Friday, December 21, 2012

Mega Man 25th Anniversary Livestreaming Marathon: A Retrospective

To celebrate Mega Man's 25th anniversary in style, I got together with my longtime friend (codename Dash Jump) and my wife (alias Z-Saber) to stream over 20 continuous hours of Mega Man over the Internet, with viewers from all around the world tuning in at various times to join in the fun. What began as a televised second helping of my 2010 Mega Man marathon soon became a more massive undertaking and learning experience than I had ever expected.
Our marathon comprised Rockman 1-6 for the Famicom (both because we'd never played the original Japanese versions of the NES games, and because the Famicom A/V was easier to stream from), Mega Man 7 for the SNES, Mega Man 8 for the PS1, and Mega Man 9-10 for the Wii. If you missed any part of the marathon, or if you'd like to relive the memories, pay a visit to any of the links below—the whole thing is saved there for future generations to look at it and say, "What were you guys thinking!?"

- Dash's Twitch TV channel
- Dash's Megathon playlist on his YouTube channel
- My Collaborations playlist on my YouTube channel

I'm giving Dash all the credit here [Dash's note: I accept all the credit!]—I might've come up with the idea, but he's the one who provided the hardware and expertise that allowed us to stream ten different games on four different consoles from the comfort of my living room. Not only that, but he did an excellent job of moderating the viewer chat room—something I mostly gave up on after I started getting a headache from looking back and forth between the gameplay on my television and the text scrolling by on his laptop.

I also was pleased and grateful to have my wife there throughout the first nine games; she, too, kept on top of the chat room, and was even a good enough sport to play a stage or two when the fans requested it. Additionally, she volunteered to make pizza from scratch when dinnertime drew near. (It was delicious, I might add.)
I mentioned this was both a learning experience and a more massive undertaking than anticipated; perhaps the best way to illustrate what I mean is with a few lists.

What went well:

Technology! We actually managed to pull this off with no significant technical difficulties, unlike the first time I tried to record Mega Man videos. This is why Dash is the man. [Dash's note: Agreed; he is also handsome and single.]

- Publicity! Not only did Dash find numerous opportunities in the chat room, in the commentary, and in the video footage (with pre-created images posted between games) to advertise our Twitter accounts, but my efforts to plug the marathon on Exfanding, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter were very successful in drawing more of a crowd to advertise to in the first place. [Dash's note: We love you; please follow!]

- Breaks! When one of us needed to eat or step out of the room for whatever reason, the other could keep playing to cover for us, so there was seldom a break in the action. This also helped limit the amount of down time between games; aside from swapping out cartridges and systems, we rarely needed more than a minute or two until we were ready to roll again.
- Commentary! We were, at various times, thoughtful, insightful, clever, funny, and generally entertaining. Even as the marathon dragged on and we slogged through the games and stages we weren't as fond of, we often managed to stay chatty and keep a positive attitude (or at least sound like we had a positive attitude).

- Responsiveness! Between the three of us, someone was always monitoring the chat room, and we tended to be very good about responding to the questions and requests of our viewers.

- Gameplay! There was a solid mix of impressive success and hilariously embarrassing failure in our playing, with plenty of fun, tense, and enlightening moments interspersed between the biggest highlights. [Dash's note: I have a keen sense for dodging into pits and spikes.]
- Food! We had breakfast, lunch, and (to a lesser extent) dinner planned out in advance, with plenty to drink and snack on whenever we needed it. [Dash's note: Except chocolate ice cream, because Gemini hoarded it all.]

- Participation! All three of us were frequently and meaningfully involved in various aspects of the marathon.

- Completion! We actually beat all ten games. How 'bout that.

What could have gone better:

- Starting! We told everyone we'd begin around 8:00 AM; we started closer to 8:20 AM. That's not too far off when you're talking about an all-day marathon, but we probably could have put up the "preloader" screen in time for the people who showed up early to be reassured that this was still happening.

- Alertness! I was apparently still groggy and especially off my game through Rockman 1-2, and it took Dash a few hours until he realized he hadn't had his coffee. Needless to say, our performance at the beginning, while still entertaining, often left something to be desired. It took us 25 minutes just to beat Ice Man's stage—which, I might point out, is how long it took us to beat all five of the preceding robot masters combined. This prompted our favorite recurring gag of the marathon, a series of Zelda II-inspired "GAME OVER RETURN OF ICE MAN" images that stemmed from the chat room's response to our world-condemning failures. [Dash's note: Ice Man has haunted my dreams since Monday.]
- Expectations and timing! My previous marathon—which was interrupted for 45 minutes by an unexpected errand, had a few longer breaks, and involved me collecting basically all the optional bolts in Mega Man 8—clocked in at about 16 hours. Even allowing 17 hours for this marathon would surely be more than sufficient, bringing the event to a close by around 1:00 AM at the latest. That's late, to be sure, but not an hour at which either of us is unaccustomed to being functional.

We ended at 4:00 AM. Our breaks between games were almost nonexistent, we skipped half the bolts in Mega Man 8, and we finished three hours later than the latest I was prepared for.
Our original plan was to have me be the primary player for all ten games, with Dash occasionally jumping in on the games he was more experienced with. While classic Mega Man and platformers in general are my specialty (and the ten games we marathoned were still fresh in my mind from my YouTube videos and my 2010 marathon), Dash is better at the Mega Man X series and other genres of games. [Dash's note: True dat.] I think we both recognized that, while it might be more fun to share the marathon equally, things would probably flow better if I covered for Dash on the games he'd only played once, or too long ago to remember well.
Neither of us discussed changing the plan. When I kept offering him the controller after beating a stage, and he kept accepting, the marathon transformed from a relaxed speedrun of Mega Man 1-10 into a casual "Let's Play" of Mega Man 1-10 with no definite endpoint. The whole point was to have fun playing these games together, but I was so focused on how far behind schedule we were that I could barely let either of us enjoy the marathon fully. It wasn't long before I started hammering Dash with unwelcome, unsolicited advice [Dash's note: And don't forget the rolled-up newspaper!] about how to get through each stage more quickly, and even my theater background couldn't mask my unhappiness with fighting Clown Man after my bedtime.

Lessons learned:

- Understand the person or people with whom you're collaborating, and be attentive to their mood, playing style, and gaming ability. Create a plan, agree on the plan, stick to the plan. Clearly communicate your expectations to each other, and clearly express when things aren't meeting your expectations or going as planned. [Dash's note: Is this marriage advice?] I could go into more detail here, but suffice it to say that almost everything that could've gone better with the marathon was the result of us doing the opposite of everything mentioned above.

- For future marathons, Mega Man & Bass should be played in place of Mega Man 8. Unrelenting difficulty be darned! Anything's gotta be better than...well, pretty much everything about that game.

- Unless it's an intentionally blind playthrough or a spontaneous decision to play a particular game, spend a little time before the marathon/livestream practicing or reading up on the game(s) you're going to play. This is especially important if there are known trouble spots—dodging the shots of Mega Man 7's final boss, for example, or the labyrinth sections of Astro Man's stage in Mega Man 8.
- I am not cut out for livestreaming on my own; this would have been a complete disaster without Dash. [Dash's note: Most things are a complete disaster without Dash.] Simultaneously monitoring the chat room, providing commentary, actually playing a game, periodically advertising my various social media accounts, and ensuring the technology still works is not something I can see myself happily or competently doing.

- Never forget how awesome your viewers are. A handful of people spent the entire 20 hours with us. Some of our viewers went to bed, and came back seven or eight hours later to see if we were still playing. We had people digging up articles, video links, and even creating custom images for us on the fly. It didn't matter that we scored dozens of Game Overs or accidentally had to replay half of the castle stages in Mega Man 9; our viewers were there for us, and that's a magnificent feeling.
Overall, despite the fatigue, failure, and frustration I know we both suffered at certain points (GAME OVER RETURN OF ICE MAN), I'd say the Megathon (as Dash likes to call it) was a great success. We provided the Internet with 20 more hours of entertainment, Dash's livestreaming career is off to a strong start [Dash's note: Thanks, Gemini!!!], we both gained more subscribers and followers, and we got to celebrate Mega Man's 25th anniversary in style, among friends both near and far.

Now, to start planning that Mega Man Game Boy marathon...


Clinton Wilcox said...

I had a great time watching your megathon (I was Blueportal85). I wanted to stay up to watch the entire thing, but I'm an "early to bed, early to rise" kind of person. So I actually fell asleep during Mega Man 10 because it was way past my bedtime. But I'll definitely watch the archived videos to see the parts that I missed. I actually wouldn't mind watching you, Dash, and Saber having a Mega Man X marathon. ;)

JoeReviewer said...

Had a great time too!

Doctor Freeman said...

Oh, nice to know my GAME OVER RETURN OF ICE MAN joke made mention.
Though I wouldn't call it "mine" after everyone made really cool pictures of it, and it sounds kind of egotistical...
Nevertheless, a great and fun stream, even if Astro Man's theme now causes shuddering whenever I hear it.

Unknown said...

SwordHMX here: I really enjoyed the whole event! There was a lot of experimental aspects to it, but like the first Mega Man it came out a winner. How well you interacted with the chatters was a high point.

I think Z-Saber's popularity is growing at an incredibly fast rate (my note: Pandas are cute, but I prefer Ocelots). Good thing there were no centaurs at your wedding.

If Dash pays my way, I can come play a Mega Man X marathon with him ;)

Flashman85 said...

Clinton: Understood! Frankly, *I* almost fell asleep during Mega Man 10... Mega Man X is always a possibility, but I think that'll be a while, if it happens.

Joe: Great! Glad to have you there.

Doctor Freeman: There's no way we'd let that one slide without mention. :) And I think the only reason Astro Man's stage is at all tolerable is because of the laid-back music.

Tim: Excellent! You'll have to talk to Dash about the marathon (heh), but I've passed along your sentiments to yon Z-Saber. :)