Friday, 22 July 2011

Anatomy of an LP (Let's Play) Video Channel

I may as well shamelessly write an article about Let's Play videos this week since Ben and I have started our own channel of such videos under our witty moniker of the Timeshitters and just in case I haven't plugged it enough I'll do it twice more to get it out of my system. Watermelons.

Okay so for those who don't know what Let's Play videos are (they usually referred to as LP's for short) are basically footage of the video-makers (LP-ers) playing through games that they like and then providing commentary over it. The commentary's content is usually related to the gameplay footage and the game in general but you will find that many LP'ers will tend to drift off on tangents and tell you about their feelings about their life and all manner of irrelevant musings.

Nintendocaprisun is well known for his frequent spells of off the wall style of commentary. This particular LP'er records his commentary as he is playing/recording and is one of the few such LP'ers who can do it well. Your average simultaneous LP'er will lack the mental faculties to be able to provide coherent commentary whilst playing their games. This is why, to avoid uploading videos containing nothing but intermittent dribble, many LP'ers will record commentary post gameplay recording. The downside to this is that the LP'er has lived through the game already so is never genuinely surprised or affected by the action onscreen as it isn't happening to them concurrently. It gets to the point where LP'ers of this type will resort to other innovative methods to get around this.

Super Mario World
Probably one of the most commonly Lp'ed  games ever, ever.

Some post-commentating LP'ers will try to infuse their commentary with feigned emotion, acting surprised when things would have surprised them and simulating annoyance when they make mistakes or fall foul to a cheap death/failure. I won't name names, but there you are. You get those who will add extra post-production titbits to the video such as Protonjon to name just one for extra flavour and interest, which simply wouldn't be practical for a simultaneous LP'er to do as well. A happy medium between the two worlds is for to do post commentary with a guest co-LP'er who hasn't seen the footage yet. Bonus points awarded if the guest hasn't even played the game before because they will be able to react in a natural way to what is going on. As well as our own channel doing this, the folks at the Runaway Guys and Brain Scratch Comms provide good examples of how collaborative commentary can work and kudos to those guys because they don't exactly live near each other like Ben and myself do.

But there's more. Some people aren't merely satisfied with a run of the mill playthrough nosiree. Among the many varieties and species of LP videos there are these particular phenotypes worthy of mention:

The Tool Assisted (TAS) LP: -- In which the LP'er will make use of every dirty trick available to them to accomplish some pretty sick looking footage. The tools such as save states, slowdown, plenty of known bugs and glitches and occasionally debug modes allow LP'ers to do stuff like complete Mario 64 with no stars (quickly) and finishing Ocarina of Time in under one hour and don't make the mistake of thinking that TAS LP's aren't impressive. Sure the pure gaming skill isn't intact but the optimisation of the game, the knowledge of both the game's inner guts and the science of pushing a game to breaking point is a game all of its own. Just type 'TAS [name of game]' into Youtube to see some eye-popping stuff.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Collector's Edition)
It can be beaten in less than an hour if you completely shatter the game to shreds.
The Hardcore LP -- whereas many LP'ers are content to bumble through their games of choice and make all kinds of errors like failing a level the first time, failing to get 100% of the collectibles or even take a hit from an enemy even once, not so for some challenge videos. Whether it be blasting through a game without taking damage, or exploiting the game to finish it without using all of the key items, these people don't mess about. You'll see footage of people running Zelda games without using any heart containers, and endless amounts of speed runs and boss rushes. Complete showboating but can be impressive. Not to be confused with TAS speed runs, as that is dark magic.

The Race -- here we find that multiple players compete to finish a game first. This is a prime example of such a video.

The Boat Race -- I've only ever really seen this infamous one by the Great Clement who promises to drink a shot of some nasty stuff each time he dies in a run of Super Meat Boy. It does not end well. 

Get stuck in and discover the colourful and varied world of LP'ing! Seriously it can be as addictive as anything but as passive as a Radio 4 talk show marathon so be warned. It may swallow up a lot of your time.