Community Spotlight: Isinona

We're quite excited about this week's Community Spotlight... 

Earlier in the year, we asked Isinona if he'd like to appear on an official livestream, he made the right decision to turn it down.

Not because the stream wouldn't have been amazing (because it certainly would have been one for the record books), but simply because his hidden identity, and moody silence, is part of the reason why Isinona's videos are so fascinating.

So when we asked him to answer our questions about how he puts his videos together, we were thrilled to get the responses we did. Read ahead to learn about the creative process that go into making some of the most beloved community videos out there.

If you haven't seen Isinona's videos yet, check out his full collection here

Your videos have always been loved by the community, how long does it take to make each one?

About 3-4 hours.  In fact, in recent months my free time has been limited and I’ve probably spent more time making the videos than actually playing the game.  I’ve been fortunate in that pretty much every time I launched recently, interesting things have been happening. I tend to do a first pass of the footage, editing it roughly together and then place my first pass of text onto the video.  I then come back the next day with the aim of removing as much as I can (both video and text).  I then skip through it a few more times, fixing typos and making sure the overall story is clear.

You've made quite a few at this point, what keeps you going?

The positive feedback for the videos is a massive driving force for their continued creation. The most important part of a new video for me is that it does something different to my previous videos.  A couple of months ago I began to wonder if I was approaching a wall for this, but interesting things keep on happening.

What is it about Elite Dangerous in particular that grabbed your attention?

My experiences with the previous games in the series were the initial driving factor. But my reason for continuing to play is related to something all of the previous Elite games had too, which is the complete freedom it provides. The flight model has exceeded my expectations for the game and I can’t get enough of the fluidity of movement that can be achieved with flight assist off. I found out about Elite quite late on.  I first played Archimedes Elite around a school friend’s house in 1992 when we were 12 years old.  I was utterly stunned by the game – it just blew away everything I’d played before.  I was even more shocked when I found out the game was based on a game that came out eight years earlier in 1984!

When I went home I couldn’t get the game out of my head. I had an Amiga and I soon got its version of Elite.  But it wasn’t quite the same, so I went round to get a fix of ‘Archimedes Elite’ whenever I was invited.  The Amiga was in its prime, but for the first time I was envious of another computer.

Soon after I found out about the upcoming sequel to Elite originally called ‘High Frontier’ from a preview in ‘The One’ magazine.  As an Amiga owner I finally had cause to celebrate.

Once I finally got my hands on Frontier, my Amiga 500 struggled to run it, especially when near planets.  I liked it for what it was, but found the combat to be very jousty, just a lot of shooting at dots at long range.

But the memories of my experiences with ‘Archimedes Elite’ and the anticipation period for Frontier never left me.  Eventually in 2009 I returned to Frontier using an Amiga emulator on my PC.  Finally I could play the game at 50fps, even on planets.  I was stunned by how great the game actually was.

This time I managed to grasp the Newtonian physics and set about dogfighting with Engines Off, where the combat came alive.  I then became good enough to scoop cargo with Engines Off too.  But it was when I removed the autopilot and forced myself to fly everywhere manually that the game really came into its own for me.  1993’s Frontier was my most played game of 2009.

Why did you start making the videos in the first place?

On the first day of the Alpha I played through the combat missions.  It was unquestionably amazing, but coming straight from Frontier I couldn’t help but miss the Newtonian flight model.

Then I found the ‘Flight Assist Off’ option.  It just felt right and I absolutely loved it instantly.

I already had a Youtube channel that had a couple of Frontier tribute videos, so I uploaded a video of me flying with flight assist off the next day.

I must admit that an ulterior motive to this was to promote this flight mode to ensure that the dev team knew there were people out there using and enjoying it.  I didn’t want it to become a forgotten feature, or worse still for it to be removed!

Are there any particular favourite moments you've had when producing your Flight Assist Off videos?

It’s always a great relief after having an amazing moment in the game to look across to the ‘record’ icon and confirm that it’s been captured.

Also sometimes something almost poetic happens and I have a ‘eureka’ moment of how that event can be used to tie the last hour of recorded gameplay together into a story.  The frequency at which that happens has really surprised me.

In terms of favourite finished products, the recent ‘Asteroid Chase’ video is up there, as are the ‘Hired Gun’ trilogy and of course ‘Smuggler’.

How does it feel to be the famous Isinona?

I wouldn’t go as far as to say ‘famous’!  It wasn’t expected, so I’ve sort of fallen into the role. The name ‘Isinona’ was my first save name for Elite on the Amiga back in 1992, so it’s funny to hear it being referred to by other people all these years later.

The very first videos got a modest amount of views and I suspected they would as I guessed that I would be one of only a few people playing with flight assist off that early.

My early Elite Dangerous videos had no added narrative. That element only came in later when more advanced and hidden features (such as Silent Running) were taking place that weren’t immediately obvious when watching.  I had no microphone, so I decided to use subtitles to explain what was going on.

The first video to have subtitles (‘Bounty Hunter’) got a lot more views and was being shared on some forums.  I was pretty shocked when this hit 10,000 views.

A few months later I uploaded the infamous ‘Smuggler’ video and things went a bit crazy, with it even being featured on websites I read like ‘Rock, Paper, Shotgun’.  That’s far and away my most watched video, topping 200,000 views now.

Do you have anything that you want to tell the community who watch your videos?

I want to thank many members of the community. Firstly, the idea for the smuggler video came from a comment on a previous video from a ‘Justin Rens’, who wrote “Awesome flying as usual. Discovered one nifty trick the other day that can help with sliding through the vipers. Aim towards the station, go to boost, then power off everything. Become an insignificant heat blip while you sail up to the station.”  So I have him to thank for making me aware of that technique and he’s the real brains behind that.

More recently, Julio Montega suggested I try a stealth Diamondback Scout, which has led to some fun videos too.

And thanks also to anyone who appears in any of the videos (past and future!).  It’s usually the involvement of other players that make the most memorable moments.

What's next for Isinona?

I’ve no idea, as things just tend to happen.  One day I’ll wipe my save and have a go at a custom ‘Ironman’ playthrough.  That was how I ended up playing Frontier and it was incredibly tense, especially as one false move in that game could kill you.  I managed to get up to ‘Competent’ playing that way, so it will be interesting to see how I manage in ‘Elite Dangerous’.