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Learning to livestream: Protips


It's possible that you can download XSplit or Open Broadcaster Software and immediately start streaming. You would be one of the lucky ones. Sure, most of the software is easy to set up initially, but ask anybody who has been streaming for any extended period of time and he'll tell you that no long-term stream goes off without a hitch every time.

Thankfully, Massively has an entire team of long-term streamers. Most of us have been livestreaming for a couple of years. What's amazing is that we are still learning new things. The Stream Team remains in constant communication with each other; we lean on each other for advice and tips. In fact, I'm going to pass on some of these tips to you now in this third edition of Learning to Livestream.

Learning to livestream Protips
Computer configuration

Larry: Our streamers agree that the computer setup is the most important part of streaming. As I've said, your processor is important, but you definitely have to own a speedy hard drive and a hefty amount of RAM, too. Massively streamers Beau Hindman, Dylan "GGraves" Tehrani, and David "Psykopig" Desi had this to say about your computer and internet setup.

Beau: Streaming is processor-heavy. If you are upgrading, get the best one possible. I got a third-gen Core i7 to stream browser-based games -- games that can run on a netbook. I need that power, extra RAM, and a decent graphics card to run it effectively at 720p. I could do 1080p, but I find 720 comfortable, detailed, and easy to run. If you want to get serious about streaming to the point that you want to have a website or any type of paying job at it, try to get the best internet you can afford. Granted, I work at home, but I look at my monthly $250 Verizon Fios bill as the extra car that some families get or as the extra cash people put into gas for a work commute. Prices are dropping now, as well, so shop around for providers.

Dylan: When possible, turn off shadows and names; it will help with most processors. For 720p+ streaming, you will need 5mb upload from your internet provider to have a quality presentation.

David: Double check the server your streaming software is using. You might be surprised as to which one has the best ping for you. I think that in the streaming games, two screens is a must. I know that might seem obvious, but my earlier shows were done with one screen. It makes it easier to actually see the camera being changed rather than hoping you pushed the right button and needing to alt-tab to check it.

Learning to livestream Protips
Have a plan

Larry: Livestreaming is entertainment. Perhaps some of you can be entertaining on your personality alone -- Jasmine Hruschak is one of those people. But I bet you that even she doesn't just drop into a livestream without a plan. Here's what a couple of our streamers have to say about stream preparation.

Beau: Don't just show yourself playing a game all the time. People see that all over Twitch. Do something different or at least do something consistent. Pretend it's a show with a point. I like to show off new games mainly because I get to use a stream like a teaching session. It introduces people to new games or shows them an actual mechanic. If you can't do something completely different, at least make it consistent in quality and timing.

David: Go in with a plan. Are you talking about a dungeon today? Are you just grinding through some quests? Crafting? MMOs are easy games to stream as we can stay in one game for a while and still make it interesting based on the number of activities available in each game. Once you know what your goal is, find a way to remind yourself of that goal as you stream. Sometimes you can fall off the wagon because gaming is fun! Build a format around your show: a standard run of how you will start and end the show. Familiarity is what some people will confuse with professionalism. But it honestly does give it a structured, thought-out, and tight feel. For instance, I start with the Massively logo, then my logo, and then my face as I intro the game, and then I play. Through the stream I might pop my face in and out of the corner should the need arise (seeing my face can be a great need). Then I end with my face outro-ing, then my logo, then the Massively logo.

Learning to livestream Protips
Before you start your first stream

Larry: First off, don't set up everything 15 minutes before the show. Spend time testing the stream well ahead of showtime. However, last-minute checks are a must before any livestream. I will usually do a five-minute run on another Twitch account, double-check my camera, and of course, make sure that my hair is generally presentable. Our other streamers had other suggestions about what to do with those last 15 minutes.

David: Always double-check each scene view before starting your stream. Even if you think it's set right, some of the streaming programs reset between runs or start ups of the program or the game. What you end up with is a magnified section of your screen as opposed to the full image. Don't speak too quickly or mumble your words. Relax and enjoy the stream yourself. If you are lucky enough to be streaming with someone else, decide who will take lead when (by some sort of smoke signal or morse code) and let the other person be your "bounce" man or woman. This will make sure that there is no unanswered question. If its an interview type of situation, have your questions prepared ahead of time. Make sure your space is clean and the view behind you is OK too. This, again, might seem obvious, but it makes all the difference.

Dylan: Hotkey your mic on/off toggle for XSplit for coughs and conversations with roommates.

Remain open

Larry: No one person can know everything. I appreciate the people I have around me to help me become a better streamer. Our other streamers agree:

Beau: This one is for myself: learn some tips from my fellow streamers. They do some high-quality stuff, so you figure out how, too!

David: Any (reasonable) suggestion that a viewer might have, you should at least entertain. Be ready to change your expected plans quickly. Remember, they are the ones watching, and it's your job to entertain them.

Next week will be the last in this series. I will take that opportunity to discuss my presentation -- graphics, scenes, and the like. But I also want to use that opportunity to answer any of your last minute questions. If there is anything you're dying to know about livestreaming, post them in the comments below. Happy streaming!

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