October 31st, 2020 at 8:00 AM by Kugee
So, it is done.
What started as just another crazy idea that could've been thrown away as quickly as I came up with it actually managed to take full form in the end. I knew I had a ton of old hardware in stock, and so much of it was going unused at the rate I was accumulating it, so that's when it occurred to me: what if I could demonstrate a giant volume of hardware at once, sort of like what I did with beige dream?
I teased Project Bigeye all the way back on January 5th with little certainty on how it would even play out, or if it would even be finished. All I knew is that I wanted to give Vlare something bigger than anything I've ever offered YouTube. In order to make the informative factor of Bigeye as effective as I could possibly make it, I knew I had to accumulate an even more precise variety of hardware... so began a lengthy, taxing trek to acquire all the goodies I could, being ever more mindful of the specifics of things like motherboard chipsets. After several months, most of the gaps were filled in.
A burning desire to get this thing done pushed me to finally shatter a barrier that was compounded by a number of broken components - I got around to soldering, and fixed up a number of things I had set aside for well over a couple years: two hard drives, a PC speaker, a 12MB Voodoo2, my beloved Shuttle HOT-433, and the many Socket 7 motherboards I acquired with dead Dallas RTCs. It was just one of several milestones I've hit over the course of this year, with a compiled program that's nearly usable being another.
Those Fateful Weeks...
On May 22nd at 7:43 PM, I finally began production of Bigeye, starting with a 486 DX2. It's hard to describe how I felt at that time; in part, I was in disbelief that I was actually going to commit to an undertaking of such a giant scope... it's something that would be considered too large even for YouTube, and here I was doing just that for a much smaller website.
All the mainline Bigeye recordings were spread across 27 days, with many machines exhibiting unexpected turbulence because of a driver being installed incorrectly, an executable refusing to run, a cable not being plugged in, a stubborn adapter not displaying the right output for the capture card, or an IDE device not even wanting to be detected anymore. Such issues got really awkward in the late third and fourth episodes when I decided it might be fun to have others in my Discord server witness the production of Bigeye as it happened.
I think the last episode is what really made this series special, even if I always had a bad tendency to fumble my words on air. As you may have seen, the first three episodes were more of a spiritual successor to Hardcore Windows; now, it would be more of something like us getting together for a grand festival. A bunch of new ideas were popping up by the hour - could we forego the standard redbook audio again? What could be done to change a trivial final boss into a climactic struggle of an underpowered machine to triumph against the odds of a more demanding program?
LuxuryAerozona was a big help in getting the music bot set up to give the fourth episode its identity. I wasn't sure if some would object to us going against the sacred conventions of Quake's atmosphere later on, but by the time we were fully immersed in it, none of us cared about such nitpicks. Bigeye doesn't run on an established formula; it's an experiment, and with experiments come experimentations! As far as I know, only 3dfxhistory had ever done anything like this, primarily focusing on a selection of 3dfx cards.
I had been thinking about that last part with the 386DX finishing up Bigeye, concerning myself with how it may have been too over the top, as if we were all too drunk to have any room for rational thought. After revisiting the moment in the premiere of the final episode, I set aside such concerns of optics, as it seems to have gotten everyone as excited as my imagination was. After all, there were a ton of questions to be had when this was filmed. Would we be stuck here for hours hoping maybe one day we'd overcome the extreme lag (approximately 5% of one shit according to Andriey's benchmarking unit), or perhaps have to postpone recording for tomorrow? It's been established that it is possible to run Quake on a 386 with a coprocessor installed; the bottom line for us was not to laugh at it being so slow, but to WIN with it.
The Vlare Tragedy
From the very beginning, I intended to make Bigeye a Vlare exclusive, opting to only upload the first episode of Bigeye to YouTube as a "shareware version" in order to garner enthusiasm for the small platform. As you might guess, things did not work out as planned. Vlare had a number of technical issues that prevented me from being able to even upload the series in the full 1080p60 I wanted, and...
...on August 25th, it was revealed to the public that Vlare's servers were taken down over a DMCA notice they never even received. That was a gunshot to the heart for me, to think some coward may have deliberately tried to shut down Vlare using a throwaway email. Knowing Vlare would need more time to rebuild itself with a more robust foundation, I had no choice but to do exactly what I vowed against: repost most of my existing Vlare exclusives back to YouTube, and subsequently post the entirety of Bigeye to YouTube with a grudge.
A Savior... Razorback
But could a purple fish beluga thing restore the joy of making Bigeye?
The reuploads were set on a schedule spread across well over a month, and this just so happened to provide ample time for me to begin work on an old school website that could be used to provide supplementary commentary on each machine in Bigeye, as well as add last-minute modifications to the third and fourth episodes of Bigeye putting my QuakeWorld servers to use.
Bigeye expectedly returned disappointing numbers on YouTube, with view counts greatly diminishing for each successive episode, possibly because the entire series is just too long. It could be compared to October 2019 when a more concise project of similar vigor Arowana was getting miserable results, performing worse than some quickly produced PC movies shortly before its release. So what's different this time?
Through organization outside of YouTube, we made Bigeye something magical for us. We gathered around every Friday for four weeks to hold QuakeWorld deathmatch events prior to each premiere, and we sat through them all together, creating brand new inside jokes and sticking around afterwards to talk about whatever came up as we moved ever closer to the finale.
This taught me something so important about making videos, whether for YouTube or elsewhere: you can't have a giant boost in views and subs be your bottom line if you believe in your work. To really strengthen a project of such high ambition, putting everything into a giant video sharing platform that could care less about you won't work. You have to build in multiple venues, and that's exactly what I did in the midst of Bigeye's production. Insight was provided into the production of this series on the spot at my Discord server, new ideas came about because of our voice calls over there, and I eventually created this website to give it the extra backbone. Needless to say, Bigeye just wouldn't have been the same had it not been for all of this; it could've very easily ended on a bitter note.
It was because of all of you who joined in the voice calls, the QuakeWorld deathmatches, and the YouTube premieres that Bigeye concludes on its complete realization: not only a fun way to take a look at such a wide variety of old hardware, but also an opportunity for others to take part in something that may be the start of even greater things in 2021.
Damn, what a hell of a month it's been, finally getting the entire series out there after 10 months of waiting and production troubles, as well as opening up a website I had flattered the idea of years prior. Of course, we're always on the move, seeking yet more crazy ideas and turning them into realities... once I get the Blue OS Museum up and running, my next vision involves a new JimboVideo tape (finally!) from 1996 teaching about how to use the internet and create your own website. You'll get to learn how to create your very own GeoCities-esque space by hand and have it work on some of the oldest web browsers!
I'm still disappointed that I couldn't get this whole thing on Vlare as I hoped, but you made it all worth it in the end, and for that, you have my gratitude. <3
See you in Cisco...
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