Happy Halloween!

(Technically its the 30th for me, but WordPress publishes everything on some weird timescale where it’s usually listed for the day after)

Three big things happening soon! These all cropped up within the same 24 hour period, so that was an experience.

1. PCI Gaming, the L4D2 speedrunning community who I voiced a tutorial for (and also appeared in a speedrun) has asked me to v/o another project. I’ve already sent them the lines, and I like supporting their community since they’re keeping L4D2 alive in their own little way.

2. Ken Blanchard Co. had a brief freelance gig for me, I had to add text to a video and make it look “fun”. I decided pastels and wiggly text would best get that across, and they didn’t complain so hoo-rah? (And trust me, the shaky-cam vertical smartphone footage is all them, I just did the editing)

3. Most importantly, I’ve got a job interview tomorrow! I get to meet with the head video editor for Brendon.com and see if I fit a couple different video-editing positions they have available. It would literally be a dream come true if I could land the position, I love video editing and I’ve always wanted to do it in a “go to work everyday” office setting. Tomorrow I gotta wake up early, print my resume at the library, and get a haircut before heading over by 11am. (It’ll also be the first time I get to do a job interview in costume. I’m going as a Star Trek redshirt!)

And after that, I get to attend a wedding at 3:30pm between two of the friends I’ve made in Portland. It’s certainly gonna be a humdinger of a Halloween, I’ll tell you that. But I can’t wait!

Looking Back

As mentioned in my other blog post this week, I just chewed through a lifetime of old storage boxes in one evening. I didn’t really have a choice; Goodwill was coming in the morning, and lord knows I didn’t want the donatables sitting around for another 2 weeks before the next time they’d swing by.

But I’m honestly glad they spurred my hand and made me sift through it all, because I found a bunch of diamonds in the rough. Old things I’d long lost and never thought I’d see again. The biggest and best white whale was Oxford: Portal to Fantasy, but there were also several old videos from long before I’d even created a YouTube account. These days they’re useful only to remind myself that I’m actually improving at my craft. Without further ado, in order of age:

1. Chelvis Nemo Productions

The first videos I ever edited were a loose tetralogy of vignettes starring my brother, with a different neighborhood friend as the villain in each short (I’m the evil wizard in ‘Return of the Kingdom’). I did all the work in iMovie, and honestly these turned out pretty entertaining even all these years later. It helps they don’t overstay their welcome, clocking out at 1:24 minutes each.

2. A Cheesy Love Story

At some point in high school, I attended a UCLA film camp and this short flick was the resulting abomination my group produced. Once again I played the villain and handled all the editing, though it’s clear I was still getting the hang of cutting different takes together. I also composed that godawful song at 2:36 using GarageBand.

3. Interrobang: The Art of War

In college I first started getting the idea of creating my own YouTube channel, and recorded the pilot for a planned series of videos where I talk about classic works of literature. This series was going to be called “Interrobang” and star myself playing a character named Mark, but it never progressed beyond this single episode. The editing is still choppy, and it’s painfully audible whenever I switch between sound files.

4. What was that, Sandvich?

This was the first thing I ever uploaded to YouTube (which almost immediately earned my first dislike!) It was a really obvious joke any TF2 fan would have thought of after this MLP scene aired 3 days prior. I was hired by Legend of Equestria shortly after this, and put my videography dreams on hold to develop games, which would remain my primary passion even after starting The SPUF of Legend in February 2016.

5. The SPUF of Legend – Episode 0

While the first public upload to the SPUF of Legend was our guide to TF2 weapon pickups, this unlisted test video is actually a few hours older. I’m clearly heavily influenced by STAR_‘s style and have transferred into gaming commentary away from appearing on camera in person.

6. The Only 5 Melee Weapons Worth Using in Payday 2

I know we’ve progressed beyond the purview of “Nick’s early videos” but this Payday vid was probably the most important one I ever uploaded to the channel. I’d been releasing game commentaries for years by this point, and had developed a bit of a following. But I was getting tired of the 5-10 minute format and designed this video to cover its topic and wrap itself up as fast as conceivably possible. I didn’t anticipate how popular the “lightning list” format would be, and all my future videos heavily modeled themselves after this one. It’s also where I started regularly adding subtitles after non-native English speakers complained they had trouble parsing my rapidfire format.

7. VGFAQ

I didn’t return to the on-camera format until VGFAQ started paying me money to create videos for their channel. For the first time, I had to handle lighting and making my face look decent while reciting my lines (you can tell I sneak a ton of cuts in there, usually during card transitions so the viewer’s hopefully not looking at me). The convention videos didn’t get enough views to justify the time, money and work we put into making them, but I’m glad I got to stretch my legs as a roving videographer for GDC and E3.

And that’s pretty much it for big milestones! I’ll be going through some sort of transition soon, since I’ll be stuck up in Portland without my tank of a desktop and will have to make videos without relying on 1080p AAA game footage to distract the viewer from the simplistic editing. Honestly, I’m kinda looking forward to the challenge; as my early vids show, I never got into videography for the journalism. I’ve always wanted to tell stories using a visual medium, so we’ll just have to see if I can weather yet another paradigm shift.

Job receipt #5

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the checkmark means I’ve applied

Won’t be able to do one tomorrow either, the family surprised me by a big family trip up to see my brother for his birthday. I don’t mind, but it’s a daylong drive.

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I seriously don’t get who’s watching these. The whole game’s already on YouTube somewhere and I’m not even talking or anything. It’s just…footage. 

I busted my butt getting enough Borderlands 3 walkthroughs to fill my Portland trip (which went super well! Should be moving up in the next month or so) and now I had to do another one-day marathon to fill the 5-day Birthday trip I’m about to undergo. Not too fussed though, because it’s super easy to crank out 15-minute snippets of Borderlands content. It really is a blast of a game, I wish I could play it as intended and not blitzing through without any friends.

Also got my first rejection, Action Squad Portland wasn’t interested. I respect ’em for letting me know, but blimey I dunno how I could have been more qualified. Ah well. Expect another blog post today, just to get an ease-of-life bookkeeping document out of my head.

(Update: Backdated it to August 14th, I’m probably gonna be linking to it in the future and I don’t want it flanked on both sides by job receipts.)

Job receipt #4

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As great as it’s been to actually succeed at applying to daily jobs for the first time in my life (seriously, you do not want to know how many times I’ve failed at getting more than two in a row before falling back on bad habits and getting bailed out by a surprise freelance gig), I’m gonna need to take a short break as I’ll be up in Portland for the rest of the weekend looking at apartments. I’m also bringing a massive duffel bag of low-priority stuff and leaving it there to facilitate my eventual moving process. I genuinely have no idea how I’m gonna get my massive Area 51 desktop anywhere; me and Dad couldn’t even lift it. I might call Alienware, show them its history of bluescreens, and demand they swap it out for a new one at my Portland address.

 

Anyway, today was frickin’ busy so I’ve finally got other things to mention. Borderlands 3 came out last night and I’m getting paid by VGFAQ to make no-commentary walkthroughs so I busted the first 5 out last night so I didn’t need to think about it for the rest of my trip. I’ll be honest, I was not jazzed at the timing and went into my first playthrough extremely grumpy, so it’s a point in Gearbox’s favor that I quickly found myself loving the game anyway. It’s just more of the same Borderlands content but with every single one of my complaints addressed. (You want female raiders? Done! A button at vending machines that quickbuys ammo for every gun? Of course! Mobility mechanics? We stole everything from Apex Legends!) Thank god VGFAQ’s reimbursing me for the hundred bucks for the Season Pass.

The last thing I needed to complete before I could fly tomorrow was cleaning out the aforementioned duffel bag as it contained a massive laundry list of papers from every era of my life that I kept stuffing in there rather than sort my past out. It was honestly therapeutic seeing all the old stories, notes, screenplays, sketches, and outlines I’d created for various creative endeavors at different points. Most excitingly, I found a lot of my old tabletop RPG characters from college. I used to work as a professional GM for Strategicon, and I’d completely forgotten about the nameless amnesiac woman I’d played in somebody’s game of Psi*Run. The coolest thing about Psi*Run was how you wrote questions for your character without knowing the answers, and the game would organically tease out answers devised by everyone around the table. And any Into the Black readers should be getting some serious deja vu from this character sheet because she was ported directly into that universe as Lily North.

My second-favorite player character from that era was Presley August, voted by my college friends as the single most annoying character I have ever played. It was (and still is) the only time I’ve ever played Call of Cthulhu, and due to the system’s infamous mortality rate I decided to play an obnoxiously arrogant underage dilettante who thought he was better than everyone else. The team ended up ditching him in the hull of an abandoned ghost ship after he failed a Will Save to not start lighting cultist incense. Said incense caused him to lose all his sanity and hallucinate he was in R’lyeh seeing all the Elder gods at once, and then a Kraken showed up and swallowed the ship whole. The GM added that last bit just because everybody wanted to see him die. Poor Presley.

And lastly there’s Bogard, the first (and longest-lasting) character I’ve ever played. I wrote him a backstory and everything, set to the tune of Gilligan’s Island. My friends and I were all brand new to tabletop gaming, and we played that initial campaign almost every weekend for over two years. At one point we switched who was GM, and players frequently dropped out/joined or switched characters, and ultimately Bogard was the only character who survived the entire adventure (which was less of a campaign and more a series of unconnected vignettes sending them all over the medieval world). After getting some financial advice from GitP, I had him buy his own castle and rule over his own township. Most of my characters after him (including the two above) weren’t so lucky…

Getting Back on Track

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But which track?

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve been in something of a slump these past two weeks. I’ve written only two articles, one of which was a glorified announcement, and my only video was an unedited rip from my stream.

 

Part of it is a mental gridlock as I decide where to put my mental energies. I have many ideas for videos, but where should I post them? I want to post them on the SPUF of Legend, but I’m now a paid videographer for VGFAQ, it feels silly to spend my energy releasing videos for what essentially amounts to a failed attempt to make a standalone YouTube channel. After 3 years, the only videos that get any enduring traffic are the Overwatch League clips and me showing how to close a game without alt-f4 or the task manager. So, for this article, I’m mostly getting my thoughts out in one place:

Option 1: Release videos for both channels at the same time. It’s becoming increasingly clear I can’t do this. I spend a lot of time on my videos, and I don’t like having them constantly separated. I know I work better when pouring all my resources into one place to make it the best it possibly can. Which means my actual options are:

Option 2: Release videos for VGFAQ. There are some obvious pros; I’m getting paid money for doing so (albeit not much at all, but I think my value would increase quickly if I gave them my full attention) and I even have something of a fanbase. (There are a couple users who chat with me on Twitter and visit my Twitch channel, and they explicitly came from VGFAQ.) Plus, when talking to people in real life I can answer “63 thousand” when they inevitably ask how many subscribers I have.

Option 3: Release videos for the SPUF of Legend. The main pro is that someday, god willing, it came become a standalone channel where I get 100% of money. Right now I get a very small percentage of the money from VGFAQ, and unless Kevin bequeaths the channel to me in his will or something, that’s never gonna change no matter how big we get. In addition, SPUF was my creation; I created the channel with 0 subscribers and I’ve worked hard for over three years to bring 530 subscribers and 175,000 views to my channel, and I take a lot of pride in what it’s become. I like how all the notifications involve videos I made, unlike on VGFAQ where 99% of them are ancient videos published before I’d even joined.

There’s no easy solution. My upcoming video, My 5 Favorite Healers in Games, is one of those two-minute lightning lists that the SPUF of Legend was made for. It’s probably going on VGFAQ, but it’s gonna feel weird because it’s probably only gonna get a few more views and then disappear in the sea of their other content creators. I can’t help but feel I’m giving up on my chances of becoming a standalone YouTuber by selling myself to another channel.

But on the other hand, this could be an opportunity. Right now, SPUF essentially has no community; nobody ever contacts me asking when my next video will go live, and if I rebranded it into something completely different I doubt we’d suffer any real losses in subscriber count. If I could publish a different sort of video on SPUF (something the gaming-focused VGFAQ wouldn’t be interested in), I think I could find the energy to start releasing content for both channels again. And if I ever knuckle down and learn how to animate, I’m going to need somewhere to publish them…

Casting CS:GO in 9 days oh god I’m not ready

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Update: rofl guess I’m not doing any of that. Pretty relieved, ngl

I’m having more and more doubts regarding the CS:GO Charity tournament I agreed to cast for one of my fellow students from the Business in Esports course I finished last month. It’s not that I don’t want to cast it, I just don’t know anything about casting Counter-Strike because I’m hot garbage at the game. I’ve just never really been into twitch shooters, I prefer arena shooters with their crazy mobility and healing classes. But I’ve been watching CS:GO casters on Twitch for years and years, before Overwatch or my own shoutcasting career was even a thing, so I’m likely more qualified than I’m telling myself. I’ve got a short list of things I want to do before the tournament before I’ll consider myself ready to cast:

  1. Play a game of comp CS:GO to learn the pacing from the players’ perspective
  2. create flashcards of all the gun HUD icons so I can name whatever guns they’re using
  3. Practice learning map callouts. Much as I’d like to learn them, the tourney has 12 maps that aren’t chosen beforehand, so I’m gonna have cheatsheets on my second monitor while casting.
  4. Watch a YouTube video explaining the in-game economy metagame. The money is the one thing I’ve never really understood.
  5. Run a practice cast with bot teams to ensure I can handle the spectator controls. They say a third party will be handling camerawork/streaming, but I’d still rather know how to switch characters and see whatever I want to see in-game. (Especially the ‘switch to freecam’ button, I remember going insane during my first Overwatch cast because I couldn’t figure out how to do that)

I wish this was the main thing on my plate coming up, but I’ve got another League Zero cast this Sunday, and on Saturday my parents are celebrating their 40th Anniversary with a 60s-themed party and I agreed to help them prepare/clean up afterward. Everyone needs to dress up as something from the era, personally I’m going as a redshirt from Star Trek.

In other news, two new Emilena stories! The first, Hapsburg Manor, was a writing experiment to practice heavily using flashbacks. It chronicles Emilena solving a case as a child and then having to reopen it as an adult when new complications arise. (Flora also cameos; Eric Hapsburg was her name before she transitioned to female in college). The second story, Rust in Peace, involves her investigating an eco-terrorist gang disrupting a housing development project in the shrublands. The gang’s leader, Hania, briefly appeared in the canon as an anti-humanist nutjob who rubbed Serris the wrong way, and he was certainly fun to bring back in a prequel adventure.

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One of my videos got thirteen thousand views!

Also E3 coverage is wrapping up on VGFAQ, which means I can start transitioning into making more freeform content. Maybe I could start making the sort of list-based videos I specialized in on the SPUF of Legend. A lot of my video-making time is now streaming time; I got my first regular viewer who amazingly hasn’t missed a stream even though I never schedule them ahead of time. I’ve now made $35 dollars total, mostly in bits. It’s not much, but I’m pretty happy getting anything streaming. I vividly remember 2014 aabicus discovering Twitch and wondering if he could ever make a single dollar streaming, so I’m pretty glad to inform him that he could.

Last but not least, since I’m not updating this blog as much as I used to I encourage any hypothetical viewers to check out my Twitter since it’s finally something worth looking at. I’ve added a picture and made it look nice, and more importantly, I now tweet whenever I do anything for any of the zillion projects I work for. It’s the best place to keep abreast of whatever I’m doing in real time.

Sport Stories

I’ve been hitting the esport train pretty hard recently, and that isn’t going to stop for another couple weeks. This course has been awesome; I’ve met some great people and might even shoutcast an Overwatch tournament for one on the 26th. I plan to convert several of these weekly articles into DailyEsports.gg content (like I did this one), and I’ve been cranking out dozens of VGFAQ videos at the same time.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t found time to write a few short stories at the same time. Apparently I’m in something of a retrospective mood, cause they’ve all tied into ancient long-completed cycles:

  1. First I wrote a new Darwin’s Soldiers story,
  2. …then a new Flora story, (which is actually now the longest story in either canon, beating Card of Ten by a margin of 5K words)
  3. …and finally a new Hemlock Gang story of all things.

And coming up next, mostly cause it’s the only untouched cycle left, one more story starring Officer Echo back in her police days. She’ll be investigating a restaurant suspected of being a hub for drug-peddling. Exciting!

(There actually was a different completely-standalone story written somewhere in there too, nominally tied to a different RP universe but I instantly dropped my main characters back on Earth so they could explore the Into the Black and Darwin’s Soldiers universes in a time-traveling non-canon crossover. Was fun to write, and mainly an opportunity to see characters from both universes bouncing off each other.)

Coming up in the professional sphere: Honestly, more esports articles and a few VGFAQ videos. Keeping my nose to the grindstone for probably another week or so.