If getting stuck in a pool for hours because you can't climb a ladder is a mark of progress, then Twitch Plays Dark Souls is killing it.
If you're not familiar with the "Twitch Plays" phenomenon of the last year or so, it started in February 2014 with Pokemon Red. By typing in commands into Twitch chat, viewers could collectively try and steer the game as one player. (Granted, a player prone to walking in circles and making poor decisions over and over again).
It took Twitch users 16 days, 9 hours, 55 minutes, and four seconds to beat Pokemon Red, and they would go on to play more than a dozen other Pokemon games in the months after.
For more than four days now, Twitch viewers have been trying to play through one of gaming's most notorious challenges, Dark Souls. This latest social experiment has not been going well.
There is a huge difference between Pokemon and Dark Souls. Notably, Dark Souls is a complex 3D game with a camera that must be regularly and carefully manipulated, and it's easy to die.
Here's what Twitch's chat looks like right now:
And here's what that roughly translates to:
It hasn't been a total boondoggle for Twitch Plays Dark Souls, though!
- They made it through the character creation screen (much harder than it seems).
- They made it through the character creation screen a second time (praise be!)
- They reached the first bon fire.
- They managed to encounter the game's first boss, Asylum Demon, and hit him once.
Just getting to the first boss, who is discovered only a few minutes into the game, has been a chore for Twitch Plays Dark Souls. And when they find themselves inside the arena with the beast, they struggle to find a way to do anything but stand in one place and die seconds later.
Perhaps the funniest moment of the stream so far was when Twitch Plays Dark Souls equipped an item called the Darksign. When deployed, Darksign allows you to sacrifice whatever souls (aka experience points) you've accrued during a run in exchange for showing up at the last bonfire (aka save points). Twitch found itself unable to do anything but keep using Darksign.
This went on for hours. Literally.
The Darksign is useful when Twitch Plays Dark Souls has found themselves stuck in a nearby pool of water thanks to an errant roll, a moment that causes the chat to sigh in unison.
Twitch chat can be pretty awful, but in this case, it's often more amusing than the game.
As with previous games that have been played this way, you're constantly dealing with trolls who are more interested in frustrating everyone else. Twitch Plays Pokemon tried to deal with this by instituting "democracy" and "anarchy" rules, which Twitch Plays Dark Souls lifts.
In democracy, the most votes for a particular action over a set period of time -- a few seconds -- dictates the next move. In anarchy, the inputs are immediately applied as they come in. What this means is that Twitch players are constantly streaming inputs into the game while also having a vote about how the inputs are perceived by the game. No surprise, it's total chaos.
You should read Patricia's article from last year about how players started coming up with strategies to deal with the unruliness and move forward in Pokemon Red.
So far, that hasn't really happened in Twitch Plays Dark Souls, but I'm actually excited about their potential -- they have started a subreddit to talk strategies outside of chat. They have managed to equip pyromancy (fire magic) and a fireball spell that's super useful early in the game, and even got a hand axe in their right hand, which can inflict decent damage on the first boss.
Good luck, Twitch Plays Dark Souls. I'm cheering for you.
(Right now, they're rolling into a wall over and over again.)