The Last Of Us, YouTube, and a Ripsaw

1577 wc

I just realized this image is pretty similar to the Horizon Zero Dawn image in my last post.

I mentioned that I had abandoned The Last Of Us and gotten into Horizon Zero Dawn, so of course, right after that, I abandoned Horizon Zero Dawn and got back into The Last Of Us.

You see, I was always interested in seeing the remainder of the story-I was just getting frustrated with the stealth mechanics. Stealth games generally aren’t my forte. Crouching, moving slow, and hiding behind walls all the time gets on my nerves. I died repeatedly and kept having to restart from the last checkpoint. (The Last Of Us also has a slightly odd control scheme-different buttons than I’m used to for everything.) I gave up around the point where we set off with Bill to find a car battery.

But since I still wanted to see the story, I decided to find someone on YouTube doing a blind Let’s Play series, so I could watch from the point where I left off.

Let’s Play Find A Let’s Play

Finding quality YouTubers is an adventure in itself. If you don’t know what a “Let’s Play” video series is, first of all, I’m sorry, are you from the past? Secondly, it’s a series of videos where someone plays through a game and talks about it while they play. As you might imagine, the quality of such videos varies wildly, and thanks to that dumb “democratization of content creation” thing, anybody with a webcam can make one, so there are about 400 bazillion different ones, and it’s very difficult to find a good one, and the ones at the top of the search results are very rarely the best ones.

What makes it even worse, these days, is that at least half of the alleged Let’s Play videos you find are just uploaded copies of live streams. People will take their 24-hour marathon streams or whatever, break them up into 10 parts (or not even bother, usually), and upload it.

Live streams make the absolute worst Let’s Play videos.

Allow me to digress a bit and dispense some wisdom about a subject that I actually know very little about, but still feel more qualified to discuss than most people on YouTube: Live streams are very different from Let’s Play videos! They are two entirely different products. It’s like making a studio album versus playing a live concert-two entirely different things that use entirely different skill sets.

When you make a Let’s Play video, you have to imagine talking to a nebulous, invisible person, or talk to yourself. I personally imagine someone sitting next to me watching the screen with me, who is fascinated and interested in what I’m doing and asks a lot of questions about what is happening and can’t wait to hear what I think about the game. (I have to imagine this because I’ve never met a real person like that, at least nobody older than about eight.)

But when you make a live stream, your goal is generally to interact with the live audience, answering questions from the chat and so forth. If you put a live stream on YouTube and pretend it’s a Let’s Play video, the streamer sounds like they’re utterly ignoring and even dissing the viewer. It’s obvious they’re not talking to me they’re talking to the chat room from whenever it was recorded. Sometimes they don’t say anything at all, unless the chat room says something. They’re even distracted by the chat room. I see something cool happen in the game, and the streamer is like, “Oh yeah that’s a great question, supersnips47, I did have milk yesterday.” To say nothing of all the “hey thanks for the sub” and beeps and boops and popups and overlays that permeate live streams.

I completely understand the rationale for putting streams on YouTube (ie. easy ad revenue that requires little or no work for eager audiences that don’t care a whit about quality). But it all combines to feel like a big, giant “F U” to this YouTube viewer.

Whew. Okay. Rant over. It’s just irritating. Everybody should just call me for production advice on their Let’s Play videos, that’s all I’m saying. If you’re going to put videos on YouTube, do it right.

Rurumiki To The Rescue

Anyway, after rejecting a number of search results for The Last Of Us Let’s Play videos, I started watching one by a woman named Rurumiki. She is great fun to watch, and makes videos a lot like I do, except she’s a lot more charming than I am.

She plays blind (without any foreknowledge of the game-the best way to make a Let’s Play), looks at everything, reads all of the text out loud, comments on everything she sees so you can listen instead of watch, speculates about the world beyond the game, muses on dialog choices and narrative structure, explains why she makes the decisions she does, ruminates on why she failed at particular points in the game and how to improve, and talks about how the game makes her feel. It’s a really good template for making Let’s Play videos. It’s all the things I would recommend people do in their Let’s Play videos, and more.

The only complaint I have is that she’s pretty squeamish hehe. I’m not a huge fan of watching people scream at scary games. I feel bad for her having to endure the scary parts that are obviously not fun for her. But she’s really great during the non-scary parts, which balances out the rest.

So anyway I made the mistake of watching her series from the beginning, and after a couple of videos, I realized that I really wanted to play The Last Of Us again!

Recording The PS4

You’d think I would have picked up where I left off, but watching a good Let’s Play series tends to make me want to make a Let’s Play series-somewhat like reading a good book inspires me to want to write a book myself. In this case, I can’t do a blind Let’s Play any more, but I still wanted to get a good, clean recording of my entire playthrough from the beginning. I had recorded a few video clips on the PS4 but the quality of PS4 native video clips is terrible, to say nothing of the dinky little headset microphone that plugs into the controller. I wanted to use my Razer Ripsaw and OBS to get some nice 1080p videos.

Mainly because I quickly learned from watching Rurumiki that The Last Of Us seems to be one of the rare games that is actually quite good for making videos. There are a small handful of games that are naturally good for this purpose (the Dark Souls series is another). It’s because different people can play through the exact same game in entirely different ways, resulting in vastly different experiences from person to person. (Whereas most games play out basically the same no matter who is playing it.) Watching the different ways that other people solve game problems is endlessly fascinating to me.

Anyway, this was the first time I had used the Ripsaw to record large chunks of PS4 gameplay. I had recorded a handful of hours of Demon’s Souls on the PS3, so I had done some groundwork there, but the PS4 is slightly different as the HDMI input allows for a much higher quality.

Unfortunately, it turns out that the Ripsaw has a bit of a problem recording into OBS. I’m not sure whether it’s a Ripsaw problem or an OBS problem, but sometimes when you go to play back a video you recorded, you find that there’s no sound coming from the Ripsaw, and thus no game sound. I’m reasonably sure I verified that all the meters were showing green when I started these videos, but nevertheless there was a roughly one-in-four chance that there wouldn’t be any game sound in the videos when I checked them later.

After some Googling, I found some advice that you should use the “Output desktop audio” setting instead of the default (and much more intuitive) “Capture audio only” setting in the Ripsaw scene settings window. I used the “Output desktop audio (WaveOut)” instead of “Output desktop audio (DirectSound)” because DirectSound seemed to cause distortion. So I’ll be doing that for the remainder of the series. (Unfortunately it also records every sound the Windows desktop makes, too, like Java update notifications and so forth.)

But…

So I’ve been playing through The Last Of Us again. It helped that I hurt my back for a while and the living room chair was one of the few places I could sit for any length of time.

Sadly I have to yet again complain about how my gimpy left thumb limits my play time. I was extremely careful to use it very sparingly: I use my index finger to move the left stick about 75% of the time, which is pretty awkward, let me tell you. Still, after admittedly playing a fairly large amount over three days, both of my hands started to ache, and my left thumb in particular started to stiffen up again.

So I’m taking some days off to recover. Which sucks because I can’t wait to finish the game now. I think I’m about 3/4 finished. I’ll probably get through the rest of it this weekend.

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