Thoughts on Streaming, Twitch, and the XBox One

Twitch + XBox One

I’ve struggled a bit with the whole streaming thing. I was into it big time when I was writing for a site, doing game reviews. Streaming was a necessity and I had a schtick pattern to go along with the way I wrote reviews. But since moving on from there, I’ve barely logged into my Twitch account. Recently, however, I've re-engaged, and I've done so for one main reason: posterity.

A lot of time when I talk about a favorite game of mine to another person, I recall some sequence of events; a great pass in a racing game, a fluidly beautiful sequence of gun-ballet in Max Payne, a hilarious kill in Call of Duty. It is a lot easier these days to pass the person a URL and let them go watch the video themselves. For anyone who has peeked in on the entries I make in My Gaming Diary, a big part of what I am trying to do these days is just capture and remember what I have played. After 38 years of gaming, I hate the fact that I know there are games that I’ve played that I’ve just forgotten. Because I’ve never had cause or opportunity to talk to someone about them, or write about them. Appending video from my Twitch Stream is a bonus to cementing those memories with tangible representations.

Streaming is an art, with as much voodoo and mysticism as an episode of Constantine. And it is built on nascent technology, so there are a number of potholes to find and learn how to avoid. I ran into one such bugger earlier this week.

I was trying to stream Forza Motorsport 5 from my XBox One. My Twitch account was already attached. I normally like to just assume that Twitch is working. But on this night, I decided to double-check. Good thing, too. The XB1 was reporting that I was broadcasting, but on my PC, on my channel's page, observing as an anonymous user (not logged in to Twitch) my channel was saying that I was offline. A network problem? Or an XB1 problem? I checked all of my network cables and connections out to the Internet. Nothing there. I logged in to Twitch.

Still showed me as offline. I found some forum posts that talked about making sure that your device had been authorized to login on your Twitch channel. Yep mine was. I tried logging out and back in on the XBox and on my PC. I had my XB1 rigged to log into my old website’s Twitch channel before, so I double-checked to make sure that was no longer the case. While I appeared offline on Twitch, the channel had been updated with the title and game that I had entered on the XB1.

Finally I came across another forum post that talked about some people who had deauthorized their device for Twitch, logged back in on their XB1, and then re-authorized the box to access the Twitch stream. Much like them, this worked for me. Of course, every indication that I saw on the XB1 itself, had indicated that I was broadcasting.

Another nit that annoys me when streaming from the XB1 has to do with controlling the app:

  • the Twitch app Snaps, meaning that it gets docked on the right of your screen and takes up 20 – 25% of your visible real-estate
    • I hate that, especially when playing a racing game, so I tend to put the app off-screen and unsnap it. Even when unsnapped, it shows how many people are in your room in Forza 5 via a caption in the bottom center of your screen. Keeping an eye on this, it is easy to tell when someone has entered the room, and snap Twitch to check and see if anyone is writing in Chat, or put my headset on to see if anyone is talking
    • To snap and unsnap, though, is a double-tap of the XB home button on the controller. It is easy to double-tap and miss a tap and it not take, leaving you, unknowingly, on the screen you were already in. I did this twice while streaming, and so when I hit the next button, thinking I was back on the game screen but actually being on the Twitch panel, I shutdown my Broadcast and dropped 6 or 7 viewers from my room.

What I’ve learned out of this is to always, ALWAYS, verify that your stream is live and transmitting successfully. Had I raced Forza 5 for an hour and not captured any video, I would have been miffed. And how do I feel about streaming in general? I have these two concerns:

  1. I still like the idea of streaming, but I dislike the notion that streaming would dictate what I played. Right now, selecting the platform and then the title happen in that order for me, and whether I need to stream it or not is not a factor. But I am sure that it is for some people
  2. The other thing this surfaced for me, is the question of whether I’d like to get more gaming done, or continue dealing with some of the hiccups in Streaming? Part of me hopes that once I make one go-round of configuring and successfully recording or streaming on every device or workstation I run, it should be easy to maintain from that point. However, so far, I lose practical gaming time due to having to monkey around with the Streaming setup. I really like getting whole sessions up online so that I can view them later. I’m less concerned about gaining a huge following in my Twitch channel. Right now it is about ease of use and speed to gaming, and streaming eats into that efficiency wedge a bit.

So…how do you handle your streaming? Please post your feedback in the comments below. This article is only half-written until you guys flesh it out with your comments!

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