new bit here and there.  The range of powerups includes the majority of the staple powerups as well as a few new ones, and while the initially available cast is rather limited, you can expand it as you play the game and unlock more characters.  Unlike previous games in the series, the character you pick doesn't seem to be tied to your kart's stats.  Rather, you have options for setting up your kart that determine your kart's stats, and your choice of character is more or less cosmetic.

As sad as I was that the controls weren't configurable, I don't really remember a Mario Kart game ever having configurable controls.  It doesn't really matter, I just wanted to be able to swap accelerate and brake so it'd be the same as in Ridge Racer 3D and I wouldn't have to remember a different "go faster" button.  Overall, the controls seem to work well.  Coming from Double Dash!!, though, which didn't use the "hop" mechanic of starting drifts, I noticed that this game has the "hop" mechanic and immediately tried to do Super Mario Kart-style hop-cornering, which just doesn't work here.  It's got a weird merger between Double Dash!!'s drifting and Super Mario Kart's hop-cornering, where you hop once to start drifting, and then rather than having to push left and right a few times to go yellow-red-blue sparks and let go for miniturbo, you just hold the button and it does the sparks on its own after a little while, going from blue to red, and then let go for your miniturbo.  It feels dumbed down, to be honest.

Another thing that feels uncomfortably different: getting the boost at the beginning of a race.  Normally you just punch the accelerator exactly when the word "Go!" appears and you've got your boost, but here the timing is weirdly placed around the point that the "2" is about to disappear.  It just doesn't make sense, and it kind of feels like they changed it just to mess with gamers who were used to what the series had established up until this point.

Progression through the cups is as you could expect.  Beat the first cup, the second unlocks, and so forth.  However, there's two separate series of four cups in each difficulty, one for the new tracks and one for the classic tracks.  You can make progress through either of them, as they're independent of one another, but the credits don't roll until you've beaten all eight on a given difficulty.

This game also has the "collect coins to spin out less when you get hit by something" mechanic, which to be honest, I've never really enjoyed.  In Super Mario Kart, I didn't really enjoy it because so very few of the coins were close enough to the racing line to be feasible to pick up during a race, and their hitboxes were incredibly finnicky.  Mario Kart Super Circuit basically is Super Mario Kart, more or less, and suffers from the same issues.  However, here, the coins seem to be either on the racing line or close enough that it doesn't matter, and have a wider range from which they can be collected, which makes the whole thing better.

What's kind of weird is the way you unlock almost everything.  It's not accomplishment-based, essentially.  You don't unlock kart parts after beating one or another cup.  Rather, they're milestone rewards based on the cumulative number of coins you pick up during races.  And by "pick up during races", I really mean "finish a race with".  Also, your coins cap out at 10, meaning with each cup being four races long, you can get a maximum of 40 coins per cup, and some things take several THOUSAND coins to unlock.  Seriously, Nintendo?  At least it's cumulative, so you just keep playing the game and eventually you'll get everything, but there's no in-game checklist that might tell you the amount of coins you need, so you get to look that information up on GameFAQs or something.

Now, the online multiplayer.  I tried out a few races, and it works pretty well.  The game doesn't muck about with having to join a lobby and start racing from there, you can't get kicked from the group, and nobody can send messages to anyone else.  You just hop in and go racing.  When you've had enough, go ahead and exit at the end of a race.  It's that simple to play online with random people.  Of course, for more organized play, there are "communities", and you can set up a community.  Each community can have different gameplay rules, such as restricting powerups to one specific type or whatever.  You can also join a friend to play online.

There's also local multiplayer, complete with download play.  Being that I have two 3DSes, I tried it out, and it works about as well as you might expect it to.  Hopefully I can get a few friends to start up Download Play next time we hang out for a while.

The game's StreetPass component confuses me, because my 3DS says I've got a Mario Kart 7 streetpass, but when I go into the Mario Kart Channel and select StreetPass List, it just directs me to the Friends/Opponents list.  That's in the online multiplayer menu, and it gets me nowhere.  Despite my 3DSes having StreetPassed each other twice since I got the game, I've gotten nothing out of it, and my profile in the Mario Kart Channel still says I've got zero StreetPass tags.  I've done time attack on both of my systems, how can I race against each system's ghost?  I'm thinking the game just fails at the whole "2 systems 1 cartridge" thing.

Overall, if you're a fan of Mario Kart and have a 3DS, it's a good game that you'll get a lot of enjoyment out of.  If you're new to the franchise, there's a bit of a learning curve since you'll need to figure out the powerups and all 32 tracks, but the game's pretty accessible so that shouldn't be too much of an issue.  Definitely worth picking up if you want some portable powerup racing action.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Surprise! You're going to Nekocon!

So, around 11 PM on Thursday evening, I was informed that I was going to Nekocon the following day.  Just got back about a half hour before I started writing this (5:30 PM).  This won't really be my usual style of day-by-day con report.

I stopped liking anime conventions a while back.  In that regard, I think MAGFest has spoiled me.  The atmosphere at your average anime convention doesn't really do anything to encourage people to socialize outside of their groups, whereas MAGFest's atmosphere promotes it.  Cosplay picture-taking doesn't really count towards foreign social interaction.  I've been to a few panels at anime conventions and I've never really found any I actually liked.  This means the vast majority of my time at an anime convention is spent doing one of three things:
  1. Playing games in the game room
  2. Browsing the dealers' room
  3. Walking around the con floor
Game rooms at anime conventions are always lackluster.  They just drop about ten or twenty consoles in there with some games, and maybe have some arcade games or something.  The game selection is terrible and doesn't really change much, if at all, throughout the weekend.  Dealers' rooms are pretty much about the same wherever you go, it's just stuff to buy and you look around and see if anything strikes your fancy.  Not too much to say there.  Same goes for walking around the con floor to be honest, it's just a crowd of people, some of whom are in costume.

There are only two real things of note. The first is that it rained for a while on Saturday, which resulted in me having to spend a few hours in the hotel room drying off clothing while drinking Jack and Coke and trying to use the shitty hotel internet to watch YouTube videos.  The second is that, while perusing the dealers' room on Sunday, as one does for the best deals since the dealers don't want to take all that crap back with them, I found a Super Famicom cartridge of Chrono Trigger for $30.  I was worried when I saw that the price tag had been stuck on the cartridge label, but thankfully it came off cleanly and I moved it to the plastic (where it doesn't actually stick that well).  Because pics or it didn't happen, here's a potato-quality picture from my phone.

I'm not even kidding, when I saw that I was skeptical that $30 could possibly be the real price, so much so that I asked the guy at the booth just to make sure.  A quick look reveals that the $29.99 price tag is actually stuck on top of another price tag, this other price tag said $39.99.  So it would've been rather inexpensive anyway.  After eating dinner, I set out to remove the plastic tabs from my SNES so I could actually play the game, and a victory was had.

I wonder how long that save battery's good for...

Also, anyone who pronounces Marle's name as "mar-lee" is WRONG.  Her name is マール, which romanizes to Māru, meaning the correct pronunciation is "marl".  End of discussion.