November 18, 2013

The Dealbreaker: marathon commentary

Marathon commentary. Good commentary can make bad runs seem a lot better than they are, or at least a fun and enjoyable experience for everyone involved (the people watching in the room and the people watching the stream online). Bad commentary can make even good runs seem like complete disasters, even if there's nothing wrong with the run itself.

Everyone wants to have a run with good commentary, so what makes good marathon commmentary?

1. Be informative

People like to know about what's going on in the game. Speedrunners might know everything about the game being played, but when you play a game in front of 20,000+ viewers, more than a few people will have no idea what's going on. That's why explaining how the tricks work, and what they skip/how much time they save is important. Even if people who speedrun the game think the trick is simple, without any context, a lot of people won't even know that the tricks you're performing save time and/or let you skip parts of the game. People also like to know trivia, whether it's facts about the game's development, or the history of speedrunning the game. The more viewers know about the game you're playing, the more engaged they are.

2. Stay positive.

I know this message sounds like one of those bad motivational posters you saw in school as a kid, but it's true. The attitude a runner has while playing a game has a big influence on how people perceive a run, and can be the difference between a good and bad run, irregardless of how well the runner plays.

A good example of a run where the runner stayed positive despite being a bad run was Cosmo's Ocarina of Time run during SGDQ 2013. The time on the run, 26:34, is over 7 minutes slower than the current record. Cosmo was out of practice and it showed throughout the run, yet people liked the run, but why? That's because Cosmo was informative and still kept a positive attitude throughout the run, he wasn't beating himself up and he was still describing tricks in the run, even as he was failing them. Cosmo's upbeat attitude made a bad run seem like a good one.

An example of a run where commentary can make the run worse is Carcinogen's Resident Evil Code Veronica at SGDQ 2013. Was it the worst run? Gameplay-wise, no it wasn't, but Carcinogen's commentary made the run seem worse than it was. He dwelled on the bad points of the run and didn't describe how running the game worked, so the only thing to focus on was how the run wasn't going his way, which made it awkward for people in the room and did not leave a good impression on viewers.

What's worse about being negative about your own run is that it tends to start a cycle of negativity that's hard to escape. When you screw up, you focus on your mistakes, and then you start to screw up more because you're still focused on your mistakes.

3. Just be yourself.

Puwexil and Cosmo are not going to reach the hype and energy levels of Bonesaw, but they don't need to because their commentary style is a more calm and informative approach, and it's a very effective style for both of them. In fact, it would be very strange to see Puwexil and Cosmo be very energetic and hyper (I'm still waiting for a Puwexil SMAAAAAAASH!), and why should they be hyper? It's not their style, and it would seem unnatural if they tried a more animated, energetic approach. They're more about a laid back, relaxed and informative style, which works for them.

Everyone has their own style of commentary, and the best way to discover your style of commentary is to stream and see what works for you. No one is born a good commentator. If you watch marathon videos from Classic Games Done Quick to Summer Games Done Quick 2013, you will notice the commentary has improved considerably in the last three years because streaming and commentating alongside your run is much more commonplace, and people have become used to it.

P.S. Credit goes to Carcinogen and Cosmo for letting me use their runs as examples for this post.

November 4, 2013

Game Selection Part 2 - How do I choose games?

I throw darts at a dartboard and see where they hit...


There's a lot that I consider before accepting games into a marathon. If I had to break it into three factors, they would be popularity, entertainment, and donation potential.


There's no denying that a game's popularity is important. I do say the term, "too obscure" constantly when I reject games, but what defines popularity? I would break it down into three types of popularity.

1. Sales

Sales is ironically, the least important of the popularity categories. Sales can be a decent rule of thumb for determining whether a game will be successful at marathons. After all, Mario, Zelda, Pokémon, and some Final Fantasy games have all sold millions of copies. However, there are other best-selling series such as Madden and Gran Turismo that would flop at a marathon. Madden and Gran Turismo games might be fun to play, but Madden can't be speedrun, and a Gran Turismo speedrun would be quite boring. Looking at a car drive around isn't exactly the most thrilling thing to watch.

Basing choices around sales is something I did for the first Awesome Games Done Quick back in 2011, and I definitely made some big misfires in game choice because I ignored other facets of popularity, and whether the game was an entertaining watch. I won't name any names, but there were definitely some misfires.

2. Community

Community is important, because if no one in the speedrunning community likes the game, then that means there will be no interest in the game. After all, if the runners like the game, then they'll be more likely to watch the game at the marathon and people will be enthusiastic about the run.

There are some flaws to the community approach. First, the speedrunning community is growing bigger and bigger, so defining the community can be tough, especially since there are multiple speedrunning communities. Also, certain games, such as JRPGs, definitely have dedicated communities, but there are also a lot of people who are indifferent and/or don't like them, so getting a consensus would be difficult, if not impossible.

Also, sometimes speedrunning communities will play games that are very obscure and don't really stick out to a general audience, which is a big reason why you can't let speedrunning communities decide every game, and also highlights the importance of the final type of popularity.

3. Fondness/Nostalgia

Fondness and nostalgia is the most important type of popularity. If the people watching the marathon don't like the game they're watching, then they'll lose interest. Also, if viewers don't know the game and there isn't something impressive about the game they're watching, that will also make them tune out and lose interest.

Nostalgia is part of the reason why Nintendo franchise games are so prevalent in marathons. People loved playing Mario, Zelda, and Metroid games in the past, and they have fond memories of the games. Yes, this includes Final Fantasy and other JRPGs, while there are definitely a lot of people who don't like JRPGs, donations and comments from people watching have said that there are a lot of people who do love JRPGs and are still fond of them to this day.

The save or kill the animals donation incentive is so effective in Super Metroid because Super Metroid is one of the most beloved games of all time. It's in numerous top 10 Super Nintendo game lists and usually near the top (if not at the top) of best games of all time lists. It doesn't hurt that the game also has a very active speedrun and racing community.

A good example of a game that (some) people are fond of despite not selling a lot is Megamari. Megamari is a doujin game (aka fan game) that uses the characters from ZUN's Touhou series for a Mega Man-style game. Needless to say, there really isn't any sales data on this game, and it's safe to say it's not a million seller. Does everyone like Touhou games? No, but the Touhou games definitely have a dedicated fanbase, and the game raised over four thousand dollars in about 45 minutes (when you include setup).

This is a very hard type of popularity to define, but it's the reason why something like Megamari can get more viewers and perform better donations-wise than a game like Mass Effect, which has sold over a million copies in just three weeks.


The real kicker here is how "watchable" the run is. Ninja Five-O is going to be in AGDQ 2014, and it's hardly what I would call a popular game, and as far as I know, it didn't sell very many copies, but it's a very fast-paced, has a lot of interesting movement and is a good watch. Also, Super Metroid not only has fast-paced movement, but there's also many tricks and glitches involved in a good run, it's not only popular, but it's also a fun watch.

Now not every game is entertaining because it has fast-paced movement. Zelda games generally don't have very fast movement, but there's a wide variety of glitches that have a wow factor to them. There's also Hotline Miami, which doesn't have a lot of tricks, or even advanced movement (you can only walk around), but there's always a lot of action happening in the game, which I think is one of the reasons why it was successful at SGDQ 2013.

Obviously, entertainment is subjective. Some people find JRPGs such as Final Fantasy a great watch, but many people do not, despite how well they do donation-wise. There are even people who are tired of watching the two games that have been in every marathon, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and Super Metroid. While it is a small minority of people who are getting tired of those two games, they do exist. As I mentioned in my last post, it's good to have variety to cover different tastes and avoid stagnation, and what people find entertaining is no exception.

Donation Potential

There's no denying that raising money is a big part of the marathon, and one thing that helps is the donation incentives attached to a game.

One reason why Final Fantasy games are successful donations-wise is that they have a lot of donation incentives attached to them. You can name the characters, and there's usually some in-game incentives too, such as who Cloud can date in the Gold Saucer, and who sings the Opera in Final Fantasy VI. Almost all of the incentives for Final Fantasy games are successful and raise a large amount of money.

However, games don't always need a lot of donation incentives to draw in donations, If the incentive is powerful, then a game only needs one donation incentive. The best example is killing or saving the animals in Super Metroid. This incentive alone raised over $30,000 during SGDQ 2013, which is over 10% of the money raised! I think a large part of the appeal is that the incentive is so direct and appeals to simple instincts (be good and protect animals or be evil and let them burn for a good speedrun). It also doesn't hurt that saving the animals is canon in Metroid, and video game fans are very picky about canon.

Now notice how both incentive examples I used are from very popular series or games. For donation incentives to be effective, people need to know the game, which is why popularity is important.

If the game has an amazing prize, that also helps. Prizes like this Zelda shield and this gravity suit perler are both super awesome, and are big donation draws. It's been proven time and time again, marathon after marathon, that games with good prizes get more donations than games without good prizes. Even games without strong donation incentives, can suddenly have one with a good prize, which I think is a big reason why MegaMari raised so much money, it had a cute Touhou doll prize.

Now there are very few games that hit all three categories, popularity, entertainment, and donation potential (the list is probably less than 10 games), but that's why there's a mix of games at the marathon, so all of the bases are covered, and there's some variety for everyone.

October 16, 2013

The Art of Game Selection: Part 1 of infinity

Art? It's not a science? No, game selection is not a science. If game selection was a science then I would have to stick exclusively to objective measures, and that would make a very lopsided games list. Here are some examples:

1. The games that raise the most money.

The series that raise the most money are Mario, Zelda, Metroid, and Final Fantasy/Square-Enix RPGs. There are a couple of other games that raise a good amount of money too (such as ID and Valve first-person shooters and Super Meat Boy), but selecting games based on how much they raise would still cut out a lot of variety. You wouldn't see many 8-bit nes games (RIP Sunsoft), any obscure underrated gems and/or cult classics, and you would never see other popular series such as Metal Gear Solid, Sonic, or Pokémon (Pokémon is popular with viewers but generally doesn't raise as much money as the four series I mentioned).

Now there is no denying that the four series I mentioned see lot of representation in the Games Done Quick (GDQ) marathons, but what if they were the only games being represented at the marathons? That would kill a lot of the variety we have in marathons, and would prevent unexpected successes like Mega Mari from happening. I like Final Fantasy games and even I don't want to see more than one per GDQ.

2. The games that have the highest viewer counts.

Mario, Zelda, and Metroid would still be on this list, but you would take out Final Fantasy and put in Pokémon and 3D Grand Theft Auto games instead. This runs into the same problem focusing on the games that raise the most money does, which is lack of variety.

Also, while people love watching Pokémon and 3D Grand Theft Auto games, I think watching more than one would wear on people because the games in the respective series are similar.

This is not to say I don't want games that raise money or get lots of viewers, but if those were my only two metrics for determining games in the GDQs, then that would be a very narrow vision that only includes a few fanbases. Imagine if I denied a game because it had less than 20,000 viewers, ignoring factors such as the day the game was played (generally games later in the marathon get more viewers), and time of day (there's generally a viewer dip during graveyard shifts).

But let's say I use these two metrics and the next AGDQ is a roaring success, it raised way more money than we ever expected, record viewer counts, etc. That's all well and good, right? Actually, there's a new problem, how would I follow up?

I have now cornered myself by only including our biggest titles, and while I can switch around the categories for each run, that only works for so long. Do I repeat all of the successful games that worked before and risk stagnation? Or do I add in something else for variety's sake that might alienate the fanbase?

I personally think if I deviated from the variety currently in Games Done Quick marathons, that would be a big risk. Is Awful Games Done Quick ever going to raise the most money? No, but it's a fun way to kill a graveyard shift and people in the community enjoy it. Do Zelda games raise some of the most money in marathons? Yes, but making it the sole focus would shut out a lot of other games. While I cannot let in every game each speedrunning community wants, if I only focused on a select few series or genres, then I think I would end up alienating the majority of speedrunning communities.

Now you might be wondering, well if game selection is not solely about the most popular and lucrative games, then what is it about? That's what I'm going to discuss in future blog posts.

P.S. By the way, for those curious, here the donation statistics for SGDQ 2013 and AGDQ 2013. In case if you want to see how games fared in terms of donations.

October 10, 2013

The Games Done Quick Mission Statement

It is having fun for a good cause. That's it. If you were expecting something more complicated, sorry, but I like keeping things simple.

Don't get me wrong, part of the mission is, like many people think, about raising money for charity. That is after all, what I'm contracted to do for the Prevent Cancer Foundation with the next Awesome Games Done Quick, and that is definitely a large part of my job. To say otherwise would be lying.

However, there are some people who think it's solely about raising money for the charity, but I think that ignores why people attend the marathon in the first place.

The Why

There are three reasons:

1. It's fun.

No one would come to a Games Done Quick event if it isn't fun. People attend the marathons because they enjoy them. Whether it's being able to play a game on stage, commentate, help out backstage, just hang out with friends and play games together off-camera, or do teh urn dance, almost everyone finds something to do that they either enjoy or feel good contributing to the event. If people really thought the marathons were not fun, then they wouldn't attend.

I've seen a couple of people saying (or at least implying) that when it's about raising money for the charity, it somehow becomes less fun or isn't fun anymore, but I've never seen anyone go, "well shucks, we hit $100,000, better stop having fun." There's nothing that says you can't have fun while raising money for charity, and if anything, hitting goals seems to add more energy to the room. People are pumped up and motivated when goals are hit.

Sure, there are a couple of restrictions, like you can't drop f-bombs, but there's nothing saying you can't have fun while raising money for charity.

2. Community meetup.

The marathon is a great chance for speedrunning communities to meet up in person and either talk about their shared interest in speedrunning or just shoot the shit. Normally we can maybe meet 5 other people in person outside of the marathon if we're lucky, but the marathon brings everyone together.

Not everyone attends a marathon to raise money for charity, or even to play a game, but almost everyone attends to hang out and meet like-minded people or watch great speedruns. I can't think of too many other places where you can mention sequence breaks and people won't be scratching their heads.

3. The money is going to greater causes.

Since the money is going to charity, the event feels more special. It just feels good donating to a good cause such as the Prevent Cancer Foundation (PCF), especially when you get to hear personal stories from donors, and when you know the money goes towards a good charity. For example, PCF helped fund research for the HPV vaccine.

Honestly, if the money we raised was just going to Speed Demos Archive, or an individual, then it wouldn't have quite the same feeling, and it wouldn't feel like we were uniting for a greater cause. 

If no one had fun and wanted to meet together to have a good time and raise money for charity, then the marathons wouldn't happen. It would just be one sad lonely dude on a couch playing a game, instead of the fun, laidback, "dudes on a couch" feel while raising money for a good cause.

P.S. Sorry for the late post, but I was attending Chicagothon last week. Now that I'm back, I should be posting more regularly.

September 27, 2013

The games topics barely filled a salt shaker.

And I'm very grateful for that. I was expecting a bloodbath where rage was everywhere and the salt coursed out of everyone's veins and the oceans raged with waves of red and white. Instead most people were okay with the games cut and accepted, even the people who disagreed did so in a mostly respectful and calm manner. I'm sure there's someone out there who is still raging, but I'm quite pleased with how things turned out!

This is one of those times where expecting the worst ended up being for the best, because I was very relieved with how the games topics went. There wasn't even a lot of salt on twitter, which surprised me.

What went smoothly

-I announced dates so people could prepare.

This is pretty simple. I announced the start date and cutoff so no one was surprised when events were going to occur.

-There were firm rules established so things didn't go out of control.

There weren't any super long, rambling posts, nor were there people suggesting games 5 times after their first bid was rejected. Overall things were civil, at least in the topic itself. I guess having no mercy paid off. ;) The rules helped reduce clutter and made most of the posts worthwhile.

BTW, I really want to shake the hand of whoever made that pic.

-Explanations for why games were cut.

Were my explanations always great or correct? No, but I would say the majority of them were well-reasoned, and the reasons at least gave people a baseline to debate on.

-Overall, things were pretty chill and civil

I think the last three factors contributed to how calm the games topics were. By announcing the dates and fielding questions, people were prepared to submit their games. With the rules being established, there wasn't much ambiguity about what was and wasn't allowed for submission. With the explanations and people being able to post rebuttals, people could voice their disagreement, which is important because people need an outlet for disagreement. Without such an outlet, I think there would have been a lot more trolling and shitposting.

What could be improved or needs changing

-A submission form

It's no secret that the forums choked and couldn't handle the traffic. There were also so many submissions that I ended up overlooking a couple, and a form would solve both of these problems.

-I apparently don't know how to complete sentences.

Honestly, this is mostly from responding to 10+ people at once and spending at least 8 hours a day on the games topic. My brain was fried the first two days. The only problem changing to a form is that there might be less

Anyway, while there are definitely possible improvements (as there always are), I would say this year's games topics were definitely better than last year's, and went quite well overall.

September 24, 2013

The purpose of this blog and FAQ

What's with the name?

A while ago there was there was someone who so eagerly wanted to run a game at an Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ), he made a practice thread for his game called, "The Road to AGDQ..." I thought the name was amusing, and made for a good blog title, so I decided to use it.

If anyone is curious, the guy didn't attend AGDQ, and hasn't attended a marathon yet.

You announced this blog sometime in July, why did it take so long?

Well when I announced my blog in July, I was still busy planning for Summer Games Done Quick (SGDQ) 2013. In August I was busy with SGDQ followup such as prizes, and I was busy finalizing a location for AGDQ 2014 as well as working on the game list. My schedule has slowed down a bit now, which gave me the time to start this blog!

Why did it take you so long think about blogging in the first place?

Honestly, I didn't even think about a blog until May or June this year. No one really mentioned it or suggested it in the first place, and to be honest, I don't think I would have had enough to say until now.

So what's the point of this blog?

The purpose is to really just to shed light on how marathons work. Shedding light ranges from how I choose games to logistics, and why I make decisions the way I do. I'd also like to talk about past marathons and what I've learned from them, and how far marathons have progressed since Classic Games Done Quick back in January 2010. 

For those of you wondering what Classic Games Done Quick (CGDQ) is, it's the first Games Done Quick marathon. I'd like to tell the CGDQ story at some point because with how much marathons have grown in the past years, I'm sure a lot of people don't even know how CGDQ started. It's quite the story, and definitely worth telling, because by all means, CGDQ should not have worked.

What this blog isn't for

This isn't an opportunity to ask me whether a particular game or series is going to make it into a marathon. I don't find such talk productive, because it's limited in scope. I'd rather go more in-depth and talk about how I balance my games, why certain genres get more (or less) time on screen, and decisions I've made in the past rather than focus on a specific game.

Anyway, I hope to open up what is a mysterious process for a lot of people and get some discussion going. If you ever want to discuss a topic, then you can email my at my sda address, (mikwuyma and it's at, or on twitter @mikwuyma.