FollowTrainTV

Twitch Tutorials and Streaming Advice

Heartomics: Lost Count

We take a quick look at this cool little game created by a fellow gamer and Twitch streamer. I will also explain to you how you can get a free copy of this game but only if you stream on Twitch TV#StreamLife

Heartomics: Lost Count

Heartomics is a Danmaku visual novel hybrid where the hero is on a quest to regain his memories.

Danmaku is a Japanese term for a barrage of bullets. This style of game is known as “bullet curtain”, “curtain fire” or “Bullet Hell” in English. Bullet Hell games are known as the ultimate “shoot em ups” and can be horrifically difficult and frustrating at times.

I had a chance to catch up with the developer and ask him more about why he created Heartomics: Lost Count.

What is the story behind Heartomics?Lyra - Heartomics: Lost Count

“The story is about “Hero”, a male protagonist who has lost his memories. He is accompanied by three beautiful girls “Euphony”, “Lyra”, and “Melody” who aid him in a quest to regain his memories. When a set of memories are recovered the most “memorable” memories are brought to the surface. Play as Hero and recover your most precious -sexy- moments!”

Why did you create Heartomics?

“My plan is to entice players to play / be more open to the bullet hell genre.

By the end of my game players will be well equipped to explore bullet hell games that they may have found to be too hard.”

What was the process for creating the game?

“The game was written in C++. I commission artists for most of the art work.”

How can people get a copy of Heartomics!

“Twitch streamers can get a free copy of Heartomics: Lost Count by simply reaching out to me and getting in touch.”

Heartomics: Lost Count

The Final Word

I found the game to be quite addictive and difficult but fun to play and if you enjoy old school style “shoot em ups” I am sure you will love Heartomics: Lost Count.

Additional Links:

Heartomics: Lost Count on Steam | twitter.com/heartomics | heartomics.com




Watch Twitch with your friends using a webcam!

I love to hang out with friends online when the ESL majors are on. I have always used Skype to host video calls and then I try and sync my browser with a friend for a complete viewing experience but it is hard because we often are not in-sync.

I recently discovered chatben.tv which is a website which allows friends to watch and share content together in real-time. You can video chat with a friend who is seeing exactly the same thing as you.

chatben.tv was founded by two brothers who wanted to watch and share content together. They had become frustrated trying to browse Twitch and trying to run a Skype video call at the same time. chatben.tv was created as a better way to look at content on the internet together you can now watch Twitch with your friends using a webcam!

Watch Twitch with your friends using a webcam!

How to use chatben.tv: Navigate your browser to http://www.chatben.tv and create an account by clicking the “Sign Up” button. Once you have an account you can either join other users in any of the channels already running or you can create your own channel. Channels can be private, public or in solo mode.

To create a new channel look for the input labeled “Add Show” there you can past a link to all different types of content. You can watch Twitch live streams, as well as YouTube videos, gifs and images, all as if you are watching them on TV. When you change the channel, or go to the next show in the same channel, the exact same thing happens for your friend and you stay in sync. Once you have created a channel you can share a special link and a friend can join your room.

You can also leave video responses for other users when browsing the site. There are over 80 channels that are updated daily, including a dedicated video game channel that constantly updates with live streams.

Watch Twitch with your friends using a webcam!

Watch Twitch with your friends using a webcam!

The Final Word

I have not seen a site similar to chatben.tv before. It offers true social sharing in my opinion. It is great to share a cool, funny or crazy video and see your friends reactions via webcam. If you are looking to share a video with some friends try getting them to jump on chatben.tv before you send them a normal “share link” and experience the future of social video.


The Steam Link, simply a great investment!

I recently purchased a Steam Link and a Steam Controller for three different reasons. Firstly I liked the idea of playing some two player games in the living room with the misses and friends when they come over. Secondly I knew I could stream movies to my living room straight from my desktop replacing the need for my Apple TV box. Thirdly I wanted to see if it is possible to stream to Twitch from my living room using a webcam connected to the Steam Link, this would be truly awesome!

Let’s start with a brief history of my gaming life!

For years I invested a ton of money into new games consoles and the game titles that came with them. In my lifetime I have owned nearly every major console that was released, there are a few fringe consoles like the NeoGeo that I never owned but the main bulk of them have had me play them for hours and hours. I have also spent a ton of money on personal computers, laptops and upgrades year after year.

Lets take a look at the consoles, computers and handheld gaming devices I have owned over the past 30 years:

Ajax TV Game
ZX Spectrum +2
Atari 520ST
Nintendo Entertainment System
Sega Master System II
Commodore Amiga 2000
Sega Genesis Mega Drive
Nintendo GameBoy
Super Nintendo Entertainment System
PlayStation
Nintendo GameBoy Color
Nintendo 64
Sega Game Gear
Sega Dreamcast
PlayStation 2
Microsoft Xbox 360
Nintendo Wii
PlayStation 3

Why did I stop buying consoles?

I never owned a PS4 or an Xbox One and I probably never will. I decided to permanently switch to gaming on the PC and I have never looked back. However I do miss sitting on the sofa and hammering a game pad from time to time. I also miss the fun of destroying a friend in split screen mode. I miss two player co-op games, I miss playing games like NHL, NFL and FIFA. I miss the Olympics style games. I really enjoyed the time I spent sat on the sofa playing these consoles.

The last two consoles I owned did not see much use. The Nintendo Wii and the PlayStation3. I owned a lot of games for the Wii (around 20 plus games) and I also purchased a lot of the added peripherals, fishing rods, gun holders, tennis bats, you name it I had it. For the PS3 I only really bought it because I was in need of a Blue-ray player, I own Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Need for Speed Shift.

But the bottom line is I didn’t really use either of these consoles and I have since sold my Wii to a family friend.

Enter the Steam Link

I like the idea of having all of my games in Steam. I like that I don’t have to keep physical copies of the games that I play and that I will always have access to the library of games that I buy on Steam and they will all be in one place.

I am super interested in streaming video games and that is exactly what the Steam Link does. It is not the same as broadcasting on Twitch but it still represents a wonderful opportunity for gamers. Streaming is becoming a huge part of gaming and I think the Steam Link is a step in the right direction from Valve. At $50 for the Steam Link and $50 for a Steam Controller this is a pill which is quite easy to swallow especially as I have already invested thousands of dollars on my gaming pc.

Streaming Movies with the Steam Link

I wanted to be able to stream movies to my television from my PC. Currently I have an Apple TV box and some of the things I watch are not on Netflix or iTunes. Currently I use my MacBook Pro to stream to the Apple TV box but this involves me copying files from my desktop to my MacBook using my Samsung T3, a process which takes about 5-10 minutes. The drive is insanely fast, but still I have to go from one room to the other and back again between machines. With the Steam Link you literally stream your entire desktop screen to your television. Anything you can do on your desktop you can do on your Television. Now I just open the movie directly on my desktop and it’s streams to my TV beautifully at 1080p and at 60 fames per second.

Using a SNES emulator with the Steam Link

I recently got into RetroArch and I have fallen back in love with SNES games. Titles like Super Mario World, Rock and Roll Racing and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Recently I worked out how to stream RetroArch to my television and now I can play Super Nintendo classics in my living room with a friend like it was 1991. I mean this by itself is simply amazing.

You can stream on Twitch using the Steam Link

I also managed to stream to Twitch from my living room using the Steam Link, admittedly I ended up using two active USB cables for the webcam but still I achieved what I wanted. I made a video diary about how that went and I will release it soon on my YouTube.

A great way to save money and invest in the future!

I have already spent thousands of dollars on my gaming pc and being able to leverage that power in my living room for just $100 has been amazing. After just 2 hours I was able to honestly say that it was a great investment. Now I know spending $100 is not how you save money, but I see desktop streaming as a huge part of the future, eventually games will even exist just in the cloud and local hard drives probably wont even be needed.

The Final Word

I am super happy with my Steam Link. It’s not perfect but it is a step in the right direction. You will have issues, for example sometimes I have to visit the other room and click something because the Steam Link looses it’s focus. You will probably have to run the Steam Link over Ethernet or PowerLAN adapters. People have reported issues with Wi-Fi. When the Steam Link works it is brilliant and it does work 99% of the time.

I only recommend buying one Steam Link Controller as it was designed to replace a mouse and keyboard and I think there are other better controller options out there. I currently own a DS4 Controller an Xbox PC Controller and an 8bitdo SFC30 all of which work brilliantly and where applicable with Bluetooth.

If you are looking at buying a Steam Link I think you will be happy as long as you have good connectivity. If you are hardcore PC gamer I think you will find the added investment of the Steam Link something which brings a huge amount of value for relatively little money. Plus you will save thousands of dollars on games in the future.


How to set up a TeamSpeak Server with no port number on a subdomain

Before I moved the FollowTrainTV streamers community to Discord I was using both IRC and TeamSpeak to build up a community of streamers. One of the the first things I didn’t like about my original setup was that my TeamSpeak server address was horrible and difficult to remember. On top of that it had a port number attached to it. Being a technical guy I figured I could setup a subdomain on my current domain name and allow the traffic to be redirected easily.

I didn’t want to use the horrible long address given to me by my TeamSpeak service provider I wanted something simple and easy to remember so below I will show you the two ways I discovered, so that you can do the same. The first way is free and the second way cheap but in my case my current domain provider did not allow me to do it the free way so I needed to use a 3rd party to help me out.

Redirecting a subdomain to a TeamSpeak server using an SRV record

Straight out of the box some domain name providers will allow you to quickly and easily setup a subdomain on your account that can easily redirect traffic to your TeamSpeak server. You simply need to add an SRV record.

Here is a quick tutorial on how to setup the TeamSpeak SRV record in cPanel which is a very common software used by many web server hosting companies. If your hosting company does not use cPanel then you may have to email them to ask them how to add an SRV record.

Redirecting a subdomain to a TeamSpeak server without an SRV record

So it turns out I am one of the unlucky people who’s server / domain provider doesn’t have the ability to add an SRV record. Instead I had to use a third party provider to allow me to have a subdomain which can redirect traffic to my TeamSpeak server.

Enter TS3DNS.com a company that offers a redirect service for a small fee. I paid $6.99 for a one year subscription which allows me to achieve the same flexibility as the free option above. It’s simple to use and after 24 hours I was happy to see that I can now use a subdomain with no port number attached to connect to my TeamSpeak server. There was no way for my current hosting company to do this so I had to pay the $6.99 but it works perfectly and I am very happy.

The added bonus of setting up your TeamSpeak server under a subdomain

One of the cool side effects of this kind of setup is that if you change the company that provides you with your TeamSpeak server you do not have to tell all of your clan members and friends the new address. You simply adjust the DNS record and usually within around 10 minutes your existing subdomain will be pointing to your brand new server address. This is super important if you are looking to grow your community because every time you change the physical address of your server you will loose some of the people that visit your server.

The Final Word

If you are using TeamSpeak then you really should setup a subdomain for your server, how you do it depends entirely on who hosts your current domain name.

If you haven’t already checked out Discord then I suggest you do, because it was built with gamers in mind. Imagine if IRC and TeamSpeak had a baby together, well then you can begin to understand what Discord is. Discord has desktop apps, mobile apps, voice comms and a rich text chat all in one application that will encourage your community to idle and hang out on your server, It’s free and much easier to setup and use. It’s a no brainer!

If you want to try out Discord for the first time then you can join me and other Twitch streamers on the FollowTrainTV Community Discord.


Start streaming on Twitch – 7 Tips

In just over one and a half years of streaming on Twitch, I’ve gained nearly 20,000 followers (Which you can check here on my channel). I wanted to outline what I believe are the most important things you should be doing to maximize your potential when you start streaming on Twitch. Getting people to your stream is hard enough, keeping them there is even harder.

I have spent many hours reading and learning about streaming and the Twitch platform. I have also learned from personal experiences and the experience of others. I run followtrain.tv and I run a Twitch community where we discuss Twitch related topics. It would be fair to say I know a thing or two about streaming.

Here are 7 things to keep in mind when you are just start streaming on Twitch.

1. Make sure your internet connection is solid

You don’t need to run out and buy a dedicated T1 line when you start streaming on Twitch, but you definitely need to have a decent cable broadband or fibre optic connection. The number one thing you need to do is be able to stream and with a bad internet connection you will end up with a totally black screen or a laggy viewing experience. I already outlined in another post what the best settings to use when streaming, so make sure you check that out.

2. Get a decent microphone

People visit Twitch to watch and listen to people playing games. If your commentary is inaudible due to a low-quality microphone, you won’t get many followers or viewers. You don’t need a recording studio quality mic but you do need to be sure that your voice is clear and louder than your music or in-game sound, with little to no static or hum.

Try and get a microphone with built in noise reduction in case something is going on behind you, perhaps you live near a busy road and the windows are open because of the heat outside. These small sounds will be heard on your stream as just background noise which can really irritate people. I keep an updated list of what I consider to be the Best Hardware for Twitch.

3. Get some custom graphics and a decent overlay

Your channel and brand is important for people to remember you, starting at just $5 you can get custom graphic design service. You will create your HUD (Heads up Display) in your streaming software, something like OBS or xSplit. Personally, I do mine with OBS. The idea is to make sure that your stream looks good and is viewer friendly. There are a ton of streamers out there, so the viewer experience is going to be what sets you apart.

For example you could create a border around your webcam that tells something about your personality or your favorite game. It is also important that pop up notifications give praise where it is due. When someone gives you a donation or follows you you should have a pop up or something cool happening.

When viewers see a celebration over even the smallest of donations, they are more likely to donate a few dollars as well. Make an even bigger celebration for your top donors. Remember, people are throwing money at you for doing something you would probably be doing anyway, so make sure they know how grateful you are.

4. A HD webcam is a must

Okay, so maybe Lirik doesn’t use a webcam… but you are not Lirik and you didn’t start streaming nearly five years ago when he did. Do yourself a favour and buy a decent webcam. There are plenty of streamers who don’t use a webcam, this is true, they also they don’t have many followers or viewers. If you want to be one of them random unknown faces then be my guest but it wont help you grow on Twitch.

People like to see faces, even if you think you are the ugliest person on earth I promise you beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It’s just nice to have a face to go with the voice and the username, so don’t be shy.

I was simply amazed how much people did not troll me when I first used a webcam. Most people are genuinely friendly. We all got bullied a little school for one thing or another and that fear is still with us but in my experience on Twitch it’s not an issue. Really you should try it once or twice and I promise you wont regret it, in fact you will enjoy streaming even more. Yes it feels awkward at first and maybe you need to get comfortable with speaking before turning on the camera but sooner or later you need a webcam.

You want to be able to stream and record in high definition a 720p camera is the minimum, but a 1080p is always preferred. Many viewers, when looking for a new channel to watch, won’t even click on one unless they see a picture-in-picture cam. Read more about what I think is the best webcam for Twitch.

5. Interact with your viewers

There is only so much that hardware and software can do for you, and there are a ton of great players out there. After that, your persona has to carry you. You will truly begin to stand apart from the crowd and gain a following when people see your personality, and that means interacting. Gaining followers and regular viewers is really about being entertaining.

Once you have hundreds or thousands of followers, you may not be able to greet everyone by name, but at least when you are starting out, don’t let people slip in and out of your channel without even being acknowledged. Say something like, “Hi [username], welcome to the stream!” Try to answer questions that viewers ask, and even ask some of your own and check out the responses. Yes, you need to pay attention to the game too, but the game isn’t following you or making donations, so put your viewers first.

Don’t argue in the chat box. If someone is really being obnoxious, mute them quickly and move on. Do not waste time or energy with trolls, insta-ban them and forget about it, they will move on to someone else who will entertain their trolling efforts.

6. Get a chat bot for your stream

I’m not talking about view bots—those are a good way to get your channel banned. If you are a regular Twitch viewer, you probably already know what a chat bot is. Chat bots basically serve one purpose—they keep the chat box safe for you and your followers and provide additional interaction functionality.

They can ban people for saying certain words, they can tell users what music you are currently playing and they can even help you run giveaways and answer common questions for you. You can also give certain moderators the ability to add commands to some bots to further reduce the amount of work you have to do when streaming.

My personal favorite is DeepBot. DeepBot is not free and can be overwhelming at first, start with something like Moobot or Nightbot and consider DeepBot later on.

7. Be consistent and persistent

When you first start streaming on Twitch, setting up a schedule for streaming is in my opinion the single most important thing you can do if you want to build regular viewers. How do you expect to get regular viewers if you cant even be regular yourself?

Being consistent allows you to get repeat viewers rather than just competing for whoever happens to be on when you decide to stream. Don’t give up if your stream doesn’t take off straight away. Sometimes it takes a while for people to get to know you and decide that your channel is more fun or exciting than the other channels that are currently open.

Keep learning and striving to become a better streamer, watch other peoples streams and figure out why they have so many viewers. What are they doing differently and ask yourself how can you be more like them?

In my personal experience, last year when I had a three day a week schedule, I was able to build my viewers up to an average of around 70-80 people per stream. I took six months off in the Autumn of 2015 and when I returned I struggled to get just 10 viewers. At the time of writing this article I am now back averaging 30 viewers per stream but I only commit to one day per week, with an occasional impromptu stream on other days depending what is going on in my real life.

Sure, things can go wrong when you first start streaming on Twitch. Your Internet or power may go out during a stream. Someone could be trolling chat looking to pick a fight or harass other users. Hardware fails and software breaks, life issues and unexpected social happenings like friends and family turning up at your house. All of these things can effect your stream and your passion for streaming but don’t let setbacks get you down. The most successful channels are the ones that deal with all that adversity but continue pushing forward and making their followers glad to be there.

The Final Word

Hard work, research and commitment is what makes a top streamer. I hope you take the time to read more of my articles on this blog and I hope you can gain some insight into streaming on Twitch.

I spend a lot of time helping new streamers and I can show you how to get more followers, but it takes some hard work. Please leave me a comment if you have any questions or topics you would like to know more about and I will reply or blog about it in the future.


Steam Link with RetroArch + Ice, running emulators for SNES and Genesis in Big Picture Mode

Yesterday was a wonderful day, I finally got my Steam Link working flawlessly with RetroArch and a PlayStation DualShock 4 Controller on the big screen in my living room. It was my third attempt at getting an emulator to work with the Steam Link and now I can teach you exactly what I did and what I have learned over the past week.

Since I got my Steam Link I have been obsessed with the idea of running old school games like Super Mario World for the SNES and Sonic the Hedgehog for the Sega Genesis (MegaDrive). I saw some people had done it already so I knew it could be done, but the tutorials out there leave much to be desired and can be confusing and over complicated at best.

I will try in this article to keep things simple. I will explain some of the basic concepts that you need to understand to get this working. If you have any questions please leave me a comment and I will try to help.

How to run emulators on the Steam Link

We will be using RetroArch, which is creating quite a bit of buzz in the emulator world right now because it allows you to control multiple emulators and works on multiple platforms. RetroArch is kind of an emulator manager, it is more than that but for the purpose of this article it allows you to have multiple emulators all under one interface.

Then we will use a piece of software called Ice to create the bridge between RetroArch and the Steam Platform. Once we have RetroArch and Ice configured we can use our Steam Link to launch emulators and play retro games directly from Steam in Big Picture Mode with a seamless integration.

Where to save every thing?

There are no rules where you save RetroArch, Ice or your ROM files. I will show you how I have it on my machine to make this tutorial easier to understand.

I install some of my Steam games on my extra hard drive. I have a folder there called “SteamLibrary” and this is where I install some of my Steam games. I decided I would keep all of my game files all in one place so now I have RetroArch, Ice and my ROM files all in a SteamLibrary folder on my 1TB external hard drive.

So E:\SteamLibrary\steamapps is where some of my Steam games are installed.

I then created an “Emulator Folder” under E:\SteamLibrary\Emulator so that I can store every thing connected with emulation all in one place.

Then I created:
E:\SteamLibrary\Emulator\RetroArch
E:\SteamLibrary\Emulator\Ice
E:\SteamLibrary\Emulator\ROMs

Inside ROMs I have two more folders which contain some ROM files:
E:\SteamLibrary\Emulator\ROMs\SNES
E:\SteamLibrary\Emulator\ROMs\Genesis

Remember there are no rules here, you do not have to have this structure and the fact that these folders are inside my Steam folder serves no relevance to the tutorial whatsoever because you can install these things wherever you wish.

First let’s download and start RetroArch

Before we think about Steam or using the Steam Link its important that we get RetroArch running first. You will need to install “RetroArch” load up a “Core” and then load some “Content”. In other words we will use RetroArch to load a console for example the Super Nintendo core then we will load a game which is also called a ROM file.

Download the latest stable version of RetroArch for Windows and unpack it into E:\SteamLibrary\Emulators\RetroArch, you will need WINRar or similar to unzip the 7-Zip file. You can choose between 32-bit and 64-bit depending on your current operating system. I use Windows 10 so I went with the Stable 1.3.2 64-bit download.

After you unpack it, launch retroarch.exe and you should see the RetroArch GUI. Now we need to download our first Core and then we can load a ROM file.

RetroArch GUI

RetroArch GUI

Navigate using your keyboard and follow the steps below:

Download a Core:
Settings tab > Online Updater > Core Updater > bsnes_balanced_libretro.dll

Once you have a Core downloaded you will need to load the Core.

Load a Core into RetroArch:
Settings tab > Load Core > bsnes_balanced_libretro.dll

Once you have a Core loaded you can now load a ROM file.

Load a ROM File:
Settings tab > Load Content > Select File > E:\SteamLibrary\Emulator\ROMs\SNES\Super Mario World.sfc

If all is working correctly you will see the game you just selected and you should have control using the keyboard. For a more in depth article or if you get stuck with my guide you can read Getting Started with RetroArch you can also ask questions on the LibRetro Forums and you can check the LibRetro Wiki.

IMPORTANT: YOU MUST HAVE RETROARCH WORKING BEFORE YOU CONTINUE!

Using Ice to add ROM files to your Steam Library

Once we have RetroArch working we need to create the bridge between Steam and RetroArch. To do this we will use a really awesome GitHub project called Ice created by Scott Rice. Ice will scan our ROM folders we created earlier and add any games it finds into Steam as non-Steam games. Its customizable, with a fairly low level setup. It also helps you find artwork so that your ROMs look great when you are running Steam in Big Picture Mode which is the mode launched by default when you use your Steam Link.

Configuring Ice to work with RetroArch and the Steam Platform

Download the latest version of Ice and unpack it into E:\SteamLibrary\Emulators\Ice.

There are three config files that you will need to edit to get Ice working correctly.

config.txt
consoles.txt
emulators.txt

The reason I showed you my file structure earlier is to try and help you understand how to configure the Ice config files.

Here are my config files, you can of course configure Ice to work differently but for the purpose of this article I will show you what I have in my three config files. I have removed most of the content that comes in these files to keep the demonstration simple and to show you that some things are not needed for our particular setup. Please review the files you downloaded from the Ice website and compare them with mine. I have added some of my own comments to help you understand how these three files work together. I am currently running both SNES and Genesis/MegaDrive on my Steam Link so if you only want SNES games you can ignore the Genesis stuff but I have left it here to help show you how this stuff is working.

config.txt

[Storage]
# My ROM Files:
ROMs Directory=E:\SteamLibrary\Emulator\ROMs

[Grid Images]
# The default is ConsoleGrid (consolegrid.com/api/top_picture)
# If this field is left blank, Ice will not attempt to download images
Source=consolegrid.com/api/top_picture

consoles.txt

# This [WORD] represents the category in Steam
[Super Nintendo]
# nickname must match you folder name in your ROMs folder
nickname=SNES
# This is the name you specify in emulators.txt
emulator=RetroArch_SNES
# This is the file extension of the ROMs in the ROMs folder
extensions=sfc

[Sega Genesis]
nickname=Genesis
emulator=RetroArch_Genesis
extensions=md

emulators.txt

[RetroArch_SNES]
# Location of RetroArch.exe
location=E:\SteamLibrary\Emulator\RetroArch\retroarch.exe
# Location of SNES CORE and some launch options
command=%l -fullscreen -L cores\bsnes_balanced_libretro.dll %r

[RetroArch_Genesis]
location=E:\SteamLibrary\Emulator\RetroArch\retroarch.exe
command=%l -fullscreen -L cores\genesis_plus_gx_libretro.dll %r

Ice will also grab the artwork to use for the ROM’s when in Big Picture Mode. But the ROM file name must match the name found on the consolegrid.com website.

For example I had to rename my Super Mario World ROM to “Super Mario World.sfc” before running Ice so that Ice could get the correct artwork for me.

Once you have your config files edited and pointing to the correct locations on your hard drive you must exit Steam and launch Ice.exe. If all is successful you will see a screen which looks similar to the one below.

Ice for Steam Link

If you have some issues with Ice you will need to read what the Ice console tells you and Google for any problems that it reports. You can also read the Ice Getting Started Guide where you can read more about the ROM folder structure and how to set custom images and icons for your games in Steam.

If Ice executed without any issues it’s time to load up Steam, launch Big Picture Mode and test if all is working correctly. Once you are happy that all is working as expected on your desktop it’s time to move into the other room and boot up your Steam Link for some awesome retro gaming fun!

It should work flawlessly once you have all the kinks ironed out.

Steam Link with RetroArch and Ice running in Big Picture Mode

Steam Link with RetroArch and Ice running SNES Games in Big Picture Mode

This is a dream come true for me and I hope that you are also able to play some ROMs on your Steam Link. It brings back a ton of childhood memories and I am excited to play on the Steam Link with my friends and family.

The Finishing Touch, Using the 8bitdo SFC30 Wireless Bluetooth Controller with the Steam Link

Wireless SNES ControllerI just purchased the 8bitdo SFC30 Wireless Bluetooth Controller. I have no idea if this thing will work. I will update you here as I get my hands on it to let you know if the SFC30 works with Steam Link and RetroArch.

 

The Final Word

After trying for several days I truly believe that this article outlines the best setup for running emulated games on the Steam Link. Many people are using LaunchBox or BigBox as a layer in-between Steam and the emulator but this comes with it’s own issues. I personally was not able to get things working using LaunchBox, my controllers never worked and it looked horrible trying to navigate LaunchBox plus I really don’t see why you would want to use LaunchBox when you can launch games directly from Steam Big Picture Mode which looks great and it just works better.

If you add more Cores to RetroArch you simply add a few lines of code to your Ice config files and then run Ice again. If you add more ROM files you simply exit Steam and run Ice again. I love how RetroArch works independently in this setup. I can swap shaders, configure controllers and do all of that fun stuff directly in RetroArch, afterwards I just boot up my Steam Link and it works flawlessly.

I really hope you have been able to learn something today and If you have any questions, comments or praise to give, please do so in the comments below and I will try to reply.

Known issues and Frequently asked Questions

I will try to keep this article updated and if I get similar questions from people I will try to add them here as a help resource.

Where can I download ROM Files?
It is actually illegal to download ROM files. People say if you own a physical copy you can download a copy of the internet. This is not true. The copy you download is an illegally distributed copy and this is not ok. You will need to purchase a Retrode 2 and create your own ROMs using your original games. These ROMs will be backup copies of your already purchased games. You can purchase games from dkoldies.com and lukiegames.com and make your own backup files.

Issues with the Steam Controller not working with RetroArch!
I did have some issues with the Steam Controller bindings when I launched my first game and you will need to modify your Steam Controller to map it to the keyboard inputs used by RetrocArch. I actually just used my DualShock 4 controller via Bluetooth and it worked instantly with no extra setup required.

Problems when running Ice and the consolegrid API!
Originally in my ROM folder I had folder called “MegaDrive” which made Ice report that the consolegrid API was down, but in reality it just didn’t know that MegaDrive was is also called Genesis. I renamed the folder from MegaDrive to Genesis and then Ice worked correctly and grabbed the artwork from consolegrid.

Everything seems correct after running Ice but the games just wont load from Steam!
Test the ROM and the Core directly from RetroArch first, Launch retroarch.exe and make sure it works as expected before running Ice and trying to launch it with Steam. If it wont work just using RetroArch it definitely wont work using Steam. During the setup process I had downloaded the bnes_libretro.dll it took me a good thirty minutes to realise that I had downloaded a NES Core instead of a SNES Core which prevented it from running in RetroArch. I switched to the bsnes_balanced_libretro.dll and then it worked as expected.

Games launch correctly but my controller does not seem to work!
It seems sometimes that if you have a controller plugged in to your desktop PC, RetroArch gives priority to that controller and then the controllers connected to the Steam Link don’t seem to work. Unplug any controllers from your desktop before launching your games in Steam.


Custom Twitch Design Service for just $5

What if I told you that you could get a professional custom Twitch design service for your Twitch channel for just $5. I was blown away with this idea when I came across it last week. Just $5 to start building your brand on Twitch. Building your brand is a must for any new streamer because it will help people remember you and your stream.

When we talk about branding your stream all we really mean is some nice matching graphics to help relay your identity to your viewers to quickly help them understand who you are and what you are about. Perhaps your stream is something they can get behind and start supporting, hopefully they love what they see straight away and immediately hit that big purple follow button.

Start with the Basics!

The first graphics you should invest in after your logo should be your offline stream graphic and your channel info panel headers. You can get 12 info panels and 1 offline stream image for just $5. This is a tiny investment to make for your stream.

Custom Twitch Design Service

Custom Twitch Design Service – 12 info panels and 1 offline stream image for $5

But I don’t even have a logo!

This is an important point. You really need a logo before you start your brand and there literally hundreds of graphic designers waiting for your order on Fiverr. Again starting at just $5 you can get a professionally designed logo for your stream. You will need to think about the style that you want and the colours that you like for your logo an then once you have your logo, colors and style sorted you will be ready to start branding the rest of your stream.

Thinking about yourself as a brand

I really think that building your identity online is something you will need to work on whether your brand new to Twitch or a veteran streamer. You have to compete with the masses and with social media and content sharing sites like YouTube you will want to start building your a brand for yourself as a streamer and online gamer so that when people come across your content online they instantly recognise it as something you created. You first started your brand when you created your Twitch username that was the starting point for your Twitch identity. If you are not 100% happy with your Twitch username and you only have a few followers then now is the time to change it. Don’t worry if you took a long time to get those few followers because I can teach you how I got over 10k followers in my first 6 months of streaming.

The Final Word!

If you just started streaming and you don’t yet have a logo or any custom graphics then today is the day to get that fixed and for just $5 what are you waiting for?

The key to all successful brands is a strong identity that makes you (the product) stand out from the other millions of streamers out there. One of the best way to do this on Twitch is to have custom graphics designed for your stream.

It’s awesome to think that for just $5 you can start to build your identity online, you can get a custom Twitch Design starting at $5, you can better relay what your stream is all about so that your viewers can get behind the idea and you can start to build yourself as a big name on Twitch. Later on will come t-shirt designs, bumper stickers and all kinds of other products to sell to your growing viewer base and having a graphic designer who already knows your brand will be very useful tool to have in the future.


Virtual Reality is NOW

I am super hyped to see and read all of the daily news that is coming out about Virtual Reality right now. I believe that VR is the biggest change in computing since the invention of the internet. I am personally very interested to see how this change in computing will relate to gamers and how that will translate to Twitch and Twitch streamers.

We will start to see a lot of people using virtual reality on Twitch soon and I wonder how the technology will unfold to allow streamers to create engaging streams whilst using virtual reality headsets.

The latest update from SteamVR

Yesterday Valve released a new video on their YouTube channel showing people using the Vive HTC headset in a green screen room and then they overlayed the gameplay on the video. I think this is the best way I have seen so far to demonstrate the insane amount of fun that VR technology will bring to households all over the world.

Are you VR ready?

It won’t be cheap to get started with a high end VR headset. I estimate my personal investment will be around $2000 just to get started. I already have solid gaming machine but my graphics card is now several years old and will need replacing. My personal choice will be to upgrade to the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB AMP! Extreme because this card is an absolute beast and should last me for a few years before needing an upgrade, this card costs around $700 but after that I will be VR ready.

You can download the SteamVR Performance Test to see if your machine is VR ready.

The 2 major Virtual Reality players right now

The next concern I had was where to invest my money in VR technology. Do I go with the Oculus Rift which is backed by facebook or do I go with the HTC Vive which is backed by Steam. Initially I was following the Oculus Rift and I was sure to purchase the headset when it became available.

The Oculus Rift has been in development since 2012 and was the device that started most of the hype you see now. Then came along the HTC Vive with a slightly different way of seeing VR. The main difference is that the Vive will allow users to stand, walk and move around in a physical space that will then map itself into a VR experience, this is quite different to the Rift which will have you sat at your desk.

Oculus Rift - Virtual Reality

Oculus Rift

The headsets will retail starting with the Rift pre-selling at $599 with an expected shipping date of July 2016 and the Vive will be pre-selling at $799 with an expected shipping date of around May 2016. There is quite a difference in price between the two but to make things even worse for the Rift they have announced that this price will not include the VR controllers and will only include an Xbox One controller, you will have to purchases the VR controllers separately. The next consideration is that the Vive has 2 additional pieces of kit, two base stations which help map the physical space you can navigate and will included 2 VR controllers making the Vive in my opinion the better value for money of the two headsets.

HTC Vive

HTC Vive

My next concern was how the development community will work with these devices. The hardware from both companies is similar in many ways but it will be the games and software which make the two different. The fact that Steam is behind the Vive will mean an easy way for developers to sell their games to users on the Steam platform as a developer you will want sales and if I was making VR games I would lean towards the Steam platform. I really struggle to see how the Rift can even begin to compete with the Vive in this area.

The Final Word!

I will be an early adapter to virtual reality and right now I am leaning towards the HTC Vive in fact I would say I am 99% committed to buying the HTC Vive as soon as I have upgraded my graphics card at the end of this month. To me it looks like the HTC Vive has killed the Oculus Rift before it has even been released and the general opinion amongst people who have tried both seems to be the same.

The following video was released by Barnacules Nerdgasm a popular YouTuber titled: HTC VIVE Demo & Game Play – Oculus Killer?

I would love to hear your comments below, what are your thoughts on VR technology and how will Twitch streamers use it?


The Division will be one of the most popular games on Twitch in 2016

I am going to go out on a limb here and make a bold prediction, I think that The Division will be one of the most popular games on Twitch in 2016.

I love the idea of games like DayZ, Ark and H1Z1 but all three titles have left me disappointed. Now I am left constantly searching for a new title which fills a similar idea and I hope that The Division with the second expansion pack “Survival” will bring some elements of survival to the game. That’s one of the reasons why I pre-purchased The Division before it’s release date with all of the DLC packs included, fingers crossed my hopes will be realised later this year.

So let’s look at the reasons why I think The Division will be one of the most popular games on Twitch in 2016.

1. It’s an MMO, kinda…

Sure, The Division isn’t really listed as being an MMO by Ubisoft but the game is pretty much an MMO. The Division allows for many players to be in the same instance as they explore and fight for survival in New York City. It may be a shooter style based game but it certainly has MMO style elements, even if there’s not hundreds of players in the same instance.

The Dark Zone currently allows up to 24 players in a single instance and players can form clans with each other. Clans or guilds are typical of MMO’s and rumours suggest that they may add official clan support in game, but nothing has been confirmed yet. You can still find people to play with easily and join a Division clan here: http://divisionclans.com/clan/listing

There is a character progression system, a large number of players in a single instance, NPCs to grind in and out of the the Dark Zone, a PvP area, the ability to play as a clan and a large world to explore. Sounds a lot like an MMO to me. All of the above means people will invest many hours into this game.

2. More content is on the way

Ubisoft has already announced some of their expansion plans for The Division. With free updates adding more game content and features and also paid expansion packs coming later in the year. Plus many people have already pre-purchased these expansion packs, myself included. I expect that the new expansions will also allow players to continue to level up their characters allowing players to have a charter more powerful than the current max level of 30. The names of the first three major expansion packs for the game have been revealed along with some very limited details about them:

Expansion I: Underground (June 2016)
In the first major purchasable expansion Ubisoft will be adding a new territory to the game where squads of four players can explore and complete missions in a huge underground network of tunnels under New York City. Players will be going up against brand new NPC characters, grabbing new loot items and continuing the campaign story mode.

Expansion II: Survival (Summer 2016)

I really really hope this expansion will bring some survival elements from games like DayZ and H1Z1 into The Division. Not much information has been released yet. People are speculating all kinds of ideas. The Division website says:

“Available this summer, this expansion will challenge players to survive as long as possible by gathering essential supplies in a very hostile environment.”

Expansion III: Last Stand (Winter 2016)
Again not much is known about this update, people are claiming zombies will be added to the game probably because of the following sentence found in the official trailer:

“A new threat is rising in the third expansion Last Stand. You and your squad must prepare to defend against a relentless foe.”

The game already has that zombie apocalypse feel and the artwork contains a skull as the face of The Statue of Liberty which makes people belive that the iconic statue may appear in a new playable area of the game. It’s many months away and only time will tell.

Smaller free DLC updates
Smaller free DLC updates will be released throughout the games lifespan to enhance the campaign mode and also the PvP Dark Zone area. The next free update will be coming out on the 12th of April which will add new features such as loot trading.

3. It is like Destiny but better

Destiny was one of the most played and viewed games last year on Twitch placing it in the top 10. Destiny is an unrealistic first person shooter set in the future where the last humans fight to protect the dwindling human population; it allows for clans to work together in the campaign mode and go to war in the PvP zones, you level up your character and find rare loot. Sounds a lot like The Division, right?

The Division meanwhile is set in a gritty, realistic world in the aftermath of a devastating plague which has wiped out the majority of New York City. The world is dark and provides a level of realism most shooter fans will recognise however unlike Destiny, The Division is a third person shooter where as Destiny is a first person shooter.

Between the two of them, in my opinion The Division has the stronger PvP area which is organic, evolving and tense. Players are forced to make uncertain alliances with other players to survive against the powerful NPC characters or to counter attacks from other enemy players. This is much like the Battle Royal mode (Now called H1Z1: King of the Kill) found in H1Z1 which was another top 10 game on Twitch last year.

The Division has a lot of potential for streamers; the PvP area will evolve constantly and in my opinion the differences between this and and Destiny will give it a small edge.

4. Its really well made and polished

The Division looks fantastic, there is no doubt about it. The streets of New York City are an almost exact replica of the real city. It’s a dark and gritty world mixed in with the bright lights of Christmas themed decorations which were still left in place after the plague hit the city.

There are plenty of options to look at and experiment with to get a decent level of performance vs perfect graphics for enjoying the environment and it will run on most modern computers; streaming can be CPU intensive so it’s a must for streamers to get good performance when streaming.

Besides the amazing graphics, the game runs smoothly with few bugs and great gameplay flow. The controls for the game work well and the response from the input is extremely fast which is great for those looking to play it ‘seriously’ with their squad. It feels great, it looks great and the game play is fun which leads me on to my next point.

5. The Dark Zone is fun

There’s a lot of features in The Division to try out, utilize and explore with to make you stronger as a solo player in the campaign and provides an edge in the Dark Zone. Players can pick up strong items in the campaign solo world and there are rare items which can be found in the Dark Zone.

Items in the Dark Zone are contaminated and have to be extracted before the player can actually use them; once the item is extracted it’s then safe for the player to die, if they die before the items are extracted then any contaminated items will be dropped. They need to be extracted at extraction zones in the Dark Zone, naturally there could be players there looking to kill other players and steal their loot before they extract it so they can have it for themselves.

The Division uses a proximity voice chat and text chat system which makes the Dark Zone even more tense; players can communicate with each other without needing to accept a friends request for voice chat. It makes the Dark Zone incredibly tense when using a microphone and a lot more entertaining as teams need to sometimes avoid communication altogether or risk being overheard by the enemy.

6. Its on all the major platforms

The Divisions is easy to access. Players can buy versions for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One or for the PC which all have streaming capabilities with or without additional hardware. It does force players to use the Ubisoft game platform Uplay, which is not well loved by gamers but at least it provides achievements and special game-based rewards. Some games are not big on Twitch simply because they are not on all the major platforms so they are unable to complete with games that are.

7. The Division had the biggest first week ever for a new game franchise

That’s right! The Division launch smashed it and not only is it Ubisoft’s best-selling game straight out of the gate but it also had the biggest first week ever for a new game franchise and generated over $330 million globally in its first five days. The game was reported to of have 1.2 million peak concurrent users over the first weekend, and over 100 million hours played in the first week. These kind of numbers begin to give you an idea of how many people enjoyed the beta and wanted to jump straight into the initial release.

The Final Word!

The Division has been in the top 10 games since it was released at the start of March. It’s still highly popular right now for both streamers and viewers; with the upcoming new content which will be released throughout the year, it looks like The Division should stay in the top 10 most watched games for quite some time. People will invest any hours in to the game and I think it will replace similar older titles such as Destiny to become one of the most watched games on Twitch in 2016.

The Division


New Twitch Feature: Twitch Channel Feed

Last week Twitch released an exciting new beta feature called Channel Feed. The Twitch Channel Feed in many ways is the exact same as the basic functionality of any social media platform like Twitter or Facebook. A simple way to update the people that follow you. I think this is a very nice addition to the channel page, it will allow streamers to update people about interesting news and things that are happening on the stream without having to use a traditional Twitch channel info panel. It’s much quicker and easier than creating an info panel for this kind of information plus for content like news and updates it makes much more sense.

Twitch said:

We know how important it is for broadcasters to communicate with their viewers, and Channel Feed will make it easier than ever. Your Channel Feed is a customizable space on your Channel Page where you can easily share important news, announcements, and anything else you think is relevant to your community. Channel Feed posts fully support emotes, have a generous character limit, and are easily shared to any linked social media accounts.

Should you use the Twitch Channel Feed?

I always turn on new Twitch features when they arrive and at least play with them to see if they bring any value. Personally I love this new feature. Some of the other features they have added recently in my opinion have not been so useful but I think that this is one of the best additions Twitch has made in the last 12 months.

How to enable the Twitch Channel Feed?

If you are one of the lucky few who have been given access to the new feature you should see a new area on your channel page where you will see “Channel Feed Beta” and a small on/off switch. If you do not see this on your channel page then you have not been included in the beta test.

Typically when Twitch rolls out a new feature not everybody is given access straight away. This is to limit risk on the platform and allow them to test and monitor how people are using the new feature.

In the future

I can imagine that the channel feed will see some very heavy development over the coming months. I would like to see the ability to tag other Twitch streamers for example by using @FiveManDown in a message I would like to see that text create a link to my channel. This makes shouting out and teaming up with other streamers even easier and more fun!

Currently the channel feed only supports sharing to Twitter but I can imagine the plan is to allow streamers to share content to all of their connected accounts. Currently you can can connect Twitch to Blizzard, Steam, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

I wonder if they will create a more open platform where you can find popular channel updates, right now people who visit your channel page can “like” a channel update in much the same way you can “like” a Facebook status update.

Twitch Channel Feed Updates

The Final Word!

The new Twitch Channel Feed is really cool and you should be using it as soon as you have access to it. I expect it to evolve over the coming months and I am excited to see what they do with it. On another note I will be starting to stream on a regular basis again and you can read more about that on my first channel feed update. Pretty cool huh?