Hitmarker Victim Support: Narrative magic in the making!

You know, it’s strange to think that people can find Minecraft more interesting than AA-titles like Call of Duty, but that’s exactly what happened to Hitmarker Victim Support… Ben (aka Tepig) and Christopher (shortened to Tiff, aka Oshawott) are the founding members of the group, and they were plunged properly into the world of Minecraft when they created the winning Shadow of Israphel trailer for Lewis and Simon of Yogscast. They were somewhat surprised to discover that they enjoyed Minecraft far more than CoD, and so abandoned the latter to focus on making videos in Notch’s blocky world.

A little over a week ago, Ben got in touch to invite me to take a look at their videos, and give my opinion – though he and Tiff were very keen to point out that they aren’t trying to copy Yogscast… Probably just as well, considering that Lewis and Simon’s followers (however they choose to spell themselves) are over half a million strong, and it’d take more than a couple of diamond swords and a chest full of pork to fend off that many people!

But have Ben and Tiff succeeded in showing their colours without being accused of being Yog-clones? There was only one way to find out, although it meant I had to undertake a rather lengthy task: a Yogscast marathon, running over the 43 episodes of Minecraft and Shadow of Israphel – so that’s around eleven hours of video I watched. But not all on the same day – that would have been just stupid. My intent, in watching the Yogathon, wasn’t to see which was better: all I wanted to do was see if, in the crowded world of Minecraft videos, HmVS can stand out, and thus be worth watching at all.

The short answer is: Yes. Oh my goodness, definitely YES.

Land of Land's opening title, by Hitmarker Victim Support.

Oshawott and Tepig, strutting their stuff on the opening title of "Land of Land".

Now, there is a degree of similarity between YC and HmVS at the outset: Both teams appear to begin doing “standard” Let’s Play videos (Yogscast: Minecraft; HmVS: Land of Land), although Tiff and Ben’s gaming partnership is rather more… adversarial than Lewis and Simon’s. While the Yogscasters are often calling out “friend” to one another, Tiff and Ben use rather less salubrious language* – and frequently sabotage each other’s efforts! Fortunately, they just manage to stay on the right side of the line between “funny” and “annoying” 🙂

Tiff and Ben also add to the humour by frequently breaking the “fourth wall”… Well, to be more accurate, it’s more like they drop a few blocks of TNT near the “fourth wall”, run away screaming until the blast has died down, and then charge through the resulting hole 😉 But even though what they’re saying has got precious little to do with the actual narrative, it’s still very enjoyable!

And though the transitions from LP to narrative are pretty much the same (both teams suspect people have hacked their way onto their private server), once they emerge into the narrative-based action, that’s where the similarities end.

Prophecy is HmVS’ series, which effectively starts with the eighth episode of Land of Land, when Tiff and Ben return to their base to find it destroyed, and covered with copious quantities of lava. Whoever is messing with them railroads them into a temple, through which they must attempt to make their escape in the hope of surviving – but what will they face, if they do escape?

The episodes vary in length between eight and fifteen minutes, with a good, tight storyline which zips along very nicely without leaving the viewer feeling overwhelmed. There’s no opportunity for dithering about – their presently-unseen assailant attacks them with lightning (one of the advantages of not having started their videos until Beta 1.5_01), and instantly places blocks in their path to prevent them from going back the way they came. Additionally, they seem to be using mods which allow walls and other blocks to be instantly placed and removed – in one scene, a switch causes a couple of stone blocks to vanish, revealing a doorway. Good stuff.

Tiff and Ben are backed by the designers known as The Squirtle Squad (Duggy, David and Callum), who are really helping to maintain the believability of the storyline with their awesome set construction. Combine that with strong editing, and near-cinematic title and trailer sequences, and you’re looking at some very high production values indeed.

Occasionally, the two of them take a short break from the narrative action, to do things such as checking out mods, giving their thoughts on news from E3, or even trying out other games such as Terraria and Halo. Everyone needs a bit of a change every now and again!

Anyway, when I last checked, Hitmarker Victim Support has a little under 600 subscribers on its YouTube channel*, and in my opinion, really do deserve more. At the time of writing, Tiff and Ben are up to the third episode of Prophecy, with news that the fourth is on the way. I can’t wait to see what the guys have up their collective sleeves next!

* It’s at this point that I should include the NSFW advisory, for language, sexual references, and slang terms which may cause offence to some viewers…

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