Hi, I'm Chris, though I've been going by nekobun and variants thereof for so long, I kind of answer to both anymore.
While I've kind of got my own thing going in the realm of indie coverage, at least in the form of playing through (and streaming) (and writing about) the huge backlog I'm developing of games gleaned from various indie bundles, I try to keep my more mainstream, game-related features here, as well as opinion pieces on the industry at large, out of mad love for the 'toid. When I'm not rambling here or trying to be clever in comments threads, you can catch me rambling on Facebook and my Twitter, and trying to be clever in the Dtoid.tv chat.
Now Playing: 360: Halo 4
SNES: Secret Of Mana
You've seen the daily posts for Mash Tactics. You've seen the weekend schedule each week for the heaps of shows we have on Dtoid.tv over the weekend. You've caught Jonathan Holmes' 'Sup Holmes Interviews, or explored the Dafoeverse vicariously with Conrad, Katrina, and Jordan, or been thoroughly confused as Johnny Luchador breaks games and your mind on Totally Rad Show. But have you heard about Streamtoid?
Streamtoid is Destructoid's community-focused sister stream channel on Twitch.tv, with a looser broadcasting schedule and an aim to bring Destructoid users into the fold, introducing them to streaming and giving them a place to flex their broadcasting wings. Given the somewhat scattershot nature of their programming, though it is getting a bit more regular and focused as of late, it's hard to pin down a precise schedule, but several broadcasters have regular shows there throughout the week, and our very own Team Fortress 2sdays are broadcast live on Streamtoid each week. More often than not, Streamtoid content fills the gaps between shows on Dtoid.tv proper, offering a near-seamless feed of video content over the course of the week.
Following Streamtoid on Twitch as well as Dtoid.tv is one great way to keep tabs on who's on and when, but regular viewer and friend of the streams Noxious has also created a handy extension for users of Google Chrome that lists who's on whenever Destructoid or Streamtoid are live, as well as keeping track of the personal channels of broadcasters from both, should you want to support them individually and independently of their Destructoid content. It's a great way to have gaming content at your fingertips at pretty much all times.
The other side of the community focus of Streamtoid, as I mentioned, is the desire to bring some of you, the proud, the Dtoidians into our streaming fold. But how does one go about getting into streaming video games? Here's a primer on some of the basics you'll need to get started, be it on your own channel or with a pitch for Streamtoid.
Obviously, at the core of things, you're going to need a computer. Streaming content tends to be relatively demanding on a processor, so your system's going to have to be relatively current to be able to handle the load inherent in broadcasting super pretty, HD-quality content. However, you can still get by at lower resolutions; only a small handful of Dtoid broadcasters actually produce shows at 720p, and back in the days of Jon Carnage and Pico Mause, Mash Tactics topped out at a whopping 432p and was still a great time. Other recommended hardware would be a microphone, and possibly a webcam, as interaction with stream chat tends to be the primary focus at Dtoid.tv and Streamtoid. It's also what keeps viewers coming back, as being acknowledged in chat makes you feel like part of the experience, and can lead to some great discussion and/or interesting antics on your show.
Secondly, you're going to need some software. There are several alternatives out there, but there are four primary options you'll run into: OBS, Xsplit, FME, and Wirecast.
OBS, or Open Broadcaster Software, is rapidly growing in popularity, as it demands less processor power than some of its brethren while still retaining much of the functionality of what's arguably the biggest fish in the streaming software sea, Xsplit. It doesn't hurt that it's free to download, either. OBS may take a bit of getting used to in regards to its interface, however, and requires some extra steps to set up as it relies on your stream key rather than just your Twitch.tv login. Additionally, it's not particularly well suited to capturing from hardware devices, which makes OBS best suited to PC streaming for the time being, and less so for console streaming (which we'll get further into later).
Xsplit, on the other hand, exchanges a bit more user friendliness and intuitiveness for processor load, but is one of the most widely-used programs by streamers today. Easy to set up, configurable for up to twelve, pre-set layouts at a time, and fairly flexible in regards to settings tweaks and input sources, Xsplit can be a powerful tool once you get into it. Unfortunately, access to many of Xsplit's features also requires you to pay for a license, which may not be in everyone's budget, especially not a streamer just starting out. Licensing options have, thankfully, seen a recent increase in choices, with a three month package now available for the fairly reasonable price of $14.95, so it's not too terrible on the wallet to see if the full access to Xsplit is right for you.
Adobe's Flash Media Live Encoder, formerly and still somewhat popularly known as just Flash Media Encoder, was the go-to, free choice for many starting streamers prior to Xsplit's beta period, and is decent for a free piece of software. It can be a bit clumsy at times and isn't the best out there, but is a decent choice for those looking for a fairly easy, quick way to get set up and give streaming a try. To be fair, though, OBS has pretty much eclipsed FMLE in popularity and usefulness, and nowadays, you're more likely to find people willing and able to help you get started with the former rather than the latter.
And finally, there's Wirecast, the big daddy of streaming software. Geared toward professional production, Wirecast encompasses several encoding formats, all sorts of hardware and input options, and gives you access to production tools on the fly. However, all this power comes at a price, with the base version ringing in at $495.00, and the full, Pro edition tacking another $500 onto that. If you're made of money, feel free to check out the free trial offered on their site to see if Wirecast is for you, but consider yourself warned.
Now that you've got streaming software, how to you put your face and your games on the interbutts? Well, signing up for an account at Twitch.tv would be a good first step, though if you're already watching enough streamed content to be interested in streaming, you've probably done so already. From there, it's just a matter of capturing content and slapping your webcam over or next to it with whatever software you're using, for which there are plenty of tutorials, some of which are provided by the software outlets themselves. Alternatively, you can search for "how to set up <streaming software here>" and find a wealth of tutorials covering everything you may need to know. It doesn't hurt to try a few test streams before going "officially" live with your channel, to work out any technological kinks and make sure everything looks and sounds to your liking.
When it comes to streaming PC games, streaming software is pretty accomodating. Many games are supported by in-program "game source" capturing, which pulls the video straight from the game to your stream. Failing that, you can just set a screen region encompassing the area covered by the game's window, or your desktop if you're playing full-screen. Please note that it's a bit easier on your hardware to play games in windowed mode, and you may have to tweak the game's video settings down a bit for optimal performance with streaming software running. Playing in windowed mode also makes it easier to manage your streaming window and anything else you may be juggling while live, especially if you're limited to one monitor's worth of space. A dual monitor setup is probably optimal, as the secondary monitor can provide a convenient home for your stream window, as well as for a window bearing the stream chat, making interaction that much easier. If you have a laptop or tablet, that will make chat interaction even easier, as you can keep your Twitch.tv dashboard open on that for interaction purposes, leaving your main computer responsible for streaming alone.
As for the issue of console games, things get a bit trickier. To capture video from a console, you're going to need some extra hardware, either external or internal. The lowest tier of capture equipment comes in the form of USB dongles, which are often limited to standard definition input. These are a great way to get started at a reasonable price point, especially if you're aiming to broadcast gameplay from retro consoles, but are often not the greatest to keep using after some time, and, in an age of high definition televisions and consoles, are rapidly falling by the wayside. The most popular options after that come in the form of HD PVRs and capture cards.
PVRs are, by nature, external devices, and as their name would imply, capture cards are installed inside your streaming computer of choice. There's a fair amount of debate as to what the best option is, but I've seen comparable results from both camps, and it's best to just find something that meets a reasonable price point for you. Personally, I do my own streaming on a Hauppauge HD PVR, Gaming edition, and it hasn't done me wrong, for the most part. BlackMagic Intensity is another name that gets thrown around quite a bit, on the card front, but again, I'd recommend doing your own research as to what fits your hardware and your needs. Both sources can either be pulled from directly by streaming software (save for with OBS, which seems to have trouble with that at this point) or may rely on capture software, which comes included in with the Hauppauge, which can subsequently be screen-regioned, and is adjustable for varying levels of capture quality.
And that's pretty much it. There are plenty of other things to read up on, such as tailoring your broadcast to your internet capabilities, optimizing your settings, and introducing additional hardware like audio mixers and multiple cameras, but YouTube, Twitch's support forums, and a few web searches all make it fairly easy to find the information you need. My one suggestion on that front is to check the posting date of any given tutorial, as the streaming scene has evolved very quickly over the past several years, and information as fresh as a year old may very well be outdated by now. If needs be, feel free to ask questions over on the Dtoid.tv Facebook group, as most of our broadcasters frequent there and are more than willing to help expand the fold.
Now that you've gotten started, played on your own channel a bit, and feel like you've something to contribute to Streamtoid, how do you go about that? Easily enough. Destructoid's own Spencer Hayes is in charge of the Streamtoid channel, and while I'm not in any position to disseminate his email address, I can at least point you to his profile, from which you can message him with your ideas, inquiries, and whatnot about getting on the schedule. It may not hurt to hang around Streamtoid for a bit and get a feel for what's already going on there, so you can bring something new and unique to the party, but at the same time, don't feel like you need to compromise your personality or your play preferences just to fill a gap. If nothing else, successful streaming relies a great deal on staying true to oneself and playing games one genuinely enjoys, so you have more to talk about while you play and can keep viewers engaged.
Really, whether you're streaming for yourself or, eventually, for Streamtoid, that's the key thing. Much as with any of the other community-oriented outlets here at Destructoid, be yourself, or at least, be your own gimmick. Playing big-draw games like League Of Legends, competitive first-person shooters, or struggling to keep up with the latest and greatest titles may bring in the viewers initially, but if you're not enjoying them, not getting into them, or just doing it for the numbers, it's going to show, and those viewers are going to turn right around without following, and won't come back. Play games you love, be they new or dated, and share that love with your audience, and that audience will hit that Follow button and keep coming back for more. Even if you're not on Streamtoid, but enjoy our programming, feel free to spread the word to your own viewers and send them to raid either 'toid channel when you're done for the day; chances are, the favor'll be repaid in kind, with a deluge of fresh faces checking you out thanks to a Dtoid raid one day, as the cycle of raiding is essentially the Twitch version of karma. Don't be afraid to ask for help, be it on the tech side or for moderation's sake, should you start bringing in more people than you can handle solo, as many of our broadcasters and mods have that little lightning bolt icon on other channels, and will be glad to give you a hand once you've wormed your way into our peculiar, incestuous little family.
Hope to see some of you Twitch-side soon, be it on the broadcasting end or just as new viewers, and with luck, this'll prove a decent starting point for those looking to expand into the Twitch and Dtoid community.