Aimlessly Going Forward

blog by Tomas Sedovic

Let's Play Dark Souls!

I have started and now finished a playthrough of Dark Souls Remastered and uploaded it all on youtube!

The series is called Ramona Dark Souls and you can find all the episodes here:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLNEzKiHBY2zdAa7hug6__YUGAydT-Bwka

It came out of a few overlapping desires: Dark Souls Remastered came out and I wanted to play it. Dark Souls is one of my favourite games of all time. And finally, some of the people I showed it to were put off by its repetitive nature (so was I when I heard of it), reputability for being too hard and severe misunderstanding of its combat ("it's all about parrying and backstabbing, not interested").

I've also wanted to try a different play style to what I've done in the past (something Dark Souls is excellent about). My previous playthroughs were about using ranged spells, the high-damage fire magic (Pyromancy) and/or hacking things up with a Katana (high dexterity, bleed build).

Serendipitously, one of my favourite comic books had the perfect idea:

Blue-haired Ramona Flowers holding a hammer with a label: "+2 against girls"

Green-haired Ramona Flowers holding a baseball bat labelled: "+1 against blondes"

(the blue and green-haired ladies are the same character: Ramona Flowers)

That is where Ramona Dark Souls comes from: I would be roleplaying (a somewhat older and more undead) Ramona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim. She will wear a bright coloured hair (this turned out be be a bit difficult in the game's character creator) and will only ever use a hammer (as a weapon class in the game -- clubs are hammers, too apparently) and in both hands to boot.

In-game Ramona Flowers with dark purple hair holding a Reinforced Club in both hands

As a bit of a challenge run, I've also decided not to summon NPCs or other players for help except in two very specific situations where I wanted to do it for the roleplay and game lore reasons.

Editor's Picks

Here's a few episodes I'd like to highlight:

Episode 6: Penance

I've lost my first recording and so I went to fight all the tough optional minibosses as a penance. That includes fighting Havel the Rock, who takes a lot of hits permits no mistakes.

It shows Yours Truly's dedication to not parrying as well as noticing all the mistakes and hilariously, repeating them over and over.

Havel starts at 13 minutes 21 seconds:

Watch the Havel fight

Episode 15: Despair

After going down to the Catacombs a little early, we rest at a newly-added bonfire and need to take a loooong way back up.

Watch Ramona Dark Souls 15: Despair

Episode 21: Anor Londo

The first look at the City of the Gods. Also, the voice over never got recorded so I've done that after the fact, watching myself play.

It provides a bit of a change of pace and I'm able to talk more easily as I'm not preoccupied with playing the game:

Watch Ramona Dark Souls 21: Anor Londo

Episode 37: Knight Artorias

The Artorias fight is just cool. One of the best boss fights in the game.

It starts at the 55th minute:

Watch the Knight Artorias boss fight

Episode 40: Four Kings

This shows a couple of neat Abyss-related things as well as a neat Easter egg when facing Sif after you've rescued her in the DLC (if you have done so).

Watch Ramona Dark Souls 40: Four Kings

Episode 41: Lord of Cinder

The final episode. The actual boss fight was rather underwhelming, but listen to that music. Topped off by Yours Truly rambling about Dark Souls and games in general for 40 minutes.

Watch Ramona Dark Souls 41: Lord of Cinder

Stats

When I started it, I had no idea how long it would take (four an a half motnhs), whether I'd run into any serious trouble (nope! The Reinforced Club is fantastic!) or whether I'd actually finish it (yep!).

But here we are: 41 episodes played, 39.7 of those were recorded, the total original size of all the videos is 88.8GB, the total play time 33 hours and the average episode length is 48 minutes.

The first episode was recorded on the 29th May, 2018 and the final one on the 13th October, 2018.

DSR

Dark Souls Remastered is a newer edition of the game that came out in Spring 2018 (the original Dark Souls was released in 2011).

The remaster is a controversial topic -- at least on the darksouls subreddit.

It seems that the veteran Dark Souls players hate it or don't see a reason for its existence. For me, it's absolutely fantastic and I didn't need any convincing to get it.

When it came out, Dark Souls Remastered cost $40 full price or $20 if you've owned the original (on Steam). I got the original in a sale for $5 so getting the Remaster was a bargain. For someone who paid the full price for the original, things might be different.

The game didn't change much (it seems a lot of people were hoping massive improvements that were never promised and never came). They did add one thing: when you hold the down button, your active item switches to the first one on your list -- just like in Dark Souls 3.

This is awesome and I wouldn't want to go back.

People are lamenting the lack of active players, but I seem to be getting more invasions even now (mid October 2018 -- way after the community declared the online experience completely dead) than when I played the original. Which to be fair was long after everyone else played it.

And it just looks so much better than the original.

People will say it doesn't. Or that it looks even worse. This seems to be because they play with dsfix -- an unofficial tool that fixed bugs in the game and enabled higher-resolution graphics.

I prefer not to install unofficial patches for my software -- especially for games that feature online play. But I get it: everyone's using it and the patched graphics are comparable or even better in some regard. Okay fair but not everyone has it or knows about it.

As far as I'm concerned, Dark Souls Remastered is better than vanilla Dark Souls.

Tools

OBS Studio for recording and Avidemux for post-processing. Where possible, Ramona Dark Souls was produced with Free and Open Source software.

Alas, Dark Souls itself, Steam and Windows are all proprietary.

Initially, I was only using OBS Studio and that resulted in the first lost recording. Unfortunately, the tool does not have a built-in recording indicator and since I knew of no video editing tools and didn't want to spend time learning any, my recording process used to be:

  1. Start OBS Studio
  2. Start the game
  3. Load the game to where you've left off last time
  4. Press the recording keyboard shortcut
  5. Play the game, hoping it's being recorded
  6. Press the "stop recording" shortcut
  7. Quit the game, pray that the stuff got recorded
  8. Backup and upload to youtube

Incidentally, I'd used the same method for my Spelunky Daily Challenges a few years back. It is a miracle only a single recording ever got lost.

When that happened, I've decided to fix this up. The obvious solution would be set OBS to play a little sound or show some sort of overlay indicator that the content is being recorded.

OBS itself doesn't do that, but there are plugins to do this. They all seemed super complicated and required installing extra dependencies, so I've looked for a different tool.

I've tried Nvidia ShadowPlay and that seemed to work pretty well. Until I've lost another recording.

ShadowPlay does the recording indicator perfectly. I loved it. But it's geared towards recording shorter clips (e.g. highlights from a current play), the audio quality is worse, it has to split videos into multiple files (on Windows 7 only, but that's what I've got) and the videos are much bigger on disk.

At some point, a recording filled up all my disk space and then started throwing the recordings away without any indication \o/.

So I've decided to go back to OBS (which was perfect in every way except you didn't know whether you were recording) and change my workflow slightly:

  1. Start OBS Studio
  2. Start the recording
  3. VERIFY that the recording file is actually created on disk
  4. Start the game
  5. Load the game, play the game, quit the game
  6. Stop the recording
  7. Edit the video like A PROFESSIONAL and cut off the extra bits before and after the actual game play
  8. Backup and upload to youtube

I had to learn how to edit (well, cut) videos and it turns out that Avidemux which I was already familiar with already was perfect for the job.

Since then, I've never lost a video recording...

...

...

...

I have lost audio though /o\.

I still don't know why, but for one episode, the microphone just didn't record. The video was there, along with the in-game audio, but my voice never made it.

So I've rewatched the whole thing and did a post-production commentary and then spent two hours trying to sync them together.

To prevent that form happening ever again, I've added another step between starting the recording and starting the game:

2.5. VERIFY that the audio from the mic is being picked up

Haven't had an issue since.

Acknowledgements

I was having a lot of fun doing this, but this project would not exist if it weren't for Marsh Davies and Rich Stanton from Crate and Crowbar.

I kept hearing great stuff about the world, systems and storytelling of Dark Souls, but the main beats of the game (combat-heavy realtime action game, really difficult, full of boss fights and repetition) were extremely off-putting to me.

So when they recorded a full playthrough, I've watched it, hoping to understand what made this game so special:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLS0A_TmLPr5EhgLBmpXfT7nBEl2AATkQT

I've never expected to actually play it, but I've really enjoyed the videos and the game did indeed seem interesting. So when it was on sale for a fiver, I snagged it up and tried it and almost gave up on the first boss and then I defeated it and the rest is history.

Rich and Marsh as well as anyone else who made that happen: cheers!

(they've also lost a recording so I'm in a great company)

I'd also like to thank the fine folks at the Crate and Crowbar podcast in general because they've mentioned Dark Souls in almost every episode and that was what piqued my interest originally. Incidentally, the same happened with Spelunky -- another of my favourites.

And every time a new C&C episode comes out, my life is a little brighter.

Tomas Sedovic on 21 October, 2018