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Author Topic: also hey this is part of where I disappeared to  (Read 327 times)

December 23, 2018, 05:45:44 AM
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also hey this is part of where I disappeared to
« on: December 23, 2018, 05:45:44 AM »
So hey, prepare for a wall of text..! I know that's not surprising considering my past, but I'm usually much more concise nowadays. Back on 2017-06-24 I showed back up to Sonic Retro and made this huge post in the Oldbie Lounge there saying where I'd been. I'm rather removed from the whole situation now, but there's some things of interest there. I typed a tl;dr bit at the end back then, it holds up well enough.
So hey, I didn't bring it up as a topic here because I didn't want to feel like I was advertising, but you all remember that Twitch Plays Pokémon stream that got to be pretty big in 2014? Well, from late 2015 up until two weeks ago the PCs running it all were running in my basement. The story of how the stream started and how the PCs ended up at my place and then left is kind of neat, it goes something like this:

In early 2014, this Australian dude with major social anxiety was a fan of SaltyBet and wanted to rig up a Pokémon-style version of it for himself. He had done some programming before, but his skills were a little rusty so he played around with javascript a bit. As a learning exercise, he set up Pokémon Red in an emulator and used an IRC bot to read Twitch chat, parsing their inputs as virtual button presses. This whole thing was running on a hosted PC in the US somewhere as Australia has notoriously bad internet. The guy shared it with a few of his friends as a neat proof of concept, they told their friends, and it hit a peak of around 120,000 viewers during the Elite 4 run. To simplify things for the rest of this, I'll be referring to the Australian guy as "Streamer" or "TPP Streamer" as he was the one that set up the stream. He's opened up a bit in private chats and seems to be a pretty alright dude, but as everyone on both the backend development side and the community for it all only have the name "Twitchplayspokemon" to call him, everyone calls him "Streamer."

So anyway, by the graces of Lord Helix we managed to beat the game at the end of February/start of March of that year and TPP Streamer wasn't sure what to do; he had set this up to be a one-off thing and it had exploded in popularity. He briefly tried a few games with this new format over the course of a weekend and then on either a Sunday or Monday - I forget which, but I'm sure it's documented somewhere - he set up Pokémon Crystal. TPP Streamer experimented with variations of the input systems - dubbed "Anarchy" and "Democracy" first by the community then by the overlay on the stream itself - and met some backlash so he reverted it mostly to the system in the original run. It was a fun but crazy ride and to everyone TPP Streamer was just this quiet and mysterious guy who hosted a fun thing on the internet.

As the months went on, the community managed to go through several Pokémon games via emulators and after we played Pokémon Black as a nice finale TPP Streamer had us try Pokémon Blaze Black 2 instead of the vanilla game. It was still mostly a one-man show at this point, but over the course of the stream to this point occasionally users would come up with hacks for the games that referenced our previous actions such as replacing RED's team on Mt. Silver in Crystal with our team from the first run and a hack to replace the Pokémon World Tournament bit from Black 2 with a gauntlet of all of our previous teams. While we were running Blaze Black 2, a talented hardware hacker by the name of dekuNukem came forward. Less than a year prior, Deku had modded his own 3DS to allow automated inputs to make shiny hunting easier in Pokémon X. With this in mind and as a fan of Twitch Plays Pokémon, Deku came forward saying "Get me in touch with the streamer, I have a way we can play [then-newest game] Pokémon X." This wasn't a one-off request, either; Deku repeated it multiple times for several days before the streamer either contacted Deku or responded to a private message; there was no clear indication of how it all went down. In any case, after the community finished Blaze Black 2, TPP Streamer handed control of the stream to Deku. There was a short intermission to test the setup as there had been for each previous game, but at one point Deku really wanted to show off what he had already prepared for the 3DS. We were playing Ocarina of Time 3DS and Deku turned off the inputs from chat, teleported to Lake Hylia, then played several songs on the Ocarina. It was a beautiful experience, and with it Deku won the heart of the players.

Anyway, this was kind of a big deal as it was the first time that anything on the Twitch Plays Pokémon stream was out of TPP Streamer's hands. He was a little stressed by running everything for a few months, but letting Deku take over for a month allowed him to work on his original project. Previously Streamer had implemented a betting game with Pokémon Stadium 2 to take up some empty space while the stream was playing the Nintendo DS games, but with Deku hosting things for Pokémon X this had gone away. After Pokémon X was completed, TPP Streamer was finally able to implement the idea he had wanted to do from the beginning: Pokémon Stadium 2 betting, with moves chosen by the bettors. As the stream had completed all of the Pokémon games so far and we knew a new one was coming out, we had our longest delay between games to that point. As you can see in the video, it was 109 days instead of the "a week at most" that had been the norm up to that point. I believe at this point the stream was still running on a private hosting service.

However, due to how well things worked out with Deku, streamer started working with him further over the course of this long intermission. Furthermore, a user by the name of EliteAnax17 came forth with a vision: Instead of Pokémon Stadium 2, he wanted to try this betting setup with Pokémon Battle Revolution for Wii instead. Unfortunately, as PBR didn't have the rental Pokémon that Stadium 2 had, this meant putting together movesets for each pokémon from scratch. Mr. Elite Ana x17 put together a small team and got to work making this a reality, but even in the early going this gentleman would frequently try to overstep his bounds. EliteAnax17 set up a separate "ProjectRevoTPP" stream for testing with his team, just as Deku had done with his own "Twitch_plays_3ds" stream. At some point here, EliteAnax17/ProjectRevoTPP/Revo and Deku set up two PCs running i5 processors for the Project Battle Revolution stuff at Deku's place. The idea was that since running Dolphin was heavier than anything done so far, one PC would run dolphin then send audio/video to a capture card on the other PC, which would add the overlay and then stream that to Twitch. After the stream played Pokémon Omega Ruby on release, a newer, sleeker version of the betting game was put into place for the next long intermission. This one was the wait until the Anniversary of when the stream started in mid-February.

So anyway, there was a shift towards more PBR than games in the style of the first few runs, viewership dropped a bit etc etc you all don't care about that drama I'm sure. There was also the time that Revo rage-quit reddit; he got all mad at something and got a tempban and he responded by deleting his account but he later came back with new username "ProjectRevoTPP" to match what he'd been using on the stream for months. Anyway, in late 2015 Deku revealed that he had been living with his parents. This is not exactly a big deal, but since he was moving out that meant that the PCs running the stream had to find a new home. After Deku and Revo interviewed a handful of candidates for this with TPP Streamer's approval, some guy you all know was chosen. At some point either during one of the runs or during an intermission, there were two i7 PCs set up in place of the i5s that had been running the stream. This made things simple; while chat was playing a Pokémon game, the i5 PCs were shipped to me and I got them set up. The stream itself was running on two other PCs - the ones with i7 processors - during this. After chat completed the game - Pokémon Alpha Sapphire ran through the just-updated-for-Gen-6 Universal Pokémon Randomizer - we switched over to the i5 PCs running at my apartment. The betting game with PBR... didn't run well on the i5 PCs at all; we had to reduce the bitrate to get it to work and there was a noticeable drop in quality. However, once the i7 PCs made their way to me and I set them up, everything was running in top shape again.

I had been communicating with other TPP Staff at the time - TPP Streamer, Revo, and Deku - via Skype. The stream had gone from a single moderator to a team of three and it worked well enough, but then one day Revo and Streamer had a disagreement and This exchange happened over Skype. I basically went "Uh......." to this and discussed it with a close friend. In the end I just couldn't justify it; even with a personality that some may take issues with, the PCs and the stream itself still rightfully belonged to the man who got the ball rolling on all of this. I stalled hardcore on Revo's takeover plan so that he didn't grab someone else and start trying to put them into my position instead. Over time Revo stopped bringing this up.

Eventually, we all moved to slack instead of "moderators contact each other via Skype occasionally" as a means of contact. We had a real dev chat environment there for new features. Starting with the first anniversary of TPP in February of 2015, we even had a small team of hackers; it started with just one guy with Revo as project coordinator over him, but grew to include many others for the second anniversary hack and others. This dev team also worked with KoolBoyMan to help put some finishing touches on his famous Pokémon Prism hack as well! KoolBoyMan was always a pleasure to be around and I really thought that he made a good project manager. He asked me if I wanted to help on the hack a few times, but I turned him down a few times as I didn't know how much time I could put into helping. I didn't want to be the guy holding everyone else back due to not having my work done yet, you know? This is where things start to turn, however.

Due to me not checking slack religiously while at work, occasionally conversations would have delays of several hours between responses. This isn't bad in and of itself, but it is bad when someone else cuts in edgewise. For some of the offers to have me help with coding, Revo would jump in before I could respond and say stuff like "He's not a programmer" or "he doesn't do code, don't suggest that" or so on. This was... mildly annoying, to put it nicely. No, right around this time we also ran into another issue. For the longest time, there was a user - original username terrierc - that would get banned and just return with an alternate username. They would end up banned almost immediately after rejoining, but it kept happening. This wasn't just for a few days, either; this happened for MONTHS. With how little information Twitch's API presents, Deku took it upon himself to gather as much data as possible on each new account and compare them with known users to stop terrierc's alts. Alt-hunting became Deku's obsession, with hunting terrirc's alts as the big thing that he mainly did. With Deku alt-hunting and Revo denouncing alt-accounts constantly in chat and acting like he was the one doing the work instead of Deku, that should help set the stage here. There was this user in chat by the name of Helennah. They were pretty decent and liked by the community and all was going well enough. One day Helennah didn't show up to the stream. Alright, no big deal people take a day off sometimes. Then they didn't show up the next day. Okay, seems a little weird but again people have lives outside of the community. This repeated for about half a week, then a new user comes in by the name of Jayare158. According to Jayare, he is Helennah's son. As a pedestrian her life was ended by a drunk driver recently.

So how would you guys handle this? Would you A.) give them sympathy, B.) assume they're an alt and start stalking them, or C.) just sit back and see what happens? Apparently Revo thought B.) was the best option. He initially pretended to offer support and started trying to get personal details. He seemed sincere at first as he didn't share what he was doing. Within a few days, Revo banned Jayare and started going all "I couldn't find any sort of news article to collaborate your story. You're obviously an alt and your account is banned." This was a bit of a shitstorm, and it only gets worse from here. Over the course of a few weeks Revo started straight-up stalking Jayare, and he'd post in the bans devchat what he found and say how it doesn't match this bit of story or that and this must be an alt. Ban appeal denied. I took the stance of "Either the user's not an alt and you're creating a PR nightmare or the user is an alt, ban the original account and move on instead of making this a painfully long and drawn-out process." Streamer had mostly disappeared at this time - which we now know was due to real life issues - so it was basically a three-man mod team of Revo, Deku, and myself. Deku's stance was basically "huh yeah that looks like an alt. Let me get back to watching for terrirc's latest alt" then later something like "kid's lying and is an alt. Ban stands." Throughout all of this, Revo was also trying to speak for streamer more and more, announcing his own ideas as if they were law before discussing any of it in dev chat. The whole thing got to be too frustrating and in July of last year, I had a few beers and finally spoke my mind. This would normally be the end, but... well, the PCs that run the whole show were still sitting in my basement, you know? I spent the better part of a year in a weird half-there, half-not state where I'd read everything in dev chat to keep up whenever someone would ping me, and occasionally I'd get sucked back in for a few days but overall I just wanted to be gone from all of that, to be free.

This March, I finally saw my chance. I had been working at the Help Desk for an ISP through all of this, and as I was at the ISP I could provide more information when the stream went down than just "I guess internet's not working?" I didn't give away company secrets or anything, just what I should know as a customer combined with "okay yeah I can confirm the modem's not connecting to the system" and stuff. I had a chance to move to another department at work - our Network Operations Center - and I went for it. I was accepted to the position, but this of course means that I no longer have an individual-customer level of knowing what's going on with the internet. I gave this as my reason for resigning from hosting the TPP computers and politely requested that they find someone else to do so. Only one candidate came forward - a user who goes by M4_used_rollout. However, M4 was already active in dev chat so it was a no-brainer to send things his way. I sent the i5s first so that he could get the stream running and just yesterday I shipped the i7 PCs his way. I'm going to stick around their dev chat a week or so to help M4 with the setup and answer any questions he has, but after that, I finally get to be gone from all of that.

So that's what I've been up to! I kind of let that whole community pull me away from IRC and all of that for the last few years. How have you all been? Do you still hang out on the same IRC server? IRC still a thing in 2017?

tl;dr: Man finds hilarious internet sensation, sticks around as the numbers dwindle, ends up hosting the PCs, finds himself as a moderator thanks to this, gets fed up with the other mod staff and quits almost a year ago, now he's finally getting rid of the PCs.

PS: bonus secret album of pictures I took for M4 showing how it all goes together

I tried to pop into the TwitchPlaysPokémon stream earlier this month and it was mostly dead; they were playing the betting game again and there was a small conversation/ePeen contest going between two names I didn't recognize regarding who had been around longer. I opted not to stick around.

January 03, 2019, 08:21:07 PM
Reply #1


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Re: also hey this is part of where I disappeared to
« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2019, 08:21:07 PM »
No kidding, that's awesome! Watching them slowly progress through Viridian City and Victory Road brought me great happiness on many a boring train ride in '14. I had no idea it was so relatively hands-off (other than that terrifying mod conflict stuff).