I've been reading the comments on the ER videos so far and I've been noticing some common criticisms, concerns, and complaints. Rather than post my own comment on every video, I thought I'd share my thoughts here. As a bit of background info, I've played Chrono Trigger to completion from a new game, not new game+, somewhere in the neighborhood of 8 times. Once in my formative years at a friend's house a few hours at a time, twice on the DS re-release, and countless times through the magic of emulation in between. I've watched whole speed runs at least twice. Basically what I'm getting at is I'm right there with you guys who know all about this game and who can already point out 50 improvements to Patrick and Ryan's execution so far. Anyway here's what I've noticed.
One idea is they are not having fun and don't want to make these videos. This one is pretty simple - They wouldn't be doing it if they didn't want to. No, they don't feel they have some weird dedication to the viewers or anything. Remember the Happy Hour? Nintendo downloads section on the podcast? There were probably a number of factors but ultimately the crew cut 'em because they didn't wanna do 'em anymore. Most of the crew, anyway. That aside... what endurance run are you even watching!? Here's some snippets from Episode 8, the most recent episode as of this post.
- 00:22 - Ryan tells Patrick to shut up for even mentioning the save file might be gone, yells "Yahtzee!" when save files are still there
- 00:47 - Ryan calls Robo a "Piiiiiimp!", indicating he has formed an attachment to the character
- 01:08 - They spend 50 seconds talking and joking about the quirky character of Spekkio
- 02:16 - They react, yet again, to the great music in the game
- 05:18 - They shout "Alright!" when they learn to use magic and "Aw.." when Bobo cannot.
- 07:40 - They learn that everyone in the past could use magic and Patrick takes a moment to extrapolate that magicmust no longer exist in the present. He also refers to the present as "our timeline", grouping himself and Ryan with the characters in the story. It is a fair assumption to say he does this because he has formed an attachment to the characters and the setting.
- 15:38 - Patrick remarks that he "really likes" how Marle has come along, even if his impression of her regular attack is misinformed because he keeps mistaking her crit animation for a regular attack
- 19:57 - Patrick recognizes the control room where the party first learns about Lavos, something even I haven't noticed before. They react to the destruction of the world they are coming to learn more about and Patrick yells "Mode 7 like a bitch!". His love of mode 7 remains unexplained, but is observed nonetheless.
- 22:05 - Ryan and Patrick get excited about seeing dinosaurs. Patrick remarks "Fuck yeah."
I COULD KEEP GOING. How can anyone watch these videos and think they're not enjoying themselves? Even when their own ignorance leads to them grinding in the forest, they still have a good time laughing about how they might have to go back one more time.
Secondly, there are complaints when they don't pick up on gameplay mechanics, misc. details, and miss key things that NPCs say. Try to remember that you're watching this video in an optimal viewing environment, probably doing nothing but absorbing the information that is displayed. Ryan and Patrick are on a couch somewhere, probably playing on the office's infamously dim TV, with distracting recording devices strapped on as they try to play something as complex as an RPG, a genre that requires constant attention to detail and critical thought. At the same time, they try and provide meaningful commentary for thousands of hungry viewers, which requires listening and responding to each other on top of their interaction with the game. Eventually their attention will slip for a few seconds, and that is all it takes to miss the ONE dialogue window where an NPC relays the critical information on how to progress. It happened when Lucca said "Maybe she's still there!", it happened when the Old Man said "You should return to your own era", and it's gonna happen again.
Much of the above applies to picking up on the nuances of stats and gameplay mechanics, but there is a little something more to this specifically. Knowing where to go next is something that Ryan and Patrick care about because they need that knowledge to play the game. You do not "need" to know that you can use healing techs out of battle to play the game. It is incredibly useful and maybe even pretty obvious what with the bright yellow text, but it is not completely necessary to play the game. Their progress up to this point is proof enough of that. What I'm getting at is that Ryan and Patrick simply do not care about leveraging the game mechanics to their fullest. This is certainly not how I play games, and probably not how most of us do, and that can be hard to swallow, I know.
Lastly, there is the idea that Ryan and Patrick blame the game for their own shortcomings. It's easy to feel like they are attacking the game, a game you probably care a lot about, and it is easy to feel the need to defend it. The game does provide clear direction in the form of automatic NPC dialogue. Nonetheless, you have to admit that Chrono Trigger and other RPGs from that era, for better (imo) or for worse, provide less direction than modern games. There's no quest log, there's no objective markers and there's no minimap (at least on the SNES version). There are also some pretty rough translations (for example the Defender description says it raises Vigor, not Stamina). I acknowledge this next one is open to interpretation but I believe it is this disparity between the old and new that Ryan and Patrick are referring to, more so than a flaw in the game itself, when they talk about a lack of direction.
At the end of Episode 8 Ryan remarks that there is a lack of focus, and while he missed the dialogue window telling him where to go, he has a point. He is not supposed to be in 65000000BC yet, but CT totally lets him go there anyway. It lets him visit almost every location, fight enemies and pick up items. Why does the game give you this freedom when it clearly wants you to go in a linear path? That's a fair question to ask and it's really what Ryan is getting at, even if he doesn't quite know it. Also notice that his tone isn't accusatory. He doesn't honestly think the game has done him wrong. If he were to take a second to stop and reflect on things, he'd probably tell you that it's likely he just missed something.
And that's sort of the trump card here, isn't it? Ryan and Patrick are very much aware that they aren't picking up on everything the Trig' is throwing down. In the last 20 seconds of Episode 8, Patrick says "Did we miss something...? I dunno, we'll find out tomorrow!". It's not that they are so arrogant they don't realize they're at fault; It's just that they are comfortable with occasionally being at fault. They aren't compelled to play perfectly or to apologize for not doing so. Their focus is not on the execution, but on the experience as a whole. On some level they probably even realize that is part of the charm of the ER.
This is why, despite all I know about Chrono Trigger that Ryan and Patrick don't (and despite that I find Vinny and Jeff to be a better duo), I am still immensely enjoying the Endurance Run. My hope is that maybe this will help you enjoy it, too.