The Production of bass lan party
January 26, 2023 at 6:15 AM
The time has finally come to recite the production of that highly anticipated successor to what was a sleeper hit in the field of vintage computer videos - of course, coming in the form of a web page so as to hopefully prevent anyone from impulsively believing that I had made a new video about them just now like in the last commentary.
On paper, it seemed the production would fare much better this time around. Those losers which had been trashing this house were finally booted because their dad was a violent alcoholic failure of a father, and as a result, many of the headaches I had endured from them previously were gone. Furthermore, I now had a lot more room to not only prop up a set somewhere to record the sequel, but also store my growing hardware collection in general.
But if the first video was already enough trouble for me to create, this next one, "bass lan party", was nothing short of absolute hell. At this point I had gotten used to videos taking a week, or even a month to produce, but something about this one was genuinely awful. I was under so much pressure to live up to some high expectations, considering the audience this was ultimately going to target was not one to be particularly grateful for hard work.
The video was originally going to be even more complex than I ended up making it, as the scenario was originally supposed to involve the lead bass being invited to a LAN party at someone else's house. I may have initially had intentions of filming much of the video at another house entirely, but leaned towards using the top floor here as that second house. I mean, why not? It's not something that would be paid too much attention to.
I wrote a small script sometime in March 2017, I believe, which started off like this:
Already, the video was shooting pretty far. Most prominently, I had plans of having four bass in the video. The month before, I already had two on hand, but that was still a tad short of what I knew I needed. There are also a number of other details you might notice which never made it into the final product beyond it taking place in a different location - as the original "bass use a computer" video was still pretty new at the time, I wasn't sure if I wanted the fish to have any sort of actual voice.
Even with all that I had in mind, I kept the video on the backburner for a good while, as I wanted to finish up my video guide on assembling a Socket 7 computer; apart from having to slowly acquire more necessary materials over time, I needed to record the second part explaining how to install Windows 95 OSR2 in great detail. That took me quite a while, as I had to retake the footage several times over the course of April and early May. The new bass video just so happened to be subtly teased in some brief moment in the installation guide.
Around this same time, I was also in need of more computers to work with. I already had several on hand at this point, but up until the time I began recording the installation guide, I didn't quite have all the hardware I needed to competently run popular first person shooters. While I could have technically used my Asus K7M motherboard to put together something more than capable of handling Quake II, I wanted more hardware diversity, and was short on decent 3D-accelerated video cards, anyway.
A couple of Nvidia TNT2 Model 64 AGP cards I got from one listing proved helpful in the short run for filling that gap, but I had also been meaning to get a better Pentium II platform - none other than a fantastic-looking 440BX motherboard that was the Asus P2B-S. But when I got mine, it was dead on arrival, and at the time, I had no way to potentially get it back up and running again beyond simply trying to connect different things or very few of them. Nothing worked, and so I wound up getting another board, an Asus P2B-LS. I imagine that was also meant to be a P2B-S due to its lack of onboard LAN, but that didn't matter much. I still had enough network cards around, which were very much needed for the job.
Technically, it's not the first 440BX system I've owned, but being something not tied up with an OEM, it was my first real attempt at assembling a much more powerful vintage computer capable of rock solid 3D gaming nearly from scratch. Before then, I was often relying on hardware sourced from other already built computers and/or not up to par with what would make a Pentium II come through with flying colors. It was a great system, as is most anything based on 440BX. These things can thrive on just about anything you throw at them with the right expansion cards - MS-DOS 6.22 and Windows for Workgroups 3.11, Windows 95 and 98, Windows NT 3.51 and 4.0, and plenty more.
On May 20th, I secured an auction for two other fish plushes, one being another bass, but the other being a rainbow trout. As I said, I initially wanted to have four bass characters, but by the sheer circumstance of a pretty good deal, I was more than happy to have the trout take the place of one of them. It meant having a bit of an easier time visually distinguishing them all, and in turn allowing the video to be somewhat less outlandish. They arrived a week later.
Ahead of time, I had been working on a couple of prop programs in Visual Basic 6.0 that would be used to carry out a part of the video where one of the fish's computers gets hacked in a visually blatant way. It really does nothing more than display exaggerated dialog boxes and play sounds. It's actually really easy to whip up something like this. Somehow I lost the original project file, but I don't figure it would be that hard to recreate. The program is available here, but you'll have to be mindful that it will try to loop through its dialogs infinitely, so it's enclosed in an encrypted ZIP archive.
I got the first scene recorded and edited on May 31st, where it was supposed to involve the fish being invited to someone else's LAN party. As that was created, I ultimately favored "silent dialogue" above all else. It's as vague as anything can get, leaving not only questions about what these fish are going to do, but also how they're even getting their messages across to each other. And, well... the more you think about how that would be done, the stranger it becomes.
It matters not; I think what follows the silence does enough to explain what was being discussed. I like it better that way, as it's more authentic, humorous, non-annoying, and it solidifies the identity of these fish and the videos they've been in. A lot of fish aren't exactly known for being noisy.
Right as the first scene had been created, I began rolling out another new lineup of videos called 240P POLITICS, after withholding it for weeks before. When I found that a lot of people turned out to really get a kick out of the series, I recorded a sort of one-off segment describing itself as being encoded in 30000p on June 2nd, which was finished and published a couple days later. The whole segment was centered around that "rogue" fish, partly establishing how he had become so proficient with computers. As the second teaser to that upcoming video, I think it may have been an indicator of just how anticipated that video was for some.
Following this, I began recording more of the scenes late at night on the 8th, and that's where things really started to get complicated. For one, I had deep concerns about making too much noise, and moving a bunch of stuff out of the way and cluttering the living room for a video was almost certainly something I could not drag on for multiple days. I had already got down keyboard whacking, but how would these fish be doing other things, like eating popcorn and playing ancient console games?
Given this seemed to be a prime opportunity to execute this scene, I didn't have a lot of time to think about it much, hence... tape collars happened to be used over something that may be more flexible, say, thread? To say the least, I was able to get some fun ideas in place, like the two bass watching a bad horror film about an aquatic monster while the trout's playing Defender on the Atari 5200 - a console I got from an estate sale earlier and thought I could salvage, but one that simply keeps breaking itself due to the controller's contacts quickly getting dirty. Of all things, that ended up being the last console I seriously tried to use, apart from what I already had before then.
Those ideas didn't come without their shortcomings, though. It proved too difficult to record this without getting my own hands in the shot, and I couldn't execute the popcorn eating scene the way I had hoped, which was to not get it on that fancy ass rug. While I had gotten around to laying out the computers on the floor for the LAN party to see if I could get everything in one run, I lost my motivation as I had been getting the machines prepared, so I moved my equipment back downstairs and put everything else back in place. I had no choice but to return to the drawing board.
I'm Playing Quake Dude
Some days before I started recording the first scene, I had been asking some people if they wanted to get in some sorts of Quake deathmatches coordinated in a certain way where they'd be sending chat text as if it was coming from the fish, a sort of compromise against having no dialogue at all. If I were to make such a request today, it would probably be straightforward, as I have ties with a group which specializes in classic PC gaming. But this was 2017, a year where I still had insufficient connections to the right people, as well as when I was still in a pretty bad place. I was never able to get something like that going.
So, that was off the table, but I knew I had to get this to work somehow! There had to be some way! I thought about loading some kind of bot system into an internal server after the idea of a 1v1 fell flat as well, but I couldn't find any which I could work out how to implement.
I had plans of incorporating a lot more games into the video before, which is part of what drove me to buy the Unreal Deal pack when it went on sale, but I had trouble getting Unreal Tournament onto any of the old computers with the copy I had, so I had no way that I knew of at that time to get Unreal Tournament in the video.
As I kept narrowing the scope to something more feasible, what I ended up landing on was recording some demos on my own using a public Quake II deathmatch server, one which was well populated. I had to use the vanilla client for recording so I could play everything back on the old computers with the correct software.
The Finalized Version
While the initial attempts were painful and had to be scrapped out, eventually I got my plan aligned, and all the good stuff started to fall into place. This time around, the fish would be inviting the others into his LAN party downstairs. There, with the noise buried under and the machines far out of the way from everything else, I was able to take a lot more time to simply focus on making the production as good as it could possibly be rather than worry about wrapping it up on short notice.
As such, all of the required shooting took four days to complete. It's really not as simple as whacking keyboards with fish; if you actually care about how the whole thing will turn out, every detail matters, especially if that's what's gonna be done for eight minutes straight. Who is what, and what are their personalities, exactly? Those that look the same have to look different through their actions.
As with the first video, I had to figure out what worked on the fly. Sometimes these fish could hit the required keys, other times I had to perform abrupt cuts, and often, scenes required techniques which may have not been noticed upfront. Getting one bass and the trout to move in synchronization was especially difficult, and prompted several retakes.
I had no real control over the discussions taking place in the server I was recording demos at, and one of my concerns was the chat there interfering with what needed to be portrayed. This is a deathmatch between fish in a basement, not some faceless online round! There's probably several ways to go about hiding or controlling the messages from the demo's end, actually; there may be a command to hide the messages and other 2D objects in there as there is with Quake III Arena, or there might even be an editor out there that allows for adding, modifying, and removing messages in demos.
I settled on something cheap, but crafty. The analog mechanisms of these CRT monitors were exploited so as to stretch the image vertically far beyond what is normally practical, either using knobs or OSD controls.
More than that, though, managing four computers at once where timing is critical is a tall order, and there was simply no way the keyboards could be hit without something getting badly screwed up. That is, unless said keyboards were detached from their units...
Each of the computers had TightVNC Server running in the background to assist in managing them. Whenever the Quake II demos were playing, the keyboards and mice were detached from the computers, and all of them were controlled via multiple instances of the TightVNC client running on my main computer in the other room. Even so, not all of the computers could run armless, as Windows 9x will complain if a mouse is not plugged in, and if a keyboard isn't plugged in, it's impossible for some essential services to load, including TightVNC. Windows NT doesn't have this problem.
Also, by default, the BIOS will throw an error if the keyboard isn't plugged in, prompting the user to press F1 (and in turn, effectively halting the system because that can't be done until you power off and plug it back in). This can be easily mitigated by going into the BIOS settings and setting "Halt On" to "No Errors" or "All, But Keyboard". As for Windows 9x, technically you can tell it to not display the warning in the future, but I think I may have plugged in a couple of spare mice hidden away from the shots to avoid the warning.
The Quake III Arena demos were recorded entirely on a local server, as its internal features like bots and spectators allowed me to get most everything I wanted in a 1v1 match with a lot fewer compromises. A 1v1 was always meant to be in the video, and Quake III's conveniences and stable demo recording made it the natural choice for the job.
Given the task the dolphin was assigned in exterminating the rogue fish, that all could've gone straight to the beatdown, but the computers were just as important as their aquatic users. I think this match really helped a lot to establish that they were enemies, as not having that match would've made the attack really abrupt and nonsensical.
In the end, the video managed to turn out really well, successfully innovating on an otherwise stale concept. It even managed to attain close to half a million views in its lifetime, which made the trouble well worth it. bass lan party was one of the most difficult videos I've ever made, surpassed by only The 32-Bit Difference, possibly Bigeye, and some of the later Hardcore Windows segments, including one where I had to write an entire program in assembly for the ending.
The Truth About Why I Stopped
What really killed the series, however, is a lot more complicated than you might expect. I do not wish to elaborate on it that much, but the gist of it is that by the time I had gone dark in November 2017 to focus on a collaborative project, I only left behind gonzo shitposts far removed from the normal energy I had, though I think they're very much on-brand. What ended up resulting from this was everyone completely losing their shit, driveling with incoherent rage in some convoluted desperation for more of the "familiar" videos, I guess.
shark install red hat on computer - original cut
I scrambled to make another fish plush video just to try to appease everyone and get them to cool off, but it ended up being of no use. That dragged on and on from what all I saw, and it was basically my cue to cut off from the series entirely.
It was only the sensible option, anyway. When you break such a video down to its core, it's basically the exact same thing being done, just in a different scenario. Knowing how much I hated Annoying Orange, I knew I wouldn't want to stoop to that fruit and milk the whole fish plush thing to death. It's better that the videos stand as a classic trilogy of their time, and just one of many ways to show what all can be done with old computers. They're not just there for running old software, they can take you on adventures.
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