The ease of producing a season of Bonfireside Chat is directly tied to the subject material and each season, other than the first, has presented some challenges. I thought it might be interesting to lay out what was involved.
SEASON ONE: Dark Souls
For my money, this was the easiest season for a couple of reasons.
• Enthusiasm. We’re not over Souls or anything, but Kole and I started this show when we were both rolling in the deep, Adele style. But the deep in question is either the Abyss or the Depths. Pick your toxic. Kole came to Dark Souls before I did but what I lacked in punctuality, I think I made up in enthusiasm. I’m fucking voracious about Souls.
• An established body of lore. In an early episode of the show, Kole asks me if I’ve heard of Prepare to Cry, a question that would be ridiculous today. Yes, Dark Souls lore wasn’t a cottage industry like it is now but it was examined thoroughly and more information was coming to light all the time. This meant that, while we were free to indulge in lore speculation, a lot of the heavy lifting had been done by heroes like Vaati.
• The reason the game had been dissected so was because it was on PC. This meant that not only was there lore speculation but there was a ready source of sound effects and, most importantly, dialogue.
SEASON TWO: Demon’s Souls
• Because it’s PS3 exclusive, there was so much less to draw on. Regardless of what they do on the business end of things, system exclusives are bad for games as art. The PS3 exclusivity reverberated throughout all aspects of producing the show. Dialogue was exceptionally hard to come by. Lore was scant. The game simply hadn’t been torn apart with any gusto. There were some exceptions, like once and future show alum VideoGameTalkingHead’s excellent work, but for the most part, information was confined to the backwood parts of gamefaqs message boards and reddit. Places where it smells like sulfur and there are milk solids in the whisky.
• It’s also worth noting that the game contributed to this. I don’t want to say that the lore in Demon’s Souls is worse but I think there is categorically less of it. Fewer characters with less backstory, more bosses that were just big meat bags and demons. The spots where this isn’t true, I think the season shined. For example, I love the conflict in talking about the ending or Maiden Astraea. Even if most fans don’t agree with me.
SEASON THREE: Origins
• Are people even interested in this stuff? The Souls community, while it unquestionably is bitchin’, is also very particular. Ask any youtuber that does Souls stuff what happens when they switch to other games. Epic Name Bro’s Souls videos have views that dwarf his excursions into other games. It isn’t because people don’t like Marcus, it’s because souls fans need to keep the drip feed going or they go hollow. So, it was risky to branch out into something that was tangentially related. This carried into our decision to eschew having guests. If I knew then what I know now, I would have asked Dave Klein to join us for an episode concerning The Ancient City, but doing each episode as a solo bolo has a distinct feel.
• Different media! I wasn’t sure how covering Berserk would go given that it is a game with very little interactivity. In fact, it’s little more than an extended cut scene! But we essentially took the same tact and it worked just fine.
• Less multimedia. Though there are some dialogue bits in the anime and movies, there was very little to draw on. King’s Field has exactly one bit of spoken word that we used. Because of this, the episodes were a bit flatter than previous seasons.
SEASON FOUR: Dark Souls 2
• It’s early in the season but things are going well. The one issue is that lore is still being unearthed! This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it does make this iteration of the show an evolving entity. I’ll definitely look back on it after we’ve finished, before, most likely, Origins Volume 2, but for now, the jury is out. What do you think?