Gamers come in all shapes and size and most enjoy several types of entertainment in terms of gaming, including video games, board games, table top games, mobile games and others. Because of the amount of gaming around us today, we have a variety of platforms to choose from, and for many of us that play video games, the PC is a premier device used to power our favorite games for a couple of reasons. Beyond the beefed up hardware and available software that can only be found on the PC, we enjoy something few console gamers have the ability to, modding. Modding is a huge force in PC gaming that keeps games relevant for years after the vanilla version has been worn down, just look at how “Skyrim” is still in use years after its release and how content is still churned out for it on a daily basis. But modding can be challenging, especially when games are not on Steam and have access to its modding support via the workshop, but the Curse client, a simple program from Curse, is a great way to mod some of your games easily, especially if you are into MMOs.
Do you remember when games didn’t have achievements and the only way to measure completion was by discussing plot points with friends? The good old days, right? Well, those times have come and gone, and in today’s gaming environment many of us are out to prove our progression through achievements and other quantifiable statistics. The problem, for us PC gamers at least, is that fewer games are being put into Steam (the king of software platforms on PC) and being added to other gaming hubs like Blizzard’s Battle.net, EA’s Origin, Ubisoft’s Uplay and more recently Trion’s Glyph, just to name a few. This leaves us with several services to not only play on but to connect with friends and compare progress, with can add up to some serious micromanaging. However, there is a service out there that makes condensing this information, including friends, game statistics and achievements, much easier to track.
There’s no question about it, video game streaming has become a huge industry over the past couple years and it doesn’t look like its leaving anytime soon. Some reports have Twitch posting more concurrent viewers than major television networks during prime time, and while Twitch is the titan of game streaming, there are several other streaming sites that boast large viewer-memberships also. With this in mind, it may be time to jump on the streaming bandwagon and get a piece of the pie for yourself, but where do you begin?
Below I have listed several services and programs that amateur streamers should look into while they begin to build their streaming networks. It’ll take more than these items alone to be a good or even great streamer, but these tools are essential and will help make the most of your growing gaming stream. Combined with a good work ethic and a little humor, you could be one of the elite few that come to earn their living from streaming full time, good luck!
- Internet – The very first thing you need to check out before getting into streaming is the quality of your internet connection, as a decent upload will be required in many cases. At the lowest end you probably want 1.5mb up, and if you want to do 720p60FPS or 1080p30FPS you probably want more than 5mb up with 3.5 being dedicated to the stream. You can somewhat compensate for a lower upload with more CPU usage, but the trade off is very one sided and will require a heavy CPU load.
- Platform – Before you begin streaming, you should decide what device you will stream from. Will it be your PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One or another emulated device? If it is from a console you may need to invest in a capture card before anything else, and if it is from a PC you should be aware of some basic information that will help you decide if you have enough power to start streaming. This info would include the CPU (and its clock), the GPU, OS and RAM as all will be important. More cores on the CPU will help in this case, though many last and modern i5 and i7 gens should be able to handle the load.
- Capture Software – Even if you invest in a capture card, you’re going to need software to get it “to the people”. There are a couple choices out there, but I recommend OBS or Xsplit (OBS worked better for me and is free). Both allow you to set the path of your stream, set up scenes, capture multiple sources, set up encoding, video, audio and everything else you need. To view some of my settings in OBS, click here and for the most recent settings click here.
- Snip – Before Twitch changed its highlight ideology, I used to enjoy using Snip to display the music I was playing in real time. Snip can tie into a variety of entertainment software like iTunes and creates a simple document that can be tied into your stream. While you can still have music playing during live streams, highlights will be muted if music outside the game is heard.
- Random.org – If you plan on playing with viewers or having giveaways or need to make anything random, random.org is a simple way to input several lines of information and have the lines randomized. It can be a useful tool when put to work.
- Nightbot/Moobot – When you start getting viewers you will also attract trolls and while you find moderators nightbot or moobot can help filter the spam. These are free services that allow an administrative bot to filter trash and make posts like links to YouTube, websites, etc. You can donate for a couple of extra perks, and I’m almost certain there are other bots out there now but these are the two I’ve always been exposed to.
- ImRaising/TwitchAlerts – Viewers like interaction, there is no way around that. Most prefer facecams but there are successful streamers that skip the cam and look for other means of viewer incorporation. One way to bring viewers in is to have their donations, subscriptions, hosting and following be rewarded with an onscreen image and tune played when they complete any of the above. The audio clip can also be a good way for you, the streamer, to catch when an action is happening that you might otherwise have missed. Both ImRaising and TwitchAlerts have these features, though at the moment I’m using TA. They can also both tie into your Paypal so any donations that are made can be easily handled. Remember donations and tips MUST be reported when doing taxes.
- GimpShop – While this last program isn’t exactly needed, it can be helpful if you want to do some basic graphic design for your stream without spending a ton of money on Photoshop. GimpShop is a free open source graphics software that has many tools found on older versions of Photoshop and in the right hands can be used to design savvy images and logos that will help create a better looking stream.
Above I’ve listed several resources that are sure to help anyone get into streaming that much easier. A combination of these tools can help create a good looking stream and perhaps will provide you with everything you need during your streaming tenure. Remember it will take more than tools and software to make a quality stream, but a suave presentation will no doubt help. Thanks again for reading and stay tuned for more.