The Return of Homestar Runner: How It’s Changed and My Hopes For The Future

Digital denizens of the 90’s, I come bearing great news; Homestar Runner is back!

For those familiar with the name, Mike and Matt Chapman – more commonly known as ‘The Brothers Chaps’ – have been slowly rebuilding and reworking their earliest project for years in-between other business; most notably Matt’s writing, directing, and producing of the Nickelodeon children’s show Yo Gabba Gabba and voicing the character of  Alfonzo in the Disney XD series Star vs. The Forces of Evil. However, over the last few weeks, the amount of new content coming from their YouTube channel has sky rocketed.

For those unfamiliar, Homestar Runner is one of the most enduring artifacts from the days of the pre-YouTube internet when your options for getting visual media on the web were limited and less than ideal. The Chaps, like many early pre-YouTubers, found Flash animation to be a simple way to get seen.

But it didn’t start with animation, the original Homestar Runner started life as a children’s book. However, as time has gone on, the comedy has matured for older audiences and, occasionally, finds itself poking fun at its child-like origins. This turned out to be the right move for the series as the original website is still operating off of merchandise sales to this day.

I’ve naturally been going back through the back catalog of old episodes and almost all of them still hold up. In fact, some of the jokes actually got better and more relevant (remember when resident shopkeeper Bubs refused to violate net neutrality by “throttling down” download speeds… unlike Verizon?).

Still, there are problems with being a web series that has existed for so long that it may as well be the internet’s Stonehenge. Technology and how we use the ‘net has changed so much that many of the techniques the show uses are horribly obsolete. Even the cast recognized the danger in flash not being the universal animation standard anymore. It seems that they’ve finally caved and have gone fully to YouTube in light of the situation.

Part of me wishes they could continue with the format they have now because it means the loss of one of my favorite aspects of the original animations: easter eggs. Occasionally, you could click on things in the animation as it played and you could uncover hidden content. Some of these are preserved in ending stingers, but there’s something rewarding about finding a secret ending that makes the experience special and encourages viewership.

There’s also the issue with the flagship sub-series Strong Bad Emails (SBmails for short); namely that no one uses email as their primary communications medium on the web anymore. This wasn’t as big of an issue thanks to SB getting an official Twitter account, but it does feel uncanny to someone that grew up with the classic. Plus Strong Bad Tweets (SBeets?) doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Still, I remain hopeful. I want to see this great piece of internet comedy history rise like the Phoenix again. Also, I’d like to see them do more joint works with other artists like when they made music videos for They Might Be Giants. Hell, I’d REALLY like to see them continue their series of episodic point-and-click adventure games with Telltale Games.

At any rate, here’s to the return of yet another of my fond memories from long ago.

Advertisements

Not Quite Two-Dimentional: How I Would Improve Nintendo’s 2DS

Source: Kotaku.com

An apt metaphor for Nintendo’s consistent track record with hand-helds.
Source: Kotaku.com

As a birthday gift to myself, I bought a Nintendo 2DS and a copy of Pokemon X. As a result, my biggest fear is that I’ll never get any productive work done again.

The more that I used it though, the more problems I started to find. Of course, since I have an obsessive compulsive need to nitpick everything regardless of quality, I’m going to share with you the design choices I would have made in building the 2DS.

Disclaimer: THE 2DS ISN’T BAD

I just want to point out that I don’t think the 2DS was mishandled by Nintendo or that it was a bad idea in general; quite the opposite. I think that it’s a great piece of technology that reaffirms Nintendo’s dominance in the hand-held gaming market (excluding tablets and smart phones which, for the most part, won’t be practical in gaming until they give us proper action buttons).

I think there are quite a few great design improvements. The larger size and more centered button layout better fits my hands, the removal of the 3D gimmick was a welcomed change as it was unnecessary and didn’t work well anyway, and the lower price tag is great for gaming on a budget.

So, if I love the 2DS so much, why am I complaining about it? The answer is simple: nothing improves until you acknowledge what doesn’t work. The gaming industry, and Nintendo in particular, lives off of building up from what was successful and trimming off the dead weight. Perhaps Nintendo will see this article and consider these changes for there next iteration of the DS – unlikely, I realize, but I can still hope.

Make It Collapsible Again

I’ve read a slew of complaints on forums about how people can’t fit the 2DS in their pockets because it doesn’t fold up like it’s older brother. I’ve never had this problem before – presumably because my big, fat, Scottish fanny can accommodate larger pockets.

That said, I can’t help but feel that being able to fold the 2DS for storage would have been nice. I understand that they decided on this to remove a structural weak point in the design (many is the DS that has snapped in two in someones back pocket), but not only did closing the console up make in compact, it also protected the screens from damage while carrying it.

I understand that doing this would mean returning back to the original button layout and losing the one I love now, but I feel it’s a small price to pay for functionality. Something else that will ruin my beloved layout…

Make The Screens Bigger

At the time of writing this, I have a searing migraine from having to read text in head splitting Eye-Strain-o-Vision. My already terrible vision is not helping matters.

The point of compressing the screens was to make room for the comfortable button layout I love so much. But again, it’s a matter of choosing the lesser evil. If my thumbs cramp up, I can stop and take a break until I recover. If my head is throbbing, that’s going to follow me all day long.

Rework The Pedometer and Play Coins

One of the things I love about my 2DS is that it forces me to socialize and be physically active in order to get the most use out of it – something once thought impossible for introverts like me to do. Knowing that, I wish that it would challenge me a little more.

This is a gripe about the 3DS line in general rather than the 2DS specifically. As it stands now, the 2DS gives you a ‘Play Coin’ to spend on in game items for every 100 steps you take with a maximum earning limit of ten coins per day. The problem is that I can reach my daily max just walking across the street to go to class. As you can see, it’s hardly a workout.

There are a number of ways to handle this. You could increase the reward requirement to 300 steps for a coin (three steps roughly equate one meter, so 1000 meters for the max reward), but not everyone is that dedicated. Alternatively, you could have it measure distance traveled rather than steps taken by using a GPS tracker, but many conspiracy theorists would complain that ‘the man’ is trying to watch him through his toys.

Instead, I’d suggest programing an automatic difficulty adjustment feature. Have the 2DS keep a log of how many steps you take everyday and raise the requirements for a coin reward if they consistently and significantly break through the ten coin threshold. This would add a slowly rising challenge to the workout and give the player something to strive for.

Game on!

Not only am I looking forward to playing and exploring my new 2DS, but I also look forward to what Nintendo pulls out of it’s hat in the future. I hope that they continue to improve on the past to entertain and edify us in the future.