A while back Erich and I finally managed to get the Twitch.TV app for the Xbox One to work; the idea is that it allows players to broadcast their play sessions live, while other players can watch and participate via chat. I have openly mocked the idea of people who spend any significant amount of time watching live-streams of competitive gaming; I refuse to use the terms “eSports” because video gaming is not a fucking sport, and the players are not fucking athletes, and I could rage about that for days.
Last night, though, I did a broadcast of Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes as Erich followed along, and the end result was actually fairly entertaining. Erich has tried to get into MGS before and been a little put off by the mechanics, but this one mixes things up enough that his interest has been renewed. We decided to try the broadcast feature out with me playing so he could see how a veteran MGS player gets things done.
The answer to that turned out to be “not half bad,” although toward the end I got too arrogant and got spotted because I was rushing along without any situational awareness. The biggest problem we encountered is that the stream isn’t actually “live;” there is a delay of at least a few minutes, which was further exacerbated by Twitch forcing Erich to watch random commercials in the middle of me playing, putting him even further behind. One commercial apparently involved skateboarding wookies, which angered me enough that I killed a guard without provocation in the middle of sneaking past him.
Both Microsoft and Sony made a big deal about live streaming when the new consoles were unveiled, and showed off as-yet-fictional features like picture-in-picture Skype chat while playing games, or one friend guiding another through a difficult section of a game by watching the live stream. Erich tried to guide me to a prisoner he had found but I had previously missed, but the lag meant that I had often passed by a turn I was supposed to take by the time he saw me getting to it.
I don’t know that I would ever broadcast just for the sake of broadcasting, like Todd has taken to doing; Todd has the kind of personality that lends itself to these things, though, and has been making gameplay videos for years. There’s the option to turn on the Kinect microphone and even the camera, so that viewers can watch and listen to your reactions, but that just doesn’t appeal to me. Since the broadcasts are public access, other viewers joined from time to time last night, and each time I couldn’t get over the feeling that my gameplay was being judged.
As it turns out, Twitch.TV is also available to stream from 360 and PC, and it seems like anyone logged in on one device should be able to watch games from another. That theoretically means I could broadcast something like Fallout 3 on PC while Erich and Tillman watch on the One, with all of us in a party so we can chat. Actually finding a broadcast and viewing it was a headache in and of itself, though, and adding in more people across different platforms might be more trouble than it is worth. All in all, I’d say that game streaming is a cool concept, but is still behind the curve of full functionality and accessibility.