On backseat gaming and interactive media

I watch a lot of content from TotalBiscuit and he often complains about “backseat gaming” in the Twitch chat or on the sub-reddit. I don’t really think the term applies for interactive media. If we had no interaction, if people couldn’t give instructions to the person that’s doing something for the audience it would be the same as TV. People have to realize that if you don’t want to be interacted with, don’t stream/record.

One thing is being given instructions you don’t want to hear, another thing is being given instructions by someone who isn’t really part of the activity. If you wash your car you’re not doing it for the by-standers so some random guy has no “right” to pester you. If you’re working at a carwash you’ll just have to put up with people pestering you.

It seems like people want to have their cake and eat it too – have the engagement benefit and low investment of home-produced, interactive, online content, yet feel offended that people give them instructions. I absolutely get that it’s fucking annoying but it comes with the territory. You can’t expect people to only tell you what you want to hear.

The discussions have always been there, be it among friends, colleagues and so on. Even though actors, directors etc. could learn something they usually don’t read reviews or even watch their own stuff because it makes them too self-aware, so I suspect with streaming/Youtube you’re just too close to the discussion for almost any human to handle. It might be that streaming as we know it just isn’t viable for the people on camera in the long run unless they build a wall around themselves. Maybe only some of them will handle it and the rest will have lower viewership.

In the end I guess it’s an issue of phrasing. The person behind the content can’t expect the consumers not to discuss or voice their opinions about it, what they can do is set-up filters to protect their sanity. With TB, he uses sub-only chat which helps with that but the next step in his business is hiring a publicist to filter most lines of communication. For example during the podcast he could have moderators send him info about the technical stuff and maybe relevant topics while not reading chat himself. If you explain it correctly it will sound less hostile than shitting on Twitch chat or the subreddit in general🙂

On AOL shutting down Massively

As you probably know, AOL shut down several of their professional blog/news sites including Joystiq, WoW Insider and Massively. Early on last year Massively already took a big budget cut but as far as I know the views were up and they hadn’t expected it. There is already a Kickstarter by the former members of Massively, even though I have to say they offer nothing tangible and are doing pretty much the same thing they often ridiculed kickstarters for.

The main reason I’m writing this is an interesting post by my favourite grumpy MMO expert Jason Winter and what’s my point of view on the situation. So please read his article first.

Oh man, where do I start? News sites are absolutely obsolete – I have no reason to go to a site for a quote and a link to the press release when I can just go to the press release. I never liked news content because it’s pretty much the anchor throwing it to the reporter on the site throwing it to the source. It just doesn’t work when you’re already on the internet. What I mostly consume is op-ed content and interesting podcasts and if I want news I go to the source. MMO sites in particular live and die on the pre-release hype so they have to go from game to game to stay alive.

Concerning financing, written content has the disadvantage that the more it’s viewed the more you pay for hosting while video content is the opposite – the more it’s viewed the more you get paid. I have adblock turned off whenever possible but I hate any sudden noise without volume normalisation so I always block videos. What I do instead is use a second browser on mute and play playlists of what I like, without blocking. Then you have to consider the dipping CPM, for example Twitch used to pay a LOT more than they do now so streamers rely mostly on subscriptions and donations. So when I can I directly pay the people I like.

From what was said in the last Massively podcast it seemed like AOL had no idea how to run the business so they just cut the sites. I’m not sure who is at fault but I’ve notified Massively about NSFW ads on the site several times over the past years and still no change, hence why I kept blocking them:

http://sgreen.erne.co/creatives?id=0EKAuMM8bJPNKKRN7GM0

http://sgreen.erne.co/creatives?id=JrdOOVgmt0oW0SSdV5Bn

I also had to stop going to Gamebreaker because of all un-sourced clickbait nonsense, not to mention the budget issues they had (10k per month, salaries not included).

Or Team Liquid which is full of Asian wife ads and similar:

http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/simgad/16392494736435309716

http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/simgad/10179854136351606556

Which never happens to me on sites like Flight Rising. So yeah, Google and Twitch need to be doing a better job selling their audiences to fix the shitty CPM, stop taking 50% of subscription money from the little guys and actually invest the Amazon buy-out money back into Twitch instead of buying Good Game Agency that is openly making moves to create monopoly on the e-sports talent pool. Other than that the sites need to evolve, that’s for sure…

Roleplaying!

After watching several RollPlay shows I got back into roleplaying, this time online and in English. I probably have a ton more to say on this subject but recently Adam Koebel (the creator of Dungeon World) started a show with Steven Lumpkin (the GM on several RollPlay campaigns) so yet again I wrote some long-winded comments on the first episode. Here is the playlist, it’s a bit controversial but check it out even if you weren’t interested in my comments🙂.

Part 1/3

For me house-ruling is one of the main reasons I play PnP games. PC games are only as good as the coding is and often you have to make mods to fix what the developer did wrong – Neverwinter Nights was great for online RPing but balance-wise it was all over the place.

Playing PnP, if the group want a different angle, if some rule doesn’t make sense, you don’t need any coding skills to change it. All you need is the idea and that’s the beauty of it. For example I really like Apocalypse World so I’m working on a space ship add-on which would keep the original feel of the game.🙂

Part 2/3

I definitely think you’re having a ton of fun because RnD as a group works incredibly well, you take very little time to act and bounce off of each other’s actions.

Other than that my experience with Numenera is that it’s an interesting system where old technology is usually obscure and as such considered almost magic so you’re re-discovering the stuff and making use of the narrative implementations of Cyphers (I tend to avoid the “+2 damage on attack” stuff). It’s like “show me what you can do, be a MacGyver!”

Part 3/3

Concerning managing problem as the GM’s authority, I think you need to make the player/character distinction. If you have a problem player then it’s definitely your responsibility to deal with any kind of toxic behaviour, the same way an authority figure like a teacher needs to make sure a class is a good environment.

Some people don’t like conflict, for example after countless arguments with a dorm roommate instead of going into a fistfight or trying to get the authorities to resolve our problems I simply moved into a shared apartment, got a much better deal overall. In a campaign one toxic person could drive off several other people who didn’t feel like going to the GM with the problems, arguing during a session or trying to team up with other players. That’s the situation when you need to bring it up, you’re a moderator, you have the authority to kick people out.

If there is a problem character then it’s up to the other characters to deal with the situation. You just need to make sure to encourage people to do something that antagonistic even if it might cause conflict between the players. If the player behind a problem character has good intentions he will understand the reaction, that’s how you can tell a good player. For example I’ve frequently had problems with JP’s characters, on one hand there is Bubba, on other hand there is Duncan. If I was in a party with Duncan, I’d ditch him after the first adventure, if not earlier but the people on RollPlay probably wouldn’t do that because it would cause tension between the players.

Just remember the drama concerning LivinPink and how JP reacted to InControl doing what LP used to do all the time. I’m not saying it was good roleplaying from InControl, quite opposite considering a typical fantasy vernacular, but at that point I think a character conflict should reveal if it’s a well-played problem character or just a problem player. It’s the GM’s responsibility to bring up the question of character conflicts and player conflicts because it sets a tone for the campaign – for example look at Shadowrun.

Not a witch, bait and switch!

Here I go again, writing a Youtube comment to the new video by MrBtongue and ending up with a blog post.

 

While I agree that magic shouldn’t be completely predictable I hate it when any sort of plot hooks, sci-fi doodads and supernatural elements are overused to suddenly change to story. It’s like with a good detective story, you need to show the audience the truth, at least in some form, while hiding it just well enough to confuse us. Perfect examples are the Usual Suspects and Twelve Monkeys.

 

I haven’t read Game of Thrones but it seems really cheap in this aspect, he just makes up magic or creates characters whenever he needs them, making me care less because there is no finality, the plot can change at any point just because of new characters.

 

Concerning the popularity of magic and sci-fi, it’s mostly because publishers don’t want to risk original IPs. It’s easy to sell a shitty sci-fi flick with no resemblance to the source material if you market it to the fandom of the source. And to be frank almost all fantasy films I’ve seen are mediocre at best.

 

Probably the only good, traditional fantasy I’ve seen is Solomon Kane, other than that it’s fables (for example Pan’s Labyrinth, Hero, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) or comedies (Princess Bride, Stardust, Hansel & Gretel, Mummy). With sci-fi films it’s often the case of slapping some poorly thought-out elements on a mundane story (Divergent, Next, Avatar, Host, Source Code) or TV shows drawing us with an interesting premise and then completely failing to deliver anything but a soap opera (Falling Skies, Revolution, Outcasts, Terra Nova, 100, Continuum, Defiance, Defying Gravity).

 

In all honesty, sometimes I wish fantasy and sci-fi wasn’t so popular among the publishers, that way we could avoid having lunatics like Jar Jar Abrams devour our childhood memories of old sci-fi, turn hardcore source material into PG-13 pop culture piece or bastardize the source material in general, as it’s been for example with P.K. Dick’s works. Let’s hope it’s just a phase…

The Hunt for Pixels and Frames

I’ve been following the “next gen” debate for quite some time so in light of the prevailing resolution/FPS issues mentioned in a recent TB’s video I ended up writing something suitable for this blog.

 

Regarding framerate and input lag, not all people react to framerate the same way, it’s a about habits. For example progamers can get used to playing with bad ping, the problem is when they train with good ping and then have to play with high ping, vice versa, or the ping is inconsistent. Or a progamer who gets used to playing at 120FPS with a 120Hz monitor will have problems playing in tournaments on regular 60Hz monitors.

 

There also is the other side of input lag and that’s badly coded games. For example in Skyrim mouse look and aim speed are constant on the horizontal axis but the vertical axis speed depends on the framerate – next to a wall you camera goes flying up and down but when a dragon attacks you have trouble lifting your bow up fast enough. Some games would completely slow down depending on the framerate, for example Saint’s Row The Third went into Matrix mode at night on my old laptop because of low framerate.

 

Given the prevalence of 60Hz monitors it does make sense to aim for 60FPS as more simply wouldn’t be visible, other than that who would say no to more options? Various pre-sets should be available even on consoles, that’s pretty much a given. What happened with the new consoles is that some of the new games can’t even hit 30FPS at 1080p which is absolutely silly considering the image distortion during downscaling on LCDs and the fact that regular TVs have smaller resolution than some mobile devices – the pixel density on a TV is already extremely low, let alone having to run in lower than 1080p.

 

I’m a proud member of the PC Gaming Master Race so why am I commenting on this? For some time I felt a bit insulted by TB’s approach of “if it’s under 60FPS I don’t want to play it”, mainly as someone having to content himself with a mainstream laptop. I Remember taking a leap of faith to buy Guild Wars 2, starting it on a 5 years old laptop and being ecstatic how smooth it ran despite the 20FPS. But getting back to consoles I can tell you it’s not the hardware that’s slowing them down, it’s the optimisation and even the simple things like tweaking the graphics options.

 

The AMD APU has 8 computing threads running at much lower frequency (1,8GHz) while to this day most games run better at overclocked Intel CPUs with 2 or 4 cores – multi-threading optimisation is the first order of business. The GPU should be fast enough so it’s up to the developers to combine better efficiency (especially with the new OS consoles are using), better drivers, Mantle support and optimisation of individual games – god knows big publishers spend more than enough to make sure their games run well.

 

Right now we could write this off as growing pains of a new console generation, just look at the difference between Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, both developed for the PS3, it’s astonishing. Needless to say, if you’re selling new hardware with more than three times the computing power people expect the resolution and FPS to go up, not down.

A Whole Slew of Humble Bundles

In case you haven’t noticed the Humble Bundle store runs pretty sick pay what you want promotional bundles. As I go along I’m very likely to pick up one or two so I’m going to post any games I already have in here. If you claim one, maybe please leave a comment so that I know? Insert the code into the URL. Have fun and thanks!

https://www.humblebundle.com/gift?key=

Thomas Was Alone:

Claimed

Little Inferno:

Claimed

UPDATE: More games here:

Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians – Claimed

 xy2aW8vZhtc8BGFv

Tiny & Big in Grandpa’s Leftovers – Claimed

GVNErxwDAhqDeb5M

UPDATE 2:

What a sweet bundle right now (Humble Indie Bundle 12). Here is a game I already had:

Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine – claimed

CHHdTp3mtBrZqtcM

Receiver

SKub5b3eCuPfYpdZ

Tropico 3 – claimed

ZMrmuYtaeySTNKCk

UPDATE 3

Insurgency – (3 copies, same link)

gift=eZ2mfetKDaZqCywy

On Internet Speeds and Data Caps

As a first post I’d like to share my thoughts on an editorial from Super Bunnyhop (one of my favourite Youtube personalities):

 

The video is more like an introduction because it touches on too many different issues. The costs in Europe aren’t that low, you have to consider ping, throttling, reliability and so on. I’d say you can get a decent service for around 20 dollars but a lot of these deals are only for new customers while old customers are stuck with more expensive, slower plans and have to argue with the ISP to get a better deal.

To offer some perspective from a long time UPC customer (the Czech Republic):

New customers can get a 120/12Mbps connection for 42 USD per month (32 if signed for 12 months ahead) while old customers have 120/10Mbps connection for 50 USD. Or new customers can get 40/4Mbps for 32 USD (22 if you sign 12 months ahead) while old have 60/6Mbps for 32 USD.

While we rarely have any caps we do have FUPs (Fair User Policy) which often allow the ISP to throttle the connection if they think you’re transferring too much data. In general I’m actually absolutely for soft caps (not hard caps, mind you). Now more than ever we need the access to internet services with lower overhead costs but tiered additional cost for power users. You have a household of four power users? Don’t expect to pay the same amount as a household of one light user.

Please, start thinking about what you download, what you watch and how often. Sure the price needs to be more adequate than 10 dollars per 50 GB but this could be a good thing too because it should evolve into possible tiers for extreme power users like big Youtube personalities. The soft cap isn’t the villain here, it’s the market share and political pull ISPs like Comcast have, it’s the size of America and how worse the availability of ISPs and therefore the competition is than in Europe.

Are there no alternatives in your area? Then you have a huge market opportunity right there. You could look into the cost of setting up a similar internet service exactly where you live and then get actual information whether someone could put Comcast out of business. Also the difference between America and Europe is largely due to minimum and average wage, cost of living and general value of money. That’s why as a European I don’t like it when American online based businesses complain about their costs.

Either way, an interesting video (as always, Super Bunnyhop does great editorials), just don’t forget to consider the broader implications.