Sometime about a year ago, I started watching Let’s Plays on Youtube, which is kind of like not playing a game because you’d rather watch someone else play it and tell you about how much fun you’re not having. I’m pretty old, so my concept of Let’s Plays comes from text reports with accompanying screenshots about how Ayn Rand is now playing Jagged Alliance 2. Now to be fair, I only started watching these because I found some videos by Paul Rodenburg aka SuperPaulGames where he plays through one of my old favorites, The Movies, and actually watches all the awful AI productions with sophomoric but funny voiceovers. From there I watched a bunch of his other LPs, then watched some other LPs, then unsubscribed from most of them because they were doing nothing but Minecraft, forcing me to watch a 5 minute intro and then screaming for 5 minutes, and/or playing Eve really badly. I had come to the conclusion that although once in a great while an LP is worth watching, most of them aren’t, which makes perfect sense since that’s most of what Youtube is all about.
Then I made the mistake of doing some of my own.
Fortunately for me, I picked exactly the wrong time to start doing game videos. Youtube had just made some very anti-uploader policy changes targeted specifically at gameplay videos, their automatic copyrighted music detection algorithm was proven to be terribly broken and abusable (and wouldn’t ever be fixed), and it was still getting a metric shit-ton of new LP vids uploaded daily, making it almost impossible to get anyone to notice. The only good thing was that I wasn’t part of a gaming network (and I don’t do that like/subscribe thing so it’s unlikely I will ever be on one), so as an independent my position got suckier, but by a lesser degree than people who were actually successful at being LPers.
But seriously, how hard can it be to be an LPer? As it turns out, I was just about as wrong on this as I am on most things.
How hard can it be to play a damn game and record yourself talking about it?
Seems pretty easy, and maybe for some people it is. Unfortunately I tend to play games that are best viewed (at least in part) in fast-forward, like
Space Excel Eve Online and Darklands. This means the captured footage has to go into a non-linear editor and played with, then commentary has to be done in post, then the whole thing rendered again (sometimes twice). Sins of a Solar Empire and Poker Night 2 are more or less realtime, but I’m not really that good at extemporaneous commentary so I do better in post anyway. Plus my dogs are noisy. This means doing a half hour of a poker game with animated dogs takes about 1.5 hours to stitch together, plus rendering time, plus uploading time. Darklands is a DOS game so you’d think it would be way easier, but since that game plays best at different time rates with different events, there’s a LOT more cutting, plus music overlay and recuts. And Darklands is the kind of game where watching someone play it in realtime makes Veldspar mining look like robot ninja porn on a pirate ship.
In addition, because I do post commentaries I’m limited in when I can record. I do a lot of it late at night, but Wen is sleeping like 15 feet away from me and I really don’t need to make her angry.
My headset works great for game chat so it should be great for recording LPs, right?
No. I had 3 or 4 different USB headsets that I tried out, and the best one still made me sound muffled with almost nothing above 5kHz, which was surprising since that’s where speech definition lives. In the early recordings you can hear this mic, and even though I tried tweaking it as much as I could in equalization and compression, I knew it was a losing battle. As we used to say in recording, garbage in, garbage out. I eventually settled on the Samson Go Mic, which is a pretty decent switching-pattern USB condenser for under $50. I would recommend it if you don’t want to shell out for a Blue Yeti or, you know, an actual recording condenser microphone.
I’ll do games I like and viewers will follow.
Wellllll not really. I still think doing games you like is a good thing, since otherwise what the hell are you going to talk about, but (1) people follow LPers, not games, (2) finding new LPers tends to follow searches or related links on games people are looking at, specifically new games that I don’t like, and (3) I like some pretty obscure stuff.
Since I’m doing games I like it should be easy to keep up regular uploading, right?
Ugh. Stuff happens, life happens, and although I like playing the things I play, I don’t really enjoy the editing all that much, and that takes far longer than the playing. I think it would be easier if I only played more RT games like shooters, or games where you barely have to say anything like story games, but that’s not what I like. As a result, things get off track, stuff gets late, I run out of things to say, and eventually things that should be enjoyable are no longer really that enjoyable.
Here’s a quick list of the things I’ve done (or tried to do), current status, and weird stuff that happened:
Originally I was going to pull recordings of my GURPS campaign, cut them up, and post them in a series. I now have something like 60 hours of raw footage and no real desire to go through all of them to find "the good bits." If you’ve ever watched a Roll20 session on Twitch, you know they’re even less exciting than watching other people play tabletop RPGs live since you’re not even looking at the nerds you want to make fun of. I’m happy with the way the play vids came out for the most part. However, the little "drawing tool" video was my first encounter with the Youtube content authentication system, when they flagged my video because they couldn’t confirm that I owned or had rights to the audio content. I sent them my Library of Congress information showing that I wrote, recorded, registered, and owned all of it. Not a peep yet.
Early plays with a bad microphone and some rendering problems. (Hint: Turn off all "intelligent" motion blur in your renderer.) I also tried to record this directly in OBS for a couple of episodes and just upload the resulting MP4 to Youtube, resulting in unplayable stuff. I still haven’t finished the TEC stuff.
I really do love this game and I will get back to the series, but goddamn this is the hardest one to edit. When you’re actually playing Darklands you don’t notice how repetitive grinding reputation or overland travel can get, but you sure notice it when you watch. I need to come up with a better solution for the audio edits in particular, since making the thing look right consists of cutting the video, decoupling from the audio track, changing the video playrate, then trying to cut/fade the audio to match. It’s crazy.
This wasn’t too too painful to do, since it’s mostly dropping the footage into the NLE and talking over it. However, no matter how much better this game is than the first Poker Night, it’s still fairly bad. I also thought it would be funnier if I tried to play it like a rational poker player, paying attention to bet sizes relative to the pot, outs, etc. Well, it was funny to me when I did it; Kynn just made fun of me for paying attention to my bet size against a cartoon dog. 6 eps recorded; not sure if I want to do any more since I don’t even play any of the games that get unlocks from this one.
Long, long ago, I tried to FRAPS myself doing a solo Merlin run through lowsec and only managed to get footage of myself letting a failfit Wolf escape in structure. Then a year ago I started working on this insane elaborate video about why I keep unsubbing and resubbing, but got bored. I started these because EVE is a great and very boring game, and you need to make your own fun (based on relative definitions of "fun"). Budget Bear seems to have done fairly well, at least the first video, which is weird to me since it’s just carebearing instructions from a different perspective, but okay. Creepy Bald Uncle was kind of a failure, and I think part of this was because it was presented as sort of a troll (walking a fine line between being awful and sounding like I knew what I was doing), and in part because I just got bored with the character after he became semi-competent. In hindsight the first few episodes were fun for me because I was taking a no-implant alpha clone guy less than a day old into third party fleet battles and nullsec home systems, and then I stopped doing that. In the future I might do some simple how-to-not-be-completely-terrible-as-a-highsec-sheep videos.
So that’s my experience so far trying to put videos on Youtube. I wouldn’t say it’s all bad, but it’s more of a pain in the ass than I’d expected, and I’m not even doing all that much. I may still dislike most LPers, even the really successful ones, but I have no idea how that can keep up with all of the extra stuff that goes into uploading hundreds of videos. Even the ones that are 5 minutes of an intro clip, 5 minutes of screaming, and 2 minutes of like and subscribe buttons.