It's been a while since we did one of these fireside chats hasn’t it?
Originally this was supposed to be published after my affiliate anniversary stream way back in late September/early October while I was working on while adding things to the channel such as new emotes, schedule formats, meme scenes, and more. I kept writing while I was working on the channel until this post ballooned college essay levels of unwieldy word counts with twice as much self-indulgent bullshit to pad out the pages. When faced with the near six thousand word long monster in front of me, I did what any self-respecting writer does when scope creep sets in:
And with that, let’s talk a bit about the past year, what’s new, and what’s coming down the pipeline in the coming days, weeks, and months ahead in preparation for 2024.
So, what happened?
Before I became a Twitch affiliate in September 2022, streaming was mostly an experimental thing I did with very little promotion for my channel so I could learn how to use OBS and Touch Portal effectively with my first stream ever as BallisticToaster going as far back as Saturday, April 25th 2020. During what I’m gonna refer to as Year 0 from here on out, I occasionally streamed with little rhyme or reason or planning with streams being as far as months apart from each other and with a fairly rudimentary setup hindered by some technical issues.
As I became more involved and even helped moderate other people’s Twitch channels, I decided around summer of 2022 to make a more concerted effort to start streaming more often with a variety of different games as my schedule allowed. As my audience slowly and steadily increased over time, I was able to recruit mods to help keep the stream continue in the right direction & to more easily work on improving the production quality of the stream through new cameras, microphones, lighting, capture equipment and eventually a whole new computer. In that time, new meme scenes were added, several scenes were overhauled, and overlays were revamped to help make the stream cleaner and more functional with branding of its own to make it more identifiable.
Eventually I qualified for the affiliate program which unlocked more of this channel’s potential and I celebrated with a stream discussing my streaming workflow using OBS, the content of which would eventually spun out into their own posts on this very blog. In wanting to keep viewers informed on the goings-on with the stream, I made a concerted effort to publish weekly posts discussing new additions to the stream and publishing a new schedule at the closing of each post which would later get posted to Discord and Twitter.
Having access to channel points meant more features such as meme commands to trigger scenes using channel points while putting a unique spin on rewards such as the “FIRST” command, and giving viewers the opportunity to request drawings on my whiteboard, making me speak in an ASMR voice for five minutes, or everyone’s favorite: Ara Ara. (Thanks DearlyYu.)
Becoming an affiliate also meant being able to have my friends contribute to the stream and leave their own mark on the channel besides being moderators or VIPs: From FreshPearspective, SaltyGhostCrow, AirGlowAiri, and Queen_Valkyrie’s emotes to AirGlowAiri's subscriber badges, they helped contribute toward a major part of the channel's identity and I couldn't be more thankful for what they came up with.
As my streams became more frequent & I began making schedules, I made a rotating list of games across different genres to be cycled through during a given week. It also allowed me play games alongside my friends such as Resident Evil 5, Donkey Kong Country 1 & 2, and A Way Out with Stormhowl_FGC, Familiar_Dan, and CyberGamingX1 respectively. Streams would also branch outside of games in the rotation, such as Powerwash Simulator, Destiny 2, Overwatch 2, and briefly Dead By Daylight. As a brief, yet successful experiment, we even did a writing stream for one of the blog posts in the OBS setup series to surprising levels of engagement, even capping Year 1 off with a community night that would include some of the above games and Jackbox!
Since the beginning of my content creation career as BallisticToaster up until the end of Year 1, here are the games we’ve finished:
- Sonic Forces (Year 0) 2. Assassin’s Creed 1 (Year 0)
- Tetris Effect: Evolution (Year 0)
- Donkey Kong Country (with FamiliarDan) (Year 0)
- Dead Space 1 (Year 0)
- Dead Space 2 + Severed (Year 1)
- Dead Space Remake (Year 1)
- Hi-Fi Rush (Year 1)
- Metroid: Zero Mission (Year 0)
- Metroid: Samus Returns (Year 0)
- Super Metroid (Year 1)
- Metroid Fusion (Year 1)
- Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered + The City That Never Sleeps (Year 1)
- Bioshock 1 (Year 1)
- A Way Out (With CyberGamingX1) (Year 1)
- Super Mario Sunshine (Year 1)
- Resident Evil 4 (Remake) (Year 1)
- Metroid Prime: Remastered (Year 1)
If you were able to tune in to any of these streams be it to lurk or to say hi or just passing by, I just wanted to say thank you. This wild rollercoaster ride has only just started and I'm happy to entertain however I can, and I hope y’all will be there for the long ride ahead in all its peaks, valleys, loop-de-loops, and more.
What Went Right
Forged an Identity & Created a Community.
A major part of what defined Year 1 was trying to figure out the answer to one question: “In a sea of thousands of people doing the same thing as you, how do you stand out?” From there, it was a matter of building out something that felt unique enough despite borrowing aspects from some of my favourite streamers and embracing that with who and what inspires me most in real life. A major part of it came from moderating channels and in following in the examples of a few IRL friends & streamers that inspire me to this day. Put together, they helped kickstart a community of weird-doughs I’m happy to be a part of & helped me figure out what this channel was going to be about: Lots and lots of crumby Horatio-worthy puns, dumb ways to die, and passionate asides of how to hack OBS in just the right way to get effects to work the way you want them to.
Deepened my skillset to make streaming more approachable for myself and others.
Throughout Year 1, technical issues and nerves ran rampant during a few streams; the slightest lapse of judgement or technical error can feel that much more scrutinizing in a live environment & can make pressing the “Start Streaming” button feel like a Herculean effort. While some of that anxiety still remains, it’s significantly diminished over the past year and it’s gotten to the point where even in the face of technical issues, the show was still able to go on despite the scuff. It’s also what inspired the creation of a blog and with it, the OBS Setup Posts that would come with it as a method of referenceable documentation that would help prospective & veteran streamers.
In recognizing the mistakes I could make while speaking or technical errors that could occur, it helped me build out a workflow that starts before stream begins and ends moments after raiding out by following a structure that helps me account for certain events and leave plenty of room for improvisation. It encouraged me to learn more about the tools I’d use such as OBS, Touch Portal, Da-Vinci Resolve & GIMP to build out meme scenes, overlays, and more. It’s gotten to the point where a single meme scene with animations, sound effects, and more, takes less than twenty minutes to build out, including the beginning stages of storyboarding and implementing a vertical layout.
As a result of all this, streaming - and the scuff that may come with it- no longer feels as daunting nor as damning. But that doesn’t mean things couldn’t have been better.
What Needs Improvement.
Unbelievably Cramped Workflow. From Blog Posts, New Features, to Tweets.
A lot of features such as scenes, redeems, overlays, commands and more were added throughout Year 1 and with them came blog posts to formally introduce them. All this fed into a loop of communication and engagement with the community I’ve wanted to build for some time and while that’s been great to have, it’s also impacted the speed at which these features are being worked on and deployed and has impacted how I stream if a feature is left unfinished.
The weekly pace of scheduling, writing a blog post, working on features, streaming, writing tweets to announce streams, schedules, blog posts, post-stream tweets and more is a lot for one man who’s busy with their everyday life and works on other projects on top of that, and that’s without getting into the development of version 2 of this website. A lot tends to fall to the wayside and some things tend to be neglected over time, such as This Week at the Crumb Club.
I don’t want to stop doing “State of Stream” styled posts like ‘This Week at the Crumb Club’ entirely so it’s more than likely that it could become a monthly post rather than a weekly one. While the idea behind it was well intended and drew upon the ways that Bungie informs its community every week regarding changes to Destiny 2 with This Week In Destiny, it was perhaps a touch too ambitious and ill-fitting for a small streamer.
It was an experiment with its heart in the right place that needs to be adjusted; both in terms of scope and delivery so that it gives me plenty of room to work on new editorials, instructional pieces, reviews, scripts, videos, and with it, new stream features.
This will also likely mean adjusting when streams are usually scheduled along with their frequency. The aim for how many times I stream will still be three times a week between 3-4 hours, with two weekday streams and one weekend stream but the days of the week that will happen in will likely change to afford more time to make adjustments, however the amount of streams per week may also drop to about one or two instead of the usual three streams a week to better account for other projects, career/life stuff, or changes to the stream that’ll take place behind the scenes.
Each week will be scheduled differently and accordingly, especially as features are added to Mixitup, new meme scenes are developed, emotes get added, and subscriber features are being deployed.
The Rotation: Great Idea, Mixed Execution,
From the moment I started scheduling streams, I wanted to track what kind of games were being played on the channel and how much progress has been made on them while I’m live on Twitch so I could figure out how to best introduce variety to the channel while finishing every game that’s introduced on stream. This is what led to the creation of the Rotation, a list of games that are cycled in and out of weekly schedules according to what games came out, what I wanted to play, and how much progress needs to made on them. For the most part, the Rotation has been a positive boon for this channel; it helped provide a greater sense of the bigger picture as to what games are being played and how much time needs to be spent on them so I can clear slots out for games I want to introduce to the channel.
It also provided helpful insight on how often certain genres showed up in the stream, with most games being action/adventure titles with a bend towards survival horror and platforming games. Games on the rotation also tended to skew towards AAA games released between the seventh and ninth generation of consoles (PS3/360/Wii -> PS5, Xbox Series S/X, Switch) with exceptions like Metroid and Mario which were around the sixth generation (PS2/Xbox/GameCube). More notably, games I’ve already beaten before with some clocking in at the second or third playthrough and at an average length around 12-15 hours. (Both Spider-Man and BioShock 1 were at their third play-throughs)
While playing games that I’ve already played before isn’t an issue in the long-run, it does present an issue in the lack of variety of games being streamed, especially since a lot of what’s being streamed are coming from heavy-hitter franchises like Resident Evil, Mario, Spider-Man, BioShock and even Sonic for the sake of name-recognition. Games also took far too long to beat as they were being cycled in and out of the schedule far too quickly for others; Hi-Fi Rush is about 11 hours long, but between Dead Space Remake, Mario Sunshine, and the Metroid games, it took about three months to beat.
Similarly, Spider-Man started on the day of the PC version’s launch and took six months to beat starting from the main story to all three DLC chapters. Starting new games on the channel felt like I was adding a lot on an already full plate and it drove me away from longer games I’d want to stream due to the question of “How can I make this game as interesting to watch as it is to play it? And how can I keep my interest in streaming it if there’s other stuff I wanna do on my channel?” Even partway through Year 2, it was an issue in Starfield where my personal interest fell off a cliff after a few streams and has since been side-lined for other other games that are in the Rotation.
While clearing out games in the Rotation will still remain a focus, it’ll be reigned in a bit to better introduce and play through an even greater variety of games from different genres, console generations, and studios from across the independent and AAA studios of the industry. You’ll also see more experiments with different formats like Just Chatting/Ballistic Cast (Thanks Kofy) streams, Cursed Zillow, creative streams, community nights on and off stream, and far more.
Streams will now be categorized according to three different categories:
Rotational: Rotational streams focus on games that take about 12-20 hours to finish or shorter and can be rotated alongside other games week-to-week. Examples of games that fall into this category include Shenmue, BioShock, Armored Core VI, Resident Evil 4, Sonic Superstars, and the Spider-Man games. Up to two of these can be scheduled per week and a maximum of five games can appear in the Rotational category.
Long-Haul: Long haul streams focus on games that exceed the rotational category’s length cap, even going into RPG length as viewers join the adventure for the long haul. You can expect games like Starfield to show up here but you can also expect the likes of Final Fantasy & Baldur’s Gate to show up in this category too! Up to two of these streams can be scheduled per week and a maximum of two games can be placed in the Long-Haul category.
Wildcard: Wildcard streams are basically the “Screw it” of all the stream categories with a maximum of one stream that can be scheduled accordingly. Wildcard streams can include games that aren’t on the rotation, community nights, collaborations, creative streams, or a completely different kind of thing altogether.
What went wrong:
Didn’t branch out far enough to other platforms.
This one can’t be avoided: Twitch streaming has been a focal point for my content creation ambitions and while this was a great place to start, it only made my lack of presence on other platforms that much more jarring. While I have a YouTube and TikTok account set up, both get as much use as my Instagram page. A blog is a great start to build up from there, but updates were few and far between the moments TWCC posts were published and lacked variety. The time needed to manage these different platforms at the same time is something I’m still wrapping my head around and feeds into the issue of my workflow feeling cramped at the moment as streaming and all the maintenance that requires it to run smoothly can be incredibly time-consuming for a one-man show who runs the entire channel on his own with a career and life of his own.
A possible solution to this is to start uploading on a smaller-scale for stream highlights, VODs, or other kinds of videos that can be uploaded in a consistent enough manner and to start working my way up from there as more ambitious kinds of content are being worked on. Thankfully there’s enough material to work with since a majority of stream VODs have been archived on my computer but a small portion of VODs have been lost to time. Thankfully there’s more than enough footage to start somewhere but the fact that some streams haven’t been archived at all is a resounding failure on my part and a solution has been put in place to render this dilemma a non-issue by recording the stream while I’m live to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
Balancing all these different platforms and other projects I take on- both within content creation and in my career outside of streaming- will involve changing the frequency and timings of streams week-to-week to account for the time needed to work on and maintain these projects. Any updates to scheduling and stream timings will be posted on Twitter and Discord as they’ve always are.
Clumsy roll-out of subscriber features.
While the stuff that’s on offer for subscribers like emotes and other features can take some time to accumulate throughout a streamer’s career, it still didn’t excuse the length between new emotes and features. Only three emotes that came out a month after I became an affiliate in October and were there for the longest time until the second batch of new emotes started coming to the channel in March.
A lot of it was due to the timing of when I had them commissioned and a failure to account for the time it took for Twitch to authorize them (thankfully a non-issue due to having instant upload eligibility), things were barren for the longest time and thankfully it’s no longer an issue as of the end of 2023 with about twenty emotes that’ve been drawn up across five different artists and spread across different tiers.
Beyond emotes and ad-free viewing, I also wanted to have an additional benefit for subscribers that felt like an extension of the channel’s branding and core identity by giving subscribers the ability to use text commands in chat to trigger meme scenes. These meme commands launched with unique scenes that couldn’t be used here but its quality during its launch window left something to be desired combined with how little variety there was, and how certain redeems were turned into commands to justify the change.
Combined with a lack of alternatives for followers and other actions in chat, how abruptly new meme commands were rolled out to followers and subscribers, and how little usage they got, they were eventually rolled back and deprecated. Nowadays, meme commands relegated to smaller actions like adding to a death count, lurking, or saying hello, but there’s plans in place to bring back more meme redeems in the future. Subscriber exclusive ones are already planned out, but VIPs and Mods will get unique meme commands of their own in the very near future along with more commands available to everyone else!
So what’s next?
We’re partway into Year 2 and every stream since the end of Year 1 has been an exercise in applying lessons from the past year to make this channel the best it can be. There’s been a lot of experimentation in stream formats, iterating on overlays, meme scenes, and more combined with a lot of time spent streamlining workflows to better manage things more efficiently alongside new tools like Mixitup and Slime2Stream in place of StreamElements.
Despite how far I’ve come there’s so much more left to do and so much I want to accomplish as BallisticToaster beyond just streaming to Twitch. “What’s next” has always been an incredibly daunting question to answer because it was hard to tell what direction to go, how high I should aim, and whether any of these ambitions would pan out at all.
But what good is ambition if you can’t shoot for the fucking stars?
Goals for the end of 2024
- Get to 500 followers on Twitch
- Reach 50 subscribers on Twitch
- 10 games completed on stream for 2024.
- 15 Blog Posts written in 2024. (Can be Tutorials, Editorials, Creative Writing, State of the Channel posts)
- Three unique, scripted YouTube videos. (Excluding VODs, Highlights, & Shorts)
- New Text Logo for BallisticToaster
- Do** one Web OR Game Development Stream!
If one or none of these goals pan out, at least I can say that I gave myself goals to go after and that whatever progress made toward them still matters all the same. Either way it goes, I’m excited for the future of the channel, of where the Crumb Club’s headed next.
Thanks again for tuning in and for being a part of this community, whether you’ve been here for a while or you’ve just joined, it’s great having you around all the same and I hope y’all stay toasty for what’s to come in the year ahead!