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LPing is Hard

Hey, do you guys watch Game Grumps? I do. I love JonTron, I love Egoraptor, and I think their Let’s Play show is great so far. I’m especially loving their playthrough of Sonic 2006. I had no idea how bewildering the game is. It’s like every single level has at least one thing horribly, hilariously wrong with it.

Recently a lot of Game Grumps fans have become frustrated by the Sonic ’06 playthrough. I’ve noticed many comments on Youtube and the GameGrumps subreddit complaining about them missing obvious hints about where to go and what to do, and then getting stuck. Here’s an example from today…

In the episode they don’t know what to do when they get to the water. They know Silver (the character they’re playing as) has telekinetic powers, but they don’t know how to use that to get across a very long jump. They try lifting a crate and moving it across with them on top, but it wouldn’t go far enough, and the crates don’t float above the water, so they just die as soon as their power runs out.

When you first reach that point, Silver says “I think I can knock that structure down.” He says it once, without warning. He doesn’t repeat it unless you die and get to that point in the level again. This happened. I think it popped up a total of three times. What this means is that you’re supposed to throw a crate at the wooden structure-thing far ahead of you, which will knock it down so you can jump onto the platform.

So people on Youtube and Reddit tell them they’re idiots for not noticing it.

Here’s the thing. I used to get angry about stuff like this too. I used to get so frustrated whenever (say) Josh on Spoiler Warning made some stupid mistake or couldn’t tell where he was supposed to go even though it was obvious. It used to make my blood boil. “I know he’s a smart guy, how can he not see this shit?!”

Then I tried making my own LP, and I realized that it’s harder than it looks to us viewers. As a viewer, all you’re doing is watching and listening. Jon and Arin are watching, playing the game, having a conversation with a friend, and making sure they aren’t being too boring for the show. You have to divide your attention between your game, your friend, and your show. If you focus on the game, your show will be boring. If you focus on providing entertainment for your audience, then, well, you’ll make stupid mistakes in the game now and then, as Jon and Arin do.

This is harder than it sounds. Don’t believe me? Try it yourself. I have, and I can attest that it requires a lot of practice to make your show anywhere near watchable while also not completely fucking up in the game. But if you’ve never done it, it’s impossible to tell from watching.

Now, as for this particular problem Jon and Arin ran into, let’s consider the following:

  • As I said before, Silver only makes the comment about “knocking down a structure” once. Well, once per life spent.
  • Most of the tips in Sonic ’06 are vague at best and flat-out useless at worst. And if we’re talking about what Sonic (or Silver, or any other player character) says out loud, well, I can’t tell you how many times he says something stupid and unhelpful. It’s no use!
  • This is the first time the game has ever required you to knock down any structure whatsoever.
  • The structure is pretty damn far away from the platform you’re on, and it doesn’t really stand out. Hell, I saw Silver’s “hint,” and I wasn’t even sure what they needed to do until they spent several minutes trying to figure it out.

So yeah, if anybody is willing to say this is completely Jon and Arin’s fault rather than the game having bad presentation and horrible design, then I’m not sure what to say to that.

As I said at the beginning, I’m a fan of the show, and I’ll admit that that probably affects my reaction to all this. But I’m also speaking as someone who’s tried his hand at LPing, and I can tell you it’s tough work to do well. It’s easy to think someone is an idiot because he made some stupid mistakes in his LP, but remember that playing a game for a co-commentator LP is very, very different from playing a game by yourself, for yourself.

Also, merry Christmas, I guess.

9 responses

  1. Ayup, it took me a lot of time to get to the point where I can treat L4D2 as a conference call with zombies (that habit is why I tend to have open mic rather than PTT in my settings; at the moment, I’ve been guiding newbies a lot and PTT is better for that use case) and I really can’t imagine trying to play in a properly coherent manner so it actually looks good. Some games are hard to flatter; others really lend themselves to LPing.

    And I get frustrated with Josh a lot less than I used to.

    December 25, 2012 at 1:42 AM

  2. It certainly is difficult to multitask while recording, and I’m absolutely never going to defend Sonic 2006′s dubious quality. That said, I think there are better solutions to getting stuck than posting a 15 minute video, in which nothing happens for 11 minutes.

    Off the top of my head, they could have done test runs or multiple takes to get a good run once they figured it out. They could also have simply edited the segment out, using a title card to explain the situation. If they felt like putting some serious effort in they could’ve done a montage with post commentary explaining what happened. Any or all of the above can be employed to create a smooth viewing experience that doesn’t waste time on stuff that isn’t interesting to watch.

    The problem with LPers like Jon and Arin is their show isn’t about showing off the game, but about putting out content to subscribers. They do a sloppy job because they care more about views than making an entertaining production, trusting that people who like them personally will watch regardless of quality. That’s often a problem with youtube LPs in general – they’re made because the LPer wants to be popular, not because they want to show off a game. That, along with the annoying voices is a pretty big part of why I don’t watch the Game Grumps with any regularity.

    December 25, 2012 at 6:01 AM

    • But Editing is hard work! (Well, Editing IS Hard work, and it delays putting the post up. Thus delaying views. D:)

      December 25, 2012 at 7:58 AM

    • JPH

      Then would you also say Spoiler Warning is more interested in being popular than showing off a game? Because they don’t do any of those things either.

      Also, for the record, they DO generally fast-forward through parts they think the audience would find less interesting.

      December 25, 2012 at 1:47 PM

      • There isn’t a 1:1 correlation between editing and wanting to show a game off, but it is there.

        Spoiler Warning is very much about the game and the criticism thereof – almost all the commentary that isn’t the hosts joking around is directly assessing the game’s merits. Interesting or funny commentary can go along way to make up for boring footage, but even then they fast forward and edit if they’re dying too often etc. I don’t see the Game Grumps doing that though (with the caveat I don’t watch them, but what I have watched is more just playing the game than criticising it). If Egoraptor was doing Sequilitis style commentary over 11 minutes of non-progress I’d be much happier with it. Even this particular 11 minutes would be totally passable with some decent commentary there so that it doesn’t feel like a waste of time.

        It could be so much worse though. The fast forwarding they did have is certainly better than nothing.

        December 25, 2012 at 4:56 PM

  3. This needs to be posted everywhere for everyone who watches LPs to see. The only thing to add is a reason why people may not remember things in a game already played. … And it’s really sad that people need that pointed out because most of it is common sense. (Then again, Common Sense? On the IntarWebs? Never)

    December 25, 2012 at 7:57 AM

  4. Fang

    Yes, totally agree. The one thing that people seem to forget is, it is like commercials on TV, just fast-forward through em till they figure it out, if it bothers you so much.

    And also “RING, RING, RING”.

    December 25, 2012 at 11:46 PM

    • JPH

      IT’S NO USE!

      December 26, 2012 at 10:34 PM

  5. aldowyn

    Hmm. Why is this not in my RSS feed? Let’s fix that, after I comment…

    It depends on the focus of your LP. Most youtube LPs are personality based, rather than game based. It’s seeing what ridiculous hijinks they can get up to – even Spoiler Warning falls into that area sometimes, even if most of the time they’re being much more critical.

    But yeah, LPing is HARD. For me I tend to focus on the game before I focus on the commentary, so the end result when I was doing it myself was a loot of dead space as I was shooting stuff.

    It’s also a good argument for only LPing games you know pretty well – although this won’t work for content-driven Youtube channels, because you can only do so many and consistency is KEY in maintaining a fanbase.

    January 24, 2013 at 10:43 PM

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