N.B. The following was a comment I posted on my 10 year anniversary video, uploaded on January 10th 2021 – I thought it best to make a blog post too!
Ten years condensed into five minutes. I uploaded the first video to my YouTube channel back on 10th January 2011 which means it’s been a whopping decade of Let’s Plays, livestreams, collaborations and more. Whilst you might expect a big, blowout anniversary special for reaching the big 1-0, I figured a simple montage would keep it short and sweet. And that also means no incessant rambling from yours truly! I figured I’d be best off writing something down instead of babbling and losing my train of thought narrating. Let’s go!
I honestly can’t believe it’s been ten years. I vividly remember sitting on my bedroom floor with my Dazzle capture card nested amongst a mess of cables, wearing my crappy Microsoft microphone headset and mumbling my way through a playthrough of The Simpsons Game on the Playstation 2. In the blink of an eye it’s now 2021 and though a lot has changed in my life, mumbling my way through video games and uploading it to the internet has miraculously continued.
My original goal was to create content because it seemed fun and I was confident I could give it a go. In the process, maybe I’d get a bit better at designing, editing and post-production. But if anyone actually wanted to watch my videos? Well that was the icing on the cake! I think it’s that aspect which has led to me doing this for so long – I never had that dream of becoming ‘big’ and the inevitable disappointment when things don’t work out. Has that perspective hindered my channel growth? Absolutely. Has that perspective also been beneficial to my own health and wellbeing? Absolutely! 17,000 subscribers is nothing to be sniffed at but in the humongous pond that is YouTube, I am but a tadpole and by anyone else’s standards I think my channel would be deemed a failure after ten years of content creation. But for me there was no success threshold and no way to fail. I just did it because I enjoyed it. I could be sitting at 100k+ subscribers and having YouTube as my main source of income if I’d done things different but who’s to say if I’d be any happier?
All of that is to say that whilst my channel is still very small I don’t regret anything I’ve done, or not done, over the past decade. I’ve made exactly what I wanted to make and have never been coerced into doing something for the sake of the YouTube algorithm. Suck it, machine learning!
However that’s not to say things are going to stay exactly the same. I’ve hinted on a couple of livestreams that I have plans to change the sort of content I make because hey, after ten years, wouldn’t you start to get a little bored? It’ll remain gaming related though so don’t expect a drastic shift towards ASMR or makeup tutorials unfortunately. I’ll explain more in a future channel update video, so stay tuned!
One thing that boggles my mind to this day is when I receive comments from someone who has just binge-watched an entire series of mine and come to say thanks. Let’s face it, not all of my 1000+ videos have been top quality – far from it – but to know that on some occasions, I’ve created something that someone really enjoys is truly satisfying. The nature of Let’s Playing is a fickle business where an audience either watches content because of the game being played, or because of the person playing it. I’ve always accepted the fact that my subscriber number isn’t at all reflective of who watches my content. Some people watch one series and move on, others stick around for a bit longer. But at least I can look at it and say that almost 18,000 people have at one point thought my content was good enough to subscribe and hey, that’s pretty neat. Moreover, I’m hugely proud of the subscribers who stuck around and became part of our little community. Your comments and words of encouragement mean the world to me and I think together we’ve created such a positive and supportive corner of the internet. I look at other groups or communities and boy does it make me grateful for what I have thanks to you.
It would be amiss to write all this without mentioning the collaborative element of my YouTube history. In all honesty I had no intention of collaboration when I first started but I look back now and realise how much it means to me to have done so. I’ve made content with some brilliant, hilarious people like Honestom23 and his podcast as well as the many, many members of the JFS community. And what surprises me most is that often these digital friendships have transcended the internet and led to actual meetups and holidays together. If you’d have told me back on January 10th 2011 that eventually I would be in the middle of Brussels, unimpressed at the sight of the Manneken Pis with four other people I’d met through Minecraft, I’d have thought you were nuts!
World events aside, 2020 was a great year for my channel both in terms of growth and my own personal goals for it. New series like The Simpsons: Hit & Run + MOD have been really well received and I love any excuse to return to that game. Similarly, my video designing a sequel to it was a labour of love and something I’m really proud of. Towards the end of last year I returned to livestreaming on Twitch, which was something I had neglected for quite some time despite the fact I used to massively enjoy doing it years back. During my break there’s been such an improvement on the tools used to stream and the fun things possible that going back to it has been an absolute blast. From Pam emotes to Ned Flanders mowing across the screen, I can only begin to imagine what weird stuff we’ll make this year.
Last year I also took my first foray into accepting donations or monetary support from my audience by joining Patreon. I’d received many comments about doing so in the past and thought it was about time to give it a shot. It was a truly humbling experience to actually get a few patrons who thought my content was worthy of a donation. Unfortunately I soon realised Patreon was not the right platform for me – it’s functionality didn’t really suit my content and the finances involved were an absolute headache. I switched to a similar platform called Ko-fi (https://ko-fi.com/muckluck) which has been great and also let me sell my own merch. Wait…merch!?
Indeed, this was the year I finally made my own merch. Not some crappy t-shirt or mug, no no no – my very own enamel pin which, if you’re in the UK, you can buy here – https://ko-fi.com/s/720a34d810. I’ve already written a massive blog post all about the process of creating it but I think doing so has been one of my favourite things to come out of the mess that was 2020. Sorry to tease all those outside of the UK – once Royal Mail get their act together and become a bit more reliable I will allow for international shipping!
I’m going to stop rambling now, I think that’s pretty much everything I wanted to address. Thank you to each and every person who has subscribed, liked, commented, donated, chatted in a stream, shared, read my blog, tweeted, bought a pin and everything in between. Making videos on YouTube has been a part of my life for ten years now and it’s only continued for so long because of you. Here’s to many more years to come!
Have you been injured at work and it wasn’t your fault?
Adverts. We all hate adverts, right? And yet the internet is filled with more adverts than ever, popping up before that video or enclosing a news article so much that you can barely read the actual text. I’ve never really been one for using an adblocker but that’s not to say I’m against them. That might be a bit of a strange opinion to have as a ‘content creator’ but if you’re sick of what surfing the web has turned into, more power to you!
And the reason I feel that way is because of the position I’ve maintained ever since uploading my first ever video – I’m not doing YouTube for the money. In my mind, becoming successful enough to make a full-blown living out of YouTube is far more dependent on luck than it is on hard work, and that just wasn’t something I was prepared to go for. Video creation has always been a hobby – a hobby I can’t imagine not doing, sure – but a hobby nonetheless. Don’t get me wrong, I may have tweaked a title or a thumbnail to be a tad more clickbait-y over the years but hey, at the end of the day I just like it when people watch my stuff, not that I’d get an extra .001 cent from them watching a pre-roll ad.
So for around six years, I left my YouTube channel unmonetized. I was eligible to turn adverts on, but I figured it wasn’t worth the faff in setting up, I’d get pittance of a pay check anyway and most worrying to me at the time was the threat of content strikes. I’d received content strikes before but the thought of them occurring on monetized videos didn’t seem like a very smart idea.
Money for nothin’ (and clicks for free)
Then around 2017 I changed my mind. Why? To be honest I can’t recall the exact reason why. It may have been that some videos of mine had done far better than I ever expected such as Destroy All Humans! or Futurama. Their views were climbing and that little voice in the back of my head whispered “you’re missing out on $$$”. In that six-year time period, perhaps it had become more normalised to add monetization to your channel, no matter how big you were? I’m really not sure. I was completely aware that I’d make very little, but I figured any small amount I do get could go back into the channel some way, be it through buying a game to Let’s Play or a piece of related hardware.
The decision was made – I signed up to Google Adsense and got some adverts running on my videos. But here’s where I made an important choice that has prompted this whole blog post…
I HATE mid-roll ads.
I hate them. I hate everything about them. Pre-roll ads? Sure, the content hasn’t started yet, I don’t mind waiting five seconds to skip. Post-roll ads? Yeah ok, I mean I’ll probably have clicked off the page anyway but go for it. Mid-roll ads that disrupt the flow of the video and take you out of it immediately? No thank you!
Mid-roll adverts remind me of standard television…y’know the thing that people are using less and less these days in favour of services like Netflix or Disney+ which feature NO adverts. I find them very archaic and I especially hate how haphazardly they’re usually placed in videos. Sure, I’ve seen a few channels put mid-roll ads at a suitable location in their content, usually where they’ve edited in an ad break to the video itself but that is definitely not the norm. So when it came to choosing what adverts to include in my videos, I always avoided mid-rolls and just stuck on a pre-roll and post-roll instead. It’s what I’ve always done and will continue to do. So why is it you may have noticed mid-roll adverts in my videos over the past few weeks?
The YouTube Ad-pocolypse
You may have heard about an ad-pocolypse affecting YouTube channels. You may have even noticed more adverts yourself whilst browsing YouTube. I know I have. And the reason for this? Well it all started with an email from YouTube on July 7th stating this, emphasis on the bold:
“Today, only videos longer than 10 minutes are eligible for mid-roll ads. Starting from late July, all videos longer than 8 minutes will be eligible for mid-roll ads. As part of this change, we will turn on mid-roll ads for all eligible videos. This means that videos where you may have opted out of mid-roll ads will now be opted in. Videos that already have mid-roll ads will not be impacted. Future uploads from monetising channels will also have mid-roll ads turned on by default.”
That’s right, all the videos I’d monetized over the years were going to have mid-roll adverts turned on automatically. Even worse, the email went on to say:
“We use machine learning to automatically find the most natural breaks in your videos, in order to increase monetisation potential while balancing user experience.”
Ahhhh! The adverts will be generated by some crazy AI that places far too many of them. I’ve seen lots of screenshots of adverts being places less than five minutes apart which is simply ridiculous. Just take a look at this for example:
Why are YouTube doing this? Well, I’ve read some theories that they’re trying to push users into purchasing an ad-free experience with YouTube Premium. £11.99 a month? Keep dreaming! That or they’re just looking to increase revenue from more adverts.*
(By the way, if you watched my stupid 17,000 subscriber celebration tweet and wondered if I have YouTube Premium myself, I don’t. I got that mug from work when YouTube visited the university campus. I pretended to sign up to a free trial of YouTube Premium to get it, especially since it came with churros in – yum!)
Ok so I should probably mention that I’m not entirely free of blame for my channel being bombarded by intrusive mid-roll ads. The email ended with the following:
“If mid-roll ads are not a good fit for your videos, you can indicate this preference in YouTube Studio by 27 July 2020.”
…which I clearly didn’t read close enough since that date came and went with me doing diddly-squat. That being said, opting into something is usually always a better method rather than opting out of something and far less sneaky to boot.
What did all this result in? Every one of my monetised videos suddenly had mid-roll ads activated and I didn’t even realise. Thankfully it’s only been a couple months until I decided to look up one of my older video’s monetisation settings. Worse yet, some of my videos which had previously been monetised with a pre-roll and post-roll advert had been completely flipped and now only featured a mid-roll advert. Whatever the scary YouTube machine was trying to do didn’t work properly anyway.
It was time to develop some repetitive strain injury. I’ve now gone through every monetised video of mine and manually turned off mid-roll ads. That was a decent hour of my life I’ll never get back so thanks YouTube, I appreciate it! If there’s a lesson to be learned from all of this it’s to not remain complacent, to regularly clean your email inbox and most importantly – pay attention to the small print.
Actually, if there truly is a lesson to be learned from all of this it’s that you should probably go ahead and install an adblocker. It’ll make your web browsing experience infinitely better. And for any content creators income that you’d be affecting, send them a little something on their Patreon, or Ko-fi or Paypal or whatever. Trust me, it’ll be a lot more than whatever they’d get from your clicks…
* Also mentioned in the email was this:
“Turning on auto mid-roll ads saves creators extra work while helping increase the monetisation potential for new and existing content.”
In the month I had mid-rolls activated without realising, I didn’t notice any significant increase in Adsense revenue. So if there’s any more money being generated with this change, I doubt content creators are seeing much of it.
Well would you look at that, it’s only gone and turned 2019!
With that being the case, I think it’s long overdue I revive
this dusty ol’ blog and actually use it. As mentioned in my 8 Year Anniversary Special
(yes, it’s really been that long), I dropped the ball so hard with my original
plan to blog that said ball burrowed through the Earth’s layers and popped up
somewhere in Australia instead.
So the plan to write blog posts semi-regularly fell through
completely. Clearly I was just too
happy with my previous Simpsons game essay to bother writing anymore. Sure, I
was pleased with it and I hope some others enjoyed reading but…it’s hardly
worth purchasing an entire WordPress site for, is it?
To kick things off I thought I’d write up a bit about my
thought process when it came to the new look of the channel – the ‘rebrand’ so
to speak. And with that comes a look back at my older designs too, and the realisation
of just how horrible some of them were. But before all that, maybe it’s time I
quickly addressed a question I get quite often…
So, er, what’s the deal with the banana?
People ask me why my logo is a pixelated banana rather
frequently believe it or not. It’s a fair question I suppose – I mean what does
a banana have to do with a YouTube video game channel anyway?
I’ve never fully answered that question in the past and
usually brushed it off with a casual “oh,
I can’t remember really.” Lies! I do remember where it came from but even
if I told you it wouldn’t make much sense.
Y’see I used to write a little blog back in the day. We’re
talking earlier than my YouTube channel, probably by a year or so. No-one ever
read it of course, all I was really doing was writing up some silly posts for
my own benefit. That stupid blog is a whole other decidedly embarrassing
project that warrants its own blog post so I won’t go into too much detail.
What I will say is that I named it something banana related…for some reason.
In all honesty that’s the bit I really can’t remember because it certainly
wasn’t a banana recipe blog, it was more like my own inane ramblings. Akin to a
crazy person stuck in a room talking to themselves. In many ways I still do
that, just into a microphone for the world to see instead of writing them down.
Not long after creating that blog was when I took my first
step into the world of Let’s Plays and after the frustrating process of picking
a name for it*, I was then stuck on what to set as my profile picture. To make
things easy I just nabbed the banana I had used from the blog and voila, my
channel was born! And boy, what an ugly baby…
*I’ve mentioned frequently how I originally wanted my
channel to simply be called Muckluck but since that channel name was taken,
YouTube kept adding suggestions to the word until eventually I ended up with
the abomination that was MrMuckluckable. Dark times. I’m glad YouTube finally
got their act together and let me change it.
Back where it all began
I had the name, I had the logo. Great! But wait, what about
the rest of it? Intros and outros, backgrounds and fonts, all that stuff
mattered to me just as much as the actual video content. I’ve always loved art
and design throughout my childhood and into school, from Sats to GCSEs to
A-Levels. (Speaking of which, I may show off some old pieces of art from school
in future blog posts. Artchives!) However, looking at my first foray into
design for the channel, you’d perhaps think otherwise.
This is the earliest snapshot of my channel I have
unfortunately. It’s actually taken from my One Year Anniversary Special
video, hence the terrible quality but it’ll just have to do. One thing
that’s obvious from the get-go is that blue has always been my main brand
colour. It’s probably my favourite colour (ok, maybe turquoise but close
enough) and throughout all the designs it’s stuck around. Am I too old to have
a favourite colour? Is that just a kid’s thing? Who knows.
For some reason I decided to pick a dot pattern as my main
background and let me tell you, it ain’t pretty. Alright I guess it’s not awful but it certainly is dull and
doesn’t work with the pixelated nature of the banana. With hindsight, it would
have been smarter for me to pick something square-ish in that regard.
But it gets worse. Not long afterwards YouTube changed its
design (the first of many) and took away the ability to customise your
background. Instead we were left with only a banner to modify and this is the
design I eventually whipped up…
How to make that dull dot pattern worse? Stick a nasty
gradient on top of it. Gradients in design aren’t naturally bad but, more often
than not, they look terrible. In my opinion you’ve got to be subtle with them
and that white gradient is anything but.
Oh look, a font too. To match the pixelated banana, I chose
a pixelated font. It’s actually a TrueType version of the font used on Apple II
computers back in 1970s called Print Char
21. So if anyone happens to have one of those and boots it up, you might be
reminded of me.
I kept using that font up until only very recently when I
rebranded the channel in January 2019. About time, eh? Looking back, I should
have changed it sooner – not only is it quite sterile and dull, but it’s also
quite limiting in its use. And perhaps most importantly, I don’t really think
it reflects me. Sure it kinda
reminds you of retro video games but the font style is quite aggressive and no
fun at all.
Sometimes I wouldn’t even bother with a background! Take a
look at some of these masterpieces I created between 2012 and 2017. Talk about
I-dent see an issue
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Believe it or not there is
something I’m still happy with from back in the day. Towards the end of 2014 I finally decided to create an outro for
videos and make use of annotations which YouTube had introduced in 2008.
Outros are the ideal spot to recommend more videos or
playlists for the viewer. Back then of course there was no auto-suggest feature
that YouTube uses now, so instead I made multiple versions each with different
Let’s Plays which I’d link through to. Stick on a couple of references to my
Twitter and Twitch and Bob’s your uncle, I was set!
Except not quite. The outro couldn’t be silent after all, so
the next issue was what song to use for it. I remember looking all over the web
for royalty free music to ensure that my videos weren’t unnecessarily struck
with copyright claims.
Kevin MacLeod, or Incompetech.com,
is probably one of the most prolific music makers heard on YouTube because of
his vast royalty free music collection. Skim through some of his tracks and
you’re bound to recognise something from Sneaky Snitch to Spazzmatica Polka. I
eventually opted for Hyperfun, a bouncy, bright and humorous
track by his own definition and something I thought suited an outro well.
Keep it simple stupid
My channel design stayed pretty much the same until around
midway through 2017. It was at that point I was about to start two new Let’s
Plays (Escape from Monkey Island and a replay of Destroy All Humans! 2). For a
while I’d been eager to modernise my branding and that seemed like the most
logical point to do so.
But after 6 years it felt as if it has been too long to drop
everything. By that point my channel identity was pretty much synonymous with
that silly pixelated banana, or at least in my head it was. And at any rate I
wasn’t looking for too drastic a change, just a little something to spice
things up and bring my channel up to date with newer design trends.
And that design trend was the rise of flat design. From 2014 onwards, flat design has dominated the likes
of Apple and Google – just take a look at the app icons on your phone. Granted
I was a little bit late to the party but that simplified style was something I
wanted to implement into my channel.
Ultimately, I scrapped the individual pixels of colour in the banana and replaced them with a gradient. Gasp. Shock. Horror! But Muckluck, you said gradients normally look terrible? Alright, I replaced them with a very subtle gradient that’s hardly noticeable. I think the concept worked and eventually I added in a long shadow aspect to it too for things like banners and an updated outro.
To counteract the sharpness of the shadows I tried adding a
small amount of background paper texture and even played around with different
fonts such as Lemon/Milk and Plump. For consistency’s sake, the Print
Char 21 font remained but for the most part it all looked a bit more crisp and
New year, new me
A similar situation caused the most recent design change.
Towards the end of 2018, with no Let’s Plays going on and a whole lot of time
off from work thanks to the Christmas break, I decided to rebrand once again. I
wasn’t necessarily unhappy with the look at the time but there was still that
little voice in the back of my head thinking it could represent me a bit
The seed had been planted for a new look way back in
September 2017 with my video How I Create Let’s Plays.
Since that was a standalone video I decided to do things a bit differently and
opted for a more handmade, messy design. Roughly cut-out edges and squiggly
lines made things look friendlier and when it came time to update the whole
brand; this is the style I wanted.
There were other factors too. It just so happened that in my
YouTube homepage recommendations a SuperMega video was suggested. SuperMega
is a channel I’d heard of before but never got around to actually watching. To
be honest, that’s still the case now but the thing that did catch my eye was
I love it. I love the blocky, square design of it and the
wobbly hand drawn strokes. It has a retro feel to it but not overly so – it
could work with anything really. I dug a bit deeper and discovered their intro,
an incredibly short but effective clip of their logo animating. I say
animating, the term is boiling. It’s
actually what I was referring to when I mentioned the squiggly lines of my How
I Create Let’s Plays video. Boiling is simply redrawing the lines of a picture
and alternating between slightly different frames of it to create a tiny amount
of animation – it’s a cheap and easy way to add visual interest to a video.
So that was it – that was the style I was after. It’s more
welcoming and fun. It’s more laidback and flexible. Looking at my finished
product it’d be fair to suggest I simply copied their logo but that was never
the intention. Alongside the hand drawn style, I had wanted to move away from relying
on the banana logo in branding for a long time. Sure, I bet a lot of people
associate it with me but from a far too serious business perspective, I’d
prefer people to recognise the word Muckluck
more instead. I wanted to emphasise my actual name more and what that meant it
putting it front and centre, not the banana.
But how would I achieve that style? I looked around for
fonts that better matched the wobbly design I was after. The previously
mentioned Plump font cropped up and
at one point I was very close to using that until a thought struck. If I wanted
a homely hand drawn effect then why don’t I just draw it myself?
Bingo! I had the image of a new logo floating around clearly
in my head. No existing font was going to match that so the smartest option was
just to knuckle down and do it myself. I’ve heard from graphic designer friends
that creating a font from scratch is an absolutely nightmare. It’s something
never to attempt unless you really want to work hard and perfect it. I
certainly didn’t have time for that over Christmas so instead I opted just to
draw the letters of the logo and leave it there for now. I am quickly realising
the need for a full version with every character but hey, that’s something for
future Joe to worry about.
It took a couple of attempt to nail the look I wanted but
let me tell you, there’s nothing better than putting pen to paper and figuring
things out the old fashioned way.
Oh and we can’t forget about the banana too. At one point I was very close to dropping it all together but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. One thing was for sure though; the old pixelated design wouldn’t match all at anymore. Something had to be done. At first I messed around with simplifying it a tad, removing a few pixels here and there but it was starting to lose its shape too much. Then I noticed how the L from Muckluck sort of matched the curve of a banana and with a little flip and edit, it all worked out. I’m not sure I’m 100% happy with it but it fits and, like I mentioned, I’m eager to call attention to the word Muckluck instead anyway.
With the logo finished there were only a couple things to
make before putting it all live. For a fast video intro similar to SuperMega, I
decided to add a quick animation in making the letters ‘grow’ accompanied by a
video game-esque sound effect. I actually created that sound effect myself using
a brilliant website called bxfr.net which
allows to you play around with all sorts of weird and wonderful settings. Go
have a play around and see what you can come up with.
I put this animation on a clean blue background and, unlike
in the past, I’m making an effort to stick to that particular shade of blue. No
dodgy eye dropper tool on Photoshop to guess it, I’ve used it so much recently
I’ve even got the hex code memorised. #1495ee! I’m dubbing it Muckluck Blue. Maybe try painting your
walls with it, see how it looks.
The great thing about using a plain background is that it’s
so customisable. Another concept I’ve always wanted to use is to alter my
branding to match the theme of various Let’s Plays. Think of it like the old
MTV idents or Ahoy’s
numerous altered logos. And yep, you guessed it, SuperMega do it too. It’s
something I could never really do before since I never had an intro but oh boy,
now I’ve got lots of options and it didn’t take long to start using them.
Pair those with an updated outro which is organised a bit
better and now finally includes a link to this blog and boom, we’re pretty much
done! Oh right, the outro music. Perhaps I should gloss over that because
instead of some nice royalty free track from Kevin MacLeod again or one from
YouTube’s own copyright free audio library, I pinched the track from none other
than Nintendo. Woops. Nintendo are perhaps the most fussy when it comes to
copyright claims but to be fair, I did test it out and so far it’s been fine.
The tune is actually from Pilotwings on SNES, on the screen where you enter a password.
Perhaps that’s just too oddly specific for Nintendo’s bots to pick up on but if
anything does happen I’ll just change it. It was after hearing the track on one
of Mike Matei’s live streams
that I figured it was just too darn good not to use. Chiptune-y enough to match
my video game related channel but also calm and unassuming enough to work as
background music. Perfect!
Phew, that was more than I was expecting to write. I suppose
I should get used to that – rambling is in my nature after all. And hey if you
made it this far then well done and a big thanks for reading. It’s actually
been a bit nostalgic digging through my old files and taking a look back at the
visual history of my channel. The graphic design aspect of content creating has
been a bigger deal to me than I’d previously thought – evidenced quite clearly by
this nearly 3000 word post. I hope people like the new look I’m going for but
if this load of waffle is anything to go by, no doubt it’ll be changing again in