One of my pleasures related to gaming is to read Let’s Plays, so I thought I might cook up a little blog post about the topic and then open the comments for suggestions! If you’re at a loss for something to occupy your Sunday then you might consider seeking out a LP and reading it with a nice cool refreshing soda/nice soothing hot chocolate, depending on local weather conditions!
A Let’s Play is essentially a player taking the viewers/readers through a game, or series of games, by writing about them, showing screenshots, or providing videos with commentary. LPs come in several flavors but the general principle is to show the reader/viewer the mechanics of the game, examples of artwork, music and FMVs, all that sort of thing. Where relevant you’ll see plot exposition, and very commonly people will show secrets, Easter eggs, perform feats of skill, or abuse game mechanics to show how utterly broken some games can become. Some are serious, some are humorous, usually though the idea is to show the game off, whether it’s to encourage everyone to play something really great or to explore the mendacious depths of a truly turgid turd.
Somewhat related to LPs, but often with a greater focus on storytelling or the like, are After Action Reports (AARs), which I’ve written a short example of for this very site. If you have a quick look at that you’ll see what I mean, I’m not talking about mechanics but rather interpreting what happened in a narrative sense, giving it meaning and context – something strategy games like Darkest Hour are very open to.
A good LP is a great thing; one of the most famous, and one you’ve most probably heard of already, is Boatmurdered. It is an uncommonly hilarious and deeply enjoyable account of a Dwarf Fortress even more doomed than the usual. The fame of Boatmurdered does more than show off the comedic skills of a bunch of goons though; it also had a fairly significant impact on the fame of the game on which it was based, and for an indie game made by a two-man team who rely entirely on donations, this is a fairly big deal.
So as part of gaming’s culture and milieu I think LPs are a great thing, and I really enjoy going through them. Sometimes I read one for a game I thought I knew completely and learn many new things. Sometimes I read one of a game I would never play, and see what others see in it. Sometimes I just find myself tremendously amused.
If you want to find a whole treasure trove of Let’s Plays then the LP Archive is a great place to start. You can also search YouTube and find a vast store of video-based LPs, and various forums have their own sections from Something Awful’s dedicated and vast Let’s Play subforum to Paradox Interactive’s many AAR forums.
Are there any LPs you would recommend to people, any that you’ve found particularly funny, or any that have sparked interest in a game where you had none before? Tell us all about it in the comments below!
This is the culmination of a Civilization IV Let’s Play I’ve been doing; here are Part One and Part Two.
Where were we? Ah yes! Caesar had just declared war on me! Again!
So Caesar sends his stack at Coventry, which I’d retaken several turns prior. I’d moved most of my reinforcements out of there, due to years of peace and assuming I’d be good. Famous last words, I know. It was very quickly down to Caesar’s stack vs. one single Redcoat. Who put up a good fight, by the way, due to my huge tech advantage, but eventually Caesar nabbed it back. What happened next can probably best be described as a game of Coventry Yo-Yo, as I took it back, and then he took it back, and then I took it back again. That poor city. It’s like it’s really Poland or something!
MEANWHILE IN ARRETIUM, it’s Caesar’s trebuchets vs. a big pile of my machine guns, which I’d just finished teching and which I was now hurrying like fist of the North Star. Yeah, that didn’t go so well for him. I guess you can give him points for being plucky, or something.
So about this time everyone voted for me to be in charge of making votes and stuff. So obviously, I asked everyone if they wanted to declare war on Caesar and help a guy out. I mean, wartimes are funtimes, right? Right? …Bueller?
Okay, I’m alone on this one then. Which is okay, because I’ve got a little stack full of Redcoats and Artillery and Caesar is still using, like, swordsmen and stuff.
I’ve also got a Great General named El Cid, who apparently was a famous historical leader at some point and only moonlighted as a Final Fantasy character. Kay, sounds good.
I went and mopped up the Roman empire. Rome fell, some other cities that I can’t remember fell, and finally even my formerly peacenik fellows got in on the action and soon everyone was just eating poor Caesar up. While this was happening, I was nonchalantly building the Manhattan Project and the Apollo Program on the side. You know, just for fun.
Anyways, Caesar quickly got down to having about, oh, one city left. Which is when this happened:
And you know, I felt bad. I really did. So I made peace with him. A couple of turns later, Sitting Bull took his last city and his entire civilization was destroyed. We’ll always remember your salad, bro.
Now that the war was over, it was time to focus on more important things, like building a spaceship. Despite having the Apollo Program finished in 1928, I wasn’t quite teched up enough to start building spaceship parts yet, so in the meantime I built dozens of ICBMs, just in case. Hey, the best offense is a good defense, right?
And so the decades went on. I was still waiting for enough tech to start building my spaceship. I was starting to get antsy about it, too, knowing that with the Time Victory option enabled, my time was limited. And then this popped up onto my screen:
I looked at it. I thought about it. Caesar was gone and all of the other civs LOVED me. All I had to do was press that button and I had a Diplomatic Victory in the bag. Game over. I win.
And I thought about it… and my cursor hovered over the button…
And so the game continued, mostly uneventfully other than having to stave off other civilizations’ frequent trade offers of clams or rocks for my uranium. Finally, though, I was able to start building spaceship parts, and I started to do so, but it was just about that time that an ominous little countdown appeared in the top right-hand corner of the screen:
100 TURNS LEFT.
And you know, for a game that was ending up remarkably peaceful now that Caesar was gone, this was possibly the most nerve-wracking part of the game yet. I had 100 turns to beat the clock, build a spaceship, launch it, and land safely on a faraway planet.
And so I built a spaceship, piece by piece. Times were good in the Glorious English Empire by this point; cities from other countries were seceding left and right so they could join up with me, I was exploding with culture to the point that I worried I might accidentally end up with a Culture Victory, we had tech, we had Wonders coming out our ears, we had so much money that I didn’t know what to do with it, we had a huge stockpile of nukes in case anyone decided to do something funny in the last second, we had Al Gore building the Internet for us in Warwick, and that Diplomatic Victory box kept popping up and I kept declining it.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, I launched that freaking spaceship.
And then, ten turns later…
Ahhh, what a great game. I had dominated in just about every fashion: scorewise, techwise, diplomacy-wise, culture-wise (I had two cities with Legendary Culture by the end, and four of the world’s top five cities were mine), and I got the spaceship. What sort of accolades would the score screen give me? Surely I had to be somewhere up toward the top with all those historical strategic greats…
…oooooor I can sit around at the bottom and be Warren G. Harding, I guess. Yup, looks like the game had the last laugh.
Now what about that spaceship, you may be asking? Did they reach Alpha Centauri safely? What happened to them? Well that, my friends, is a story for another day…
So where were we? Ah yes. I was building a nice stack of rooty-tooty-point-and-shooties and a couple of catapults thrown in for good measure (that part of my tech is apparently lagging woefully behind.) And it was here that the game decided to bestow a little present upon me– this quest:
So, let’s see here. They want me to build a bunch of musketmen, and also have the Taj Mahal and be operating under the Vassalage civic.
…guess who was in the middle of building a bunch of musketmen, had just recently finished building the Taj Mahal, and had switched to Vassalage for the war?
Needless to say this quest was finished very quickly, and although I was tempted to go with the mysterious Golden Age of Muskets as my reward, I opted to go for the free upgrades.
So things were getting pretty interesting here, let’s see if I can give you the long and short of it: Monty is still acting suspiciously nice, Sitting Bull still has a vendetta against the world (and keeps asking me to help him kill various people, which I keep politely declining), the English people are enjoying their cultured lifestyle as I tech music, theatre, and literature for them and build them all sorts of wonders– we even got Picasso as a Great Artist, and I promptly sent him to go dump a bunch of cubism on Warwick’s unsuspecting head– oh, and Caesar has called in the cavalry.
He proceeds to attack York, which actually ends up being a very close battle– too close for my own comfort. It was time to retaliate. Quickly I rounded up my little stack and took out the rest of Caesar’s, and then made for his closest city: Arretium. I took it easily, but we did sustain some losses. Alright then, England, I know I’ve been giving you music and crap and preparing you for a future of top hats and monocles and tea, but it’s time to take a little time-out tech up for some ADVANCED rooty-tooties.
So I started teching up to Rifling. I figure that once we’ve got that, we’ve got everything in the bag. Meanwhile, I’ve got enough of my stack left to retake Coventry, which I’d lost some time ago. This was right about the time that Sitting Bull decided to give me a present. See, a little while back he’d randomly won the Apostolic Palace election somehow (seriously, how did he get those votes? He’s been at war with pretty much everyone), and now, he decided to use this power to initiate a vote to get everybody to declare war on Caesar, whether they wanted to or not.
So Monty is at war with Caesar, Sitting Bull is at war with Caesar for the second or third time this game already, and I’m on my way to retake Coventry with my little stack. Caesar’s no slouch, though: he’s got units and new armies running all over the place and sniping at my poor little musketmen from afar, picking them off one by one. Still, despite being a bit of a tough fight, we came out of it victorious.
Now that I had two towns from Caesar, I figured it was about time to call it good and bunker down a bit and get some upgrades going. See, this is about the period of time when England’s special units really come into play, with those Stock Exchanges acting like a bank on steroids, and with Rifling giving you access to Redcoats, which… well, aside from being an upgraded version of a Riflemen, have got some seriously sexy uniforms.
So, Caesar and I made peace. It was pretty cool. There were some kerfuffles elsewhere on the world, between the other Civs, but I was content to sit around and build and tech and upgrade for a while and switch to the Emancipation civic just to make everyone mad (for those who are not aware, once someone in the game switches to Emancipation, ALL populaces in the game get angry about not having it until they have it, too. So if you’ve got it first, it’s unbelievably hilarious.)
You know those silly Let’s Plays and Action Reports that people who are funnier than I am are usually really good at writing? Where someone will detail their game, play-by-play, and somehow it’s nearly as enjoyable as playing the game itself? Yeah. I’ve always enjoyed those, and so decided to try my hand at one myself. This is potentially a disastrous idea partially because I doubt I am funny enough to pull it off, and partially because I’m sure I’ll end up being thoroughly embarrassed either by a game where I randomly get slaughtered, or worse, a boring game where absolutely nothing happens. But hey, it might be worth a shot, right? And if all else fails I can always just… NOT publish this post, right? Or at least not make anymore?
So. My inaugural game of choice is Civilization IV. Because I’ve played it long enough by now that I at least have an inkling of what I’m doing and thus am less likely to fail miserably in a public and most embarrassing fashion. That’s the plan, at least. (Watch now as everything goes wrong.)
GAME RULES: Five civs, on a standard size map, for elbow room. All victory possibilities enabled, to spice things up (usually I disable all the “lame” victories like Cultural or Time.) I’m playing as Churchill, who is quite possibly my favorite civ. Not just because you get to play as Churchill, which is pretty great, but also because man, those unique units/buildings and those freaking traits. The only downside is his lack of Creative and thus lack of serious amounts of fun with borders, but I’ll live. Barbarians on; come at me bros. No tech brokering, though, and no vassal states, because those are cheap. Choose religions is on, just for fun.
LET’S DO THIS.
So first thing’s first: awesome starting area and they were even nice enough to put my Settler on a hill for me. And to top it off: a goody hut right off the bat with another Settler, allowing me to go plop down a second base right away! Surely things can’t get better, can they?
…they can. Stone. One tile outside of my new base.
Okay, guys, let’s stop and I’m going to tell you about typcial my Civ IV strategy. It goes something like this: Beeline for the Pyramids, which is a wonder that opens up a bunch of civics that you usually wouldn’t get until later in the game, and also increases your chances of getting Great Engineers, who can speed up buildings and also research tech for you. Once you start getting Great Engies, you can quickly build more things that give you MORE Great Engies and this is how I usually end up with a big ol’ tech lead and often a cultural lead as well (have I mentioned that I’m a Wonders whore?) Snagging the Pyramids first is crucial for this, and while I can usually pull it off, having stone early on seals the deal.
So, happily, I started building things up to snag me some of that delicious stone.
Then… then we get to turn 11. “Christianity has been founded in a distant land.” Well crap. This is usually a bad sign. The civs who jump for that religion tend to be, ah, how shall we put it? A bit zealous? Overly fanatical? Nah, still not quite the words I’m looking for. How about… completely and utterly insane? That sounds about right. (Meanwhile, Judaism has been founded in York. I’d add something to that statement, but it’s pretty funny as is, honestly.)
Alright, let’s scout around and see what we’ve got, then. Sitting Bull. He always seems to hate me for some reason that I can’t put my finger on, but on the same token he usually doesn’t attack unless provoked and just sits there in the corner silently hating you, so I think I’ll live. Julius Caesar. Invited me in for salad. Bro potential. Suleiman. He tends to stick to himself and avoid everyone. Not bad.
…aaaaand Monty. And he’s already mad. This is gonna be a fun game.
So there we are. I’m ignoring everyone for now, though, since I’m just buzzing away here in jolly old England– I’ve hooked the stone up to my two cities and am going to have both the Pyramids and Stonehenge about fifty turns into the game. Just to spite everyone else, I queue up the Great Wall next and have it done before we even hit turn sixty.
Things continued to go really well. My next project was to queue up some scouts and figure out where the ocean is, because the Great Landlocked Nation of England is just not gonna fly. So I went ahead and did that. The ocean is, as it turns out, not too far away– on the other side of a random desert, but eh, I’ll live. I founded a new city over there and continued plugging away. I snagged the Oracle within seconds of queuing it up and thus got my free tech. London celebrated We Love the Prime Minister Day in freaking 1240 BC. I got a Great Spy which I promptly sent up to our pal Monty. Sitting Bull converted to my religion. I was building wonders in mere handfuls of turns. And to top it all off:
Yup. Tesla. Not that it makes any difference beyond being a randomly generated name for your Great Engy, but come on, it’s FREAKING TESLA. I always consider it a bit of a good luck sign when I get one of my favorite historical boyfriends.
Life in England was pretty blissful for a while until London got mad at me for their city being too overcrowded, so I did what any caring and just Prime Minister would do. I sacrificed several thousands of my citizens to build The Hanging Gardens. Hey, they didn’t complain about overcrowding after that. And then it was back to building and teching.
Now by this point, the world was pretty clearly split into two religions. You had Sitting Bull and I sitting around being Jewish, and then everyone else was Christian. So far, no conflicts… yet. With something like this, though, it’s bound to happen (have you seen Fiddler on the Roof?) so just in case, I made some extra archers in each of my cities.
After that things started to go terribly smoothly– too smoothly, for a game with Montezuma involved. Nothing really exciting happened… some Barbarians showed up and then turned around and left; I did some trades; I got some wonders; I got Great People up the wazoo; and I snagged Liberalism (and thus another free tech) in 980 AD, which is pretty darn early by most standards. Score-wise, I was leading by an insanely silly margin at this point: I was close to tripling everyone else. That stone at the beginning of the game really went a long ways.
SO THERE I WAS. It was 1000 AD and the people of England had Universal Suffrage, Free Speech, and Free Religion. And, um, Slavery. But hey, you can’t have it all, right?
I started to get a little worried. Was this game really going to be this easy and boring? Was nothing going to happen? Would I end up winning some sort of Diplomatic victory before the second half of the game? Would this be the most boring blog post I’ve written thus far?
I shouldn’t have feared: Caesar declared war on Sitting Bull. And then promptly turned around and told me to give him techs, or suffer the consequences. Now this pleased neither Pike nor Gaga, and honestly I was itching for something to happen at this point, so I told him where to stick it. So Caesar declared on me. Excellent. Suleiman turned around and declared on Sitting Bull. Finally things were starting to pick up a little! Wunderbar.
Caesar then proceeded to toss a big ol’ stack at Coventry, my newest city and one which happened to be sitting right on the Roman borders. I sort of expected I was going to lose it as collateral damage when I told Caesar where to go, and lose it I did. No big deal; there was nothing important in that city anyway. Instead, I just focused on bulking up defense in other, more important cities. This was easy to accomplish: I could build pretty much anything in London in a turn or two.
Things continued to get interesting. Caesar derped around for a bit– not sure what his plans were, but he certainly didn’t seem to be a threat anymore after taking Coventry. While he tried to decide what to do with his handful of horse archers and chariots I idly started researching a little tech you may have heard of.
Sitting Bull then showed up begging for help in his crusade against… well, the world, apparently, since as it turns out he’s the worst enemy of literally everyone in the game at this point. I considered this for a minute, and realized I could probably handle it, but I wanted to put it off just a bit longer while I teched rooty tooty point-and-shooties, as we call them here in Churchill’s Glorious Republic.
Meanwhile, Caesar’s anemic army had decided to show up again and was now marching around in my territory, generally making a big fancy show and not doing any damage at all before finally turning around and leaving, but not before destroying a farm in a rather petulant display, presumably just to scare me.
The disturbingly quiet Monty finally started showing his face around this time as well, asking me for favors and techs. Feeling rather full of myself, I decline most of them. He’s getting slightly cross, I think.
Meanwhile, our buddy Julius has (finally) gotten himself another big ol’ army and sends it right at York. His entire stack is promptly destroyed by my longbowmen, and I’m cooking up a little present of my own: a stack full of musketmen.
By this point, international relations all around are continuing to decline. Sitting Bull hates everyone but me, and our own tentative pact is pretty thin. Monty isn’t happy with me because… well, he’s Monty and to top it off I’ve been a jerk to him this entire time, just to taunt him. Even the normally laid-back Suleiman is starting to get annoyed. And Caesar, well…
He’s not too happy either.
What’s going to happen next? Total Global English Domination (it’s like it’s really real life in the Victorian era!)? Everyone else turning on me? Monty building up a surprise army that he’s been hiding from me this entire time? Englishmen everywhere renaming Caesar Salad to Liberty Lettuce?