Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Hitbox TV as an alternative to Twitch TV?

    The last few weeks I have been looking into this new Streaming website for gaming as an alternative to Twitch TV. As you all know I am pretty much fed up with Twitch TV and I would love to move away as soon as possible. Only thing I ever truly liked about it, after my forced move from Justin TV for the games is the great gaming community.

    This new Streaming website is Hitbox TV and started in October last year and is still in beta. The people behind this are René Weinberger (CTO) and Martin Tyler (CEO) who both formerly worked for Own3d TV. Yes, I know about what happened to Own3d TV and I know they never have been able to pay off their full debts. Were these people to blame? I doubt it, since Martin was hired as Own3d's CFO to try fix the money problems when they were already in deep shit and René was just the technical mastermind behind the core technology and didn't want to see his hard work gone. Anyways, enough about what happened to Own3d TV and see what Hitbox TV has to offer.

    First glance at the looks of the channels and website design makes me think of a copied Twitch layout ... hmmm. That's a bummer, but then again, how else would you fit video and chat nicely together? This way is probably easiest to get started and makes the viewer feel sort of familiar. Another thing that kind of annoys me is the video showing all the way at the top of the page. I would love to see the menu icons/buttons in the bar on the left as a top bar instead, lowering the video and chat just that bit and allowing more room for both on width. I do like the way the icons/buttons work though. I also searched for a way to give my channel some kind of a personal touch, but all I could find is an upload option for a profile picture. I would truly love to see ways to give your channel a personal touch, preferably in HTML instead of the 'limited markdown' that Twitch introduced quite some time ago. As for design, I feel it needs more work and I can only imagine them being busy on it.

    The video quality is great and shows no lag or loading issues at all. Of course the quality does depend on how the streamer has it set up. You can only watch it in source quality/resolution. This is RTMP streaming as it should be, where Twitch decided to use HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) to be able to reach iOS and mobile devices. Setting up your stream is easy and you can use any streaming software like OBS, XSplit, FFSplit or even Adobe FMLE. You can tweak your stream a lot better compared to Twitch by using Variable BitRate (VBR) again as well as Constant BitRate (CBR) which was forced upon streamers by Twitch. All-in-all, I really prefer this way of streaming and it doesn't limit the smaller streamers who can't deliver high quality. On Twitch you would miss out if you can't meet the 'excellent' requirements. This means you won't be available on mobile or console and viewers won't be able to select their desired resolution for which you usually need to be partnered anyway. To be honest, there should not even be a need to lower your resolution in the first place when watching a proper 1080p high quality stream unless you really have crappy internet and a toaster for a computer.

    The chat is great! No significant delay, which allows for being interactive with your viewers again ... woot!!! This is something Twitch screwed up completely with their huge delay nowadays. For most streamers, chat interactivity is of utmost importance. I truly hate it when I am trying to have a conversation with my viewers and getting responses about a minute or more later. The chat on Hitbox seems to be almost instant which is a huge plus! On the downside however, it uses websockets for their chat, which means you are not able to connect through IRC. Nice to have HTML 5, but my chat bot which uses IRC is now useless. However, promises have been made to work on IRC functionality, so I will just have to be patient to see what they come up with I guess. On a side note, NO MORE EMOTES, YAY! Although there seem to be plenty of weird looking smiley faces and pictures ... Kappa shows a sushi picture? ... lol

    Video playback is another thing that seems to work great, where it takes ages to load a video in the archive on Twitch, it takes only a second on Hitbox TV to load and no buffering during playback either. I did read about issues with editing streamed video and the way it cuts it into parts by default though. I can't really judge on this myself, since I haven't tested this myself yet. Supposedly there is also a feature to upload to YouTube. Will have to do some test streaming to check on this.

Oh well, I will definitely keep an eye out on Hitbox TV myself and get ready to ditch Twitch, although I will not move away from Twitch TV just yet. You might see me stream on Hitbox though if Twitch decides to have one of those !@#%$#* nights again. I love my Pixy Bot and I will see what I can do about coding Pixy Bot using websockets and prepare my viewers on Twitch TV for the move as well as preparing quite a few other changes needed. So start following me on http://hitbox.tv/DevilinPixy. Keep up the good work Hitbox TV and hopefully you guys can manage growth very well. I am getting ready to move to the alternative I have been wishing for ...

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