February 2019

Some folks have asked for updates on how I’m doing with some of my initiatives for the year as outlined in my birthday post, so if you are not interested in personal stuff, you can skip this post. :)

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fg-reference-screens Gets a Christmas 2018 Update

I pushed an update earlier today to fg-reference-screens, which is a repository of captures I have set up you can use to plan layouts for various fighting games by seeing how they will display without having to set up a capture.

I gave it an actual release at 1.0 this time. You can download the ZIP of the screens if you want or check out the repository at any time using the link above.

If you have a specific request I can fill, please file an issue against the repository and I’ll see what I can do as long as I have access to the game—I’m a few games behind in my collection at this point.

Here’s the change log for version 1.0:

* Update Street Fighter V to use Arcade Edition visual changes.
* Add Divekick.
* Add Dragonball FighterZ.
* Add Gang Beasts.
* Add Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2.
* Add Injustice 2. (Yes; I know the match screen is currently missing. Will update that later.)
* Add Lethal League.
* Add Nidhogg.
* Add Nidhogg 2.
* Add NitroPlus Blasterz Heroines Infinite Duel.
* Add Tekken 7.
* Add TowerFall Ascension.
* Add UNIST.
* Add Windjammers.

The next step for this repository is going to be adding some JSON bits to the various directories, so if you want to pull the screens into another application, you can read that data and use it for display.

Have a great Christmas!

Single-Bag Pack: WordCamp US 2018

I mentioned on a previous trip that I’ve entered the world of single-bag packing and thought I’d share it with you. I’ll also list what’s in my bag.

Here’s the almost-finished pack, only missing my laptop charger and toiletries:

This is pretty much everything I need for a four-day trip. My bag is a GoRuck GR1 26L. Inside the bag, from left:

Now, inside the Tacti-Tech organizer:

I just picked up this pouch recently, and so far, other than the fact that it doesn’t include its own MOLLE straps, I love it. In here:

  • An Analogue Super NT.
  • An OEM Super Nintendo controller, because I don’t have an 8bitdo SN30 yet, which I’d use for most casual play.
  • An AverMedia LiveGamer Portable 2. It’s getting a shakedown this weekend; haven’t used it yet. Won it in the staff raffle at last year’s Combo Breaker.
  • Various cables: one Apple Watch charger, one Lightning-to-USB cable, one Lightning-to-USB-C cable, a mini-USB charge cable, a USB 3DS charging cable, two USB-C to USB converter dongles, a 64GB SD card for the Super NT, and a USB key attached to this Tuxedo Mask lanyard. (I always bring my own lanyards to tech conferences, tournaments, and meetups because I like adding a personal touch.)

All told, the pack is moderately heavy, but it’s workable. I put my Kindle Paperwhite in the slash pocket on the front:

It doesn’t feel over-stuffed and I can just carry it with me during travel and not have to worry about anything. The only other thing I’m bringing is a light jacket, and that’s easily worn everywhere or waist-tied to keep it on my person. (That jacket is my original N7 hoodie from the Bioware Store, which is still the most comfortable light jacket I have ever worn.)

Extra Life Game Day 2018

When I’m streaming live, watch it embedded right here, or visit me on Twitch! Please consider donating to Extra Life by clicking here.

What Is It?

Extra Life is a fundraising program that benefits Children’s Miracle Network hospitals in many cities. Every year, they designate one day to be a 24-hour focus for these fundraising efforts, and participants are encouraged to livestream their games.

I’ll be doing so this year for the sixth year this upcoming Saturday, November 3rd. I’d like to invite you and many others to participate in this with me and support my fundraising efforts. Every dime raised is used for direct benefit to children’s hospitals in the St. Louis metropolitan area.

After a couple of years of being too optimistic with my goal, this year I’m making it more achievable. I’d like to raise $1,000 for these hospitals, and I’m going to need your help to do it. You can track how close we are right here:

What Will You Be Playing, and When?

I have a full schedule prepared for you. Until the marathon starts, it’s somewhat tentative, but most of it at this point should be correct. You can find the marathon schedule on horaro.org here.

I’ll be playing a mix of games from various consoles and eras, and for some content blocks, will be joined by family and friends. Please consider joining us and helping us raise money for charity!

How Can I Help?

The best way you can help is by making a donation directly to my fundraising effort. You can make your payment using a variety of methods here. All donations are fully tax-deductible, and all funds are given directly to the hospitals.

It’s also really helpful to me if you watch the stream on my Twitch channel or by using the player embedded above. More people watching helps people find my channel and can bring more interest to my fundraising stream—which can lead to more donations. You can also chat with me live using the chat box, but you’ll need a Twitch account to do so. If you have one or sign up for one, please chat a bit! I love interacting with viewers and talking with you about what’s going on.

I’d much rather you made a donation to the campaign itself, but if you want to donate something like a meal for me and my stream helpers or something to benefit stream quality (I’m in need of NodeCG help), please reach out to me directly. (These donations will *not* be tax-deductible.)

Anything Else?

Yep!

For the first time this year, any donation of $10 or more via my Extra Life fundraising campaign will be entered into a raffle for a prize. The prizes are detailed in the schedule for the event. The prize you’re entered for will depend on the block during which you donate; if you are hoping for a specific prize, make sure you donate during the appropriate block!

Some rules and disclosures regarding raffle prizes:

  • Donors are eligible for raffles by donating a minimum of $10 during the block for which a prize is offered. All raffles will be conducted off-stream after the event has concluded.
  • Raffle prize winners will be contacted via email.
  • Raffle prizes are subject to change or removal prior to the start of the event.
  • Prize winners located outside North America may be offered prize substitutions of equal value, depending on shipping or customs costs required.
  • Prize winners who do not wish to share their address for prize delivery purposes will be offered an alternate prize selection at the event’s discretion.
  • Family members of the streamer (me) and/or those people appearing on-camera during the event will not be eligible for prizes.
  • Donations prior to the start of the event will be eligible for the first prize in the schedule.
  • Any prizes that are unclaimed will be re-raffled to another donor from the same time block, or if no donors remain, the money for purchasing those prizes will be returned to the prizing sponsor.
  • Raffle prizes are courtesy a donation from Thrivent Financial and their Action Team program.

If you have any questions regarding prizing, please contact me and I’ll be happy to answer them for you.

Extra Life 2017 – A Change of Plans!

If you’d like to contribute regardless of what I’m doing, please donate here! Otherwise, read on for more information.

Hello, friends!

In most years, this is the post where I would tell you that I’m running my Extra Life marathon tomorrow, as that’s the assigned Game Day for the program.

However, I have outstanding commitments for the entire weekend that will prevent me from doing the Extra Life thing on the assigned day. So this year, I’ll be moving it around a bit and am also planning on doing more than one of these. I may not be able to do anything 24-hour based on my various commitments, but I’m looking at a handful of 12-hour-plus runs.

The first one of these is going to be on November 11th, and will start at 9:00 a.m. Central. I’ll be starting Super Mario Odyssey, and will take it as far as I can. I’ll stay on Super Mario Odyssey for the marathon series as long as people continue to donate – for every $5 donated to my Extra Life campaign, I’ll find one more moon in Odyssey, up to 100%ing the game before the end of the year.

You are guaranteed I’ll get the minimum number of moons for a game clear. Money donated will go to moons past the minimum.

I’ll post more information as we get closer to the marathon and will also post more regarding additional mini-marathon dates as they are going to happen. (Expect something around Destiny 2’s first DLC release.)

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.

Home Office 3.0-beta

The electrical work was finally completed on Saturday morning; I now have a second dedicated circuit as well as a cat6 dedicated run to the office. Once that stuff was in place, I was able to start moving things into the room proper and wiring everything up for the new environment.

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The electrical work was done by Jeff Foutch at Loco Electro, and for the most part it was a very pleasant experience and the work was well-done. The finishing in the room itself is great and the basement work is top-notch. He very clearly understood the correct way to route cat6 so it didn’t run into EFI problems with the power run, and secured the cables the correct way.

However, the process of getting it installed was needlessly destructive to the walls. They tore up a fairly large section of wall in the garage before finding it was in the wrong place and then having to move two studs over and do it again. And because my home has what was to them an unusually large gap between floors, they ended up having to cut into the ceiling as well.

My poor garage:

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And because of that same gap, they had to take a larger-than-I-would-like chunk out of the boys’ room as well, which because of the proximity to the baseboard, is going to be more problematic to repair than it should have been:

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My final opinion on his work is that he is an amazing electrician and the right one for the job (he even came in under bid) but I’m going to have to pay out more than I thought I would to fix the cutting into my home, and I can’t even get started with any of that until the electrical is inspected later this week. I’m disappointed in that aspect of the project. I blame part of it on the ridiculous construction of my home, which is probably fodder for a whole other post.

I would hire this out but I’m not even sure how much that would cost. (Read that as I’m dreading how much it’s going to cost.)

After another few hours of finding the right cables and trying to wire things up proper, I at least have the room in a condition where I can work, but it’s going to be another half-week at least before I can stream from it just because I need to wait for some different cable lengths.

The shelf of consoles is put together, but I haven’t hooked most of them up to power yet, and I need to get some more ethernet cables to hook them up without insane amounts of coiled cable everywhere.

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You can see that I had to finally upgrade to a 16-port switch there under the shelf. Really, after a couple of days of trying to get everything wired together, it’s close enough that I can see light at the end of this tunnel.

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(The PC is the big loser in the setup right now and the main reason I can’t stream yet.)

I even found a place for my 3DS and Vita charging cradles.

Now, I just need a longer power cable for the TV, one for the PC tower, and some various ethernet cables and USB runs. When I have everything together, I’ll try to remember to post about the connections and the various bits of hardware that come together to create my office environment.

I call this the “beta release” of the office because I can technically work out of it now but it’s not what I would call “complete.” Hoping for RC1 this weekend. :)

Previous office posts: 2.72.5hugs (2.0), 1.4, 1.3, 1.2, 1.1, 1.0, beta

Family-Friendly Twitch

I’ve been watching events and streams on Twitch for some time now, but it’s been during my sabbatical break from work that I’ve spent a decent bit more time paying attention to what’s out there and what people are streaming.

Because it’s my children’s summer vacation, they have often been sitting and watching with me, learning about games (especially the classics!) and just spending time with their dad while he has time away from work. And partially because of that, I’ve noticed something:

Twitch has a massive outbreak of foul language on an awful lot of streams. And it makes the service and consequently the watching of games as a leisure activity for kids something difficult to recommend as a result.

When I stream, I do what I can to make sure my part of the stream is family-friendly. No swearing, no inappropriate references, nothing that would make me embarrassed to have my own kids watching the stream.

I decided to do this not only because of my own family, but also because of BigJon, who is currently my only Twitch subscription because his content is always family-friendly and his speed runs are a huge hit with my kids. His dedication to being family-friendly and keeping drama out of chat is a big inspiration to how I approach streaming.

GameJ06, aka BigJon, probably the most notable specifically family-friendly streamer on Twitch.

GameJ06, aka BigJon, probably the most notable specifically family-friendly streamer on Twitch.

A Hard Call?

I know it’s hard to find what that line is when trying to determine “family-friendly.” (For instance, what to do when I’m playing a game that has non-ff content in it, even though my own language and conduct would be family-friendly?)

But I’d love to see Twitch streamers change it up a bit and realize that we aren’t going to be able to inspire the next generation of speed runners, fighting game aficionados, or modders without providing them with streams they can watch with their parents and siblings.

My kids are heavily-influenced by the streams I watch. Because of BigJon, my autistic son is now super-into The Lost Levels. Because of things like Games Done Quick and Evo, which keep their commentary family-friendly (I think) on purpose, my oldest son has purchased Virtual Console copies of Super Mario Bros. and Mega Man. My daughter picks up the arcade stick once in a while and tries to learn Ultra Street Fighter IV and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.

(Specific props to FGC commentators like James Chen, David Graham, Seth Killian, and skisonic, about whom I’ve noticed a tendency to keep the language clean even when crazy things are going down.)

There are lots of things I just won’t watch with my kids because the language is just too over-the-top–and I suspect it’s likely it limits the potential audience for lots of content. Several Mega Man X runners I respect otherwise are fountains of cursing. A runner I was going to watch who is playing through the entire NES catalog had to be turned off because the first sentence after I loaded the stream had two f-bombs in it.

I’m not anti-swearing. I think there’s a time and a place for it. But it doesn’t need to be in streams, and I want to think we can carve out a safe space for kids and families to be watching this content to engage and interest new generations in the games we love. (Not to mention the fact that it could have a significant halo effect in making the communities around these things friendlier to more people in-person.)

Teaming Up

I’d love to create a Twitch team that embraces the concept of family-friendly streaming. To find like-minded people and give them a place where families who want to watch together can find streams that would be language-free, non-discriminatory, non-sexual, etc.

Of course, there are problems with this, not the least of which reason is that I can’t create a team because I’m not streaming enough to build the audience one needs to be partnered (though time, we have time). :)

But there are other things to consider. What if I want to stream a Saints Row game (which is decidedly not kid-friendly) late at night my time, but I’m on the list and there are people either with kids up late or in a different time zone? How would you handle that? Splitting a stream into two streams isn’t always the solution to the problem because then partners wouldn’t get the full attention necessary.

And there’s the added problem that the non-web apps don’t support the team structure or (I believe) the mature flag on streams. (Thinking that members of the team could set the flag if they are streaming something not-appropriate.)

This is mostly thinking out loud, but it’s an interesting problem to consider.

So What Then?

In the meantime, I think the best thing I (and you, if you are interested) as a streamer can do is just make sure that I do what I can to keep my conduct family-friendly. If I’m playing a game that’s not, I can either turn on the mature flag or depend on viewers to know that what I’m playing doesn’t lie in that spectrum (and play later at night, of course).

I’m interested in your thoughts. What do you think about how family-friendly (or not) video game streaming is? Do you keep your stream that way on purpose? Do you think streamers shouldn’t care? Do you know of streams that are friendly that you’d like others to know about? Do you think this is important to growing the audience for this type of content?

Leave a comment on the post (all comments are moderated) with your musings.

YouTube Gaming: Shots Fired

YouTube came out swinging as part of the pre-E3 hype train today, announcing through a series of tweets and some PR pushed to gaming sites that they are launching YouTube Gaming this summer:

Is it a big market? You betcha. Just look at Twitch’s own data regarding their audience reach in this post recapping their 2014. 100 million unique monthly viewers is nothing to sneeze at. And 1.5 million unique broadcasters. There’s ad dollars in them thar hills.

There’s a post on Polygon that’s largely regurgitated PR-speak, but it includes most of the information you need to know about the service. The last paragraph hits what YouTube thinks is their main competitive angle here:

Product manager Barbara Macdonald showed off YouTube’s improvements for livestreamers at today’s event, walking attendees through the streamlined process that only requires a few clicks to set up. YouTube Gaming will let streamers enable DVR so viewers can rewind live broadcasts, and a new low latency streaming option will let streamers “really interact with [their] fans while gaming.” Macdonald also promised improvements to chat moderation, something she’d said users had been requesting.

As a pretty infrequent and not horribly successful streamer on Twitch, here are some brief thoughts on the upcoming competition. (YouTube Gaming doesn’t launch until “summer.”)

The Twitch Advantage

Twitch has a huge head start and a dedicated vertical audience. And they have done some things very, very well:

  • They have a fairly robust app ecosystem that encompasses not just iOS and Android but also consoles and some set-top boxes. It’s pretty easy to consume Twitch content.
  • It’s also very easy to stream with Twitch, with support being built in to some games now and both the Xbox One and Playstation 4 having support for streaming built in at the OS layer. There are multiple app choices on PC/Mac for streaming to the platform, as well.
  • They have a chat and streamer community that (at least so far) isn’t overly toxic and tends to be pretty positive.
  • They have a great API and other aspects of the service (like chat operating over IRC) that give them a pretty broad support base within the developer community.
  • They make it pretty easy to find other content that you are interested in, either through game listings, channel hosting (where someone you watch can “host” someone else’s stream to boost their reach), and a featured channels list that is fairly well-curated.
  • They dogfood their own service and host various programs of their own—and a lot of their staff have been hired from within the community itself.
  • Major gaming events are almost exclusively streamed on Twitch.

They also have been doing what they can to improve things recently, with changes like reduced video latency to make it easier to interact with the chat channel, and the addition of more features to their mobile apps, which have been okay-but-not-great for a while now.

YouTube’s Potential Supremacy

YouTube has some potential to shake things up, though. Here’s what they need to do to snag significant numbers of audience and streamers from Twitch:

  • Good integration with their existing device app ecosystem (like on consoles or Apple TV).
  • An amazing mobile and tablet app that just smokes everything Twitch offers right now—which according to the language in their press so far, sounds like it’s a priority.
  • Low chat latency and the ability for users to write bots and other community tools that interface with things like follows, subscriptions, etc.
  • Moderation tools that don’t horribly suck for dealing with their notoriously toxic community.
  • Better console and app support for people who want to start streaming to their service.
  • Analytics and monetization tools that are easy-to-use and available to everyone using the platform. This is where they can hit Twitch the hardest. Twitch requires you to be selected as a Partner before you are able to make money off your stream or get good insights into your numbers. It’s kept the subscription-enabled streams at a pretty high quality, but if there’s a gold rush to YouTube the numbers will suffer.
  • Hiring of people within the community to represent streamers and viewers and be enabled and encouraged to participate in that same community as part of their jobs. Based on some other tweets from today, it sounds like they are indeed doing this.

YouTube’s biggest problem is just going to be making this a vertical that gets the right amount of attention and focus, while enabling content creators to moderate their communities to keep the toxicity at a minimum.

If they spend the correct amount of time and money on this product, I think they will have a success on their hands. And I think the best-case scenario is YouTube growing the overall game streaming community, not stealing numbers from Twitch. Competition is good!

The best response to this announcement came from Twitch’s Twitter account, by the way:

And poor Hitbox is just kind of over in their own little corner, neither being noticed nor making much noise.