MUD2MMO : Livestreaming 101, a Crash Course
Gonna try something newish here. I'll post my script below for people who prefer to read these things, keeping in mind that the video deviates a little from the script. But this is a basic introduction to some of the concepts of live streaming video games. And by the way, if you wanna check out what we do, you can find my live stream at http://www.twitch.tv/Tyger_WDR We go infrequently, based on work schedules on my end.
Something quick, it's been a hell of a week. That's why I'm filming like this, in the this interface. Much easier than setting up a real camera. So this week, I wanna talk briefly about livestreaming. Very briefly. (Cut to opening credits)
I mentioned before my absolute love of livestreaming. In all seriousness it's science fiction become reality. A livestream is literally that, a live video and audio that you are digitally sending over the internet in a form called a "stream" from your computer. Streams are not saved on the end viewer's computer, as opposed to other forms of downloadable media. Think of it as old-timey TV as opposed to YouTube, and you get what I think is most exciting about it. One take, live without a net broadcasting, and anyone can jump in.
Let's talk hardware!
Lemme start with how easy it is. The basics you need are a pretty beefy internet connection, a broadcasting program and a game to play. I won't detail out individual streaming programs here, but there are free programs out there that are pretty good. As far as game choice, any game will work. I've seen people livestream everything from League of Legends to Mario Brothers 3 to Atari games. Heck, I've livestreamed YouTube video games before (Clip from Dark Room).
I'd love to stream PS2 games here but, well, I love you guys, but I don't $200 love you guys to buy a good capture device. That's all I'm saying. And as far as I can tell, there's no way to plug old school cables into the back of a computer. Yet. But after the basics, now you're ready to go. Kinda. There's a few more things that are good to have, and we start to get into the entertainment side of livestreaming here. Like for example, you can hear me right now, so you're going to need a microphone of some kind.
Personally, I tend to marathon sessions so I've experimented with a few setups. I found two ways to do it. The first is with a headset, and this was hard to get right. Finding one that's good for long duration wear AND has decent audio is hard, but doable. I went with Turtle Beach. And I just heard several self-proclaimed audiophiles whinge about sound quality, but if I can't justify $200 for a mid-range capture device, what makes you think I'll drop $300 on headphones?
The other way is using an external microphone that's on my webcam, and then using earphones plugged into my computer. This is good on nights that I don't want to wear the big setup, but the audio suffers. And I could possibly go without earphones, but I run the risk of constant echo.
This kinda brings me to the face cam. I still don't get why people love this thing. I think it's part proof that there's a real person playing, and part connection to the person doing it. I never saw a point to it but people demanded I use one. So, I started turning it on. As well as wearing this (cat bandanna). Yes, I'm trolling people. You want a face cam? You get this.
Plan ahead before you go live
Beyond that it helps to have some things ready to go, and this is why I really like x-split. Having separate presets planned ahead makes the show go smoother. Plan for bathroom breaks, so having a holding screen is not a bad idea. Lolcats are funny. What? Also pre-load any programs you intend on running like Skype, Vent, Winamp or whatever you think you'll use. Running dual monitors also helps a LOT at this point, so you can see chat rooms.
Back to me--see this is what makes livestreaming different from any other kind of broadcasting. This is interactive. Your audience can talk directly to you. A lot of the time it's people who play the game and they'll offer advice or notice things that you'll miss. It's not cool to ignore your audience.
The one best example I can think of was DCUO's livecast of the Steelworks solo alert. At the end the player, a DCUO developer I might add, could not complete the mission. The chat room was filled with people who were all caps typing "CHOOSE A REWARD!" but they completely ignored us, instead opting to blame it on a game bug. It lead to a lot of us wondering if it really was a livecast at all, or a pre-recorded demo video.
I was reassured later that it was, in fact, a livecast, but I remain skeptical.
As I said before, paying attention to the audience is vital. Many viewers will simply tune out if you're not at least saying hello to them. Many are new players with questions; help 'em out. Many are old time players with advice; at least pay attention to it. Some are there to troll; just ban them and get on with it.
Which brings me to the face cam again. As I said, I'm baffled as to why people like to see the gamer, because most of the face cam footage looks like this. (Typical style player staring at monitor, not talking) Guy playing game, not even moving, utter concentration... BORING TV! What I've found over the years is that a lot of people freeze up in front of a camera or just lock up and look very uncomfortable. If that's you, ditch the camera. If you have a camera interact with it, look at it, talk TO your audience.
Easy for me to say, I've been doing this for a long time. But my point is you're on camera. Do something. Not constantly, but if it's on you may as well show folks something. Emotions. Actions... (points to bandana on face) Cat faces. Whatever works!
"Snappy patter and jokes, he knows what pleases the folks..."
This is the one part of livestreaming that people tend to overlook. You're not just a gamer, you're also an entertainer. My theory is that people watch livestreams for a few reasons. One is that you're really THAT GOOD that people want to see how you do it. One is you're a girl and before people bash me for it you know it's true. But the draw that will keep people coming back is that you're entertaining. Not necessarily funny, but entertaining.
Talking to your audience, being engaging, trying to be helpful, talking with friends on Skype or Vent, dancing on camera... all of these things are entertaining. Sitting back and just playing blankly, not entertaining. Some stuff like this can't be taught, you've got it or you don't really. But in all, it's interaction, it's entertainment.
Which brings me to a sore point. Playstation recently revealed their new controller with a "share" button. I'm not a fan of doing a game's advertising for them in exchange for achievement points, but more interestingly this will let anyone livestream instantly. X-Box has also done this with Black Ops 2. On one hand, it's cool to see people having the ability to broadcast with no effort. On the other, so many people will be doing it that it will become harder to find people who truly are entertaining as they'll be drowned out in a sea of mediocrity.
That being said? I'm still all for it. Who knows? We might be surprised with what comes out of everyone broadcasting everything they do. Infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters thing. But, then again? There's times that livestreaming isn't the thing to do for me. I'm wiped out, it's 1 AM, I just want to get my fix in before going to bed.... yeah.... OR when I feel like snacking. You know how hard it is to eat Pringles with this thing on?