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Tool-assisted game movies
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Interviews / Bisqwit / Game Critics 2004

Interview of Bisqwit for GameCritics

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This interview was answered by Bisqwit for GameCritics in August 2004. The interviewer is Kyle Orland. It was conducted by e-mail.
Links and formatting were added afterwards.
How did you first become interested in the idea of recording and archiving "artful" plays of videogames?

Personally, my interest sprouted when I saw the famous Super Mario Bros 3 "timeattack" movie played by some Japanese fellow called Morimoto.

When I found that the author had created many other movies as well, such as Rockman and Rockman 2 movies, I began trying my hand at it (starting with Super Mario Bros), while developing my website to provide these movies and information about them.

It's quite obvious that many people started the same way ― they first saw a timeattack movie somewhere and they started looking for more.

I don't know how Morimoto started, but it's clear that his SMB3 movie that quickly spread over the world in the end of 2003 was an igniter for this worldwide phenomen.

Famtasia, the Japanese NES emulator we began with, has had rerecording functionality (the necessary feature for making these movies) since April 2000.

Take us through the basic process involved in the creation of a "flawless" gameplay video. How long does this process take? (a range is fine).

For a gameplay movie to be flawless, it must be as fast as possible, it must not miss a shot, have no wasted efforts, and so on. Creating a such movie involves planning and carefulness.

The game is played at slow speed (the emulator slows the game down), doing small segments at time and optimizing then as well as possible, redoing until it goes well. The finished (and unfinished) product is reviewed many times, at full speed and at slow motion, to find things to improve and to invent new strategies and then played again.

Creating a such movie is very timeconsuming. You can easily elapse 4 hours for a 10 minute sequence ― and that's only for the first revision. For some games, planning can need lots of time. Creating a releasable movie can take anything from 4 hours to 6 months, depending on how much free time you have, how complex the game is, how careful you are and how skillful you are. Many improved movies are also based on observations from previous movies, so it's actually difficult to estimate how much time goes into producing a good gameplay movie.

On your site, you say your goals for these videos are "creating art and providing entertainment." Can you expand on what you consider the artistic side of these videos? What makes a playthrough beautiful?

The character of a game is basically an actor.
The player is a director.

The task for the player is to create a movie that is entertaining to watch, given the story (the game).
Just like when directing movies, one can not mechanically define how to direct. Although we have collected some guidelines, creating a good show is still a matter of creativity.

We're only limited to the script (the plot of the game) and what the actors (the game dynamics) can do.
Taking the most advantage of these is an interesting quest.

While your site says you strive to make entertaining videos, is also says you also strive "to eliminate all slowness" from the videos.
Which part is more important? Is this a competition, an art form, or both?

There are basically two camps within us ― two major goals.

Some people want to see how far the game can theoretically extend - to find all the superlatives of the game, such as the fastest possible time to complete the game.

Some people just love the show, and they want to see creativity.

Aiming for speed usually pleases both, because perfection in speed forces to think of ways of playing that are too risky to attempt in normal playing.

Competition exists ― old movies are often being replaced with new ones that are "better". Almost always the "better" movie is faster than the older movie.

The videos on your site use emulation and constant saves to perform seemingly impossible videogame feats. Do you feel this goes against the spirit of these games as consistent, self-contained worlds?

If a child receives a box containing an expensive toy as a birthday present, it's possible that he'll enjoy the box more than the toy.
This is creativity.
We're doing the same for these games.
Instead of walking on the paths created for us, we create our own paths, our own legs and so on.
And we're not listening to people who say "you can't do that!".
Just like children.

You address many misconceptions and stereotypes about your videos on your site. Do you find many people that still believe your videos are hacked or editted?

During the first months of this year (2004) when Morimoto's SMB3 movie was finding new audiences on daily basis, I saw lots of people getting the first impression that the movie is edited.
Some people read Morimoto's comments of the movie with a machine translator.
Rumours were flying and people were adapting them and believing everything that would make the movie somehow despisable ― no matter whether the claim is actually true or not.
Lately I haven't seen these claims anymore, but it's likely that some people still think that way.

A huge community has sprung up on the internet around the creation and perfection of videos like the ones on your site. Why do you think so many gamers have come together in pursuit of this goal?

Because it is interesting.
It also gives people some sense of pride and self-satisfaction when they manage to do something nobody has done before and when they know their movies will be watched with admiration.

Many of the games in these videos are considered some of the toughest ever made. Do you feel that showing the games being played so flawlessly demystifies them, in a way? Does nostalgia make some of these games seem tougher than they actually are?

I think these old games are not easier today than they were 15 years ago. It's likely that watching a movie of Ghosts'n Goblins played with ease affects the person's opinion towards the game, but it doesn't make it any easier to play.

Personally, I'm often mesmerized watching the amazing feats in these videos. Have you heard from any other viewers who are appreciative of your work? What have they said?

I have received two kinds of feedback.
Almost everyone who has emailed me of something related to the movies or my site, has expressed that they enjoy the movies and wish to see more.

Then there are some who complain because they feel we're cheating and doing harm to honest competitive gaming. These ones tend to be quite loud sometimes.

What does the future hold for the art and craft of creating gameplay movies? Is the community running out of relevant games to conquer?

The old consoles are still holding some interest. However, we're also stepping slowly towards the newer systems. What started with NES movies, has now extended to SNES (Super Famicom) and Sega Genesis (aka. Sega Megadrive) as well.

Speedrunning is not a new phenomen ― it has probably been going on ever since the first games were made. Humans are competitive. Toolassisted movies for games such as Doom II and Quake have been made for many years already, and they're still being improved.

Finally, what is your favorite gameplay video?

I like the Tetris movie ("tetris_japan_finals.mpeg") that can be found in the Internet. I don't know the details of it, but it's played on an arcade machine and it's really awesome. It's not tool-assisted.



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Interviews/Bisqwit/GameCritics2004 last edited by sgrunt on 2010-03-06 03:07:10
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