Let’s Interview: Unused Content Video Creator Dr Lava!
Here on Gaming Reinvented, we’ve interviewed a fair few notable YouTubers and other creators over the years. Some of them became popular afterwards (like Boundary Break), some were already super popular before (like with Guru Larry and TWD98), but they’ve all offered interesting takes on their work in general.
But it’s not just popular channel creators and game developers who have interesting stories to tell. No, upcoming creators have them too, and a fair few newer or lesser known YouTubers have both the potential and pedigree to become successful with just that bit more of a push.
Which is why today, we’re talking to the owner of an interesting new channel dedicated to unused content in games. Known as Dr Lava, this individual runs the channel ‘Nintendo’s Cut Content with Dr Lava’, where he covers unused content in everything from the first two Pokémon games to Metroid Prime 1.5 and The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild. It’s a great channel, and one that’s really got the potential to go places with a tiny bit more marketing behind.
So let’s talk to him shall we? Let’s see what it’s like digging up all this beta Nintendo game secrets, as well as what the future may hold for one of the most fascinating gaming channels seen in the last couple of years or so!
1. Starting with a bit of background. Who is Dr Lava? Where did the character come from?
Well, about a year ago, me and my friend Dave were making a Rick and Morty fan-theory video, and I was saying I didn’t want to use our actual faces like previous channels I’ve worked on over the years. However, it’s more fun when there’s a visual representation of the voice you’re hearing, and I felt like an original character would be more interesting here. Like Space Ghost Coast to Coast and Arlo, who yes, I’m a big fan of.
Either way, we were floating around the internet looking for something we might use, and we stumbled across a line of dolls that are sold with wheelchairs and crutches. For some reason, the idea of dolls in wheelchairs cracked us both up, and we decided that’s the direction we would take.
He’s British, so we came up with the idea he would be something like an evil scientist. I’m from Arkansas, so we thought I would be represented by a disgruntled, disabled Vietnam vet, like Tom Cruise in that movie Born on the 4th of July, or Charlie in that episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, if you’ve seen that.
However, we weren’t able to work together long enough to put those ideas to use. You see, we actually lived in China, but eventually he (the other contributor) moved back to the UK, meaning we weren’t able to put those ideas into action.
So in the end I took the evil scientist for myself, and the Vietnam vet got shelved.
As for the origin of the current figure? Well, Dr Lava is actually a fancy Captain Kirk action figure in a WWE wheelchair. His clothes were removed and some nut made the tiny custom scientist outfit for me. He chain-smokes just as I do in real life
2. Either way, your YouTube channel focuses on cut content in Nintendo games. Why did you choose this as your topic?
Well I’ve always been a big Nintendo fan. I grew up with an NES, SNES, N64, and so on, and the iconic games that graced those systems. A lot of them — especially Zelda, Mario, and Metroid — I replayed countless times, so when I started this channel I knew I wanted to focus just on Nintendo games.
A lot of those games (like the Wind Waker) also feel like they’re a part of me so I find it really interesting to find out about all the great ideas and extra content that Nintendo was going to include if only they’d had more time, or in some cases more cartridge space. In the case of Wind Waker, more islands and temples, more underwater Hyrule locations, and a GameCube sequel that was scrapped — that’s all stuff I wish had come to fruition. It’s just fun to think about what could have been.
3. How do you choose what games to cover anyway? There’s no shortage of possibilities where games with unused content are concerned…
Metroid Prime, all the 3D Zelda games, the old Pokémon games, a few Mario games — all those games have really great scrapped ideas, beta elements, and cut content. I usually take a week to research each video, so I know there are a lot more games with great cut content that I just haven’t gotten around to researching yet, but hopefully I’ll get a chance to explore them all in the next few years.
4. Are there any cancelled games you wish had been made?
Cancelled games I wish had been made? In some of my recent YouTube videos I mentioned a few — Ura Zelda, Wind Waker 2, Mario 128, Metroid Prime 1.5. I’d also like to have played Metroid Dread and Fire Emblem 64DD.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Each week I come through more developer interviews and internal data, and keep finding more and more about what we missed out on. So if you asked me the same question 3 months from now, it’s likely the list would be twice as long.
5. Is Super Mario 128 going to be getting a video soon then?
I kind of jumped the gun when I promised a video on Mario 128 last month.
As I was putting the script, I realised I would need an interview of my own with someone like Yoshiaki Koizumi to help sort fact from fiction and resolve some unanswered questions related to this one.
Otherwise I’d have to fill some of the holes in the story with random speculation, and I don’t really want to have to do that.
6. So I guess you’re planning to contact developers about these cancelled games and unused elements in the future?
Yeah, in a few months’ time (when the channel’s reached a more respectable size), I plan to start reaching out to developers for interviews regarding cancelled games in order to get some of those holes properly filled in.
7. So you’re not covering cancelled games until you can get in touch with the developers?
Not exactly. I’ve already covered Ura Zelda and Metroid Prime 1.5, and about 20% of those videos were about outright cancelled games.
8. Still, onto something else now. Are there any times when you feel the early versions of a game may have been better than the final product?
Yeah, there are definitely games where I liked the beta ideas more than the final cut.
That’s typically what I like to cover — not the cut stuff that we were better off without, but the stuff that could have been even better.
For example, I found the Japan based world map of Pokémon Gold and Silver, as well as some of the scrapped Pokémon in the Space World demo more appealing than what we got in the release version.
Similarly, I also found the ideas from Metroid Prime 1.5 (which would have been the original concept for Metroid Prime 2) more interesting than what we got in the form of Metroid Prime 2 Echoes.
9. How do you find this information anyway?
Usually I read up on a game, and then if I easily find a few interesting talking points, I’ll commit to digging in and finding everything available for it.
As for where I get the information from, well often the first place I go to is a game’s Wikipedia article, which often has a development section. From there I look at all the sources used, which usually include a few interviews. And you know how the internet can be — one link takes you to a page with 3 more links, and so on, until I’ve got 20 tabs open in my web browser and I’m copying and pasting the best bits, and google translating what I find that’s in Japanese.
That’s how I found out that Shigeru Miyamoto gave an interview to the Japanese version of Playboy magazine in 2003, where he talked about Super Mario 128. So I found out the Japanese terms for Mario and Playboy, and searched for them in Google and various Japanese search engines.
That in turn led me to a Playboy interview with Miyamoto, which I then translated using Google Translate. However, upon doing so, I realised that said interview didn’t actually have anything to do with Super Mario 128, and that Miyamoto had actually done several interviews with the magazine. So I’m still looking for that particular interview actually.
I also try to find every interview ever conducted with a game’s directors, producers and other notable developers from the time period, and cherry pick the best bits to include in the video based on that. Sometimes I’ll find an article containing someone else’s research from years ago, hopefully properly sourced, and that’ll keep me busy for a few days. In that kind of a situation I’ll credit the original researcher in the video description or the video itself — like I did for NeoGAF user Mama Robotnik for the work he did in 2012 digging up information on Metroid 1.5
But what really makes me happy though is when I find an interview or developer blog post in Japanese that was never translated into English and it contains something I’ve never heard of before.
That’s particularly fun with the source is a strange but legitimate one, like with the Playboy interview mentioned earlier, and it’s why I’m searching so hard for said interview.
I want viewers to be like, “Japanese Playboy, WTF? Interesting information though, I’ve never heard that factoid before.”
10. Hah, very true. Talking of holy grail discoveries though, what are your game related ones? What bits of information are you desperately hoping to find out about a particular title?
Holy grail? Well, as you’re probably aware, the only footage available of Mario 128 is from someone using VHS camera to record a projector screen showing off the tech demo from almost 20 years ago. If Shigeru Miyamoto was to descend down from the clouds, I’d ask for an HD video of that tech demo, then I’d ask him some questions about the game’s specifics.
11. Isn’t that the true eh? I’m sure we’d all like to know more about Super Mario 64 2/Super Mario 128!
Either way, what major misconceptions do other YouTubers and gaming journalists make about cut content in games? Any development rumours you see floating around too often here?
Well, it’s actually pretty rare that I’ll watch other YouTuber’s cut content videos. I’ve seen a handful, but for the most part I usually stick to reading developer interviews.
Either way, I read an article on a website recently where they claimed that in the Pokémon Gold and Silver betas, trainer Red’s team was going to be what your personal team was from Gen 1 was after you transferred your information over. That was a cool idea, and one I really wanted to mention in my own video on the same topic.
However, upon doing a bit of research, I realised their only source was an unclickable link that just said ‘Reddit’. A few hours searching later (with no results found), and the only reasonable conclusion I could come to was that the claim must have been bunk.
This is why in my videos I have a rule that every claim made there has to be backed up by either a developer interview, a piece of concept art or internal data. Otherwise, I risk looking like a fool by repeating false or unproven claims, like that one about Red’s team in Pokémon Gold and Silver.
It helps stop the haters too. Because sure, while there will always be haters in the comments, doing this means I don’t give them an inch to work with.
12. Are there any videos you really wanted to make but couldn’t for whatever reason? Like because say, there just wasn’t enough information available?
There have been a few games I wanted to cover, but found there wasn’t enough for a video. Like Majora’s Mask. I had a hard time coming up with enough compelling information for a 7 minute video there.
Same with Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. I love the game to death, but I couldn’t find much cut content for it.
I’ll check that out, cheers for that!
14. I know you said you don’t tend to watch other channels about unused content in games, but what other gaming channels do you watch?
I think the only 2 gaming channel’s I’m subscribed to are the Angry Video Game Nerd and Arlo. I get my gaming news almost exclusively from Nintendo Life, but occasionally I’ll check out Kotaku. IGN has really great archived news, but I don’t usually visit their site for newer stuff.
15. And have you ever considered working with another YouTuber on one of your videos? Like Shesez from Boundary Break or Guru Larry or Beta64 or what not?
I plan to reach out to some bigger Youtubers for crossover-type videos, but like with asking for developer interviews, I plan to wait for my own channel to get a bit bigger first —
I feel like I need at least 10-20 thousand subscribers to have even a sliver of legitimacy. Only at about 8 or 9 thousand now, but lately been pulling in about a thousand a week so it shouldn’t be too long a wait.
It would really be a kick to collaborate on a video with Arlo, but seeing as his channel’s about 30 times bigger than mine, I ain’t gonna hold my breath. Maybe someday.
16. Maybe I could help there? I’ve interviewed some of these bigger channels and their creators, maybe I could see if any of them want to collaborate with you…
Yeah that’d be appreciated. Mostly I imagine if I reach out to someone in the 100K range, my message would just get drowned out by all their fans and other commenters and they’d probably never even see what I wrote. Or that if they did, they probably get a bunch of requests from little fish looking to cosy up to the teet, if you know what I mean.
17. Back to your channel now. Are you surprised how well it’s done so far?
Yeah I’ve been pretty happy with how quickly the channel’s been growing.
It’s funny though, last week someone left a comment saying they’d be extremely surprised if I didn’t have 300K subscribers by this time next year. I told him his faith in me was touching, but if my channel keeps growing at about a hundred a day, I’ll be almost 40 by the time I hit 300K. And I just turned 30 a few months ago lol.
Just thinking in mathematical terms, the growth will have to become exponential at some point if I’m gonna survive the fight against YouTube’s search algorithms.
18. And what are some of the videos you have planned for the future anyway?
The next one will be Pokémon Gen 3, but after that I’ll be doing a top 5 for Luigi’s Mansion
19. Luigi’s Mansion eh? That game’s got quite an interesting development history hasn’t it?
LM is actually a game I’ve gotten a lot of requests for. Twice I dug into the internet to try to find some good material, but both times I came up short — just not enough interesting stuff to fill 7-10 minutes.
And I certainly searched hard for information here. Indeed, this was one particular case where I did watch some other people’s YouTube videos, and found they were mostly filled with legitimate but boring facts, like that a particular piece of furniture is in the internal data but went unused, or a map icon was slightly different in the beta.
So I kinda gave up on LM.
However, then my fiancée gave me a haircut about a month ago, which took her about an hour and a half, and I used that 90 minutes to dig up information for the game one more time. This time I ended up finding some really interesting stuff I’d never heard before, or saw in those other Youtubers’ videos, hence why I’m now looking into completing the video.
Indeed, the script’s already done, and I was hoping to have it out by Halloween, but when I missed that deadline, I decided to push it back till after Pokémon Gen 3 instead.
21. Are you going to address the hunter ghost rumour in that video?
Haha yeah I’ve got debunking the hunter ghost in there for sure. If I don’t mention it at all I’m sure some folks will think it’s real and that I forgot it.
21. And what are your plans for videos after that?
After those two videos, it might be time to reach out to Soliani or a key developer for another more recent game. Breath of the Wild is the only Switch game I’ve done thus far, and it was pretty well received and a lot of fun to make, so I’d like to another — Mario Rabbids, Mario Odyssey, one of those two ideally.
21. What about videos that don’t follow the list format? Are any of those in the pipeline?
Yeah, at some point I’m going to a video on the original Animal Crossing for GameCube. You probably know this, but it was originally meant to be a Nintendo 64DD game, then it was eventually brought to the N64 instead.
Then they did an enhanced port to the GameCube in Japan. That in turn was enhanced further when brought to the West. Then Nintendo was so impressed with NOA’s localization, they translated the western version of AC back into Japanese as Animal Forest e+, and enhanced it even more.
Thus you’ve got 4 versions of AC, all enhanced over the one that came before, and the version we played in the west was #3. However, there were a lot of really great enhancements made to the final version, and that’s before we even get to the usual internal data and stuff like that.
So a video about AC would have to be about a half hour long, and I don’t think the standard “top 5” or even 10 or 20 would fit for that video. I’ll probably end up breaking it up into 10 minute segments. That’s a video that’ll take a lot of work, and hopefully there are enough AC fans out there to watch it that it’ll be worth the effort.
22. Do you plan to write about beta content or otherwise talk about it non YouTube formats at some point?
Yeah at some point I plan to make a website that’ll have articles on beta content, scrapped ideas — the kind of content you’d expect.
23. What about Patreon? You planning to have one of those for your channel as well?
I probably will do Patreon at some point, although I kind of hate that method of monetization. Instead, my focus will be on affiliate programs with Amazon and Walmart.
Basically I’d ask people to do the shopping they were already gonna do anyway, but just click the Amazon link on my site rather than type the URL into their browser. That way I’ll end up getting about 6% of what they end up spending from Amazon.
Assuming I can communicate that well enough to the viewers, everyone wins. They can just buy the stuff they were gonna buy anyway for the exact same price, I get a commission from Amazon, allowing me to continue making Nintendo cut content videos, and Nintendo can keep on taking my YouTube ad revenue for using their music and game footage.
It’s a win win situation all round, assuming they click my affiliate links.
24. So what are your end goals for your channel?
Like I said earlier, my ultimate goal is to get interviews with developers about cut content and ideas from their games so I can actually get new information rather than always digging up old information.
As well as to monetise the channel, as mentioned before.
25. How are you paying for things right now?
Well, I’ve lived in China for about 5 years and will continue to do so. That keeps my expenses low, so I’m hoping the channel will be enough to support me financially in the next year or two
26. Is your channel your full time job then?
At the moment I’m living off my savings from a previous YouTube channel, so Dr Lava’s already my full-time job. Eventually those savings will run out though and that’s when it’ll be clear whether Lava’s my future meal ticket, or if I’ll have to go back to teaching English to little Chinese kids lol
27. Let’s finish off with a few final questions now. What other interesting gaming channels do you recommend and why?
TCCO is another good channel for cut content, about the same size as mine and really good quality.
28. Finally, what advice would you give other YouTubers who want to make it on the platform?
As far as advice — I’ve been making YouTube videos as my sole form of income since 2013. I didn’t have any formal training in video editing or anything like that, actually I dropped out of both high school and college about halfway through, I don’t have much formal training in much of anything. So I’ve still got a long way to go as far as editing skills, audio recording, all that stuff.
But there are still a few pieces of advice I’ll share for anyone wanting to start:
Firstly, you can definitely expect your early videos to be crappy in terms of both quality, and viewership. But you’ve just gotta make an effort to make each video’s quality better than the one before it, and to try out at least one new editing technique.
You’ve also gotta have a consistent theme in your material — even if you make great videos, if someone doesn’t understand your channel’s theme after watching a video, they’re probably not going to subscribe. They might think “That was a great video,” but if your channel is just a collection of random video game topics or whatever, folks just won’t get it.
The content has to have a very narrow focus, and it’s gotta be conveyed as simply as possible. And always number your videos and call them “episodes,” so viewers will get the idea that this is just one of many similar videos, and that if they like the one they stumbled upon, they’re more likely to watch at least one more. Then you’re in the bloodstream.
At least that’s been my experience. When I started the Dr Lava channel, it was just a gaming channel. The first 4 videos didn’t have any consistency beyond the fact they were about Nintendo games, and those early videos still only have a few hundred or maybe about a thousand views because of it. But then I narrowed the focus to cut content, and it’s been much smoother sailing.
Remember, gaming is the most overcrowded topic on YouTube, so a review, commentary, or let’s play channel is probably going to drown in a flood of similar content.
I don’t pretend to know everything, I’m still try to get better with each video and probably always will, but those are a few lessons I’ve learned over the past 6 years.
All of which we’d agree with 100%. The modern internet is all about finding your niche, and it’s the content creators who find something they’re good at and stick with it that usually do better in the end. Just ask the people we’ve interviewed here on the site; Shesez has done well with camera manipulation, TWD98 covers Mario Kart Wii, Loeder and Tater Tot Tunes make 8-bit video game tunes and Kaze Emanuar found fame through incredibly ambitious, technically impressive Super Mario 64 ROM hacks.
Finding your niche is the key to success nowadays.
But is that a good thing?
Honestly, we’re not all that sure. On the one hand, it is nice that people can make a living from doing what they enjoy, and that people who are obsessed with a single topic can turn their passion into their way of life.
Yet at the same time, it feels like a system that’s basically led to everyone typecasting themselves. Fully rounded personalities seem to have been reduced to cardboard cut outs.
And that makes us wonder… are the demands of fame basically turning us into video game characters? Are we flanderising ourselves and society, turning ourselves into sitcom characters because that’s the only way to succeed in a world of algorithms and specialisation? Is that eventually going to burn out most artists and creatives, now that any deviation outside of their niche will cost them fans and popularity?
Honestly, we’re not sure.
What we are sure of though is that Dr Lava makes some damn good videos on cut content in video games, and that his channel deserves every bit of attention it can get. So if you’re interested in that sort of stuff (or happen to be in the audience for TCRF or Unseen64), check it out, or follow him on the social media platform of your choice.
Support the next generation of gaming video makers, not just the ones currently blessed with fame and fortune.