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Supervision Required #1: Lessons Learned the Hard Way

October 9th, 2012 by Troy Goodfellow · 3 Comments · Me, Supervision Required

Saturday was the first time Jenn Cutter and I endeavored to broadcast our gaming adventures and tastes. You can go back to her blog post for the more detailed plan, but the idea was we would each play Super Mario World, we would stream our performance and people could watch and comment.

If you were kind enough to tune in, thanks, and feel free to email us your comments. If you didn’t you can watch some of the video at our respective streams:


Things were far from perfect, but I do want to focus a little on the positive before we get to the negative, including my public humiliation.

1) A couple of hours before showtime, Jenn’s internet died. Since the plan was to broadcast from her place, this was, understandably, a big problem. Fortunately, she lives close enough to her (very kind and sweet) parents to make salvaging the operation possible. So we bolted over to the Cutter residence, occupied the basement and set up a pretty quick ad hoc arrangement.

And it worked! Video wise, at least. The streams ran smoothly, Jenn and I could see and talk to each other and see what the other one was doing. She did almost all of the work on this part since it was her design anyway, and she was a whirlwind of energy. It would be easy to see Bell Canada’s crappy internet service as a negative (and it was since it made us abandon other, probably smoother, plans) but I look at the fact we could get everything moved, reconfigured and organized again as a positive.

2) Fun was had. As terrible as I ended up being, and even though it took us much longer than we anticipated to ever get close to our goals, Jenn and I had a good time with each other and I know she had fun reading a mostly well-behaved chat window. My failures did not discourage me from trying, I never got bored since I was hanging out with a pretty cool lady and I learned a lot about my own judgment of my skills and my limitations.

These are really the two big positives – good video quality and a good time. And they override anything that follows on the negative side of the ledger.

3) Sound is an issue. Despite trying two headsets and a webcam mic, my audio was apparently never clear to most viewers. It comes through here and there on the recorded stream, but this is something we will need to deal with. Audio is relatively easy compared to video, but there are issues of lag between audio and video that will need to be dealt with.

4) The TwitchTV iOS app is shit which is why I didn’t engage with you all in chat. It recognizes that there is a stream but will not stream or load the chat. Next time, I bring my netbook.

5) The card system didn’t quite work out, mostly because I was so damned determined to solve things on my own. We still need to work this out, but I think it’s an idea that will help if we keep competitive engagements in the plan.

6) Two separate streams is far from ideal, but when you have two people playing and having different experiences, you can’t stick it all on one screen easily without losing quality video. What is on screen becomes very small and as we move forward into games without big colorful mushrooms, this would matter. We’re still thinking about this, and of course games that are not competitive will be easier to deal with. As will those videos that we just edit.

7) FoSTV is being delayed until the weekend because I want it to have super high quality.

    The Game Itself

I have a general policy of honesty, and with Jenn that is doubled. But I’m also a modest sort, so she doubted me when I said I was terrible at platform games. If you saw the stream, then you saw me barely get to level 3 (with some help from Jenn via Rescue Cards) as she finished the game and over 80 of the worlds/levels/gates whatever she was counting. She had expected me to hit level 5 at least. Nope.

The big thing that failed me was, as I expected, timing. I didn’t have a lot of trouble remembering what was beyond the next jump (after I had died there five times) but remembering the proper place to leap from while not moving too slowly – hey, clocks can kill you! – was more of a challenge. Jenn, of course, has played Super Mario World since she was 10, and probably revisits it every other year. She knows where certain things are going to be. I didn’t so it was all trial and error and error and error.

I think the term “learning curve” doesn’t quite fit a game like Super Mario World. It’s not like I wasn’t learning anything or like I didn’t know what to do or what to avoid. It was more that making my brain and body agree on the precise moment to do what needed doing proved more difficult than I think either of us imagined.

    Next Up

We’ll do the next show in November (starting monthly and then we’ll see if we can pick it up faster) and it’s my turn to pick. I announced on Saturday that I have chosen the first great city-builder SimCity from Maxis (1989). It’s the same vintage as Super Mario World, but also presents a lot of challenges for people that are not familiar with strategy games. It requires patience, planning, pattern recognition (if you’re new to the game) and a sense of humor about George H. W. Bush’s failed industrial policies in the late 80s.


3 Comments so far ↓

  • Chris Floyd

    Can I be honest? I was baffled about how and when to watch the show and exactly what you were trying to do. Two streams? Simultaneously? How many hours? What are these cards again? It feels more like a social science experiment than entertainment. At the same time, I REALLY like the idea of watching someone delve into genres of games they’re not familiar with, guided by someone who is.

    You have no reason to take advice from me, but I think you should SIMPLIFY your concept. Have one of you play a game you’re unfamiliar with while the other watches and comments/helps. The idea of rescues is interesting; maybe you can keep those in some form. And then: Edit. Cut together the highlights and in each segment tell us what we’ve missed very briefly, then move on.

    I’m anything but a digital media expert, so maybe I’m missing what you’re trying to do here or who the audience is. But those are just some ideas for making this concept into something I would watch.

    SimCity is a great choice. Good luck in the future attempts.

  • baekgom84

    Yeah, I definitely think the concept is really interesting, but the execution could do with a little tweaking. I started watching the Idle Thumbs stream where they played the original X-COM, and honestly I felt a little bored because the guy on the controls was kind of a veteran and knew exactly what he was doing (I never actually played the original X-COM). For me, the only real reason I would want to watch an experienced player is if I want to learn ways to improve my own play; otherwise, I get much more of a kick watching someone experience things for the first time (or just generally sucking). I didn’t watch the Super Mario World stream yet, but if I did, I would probably avoid Jenn’s stream altogether because I’m also pretty experienced with SMW and have no interest in watching the game being beaten yet again.

    You guys already probably have a bunch of ideas about where you want to go from here, but I think Chris’s suggestion above to focus more on the unfamiliar player, with the experienced player in the background giving advice, is a strong one. There are lots of different approaches you could take, I guess. Anyway, just wanted to reiterate that I like the concept and I hope you guys can find a solid middle ground.

  • Ben

    Shame I didn’t get to watch it live, but I scrubbed through it after the fact and found it fairly entertaining. It was a little annoying trying to keep the two streams in relative sync, but I did like the idea of having both of you playing at once, as a “do this, don’t do that” Goofus and Gallant sort of thing, and it was great to see Troy improving in the second half of the broadcast.

    Sim City is another beloved game of my childhood, so I certainly will try to watch you guys playing that.