Of course, part of that is nostalgia...
But in some ways, you just can't beat the originals.

Degorram's interview11/02/2020

Degorram is one of those people contributing to the reputation of Hexen II still nowadays through her Youtube channel on which she posts entertaining videos of herself playing old school games and kicking Serpent Riders' asses with ease while joking around. Take a break and go watch her videos in case you didn't already!

Hi Dego, so glad to welcome you here on Inky's Hexen II Mapping Corner!
First would you please tell us a bit more about yourself?

Hallo Inky, and thanks so much for letting me be a part of the conversation! These are some of the games I grew up on, so it's really exciting to be able to connect with the community in this way. I've been playing games and enjoying the development of gaming technology since the late 90's. My first game was X-Wing, followed shortly after by the Quake series, and then Hexen. I used to fall asleep to the Quake soundtrack (composed by Nine Inch Nails). Perhaps that explains a lot about me as a person! My favorite style of gaming is FPS, specifically cinematic, story-driven games that don't skimp on the narrative in favor of puzzles or simple SHMUP action. And of course I can easily be swayed by a really solid game score. I think easily half of the music I listen to comes from games as a result.

Are games just a hobby for you or is there any kind of professional connection?

At this point in my life, games are just a hobby. I've certainly thought about trying to break into the gaming industry a handful of times. I considered studying game story writing at Full Sail University, but ended up studying English closer to home out of concerns that I might have trouble finding work with such a narrow degree.

After I graduated, I was still thinking about storytelling through games. And I had a wonderful opportunity to actually speak with Bruce Nesmith, then the Director of Design at Bethesda Studios, about what it might take to move in that direction. In the end, he advised me that getting familiar with, or even proficient at game coding was the best way to move forward, and he told me that a lot of game modders can get noticed by working with the materials that studios such as Bethesda make available to the community. But at that point I was focused on getting a job and becoming independent, and I have only ever had a passing interest in coding, so my focus on a career related to gaming was set aside. I still think about it from time to time.

When exactly did you start making those videos about games and how did the idea come to you?

I first started making videos on Youtube at the start of 2017. At the time, I was experimenting, trying to see if being on the platform would be a good fit for me, and I was tentative with how much content I could reliably make while also holding down my full-time job. I had wanted to make let's play videos for years (starting back in 2009 or so). Back then, most people doing let's plays were kind of on the same level in terms of quality and following. A few people had started to really climb the ladder, but it was nowhere near as competitive as it is now.

Sadly, in 2009 I was a freshman in college and broker than broke, so getting my hands on recording equipment or even new games was just out of the question. It wasn't until about 2016 that I was able to start pursuing that dream again, and I thought the best place to start was with the games I knew well and had loved for years. That way, even if the channel never took off, I would be sure to have a great time making the videos! And that to this day is still the primary goal.

Videos about games frequently focus on introducing games (or some specific aspects of them) to an unknowing audience or providing a walkthrough to help stuck players. Some sorts of instructional stuff... Nothing like that on your side: you don't claim to teach anything nor share some philosophy or insights about games. How would you best describe your intention?

To be honest, I rarely watch gaming videos myself for the purpose of learning about a new game or getting past a tough section. I turn to written walkthroughs for help if I need it; I'm just oldschool that way I guess. And if there's a new game out there I really want to play, I prefer not to be spoiled by watching someone else play it first.

My favorite Youtubers have always been about enjoying games together and adding to the enjoyment of the game itself through fun reactions or entertaining commentary. The first gaming channel I was ever a loyal fan of was the Yogscast, which became the largest Youtube channel in Britain, and their style has always been quite chaotic and hilarious. My all time favorite Youtuber and inspiration for finally getting my channel up and running is Markiplier, and his philosophy for gaming videos is similar: it's meant to capture the same joy of getting to play video games with your friends.

Plus, I'm very hesitant to ever assume I have some grand insight on the games I play, especially when it comes to games that have been around for decades. At the back of my mind I'm always thinking, "Who cares!" So I'm willing to give my opinion on how a game is made, or how effective the soundtrack or storyline is, but I don't presume to add anything deeper than that in the context of my videos. Other, smarter people are already doing that far better than I could. I point to the Game Theory channel as an excellent example!

It may sound strange that you specialized in old games because at the time they were released you were not even born, or barely. So... why such games?

Yeah, it's a bit embarrassing sometimes to realize that these games are about the same age as me! But these are the ones I grew up on -- I first watched my dad play Doom, sitting on the floor as a young child and becoming obsessed with how cool it all looked. When I was finally old enough to play myself, I started with what my dad was playing: Quake, Hexen, Doom, etc. They defined what I love about games, and to this day, I feel like they are a gold standard that is hard to beat. Of course, part of that is nostalgia...game development has come a long way, and it's been such a gift to be able to grow up alongside that. But in some ways, you just can't beat the originals.


Degorram in her lair, ready to jump in the adventure!

What does the FPS genre represent for you? And what are your feelings towards Hexen II and the Serpent Riders trilogy in particular?

FPS was the first game style I really fell in love with. Even though the first game I ever played was X-Wing, and I effectively learned to play games by using a joystick, I felt so much freedom when I transitioned to games that used WASD and a mouse--so much so that you can see the importance of WASD in my channel logo. The level of immersion you can achieve in the first person is unparalleled, in my opinion, and that is really key when you're playing these action games that can be at times super fast-paced and require a lot of focus. For first person shooters in particular, they represent the beginning of my sense of self as a gamer, and they represent the stories that have inspired my own creativity since I was a child. When I was younger, I once tried to write a novel that was heavily inspired by some of the imagery from Quake 4. It was probably terrible, and I never completed it, but I look at that as a testament to how much influence the FPS genre can have.

In regards to the Serpent Riders trilogy in particular, I have to say that I enjoyed Hexen the most out of all of them. Hexen really built on the solid foundation that was introduced in Heretic, and while the puzzles and maps can seem a bit obscure at times, overall I think the game is just so well done. It cleaned up and streamlined the things that I think were too chaotic in Heretic, and there's no question about the story that is being told, which I felt was a bit more obscure in the first game. Sadly, Hexen II is my least favorite of the trilogy. It felt like so much effort went into the new and improved graphics that the rest of the elements suffered for it a bit. I feel like a lot of games have suffered from this fate over the years, but Hexen II was certainly not ruined by it. It's still a great game, and well worth playing to complete the series.

In a very practical way, how do you proceed to make a video?

There's a handful of programs running at once. I capture my game footage with OBS, which is an open-source program made by and for let's players and streamers. It's completely free and regularly updated, which is a wonderful combination. I record my audio separately with Adobe Audition using an AudioTechnica USB condenser mic. It's not anything special, but it does the job a bit better than say a Snowball or BlueYeti . My facecam is recorded with a Logitech 9000 webcam, which is honestly the potato of the bunch. I would love a better quality camera, but it's just too expensive for now, especially considering that my current camera does just fine on its own. All of the different elements are combined in Adobe Premiere.

The actual recording process is quite straightforward: hit record, give a couple of syncing queues, and off we go! I take notes throughout if I need to adjust anything in editing, but my style is generally pretty simple when it comes to let's plays. I frankly just don't often have the time to make a lot of fancy edits in post, and I disapprove of editing a video just for editing's sake. It doesn't necessarily lead to a funnier or more compelling video, so I only add things in if I feel the scene merits it.

Degorram's workstation

Dego's workstation

Towards the end of each video you regularly mention it's time to end for now, suggesting that there is a virtual time limit around 20/25 minutes. Out of curiosity, what's the point about that?

There is a magical number to aim for when it comes to gaming videos to keep your audience's attention. It used to be (maybe still is) about 15 minutes. Anything shorter is kind of pointless if you're doing a full let's play, and anything longer is probably going to be too much for most viewers' attention spans. But 15 minutes is really hard to aim for, because for me, it just feels a bit short, and all of the videos I watch on Youtube are actually on average around 25 to 30 minutes a piece. So I try to record each video for 20 to 25 minutes. In terms of the in-video announcement...well, concluding a video is frankly very awkward and feels clunky to me every single time. It has just become the easiest way to sign off!

It's very refreshing watching you clear yourself a way throughout the maps and react to what you see. Everything looks 100% spontaneous yet I must confess I had doubts once (please take no offense) when I watched you solve the sand/glass/lens puzzle in Blackmarsh with a supernatural ease whereas the vast majority of us poor everyday players were driven crazy for hours before being able to figure out. Was that due to a fortunate chain of circumstances and an incredible sense of direction of yours? Or do you sometimes prepare things in advance and sort of "script" some sequences to avoid boring hours of videos showing you wander the maps at random?

No offense taken! I'm actually glad that for once someone thought I solved a puzzle too easily. Usually I'm afraid that people are seeing the answer when I am not and screaming at their computers over how stupid I am (my brother tells me he does this on the regular...). It's amazing how difficult it is to solve puzzles when part of your brain is focusing on recording a video. It is true that sometimes I get so stuck in a game that I just have to look up the answer, and I may choose to edit out part of my wandering around to save on time in the video. It's just not entertaining to watch someone walk the same halls for thirty minutes getting nothing accomplished. However, I try to call out if I looked up a puzzle, or you will usually see at least some of my flailing in the video. I don't want anyone having the impression that I just magically solved something based on my inherent genius (hah); sometimes I get lucky, but most of the time I am not. So if I solved that puzzle too easily, maybe it was just one that I understood by accident. It makes up for incidents like my Quake 2 series where I spent a whole episode looking for a key that was in plain sight.

Thumbnail for Degorram's 'Hexen II | Part 12 | The Impossible Puzzle' video

Anyway Dego wasn't spared Hexen II's most infamous puzzle.

Do people send you feedback about your videos and do you know who your followers are? Are they only nostalgic people, or are there brand newcomers as well who discovered those classic games thanks to you?

I don't get a lot of feedback on my videos. A handful of comments now and then, but it is a huge challenge to make those connections on Youtube. There's just so much content available, and the algorithm is so unforgiving, that gaining a following that will also participate and invest in the channel is a slow, painstaking achievement that most of us small-time Youtubers will never accomplish. For the most part, it seems that those who are watching the classic games I play are already familiar with them. I'm still unknown enough on the platform that most of my viewership finds my videos by specifically searching for a game.

Well, don't count too much on this interview popping up on Google by sheer chance either!

Has making your videos been a solitary adventure this far or did it open a few doors for you?

So far I'm still chugging along solo. But one never knows what will happen in the future! I'm still waiting for that one video that "makes" the channel. I've had a couple of videos take off and gain a few thousand views, but that has certainly not led to subscribers, nor has it increased my average view count for every video. Being a Youtuber can be a lonely business before you've gotten a following. It feels presumptuous to reach out to anyone for potential collaboration when you haven't made some influence yourself already.

About Hexen II (and Hexen, and Quake, etc. as well) there is still a very active community nowadays, not only made of players but also mappers and modders. Are you in touch with some of them? Are you interested in some contemporary projects related to the old games? Do you consider making videos about them too?

You are in fact the first person from the mapping and modding community that I have ever connected with, and it has definitely inspired me to explore the community creations that are out there! Admittedly, it is not a field I am very familiar with, so I will probably spend a lot of time bumbling about in search of key maps and mods to try. The only modding I've ever really delved into has been for Minecraft. But I'm always open to recommendations, and yes, I would love to make videos about them in the future!

Dego stuck to her word!
Discover the first video of her playthrough series dedicated to Wheel Of Karma!

Did you ever consider making games/mods/maps yourself?

I very briefly considered modding after I graduated college, based on my conversation with Bruce Nesmith. But so far I haven't taken the time to explore it. I find the concept fascinating in theory, and I have major respect for the people who put so much time and effort into adding new material to these games we love, all on their own time and for no compensation! It might be fun to give it a try myself if I ever have any spare time...which is in short supply with everything I have going on, alas.

Any hints about your future projects? :-)

The list of games on my schedule is always in flux and currently is very well stocked for the future, especially in regards to the nostalgia let's plays. A few of them are going to be new for me, such as System Shock and Thief. There's a certain infamous puzzle game that recently celebrated its 25th anniversary that I will be attempting at some point, to my own certain doom. If you really want to see me wander around for hours on end accomplishing nothing, you can look forward to my eventual let's play of Myst.

Oh, one last question! Each time an arachnid jumps at you you call it... "spoder"? Is that a private joke or some sort of Scottish word?

Haha, it's certainly no part of the Scots language. I'm not certain it even qualifies as a private joke, so much as a particular mannerism I picked up by accident. The story behind my use of the word "spoder" comes from Christmas a few years ago, when I found a wolf spider in the garage. I actually love spiders, and I especially like the bigger ones, so it was quite a treat to find a beautiful specimen like that. I took a picture with it for my social media and captioned it "A Christmas Spider!"...except that my squashy fingers didn't quite get it right, and I posted the picture as "A Christmas Spoder!" It was a funny mistake, and the typo just stuck in my vocabulary.

Thank you so much for having shared your personal universe, thoughts and shenanigans with us, Dego.
See you soon on your Youtube channel!