Twitch Plays FF7 Part 1: Sleepless Nights and Lessons in Patience

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kerikxi

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Edited By kerikxi

PART 1 - **NEW** PART 1.1 - PART 1.2 - PART 1.3 - PART 2 - PART 3 - PART 4 - PART 5 - PART 6 - PART 7 - PART 8 - PART 9 - PART 10 - PART 11 - PART 12 - PART 13 - PART 14 - PART 15 - PART 16 - PART 17 - PART 18 - PART 19 FINALE

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EDITOR'S NOTE 02/10/21: As promised, this part has been obsoleted and rewritten. If you're new to this series, I highly recommend proceeding directly to Part 1.1 instead, covering the opening moments of the game up to the end of the second reactor mission. That whole sequence barely got more than a paragraph here! Part 1.2 and Part 1.3 complete the trip out of Midgar and lead directly into Part 2. Thank you for your interest and I hope you enjoy!

EDITOR'S NOTE 02/04/21: This was originally intended as one post chronicling the entire adventure, but obviously that was a fools errand. This first update suffers heavily from that ill conceived notion and is painfully sloppy and abbreviated in parts. Eventually I will split up and rewrite this section, to bring it in line with future updates. The original post will be preserved as is. Thanks!

As I write this, TP FF7 has entered the final dungeon, North Crater, after defeating both Emerald and Ruby weapon superbosses. It's been an amazing adventure full of ups and downs, and required me to think about a game I love in an entirely different way. I'd like to talk about that journey, after a week of very little sleep and miraculous events.

The Setup

For those who have never seen or heard of TwitchPlaysPokemon, or maybe only remember the first Red run years ago, some brief explanation will help. The game is controlled via chat text, so typing Up in chat will make the character move up, etc. The inputs are executed in the order they are entered, and there are no restrictions on who can play. As you can imagine, this often results in chaos. There is another option, introduced in the original Twitch Plays Pokemon Red, called democracy mode. Chat can vote at any time to stay in Anarchy or enter Democracy, and vice versa. Probably obvious, but democracy mode allows chat to instead vote on each button pressed. The downside is the necessary delay between inputs to run votes. In a turn based game like Pokemon this isn't a big deal, but FF7 features the famous active battle system. While you can slow the battle speed and set ATB to wait, time will still flow on the main menu during battles. This is one of the main reasons many people thought Twitch playing FF7 would be impossible, but as it turns out some of the biggest setbacks were almost completely unexpected. The last feature worth mentioning right now is Turbo mode. This functions similar to the regular Anarchy mode, except the inputs entered are repeated at high rate. The downside is the lack of specific control, entering Up in turbo mode will continuously press Up until another input is received. Turbo can also only be turned on or off by one of the channel operators, and is typically reserved for worst case scenarios. Using and understanding this full toolset and its limitations is what made this run a unique challenge, so let's get into it.

The Beginning

I wasn't present for the very start, but the first major roadblock chat faced was literally the beginning of the game. For those that have never played FF7, the opening sequence has you infiltrating a Shinra reactor and placing a time bomb. After placing the bomb, you have ten minutes to escape the way you came or die in the explosion. This is more than enough time normally, but presented a unique obstacle when you can only lurch two steps at a time. After six hours of attempts, it was finally determined that Turbo mode was required, and with almost exactly one minute remaining, Twitch finally cleared the opening mission of FF7 and could begin proper.

Smooth Sailing through Wall Market

The run progressed slowly but smoothly for quite some time. I joined the run about 13 hours in, near the end of Wall Market at the Don Corneo Mansion event. Given the tools available, having Corneo choose Cloud clearly wasn't going to happen. The squats minigame in the gym would simply not be possible, but fortunately you can still proceed with events however badly you fail. It's almost impossible to run from random encounters with this toolset as the buttons require holding so the party was quickly becoming strong enough to just spam past most battles, but now's a good time to talk about the unique challenge of combat in this run.

While many fights boiled down to spamming circle (confirm), any sort of required directional input quickly becomes a nightmare. We need to heal, so one person presses up to go to the item menu, except another person did too so now you're on the magic menu. A troll presses right and you defend instead of attacking, or target your own party instead of the enemy. All the while, anytime you aren't in a submenu or targeting the game still progresses, and the enemy continues to get turns. This would ultimately become the biggest challenge of the run, and effectively meant that in order to proceed we would often need to just let one person "drive" to execute properly. You still had to contend with very delayed inputs, if anything this meant much slower reaction time than just spamming, so it wasn't a cure all. With a 9 second delay between commands, Democracy mode was almost never used for combat, it was simply too slow. We had to cooperate or die.

Sector 7 Pillar and Reno

Alps, the boss after the mansion, presented no major difficulty. The next boss, Reno, was an entirely different story. While the party was plenty strong enough to beat him, the difficulty came from one of his unique attacks, which places a pyramid around a character that needs to be attacked to be removed. If all three characters are locked in pyramids it's instantly Game Over. Not a problem normally, but trying to execute this set of inputs even driving alone proved quite difficult. Two things made this sequence that much worse. One, we were locked in at the bottom of the pillar staircase. There were enemies we could fight on the stairs and a shop was available from a person at the fence, but we had no access to anything else. Two was the stairs themselves. While not exactly difficult, climbing a spiral staircase like this is tedious to say the least. Worse, while spamming movement inputs helped climb faster, the delay meant that often those inputs would carry into a random battle, making the encounters that much more dangerous.

After about two hours of attempts, Reno was defeated for the first time. However, something unanticipated happened next. Right after the cutscene of Sector 7's destruction, you are temporarily separated from the rest of your party and only have Cloud. You can also get random encounters on the screen where you rejoin your party. The elation of victory was quickly replaced with crushing defeat as solo Cloud entered a pincer attack just steps from rejoining the party, and we were back to Reno. This happened not once, but twice.

About an hour and half later, Reno was finally defeated and Cloud had successfully rejoined the party, reaching relative safety. This happened while I slept briefly, an event that would become rare in the following days. It was time to attack Shinra tower and rescue Aeris, but first we had a climb to make.

Shinra Tower

I rejoined the run as we proceeded through Wall Market, on our way to the climb to Shinra Tower. Chat was filled with fear and doubt, as one infamous section involves timing a jump onto a swinging bar to proceed. We expected to be here a while. We got it first try (with my input funny enough). It was then I started to feel something special about this run. We were defying expectations. We could do this.

We opted to climb the stairs at Shinra Tower instead of doing the elevator fight gauntlet. While tedious, it was definitely the safer option. Chat feared the upcoming section where you sneak past the guards, but not a lot of people know that if you simply get caught enough times the game skips you past it. "Success through Failure" would become a recurring theme throughout the run. The tower itself was mostly uneventful. We blind guessed the mayor's password on the second try, as the best reward wasn't really worth the amount of movement required to figure it out proper. I did most of the driving for the midgar model puzzle and was generously gifted a channel subscription for my efforts. A little while later we'd encounter a very determined troll. He wasn't the first and far from the last.

I'll take a brief moment to talk about the trolling during this run, because it doesn't deserve much recognition beyond that. Trolls would happen periodically all throughout, but it was always extremely low effort. It was clear the majority of them had never played the game, as even left to their own devices they would just spam random buttons and futz in the menus. Start was disabled in anarchy mode, and only 3 buttons could be pressed at once anyway preventing the soft reset input from being entered. If we had ever got one with actual game knowledge some real damage could have been done. For the most part though, chat was diligent. A random person entering the menu with no stated reason was quickly rebuffed with a cancel input. All that ever happened was we waited until they were bored and then moved on. Trolls tried to justify their existence by saying "these runs have always had trolling", but I'll just say this plainly: if you enjoy making other people miserable, you are a garbage human being, and it doesn't matter if it's a twitch chat. If you get your kicks by being a jerk on the internet, really examine what that says about the kind of person you are. Let's move on.

Shinra Boss Gauntlet

The next major roadblock would occur near the end of the tower sequence. After eavesdropping on Shinra executives, you follow Hojo up the stairs to floor 67. What wasn't entirely realized at the time is that the door locks behind you and there is no way out except forward, through the following boss. Our first attempt confirmed the reality of the situation.

This put us in a difficult position. It was clear that our typical strategy of spam attack probably wouldn't carry the fight. This boss begins the battle by poisoning the party, which we can't easily deal with. He also has 3 minions that he will revive periodically, meaning they either need to be dealt with quickly or the boss itself needs to be focus fired down. While there were random encounters on this floor we could grind on, our resources were limited as there was no shop or rest available. What we carried in would have to last us. Worse still, after defeating the boss the floor he's on still has random encounters, so we have to survive until safety. Four hours later, we finally defeated the boss and escaped to the lower floors for a save and heal. Three more bosses stood between us and escaping midgar. And in between them, bikes.

Escaping Shinra Tower

After a bit of story, the party is captured and then tasked with the final escape sequence from Shinra Tower. This involves two boss battles, the elevator boss with a forced party of Barret, Aeris and Red XIII, and a solo fight against Rufus with Cloud. While the elevator boss wasn't a huge issue, the solo fight clearly was. This is a sequence even casual players often struggle with, as Cloud faces down two targets and Rufus deals a lot of damage relatively quickly. Worse, there was no break in between, you had to beat both bosses in a row before having another chance to save. This would require delicate setup, which is a good chance to talk about menuing in this game.

Maybe unexpectedly, actually doing anything in the menus during a run like this is an exercise in patience, careful planning and frustration. Heavy menuing was avoided as much as possible, as one wrong input even well intentioned could require many more inputs to undo the damage. Attempting any menus with trolls present was completely pointless and potentially catastrophic. This was another situation where chat would have to be patient and let someone drive. Menu could be done in democracy, but was so slow as to be incredibly annoying for all involved and was generally avoided unless absolutely necessary.

The game gives you the option to remove Cloud and Tifa's materia, which is actually not entirely ideal as Cloud was already setup with what he needed, but due to accidental inputs it happened anyway, requiring later menus to set him up again. That said, the boss gauntlet was not as rough as expected, elevator boss was relatively easy. Rufus was a bit more complicated.

Another fight where brute force probably wouldn't work. Rufus and his dog spit out a lot of damage, while the dog's HP is relatively low he would still need to be targeted every round to hit him. Even driven solo the fight would be quite tricky. Less than an hour later we were through both bosses though, and would now face one of the iconic sequences from the game: the motorcycle highway chase out of midgar.

Highway Chase and Motorball

Chat was pretty worried going into this, mainly because most people had not completely failed this section before and we didn't know exactly what would happen. We were saved right before it of course, we were always extremely diligent to save as much as possible, but it was clear that chat would not be able to exhibit any appreciable influence on the outcome of the minigame. The inputs required coupled with the delay just made it practically impossible. Some people thought the run would end right here, unable to progress. They were wrong of course, but the fear was legitimate. After some careful menuing to set the party back up, we were off to our first proper minigame of the run. It wasn't pretty.

Fortunately this wasn't a hard fail state, the damage your party takes during this sequence carries into the next fight. It just meant that the whole party except Cloud started at 1 HP and were killed by Motorball's initial attack. Some careful menu driving and the party was revived, dispatching the boss with relative ease. They doubted us, and we first shot bikes.

And with that, at just over 29 hours, we escaped Midgar and were set loose on the world map. I had originally intended this to be a one off blog covering the whole run but, with the final game time clocking at somewhere around 170 hours, this will clearly require a few more parts. If anybody happens to read this, I do hope you enjoyed it. I had an amazing time this week and the full vods are worth scrubbing through. I intend to finish writing up all the other major events, but it'll obviously take some work. Here's a sneak peak of what lies ahead.

PART 1 - **NEW** PART 1.1 - PART 1.2 - PART 1.3 - PART 2 - PART 3 - PART 4 - PART 5 - PART 6 - PART 7 - PART 8 - PART 9 - PART 10 - PART 11 - PART 12 - PART 13 - PART 14 - PART 15 - PART 16 - PART 17 - PART 18 - PART 19 FINALE

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imunbeatable80

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@kerikxi: epic recap, but i do have a question.. when you say someone takes over, is it just one person putting the commands in while everyone in chat stays silent? Doesnt this nullify the whole "twitch plays" aspect? Perhaps i just misunderstood

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kerikxi

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@imunbeatable80: Yeah, unfortunately the nature of the game was kinda antithesis to the whole "twitch plays" part. While there was a fair amount that everyone could help with, like movement or spamming O during fights, sometimes delicate work was required. This kinda fed into it tho too, as unless you wanted to do everything in democracy chat would have to agree to settle down and let somebody work for a bit. If the chat ever pulled the kind of numbers the original TPP Red did, it would likely have been completely impossible.

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#3  Edited By Gundato

Nifty but democracy mode kind of ruined TPP for me. It made things actually possible but it also got rid of the "joy" of the chaos. Especially because of the inevitably of groups rushing in at off peak hours or even getting a big enough crowd at peak that they can just play "correctly" by drowning out the chaotic jackasses and often times even "the regulars"

@imunbeatable80: Can mean a few things but usually what happens is that someone organizes chat to vote "correctly". In the context of it being a popular streamer I assume they brought their twitch chat over to just outvote everyone else.

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kerikxi

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@gundato: I'll get into some of that in a later post, but we didn't have a ton of democracy cheesing, only really for important inputs or to complete critical saves during chaos. The vast, vast majority of the game was played in anarchy, just sometimes chat had to chill for a bit to get a menu done. Myself I tried my hardest to get chat involved wherever possible, but not everyone had the same attitude.

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Gundato

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@kerikxi: And I get that and it is the only way things can have a snowball's chance of succeeding

But, at least for me, it still ruins the magic. its basically saying "Hey, this is important, go play in your room".

At the end of the day, the folk who wanted pure chaos already moved on and it is the people who want to actually succeed who stick around and they should do what they want. But it still just feels like "a waste" for me.

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@gundato: Yeah, you're not wrong. There are a few moments in particular that simply wouldn't have been possible without everyone in the chat going as hard as possible, but again that'll come up later. Getting a crowd to rally behind a common cause is its own special thing, even if you end up just being a spectator sometimes, yknow? It wasn't so much about the lol chaos as it was simply accomplishing this feat everyone assumed was impossible.

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