Pikastroff: Hey, so would you like to introduce yourself? Who you are, what do you stream – obviously, Xenoblade – and anything you’d like to say about yourself?
ClassicRagu: Yeah, I am ClassicRagu, I am a Xenoblade speedrunner, I started speedrunning in May of 2020, so I am actually quite new to speedrunning, but I’ve been watching for a relatively long time. I pretty much only speedrun Xenoblade at the moment, I also speedrun some Story of Seasons and Harvest Moon games, as well as a game called QT that nobody knows about. So, that about sums up everything that I do speedrunning related. I’ve been working on bingo stuff for the Xenoblade community for around a month now, I have also been helping out with some other communities working on setting up some bingo stuff with them as well. But yeah, that’s about it for who I am.
Pikastroff: Actually, that’s interesting that you are so new to the community, especially getting to bingos so fast. So, what is it that you really enjoy about speedrunning Xenoblade? What is it that made you jump into that?
ClassicRagu: So, it’s actually kind of the pandemic actually of all things that dragged me in, and I’ve been watching speedrunning for such a long time. And for a while, I was thinking about speedrunning one of the Xenoblade games, Torna the Golden Country, and I had nothing else to really do since I couldn’t really leave my house or anything so I was like ok, I will just start speedrunning, I will just see what I can do here, and I ended up really liking it so I kinda just stuck with it and I’m still continuing to do it still even after two months now, I’m loving it.
Pikastroff: That’s really cool though – I wonder how many people got into speedrunning during these times, and especially into bingos, and whatnot. You mentioned earlier that you’ve been working on Xenoblade bingos, and so in general, since you mentioned speedrunning specifically, what is it that made you jump into bingos, especially this early? It does come as a surprise that you would do it so early considering how niche bingos are!
ClassicRagu: So actually, what got me into bingos of all things was Pokémon bingos. I’ve been watching some people streaming it – I think it was starting in about March? I’ve been running around and seeing specifically like, I think it was Pokémon Crystal was the main focus I was watching and, I looked at it and found it to be really enjoyable, it seemed like something kinda nice to do between speedruns if you’re kinda stuck in a speedrun and you don’t really want to do a run at the time. It’s something that’s just kind of really nice that you can do on the side.
So, I wasn’t actually the one that came up with the idea for Xenoblade to have a bingo. That was actually username Gren. And, he brought up the idea to either make a randomizer or a bingo for the game. And for me, watching all of these bingos at the time I kind of just thought; well that’s actually a perfect idea so I immediately jumped on it and started working on the bingo project for Future Connected.
Pikastroff: That’s actually really cool! I do remember actually Gren came onto my stream and he was talking about the idea at the time to also create a bingo. And it’s true, bingos do give quite a different experience compared to speedruns. Something I was really curious about – and I don’t know if it’s just because there was not enough ‘demand’ for it – why is it that Future Connected is the first Xenoblade to have a bingo? Why not before?
ClassicRagu: So, for Future Connected, it’s… To explain what Future Connected kinda is compared to all the other Xenoblade games, it’s significantly shorter than all the rest. So Any% in Future Connected is only 33 minutes long for the World Record right now (editor’s note: as of the 8th of August 2020) and the next best Xenoblade category is Torna the Golden Country and that one is 2 hours and 14 minutes. So, it’s immediately a speedrun that’s 4 times less than the next one up, which means the game is really short which means you can do bingos in around an hour instead of, like, a bigger Xenoblade game where it could take an entire day to get a single bingo. And there were actually some people who came up after Future Connected who kinda asked about maybe making bingos for other Xenoblade games. But it kinda got turned down because what we would have had to do is most likely have people create save files, in around the middle of the game, and then work off that save file for all bingo stuff. So, due to Future Connected’s length, it kind of worked out really nicely compared to the other games in the series.
With almost 2 hours of difference in their Any% categories, Future Connected is the fastest game to run in the Xenoblade series, followed up with Torna: The Golden Country.
Pikastroff: Yeah, that makes sense. I did imagine that with the length of the games it would be tricky. And especially, in Future Connected, you do have many opportunity for goals, such as the Ponspectors, who can be a really good source for goals! On the other hand when you think of the other Xenoblade games, unless you had pre-made save files, as you mentioned, it would be really hard to get balanced goals, especially if you were to start from a fresh file. There are some games that use pre-made files, such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but in that case, making the file does not take too much time. But in the case of Xenoblade, this is absolutely a good reason.
ClassicRagu: Actually, there is another reason that I just remembered, too – Future Connected is very open world compared to the other Xenoblade games. Basically, once you get past the two minute mark, around 75% of the world is open to you. So, you can get into it really fast, and there’s a lot of routing options, very quickly, in that game. And then, once you get around 15 minutes in, then you have 100% of the map open to you. So it also has that kind of feature, being much more open than the other games from the very start.
Pikastroff: That’s actually something I didn’t think about, but that is true. Since this entire story takes place on the Bionis’ Shoulder, all of it gets unlocked quite early. That means that routing can definitely be much more open compared to the other games, where their worlds take a lot longer to open up. Actually, that makes me think about how a Xenoblade Chronicles X bingo would work, since that game’s world, if I recall correctly, opens up quite earlier than for the others, too?
ClassicRagu: That’s another game that I would probably say could possibly have a bingo. The only limiting factor in that one as far as I know from what I’ve looked into when seeing other people speedrun it is the fact that a lot of the features like Overdrive and Skells (editor’s note: Overdrive is a powerful combat mechanic, that would roughly be the equivalent of Chain Attacks in Xenoblade Chronicles. Skells are giant mechs that the player can go in to both traverse the world of Mira much more rapidly, as well as use them for combat and many other purposes) don’t open up until much later in the game. So yeah, that’s really the only limiting thing about it – but otherwise, yeah, that would be a game that could potentially see a bingo for it in the future. I’m not working on it, and don’t know anyone who’s working on it at the moment but, it’s not saying that I’d be against looking at it, for sure.
Xenoblade Chronicles X is also a game that could be good for bingo, but it comes with its own limitations… Could the community perhaps still manage to break through the difficulties and make a card for it?
Pikastroff: Oh yeah, that’s interesting! With its open world nature compared to the other games, it would be very interesting to see it become reality one day. So, basically, from what I understand, you said that Gren was the one who originally came up with the idea for those goals, for the Future Connected bingo, and then you came on board and worked on it. So, how did all this process go? Choosing goals, balancing them out, how did it all go?
ClassicRagu: I’d say the first step was of course making the goals themselves, and for that, I kind of had a list that I already knew about because I actually play 100%, so I kind of already have a pretty good idea of what you can do for goals. But after I kind of had my initial list, there weren’t really enough tasks that we had to work with. So I opened it up to the rest of the community and kinda said; ‘here’s a spreadsheet, I need you guys to put in any goals that you can think of’, and actually people were very responsive. We were done with the goals I think on the first day that I had released the spreadsheet, and I think I started out with something like 50 or 60 goals, and we got it up to 90, I think that’s the current number, or above.
But the second kind of difficult thing after that was definitely the balancing. So, we’re using a website called Bingosync to manage all our bingo stuff, and that’s a website that’s created by a Discord user that goes by Saltor, and you can go see Bingosync if you look it up on Google, you will find it immediately. We had to work with him, but there’s two formats that Bingosync takes for bingo cards.
There’s one that just randomly takes a massive list, so we hand it a bunch of tasks and it will create a bingo card, that’s the easiest one. But that has not balancing. And then there’s the other one which is based off of the SpeedRunsLive version 5 bingo card generator, I think that’s what it’s called, and what you have to do for that one is that you have to break it up into 25 different difficulty tiers, and then it will randomize it based off these difficulty tiers, so that you don’t have, like, too many things that are insanely difficult, like you might have a list of endgame quests, and you only want one of them. Using the 25 difficulty tiers, it’s only going to have one of those on a card. And that difficulty system also has tags attached. So, if you have a quest in a quest line and you don’t want two quests in the same quest line in the same row or column, what we can do there is, say, we can attach a tag to it, and these tags that we attach, those tasks can’t appear next to another task with the same tag attached to it, in the same row or column.
So we ended up taking the 25 difficulty system for this, and the reason that was difficult is because then we have to take this massive list of tasks, and then assign a difficulty value to every single one of them, between 1 and 25, and you need to balance it as well. You can’t just put everything into 25, you need to put like, I think about 3 to 4 per difficulty, so we actually ended up spending I think around a day or half a day kind of just going through it and determining the difficulties. That’s another thing that kinda opened it up to the community, more or less, because it was pretty hard to do all the balancing all on my own. We ended up getting a reasonably good balance, on our first run, we attached a few tags to quests. Ended up finding out that it was actually blocking out too many low level quests and we had to do a re-balance, actually recently. And, that’s about it, the initial bingo card was really good for single bingo, they took about an hour, now they take about 50 minutes, but we’ve optimized cards more for multiple bingos, so if you want to go for like five bingos it’s going to be a bit longer and you’re going to be able to do more routing, that sort of stuff.
But yeah, it was mostly kind of a big community thing, from my end I set up all of the docs and the initial tasks, and all that sort of stuff. But then from there, I kind of just released it to to the Xenoblade community and asked them for help. And it sort itself out from there.
Pikastroff: The fact that the whole community came together for this is really great! And then optimizing it all for single, double, and even further, this is amazing! Actually, outside of normal bingos, have you guys ever done bingos such as lockout bingos or anything similar?
ClassicRagu: Yeah, we kind of did a lockout bingo once but we actually kind of messed up the rules around it though, so it didn’t end up working out. But yeah, we’re looking into kind of maybe doing a lockout in the future. For my end, no one has actually done multi bingos except for me, I’ve been doing them a lot kind of alone on my stream, just to test that bingo card, to see how the routing’s working. But hopefully in the future here, we can get more people into doing multi bingos, because that was the whole point of revising the cards, in the second revision that we did. I’m trying to make kind of a push towards doing multi bingos over single bingo runs.
Pikastroff: I definitely can understand that – the more bingos, the better! Since you’ve been talking about the community, what I was wondering about is, how do you think there could be even more support and engagements with bingos within the Xenoblade community? Clearly there already is quite a lot since you said making it in the first place was a big community effort, but how do you think that could go even further?
ClassicRagu: I’d say, right now I’ve been trying to engage the community as much as possible in this, because there’s a lot of times where I’ll do some balancing stuff and I’ll think ‘oh, this is perfect!’, and then someone else will say ‘oh, no, I don’t agree with this’, so, we kinda talk through why maybe this task is good, why this balancing that I’m doing isn’t good, there’s been a lot of feedback. I make sure every time that I make a change to talk to the community about it, before I publish it. So, there’s definitely already a lot of community engagement. We have a races channel in the Xenoblade Discord, and that’s also used for bingos, so, whenever I want to do a bingo game or someone else wants to do one we can just throw a message in there and see if anyone wants to play, so I’d say community engagement is pretty high already on this, I think. I’m trying to make sure as well as I can that as many people get to supply their input on the bingo cards before I make any changes and that sort of stuff.
Pikastroff: That’s really nice! There are many games in which bingo is kind of forgotten I feel, so it’s nice to see that things seem to be going well in that regard! So, what would you say would be the ‘barrier for entry’ for Xenoblade bingo, if that makes any sense? You actually are probably the best placed person to talk about this because after all, you did mention at the beginning that you are brand new to speedrunning, so you are very well placed when talking about the barrier of entry!
ClassicRagu: I’d say the biggest thing is game knowledge. The biggest problem with Future Connected is, for bingo, you’ll have… let’s say, there are Unique Monsters in Xenoblade and each of them has a name, so let’s say there’s like a bunny Unique Monster, early in the game. And it has a name – I can’t think off the top of my head, but if I read it, I know exactly what it was called. But like, that sort of stuff, you need to know the names of all the Unique Monsters. Say you have a quest that you need to do that’s on a bingo card, you need to know all of the quest names. It’s just, knowing all of these little kind of details, so that you can actually know like, when you see something on a bingo card you know exactly what it means to begin with, because when we started out doing bingos, and since I’m the only 100% runner I ended up actually answering a lot of people’s questions while doing bingos, so someone would ask ‘which UM is this?’ (editor’s note: UM means Unique Monster), or ‘what quest is this, who do I talk to for this quest?’ so I have to go through and answer a lot of that sort of stuff.
So yeah, that’s probably the biggest hurdle for getting into bingo in the first place, for Xenoblade especially since there’s just so many quests and so many Unique Monsters and that sort of stuff in the game.
Pikastroff: That makes sense. This is indeed something that goes on with a lot of bingo games in general, considering what bingos are in the first place. In a way, bingos do help in building said knowledge, because as a new bingo player, you will naturally have to get yourself familiar with all of that said knowledge. In fact, this makes me think – do bingos affect the way people play through normal Xenoblade speedruns?
ClassicRagu: Oh, absolutely. 100%. I think it’s the best example of that, specifically from playing bingos… I’ve learned a lot about some places where I needed to change routing. I think it introduces kind of a new mindset into routing stuff, so you might find out, like, oh, these three quests that I thought were not very connected, well it turns out they’re really connected and you can see that by playing a bingo card where you have, like, three of them in a row. And you might say, ok, for my 100% routing I need to change this, and I’d say it kind of also applies into the All Ponspectors runs as well, that’s a little bit less because you only do Ponspectors in it, but knowing which order is most optimal for doing those Ponspectors and doing their quests… Stuff like that, it just helps kind of build routes for bigger categories , for sure.
The Ponspectors are a major feature that is unique to Future Connected, compared to the rest of the series – and acquiring them makes up for a lot of sidequests!
Pikastroff: Indeed, it definitely must help in getting the bigger picture when routing such categories. I’d even argue that not just in routing but also in running it can help, since it can force players out of their comfort zone and practice skills in areas they usually do not play much. What do you think about that?
ClassicRagu: Yeah, I’d say it kinda does. Especially for combat. So, in bingo you can end up fighting the hardest Unique Monster in the entire game on a bingo card. And it is in fact possible to beat that Unique Monster at the lowest level in the game, and there have been multiple times where we’ve been playing bingo, and that came up – so it definitely teaches you a lot more about the combat mechanics in the game, so it can help with things like Any% since it does teach you about how to fight. But I think it definitely mostly applies to bigger categories like 100%.
Pikastroff: Oh yeah, the Xenoblade combat is definitely its own beast to tackle, so I do reckon that this would definitely help players learn a lot in that area! On a bit of a different topic, I recall you talked about way earlier about a spreadsheet that you shared with the community, when making goals and balancing them out. Could you perhaps talk a bit about that?
ClassicRagu: Yup, we basically have a massive spreadsheet that we used to maintain all of the things that need to be added. We have like special things to track them as well, like ‘approved’, and ‘proposed’, and all that sort of stuff, so that changes and then we can all the new stuff that people have added, and accept it, reject it, do anything we need to do.
Pikastroff: So really, it is a constant, ongoing process, with the bingo card constantly evolving. So, how would you say the card may evolve in the next few months?
ClassicRagu: At the moment, I’d say there isn’t going to be a lot of changes to it, there’s not too many people playing it at the moment. Xenoblade speedrunning has kind of died down for now so there’s not many people making changes or playing it all that much right now, but I think in the future there will be plenty of changes that could be made to it. I think as we have more people join the community, they’ll think of more things that we can add, better balance it and that sort of stuff… And the more I play it, the more others play it, like the more races we do, they’ll definitely notice a lot of other things that need to be changed.
So, I think there’s probably… at least right now we can make like, three or four, one or two more revisions to it for sure, I think it’s just kind of a matter of playing more, seeing what needs to be balanced more, and that sort of stuff.
Pikastroff: That makes sense, indeed. With fresh blood coming in, they may bring in their own ideas to the table, and potentially bring in that change to the bingo card. Speaking of new blood, since you yourself are relatively new to the community, how would you encourage any potential newcomers to come into the Xenoblade community, whether it be for speedruns or bingos?
ClassicRagu: Yeah, I’d say that the Xenoblade community is by far one of the most open communities that I’ve joined. Pretty much when I started in May, I already felt like I was part of the community. It’s very close knitted, I’d say there’s quite a few runners but it’s kind of broken across so many categories, so your voice will definitely be heard in all of the different channels. And everyone listens pretty much to what you say, and since I’ve started in May, it has been amazing how nice it has been in that server. I’ve had questions that I’ve had asked, like back when I first started speedrunning Torna, I had questions all the time and people were almost always online to answer them. It’s definitely a server where you’re not going to be ignored, people are going to be there to answer your questions and help you out. And, people are always willing to do stuff like races, we have weekly races for Any%, for Future Connected, and I know for sure I put out messages every now and then to race bingo and stuff, so…
It’s definitely a community that’s very open to newcomers and I actually really – if you ever are interested in Xenoblade speedrunning, I mean, seriously, come into the server, people will help you. They will absolutely get you going. It’s a really good time.
The Xenoblade community is sure to welcome you with open arms if you are ever interested in joining in – and you can click here to join their Discord server!
Pikastroff: Oh, definitely a good time! Imagine if one day, there were enough people to have, let’s say, a Xenoblade bingo tournament, that would be amazing!
ClassicRagu: Oh, absolutely. I would love that. It would be really great. Right now it’s a pretty contained number of people. A lot of people are scared away from bingos still just due to the routing aspect, so… Like, more people that learn, and yeah, maybe in the future that could be quite fun to do.
Pikastroff: Actually, on that note, what would you like to say to people who are scared away from bingos? How would you convince them to give it a try?
ClassicRagu: Always ask questions. And honestly, if you want, play bingo against someone who knows how to play bingo. From pretty much everyone who plays bingo relatively actively for Xenoblade, we’re all pretty much willing to answer any questions while playing, so, even if it means that it costs us a win, I mean that’s fine if that helps you learn the game, and that’s all that really matters. So, yeah I’m totally up for teaching people all about Future Connected and giving them the game knowledge they need to do well in bingos.
Pikastroff: That’s really cool! Amazing! I now think that we are starting to get to the end, so is there anything else you would like to talk about when it comes to bingos, whether it be specific to Xenoblade, or just bingos in general? Especially considering you were saying at the very beginning that you were working on other bingos?
ClassicRagu: Bingos are a really good time, if you’re ever really scared away by it, just know that there’s definitely a community for probably every game out there that would love to teach you more about playing bingo and learning about it and all that sort of stuff. So, don’t be afraid of it, it’s really, really fun and once you get into it, you’re just going to want to keep playing more!
And as for the projects that I have going on right now for other bingo stuff, there should be, hopefully here soon, a bingo card for Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town, which is a farming sim, so, look forward to that! We’ve been working on the spreadsheet for that, and it’s taking a little bit longer just due to the fact that there’s less people in the community but I think we should have that out hopefully in the next couple of weeks, so, keep your eyes open for that.
Pikastroff: Before we go, is there any last thing you’d like to say to anyone who would be interested in creating their own bingo card?
ClassicRagu: Oh, absolutely! Ok, so, this is what I basically did to create the bingo card, there’s a website out there called Bingosync, and like I said it’s run by this guy named Saltor. Go onto that website, and if you scroll down to the bottom of the page, there should be an about. In that about page, it has basically everything you could possibly want to start making a bingo card. It gives you all of the descriptions that you need, to write out a format, and all that sort of stuff. And then once you’re done, you just need to go message Saltor on Discord, his Discord is on the website as well, and just talk to him about it, he will happily will work with you to set up a bingo card! It really took just a matter of days for us to get our bingo card up and running for Future Connected, between creating the spreadsheet for it, working with the community, and then just talking to the Bingosync devs, I mean, it really just takes a few days, and then we had it up and running in no time.
So don’t be afraid of it. Just reach out to him, go look at Bingosync, it’s a great website. I highly suggest working on bingos. It’s quite a lot of fun. Don’t be afraid of it.