Random Acts of Suffering

Sorry I'm a little late on this entry. Normally we aim for Saturdays, but I was finishing up a large portion of Suikoden II in preparation for this recording.

Kole here.

Abject Suffering began as a little experiment to incentivize contributions to the network in different ways. It coincided with the (now defunct) Watch Out for Fireballs! app, and our crazy kludgy tribute system.

It then evolved into one of our favorite shows, when you love something you create, you want everyone to see it. We decided to make the Abject Suffering show free for all with our 2013 Kickstarter campaign, and took the show weekly as part of our Patreon campaign.

During the August Duckfeed Live Stream, a listener asked us if we were consciously making a shift from just "bad" games to purely "weird" games, or if that's a consequence of the random number generator. To clear this up, I want to shed some light on the process we use to pick the games for the show.

Abject Suffering has always been a show where we play the games that listeners suggest (i.e. force us to). Hence the tagline "Why are you doing this to us?" From the very beginning, people have gleefully provided us with titles through a form on the Abject Suffering webpage.

Using this form, listeners submit whatever they feel is appropriate for the theme of the show (along with pertinent information like the system, their names, and a comment about the game if they wish).

This form is native to SquareSpace (our blogging platform, not an endorsement) and all entries are routed into a Google Spreadsheet, which acts as a massive database of entries.

At the beginning of each month, I handle all of the scheduling and planning aspects for recording and releasing shows for the next two months. This includes rolling up which games we're going to suffer through.

I take the newest entries and compile them into a massive list of "groomed" data. I remove duplicates and make sure each game is a real thing. Then, I hit up random.org to roll up a random number. This number coincides with a row in the spreadsheet, and that game is slotted into the schedule. The row with the chosen game is deleted, and I roll again.

The only time we will call an audible and swap something out is if the game in question is impossible to emulate. Mainstream systems like NES, SNES, and Genesis are the safest bets. If a suggested game is on PlayStation, Sega CD, or PC, that gets a little dicier. We'll give it a shot, but there have been times when we've thrown a game out because it's unplayable on modern systems.

I've only barely answered the question so far, but I'll answer it directly now: The games we pick for Abject Suffering are entirely determined by what listeners suggest, along with a random number generator. That accounts for everything.

"Weird" and "bad" often go hand-in-hand, and we're always delighted when something catches us off guard. "Redemptions" are also great... when we can take a game that we wouldn't otherwise play, and experience something entirely novel (see: Bad Mojo).

I'll finish out with two compliments to offer the listeners who are kind enough to suggest games.

First, you take it seriously. Which is to say, nobody is saying "Mass Effect 2" lol. I've not seen any suggestions that break the spirit of what the show is about. Abject Suffering continues to be a delight because it's another way for us to interact with our excellent, excellent listeners.

Second, you guys are prolific. As of the day that I'm writing this (Monday, September 1 2014) we have 190 unused, unique suggestions. Duplicate requests are exceedingly rare. This means that if we shut off the tap, we'd have enough shows to do just under 4 years worth of episodes.

The trick is, each week brings roughly 10 suggestions from listeners. Whereas the well for good WOFF! games is relatively shallow, there are myriad bad/weird games for us to cover... and our listeners are doing to legwork of uncovering games from their past for us.

Abject Suffering might outlive us all.