Party-based RPGs, ChatGPT-powered Twitch embeds, and catastrophic NAS failures.

Data Loss - May 2023

2,026 words.

Data Loss - May 2023

Party-based RPGs, ChatGPT-powered Twitch embeds, and catastrophic NAS failures.

Check your irreplaceable data backup strategy, folks.

Gaming Sessions

I’m continuing to play party-based RPGs with colons in the titles. Divinity: Original Sin, Pathfinder: Kingmaker, Solasta: Crown of the Magister, and the weirdly non-coloned Pillars of Eternity.

Divinity: Original Sin. I’m replaying the game for, I think, the fourth time, trying to get a good recording of it, since I originally didn’t record more than the first hour. In my first game from 2017, I got past two bosses around Cyseal. So far, on this attempt, I’ve just gotten to the point where I can start to go outside the walls of Cyseal. My first foray was to the Lighthouse.

Pathfinder: Kingmaker. I’m managing my new Barony and investigating why fireproof Trolls are running amok. I got a couple of DLCs, so I talked to a dragon and tried (and failed) to help out a tiefling.

Pillars of Eternity. I’m knocking out side quests and companion quests that I never did in my original playthrough, in an effort to setup a new save file for the second game. I found out that The Siege of Cragholdt is one of the hardest quests in the game, and resulted in a party TPK at the end for my level 11-12 group even on Story Time difficulty.

Solasta: Crown of the Magister. I’m attempting to finish the first campaign, which I left a couple of years ago after completing two of the four Gem Quests at the end. The last two are a slog, and The Mind of the Master is especially long, awkward, and annoying.

Solasta: Crown of the Magister DLC Ice Palace launched, prompting an immediate buy and download from me, sight unseen. Unfortunately all the DLCs are continuations of the first campaign, and I haven’t finished it yet.

I don’t think it’s breaking the NDA to say I played some amount of the Wayfinder closed beta and I definitely have an opinion about it. I got the impression this was more of the modern industry-standard “we just need to test the network and generate some buzz” beta tests rather than the antiquated “we actually want beta testers” beta tests that players still think exists. Modern software developers typically don’t care what customers think. :)

Gaming Industry

There was apparently a Sony State of Play event but I saw very little talk about it. There seems to be seventeen or eighteen of them every year now, so I can’t be bothered.

Lord of the Rings: Gollum launched and nobody liked it, prompting an apology from the developer. This is the standard now. A new game launches, it gets review bombed and everyone cheers about how they defeated capitalism, the game most likely still ends up being good enough. (Remember Fallout 76? Still good enough.)

Speaking of Tolkien, I think there was some recent announcement about Amazon making a new Lord of the Rings MMO, but given that their first two MMOs only had enough imaginativeness for a few hours of memorable gameplay, I can’t imagine a world where this new one turns out to be anything different.

Incidentally, I don’t witness too many happenings in the gaming world anymore, since most every gamer I followed left Twitter. Most of the bloggers I follow only talk about early-2000s MMORPGs, or chasing a meta in a modern MMO, or trending topics du jour, or some other insular topic I can’t relate to. I don’t have kids, but I imagine it’s like trying to pay attention to your kids chattering about the social drama at their school, which, to them, is their entire world, but to you, is about as engaging as drying paint.

Video Production

With all the talk of streaming on the Blaugust discord I got it into my head to stream some of the games I’m playing as I’m playing them, since it will be a long time before I can upload them to YouTube. (I don’t like to upload playthroughs to YouTube until I’m actually finished with the games in question.) Especially after the NAS incident described below.

Just to set expectations, when I say “livestreaming,” I mean something entirely different from what Twitch streaming culture means. I just mean turning on a live video and audio feed of what I’m playing, which normally is recorded locally to disk. I’m way too old to respect the popular notion of what the kids have morphed “streaming” into, which as far as I can tell is a modernized version of either a live radio call-in show, or a Tupperware-style dinner party. I don’t “go live.” I don’t “post my schedule.” I don’t “read the chat.” I don’t “care about that stuff.”

The interesting problem for me to solve is that I don’t want to disturb my local video recordings, which go into my post-processing pipeline to produce YouTube videos. I record game video without any overlays. If I want to add a webcam, for example, I record the webcam video separately from the game, and overlay it in post-processing. I also record multiple audio tracks so I can mix them in post. I can’t send any that to Twitch as-is.

So I ended up running a second copy of OBS to use exclusively for streaming.

The OBS-that-records works as before, recording a high-quality local video and multiple, separated audio tracks. But the OBS-that-streams adds a simple branding overlay and mixes the audio into one track before encoding it in a more stream-friendly way and sending it to Twitch.

At first I used the virtual camera on the OBS-that-records to send the video to OBS-that-streams. Then I realized I could just add the AverMedia capture card as a source in both copies of OBS. I didn’t expect that to work, but it did. (We’ve come a long way from the days of fiddling with IRQ settings for your hardware.)

The Stream Deck was a bit of a problem to deal with, though. It will only connect to one copy of OBS at a time, and it’s somewhat random which one it connects to. So I had to change some buttons from OBS-integrated functions to simple hotkey functions.

Otherwise it seems to work perfectly.

Web Development

While I was tinkering with Twitch, I made some Twitch embeds for the site.

I used ChatGPT (neato! Now you can share ChatGPT logs!) to work out how to make API calls to Twitch to get the IDs of the latest videos on my channel so I could embed them with a “latest videos” Hugo shortcode.

Sidebar: At this point I think it’s pretty obvious and uncontroversial to say that if you’re a software developer, and you haven’t yet put ChatGPT and/or Github Copilot or something like them into your daily problem-solving toolbox to augment or flat out replace “Googling Stack Overflow,” you’re falling behind your peers.

Unfortunately, this site is static, so I can only update the “latest video” whenever the site is built, which is currently only once every couple of weeks, so it ends up being functionally useless.

But I made another shortcode so I can drop an embed into the text as I’m writing to refer to whatever game I’m talking about, if I happened to livestream it. Like if I say, “boy howdy it sure was a disaster when I tried to go to Sorrowflow by myself to meet Kaelie in Pathfinder: Kingmaker.” Then I can just add twitch id="1827771649" into the text, like so:

Of course, streamed video only remains on Twitch for like six months or something so I guess I’d have to make a highlight if I want it to live forever, or set the shortcode to time out and disappear after six months.

Catastrophic NAS Failure

Somewhat related to video production, two of the four drives in my NAS (Network Attached Storage) died about 1 AM on May 26th, eradicating some 15 TB of videos and archives instantaneously.

I ordered two new drives to replace the faulty ones (twice the size of the originals), with the fleeting hope that I might recover those files, but ChatGPT prepared me for the inevitable worst-case scenario, explaining that, “yeah you can survive 1 drive of 4 failing, but 2 of 4, um, yeah, you know…”

You may be (not) surprised to learn that I don’t have a lot of that stuff backed up anywhere. I’d rather not have a repeat of The Great 2017 External Hard Drive Failure, in which I lost tons of recorded videos. (Mostly a complete Mass Effect 1, 2, and 3 playthrough–only MP3s of the audio from those videos survive.) Or The Great Circa 2000 drive failure, in which I lost 10 years of emails.

But it seems I will. Those two data losses will be an insignificant blip compared to losing everything that was on my NAS. Not just videos and projects (mainly from 2020-2022) but backups and archives from almost all of my previous PCs (and Amigas!). A lot of that stuff should still exist in CDROM or DVD backup form, but, you know, CDROMs and DVDs don’t last forever, either.

To complete the tragic irony, I ordered and received two external USB drives to begin backing up NAS data exactly one day before the NAS failed. True story.

Day Job

Nothing particularly interesting to report. New projects are slowly ramping up, and I’m starting to feel less like a floundering newb on all the new technologies I need to use on the new team.

The only real issue I have to complain about is that most everyone on the new team is in one office in San Francisco, while I’m on the East Coast. Remote work when everyone is remote is great, but remote work when you’re the only who’s remote is an entirely different ballgame, when it’s clear that you miss out on tons of stuff that the rest of the team just inherently knows and understands. I now feel like I’m working in a total vaccuum.

I’m not one of the ones advocating everyone return to the office, but there’s a great deal of truth to the often-repeated idea that when everyone is together in the same space, there’s a lot of passive knowledge-sharing that’s difficult or impossible to replicate in a remote environment.

Media Consumption

Watching Dimension 20’s The Ravening War, and I’ve been re-watching A Crown of Candy. I slacked off and missed two new Taskmasters, until this moment when I wrote this and realized I hadn’t watched them.

Watched Critical Role’s new Candela Obscura, which is a new tabletop world they’ve developed, which, as far as I can tell, is basically Call of Cthulu without the author’s baggage, mixed with Fringe, and a very esoteric rule system that doesn’t infringe any trademarks. It’s okay, but I find actual plays considerably less entertaining when the actors dress up in cosplay, hold perfectly stiff and still for the cameras, and try to improvise serious drama. That kind of stuff is for theater nerds, not game nerds.

But, you know, it’s not like I’m not going to watch it when it’s the only thing they release on the last Thursday every month.

World Context

Sometimes I retreat inward and don’t really watch the world, and this is one of those times, so I haven’t paid much attention to news. It’s just a lot of background noise about the usual stuff.

  • Vitally-important talks and blame-laying over government default continue blah blah and there’s a hard June 1 deadline blah blah so we’re supposed to feel a sense of impending doom even though we all know deadlines don’t matter in government. And apparently they made a deal at the last minute, just like they did every other time.
  • Ron DeSantis (Republican governor and chief Disney antagonist of Florida) officially entered the 2024 Presential Race, ensuring the word “woke” will appear in news headlines for the forseeable future.
  • Celebrity Deaths: Barbara Walters, Jim Brown, Tina Turner.

For future historians, this post consisted of a blank document for about 85% of this time period, and only came together in the last handful of days.

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