Everything Happening With Magic: The Gathering Netflix Series

I was tempted to release this article when it was announced that this series was going to happen, full of raw emotions and personal thoughts. However, what felt more appropriate was to delete that article, to wait a few weeks and then consume all the news again and come at it with a level head and give all the information in one place and to give my thoughts at the end.

What We Know

I did the easy work for you, the amount of click bait and repeating news I went thought was eye-rolling. But I’ve put my reporter hat on to just give facts that are backed up, I will be citing everything, and you will be able to find all the references at the bottom of the article listing with numbers to help.

A lot of the information we know came via a Netflix announcement/press release (1).

The Russo Brothers Are Connected

The Directors of Avengers: Endgame are confirmed to be executive producers. Within the Press release they said “We have been huge fans and players of Magic: The Gathering for as long as it has been around, so being able to help bring these stories to life through animation is a true passion project for us,” said Joe and Anthony Russo(1).

It Has A Promising Crew

Henry Gilroy (Star Wars Rebel & Star Wars: The Clone Wars) and Jose Molina (The Tick & Agent Carter) will both be lead writers as well as co-executive producers (1). Also on the writing team, we have Mairghread Scott (Guardians of the Galaxy TV series) and Diya Mishra (Grandfathered) (2,3). Yoriaki Mochizuki (The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part & Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) will serve as supervising director and co-executive producer (1). Hanna (@hypherrr) seems to be the character designer (4), I have reached out to them at the time of writing and will update if confirmed.

We also found out from the press release that “Todd Makurath, Eric Calderon, and Dave Newberg serving as producers, and Mike Larocca and Isaac Krauss serving as executive producers.”(1)

Several Companies Are Connected

It goes without saying, but Netflix, Wizards of The Coast, Hasbro’s Allspark Animation, Octopie Studios & Bardel Entertainment have all been connected to the show (1).

It's Animated

Its been confirmed that Bardel Entertainment (Rick and Morty & Kung Fu Panda: The Paws of Destiny) will be doing the animation on the series (1). Octopie Studios will be overseeing the production of the series, their CEO Issac Krauss said “Our goal is to not only tell a compelling story leveraging Magic: The Gathering’s incredible body of work but to also push the medium and perception of storytelling through animation. This series will cross the genres of suspenseful thriller, horror, and drama with deeply developed characters the likes of which are not often seen in animation.” (1)

Wizards Seem To Be Doing This Due To Their Recent Success

Chris Cocks President of Wizards of The Coast said that “ More fans are enjoying Magic now than at any time in its 25-year history thanks to the enduring popularity of the tabletop game and our latest release War of the Spark, as well as the incredible success of our new digital game, Magic: The Gathering Arena.” (1)

It’s A New Story

Currently, the information we have been given is that it will be an “all-new storyline” that will “expand on the stories of the Planeswalkers, which are Magic’s unique magic-wielding heroes and villains as they contend with stakes larger than anyone world can hold.”(1)

They Have Been Trying To Make Something For Years

Within an interview with Polygon, Jeremy Jarvis the franchise team director for Magic: The Gathering went into details regarding the process that they have been going through to get this to the place it is today.

When looking for potential partners Jarvis has three key things he's looking for which is “One, I want to feel that they respect the IP, Two, I want to feel like I, as a creative, am being heard, that at least the better of my ideas are getting through, and they’re not just being pooh-poohed.” “three, I want to feel challenged, because if I don’t leave that room feeling challenged, why are there other people in the room?”

We also know that Wizards are still being involved “This is not a ‘kick it over the fence’ licensing deal,” “We have skin in this game, and the people that have been working to make the characters, make the worlds and bring them to life with the existing mediums that people know”.

It gives the impression that the series will be following a character or group, “[Magic] is very character-centric,” Jarvis said, “and we talked about some of the places that we believe would be best brought to life by animation, about the characters we believe that would be best served by animation.” And unlike its contemporaries “This is not going to be Yu-Gi-Oh! or Pokémon where you’re literalizing gameplay aspects. We developed this library of wonderful characters and wonderful places and impactful events, and we’re going to be bringing that to life in a new way.”

You can read the full article by Polygon here: https://www.polygon.com/2019/6/7/18657021/magic-the-gathering-netflix-animated-series-interview

My Thoughts

Image from Bardel Facebook

Image from Bardel Facebook

Right, so that’s pretty much everything I could dig up, there’s not been a lot released but that’s partly because it’s in its very early days. Hell, the production studio is currently hiring for animators at the moment.

Now my question to myself and to you, how long do you expect this to take till we will see the show? The announcement took place on the 2nd of June 2019. I would hope and I mean hope that we don’t get the show till 2021. This is relative to the animation style that they used, some shows take around a year to complete, something like South Park takes them a few days see the documentary (5). I was fortunate enough to go to Japan at the same time Wizards was holding their celebration of Japanese magic, while there they had two short films for visitors to watch.

Image from Osamu Kobayashi Twitter

Image from Osamu Kobayashi Twitter

Sadly I haven’t been able to find the videos but I was able to find that according to Crunchyroll that “original animated collaborations from directors Koji Morimoto ("Franken's Gears" in Robot Carnival, "Beyond" in The Animatrix) and Osamu Kobayashi (Mongolian Chop Squad, Paradise Kiss)” I was able to back up their claims as both directors talk about the exhibition on their twitters. Both these films huge impression on me and raised my expectations on what I could expect from a Magic: The Gathering series or film.(6,7,8)

I was partly under the assumption that we were getting the same animation studio that gave us the War of the Spark trailer, but surprisingly no?

This was done by Axis Animation (Love Death + Robots: Helping Hand & Gears 5 – Escape) an amazing animation studio whose backlog is frankly phenomenal. Maybe Axis didn’t want to animate a full Netflix series but they did an episode for Love Death + Robots so that doesn’t make sense. My assumption is that if, IF, they were contacted with an offer that Axis declined or wanted more money. Now just stay with me here, Bardel does a lot of animation for TV series, however, their level of animation is simpler than Axis and in turn, one can assume cheaper. This isn’t to discredit Bardel but I want to be clear, watch each of the showreels below and tell me which you think will adapt the Magic: The Gathering universe more effectively?

To Bardel credit, they have experience working with Netflix and have a proven track record with them. However, the content that they make is typically for a different demographic than what Magic: The Gathering is for.

Watching Axis showreel, I can’t help but imagine what could have been, I saw what they had done when given the opportunity with the War of the Spark trailer and I wish they could have worked on the series. Maybe I’m wrong and maybe everything will look amazing and turn out perfect. I guess part of it is we will wait and see and hope for the best.

One thing I’m not worried about and more interested in is the story, while it's been confirmed they are creating an all-new story, that’s all we currently know. While I’m a little bit disappointed that we are not getting an adaptation of The Brothers War or an Origins retelling. Currently, while nothing is known, we did get a picture of Chandra which is using the artwork of Exquisite Firecraft from Magic Origins. I wonder if this might have been the reason that we saw the new Planeswalker The Wonder as well and some other new Planeswalkers as some foreshadowing.

Unrelated but, this does also link into Netflix slowly growing their animation catalogue, with Disney’s streaming service set to come out later this year with their huge backlog, plus with them owning Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight and Blue Sky there’s a lot that’s going to be on their service. With the head of anime at Netflix making a comment about the series within the press release you can assume that there is some hope that if this is successful then there is an opportunity for more to follow.

Which is an interesting point, the magic universe is huge and has the depth that a lot of long-running comic books have if not more in some respects. It’s almost crazy how much lore is there which means starting off new means the writers have complete freedom outside of the characters personalities both in the lore and in the community’s eyes. This means that the magic universe can have stories adapted, we can finally find out how Dack Fayden became the greatest theft in the multiverse, see the story of Innistrad, we could watch The Brothers War or the crew of the Weatherlight.

But what I can see happening is that this might fail, maybe the story doesn’t work, maybe it's an animation fault or perhaps it just has production hell due to the number of people involved. I don’t know, but if it does fall on its face Wizards can always do a live action film. Frankly you only really get one shot, this Netflix approach feels like if it doesn’t work out, you can forget about it and quickly move onto a movie. What story would they tell? Who would it follow? Both questions I don’t know, and I don’t know the indented audience, but it might be the only thing left to do if this doesn’t work out.

Image taken from Google

Image taken from Google

What was interesting to look at was Hasbro stock for the past year or so, if you didn’t know Wizards of the Coast are owned by Hasbro. On the 3rd Hasbro, the stock started that most recent spike due to all the Journalists covering the story. I tried to see if anything else would have made a jump like that happen around the same time and nothing. There was news but nothing that was seeing this much news coverage, meaning that sadly Hasbro will most lightly be watching over this project like a hawk. Which historically hasn’t worked out well for Wizards since Hasbro has probably had something to do with the extra product that has been coming out over the past few years to increase profits.

Final thoughts

If it wasn’t clear, Magic: The Gathering is the game I love, it’s the one thing I really know far more about than almost anything else. I can go into the micro-history of decklists and I can remember card names from over five years ago that I played in a bad deck. So my passion for this series to be everything I feel that it can be is high. I’ve been around the characters for years, I remember when Magic saw its hard universe reset and Planeswalkers stopped being gods to what they are today.

I know that the plot is there, the lore that Magic has lends itself to a series so perfectly I’m sort of surprised it's taken this long for something to really happen. I’ve even seen breathtaking animation from Japanese Directors based on Magic and Axis War of the Spark Trailer really had me excited for the set but also the idea of this series.

But I can’t help having this nagging feeling that it's not going to work out. That might be me trying to stop my expectations from getting too high, it might be that I’ve seen beloved franchise with amazing fandom’s left disappointed with the result. But this might also be the future of something incredible!

With that in mind, thank you for reading and getting to the end of this. This was slightly different from what I’ve produced in the past but I really enjoyed digging into the information. What are your thoughts on the Magic Netflix series?

References

1.       https://media.netflix.com/en/press-releases/netflix-and-the-russo-brothers-join-forces-with-wizards-of-the-coast-for-first-of-its-kind-animated-series-magic-the-gathering

2.       https://twitter.com/DreamtimeDrinne/status/1135675810378072064

3.       https://twitter.com/thedimishra/status/1140790581347569664

4.       https://twitter.com/hypherrr/status/1135562983667634177

5.       South Park Doc - http://www.cc.com/shows/six-days-to-air

6.       Crunchyroll - https://www.crunchyroll.com/anime-news/2018/09/08-1/animators-collaborate-for-magic-the-gathering-25th-anniversary-event

7.       Koji Morimoto Twitter - https://twitter.com/kojimorimoto

8.       Osamu Kobayashi Twitter - https://twitter.com/osamukoba/

My Thoughts On The Future Of Esports

Hello dear reader or maybe listener, I decided I wanted to get some of my thoughts out of my head and into the internet. I thought of maybe scripting a video, however, I ended up turning on my microphone and just started talking. These ended up being a very raw recording which I explain in the podcast. I highly recommend listening to my podcast before doing some very light reading or watching the videos below. The videos are there for you to watch at your own leisure and for background information, I have also linked news sources within the article.

To be clear, this is more of just a place for you to get information regarding what I talk about on my podcast rather than my typical detailed article which I link my podcast too. I have a few articles coming up so look forward to them!

Philip DeFranco - How ESPORTS Became a $1.1 Billion Industry: Sold Out Stadiums, HUGE Prize $$$, Twitch & More…

theScore esports – How the CGS Disaster Almost Destroyed Esports in NA

GBay100 - Are Esports A BUBBLE That's About To BURST?

I don’t talk about his video in my podcast, however, I feel he has some amazing points and I recommend watching or listening to him for another opinion!

The Smash Brothers Documentary

The Story of SquishyMuffinz

The Telecom Wars

Unknown Tekken God

Around the ten-minute mark, I start to get into the idea that I feel that the industry can go in three directions which upon listening back and reflection I don’t necessarily feel gets across my point of view nor does it explain my ideas.

The bubble ideas I clime could happen are:

1.       We are in a bubble or about to see the bubble pop

2.       Slow growth and industry learning how to create correct business models and sustainable growth with sponsorships

3.       Huge growth and we are in the early days and there is a lot more growth to happen.

I don’t disagree that these are some outcomes that could happen, but it doesn’t allow for much versatility. Business and a section of gaming which in the west is so young is going to most lightly see a lot of change. This change is very difficult to predict, while I’m not someone that has worked within the industry I have competed and spectated loads of events and games. I’ve seen the lifeblood and drives these games and the players and people that run the events and had conversations with them.

Esports is not something that is going to go away, but it’s not something that’s easy to predict.

I talk about the twitch streamer Sonii which Twitter and Twitch are linked. Apologies I knew he was part of SK T1 but in my podcast, I referred to them as SK which is incorrect, and I am sorry for this confusion it may cause.

https://twitter.com/sonii

https://www.twitch.tv/Sonii

TSM

https://twitter.com/TSM

Zero – Smash Player is now sponsored by Team Liquid (I did know this I just forgot until I was getting links)

https://twitter.com/zerowondering

Cloud9

https://twitter.com/Cloud9

Information regarding the marketing directly towards young adult males from the marketing company NewZoo

https://newzoo.com/

https://resources.newzoo.com/hubfs/Reports/2019_Free_Global_Esports_Market_Report.pdf

https://resources.newzoo.com/hubfs/Reports/NEWZOO_Why_Sports_and_Brands_Want_to_Be_in_Esports.1.0.pdf

Kim Phan leaving blizzard after thirteen years of service and was the Global Product Director for Blizzard Esports

https://www.pcgamesn.com/kim-phan-leaving-blizzard-esports-low-morale

https://dotesports.com/business/news/report-low-morale-might-cause-staff-to-leave-blizzard

Blizzard layoffs

https://www.polygon.com/2019/2/16/18226581/activision-blizzard-layoffs-executive-pay-unions

Prize Pay-outs from 2018

https://esportsobserver.com/10-biggest-prize-pools-2018/

This is a joke but – the correct way to spell esports

The marketing that was used for Apex Legends – The Completely Harmless "Fortnite Killer" - Apex Legends

Old MLG Halo 3 top ten – Top Ten ESPN/MLG Halo 3 #1

Overall, I don’t know what's going to happen, I’m excited about what the future of esports can offer but I think there is a lot that you can take from it. There is a lot of interest from people inside and outside of the industry some expecting to make a very good return on investment some doing it as they love the industry, who knows what might happen.

I’m going to remain optimistic and hopeful for the future of esports, as someone that would love to work in the industry but also as someone that has been a long-time spectator!

I would also like to add, as I said in my podcast, I feel it is always important to get all of your information on any topic you are interested in from more than once source. I spoke a lot about theScore esports content and I do like their content a lot, that I don’t take everything they say as final. You should always verify news and information!

What are your thoughts on esports? Where can you see things going and do you have any hopes for the future?

Detective Pikachu Is The Best Film Adaptation Of A Video Game

Disclaimer: Please be aware, this article has spoilers about the film and game, read at your own risk, but I do recommend watching the film and or playing the game!

Let me be frank with you dear reader, outside of a few film series that came to mind mainly Resident Evil, Lara Croft with Angelina Jolie and whatever trash that Uwe Boll makes. The title, while clickbait, is also very true. I assumed, I was going to be wrong and that a google search was going to correct me and show me a good film that I liked, but had forgotten about. However, I was correct, while some lists did make a case for a few of the Final Fantasy films for me, they ended up being just a compilation of cut scenes.

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Detective Pikachu, the game was a game that I was very excited about. Since I saw the trailer it made me eager to play a Pokémon game and the first one for quite a while. I didn’t play it on release but left it for several months. When I eventually got around to playing it the game itself was not amazing but it was a solid experience. It took me about ten to twelve hours to complete with me mostly enjoying myself. The voice acting of Pikachu, while not being Danny DeVito was still very funny, I would have liked the game to have been paced better and watching a walkthrough for this to compare the game to the film does bring fond memories and moments.

What I liked more than anything about the film to the game is that the film takes inspiration and uses the game as source material but doesn’t use every moment and each plot point. You get the feeling that the creative team knew what made the game special and wanting to take that core plot and make itself into a film.

It’s this idea which I think has been a problem for a lot of other games to films. Detective Pikachu uses only a few of the core points from the game but alters other points:

What’s the same

·         Tim Goodman is still the son of a detective that has gone missing or is dead.

·         That the drug “R” makes Pokémon go on rampages.

·         Pikachu and Mewtwo have a deal.

·         The Clifford name is still one of the largest companies.

What’s similar

·         Once arriving at the city, he goes to the detective agency, while in the film he goes to the police for details about his father.

·         He meets Pikachu on the street rather than his father’s apartment. However, Pikachu is still his father’s partner.

·         Female reporter, while in the game it’s two characters the film rolls it into one but still gives important information.  

These are just main points; I could go into more depth but what amazes me is how little the film takes from the game and makes it it's own. It feels very authentic, friends of mine and people on the internet seem to be surprised by how good Detective Pikachu was, which got me thinking, did people not play the game?

Source: VGChartz

Source: VGChartz

Now part of the problem is the numbers I must go off of are from VGChartz, which while useful to get an idea, that’s all it is, an idea of what the sales numbers are. These numbers also don’t track sales of people that digitally downloaded the game, so I’m taking it with a pinch of salt. VGChartz claims that just 0.47 Million copies were sold. Looking at Pokémon games that have been sold on the 3DS, these sales numbers are disappointing even for a spin-off game on the 3DS. Pokémon X/Y and Sun/Moon both sold over 16 Million copies. The Mystery Dungeon series which has been around for over ten years is still selling well over 1 million copies. This shows that the creative team that adapted the game, saw potential. So no, relatively speaking I was one of the few that played the game and then went to watch the film. Do I think I got anything more out of it as I had played the game? No, I watched the film with one of my best friends who also loved Pokémon as a kid and he also thought it was an entertaining film. What it did, is give me is hope that perhaps other Pokémon films might be able to come out in the future.

Having developed the technology to have realistic Pokémon that’s not in the uncanny valley it would be rather disappointing if we were not to get another Pokémon live-action film in the next five years. However, I feel it's important that we also don’t get the reverse and are overwhelmed with live action Pokémon films or a Netflix series or two.

landing_detective-pikachu_header_mobile.jpg

Now that I think about it, I don’t hate the idea of a Netflix series, Detective Pikachu proved that the Pokémon universe can hold stories that are not the conventional Pokémon story that we have seen most of the games follow. The Pokémon universe could very much hold several stories and Detective Pikachu showed this, we have an idea of what Ryme City is like, that Pokémon and humans work together, but what about outside of the city, what about other stories within the city? These could all be explored in one-episode ideas or full series.

I would like to assume that part of the reason for Detective Pikachu’s success was that adults and children alike wanted to watch it. Sharing this experience with your own child or reminiscing about the first Pokémon film that came out almost 20 years ago.

Was the game amazing? No, it was an average game around a 7/10 and the film was about the same, however, what it proved was that video games can be used as source material but trying to cram all the content and story of a game is impossible. Use it as inspiration, adapt it and take one or two key elements and evolve it into its own thing. Detective Pikachu is a glimpse at what the future of film and games coming together has to offer and as someone that loves both mediums, I can't wait to see what's next!

The Eureka Moment I Had In Poker

Disclaimer: This article discusses gambling and poker in a positive light. If you are someone that does not approve of this type of leisure activity this article will not be for you.

 

That moment when something clicks, when you just understand it, the effect can change you forever in that moment. Everyone has these moments in their life, from studying as a child and understanding a mathematical problem that you were having difficulty with for weeks. To seeing an alternative perspective to a game, where learning it can be easy and that moment when something clicks and you see it on a higher level, that emotion is what I will be talking about.

UCL Poker Society

UCL Poker Society

I started playing poker back in the winter of 2017. I had recently moved in with my girlfriend and was looking for a hobby to get me out of the house once a week and to meet some new people. She suggested that I look at University societies and she found that her alumnus had a poker society and suggested I go along as I had been playing a little bit on Poker Stars. The friendly banter, the competition and the rush of winning or making a bluff were invigorating. I didn’t really know how to play poker, but I was having fun and knew the basics. I knew that a flush beat a straight and so on, but I didn’t understand anything, that higher level players where doing. After several months of playing at various universities and making some amazing friends, I had found myself on Easter break.

I started spending some of my winnings on playing in larger but still small tournaments at a local casino in London called Aspers. My main reason for choosing this casino over any of the others was due to the fact that you would get entered into two tournaments for the price of one. Being someone that was more interested in getting better than winning it seemed like a no-brainer and I ended up going along a few times a month and played in a larger tournament due to getting lucky.

Since then I have been playing on and off. I would have liked to have played more but it is what it is. However, recently I have been fortunate enough to have been taken under the wing of a good friend who happens to be a really good poker player. He’s been able to watch me play at small cash games and then ask me questions. I write down notes when I win a hand and also when I lose. He’s then able to pick apart my thought process and ask questions that I was not asking myself.

Over the last week, I had been playing poker with him mostly with cash, with a small tournament to break it up and going to a local comedy club in Birmingham. Before this week I had assumed I was around the same level as most of the people playing £1/£1 (that’s the price to play the blinds). Nothing special but I knew slightly more than the basics and I had been mostly a profitable player.

That Moment

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I think this is arguably one of the greatest feelings, that moment when you go from saying you understand, or you know how it works but haven't quite been able to put it into practice. That moment when everything makes total sense.

One of my biggest flaws or leaks in poker was my bet sizing. The core concept of this is doing one of several things:

1.       Bet sizing depending on the player

2.       Sizing regarding the pot

3.       Winning the most when I'm winning (before the cards are flipped over)

4.       Losing the least amount when I lose (before the cards are flipped over)

This is a very basic way of looking at it, but this was my biggest problem when playing cash in poker. I would play everyone the same way, I was commonly betting pretty much the same way almost every time. I was losing a lot and winning a lot, or losing nothing but then winning nothing.

Towards the end of the week, I had started changing my betting. I knew a lot of the time when I was ahead or behind. However, a skill I got significantly better at was forcing people into spots which made them uncomfortable due to my sizing. This was something I had never done before, I had experienced it but not made someone else feel like this unless I had the best hand possible, not with top pair when I knew my opponent has a weak hand.

Not only did I get better at bet sizing, but due to this, I was able to start reading players hands better, understanding their ranges, my perceived range and my table image improved leaps and bounds. I was getting involved in pots that were above £400 which I made happen. I knew I was winning and was not only playing the player but playing my cards and my money better.

The hand that changed me

It was the last night and I want to run you thought one of my best played hands of that week which also happened to be a bluff, now it’s not an amazing bluff but due to several factors it was. Before anyone that knows poker chimes in, this is a bluff I would have only run vs this player and due to my table image of showing the best hand each time. So with that out of the way, let's get into it:

The blinds are £1/£1 everyone is deep stacked and has more than £500 in front of them.

I looked down at Ace Queen off (not an amazing hand but worth opening up with).

I’m the first player (UTG) and I raise to £10 (this is larger than most £1/£1 games and was playing more like £1/£2).

We get 3 callers and to a flop of 337 rainbow (none of the suits match).

It gets checked to me and I bet £25 (could have sized it up here, I still think I could have played it better).

Only one caller, this player has been shown to get away from his hands and didn’t like it when I bet big.

Turn is a Jack of clubs (this brings in a flush draw and I have the ace of clubs as a blocker).

I bet £55.

He thinks about this for a few minutes and decides to call, this player looks visibly unhappy and seems that he really doesn’t like that it's against me.

The river is a 5 of hearts, it’s a complete blank and we have nothing. For him to call we must be losing. So to win this pot, I decided to bet big and go ¾ pot. I bet £150 into a pot of £201.

He looks like he is in visible pain and I have a feeling that he has a jack to have made that turn call, he might have also had 10s or 9s and there are loads of other combinations of hands in his range.  After a few minutes, he decides to fold. I slowly put my cards into the muck, look a little sad about not getting called and tell him “good fold” which puts a small smile on his face.

Now to the average half decent player, this is not an amazing hand and is something that a lot of players have done. Now a semi draws would have made this much better, but after talking with my mentor he agreed that the river bet is what made this my eureka moment. That I was not the same player that started at the beginning of the week. At the beginning of the week would have checked the flop, turn and river and would have lost the hand or folded to a bet. Which in some respect is not incorrect.

However, it’s understanding the spot I was in, I knew the only way to win was to bet as we had no showdown value. Betting big on the river, pretty much willing to lose a huge pot, not long before we agreed to leave was risky but I put myself in that spot. I could have checked the flop let someone else bet and fold £10, it's not much to lose, but that was a pot I built, that I knew what I was doing.

In retrospect

Well, now I understand poker is more complex than I first thought. I have started to learn what type of player I will become. My mentor has a style of play that works for me, but I also do things that he doesn’t; mainly, speech play which at my level is somewhat irrelevant, but what’s a bit of fun over a few hours and I like talking!

This moment has showed me that I have a lot to learn. Texas hold’ en is easy enough to compile the rules onto a two-sided playing card. However, while the basics are easy, the complexity and depth to this game feels almost limitless.

Learning a skill, this is what I learned over this weekend. That skill was to be able to read my opponent, bet in accordance, put them to the test and play them more than my hand. Telling a story that makes sense and being able to bluff as if I had the nuts.

I'll leave you with this, “A man with money is no match against a man on a mission.” (Doyle Brunson)

 

I Tried To Speedrun

My history with Speed Running

Speed running and adding a stipulation to a video game was something I was introduced to in an unorthodox way. Growing up several of my friends and myself all loved playing video games like most teenagers, we enjoyed playing them together or watching one another play. Due to this we would try and play them for as long as we could. At school, we would set up weekends where we would try and play loads of games, get junk food, drink and just play for hours and hours.

One of my friends found a series on YouTube by Nouge. Where himself and his long-time friend would play through several of the Resident Evil games as fast as they could, adding in a stipulation, such as only using one type of gun, no healing or knife only on several different difficulties. However, they also made it so they had to complete their challenges within 24 hours. At the time of writing the first challenge they produced was made over 12 years ago. If that doesn’t add to the context of old YouTube, people just turning on their camera and having fun. This was how I was introduced to speed running.

Due to this, our group decided to emulate this idea, playing video games for 24 hours. Trying to Speedrun some games, play some games we knew with stipulations and it mostly ended up being a bonding experience where come hour 20 and we were all getting tired and irritated at one another. We still ended up doing several of them again and again and the memories and stories I’ll hopefully never forget.

Several years later and Twitch was starting to have its rise in speed running in 2012. With Cosmo Wright (Now Narcissa Wright) and Siglemic pulling in huge numbers and at this point were the getting some of the most watched streams at the time. These attempts where mesmerising to watch and with being able to watch with Twitch chat added to the experience.

So outside of playing games with several of my friends and trying to complete a few that I really enjoyed playing, I had never really tried to speedrun a game. I had always thought of it but ended up never getting into it or could not enjoy the process of learning the same thing repeatedly on a game I like. However, for the process of this piece, I decided to change that and learn to speedrun a game.

I found that people suggested doing one of two things which where:

1.       Learn to speedrun a game you love playing

2.       Pick a game that has a lot of resources (such as guides, videos and an active community)

I decided to do more of the latter and play Super Mario 64 and learn the 16-star run. Let me explain what this means. Super Mario 64 is a Nintendo 64 Classic and I loved playing the game as a kid. When going back to playing it, it didn’t captivate me like it did the first time, but I knew the game relatively well as I had watched a lot of speedrun’s for the game, so I knew what I was getting myself in for. Now the reason for me deciding to learn the 16-star run was I knew it was short. I didn’t want to learn loads of tricks and I wanted to get my feet wet.

 

The Original Idea

When I started doing this, I wanted to do 100 attempts which doesn’t sound difficult. I knew I would be able to get my time down quickly. Meaning that if I completed every attempte, I would be looking at around 50 hours of play time and another 10 or so with practising. Which while a lot of time, it would allow me to get a good idea into what it takes to be someone that learns to speedrun a game. There is a grind aspect to this like a lot of things in life.

Also, I need to point this out, I did this over a year ago. I was going to make this a reflective piece on the meaning of speed running and the commitment that the people that do this have for a game which this still is, however, it’s not in the way I expected to get here. As you will find out and as the title suggested, while I did several speedrun’s Super Mario 64 I did not complete my goal of 100 attempts.

 

Notes from the first few days

Looking over my notes, I set up my emulator and a program called live split which allowed me to time my attempts with splits, this would help me know where I’m gaining or losing time on each run. I then went to YouTube and speedrun.com and to my horror learned the time for the world record. While I knew the time was quick and at the time of writing it seems to be even quicker. The 16 Star world record on Emulator is currently 15 minutes and 35 seconds by Shans. Which if you watch it, even knowing how the glitches and tricks work, doesn’t mean you know how to do it.

Thankfully there were several guides that explained more basic tricks and also on the route you would take to complete the game. I spent several hours trying to learn each of these tricks and trying to remember what I was meant to be doing. After feeling slightly more confident I completed my first attempt. Which ended up being slightly over one hour. Which while still rather long I would be completing the game faster than most people playing it and I had a feeling that doing several attempts would help me quickly lower my time and I would just get better at playing the game.

Over the next several days I kept playing and I was enjoying doing so. I was slowly starting to get tricks that would take me several attempts the first time. I was also getting better at controlling Mario and was performing tricks I couldn’t do before I started or even with several hours of practice as I didn’t really understand what to do.

There are two main parts I was losing a lot of time which are very important and I knew I was going to have to learn and practice this a lot. One of these is the fight’s with Bowser, at each fight you are required to throw him by his tail into a bomb. I don’t know how frame perfect you need to be and the room for error, but man was defeating him causing me problems. I would miss a throw which would lose me time and I needed to practice getting behind him and grabbing his tail. The way this gets harder is you must throw him once in the first fight, twice for the second fight and three times for the final fight. I was easily losing several minutes on the later fights.

The other leak that was causing me to lose time was Mips or also known as the Yellow Rabbit. So catching MIPS is hard enough when you’re a newer player but after a few hours, I found a slower but consistent way of catching him. However, that’s only the first part, Mips is the whole reason you are able to complete Super Mario 64 with 16 stars without doing some really impressive tricks which I don’t think I would ever be able to do. The quick short version is using MIPS you can glitch through a door to enter the Bowser fight early which gives you the key so you can go straight to the final fight. There’s are more behind it and there will be a video which explains it in far more detail if you are interested. This glitch was causing more time to lose than all of the Bowser fights and I knew it would be trial and error.

With both of these in mind over those several days I was able to lower my time to just over 30 minutes, which is still very far away from any record but by this point I had done 20 attempts and was very pleased and I knew that if I kept going I would be able to get it significantly lower.

In the following weeks that followed this, I didn’t attempt a run. I would sit on discord with friends talking games and I would sometimes during downtime play a bit of Mario but it ended up becoming something that was pushed to the back.

Reflection

Since then, I still play Super Mario 64 from time to time, far more than I had before I started learning to speedrun it as its something I can pick up and play for a few hours and then close and forget. However, its allowed me to do is appreciated what it means to speedrun a game.

When I watch speedrun’s I get to appreciate the commitment that this person made to the game, how far they are pushing the game to its limits on what you are able to do. Watching history videos by Summoning Salt or RWhiteGoose about the progression of a world record helps add a layer on just how hard it is to get a world record but to even get to a level to be able to compete at the highest level.

I don’t know if I’ll ever speedrun a game to the level to be able to get a world record, I will still flirt with the idea but knowing the commitment to get started is several hundreds of hours to even start getting half decent does deter me, but who knows?