Posts

I want to be a reason other people are happy

I like to introspect. Lately I’ve been fascinated by figuring out my own drive and motivation in life. I’ve come to find that, primarily, I want to be a reason other people are happy. This ties so deeply and profoundly into my psyche that I used to feel guilty or sad when the opposite was true: when I am happy because of someone else. But when I make others happy, that in turn makes me happy too. I crave that vicarious enjoyment, that empathetic feeling of giving someone else a positive experience and knowing that they like it. It makes me happy to make others happy.

When I was younger, I used to play video games by myself. Sometimes family would watch, usually my younger sister, but in general I was content to just play by myself. Something changed when I started doing YouTube. I stopped playing games entirely, unless I was recording them with the intention to upload and publish. I’ve heard other YouTubers talk about this experience happening to them too, and like me, they describe i…

How to livestream to Twitch and YouTube at the same time using ffmpeg and OBS Studio on a single Windows or Linux computer

I'm a big fan of OBS Studio, and I've recently started learning how to use ffmpeg for transcoding and remuxing my videos. One thing that has bugged me is that current versions of OBS Studio can only stream to one streaming service at a time (one RTMP server). There are services like restream.io that get around this, but you're basically paying them for a little bit of CPU/GPU time and some added latency to your stream, and maybe only getting combined chat in return.

Well, it just so happens that with a single ffmpeg command line invocation, you can output to multiple files and streaming services at once with very little overhead. Another benefit of ffmpeg over OBS Studio is that it supports more encoders such as hevc_amf which is the hardware H.265 encoder for AMD video cards. OBS Studio currently only supports h264_amf via the Advanced output mode. Strangely, OBS Studio has an included version of ffmpeg but the list of encoders it has does not include any AMD encoders, on…

Why I prefer minimalist art styles in games

Image
I'm a big fan of minimalist art styles in games - simple lines and shapes, dashes of color, the occasional complex geometry, etc. I like the way it looks, but there's more to an art style than just the way it looks.
Games have had a long history of trying to mimic reality, especially big-budget games made by large companies for mass audiences. It can be impressive to see how far technology has come, but basing games in realistic worlds runs counter to game design. Real life has a lot of limitations, and games based on real life have to devote a lot of effort to explaining why you can do things that can't be done in real life, or they blatantly ignore such conflicts and go for the "it's just game logic" option. Whether or not you care about immersion, this is a problem that wouldn't exist if the game wasn't based in reality.
Some games are quite clever with how they dodge bullets - they set themselves in futuristic settings, or make magic real. While t…

What makes puzzle platformers challenging? What makes them good?

Image
I'm a big fan of puzzle platformers - games like Portal 1 and 2, The Talos Principle, The Swapper, etc. - and I've logged many dozens of hours playing such games, mostly due to community-made puzzles. In fact, I've played over 500 community maps for Portal 2, and I've learned quite a bit along the way. Someone asked me an interesting question that really got me thinking:
When do elements that are individually passable become insurmountable or too convoluted when stacked together? It's a great question, and I think the answer depends on a few factors: how many options plays have at each step, which options players are likely to actually notice, and what players typically think about each option. Every player is different, but that doesn't mean you can't estimate the qualities of a puzzle without players.
An 'option' is an action the player can perform to change the state of the puzzle, and it can either have forward progress (they get closer to the s…

Fizzlers

Image
I haven't really studied game design much, but seeing as I want to make games, I figured I had better at least pay attention to the games I play and see what I can learn from their design. I've learned a lot of things about game design and a lot of things about myself - namely, I like puzzle games, and there's a trend in puzzle games that makes them more fun for me.

I've recently been playing a lot of Portal. A lot. I've played Portal 1, Portal 2, Portal Stories: Mel, Aperture Tag, Rexaura, and many, many community maps for Portal 2. (Though I have not played anywhere near as much as this guy). One thing I have noticed consistently is that I enjoy fizzler puzzles - you know, those ones where one or more Aperture Science Material Emancipation Grills play a crucial role in the puzzle?

Fizzlers in Portal 2 allow you to pass through them, but they impose certain limitations. You cannot shoot portals through them, and when you pass through them your existing portals are…

Why do people like puzzles with multiple solutions!?

Image
I've asked this question before and I still want to talk about it, because I still cringe when people mention it.

I frequently notice reviewers and players complaining about puzzles with only one solution, saying they instead want puzzles with multiple solutions. I cannot wrap my head around why, as there are so many drawbacks both from the player's perspective and the designer's perspective. Why would people want this when it only subtracts from the experience?

Having multiple solutions can either make a puzzle too easy, or too confusing. For example, the player often thinks that every part of the puzzle has a purpose (this is how our brains naturally work), but with multiple solutions, some parts of a puzzle might never be used for the solution the player uses, leading to confusion - red herrings may be enjoyable in some circumstances, but puzzles are not any of those circumstances. It is also significantly more difficult to design a proper puzzle with multiple solutions…

History Overload

Image
I thought this tool wouldn't get much traffic. Mojang's restrictions seemed reasonable - 600 requests per 10 minutes? That's a request every second; no way I'll reach that load. Except I am reaching that load. All the time. Apparently if you Google search "Minecraft Name History" this is one of the first few results. That's what I get for spreading the word, I guess.
Caching isn't a trivial problem - there are all sorts of nuances with Mojang changing offensive names before the 30 day period, etc, and I don't even have anywhere to cache information to. I hacked the script together in an hour in really horribly written PHP code that should never be in any production environment. It's not worth the effort to me when other tools exist and work better.
I don't want people finding a broken dysfunctional service at the top of their Google search results - it's an inconvenience to everyone. So I've decided: I'm shutting down this servic…