Short answer: Newtype Academy is a community build around teaching people how to play Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme Versus Maxiboost ON (MBON for short).
In the wake of 2017’s Gundam Versus guide video series, I had received a fair amount of praise and criticism in equal measure; in the case of the latter, it was coming from veteran players that felt it didn’t adequately prepare new players, and that it had either glossed over, omitted or straight-up missed critical pieces of information.
When Gundam EXVS Maxiboost ON (MBON for short) was announced, I decided to take another crack at it, but in a different way. After spearheading the project to make a more comprehensive training guide via print, I realized that asking people to learn via text on an exclusive basis is not only unconducive to a complete learning experience, but ineffective on its own. After all, what better way to make people walk away from the game you want them to play than by handing them a 94-page manual to successfully learning what the game itself fails to adequately teach?
I found myself looking for something that could augment the work we had accomplished, something that could bring the information to life and give genuine, active engagement that would prove the information had not only relevance, but immediate applicability. When I didn’t find it, I went looking for people that could help make it.
I found those people, and together, we built Newtype Academy.
At the center of this new project, we created a new style of learning how to play our favorite fighting game, and that new style was affectionately dubbed Newtype Academy Flight School. The plan was quite simple: we would take concepts from the guide and craft lesson plans from it using the Universal Design for Learning framework, then host streams where we would cycle through teams of players that signed up to learn from experienced trainers. Then, we would take replays from those sessions, and host another stream later in the week where we would break down happenings during those training matches in an effort to show players the application of good practices and areas of concern.
The real accomplishment was in the replay method itself: in the game, the replay mode allows a player to watch prior matches from any player angle, or from multiple zoomed-out perspectives that show the playing field in its totality. What a player cannot do is slow the replay down to see finer details of what is going on, nor can they rewind a portion of it in order to replay a point of interest – it’s a hard start, and a hard stop, with only a full restart function allowing someone to check something specific.
This, to me, was not acceptable; if a player wants to see something, they need to be able to slow it down, especially considering that the game plays so quickly – it’s not uncommon to make 20 distinct movement decisions within 10 seconds, for instance:
This left me trying to devise a way that a player could watch replays of matches, but have more control and functionality. I had an idea: take a replay, record all player perspectives in full, then turn those individual perspectives into individual 1080p60 video clips, time-synced to the frame. Then, repackage all of these files into a single MKV format file as individual audio / video tracks, freely selectable at will, and complete with the ability to pause, rewind, and play in slow motion.
Some said it couldn’t be done. I got it done.
Now, we would have match replays that we could host via Google Drive, and these files would not only be made available for our post-lesson stream, but for everyone else that wanted to watch and study on their own, in an effort to learn what it is they needed to be aware of. This was a real game-changer, something that not even the Japanese playerbase – one nearly twenty years strong – had devised.
So, we followed that up with tutorial videos that introduced the concepts for each lesson session, uploaded the Flight School streams, and then had replay reviews uploaded after the stream sessions. And we’re still going strong.