on Nov 1, 2012
Sooner or later we get to a bogged-down section of the game where all we can do is repeat previous criticism and watch Josh shoot things and scream over us when he sees a bug. This is perhaps not our show at its finest. When this happens, it comes up now and again in conversation:
Man, you guys don’t seem to be enjoying yourselves. You’re just nitpicking endlessly. Why don’t you quit this game, or skip over the boring parts?
If we quit whenever we hit a tough spot, we’d never finish anything, since just about all games have a point where they settle into the mechanics and combat for a while. My final take on Human Revolution was that the game “warmed my heart”. I was delighted to see a classic game revived with such care and maturity, and with so much faithfulness to the intent of the original. But even that game had a number of slow spots, rough points, logic holes, and sections where we couldn’t do anything but bitch & moan about the same problems we’d been covering for the last three hours.
That said, the format of the show has always sort of been about pokin’ around the entirety of the game’s experience. Wacky bugs, idiotic-but-subtle plot holes, and a “hey let’s talk about this since we’re doin’ it right now!” structure have been core to what it is. And a large reason for that is because it’s so easy to do it this way – we get together on Sunday nights and over the course of three or four hours have a week’s worth of content. Josh bears the biggest brunt of the responsibility by far, having to sync the Ventrillo voices against the footage and then compile/upload the episodes, but even that’s pretty light effort compared to what it can take to produce four separate twenty minute episodes of video content these days. Minute of footage to minute of effort, we’re running at pretty much max capacity.
But if we start putting in the time and effort to discuss in advance what parts of the game we want to cover, the range of topics we want to discuss while we’re doing that part, make sure we’ve all played that section in advance, have a save at the ready for Josh, and closely moderate our conversation during play then things take on a different tone. It’s a more structured show (if we’re not going to seriously structure it it wouldn’t be worth the effort to cherry pick bits, as we’d get to them and more using the current format). It’s also a more heavily edited show, and would likely require far more time on Josh’s part to complete. At that point we’re not going to be as capable of pushing out 4 episodes a week without it impacting our day jobs/other activities.
Ultimately I don’t know if “Spoiler Warning” as we know it could really function as a 4-episode a week show if we had to put a ton of effort into planning content, preparing topics, or skipping from game to game. But that doesn’t mean a more focused piece of media with the SW crew isn’t necessarily worthwhile – we’ve tossed the idea of a podcast around for ages. And I’d love to do a more rapid-fire show that looks at indie games and all other manner of titles for about 15-30 minutes at a time once a week – SW mostly reserves indie titles for special one-off episodes. Even just deciding upfront that we’ll cap Spoiler Warning weeks at, say, three could be an interesting change when dealing with these mega-huge titles like Mass Effect. It would ensure if we had something to say we’d need to say it soon without forcing too much structure on us.
In short: I agree that the current format definitely promotes burnout, especially when we’re slogging through a game that collectively has us in the dumps. And it has other problems, too, like the aforementioned new viewer issue. But I’m not sure there’s an easy fix that doesn’t ultimately result in “Let’s do a different show!”
You basically can’t change Spoiler Warning. If you’re going to edit the show, then you need to edit the footage. And if you’re going to edit the footage, then you might as well make it worth your while and really edit it. And since Josh is already at capacity time-wise, the show would have to come out less often. And if you’re going to do all that, then you’re making a very different show.
So that’s why things are the way they are.
That said: We could change the format as long as it doesn’t involve more work for Josh. But I think we really need to complete Mass Effect 3 the way the designers intended: Bitching and moaning all the way to the end. The show began with this game, and it would be a shame if we didn’t see it through to the end.