Thursday, May 01, 2014

Knowing Your Audience

A form of entertainment is never going to work for all of the people all of the time. People like to say that World of Warcraft has declined because it spends too much time catering to 'the other people' where 'the other people' happen to be people who like to do things the speaker doesn't. I guess I can understand the frustration of not being able to enjoy something as much as you might want to, especially if you can't find anything that actually works better for you. But mostly it just feels like pointless complaining to me. If WoW is too hardcore for you, play something else. If it's too casual for you, play something else. Or just play the parts of WoW you like and ignore the other stuff! WoW is actually big enough that I think it really can be a good game for a wide variety of people at the same time even if it isn't absolutely perfect for any given person.

The same is also true for television shows or (as in my case recently) video game streams. Nothing brought this more to the forefront of my mind than the start of the Crystals for Life stream which started on Tuesday and runs through Sunday... The first three games run were all targeted at different types of people and it really felt like they knew who they were targeting each time.

The very first game was Final Fantasy IV and it was aimed at people hardcore enough to show up for the kick off to an RPG marathon stream. It's an instantly recognizable game with plenty of crazy bugs to abuse. They never bothered to talk about the details of the plot really and focused on detailed strategies for different fights and why they were doing certain things. They talked about how to earn infinite money by selling an empty inventory slot. They showed off how you could abuse a combination of saving the game, opening the menu on the first frame of a movement, using a tent, and resetting the console in order to glitch your way through the village of Mist on the world map. (This lets you enter from the right instead of the left which allows you to visit the stores and loot the treasures before burning the town down, which turns Edward into a brutal killing machine instead of a chump.) They used a mana underflow glitch to have Tellah cast meteo on every fight. Then they skipped the second half of the game by abusing a bug to teleport around the world! I'd heard about this bug before but had never seen it in action. It turns out the game keeps a counter tracking what floor of a zone you're on (useful for using the warp spell which takes you back one floor) but there's one set of stairs that makes the counter go up when you go up it and when you go down it. So you can make the counter overflow and roll back to 0 even though you're not on the ground floor of the castle. Then you take a different set of stairs to go to a negative floor which warps you to a glitched out world where you can walk in a specific pattern to warp out in all kinds of weird places. This includes getting to the final boss with the ability to use a monster spell to one shot him.

It was very much a stream designed for the hardcore RPG fan who wanted to see a classic game get run quickly and ripped to shreds by bug abuse.

Next up was Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Crystal Bearers which is a game I'd never heard of. The runner and the people commentating for him acknowledged that most people wouldn't know about the game so on top of talking about standard speedrunning things (like double rolls to move just a little bit faster) they also actually talked about the plot and why things were going on. They assumed that no one needed to be told why Cecil was becoming a paladin in Final Fantasy IV and then assumed that no one had a clue who the Selkie were in FFCCCB. So the first stream didn't talk plot and the second one did.

I thought that was a really good idea. They still skipped through all the cutscenes as fast as they could but keeping the audience filled in meant the audience would be better able to follow along with a more obscure game.

The third game was Suikoden which is a pretty popular series of games where you can recruit over a hundred playable characters or something. I've never played it, though I did watch Byung play a little way back in the day. This stream was targeted at people who knew what was going on and was way over my head. I left it on in the background because they were sometimes saying interesting (to me) things but for the most part I couldn't follow the action because I hadn't played the game and they weren't interested in keeping me up to date.

According to the people in chat though it was a great run. People who actually knew what was going on really liked it. And on the flip side I'm sure someone who played a lot of FFCCCB found that game to be really boring with all the extra plot exposition being explained to newbs like me.

And that's great! Even though it meant that I didn't get much enjoyment out of the Suikoden game I think it's a fine idea that they ran it that way. They knew who they were targeting with that game and it wasn't me. Knowing their audience and focusing on it undoubtedly made that stream better for who they wanted to entertain. The first two parts were right up my alley but I shouldn't expect everything to be what I want the whole way through. So I played some Dungeons of Dredmore as I watched for what I could gain from the Suikoden stream and had fun.

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