Jiangshi Finally

Destiny 2_20171017212806

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One of the issues with Destiny 2 is what I have called the progression problem.  I am stuck in a gravity well right now and finding it impossible to get out of it.  I’ve been sitting at 304 for two weeks now and once again the Tuesday reset has come and given me no forward momentum to break free.  In there were I raiding or doing the nightfall on a regular basis I would be opening up more chances to get unstuck.  However if you are not doing raid, trials or nightfall…  essentially you have three milestones each week to have a shot of improving your overall power level.  Last night I streamed for the first time in a very long time, and on Twitch no less…  so you can in theory see the entire journey of what I do on each character every week.  Unfortunately I got two sets of arms and a chestpiece, all of which armor slots that I already had and also as a result…  I am no closer to 305 than I was at the start of the evening.  Right now I am down to needing helm, boots and class item and unfortunately Destiny 2 doesn’t really give me any options to do some activity that targets those specific slots.  I need to try to get the Nightfall in this week for no reason other than it offers a few more chances at getting some progress.

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To add insult to injury I got nothing really from the Cayde-6 chests including one of them literally dropping nothing at all.  Bungie is apparently still tracking down this bug so I fired off a few responses to them stating what I did.  I literally landed on the planet Titan and started chasing chests, with the 3rd chest I opened in a row producing no results.  I am sure this is some sort of anti-chest farming routine that takes away rewards if you open too many chests in too short of time.  The thing is… do we really need this?  What are they trying to prevent, given that there is no actual economy in this game to protect?  This honestly feels less like protection and more like purposeful throttling of the player base, which is sort of the theme I keep feeling with them tamping down the number of sources we can use to improve our power level.  I am wondering if post TwitchCon this weekend things might loosen up a bit.  My working theory is that they are trying to keep the console community strung along until the PC release happens…  that way they do not have to maintain two vastly different release schedules.  As a result I have this feeling that the PC time table will be accelerated in an attempt to get the two platforms back in synchronization.

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Yesterday I talked a bit about chasing some of the rarer drops from the Gunsmith and one in particular… the Jiangshi AR4 by Omolon.  Other than the fun hanging out while streaming…  last night was a bit of a bummer because it meant that I felt like I made no progress.  As I was winding down the evening… I opted to spend down my Gunsmith packages a bit and much to my shock finally got the weapon I had been questing for.  Granted I am still looking for the Frontier Justice Hakke Scout Rifle… but that is a mission for another day.  I played with this weapon quite a bit in the crucible as I started the weekly grind process on my hunter… and other than the fact that it needs some infusion fuel…  it is so damned good.  I had latched onto Uriel’s Gift and generally use that weapon, but the Jiangshi is also extremely fun and probably going to get some rotation along with The Number.  The big thing this weapon has going for it is the stability and the big strike against it…  it lacks Uriel’s overpower High-Caliber rounds.  I have a feeling that post TwitchCon there is going to be a massive nerf of High-Caliber rounds and as a result the other weapons that are not Uriel’s Gift are going to start to shine a bit more.  I would love to stream more often because I had a lot of fun last night, but not even sure when I would make it happen on a regular basis.

Darkest Dungeon

Twitch and Hitbox

Yesterday was a bit of a strange day in that I recorded two different podcasts that were not AggroChat on the same day.  Early in the day I recorded another episode of Bel Folks Stuff, that was completely on the spur of the moment since I was off for Good Friday.  Right now I am tenantively planning on releasing this on Wednesday.  Then in the evening I guested on an episode of the Multiplaying podcast.  While talking on that podcast or actually I think during the “after party” we were talking about Twitch and Hitbox.  During yesterday morning I did my first real test of using JoiCaster to stream to both Hitbox and Twitch at the same time.  Other than some technical difficulties it largely worked and I was able to produce a video of myself playing Darkest Dungeon.

The problem is that I had like five times the number of people watching the twitch stream as I did the hitbox stream at the same time.  So much so that I stopped watching the chat on Hitbox and wound up missing a few comments.  Last night I realized something, that my love of Hitbox is somewhat clouding my judgment.  Me trying to make that happen is kind of like trying to make MySpace happen because you happened to like this or that feature better than Facebook.  At this point Twitch is ubiquitous, everyone has an account and it is widely supported by lots of third party sites.  There are several things about Hitbox that just feel better, but there just aren’t the number of people there that there are on Twitch.  In theory I think I am going to abandon this whole multi-streaming thing and just stick with Twitch from this point on.  It pains me to say it, but Hitbox as cool as it might be… is just too late to the party.

Darkest Dungeon

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As we announced last week during the AggroChat episode, this month I chose Darkest Dungeon as my round robin pick for the game club.  This is one of those games that I have seen circulating in among my friends but I largely avoided it, so that I could go into it fresh as a game club pick.  Yesterday I played it for the first time, in the block above you can see the result of my stream.  I have to say even though the game is pretty unforgiving… I am really enjoying the hell out of it.  At its core it is a rogue like RPG dungeon crawler, with a really awesome woodcut art style… and an interesting sanity mechanic.  So in part it feels a bit like playing Call of Cthulhu.  Everything seems to have a chance of effecting your sanity, and when your characters get too stressed a saving throw is triggered.  If they succeed this internal roll they gain a positive trait, and if they fail it… they gain a negative trait.

darkest 2015-04-04 09-20-40-67 The cool thing is… these are not just passive debuffs but they actively change the way the character starts interacting.  For example in the above play session my Vestal gained the “greedy” negative trait… which oddly enough made her far more blood thirsty in combat.  There were a number of times where she just attacked without my say.  This morning when playing the game a bit one of my highwaymen got the fearful trait causing him to periodically retreat to the back of the pack, changing what abilities you could actually use to attack with.  The only real negative so far is that “the only way out is through” meaning once you start a mission it seems like the only way to leave the mission is to either finish it successfully… or kill off your party.  The positive there is that party members are roughly as disposable as they are in Rogue Legacy.  There are always fresh recruits available through the wagon in camp.  At this point I have lost one entire party… and a few single characters here and there and it feels like I am still making forward momentum.  I feel like this game is going to generate some interesting conversation at the end of the month.

Alligator Pears

ffxiv 2015-04-04 10-05-39-77 Yesterday was a very strange day for me, largely because I was trying not to get too terribly involved in anything.  With the two podcasts, and not really knowing the scheduling of the second one I stayed out of the mix for most things.  This means that the vast majority of my time online was spent working on Botany.  At this point I have managed to take it to level 35 which is the beginning of the more grindy levels.  Thankfully I have for the most part a full allotment of leve quests to get me through them.   Working on harvesting has become my “during podcasts” activity, because it is slow paced and proding and does not require much attention.  So while recording both Bel Folks Stuff and Multiplaying I slowly worked my way through harvesting a ton of stuff…  namely Alligator pears.  I am not sure exactly what they are… but I certainly did manage to gather a dozen stacks of them.  In truth I kind of expect they would look a bit like an avocado in real life.

Now I need to figure out what item I need for my level 40 Botany quest and start collecting that.  So far that has been how I have leveled, I focus fire whatever item I need for the next quest and then when I collect enough of those I start doing Levequests.  Botany seems so much more peaceful than mining was, and I guess it is in part because it almost exclusively takes place in the games extremely beautiful forest areas.  There is just something relaxing about walking around, listening to the music and chopping down trees.  Today however I really need to spend some time working on getting actual content in that can earn me poetics.  I did take a break from the harvesting for awhile yesterday to run some new folks through Tam-Tara Deepcroft.  Tanking low level content is always enjoyable, and it gives me a chance to break out my sword and board and paladin it up.  The constant trickle of new players still manages to floor me, but everyone seems happy and well adjusted which makes me happy in turn.

#FFXIV #DarkestDungeon #Twitch

So You Want to Stream

Why I Stream?

This morning I found myself sitting here at the computer struggling to come up with a topic that I felt was worth writing about.  For the last several days I have been kicking around the notion of trying to do a very basic streaming guide, but really like everything I do… I don’t actually feel like I know what I am doing.  When I decided to start streaming on a whim a few months back, I had to pretty much figure everything out from scratch.  Thanks to lots of Google searches I managed to cobble together just enough information to do a passable job.  I am far from a streaming celebrity, and to be truthful no one actually watches my stream all that often.  I am happy to have a single other person in twitch chat with me.

So you might ask me then, why do I even bother streaming?  Honestly I am not really sure but it just seems fun to me.  There is something neat about showing the world what you are doing, and in some aspect that’s why we do any of this.  At least at a base level we blog, podcast, YouTube and stream all to share our lives with the world.  When I decided to start streaming I set up a structure on our guild voice server.  I created a channel called “Bel is Streaming”, and the basic idea was that if I was streaming I would join the channel and folks could pop in and chat with me… thereby making the entire feed seem more interesting.  This has worked pretty well, and on many evenings most of the people in channel are not even playing what I happen to be playing.

As a side note… I would not have had the courage to start the Aggrochat Podcast were it not for these streams.  For years I have said that we should be recording our mumble conversations… because some of the topics we end up delving into are really awesome.  It was while listening to one of these game streams one day at while working that I realized our nightly conversations sounded quite a bit like an impromptu podcast.  A few weeks later I was pulling together some of the regular members of these nightly discussions and AggroChat was born.  So if nothing else my piddling around with game streaming has had a mostly positive effect.   As to why I do it..  I am still trying to figure that one out.

Getting Started

The first thing you need to start streaming, is an account on a streaming provider.  The defacto industry leader right now is Twitch.tv which is the gaming offshoot of Justin.tv.  This is what I use personally but I have been hearing some really good things about Hitbox.tv for those who are wanting to use something different.  For the purpose of this guide we are going to primarily talk about what I use which is Twitch.  When you initially sign up, your username will be the default channel name for your stream.  However you can go into settings and change the Display name property to switch this up.  Basically I would suggest that you pick something simple and relatable to your blog or other social media efforts.  I am a simple monkey, so I try and pick /Belghast on all of the things unless it is already taken.

Moving forward what you really want from the twitch website can be found on the Dashboard.  You want to copy to a notepad document (or anywhere else you will remember it) the long string found on the Stream Key tab of the dashboard.  You will end up using this from that point on in any third party software to let you stream to your channel.  Another setting you might want to fiddle with while you are in the Twitch interface can be found on the Channel Settings page.  I highly suggest you toggle on the “Automatically archive my broadcasts” checkbox, because this opens up a whole world of options.  Firstly there will be folks that hit your page because it is “YOUR” page… not necessarily because you happen to be streaming something at the time.    Checking this box means that anything you broadcast will show up under the “Past Broadcasts” tab inside of your twitch profile.

The other cool thing this does for you, is that you can export directly from Twitch to YouTube.  Ultimately this is how I record anything that ends up on my YouTube channel.  I like keeping things simple, and being able to export directly without having to fiddling with the YouTube interface is a huge win to me.  The twitch interface is actually rather robust and it allows you to export individual segments of your video to YouTube, as well as having a default functionality to split videos into fifteen minute chunks.  By default YouTube will only allow you to upload videos that long until you have gone through the process of verifying your account…  which is an entirely different topic for a different day.  I am by no means “good at YouTube” but I do a passing job at having a channel.

You Need Some Software

Now in order to get your video stream to twitch.tv you are going to need some software.  I know absolutely nothing about Mac gaming…  so if you fall into this category, I am sorry this guide is going to leave you in the cold.  I am a PC gamer and as such only really experienced with PC configurations.  The Twitch broadcast page has a bunch of different options, and I am assuming that one or more of them can run on a Mac.  The “Gold Standard” in streaming seems to be Xsplit, as that is really what all the professional streamers seem to use.  However, to get the most out of it… it is a yearly subscription service.  I am totally fine with using the “Bronze Standard” in streaming software… because I am cheap.  That honor seems to fall to Open Broadcast Software or OBS, a very solid open source alternative to Xsplit.  Basically you have to ask yourself what your level of comfort is with software in general.  If you truly dislike fiddling with things until they work… save yourself some headache and pay for Xsplit.  If you are like me and are willing to scour internet forums for information to save some money… then OBS should work well for you.

image This is what my OBS configuration looks like.  The software is arranged into a few basic concepts.  Scenes can be thought of as a “screen setup” that you plan on broadcasting to the world.  I have one set up for each game that I happen to be playing, as well as a generic “Thanks”, “AFK” and “Pre-stream screen”.  You can swap back and forth between these rapidly from within the software, so it is completely to personal taste how many you configure.  You are going to need at least one scene to be able to broadcast anything to the world.  The next concept is Sources… these are essentially things you want to place on screen at the same time.  One of these will be your video game feed, then a lot of streamers include a feed from their web cam and various image overlays.  You can use ANY transparent image, and overlay it on your video.

I personally keep things pretty simple, my personal preference is that I have an image in the top left corner identifying what game I happen to be streaming at a glance.  I find this important since sometimes it takes a time or two for twitch to actually update your stream title and game you are playing.  Additionally I have a “Tales of the Aggronaut” image that floats on screen… that I use for a pretty simple purpose, to cover up the majority of my chat box.  Not that I do anything super secretive in game, but I would prefer to guard anyone’s account information that might happen to be sending me a message for guild business.  Not that I have a lot of followers, but I don’t want to just assume that everyone I deal with in the games wants their information broadcast on the internet.  The floating image does a nice job of obfuscating the text but at the same time advertising my blog and providing my twitter information.

For the purpose of this setup, the most important thing that you add is a “Game Capture” source.  This will ask you to name the source, which can be anything that makes sense to you.  Next you will get a drop down of every active application on your system.  In this case you would choose whatever game you are wanting to stream.  On this same screen there is a “stretch image to screen” check box and generally I would suggest doing this.  This is going to be important for most Indie games especially since the resolution may not be the actual resolution you happen to be streaming.  I personally stream everything 1080p, but a lot of streamers drop down to 720p for the purpose of compatibility.  I can’t stand to play games at that low of resolution, so I have not really figured out a viable way to play at 1080p but have something scale me down to 720p without the stream looking like crap.

image At this point you want to preview your new Scene by hitting the “Preview Stream” button.  You should in theory see your game image coming through in the little window inside of OBS.  If you see nothing but a black screen… now begins the “fiddly portion”.  OBS generally seems to work best when playing a game in “Fullscreen Windowed” mode.  There are a few exceptions to this rule, but in theory you will want to configure your game to run in that mode if at all possible.  Black screen means you are not getting a feed of video from the game.  There are also options for “Window Capture” and “Monitor Capture”, but those are more thermonuclear.  If you choose to broadcast your Monitor, it will literally broadcast everything that comes across your monitor even stuff you don’t necessarily want to broadcast.  I suggest only ever doing that if you happen to have a multiple monitor setup.  Window Capture in general seems a little flaky, but right now I am having to use that for ArcheAge to get it to work well.

The Super Technical Bits

Now comes the hardest part of the setup, and the one I cannot give you any “firm” answers for.  There are a few settings that you need to configure based on your internet connection.  If you are not comfortable with thinking of things in terms of kilobits per second aka kbps…  then you are likely going to find this bit frustrating.  There are essentially two schools of thought here, the super technical is to go through a process of figuring out exactly what your connection will support and assigning the values accordingly.  The second school of thought is to try 2000, and if that doesn’t work smoothly… try 1500.  I am going to actually cover the technical aspects, because the trial and error method is exactly that.

image Inside of OBS settings, there is the encoding tab, and more than anything else this tab dictates how smooth your stream looks.  For the most part everyone should be using the x264 encoder.  I did some tests with the Nvidia NVENC encoder, and the end results looked horrible.  It greatly reduced the system requirements of doing the encoding, the end result was a choppy and blocky mess.  Use CBR should also be checked as well as the CBR padding.  This means it is going to try its best to keep your stream at a constant bit rate, which should go a lot way to preventing stutters and stops.  The Audio settings should for the most part work for everyone as well.  The piece that is going to be unique however will be Max Bitrate and Buffer Size.  I personally like having a buffer a little bit larger than my Max Bitrate for extra padding and hopefully extra stability, however for most individuals they set these values to the exact same thing.

The above image is a test of my internet connection this morning while working on this post.  I will be using it as an example, but ultimately you are going to want to test your own line… because quite frankly my connection is way faster than most internet connections.  There are many testing providers out there but for this example I am using Speedtest.net just hit “Begin Test” and you should see your own results shortly.  This tester ends up giving us our speed in mbps, which is fine but for the purpose of the tool that estimates what these settings should be in OBS, we are going to want kbps.  This is simply a case of taking your mbps value, in this case 22.82 and multiplying it by 1024 the number of kb in a mb.  The end result in my case is 23367.68 kbps and then I take that number and dump it into the OBS estimator.  In my case it suggests that I set my max bitrate to 3500 and my buffer size to 3500 as well.  I however did not want my stream ever to take up my entire pipe so I dialed those back to the settings I actually use.

Hooking it to Twitch

image Now that we have our encoding configured, it is time to actually hook the thing to Twitch.tv and see what happens.  Remember that stream key I asked you to copy out to a notepad document?  This is the point where you actually need it.  This is what twitch uses instead of a username/password authentication scheme to allow someone to broadcast to your channel.  Guard this with your life… or at least take some precautions because with this key anyone can use your channel.  You want to set the mode to “Live Stream” and since we are going to be piping our output to Twitch, you want to select the “Twitch / Justin.tv” option from the streaming service drop down box.  The next setting is pretty important, for Server you want to select the closest location geographically.  I live in the Tulsa, OK area so for me I choose “US Central: Dallas, TX” and it works pretty smoothly.  Finally you want to paste your stream key in the “Play Path/Stream Key (if any):” box.  If you did not copy this down earlier you can retrieve it from the “Stream Key” tab of your Dashboard.

Test That Puppy Out


If you did all of the things above, now you should be able to click the “Start Streaming” button and be off and running.  Some things to make sure before you do this.  Firstly make sure the game you are wanting to stream is running in the background and preferably running “Fullscreen Windowed” mode or whatever the equivalent is in that game.  Secondly make sure you have the correct scene selected inside of OBS.  Lastly I highly suggest you decouple your twitch account from your twitter account for the purpose of testing.  Otherwise every time you press that start stream button you are going to be spamming the hell out of your twitter friends.  In theory you should be able to open your twitch stream and see the output of your game on the screen.  But before you do it… there is one last thing.

image Make sure your stream is actually showing the correct game being played and the title you wish it to show.  I have had more issue with this one than anything else, and now I load my profile three times in a row just to make sure the edit took.  Initially it seems like the first edit NEVER takes.  When when I reload my stream I have to log back in and change it again, and sometimes it doesn’t actually take until I do it a third time.  I wish there was a way to set this inside of OBS, but as far as I know you have to keep logging into the Twitch website to set it up.  The only reason why this is important is because it will broadcast to people browsing the twitch interface that you are playing a specific game, and in theory you want it to be the right one.  At this point… press the start button, cross your fingers and hopefully you are live to the world.  If not… it is time to hit Google and figure out why exactly a given game isn’t working with this setup.  I am by no means an expert, but hopefully this guide will be useful to at least some of you.