Weaver's Week 2020-08-16

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While the cats are away, the mice will play. And while the cats who make quiz and game shows are not able to make quiz and game shows, the mice will set up a little television studio of their own. Complete with little cardboard cutouts of William G. Squeakwart.

This week, we're looking at quiz and game formats played over video streaming site Twitch. There's a small community of people who re-create classic game shows online, for fun and entertainment, and to improve their knowledge of programming. Many of the games are of a high quality, and are familiar formats. We've seen Official 16th Best Game Show Ever Blockbusters. We've seen Official 15th Best Game Show Ever Duel. We've seen Official 14th Best Game Show Ever Fifteen-to-One. (Good luck to anyone who wants to re-create Official 13th Best Game Show Ever Robot Wars...)

Some of the creators have invented game and quiz shows from fresh cloth. We've watched three shows, wildly different in tone and pace, and we think they're all good enough to recommend to everyone. Twitch has a Watch Again feature, so even if you can't join in live, you can always catch up a week or so later.


Dan's Quiz

twitch.tv/quizzydan, based on the stream from 2 July

It's Thursday. It's eight o'clock. Anne Hegerty has given up on Brightest Celebrity Family, of course it's Shaun Williamson and kin. If you've seen Glow Up online and aren't interested in Celebrities Burn the Toast Again, Dan's Quiz is a fun alternative.

This is a game of Quizzy Bingo. 40 questions, in two colour-coded groups of 20. Put eighteen numbers in the blue squares, eighteen numbers in the red squares, and post yer answers to social media.

Fill in the blanks.

Round one is general knowledge questions. They begin fairly gently, "what rodent is also the name of a device used to control a computer?" Questions quickly get more difficult: by question 4, we're asked what material René Lalique worked with.

Twitch is nothing without the on-screen chat, and it provides a way we can talk back to Dan. And he can talk back to us: his voice is a monologue, riffing off the on-screen chatter like a modern-day Terry Wogan. There's a lot of chatter about the Tweak of the Week, which we'll get to later. "I'm just going to nod and say 'OK', all this maths talk is going over my head." We reckon that Five Thirty Eight's Riddler column would enjoy crunching through the probabilities.

"What items of kitchen equipment are known in French as mortier et pilon?" This, apparently, came up in Dan's puzzle streams last month. Many of the streamers put out two or three broadcasts each week, often doing different things. It's a quiz, it's a puzzle, it's a cryptic crossword community. There is some crossover between these communities of interest – Dan is interested in all these things – but not all puzzle fans like cryptic crosswords.

Looks like Somerset to us.

So far, so simple. We've had 20 questions, and only one particularly bad pun: "do you know your elbow from Uranus?" No, but my halo's from Mars. There's been an anecdote about the landlady's delivery of a case of wine. There's a short interlude. Refresh any questions, and fill in the bingo grid. Dan talks with the audience about what they're eating, and other matters arising.

The second act, questions 21 to 40. Themed questions, and they begin with a set on food. "What type of leaf traditionally tops a Margherita pizza?" And then Dan ear-worms himself with "Say na na na", Lord Hat of The Most Serene Republic's entry for last year's Eurovision Song Contest, back when he was Sir Hat and before he bought was given a seat at Lord's.

A mere five questions on food, we don't want to get confused with Celebrities Try To Shush The Smoke Alarm. Then five questions under the heading "Martin". It turns out that all of the questions on this broadcast have been verified, and those that are wrong are chucked back like wet fish. "Fort-de-France is the capital of which Caribbean island and overseas territory of France?" What's that doing in a round of Martins... oh. Good one.

It's a picture of glass with some liquid in it, a metal spike, and something green.

The next set of five: it's Answer Smash. Made famous – or at least made familiar – by turning up every frickin' day on House of Games (3), Answer Smash has two questions that overlap. "This fizzy soda is made with 23 flavours, and a spicy beef and pork sausage often served on pizzas."

Finally, a round on television! No, a round called "On television". A sample question: "Marshall, Rubble, Chase, Rocky, Zuma, and Sky are all dogs in which children's tv cartoon?" During this round, Dan puts in an entry for the Host Holding A Question Card award.

There will now be a short intermission, while the viewers check their answers, put the numbers into the grid, and post entries to organisational octothorpe #dansquiz. You'll need that to prove that the bingo is valid and genuine. Dan makes another plug for the other streams in the week.

And bingo was his name-oh.

You might have noticed that this show has been heavy on the quiz, and light on the bingo. Let's set that right. Numbers 1 to 40 are put in a pot. The numbers are drawn out, questions are discussed, until someone has claimed a row, a column, a diagonal, and all four corners with right answers. Only right answers count – get a question wrong, and you can't claim that line.

What BH...

First out of the pot is ball 40, who presented Blockbusters from 1983-95? Bob Holness, we all know that. If you got that right, well done, give yourself a point and mark that off on your bingo card. Got it wrong? No points, and that square blocks the lines it's on.

The show continues – pulling numbers, answering the questions – until someone's got a line on their card (or all four corners). The player calls "Bingo!" in the chat, points to their card on social media, and Dan checks the answers. Five bonus points for being the first to correctly call bingo.

Number 7, Fulchester Rovers...

Once all four bonuses have gone, Dan adds ten (10) Fire Balls. They join 16 main game balls in the pot, and Dan continues to pull out balls. When the last fire ball comes out of the pot, the game is over – any main balls left in the pot are Dead Balls, the questions don't score and block bingo lines.

Dan is generous in marking answers correct – "Whistler's Mothering Sunday" and "Whistler's Mother's Day" are allowed. The point of the game is not so much to get the answers right, but to place the answers you don't know in similar places, and hope the right numbers come out. It's exciting to the end, when you're hoping – hoping! – that Dan's fickle finger picks out the last number and not the last fire ball so that you can complete a row and a column and a diagonal.

...will play Fireball 10, Hellfire United. And that concludes the draw.

There is a coda, viewers are invited to share their scores with each other, and Dan declares a winner. The winners win a round of applause, approbation, and general cheerfulness.

Dan's Quiz is a jolly programme, hosted with wit and vivacity. The fun isn't so much in winning as taking part. And it's a relaxed programme: the show as a whole lasts about 90 minutes, it never feels rushed, it never feels drawn out. It's like snooker, played at a steady and sensible pace.

Answers: a mouse, glass, pestle and mortar, basil, Martinique, Doctor Pepperoni, Paw Patrol.

Matters arising: Yes, "Monaco" is still a member of the EBU, but RMC haven't entered since the aughts. No, Vatican City can't enter Eurovision contests, they don't have a broadcaster of their own, and all of the good chants have been sung before. Yes, Coldplay can be counted as music, in the same way as Lord Hat. No, Ball Thirty Five does not get his own dressing room, the diva.

Google That!

Persephone's Chair, twitch.tv/royal_flush, based on the stream of 8 August

So, we have a sneaking feeling that some of the questions in Dan's Quiz were perhaps, um, easy to research while the quiz was in progress. Saturday night game Google That! is designed to be completely impossible to research while the quiz is in progress, based as it is around swift reactions and swifter wits.

Ben Lathbury, the sharp-suited host. Even last weekend, when it was 1,000,000°C.

To a jaunty earworm of a theme tune (seriously, Lord Hat of The Most Serene Republic thinks it's a topper), twelve players are picked to play. Host Ben Lathbury keeps up a rapid-fire spiel as people (or people's avatars) come out of the random number generator and appear on the screens. Who plays? Applicants to "the lobby", people who have put themselves forward for this game in the minutes beforehand. They'll be with us for all five rounds. Because it's a game of swift wits, it's best played on a wired connection or a laptop, mobile tends to leave players disappointed.

The players on their podia.

Round 1 is "The Early Bird", where each question has four possible answers. First person to give the right answer gets 10 points, then 8, 6, 4, and 2 for the next right answers. Only the fastest five correct answers score – errors and slow players score nothing. There's a ten second countdown to get the answers in, complete with a jaunty earworm of music. Questions are your typical trivia, moderately difficult, certainly a level harder than Dan asked. We'd put these as heat-level questions on Mastermind, or £64,000 questions on Millionaire.

"Bid on the Buzzer" is round two. We see a category and difficulty (hard or easy). Everyone enters a bid from 1 to 10. Two teams are formed. The six highest bids (plus ties) are the Buzzer team, the rest are Spectators.

Yellow team have high bids, and can buzz in. The blue team are spectators.

One of the Buzzer team buzzes in and gets it right, then that player – and that player only – gets lots of points (10 for hard, 5 for easy). Everyone else gets nothing. Buzz in and get it wrong, you and you alone lose the points you bid, and everyone on the Spectators team gets Botch-Up Bonuses (5 for hard, 2 for easy). No-one buzzes, everyone on the Buzzer team loses their bid, everyone on the Spectators team gets the Botch-Up Bonuses. The scores can change markedly across the five questions.

This is a fabulous idea, using lots of ideas from half-remembered game shows. Two Tribes, the Richard Osman teatime show where players divide and recombine through the show. Winner Takes All, the long-running show where you bid on your answer. And, when the ten-second clock is running, it can be almost as tense as Ant and Dec's Poker Face.

While we've been watching the show, Ben's been developing it, and has moved rounds within the show. This is something accepted on Twitch, not everything will work first time and hosts share their thoughts with the viewers.

In the true tradition of number, round 3 follows next. "Taboo!" asks for something that fits into a given category. 10 points for a unique answer, 6 points if your answer is shared with one other player, 4 if your response is shared with two others, and 2 if three others give your answer. Nothing for more common answers, and nothing for wrong answers.

The final points from "Name a noble gas".

The category lists here are sensibly small – noble gases, things Rick Astley is never gonna do. Six to eight answers to work through, plus the wrong answers people suggest. It can take quite some of time to get through the round, particularly when Ben talks around the subject. The ever-present Twitch chat isn't shown on screen, but contestants can pop up their opinions through text bubbles, to which Ben may react.

Round 4 is "Blind auction". Two categories, ten questions, and they'll all get harder as we go through the round. Players bid however many they think they can get right through the round. Unlike in Gêm Gartre, everyone plays each question in the round – it's not reserved to the highest bidder. Question 1 is worth 1 points, question 2 is worth 3, so on up to question 10 worth 19. Slightly awkward numbers, but a perfect round is worth a perfectly neat 100 points.

So, suppose you've bid 2 on World Geography and the film series Galaxy Fights (about which you know nothing). Do you go for the first two nice and easy questions ("In which country is Mumbai?", "In 2019, which country had a population of 825?") and bank 6 points, or risk for a larger reward later in the round? The jeopardy: if you get a question wrong, your bid increases by one, and if you can't get your bid down to zero, you get nothing from the round.

With three questions to go, only three players have finished for the round.

We enjoy this round more than any other. It's got plenty of points-based hazard throughout, and there's some action after every question – right answers might qualify for points, wrong answers have the eep-orp answer. The tension ramps up through the round, and there's an echo of Bob's Full House in Ben's patter: "Carl, you need one of the last three. Rubiks, you need two. Clive, you need a miracle."

The big finish heaves into view, as round five is "The Big Finish". One final question, and bid as many points as you want up to your total score. Right answer will increase your score by that much, wrong answer will reduce your score by your bid. Yeah, it's Final Jeopardy! played with 12 contestants.

To maintain tension, Ben looks at the answers from the bottom score to the top. Players have moved around the room, they've been put in score order at the end of each round, and we don't see a player's bid until we've seen their answer.

And that is the game. Each episode lasts an hour, or slightly longer. It doesn't feel that long, there's plenty of quiz to be getting on with and Ben is able to handle anything with skill and smooth patter.

As a game, Google That! is already a strong format. We can see this show going straight into a television schedule as soon as studios re-open – edit out a few of the adjudications and online mechanical gubbins, and add some proper banter with the contestants. Would Ben Lathbury be the best host for it? He's a name to consider, he's got the right mix of gravitas and humour to make compelling broadcast television. Ben already makes compelling broadcasts.


Ash The Bash, twitch.tv/at_bash, based on the stream of 12 August

Remember how we called Beat the Chasers uncomfortably moreish? Outright is even more moreish: we could watch it for hours, and have had to limit ourselves to watching one game per day.

Your quiz is very important to us.

It's a multi-player quiz game, seems to be best when played by about 40 people. Ash The Bash is our host, for 21 minutes and 30 seconds of frenetic high-energy quizzing. There is a chatbox on screen, but it's superfluous to the show itself.

Where to start? Round 1, where the words in the question appear one by one. Players type the answers into the game server. Spelling matters, but players are told how long the answer is.

Only the handful of players in green got this question right.

The faster your answer, the more points you'll score, counting down from 15 points at one point per second. But the question takes about five seconds to appear on screen, you've got to think about it, and then you've got to type it in. There's no direct penalty for errors, but it means you can't Get Out after that question.

Get Out of what? Get Out of the round. After giving a correct answer, you've ten seconds where you can Get Out. Leave the round. Bagsy your place in round 2.

When you're Out of the round, you're out of the round completely, and cannot score more points. This matters, because scores carry over from round 1 into round 2. So you probably don't want to Get Out too early, it'll bite you in the butt later.

Later in the round, many players are out, and others can leave.

But you don't want to leave it too late. If you don't Get Out by the end of the round, then you're out of the game. Finished. Finito. Eliminated. This ain't cricket, you have to Get Out to win. Playing the 15th and final question in the round to run up your score? Ooh, risky.

This round, the aim is simply to survive. Consider it the antithesis of the Bloodbath at the opening of every Hunger Games: the ideal is for everyone to win through.

Round two follows a similar logic. Here, the words appear in a random order, and slightly faster.

A few words towards a question.

There's still 15 points for each typed answer, dropping by one each second. For this round alone, there's a streak bonus: get two questions right in a row for a bonus 5 points, and a further 5 points for every successive answer in the streak. A correct answer still affords you 10 seconds to Get Out, declare your round closed, score no more points. Anyone who doesn't Get Out in time is eliminated from the rest of the game.

But this time, scores matter. There's a cut line, halfway up the original list of players. Only those players above this line (or tied for it) will qualify for round 3.

The final action is frenetic. It's like a particularly hectic qualifying session in Formula One, where everyone's racing for the spots in the next round.

Scores reset for round three, the multiple choice round. All four possible answers are shown from the start, but the question fills in from the back to the front. Usual drill for the scoring: 15 points right at the start, down by one per second. Right answer allows the usual 10 seconds to Get Out, and only the players who do Get Out carry their scores into round 4.

Order reverse in appear words: difficulty special.

Earlier in the game, Ash has been reading the questions and providing some commentary, ramping up the excitement as the end of the round nears. Here, he's reading the questions in reverse order, as they appear, and that reduces the space to make more general commentary.

Many of the questions have been written for this show by other players, and there are often gimmicks in this round, such as four answers remaining for the whole round. And there are some well-written questions, where the key clue is at the start. Wouldn't stand for that on University Challenge, but great in this specific format.

So far, each round has had a similar pace: 15 questions, 15 seconds for each. Enough time to answer the question and watch the scoreboard. The final round... is different.

Questions appear quickly. They're answered by typing in the answer, and spelling still matters.

The difference is in the scores. Question 1 is worth 2 points. Question 2, 4 points. Towards the end of the round, question 17 is worth 34 points.

Apeminkie IV has Got Out with 250 points. Only players with a higher score can now leave.

As soon as someone types in a right answer, everyone else has a brief 5 seconds to reply. (Should no-one get it right in 15 seconds, the question's dropped and the game goes on.)

Three minutes for this round. Whoever has the highest score *and* has Got Out is the winner.

Got the question right? You can Get Out. You'll have to move quickly, the button's only active for 5 seconds. And you can only Get Out if you can beat the score of the last person to Get Out. In this respect, it's like The Bank Job: get rich *and* get out.

Unlike The Bank Job, Ash The Bash is able to read questions quickly and accurately, both forwards and backwards. And the format is exciting, without playing for stupid amounts of money.

There are two particular points of stress. At the end of round two, when half the players will be eliminated. And in the final seconds, where there are many points flying about, and the lead can change three, four, five times in the blink of an eye. Ash The Bash deals with everything that happens.

And with less than a second to go, Samsterraine Kelly takes the win!

Outright can only work as an online game, they couldn't bring this to broadcast media. By playing to a particular audience, the question writers can use the group's interests and in-jokes. More than the other formats we've looked at, Outright is a lean-forward experience, and a lot of players have described it as "stressful". We think it's compelling viewing.

In conclusion

These are just three of the games being played on Twitch, there are many more out there. It's a proving ground, where developers can test and improve - as host, as computer programmer, as format developer. It's a community, where people contribute time, and questions, and enthusiasm. We look forward to seeing more games in the fullness of time.

In other news...

Junior Eurovision Song Contest

Ó a stór TG4 tá tarraingt siar ó Junior Eurovision na bliana seo. Mar gheall ar an gcomhairle leighis, agus an cur chuige ciallmhar a ghlac an Taoiseach, tá sé seo ciallmhar.

Oh dear TG4 has withdrawn from this year's Junior Eurovision song contest. Given the medical advice, and the sensible approach taken by an Taoiseach, this is wise.

A Song for America The senior Eurovision Song Contest continues to export worldwide. The Asiavision contest (rumoured for about 15 years) is still on permanent hiatus, but the EBU will bring the format to North America. The American Song Contest will have entries from various provinces and territories in a number of semi-finals, before the winners face off in a grand final. We're rooting for Dame Bonnet from tiny ickle PEI, a province so small it makes The Most Serene Republic of Serhat look massive.

Task off! Bad news for fans of Taskmaster, who had hoped to watch their show on The CW. The North American broadcast network has stopped airing our version after precisely one episode. The problem: the Greg and Alex show had a plot, was funny, and moved at something approximating a pace. Let's hope that The CW don't get the franchise for The American Song Contest, otherwise it'll all be Madonna's interval act.

Let the Trial... Begin! There will be a different spirit to Ant and Dec's bushtucker trials this November, I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! will take place in Gwrych Castle near Abergele. Australia has stopped all internal travel, and certainly won't let a squadron of C-list hopefuls eat bugs for entertainment.

Instead, the show will be mounted in a Gothic folly, built in 1829, left to rot, and purchased by a charitable trust. The castle features an attractive front drive, 18 towers, some holes where there used to be stained glass, and almost a mile of walls – but no roof.

We'll be impressed if they can squeeze in one reference to Prince Valiant, a schlocky Arthurian film from 1997 – the film's star, Warwick Davis of Tenable, called it "an absolute disaster". We hope they're going to do this as a celebrity Hallowe'en trial, or they're missing a trick. If they're not going to do it as Celebrity Suspiciously Like Raven But Just Different Enough to Satisfy the Lawyers, they're really missing a trick.

Raven Each ring you collect is a meal for the camp.

Get well soon to Simon Cowell, who broke his spine after falling off a bicycle last weekend. His show NBC's Got Talent is in the Live Finals stage, and his place on the panel this week was taken by Kelly Clarkson. It's a marked shift in tone, like replacing Richard Ayoade on The Crystal Maze with Richard Osman.

On the broadcast channels, a new series for A League of Their Own (The Satellite Channel, Thu) with new guests but a new host. Home renovations on Lle Bach Mawr (S4C, Sun). And, er, that's it.

Photo credits: Quizzy Dan, Central, Persephone's Chair, Ash The Bash's Quiz Night, EBU / BNT, BBC Scotland.

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