Happy Prime Day!

So I had this notion that once I was finished with The Watchmaker, I’d try streaming again. My bandwidth circumstances have changed somewhat since my last attempt, and there’s a good chance that I could put together a stream with a decent framerate now.

But Twitch is owned by Amazon, and as luck would have it, there’s a pretty major Amazon strike/boycott going on right now. So my return to streaming is postponed.

Rather than clutter up this blog with more announcements, I suggest that anyone interested in seeing me stream subscribe to my Twitch channel, https://www.twitch.tv/muckenhoupt, and/or my Twitter feed, @CarlMuckenhoupt.

Farewell to Streaming

I did one more stream, this time playing Desktop Dungeons from the beginning. Why the switch? Partly because I figured the few people who watched were probably getting bored with Gearheads, but mainly because I wanted to see if the same problems would manifest. They did. My software reported that in excess of 98% of frames were being dropped.

So I’m thinking I’m giving up streaming, at least for a while. It’s not that the problems are unsolvable. It’s that they’re unsolvable without buying additional hardware, and that’s more than I’m willing to do on a lark. All the streams I’ve done so far have been from a 2015 Macbook Air, over wifi. “You fool,” shouts every streaming advice article on the ‘net, “you should never stream over wifi!” And I was all ready to hook the machine up to my router via ethernet, and was even pleased to discover that I had an ethernet cable long enough to reach from the router to my good streaming spot, but then I realized that a 2015 Macbook Air doesn’t have an ethernet port. Ethernet-to-USB adapters exist for this purpose, but that falls under “buying additional hardware”.

OK, so maybe I could stream from my desktop PC instead? I could stream a game, certainly, but this machine doesn’t have a camera, and it seems like watching the player’s face as they gurn and overemote is an essential part of the experience. I could buy a webcam, but again, that would be buying additional hardware. At this point I start getting clever and thinking: What if I hook up the laptop’s video output to the desktop machine? I’m pretty sure I have a video out adapter for the Macbook somewhere. That way I could use the laptop’s camera. I could even play the game entirely on the laptop but use the desktop machine for streaming — which sounds more efficient anyway, because that way the game and the streaming software aren’t competing for cycles. But you’ve probably already spotted the flaw in this plan: my PC has no video input.

Even if I fixed my hardware problems, my chief limitation is probably just the upload speed from my ISP. So I’m giving up, but I imagine I’ll have the means to do proper streaming at some point in the future. I mean, I didn’t get as close as I did on purpose. Laptops just happen to come with cameras now. Open-source streaming software exists. It’s kind of amazing how easy it’s gotten to do video broadcasts over the internet that fall just short of adequate.

As for Desktop Dungeons, I may get back into playing it. I still haven’t beaten the final dungeon.

Still Streaming Gearheads

I’ve done a second streaming session. I intend to keep doing these until I get it right, which I clearly haven’t yet. I managed to keep up the patter better than in my first session, and I managed to get all the way from level 1 of Gearheads level 24 in one go, but my changes to the OBS streaming settings seem to have made the lag/framerate problems worse, not better. I’ve looked at the resulting video, and it’s at the point where it’s best described using seconds per frame instead of frames per second.

Well, I have some more ideas to try, starting with reducing the resolution (default resolution is a waste for this game) and shutting down all other devices that use the Internet. One obvious thing that I actually mentioned on the stream is to switch from the Mac laptop I’ve been using to my more-powerful Windows desktop, but for whatever reason, DOSBox runs a lot better on the laptop. If I play from the desktop, improving the streaming won’t matter, because a stream that perfectly replicates what I’m seeing on my screen would still contain noticeable hitches.

In short, via streaming, I have managed to turn Gearheads into the sort of technical challenge that I’ve always found easier to blog about than game content. If you want to watch tonight, the URL is https://www.twitch.tv/muckenhoupt.

Gearheads: First Stream Report

So, I spent more or less a full day of tinkering with streaming software, gradually finding answers to questions like “How do I make the game fill the screen?” and “Why isn’t there any sound?” The software I used, OBS, is capable of recording video instead of (or in addition to) streaming it, so you can fiddle with settings until it’s right. Nonetheless, there seem to be some streaming-specific problems that you don’t get from a local recording. I set twitch to keep a recording of the stream, and the recording has problems with laggy pauses. It seems to me that they correspond to points where there’s a lot of sound. I’m trying fix that by following advice online, but the only way to know if it works is to do another stream. So there’s my motivation to do more streams right there.

I didn’t make any progress in the game. I got as far as that Disasteroid vs Cockroach level a few times while trying to set up the streaming software, but no further. During the stream itself, I decided to start Tournament Mode from level 1, so I didn’t get anywhere near there. Doing this reminded me of something I had forgotten: Every level you win gets you an extra life. So there’s a potential strategy of starting from level 1, where it’s easier, just to accumulate enough lives to get through the later levels. But you’d have to be a lot better at the game than me to apply this strategy. I’ve only made it as far as level 25 once, so any strategy that starts with “play all the way through level 25” is a no-go for the time being.

I didn’t really give advance notice of the first stream, because I didn’t want much of an audience for my first try, but I’ll probably be doing them daily at 6:00 PM Pacific time (9:00 Eastern, 2:00 AM UTC) for a little while, whether anyone watches or not.