Let’s Interview: Mario Kart YouTuber TWD98!

Over the years, we’ve interviewed a fair few famous YouTubers here at Gaming Reinvented. We’ve talked to Guru Larry about his videos on retro gaming and gaming trivia. We’ve discussed the state of the industry with SidAlpha, and we’ve spoken to more music remixers that possibly imaginable, with everyone from Loeder to BlueJackG and Tater Tot Tunes getting their own interviews here on the site.

And today, we’ve got another interesting YouTuber interview for you! Yep, as the title suggests, today’s interview is with TWD98, a YouTuber most known for his videos on Mario Kart Wii custom tracks, shortcuts and challenges!

So if you ever wanted to know what makes a good Mario Kart custom track, how the shortcuts for the shortcut challenge were picked or just how different the Mario Kart Wii online scene is now that Nintendo’s official servers are a thing of the past, keep reading!

Starting off with a personal question. Who are you?

My name is Troy (TWD98 on YouTube), I’m 24, I live in Southern California and I’ve been running a Mario Kart based YouTube channel since 2007.

And what’s with your username? What does TWD98 mean exactly?

The Walking Dead and born in 1998 obviously!

Nah, not really. It’s actually my initials and favourite number! I have a video on my channel describing why the 98 is my favourite number. Long story short.. it stems from a karaoke high score I had when I was 8 years old.

How did you get into video games anyway?

My older brother had a Super Nintendo and we used to play Street Fighter ALL the time. I played as Ryu and he used Ken. Occasionally, I switched to M. Bison. We also loved to play NBA Jam, Super Mario Kart and then I played Tetris and Pokémon Blue/Red on my Game Boy!

What about Mario Kart? Where did your history with that series begin?

I was 4 or 5 years old, and played Super Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo. However, it wasn’t my favourite game or anything. I didn’t even get the N64 one.

No, it was Mario Kart Super Circuit that really got me interested in Mario Kart. I used to play it on my Game Boy Advance non-stop, I loved all the crazy shortcuts that game had and it felt like a better version of the SNES one!

Double Dash was a game I loved to play for fun with friends but I never got into playing it solo because I wasn’t a fan of the lack of the “Jump” button and lack of shortcuts. The DS one came out when I was in 5th grade and I played it non-stop until 8th grade, I was addicted. So many Multiplayer matches with the neighbourhood kids.

Did you play the games on a serious level before Mario Kart Wii?

Not at all really. I was in a Mario Strikers Charged clan very briefly at one point, but that’s about it.

For the matter, what were your thoughts when Mario Kart Wii was first released back in 2008?

Well, it was the first game I ever actively followed prior to its release date. From the moment it was announced at E3, I looked online for new info for it every day back in middle school because it was the successor to my favourite game ever, MKDS (SM64 was a close second).

Initial thoughts: This is the greatest thing ever. 12 player online that works well, weekly tournament competitions, time trial leaderboards and WR ghost download options, a growing online community etc.

On the other hand, after 2-3 months, I completely lost interest in the game and returned to MKDS. The drift bothered me because I couldn’t manually charge mini turbos. At the time I was extremely casual with Mario Kart Wii so I was using Dolphin Dasher during the summer of 08.

Dolphin Dasher

However, that all changed when I came across a YouTube video with really catchy music titled Top 10 Mario Kart Wii shortcuts by Rolation in like November 08, and that really peaked my interest in the game.

That’s what inspired me to give Mario Kart Wii another go, and it all went up from there. Sadly I can’t find the video now though, and I think it may have got taken down. Do remember he was using the Bullet Bike in it though.

Anyway, when I came back in December 08, I began using Mach Bike, started downloading WR ghosts and practicing the shortcuts and lines and then by spring 09, it was the only game I was playing.

That’s how it went from ‘this game is pretty fun (but not on par with MKDS)’ to ‘this game is even better than MKDS.‘

Onto a few mod questions now then. How did you get started with Mario Kart Wii mods?

When MrBean35000vr released the first batch of playable custom tracks and a tutorial on how to mod the Wii. I remember my excitement when Mushroom Peaks loaded on my game. It opened up a world of possibilities to me for MKWii.

What were your thoughts when you discovered CTGP Revolution?

CTGP Revolution may have only been in its beginning stages at the time, but I saw the potential immediately. Since then, I can say with confidence that it’s surpassed even my wildest expectations.

It’s certainly come a long way, haha!

Favourite Mario Kart Wii custom tracks included there?

Concord Town, Lunar Lights, almost all the Retro courses, Dragonite’s Island, Candy Coaster is a guilty pleasure haha

Any you don’t feel should have been accepted?

Plenty. Mainly the ones that have confusing layouts, are visual eyesores and don’t cater to new players/vehicles that aren’t the Mach Bike.

Either way, Mario Kart Wii mods have come a long way. Are you surprised at how far the scene has progressed? Or how much more professional the custom tracks of today are?

As far as clans go, the scene is still mostly the same. In that sense, it hasn’t seemingly changed much in a decade.

Still, it’s alive and pretty active, so that’s nice to see.

As for custom tracks, well those have surprised me immensely. So many talented creators are making them now, and I hope to make a track or two of my own in future as well!

Finally on the modding side of things, why do you think Mario Kart Wii has gotten so many mods anyway? No other games in the series have gotten nearly as many custom tracks or characters…

It sold the most (37.10 million copies) and its irreplaceable. No other Mario Kart game will be this popular, so it’ll live on for quite a while.

Onto YouTube stuff now. What made you decide to start up a channel?

My parents wouldn’t let me play video games anymore during the school week (in high school) because it was unproductive. My dad said I need to find a way to make it productive. I was like… “how?”. He came up with the idea to make YouTube videos so I bought a camcorder and shortly after, a Dazzle.

Did you have any other ideas for channels before this one?

Nope.

How confident were you that your channel would succeed?

I didn’t care if it succeeded or not, it was my ticket to be able to play Mario Kart Wii during the week while in high school and talk to my clan teammates! To be honest though, I found that I did enjoy making videos quite a lot and by 2011, I started taking YouTube a bit more seriously.

Obviously now we all know it did, with 114,000 people watching your videos as of this moment. How does it feel to have such a large YouTube following?

Humbling. I remember that when I had around 15,000 subscribers, I thought I was going to max out at only 30-40k subscribers (because I thought that was the number of people in the online community).

Let’s talk about a few of your series now. For instance, what made you decide to start Rate That Custom Track?

I saw Ray William Johnson with a show called “Equals 3” and he showed other people’s videos and made fun of them in a light humour kind of way. Justin and I were in the same AP Euro class and I was like, “dude I’m gonna do what Ray William Johnson does but for MKWii custom tracks, do you wanna be my co-star?” and he loved the idea.

How do you choose what tracks to cover there anyway?

I would pick random ones on the fly, at least for the first 7 or 8 episodes. Indeed, a lot of the time we actually recorded 4-5 tracks, with 1 or 2 being cut out because they were boring to watch.

But I started planning out the tracks I was going to cover later on.

Have there ever been ones you planned to make videos on, but decided against discussing for whatever reason? Maybe due to uninteresting track design or what not?

For RTCT? Probably, I can’t remember any off the top of my head.

And how have your standards there changed over time? I’m guessing your criteria for a good custom track may have changed a bit over the years…

Absolutely. I didn’t care about it giving good races before. In fact, I really enjoyed the more difficult courses because they were easy to win when you had practiced them.

Now though, I appreciate the more Nintendo like ones instead, due to how much less I play the game nowadays. For me, a good track is easy to complete a lap on but difficult to master, which is why I feel Sniki does a great job with his own tracks. They appeal to both casual and hardcore players in about the same way as Nintendo’s own tracks.

Any tracks you would have rated differently had you made a video about them today?

Yeah, I honestly didn’t take the ratings too seriously but I liked it that way.

There’s also Troy vs Custom Track, where you try and beat the staff ghosts for a custom track in order to master it. What inspired you to make these videos?

I thought it’d be easy to reach 9999 VR on custom tracks, but that wasn’t the case at all. Because of this, I felt I needed more to practice the more difficult tracks a bit more, since it’s hard to improve on them with only two Race to 9999 VR episodes a month. So I started the series to get better at tracks like Melting Magma Melee and Final Grounds in the hope of performing better on them online.

Similarly, how do you choose what tracks to take on here?

I choose the difficult ones. Especially those I know are complex and have strategies that can let you win online races more easily. For example, in CTR Cortex Castle, you can EASILY break away and win if you can do that shroomless cut.

So I wanted my weakest tracks to become my strongest ones.

You’re also the person who set the staff ghost record for Wuhu Mountain Loop as well. What’s the process like there? How do the CTGP authors or what not decide who sets the record, what kart they use, etc?

I was offered the chance to do a track by Zach, the guy who helps manage the ghosts for the custom tracks in CTGP. Guess whoever created it didn’t care to make a ghost for it.

Why Wuhu Mountain Loop* anyway? Are you a huge fan of that track?

I chose Wuhu Mountain Loop because I wanted to dive off the edge like the MK7 glitch as a joke in my time trial. That would have been a bad staff ghost time wise but it would’ve been hilarious none the less.

Unfortunately, they vetoed that idea so I had to drive it normally! Still, it was a really good track though, and I had fun making the ghost.

Editor’s Note: Wuhu Mountain Loop is known as Maka Wuhu in the US.

Do you feel like these videos help you get better at the tracks you take on? I definitely remember you saying it helped for Race to 9999 VR…

Yeah, of course. There are 200+ custom tracks and with college full time this past year, I really only had time to play the game when I recorded.

This meant I’d forget a lot of the layouts for the older custom tracks. But with this series, that doesn’t happen anymore. I don’t forget the layouts, and now I know the WR strats too!

Which is our next topic when I think about it. Did you get 9999 VR in Mario Kart Wii’s regular online mode before all this?

Yeah of course lol, back in December 2008.

And be honest, how long did you expect it to take when you started out?

It was super easy to get 9999 before the servers went down and Wiimmfi started. Wiimmfi knocked everyone back to 5000 and only community members, who were decent at the game, were playing. No more farming VR off moms and dads!

As for how long it’d take? I thought the series would go 40 episodes and it took double that! (Though the sabotages didn’t help) haha

Still, one part of why it’s taken a while is the VR system, which is pretty harsh in Mario Kart Wii. So what do you think of it? Do you prefer the setup in the Wii game or the one in say… 7 or 8?

Yes. In MK7 and MK8, it really is just a benchmark to how much you have played since you barely lose points for getting bottom spots.

In MKW on the other hand, you have to be really good and consistent to keep 9999.

It’s also more exciting/heart-breaking to gain/lose 200+ in a race as opposed to the newer MK’s, you’ll net +20 for getting first.

Have you (or the Mario Kart Wii community in general) ever considered changing the system for Wiimmfi? You guys run the servers now, so in theory it could be made more like later Mario Kart games in that regard…

I don’t think it needs changing to be honest. I just wish you didn’t lose points for disconnecting.

Road to 9999 VR also showed just how tough the competition online is now. Did you expect such tough races in this series?

No, it was a lot tougher than it used to be. It makes sense though because a couple years of me not playing meant everyone else was getting better.

Do you think people ever recognised you online?

I have a least 10+ people impostering me online in this game every day. I get messages about it on Twitter all the time, it’s out of control.

After that, you moved to Race to 9999 VR instead. What made you decide to go that route?

It’s different and the same all at the same time!

And how did you choose on Nmeade as an opponent here?

NMeade was so well-liked in the Road to 9999 VR series that it was only fitting to make it the sequel and add new stakes!

Still, onto the actual series now. How different does it feel taking on this series with a friend/rival compared to trying to reach the top alone?

It’s super fun, Nick’s a good friend and we have great chemistry for the videos. I also have an easier time racing when I only have to talk half as much as normal!

What about with the original Nintendo tracks? Does it feel strange to race on them after Road to 9999 VR?

It feels GLORIOUS. I thoroughly enjoy about 25 of the 32 tracks in the game.

Lastly, who do you think has the best chance of winning so far? Your VR totals are really close so far, and you both seem pretty evenly matched…

Me of course. Nick’s the floundering fish after all!

floundering fish
An artist’s interpretation of Nick during Race to 9999 VR

Another thing you’ve done is hold shortcut challenges with various other YouTubers. How did you design these challenges? Or just choose the shortcuts/tricks needed for each stage?

At a very young age, I used to mod board games and make my own card games etc. That was how I made my own Mario Kart game mode. I took an aspect of the game I enjoyed a lot and took elements of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and BAM shortcut challenge.

There are also a few mentions of an intermediate and advanced challenge too. Has anyone taken on any of these yet?

Yeah, only a few though. Those aren’t for most my casual IRL friends, that’s for sure!

How do you select players for these challenges?

The IRL friends that have at least a little experience with the game get chosen cuz it’s obviously easier in person and then YouTubers that have Mario Kart experience get chosen because collabs are great for both parties involved and they have high quality capture cards! haha

On that note, is there anyone you’d love to see take on the challenge? Like, some Mario Kart Wii pro that you feel might be able to nail everything?

GWalers. He made plenty of TWD98 shortcut challenges videos on his channel and he has mastered the levels and format it seems!

And have you ever considered making a video where you take it on yourself, just to show everyone how it’s done?

I played my friend Connor and did phenomenal. If I did the challenge alone, I would want to play it on stream!

Either way, you’ve been great at coming up with unique series based on Mario Kart Wii. What’s next in the pipeline there?

I’ve got something I’m really excited about brewin’! You’ll hear about it soon 🙂

Are there any other YouTube series you’re working on based on non-Mario Kart games?

Not at the moment but I’m looking to change that this fall. 🙂

And as a random thought experiment, what would it take for Mario Kart 9 or 10 to displace Mario Kart Wii as your game of choice?

That’s a long answer and one for a different day haha. But I can’t see myself ever entirely quitting MKWii. I know Melee players feel the same way about that Smash game.

Nearly done now! So before we finish, are there any other YouTube channels you want to give a shout out too?

Shoutouts to Mankalor! I always felt there was a lack of Mario Kart creators doing YouTube as their job back when I did it from 2011-2015. When I came back in 2017, I’m happy to see I wasn’t alone 🙂

Also, shoutouts to MrBean35000vr! He’s a big reason why Mario Kart Wii is thriving in 2018 because of his CTGP channel and I strongly suggest you check him out on Twitch and YouTube.

Also shoutouts to Ken Bone, a legendary racer.

Last but not least, what advice would you give a new YouTuber wanting to start their own channel?

Make videos that you would want to watch. Focus on quality over quantity especially in the beginning. You don’t want to burn out too quick. 🙂

And you know what?

We 100% agree with Troy on this one. You do not want to burn out too quickly.

Trust us, we know that from experience. It’s basically why Gaming Reinvented’s updates have been so slow recently, or why our YouTube channel has been so on/off in the last few months or so. The whole multiple articles per day + site redesign + marketing + YouTube video making thing has completely burnt us out on the whole affair, and basically takes up whatever small amount of time we have left after work each day.

Burn out is a quick way to kill any passion you have for your work, and make you loathe every minute you’re stuck doing it.

What’s worse, it’s not even the only issue you need to be aware of in this situation either.

No, algorithms are an issue too. Why? Because algorithms (like YouTube’s one, or Google’s one for their search results) reward timely and regularly posted content over that which is posted on an irregular basis. In other words, they want to promote channels and websites who post content every day/week/month like clockwork rather than those who throw something out every once in a blue moon.

And that means anyone who tries to get everything done too quickly will end up shooting themselves in the foot. Think about it, what do you think Google or YouTube expects of you if you post ten videos on your very first day?

Simple, they expect you to continue posting ten videos a day for the next decade or so. This means that not only are you now bored to tears by the amount of samey content you’ll need to produce to stay relevant, but now you’ve also basically got a robot breathing down your neck over the matter too, with a faceless system now expecting you to do the same amount of work until the day you retire/die. It’s a no win situation for creators, and one that’s best avoided by pacing yourself in a reasonable way. Take your time, do what you enjoy, and definitely focus on quality over quantity.

Still, enough with the life lessons for now. What did you think of the actual interview?

Did you enjoy reading TWD98’s thoughts on Mario Kart Wii and its community? Could the advice given help you with your own YouTube channel?

Tell us what you think in a comment, and make sure to follow TWD98 on YouTube and Twitter too. Thanks for reading the interview!

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