This is a description of Francis Bacall’s streaming session on the night of Thursday, June 8th, 2023:
Francis looks back at his newfound friend, Eryk Solbourne, who sleeps peacefully on a roll-out mat next to the bed. It must be late, maybe past midnight or even one in the morning. Francis feels the weight of his lower eyelids sagging down, the glaze of his computer’s blue glow passing through him like cosmic rays.
It’s been hours since he started streaming Royals of Foreign Lands. He has participated in sixteen ranked matches and gotten up to Star Platinum Class. Just four more and he can unlock this month’s new skin. And yet he’s lost eight of the last ten matches. He’s too tired to continue.
His mouse hovers over the “end recording” button. After all, he promised to help Eryk in the morning. He and Delta are going to help him figure out how to earn new RPG points in this decidedly un-RPG world. A good night’s sleep’s exactly what he needs to keep himself going.
And even as he thinks these things, his mouse has already returned to the primary monitor. His face has morphed into a pleasant, inoffensive happy shape, into whatever his viewers will like for him to appear as. After all, the Francis Bacall of Bac-Nation is not the Francis Bacall who is Eryk’s friend. He is still in his streamer mode, and so he can let that mode subsist while the rest of him takes a nice rest.
He will rest and let his streamer side coast on sheer personality. No skill, no thoughts, just a bad sleep schedule and a faint smile.
“Hey Bac-Nation,” Francis says to the tens of thousands still watching the stream even this late into the night. To them, he is a friend. He is a valued ally in the night, helping them through insomnia, through turmoil, through the waves of blue feelings that stain cheeks, stain brains. Francis doesn’t know them, doesn’t really connect with them. He’s never alone, and yet he’s never been so far apart from everyone he knows. But these people trust him, follow him, stay with him in the wee hours as he cures blue feelings with blue light.
Francis is a streamer, and his job isn’t something he can simply quit on.
Knowing that, knowing what he means to these people, knowing what those people mean to him, he clicks the giant green button and hops into his next ROFL session.
Royals of Foreign Lands is a truly interesting game. Once, a long time ago, it started as a 4X strategy title known as Foreign Lands. You build a kingdom, control its destiny, and clash against the other kingdoms that wish to control a hegemony in this vast world. The game was popular in a niche community but never grew too far beyond that.
That was, until someone created a certain mod. One where you directly play as the heroes of your kingdom. It put a new spin on the genre, combining the excitement of action and combat with the strategy and tension of grand strategy. With these concepts married, a fuse was lit.
Now, just a few short years after that mod, the entire Kingdom Battle genre has exploded into its own. The developers turned it into an official release and released it as Royals of the Foreign Lands, where you play as a kingdom in a vast, near-limitless world and expand your reach and influence by doing battle. When you enter combat, you go into a battle arena where you control one Royal of choice and lead your armies to victory.
The game’s vast single player campaigns can eat up hundreds of hours at a time, with dozens of Royals to hone and master and deep, intricate strategy necessary to play through the story. But, fortunately for Francis, the main draw of this title is its massive multiplayer component. In the story, kingdoms from various realms enter a shared subspace where they do battle, trade resources, and join forces to fight in co-op missions. In the game, this means your 4X kingdom in the single player mode is merely a training ground for the real gameplay.
Francis’s favorite part of ROFL is the Royal Royale mode. You work with two teams of a hundred players and all their armies combined, but once your hero dies, you are out for good. No respawns. With battles this massive, the most powerful computers on the planet are required for victory. With most of the planet far too underpowered to enjoy the mode in at its full extent, it’s up to streamers and their powerful setups to save the day.
Royal Royale is host to two hundred players per match, and in any given game, up to a hundred, even a hundred and twenty of them are streamers. Spectators can watch a battle from a dozen different viewpoints at once, get insight that none of the players have, and truly experience what it is like to watch a battle unfold.
The appeal is strong, and the money is big. Royals of Foreign Lands has become Francis’s iconic game, and he won’t stop playing until his fans stop paying.
Maybe that will happen someday.
But right now, they’re cheering him on like a hero.
The chat still pops with messages from dozens of people at once. It’s hard enough to follow that he has a second feed next to it that shows only the messages from trusted friends or longtime followers, and even then he has to look closely or he will miss the conversation entirely.
“shifter sucks,” writes The_True_Hudson_Hawk. “hes a piece if sh** and heths way hotter”
“I don’t like Heth,” Francis says. “The rope chain thing is weird, yo.”
“who was that blaze blitzer guy at the start,” asks Annoying_Staircase_of_Enlightenment.
“Blaze Blitzer guy? What—” It hits him that he’s been streaming so long that Eryk was still awake when he first started playing. It’s been a long night. “Oh. That’s my friend. I met him at Comic Festivalia today.”
“hot bf,” writes Lunar_Spectral.
“super hot,” adds Emperor_Zodhead
Instead of taking the bait, Francis decides to pretend he didn’t see those messages. Since when were his chat followers getting as annoying as his parents?
“heyy sup gang,” writes Late2theParti. “whats around here fam a lams”
“I was thinking about wrapping up for the night soon,” says Francis. “But I think I’ll play one more round. Gonna be Vexarian this time.”
“Vex sucks,” writes The_True_Hudson_Hawk.
“u mean vex sux,” chimes in NotAUniverseCop
“I like Vex!” Francis exclaims. “He’s hella cool. Three swords. That’s one more than two!”
“u just like playing on easy mode”
“vex x heth”
“stop shipping in the chat”
“shipping = ban”
“francis x thehawk”
“Hahahaha, oh you guys,” Francis says. “Okay, I’m dropping in.”
Francis starts the session, his last for the night. His character Vexarian, a tri-swordsman sits in the Mighty Airship which floats over the battlefield. His character is next to ninety-nine others which will choose when they want to hop off and land into the fray.
There is only one shot at victory. No respawns, no do-overs. He has only one chance for his team to win and reap all the EXP benefits.
As the airship flies over the town near the mid-lane called 2Nite, Francis decides to hop off.
“Here we go my bois,” Francis says.
2Nite is a casino town that minions love to get in big fights at when the battle starts pushing them off from the main lanes. Players love to spend time there grinding out money by ransacking the shops and making sports bets, but things can quickly get out of hand if too many playes from opposite teams arrive.
And that’s why Francis loves it so much. It always descends into chaos, which is why it’s so popular in streams. In fact, streamers drop here so often that games sometimes descend fully into 2Nite control battles.
That’s what will certainly happen here. When Francis lands, he is accompanied by two Blue Team comrades— A Heth player called Haven_Custos and an Alter Sky player named Williamson2020. All three land with great haste and immediately start blowing up the casino buildings.
The minions haven’t even arrived yet and they’re already clashing with Red Team’s feistiest Royals. It’s an all-out duel.
“Help me! Help me!” shouts Haven_Custos, who is already being ganked by an enemy Shifter.
“I’ll help you,” Francis says— but the poor Haven_Custos is already dead by the time he reaches them. “They were a valuable ally. We will lament our loss.”
Red Team has seventy players left, and the first turrets have fallen. Blue Team still has ninety-six players. The battle is going poorly even just as it’s begun.
“Aight, fam,” Francis tells his streamer audience. “We gonna go out swords a blazing.”
“gl francis,” writes The_True_Hudson_Hawk.
Along with his remark, there are many, many messages that contain simply the letter “F.”
Francis raises all three of his characters’ swords and attacks blindly into the mid-lane.
He dies in about fifteen seconds, but it’s a fun run. He loses a rank, but it’s a fun run.
“That was lit,” Francis says, faking panting. “Royals of Foreign Lands is the best. K, I’m heading off to beddy-bye. So beddy-good-bye to you.”
He turns the computer screen off. What a waste of time.
But as long as he entertained his followers, that is good enough for Francis.
He turns off his computer, gets up from his chair, and heads off to bed. Taking extra care to step over Eryk, not on him, he hops into bed and drifts off to sleep.
One day he will do something better than be a streamer. But for now it’s okay.