On the off chance enough people give a shit about my work to ever want to see behind the scenes commentary, here are some thoughts about how some of my videos came to be.
Undertale vs. DDLC
The idea for this one first came to me while I was playing DDLC, shockingly enough. The Undertale parallels were becoming more and more apparent to me to the point where I couldn’t stop thinking about them. The game was also gripping me quite a bit and I was utterly transfixed by the end. After completing it, I opened up my blog (this site) and started writing. My blog was a weird little thing. I didn’t promote it at all or work actively on it, I just saw it as a portfolio of sorts. The script poured out of me and looked very similar to the finished product almost straight from the beginning. I also knew right away that I would not be satisfied with just posting this on my nowhere blog. I could not possibly stay quiet about this.
A side note about the environment in which this video came out: I think I was among the first people to really say anything about it in the mainstream space. I got a comment on my video pretty early on noting that there were only two or three analyses on all of youtube, as far as they knew. It’s hard to imagine these days, but the game was an absolute ghost at the time. There was literally not a single mention of it on reddit. /v/ threads were just starting to take off, but it was still a pretty niche thing. So as a niche thing within a niche space, there wasn’t much discussion going on, but I felt the need to bring it up nonetheless.
My first idea was to make my script into a text post on reddit’s /r/games. However, as the script continued to grow and grow, I thought about what I would do if I saw a novel-length text post about some visual novel with a weebish name that I’d never heard of. Would I read it? Not in a million years. Nobody reads on the internet. But a video? Possibly.
So I settled on that idea pretty early. Voice the script using my eight year old Razer headset, put up some “distraction footage” (that was literally the word I used, I didn’t think there’d be much to show and it was just to keep people from falling asleep while I talked) and post it hoping anyone gave a shit.
I spent a LOT of my time on this. All of my other videos I had to force myself to finish to some extent or another, just because of burnout, but I really felt like I had to do this. The game started to gain a bit more of a profile as I worked on it, to the point where a youtuber I knew played it on his stream. I saw alarm bells at that point. I thought the probability of him making a video on it was extremely high and he would completely overshadow anything I did. So I rushed to get the video done. That’s why it has some long stretches of a single video clip. Ironically, the other youtuber’s video never came.
As a funny side note, I really agonized about what to title the video. I thought that DDLC’s title was so ridiculous that no one would take it seriously, hence the very first line of the script. At the same time, it would be dishonest and clickbaitish to not mention it. People might be interested if I mention how it hides some stuff under the hood, but I don’t want to spoil it! I ended up going with “how to hide your story in plain sight”, a rather meh title in retrospect, but it got the job done. Minutes after uploading the video, posting it on reddit, and stepping up from my computer and nervously pacing around the house, I checked and saw that I had my first comment! The first person to ever engage with my work! It… was a guy complaining that the title was a spoiler. Bleh.
Responses were generally positive. A lot of people told me the music was too loud, which I kinda overcompensated for in the next video. I had a couple really good discussions with people in the comments. After a while I really started to crave responses where people genuinely engage with the content and present their own perspectives. But when you start out, you also get a lot of comments just congratulating you on how well the video turned out. And that can be nice too, especially in the beginning. It was a huge highlight at that point in my life where every single morning I could get up and check my phone to see a half dozen new comments saying nice things to me.
It’s hard to even say in retrospect what I expected the viewcount to be. Everyone says “oh, I didn’t expect it to get big” but secretly did or were at least hoping. I think I said in an early comment that I was hoping for about 500 and I’m pretty sure that was true. I think I was hoping to get up to around 1500 after the initial peak and maybe as a long shot get up to 10 or 20 thousand over its lifetime. It ended up getting over 200 thousand. Suffice to say, I was drawn in. I had already resolved earlier that I wanted to make more videos – the video making process was so much fun, despite some of the strains, and I’d wanted to do something similar for basically as long as I can remember. But getting such a huge response, even if, to be honest, most of it was luck in me being among the first to talk about DDLC right as it exploded, it was enough to shatter the barrier of apprehension and make me excited to do more.
Overall I’d say this is simultaneously my worst video as well as my favorite. It’s incredibly special to me, as the idea for it was what drove me to get into this business in the first place and it was truly magical seeing it come to life. On the other hand, it was an amateur’s work in many ways. I’m actually surprised, when rewatching it, how much most of the writing holds up, but I also repeat myself a lot and some of the points don’t really go anywhere. Plus the overall construction of it was pretty rickety, though clearly that didn’t bother people too much.
You might notice that I’m one of those pricks that insists on putting the dash whenever I type the title of old X-COM. Anyway, there’s much less to say about this one. I believe the seeds of this idea were planted before the DDLC one, but I started working on it in earnest after I decided to make more videos. My techniques didn’t change that much besides how I applied the music. Oh yeah, I put the music in during audio editing for my first video. No idea why. It made the pace pretty fixed once I entered video editing. The music wasn’t too loud in this one, but it was arguably too quiet in many parts, especially the finale. I used a song from Made in Abyss partially because I felt like it fit the tone of the ending monologue but mostly because I was obsessed with that song at the time.
Looking back, I’m not quite happy with all the arguments I made in this video. Someone on reddit quickly pointed out that many people DO get attached to their soldiers and give them custom names and stuff, and that it was a big part of the appeal back in the day. I still think that the feel is different when they’re so low-res, but I wish I hadn’t made the point so central.
This was also the first video where almost all the footage was mine, and I enjoyed throwing in little background jokes, particularly in the names of the soldiers. I call my style “the editing having a mind of its own” because the jokes are often working in the background, independent of whatever I’m talking about.
I comment during the end of this one that it took a while, and I honestly don’t remember if it was the script or the editing. I’m quite happy with how the script turned out but the editing took AGES. This video is the main reason I’m hesitant to write about more general concepts because I constantly have to stop what I’m doing while editing to go download another clip. It’s impossible to anticipate everything that I’ll need.
I have mixed feelings on the editing in this video in general. On one hand, I had a ton of fun slipping in little jabs with the choice of footage, though some of them were probably too subtle. Did anyone notice that every time I talk about other media, The Last of Us is on screen? Hilarious. On the other hand, the sliding scale thing just looks ridiculous and it took me an embarrassing amount of time to put together in GIMP despite looking laughably amateurish. Back on the first hand, this is probably my favorite use of music in all my videos. I also really like the thumbnail. The background is the burning tower from Spec Ops, the one that Walker sees in his visions.
I use a quote from the lead writer of Spec Ops in this video and in retrospect it wasn’t entirely necessary. I think I just wanted to include a quote to seem more authoritative.
Skill Points are Boring
Ah, Subjective Objection. You weren’t a great idea from the get-go. The editing on this one took way too long for the same reasons as the protagonist video. I also think I’m just plain not good at this more aggressive style. The joke where I add reverb to my voice to talk about how cuhraaaayzee the upgrades in ME3 are makes me cringe looking back on it. It was funnier in my head.
Still, I stand by my arguments here. I’d like to bring back something of a similar format in future, but not cloying for a theme so hard. The lawyer thing fell a bit flat.
I mentioned this in a few places, but the idea of Subjective Objection would be that it came out between “main” videos since it would be faster to make. This ended up not being the case and was the main reason it was shelved, other than it clashing with my style.
When I posted this one on reddit one guy in the comments got pretty heated at the title. He called it “garbage clickbait tactics” and rephrasing to “are skill points boring?” was far better. I… don’t really get that stance. I’ve always considered question titles to be among the clickbaiteyest of them all, while simultaneously incredibly predictable in most cases (though ironically the adage of the answer to question titles always being “no” would be wrong in my case). I considered a straightforward statement of the conclusion with the implication that the video is the reasoning to be the least clickbaitey way to do things, but I guess you can’t please everyone.
Delta Rune was hot off the presses when this came out. It dropped in the middle of a school day and I basically dropped everything to play it. Don’t worry, I was grad school, so it was simultaneously more feasible and more irresponsible! I wasn’t quite inspired to make a video the way I was with DDLC, but I was nonetheless excited to talk about more Undertale content and hacking out a quick video to capitalize on a trending topic seemed like a whole new experience. It ended up taking me about a week to make a four minute video, which is probably the fastest I’ll ever be able to operate. Most of it was just going over the script to make sure I wasn’t talking out of my ass. The editing was relatively simple.
It fared a bit better that my last few videos but it didn’t exactly blow up. The video ended up being bizarrely personal as I ended up feeling a strange connection with Toby Fox, especially after reading his post mortem where he talked about his inability to recreate what Undertale meant to people. I also felt like there was a bit of an expectation to recreate my DDLC video – it accounted for the vast majority of my views and subscribers at the time. So my Delta Rune video ended up being an expression of those emotions and a profession of the hope I held that I could eventually make people come here for me, rather that hitting on something topical.
Work on this video started almost immediately after the skill points one, or at least that’s what my twitter timeline would have me believe. The Delta Rune thing came in to interrupt after it entered editing and I came back and finished it around a month later. I don’t even remember where the initial idea for this came from, but I had more confidence in it than most.
I wanted this video to solidify what my channel was going to be in the future, an exit from my early work and into the main body, as it were. In practice that hasn’t been entirely the case… yet. I think character-focused stuff suits me because, at time of writing, I’d say it’s probably my best video. The editing worked well and the writing is solid. It’s definitely not perfect – there are some little parts that didn’t work out right and one big one – but it’s definitely the benchmark to clear at this point.
The first of two parts of it that irk me is the Excelsus portion. It saw several rewrites during the scripting process and wasn’t quite put back together whole. There are some aspects of it that made more sense in older versions of the script that I should have caught on review and fixed up. The other is the grand conclusion of why Armstrong is wrong. I still believe that he was wrong, but I don’t think my argument was that good. It’s been the main point of contention in the comments, both from people who agree and disagree with me. In all honesty, I think it’s partially borne from a point Digibro made about Satsuki from Kill la Kill hypocritically embodying the system she sought to destroy. One commenter put forth a better argument that he was giving legitimacy to the system by participating in it. If I were doing this video now I’d have to think for a long time on how to better put that part.
This video obviously saw its fair share of political comments, including a handful of EXTREMELY heated individuals. I made a point to screw with whichever ones I could. I have no problem with people disagreeing with me – in fact, some of my favorite responses have been rebuttals. But if someone opens with rage, I’m not engaging them seriously. My favorite interaction was with this guy who opened with calling me a deluded idiot before launching into a very long post arguing about why I was so wrong about Armstrong’s views and something something. To be honest after the first sentence I skimmed the rest then commented “Calm down son it’s just a video game”. He got VERY incensed at that, and I left him to boil over on his own.
Wait no, my actual favorite response was a guy with a Garfield avatar who just wrote “Rycluse sexy boy”.
This video was also the second on my channel to really blow up. It actually surpassed DDLC eventually, which was very unexpected. It blew up out of nowhere, too. At first it got an average or barely above average view count for my channel. Then a few months later it suddenly gained the algorithm’s favor and started skyrocketing! It certainly got me moving again, since I hadn’t posted in a while. Not for lack of work of course. By then the cursed Portal 2 video had begun.
Of course, I immediately got distracted while working on the cursed Portal 2 video. I got a random urge to try playing Xenonauts for what I think was the third or possibly fourth time. Despite referencing it in my X-COM video I hadn’t played it for more than ten hours or so in any campaign. But as I got deeper into it, ideas started flooding into my head. This game is actually… really good! It really feels like a loving fan’s rendition of X-COM in the modern era! And the script practically wrote itself.
It’s always a fun thing when a script just flows out of you like that. This was probably the easiest one to write out of all of my videos, followed closely by DDLC which only falls short because it was so long and required more refinement. I think writing tends to be easier for me if the core idea comes to me while playing – in this case, grading Xenonauts as a remake – and has time to stew while I play. That way the supporting evidence is added to the thought pile organically as I’m experiencing the game. When it’s for something I haven’t played for a while, like Armstrong or the cursed Portal 2 video, it often takes me MUCH longer to get my thoughts together. With this, it was just a matter of putting everything in a decent order and releasing my thoughts all in one go.
Like with the X-COM video, I recorded almost all of the footage myself so I tried to stick some funny names into the background. This may have been a mistake. A single Xenonauts mission can take a while, you see, and I didn’t want the entire video to consist of the same couple missions, or even of all the same tech level. The script references several different tech levels anyway. So I grabbed several saves from throughout my campaign, changed all the soldier names, and played a few missions. I ended up having to come up with over 40 names so the well was running dry after a bit. I had video game characters, anime characters, references to my own videos, references to some of my creative writing that no one would even get, youtubers I like, and one squad was entirely named after dril tweets.
You know, now that I think about it, this actually might be my true best video. It’s more niche than the Armstrong one but the editing generally holds together and there aren’t any major flaws in the script this time. I think the Armstrong video was overall funnier but I still like the gags, especially the “pause for nitpicks” screen, though the “hallelujah” one didn’t land as well as I’d like. It also features my best visual gag in one of the air combat shots. Look closely next time you watch it!
This video also marked the point where the reddit mods decided they’d had enough of my shit and removed my post. Apparently you can only post your own stuff if it’s less than ten percent of your total submissions site-wide. As such, my shitposting on reddit has risen quite a bit so I’ll be able to post a more important video when the time comes.
Sometimes a video idea has to sit in the back of the pantry for a while and age before it’s ready to truly blossom, the cultured viewpoints developing like a culture of fungus. The skill points video sat in my blog as a barely-started rant about Path of Exile for around a year before I came back to it. Similarly, it was shortly after I posted my Armstrong video that I started writing a blog post – not even something that I intended to make into a video – titled “who honestly gives a shit about game of the year awards?”
It was a venting of my frustrations after watching people bitch and moan, yet again, about various outlets not choosing what they wanted for their personal game of the year. My rage fizzled out pretty quickly as I wrote and I swiftly shelved it, but the feelings remained. Then, when sitting around bored at work one day, the idea came to me. I quickly opened my email and started jotting down rough ideas to send to myself. A fake top 10 list that secretly conceals my true feelings on top 10 lists! It would be my subversive masterpiece or something.
It was also incredibly convenient that this idea had come to me because the year end was fast approaching and I was nowhere near a spot to finish the cursed Portal 2 video before then, despite saying I wanted to get at least one more video out in 2019. Plus it gave that old game of the year proto-script a chance to be useful.
Editing for this one was fairly easy outside of the intro, as you might guess. Downloading footage for that intro was a unique drag of an experience, but seeing it all come together was fun. I wasn’t anticipating it to be a high-impact video and it didn’t end up being so, but it was something of a passion project. A passion project that required very little effort on my part, conveniently.
This fuckin’ video, man. A real bugbear. A real monkey on my back. A real, uh, bee up my shirt.
I’m pretty sure this one began its life with me thinking about the Oracle Turret from Portal 2 and wondering what I could do with it, particularly with my newfound perspective on mythology after having recently taken a college class on it. I say “I’m pretty sure” cause it was a long-ass time ago. The first draft in my blog’s history was in February of 2019. Both the Xenonauts video and the Top 10 video went through their entire life cycles in that time, but to me, it honestly feels even longer.
The funny thing is that writing this script was mostly easy. About 70% was finished in the first month, but finishing just ate away at me. It always felt like it was needing just a little bit more as a grand finale. I tried rewriting the whole thing from scratch, taking breaks to make other videos, straight up walking away from making videos for a while, but none if it worked. After making the Top 10 video, my resolve was reforged and I was determined to make it work.
Suddenly, a surge of inspiration struck. What if I took the mythological allusions… and used them to predict the future? Prometheus was eventually rescued, which wasn’t really a focal point in the game, besides that one thing. What if I start extrapolating those emotions to speculate on the broad strokes of a possible Portal 3 plot?
I started simultaneously writing and researching, until I hit the opposite of a wall – a hole. A rabbit hole, that is. Because fucking hell does this line of thinking ever spiral into the abyss. I started reading up on the Labors of Heracles, realized I had misremembered and Heracles actually freed Prometheus during a completely unrelated set of adventures, starting weaving a bit narrative in the script about themes of redemption and the generosity of others and… it wasn’t really going anywhere.
Around that time, I happened to be rewatching hbomberguy’s Sherlock video, and he mentioned his belief that any creative work could be improved by forcing the creator to remove 10% of it. I had some notion of doing that once this grand finale was completed. But I slowly came to realize that THIS was the extraneous fluff that had to be removed. I kidded myself for a while longer by attempting to write an ending about how you eventually having to stop coming up with connections and moving on with your fucking life before giving up on the whole thing and writing the ending the video now has.
I wouldn’t say this is the happiest I’ve ever been with a script. I still think it’s good, or I wouldn’t have published it otherwise, but that feeling of needing more never went away. But I also realized that letting this one wallow wouldn’t do it any favors, so I decided it was time to push it out into the world and move on. I think it really came alive in the editing room, though. The jokes ended up hitting much better with the benefit of visuals and having something to look at made the experience all around better, I think. It’s always an amazing experience seeing your writing take shape in a whole new medium, and this one has probably benefited from it more than any of my work up to this point.
Fourth Wall Breaks in Games
I mentioned this in my old intro video but it bears repeating: I’m not a full-time youtuber. I know, how do I even expect to compete! This is just a side hobby, and the more I’ve gotten into it, the more I’ve come to realize why so many people in the biz set up patreons and the like to enable them to go full time. It’s cause this shit takes forever.
The idea for this video was partially borne of wanting to talk about fourth wall breaks, and partially wanting to talk about the game One Shot. This is a game that people bothered me a lot to play after my initial video, and I diligently ignored all of them, because it felt like typecasting my channel way too early. Eventually, I thought I may as well give it a shot, but with a twist.
…if I’m being honest, the initial way I thought this video was going to go was being negative about the game. It was originally conceived along the lines of “a game needs more than a twist to be good and y’all keep recommending me this for the twist alone”.
But that didn’t seem fair, since I hadn’t actually played it yet. Plus, I wanted a new challenge, so I reimagined it to be a more general look at fourth wall breaks. I planned to play a bunch of games and take notes to make a grand overview, Gamemaker’s Toolkit-style. So already that’s a lot of time sectioned off, purely for research.
One Shot, as it ended up, was quite good. It ended up giving me much more to talk about than I had planned, so the planned structure changed again to use One Shot as the main vehicle for the discussion, with other games just being referenced. But simply conjuring a script out of thin air isn’t so easy. Writing tends to be the slowest part of my video creation process, calendar-wise. I’ll often go long periods without working on a script, just thinking on it, trying to get the arguments right in my head. And sometimes I’m just not feeling the inspiration. If it were my job, I’m sure I could make it work. But when it’s a hobby, your writers block can be distributed across multiple sessions.
I never write videos with the intention of them being long. I had a suspicion that this one would be longer, but that was more due to the complexity of the subject matter than any desire to make a big statement. I tend to write until there’s a feeling of “completeness” about it. Sometimes a script very naturally falls at a certain length – I seem to gravitate around 10 minutes – and sometimes I can end up stewing one for a long time because it just doesn’t feel finished, as happened with the cursed Portal 2 video. This one ended up being pretty hefty, which presented yet another problem – in the editing booth, I am but one man.
There are probably a lot of things I could do to improve my editing workflow. In fact, the work on this video inspired me to set doing so as a personal goal for the next one. But as an amateur hobbyist, filling a minute of video time can take around an hour, depending on what’s happening in it. Twenty-three-ish hours is a long time when you have a couple at most each evening to clock in. Weekends give more, but you never know when your family will call you away for entire weekends multiple weeks in a row, completely nullifying your most productive days. (not that I speak from experience… love you, mom)
I’m not trying to get all “woe is me” here, but this post is about my thoughts behind the scenes, and this is what dominated my thoughts the most during this video’s production. This video is about the length of one of the longer Jimquisition videos, something that Jim and Justin can churn out in a week. This took me the better part of a year. And I’m not happy with that – I’d be thouroughly lying if I said I was actively or even passively working on it for most of the time, but even without the hiatuses it’s pretty low efficiency. But at the same time, I’m SO happy with the results itself. Do you know how it feels to hear music made specifically for your own work? It’s pretty great, I have to say.