Thirty-Seven

Another year; another winter vacation has come and gone, and with it the marking of another year of my trying to figure my way through this life thing as best I can.

2016 was a weird year; a lot of it felt pretty aimless and even a bit disconcerting. It felt kind of like one of those days you have when you work a lot and you know you were really busy, but you have a hard time feeling like you accomplished much in the end.

With each month that passes now I realize slowly that I am no longer in that phase of my life where I am parenting very small children, and I’m adjusting to the fact that I’m going to be parenting teenagers for many years now. I find I will miss the tiny little humans part of my life, because by the time we were done with that part, we had become pretty good at it.

And I have no real clue how to parent teenagers. It probably involves a little booze and a lot of hoping and praying that you are teaching your children not to be jackasses and to be compassionate humans. It’s definitely going to be an adventure. I think—so far—we are doing a pretty good job. My children are very fascinating people who share a lot of my idiosyncrasies and are starting to discover who they are and who they want to be. I can’t wait to find out where those journeys take them.

It was also the year I witnessed my wife find a new confidence in herself and who she is. It serves only to make her more attractive and wonderful to me, and I am gifted with her presence in my life. She makes me a better person. She also went above and beyond for my birthday today, making an amazing turkey dinner. It was delicious.

I could not imagine my life without my family. They are amazing people and I find myself wondering constantly what I have done to deserve them.

I posted previously regarding my goals for 2017 here and here, so I won’t belabor them much more in these words. It is enough to say that I am hoping to increase my personal skills in a few ways and to do good things for the communities of which I am a member.

In just over a week, I’ll be celebrating seven years with Automattic, which is crazy to think about. I’ll write more about that when it happens, but it’s probably the craziest chance I ever took with my professional career, and it’s paid off in spades. I have amazing and talented colleagues who inspire me to be better every day, and I can only hope to work alongside them for many years to come.

2017 carries a lot of uncertainty for a lot of reasons. It’s impossible to know where it will lead. Here’s to hoping it’s full of new opportunities, lots of learning, and continued self-improvement.

(If you want to give me a birthday present, follow my Twitch channel. You’ll see me there more often this year if I have anything to say about it.)

2017 Addendum

Things I left out of my 2017 goals because I either think they are a stretch too far, or I think they are poor choices for goals:

  • Stream more often, at least once a week: I just never seem to feel up to the task of doing this. I promised myself about mid-year last year that I would do more of this, and I failed horribly at it. So I’m going to try to do it more, but I won’t be heartbroken if I don’t make it.
  • Any specific weight goal: I touched on this earlier, but I think at this point in my life this is just counter-productive. I set goals for it, and then when I don’t meet them, I end up stress eating, which just sets me back further. I think it’s much better to focus on the underlying stuff that will help my health than focus on a weight number.
  • Work towards a St. Louis FGC yearly in 2018: Let’s face it; 2018 is the earliest this could even be a thing. And it will take a minor miracle to build up something new that would be able to support such a thing. More than one person has waved me off from even the idea of trying to do this. But it’s in my mind. 2017 is the year I either help boost the local FGC or make every player in St. Louis mad at me for trying. As with streaming, if this starts coalescing, I am not going to complain and I’m going to dedicate myself to the concept. But if it’s still too far off, I won’t be disappointed in it, because I know it’s possible the local community is not ready for it.
  • Speak at more WordCamps: This is something I would love to do, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to properly devote the time to it amongst the other things. If you want me to speak at your WordCamp, you should contact me, but I am not going to actively seek this out because in the time I have available, this is probably the first thing that’s going to go.
  • Blog more regularly: If I had a dime for every time I thought I should do this, I wouldn’t have to work. :)

I think what goals you don’t explicitly set for yourself are just as important as the ones you do. These things are my “nice-to-haves” for 2017, but the real stuff I want to get to over the next 12 months is detailed in my previous post.

Twenty Seventeen

I was going to use tonight to lament the fact that I didn’t reach much in the way of my goals this year, but then this happened:

So instead, I figured I’d talk a bit about my hopes for the next year. 2016 was a weird one, and for at least myself it felt like a lot of treading water. I want more out of myself in 2017. So in no particular order, here are some things I want for myself, loosely defined so it’s harder to be disappointed in another year:

  • Eat better. I did not make nearly the progress on my personal health this year I’d hoped for. Part of it is that my gym attendance hasn’t been stellar, but the other part—what I think is the bigger part—is that I didn’t shift my eating habits enough. Too much eating out, not enough moderation, still too much drinking diet sodas and not enough water. I’m also hoping to boost my gym attendance, but changing my eating to be more sensible will probably make a bigger change in my weight, health, and energy levels. I’m diabetic, but I still don’t eat in a way that addresses that properly. (I also think that setting this expectation is healthier for me than setting a specific weight goal.)
  • Learn JavaScript. I have a working (but not really proficient) knowledge of PHP that helps me in my line of work, but I have zero understanding of JavaScript and how it works or how to write anything with it. The future is going to slide even further towards things like single-page apps and more dynamic web interfaces. I believe I can succeed at this because it also has a passion project motivation, tied up in my last goal.
  • Be a positive force in the fighting game community. I’m leaving this goal super vague because I do not yet know how or if I will succeed, but I have already made some moves to try to accomplish things, ranked from easiest to accomplish to hardest:
    • I am going to play less and volunteer more at Combo Breaker in 2017. I do this because I had a fantastic time helping other people have a good experience, and because by helping more, I can learn things from the best. At least as a player, attending more than one major event a year is not feasible for me. I need to maximize my opportunity this year, and that means helping, listening, and learning.
    • The JavaScript passion project I spoke of above is learning to work with NodeCG next year and how to integrate it well with OBS for broadcasting. NodeCG has a lot of promise for applications in the FGC, and I’d like to explore that and maybe bring some new things to the streaming table.
    • The St. Louis FGC scene (well, the non-Smash part of it) ran into some rough days in late 2016. Earlier in the year, I had asked some people I trust about the scene, and to be frank, there weren’t too many good things said to me about the StL community in those conversations, and that’s a shame. I’d like to help make some positive change here. I am already sending out inquiries to find a suitable venue for a monthly, and I’ve been doing some work at leveling up my streaming chops to make sure I can present the St. Louis community well. I do not know if I’ll be successful, but at the very least, I can and will try.

That’s what I’m hoping for out of my upcoming year. All I can realistically plan for myself is to give it a shot and see what happens. I might fail. I might find more of my own shortcomings. And that would be OK.

If you see me talking about these things next year, nudge me and ask me how I’m doing. Or I might be asking you from time to time about these things to try to learn from you as I go.

Here’s to leveling up in 2017.

Step-By-Step Video Guide to Configuring a Tournament Setup PS4

For my stream tonight, I went over some basics for setting up a PS4 to be a fighting game tournament setup that doesn’t annoy with pop-up notifications and also makes it harder to do things like pause or take screenshots.

The video is less than 20 minutes long; if there is enough interest in it, I’ll do something that is more effectively edited and not full of my rambling while waiting for things to load and forgetting where some settings are.

Broadcast Graphics Example: The ESPN BottomLine

Since I have been thinking a bunch recently about broadcast graphics and best practices, I decided that it might be a good idea to take a look at some examples of television broadcasts and what they have established.

I’d written about this before, but it’s often the case that Twitch broadcasts don’t pay much attention to “broadcast safe” areas even though it’s true that many people now watch Twitch streams on televisions. TVs have to deal with the rather annoying but real matter of overscan. (I may write more about this later.)

Something specific that I use on my stream and I’d love to see more of on event streams—specifically fighting game tournament streams—is a ticker across the bottom of the screen. (I’m actively researching and hoping to build one.) ESPN has been using one for a long time. Here’s what I found when I took a look at it:

Screen Shot 2016-12-26 at 8.19.21 PM

I had to match them up by eye, and the screen capture isn’t an exact science, but I’m pretty sure they reserve the bottom 100 pixels of a 1080p signal for the ticker. The bottom 50 pixels receives absolutely no information; it’s just a grey stripe. This is “blank” because many televisions will not display this information at all due to overscan. The ticker information is placed within the next 50 pixels, and there’s even a bit more margin before the text baseline.

You can also see that there is a bounding line to the left, where they do not place any text information. That line is 84 pixels from the left of the frame.

It’s clear that if you want a fighting game to be broadcast safe, you will have to adjust at least the UI elements of the scene, if not the output of the console itself. As I mentioned in a tweet recently:

(There is even more information available in that thread talking about this, including the fact that Mortal Kombat’s meters are pushed way to the edge of the frame.)

As was pointed out to me on Twitter by @logichole, who has had some pretty great back-and-forths with me on this subject:

Is this something streamers should concern themselves with? Do we care if our broadcasts are being shown on televisions with overscan? Toss me a tweet reply or write up a post and let me know what you think.

 

How to Replace a Balltop

A super-quick, cheap, and easy-to-install method for adding some personalization to your fightstick is to replace the stock balltop with a different one, maybe of a different color or from a different manufacturer.

Parts Used in This How To

For this how to, we’re using a MadCatz TE2, which comes with a Sanwa JLF-TP-8YT lever as a stock part. Those levers come with an LB-35 balltop.

  • Sanwa LB-35 Balltop (35mm, yellow)
  • Seimitsu LB-39 Balltop (35mm, blue)

Any 35mm balltop will work when following this tutorial. This includes stock balltops from Sanwa and Seimitsu, as well as the stock balltop on the Hori Hayabusa lever, and many custom balltop replacements. (The vast majority of balltops you can buy are 35mm.)

Tools Used in This How To

  • Flathead screwdriver (the tool included with the TE2 counts)

How To Replace the Balltop

OK, first, open up your stick or otherwise get it to the point where you can get at the underside of the mounting panel. On the TE2, use the catch button at the front of the stick and swing the panel up.

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Turn the stick so you can access either side of the mounting panel at the same time.

With one hand (I’m left-handed), grab the balltop that’s currently installed.

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With your other hand, take the flathead screwdriver and insert it into the screwhead on the bottom side of the joystick lever. Hold the screwdriver head there so you can apply torque to the joystic shaft without it rotating entirely. (If you want to see what that looks like, just rotate the balltop without having the screwdriver in place.)

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Using one hand on the balltop and the other hand on the screwdriver handle, rotate the two so the balltop starts separating from the shaft. After a few rotations, it should look like this:

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Once you have removed the balltop, set it aside. To stop it from rolling around on your work surface, set it down with the screw mount flat on the surface.

Grab the new balltop you want to install, and reverse the process you used to remove the previous one. With one hand on the balltop and the other on the screwdriver handle, rotate the two so the new balltop tightens on the lever.

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Slowly but firmly continue to screw the balltop onto the mount until you feel resistance. Give it one last gentle tighten and you’re done. Remove the screwdriver from the bottom of the lever assembly and check to make sure the new balltop is flush with either the shaft itself or the shaft cover if your stick has one.

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You’re done! Close the stick up and give it a test. It should freely rotate in your hand without coming away from the shaft.

Reference Images for FGC Broadcast Graphics

I was messing around with doing some (very early) work with NodeCG tonight.

(It’s not going well so far, but that’s because I’m generally clueless.)

While doing this, I considered the idea of fighting game overlays that could be used with a “toggle” for whatever game is being played (or even key off an external API like Challonge). I then realized that it is really useful to have static reference images for various games to make sure you are not putting overlay images in bad places.

This has a lot of utility even for setting up OBS or Xsplit, because you can add the image as a background and then maneuver your layout stuff as you need to make sure you are not obscuring any screen items, especially meters.

I’ll put this behind a more link just so casual visitors to my site don’t get hit with OMG WALL OF IMAGES. If there is a game that is not represented here that you would like to see, or I have made a mistake, please drop me a note and let me know which one. I’ll see if I have it and can whip up some images for you.

All HUD elements are in default locations.

Click on any image to view as full-size.

You can also download a ZIP archive of all current screens. If you stream large events with regularity, please contact me and I can give you access to a Dropbox share of these images. If you want to know when I update the screens, you should follow me on Twitter.

Use the images to do cool things with your streams. :) If you find them helpful or useful, please consider dropping me a tip or just following my Twitch channel where I play games poorly.

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