Up Up Down Down

February 28, 2014

In November, my co-founder Nigel and I started planning an app to help record podcasts. Before we could do it right, we needed to do two things first: investigate the podcasting industry, and start a show of our own. Before we could start a show, we needed a format.

Formatting…

A wise man once told me about podcast formats, “Whatever you do, don’t make it two guys talking about tech news.” Luckily, there’s something I enjoy discussing with Nigel about more than tech news, and that’s the games industry.

We’ve both made video games, which has given us a critical view of how they are designed, developed, and sold. Our lunchtime debates about what’s wrong with modern stealth gameplay are legendary. I’m intensely interested in what makes a game good or bad, the market forces that conspire against great games, and the recent explosion in games’ artistic merit.

With this theme in hand, we pulled our favourite elements from shows we love like Hypercritical, Unprofessional, and ATP into a format we really like. We know plenty of game and app developers that have war stories to tell, so we picked some topics and started recording.

Editor Hell

I really have no idea.

Planning and recording the shows is hard work, but it’s not nearly as exacting as editing. I had never really edited audio before, but I’d assumed the internet would have helpful tutorials on how edit a high-quality podcast with Logic. Incredibly, the most insightful thing I found was an article by Jason Snell about how Garageband could be better for editing podcasts. I’d love to see something written by Jason or perhaps Marco on how a podcaster can get started with Logic, but I may need to fill that gap myself.

Overall, the entire process of getting the show together was way more pain than it should have been. It’s insane that the best known approach is to use Skype, Audio Hijack, Garageband, Dropbox, Logic, LAME, Levelator, and ID3 Editor to produce a single mp3 file. The gaps between these tools are cracks where quality slips through. We haven’t solved that puzzle yet, but I definitely disagree with Marco’s sentiment that this stuff being hard is a good thing for listeners. The tools need to get better.

Here be Dragons

Once I got the hang of Logic, all we needed was a theme song. For a video game themed show I couldn’t imagine a better artist than I Fight Dragons, by far the best 8-bit rock band of all time. Their lead singer/songwriter Brian was happy to give me his personal blessing to use their music, but he couldn’t technically give a legal one since they’ve left their label. I was conflicted – I wanted to feature their music, but I didn’t want an automated takedown notice years from now because some cranky bot found our theme song in its database.

In a stroke of digital destiny, I stumbled upon the crazy story of the I Fight Dragons song that never shipped. Not only is it a great track with an interesting origin story, the band generously made it available on SoundCloud in a vocals-free version I could drop into the show.

Pressing Start

After two months in production, we launched Up Up Down Down last week. So far we’ve received a lot of positive feedback, some helpful audio quality tips, and a single review on iTunes. We originally planned on doing ten episodes, but our list of guests is looking really good. Perhaps we might not be able to stop at ten.

© Allen Pike. See also Twitter and Steamclock.