This weekend was the big event. A 24-hour marathon stream to celebrate the launch of our live stream channel on Twitch. We pulled it off. Now check out the recap below to see just what we learned. It’s a lot to digest sure, but a must read for anyone interested in the world of live streaming video games.
Technical difficulties are terrifying, inevitable, but manageable.
Working with technology is often an exponential risk. For every layer of devices or software you add to a project your chances of running into errors multiplies at an exponential rate. Streaming is a prime example of this. For our marathon setup we were using a Wii U, external capture card, webcam, microphone, streaming software, chatbot/dashboard, not to mention the network connection itself. That is a lot of layers to have working in sync, and if one isn’t working then the whole production can quickly fall apart.
That nearly happened just one hour into our marathon. I was getting some mic feedback and decided to take a quick timeout to make the proper adjustments to fix the problem. 15-30 minutes of non-action is worth it if it’s to save a 24-hour stream right? Apparently my laptop didn’t think so. After changing one setting within the Elgato capture card’s settings my laptop immediately ceased to recognize any device I had plugged into it via USB. What was supposed to be a quick fix turned into an hour or so long ordeal. It was even enough that I considered dropping the marathon all together.I eventually fixed the issue and got the stream running at an optimal state, but the emotional roller coaster I experienced to get to that point was harrowing to say the least.
Looking back at the experience, every issue the stream had (outside of the laptop dropping the devices) was something that could have and should have been dealt with before the stream even started. Had I just taken the time prior to starting up OBS to hammer out the little details things would have gone far more smoothly. I find myself looking at technology much as I look at weather, you can never fully predict what might happen, but you can certainly do your best to prepare for it. By doing that you save yourself a lot of potential grief.
Staging cooking demos is hard.
We decided to go big or go home with our first time streaming and cooking, which was a bit of a rookie mistake. We planned out our recipes and went grocery shopping the night before to get prepped. The idea was that Anthony would start the stream, and when I got home from work we’d jump into the cooking. Well, by the time I got off work and picked up Kirby my hungry husband had been streaming for over seven hours uninterrupted, so I hit the kitchen and started working on queso.
The goal was to put the webcam on me at some point, but in the interest of time and nourishment we just jumped straight into it and gorged ourselves on queso and guacamole. As it got later and later into the night, it was harder to stay motivated and want to tear the kitchen back up just for a bit to eat. In the end we snacked on what we had and cut our losses. Next time I would scale back on recipes (we went for 8 and managed to make 5) and do more pre-work ahead of time to cut down on amount of time spent in the kitchen.
Playing games (well) and interacting with viewers is also hard.
While studying up on how to properly run a stream, two of the chief recommendations were to interact with your viewers, and to play games you are reasonably skilled at playing. After streaming in front of an active chat room I can see why. It’s not easy to find a balance between interaction and gameplay. Focus on the game and you run the risk of ignoring the very reason you’re broadcasting in the first place. Get too social and your gameplay quality quickly begins to suffer. The easiest fixes to this problem? Either play a game you’re so good at that a few distractions don’t hurt your overall game, or try to play games with enough natural breaks that you can breathe every few minutes to have some fun with your viewers. For our marathon I found Wind Waker to be the most accessible for chatting, but the least entertaining, while Mario Kart and Smash were the exact opposite. Kirby: Canvas Curse and Super Mario World 3D seemed to be the sweet middle ground.
Overlays could be my favorite part of streaming.
Not much to say outside of the headline for this one. There’s something incredibly satisfying about creating the various parts of our broadcast’s overlay images. Sure, it’s still rough around the edges in a lot of ways, but seeing your work displayed to the world in one cohesive theme really ties the whole experience together. Even more so when you’re updating it live like we did with the hourly updates as you see in the lower righthand corner of the screenshot above. Setting up a live streaming channel can be grueling and technical, but if there’s one part I am more than willing to drop hours on it is the overlay.
“The Zone” can be a dangerous place.
This isn’t just a thought for live streaming, it’s for gaming in general. It is all too easy to slip into a groove while playing games. When in this groove a sort of tunnel vision takes hold and it can be far too easy to find yourself snapping too several hours later hungry and dehydrated. Aspen and I found this happening on occasion Friday night and we even had several snacks planned to share. We didn’t eat dinner until 1 AM, not so much by choice, but by coincidence. Remember kids, replenish those bodily resources when you’re gaming, ESPECIALLY if you’re taking part in a marathon session.
Variety is the key to surviving a marathon stream.
Look, I love Nintendo games. Effing. Love’em. That said, I nearly got diabetes from playing those sugary sweet games for 24 hours straight this weekend. After a while they all started to blend together into some sick amalgamation of bright colors and innocent sounds. Not that it wasn’t fun. It was a blast, but the marathon itself would have been far easier to stomach if I had sprinkled a few choice shooters or hack-and-slash games in for flavor. Hell, even playing other platformers on PC would have helped. Alas, we didn’t have our stream setup for such a thing this time around, but the next time around I’ll be sure to keep this little observation in mind.
I really need to learn more about Twitch and streaming culture in general.
I have to admit, prior to setting up our own stream I had very little exposure to the Twitch community as a whole. I watched a few of the larger events sure, particularly “Twitch Plays Pokemon,” but for the most part Aspen and I went into creating our channel with very little knowledge of what to expect from the experience. This came back to bite me a bit on Friday.
At around 3 in the morning I was playing Mario Kart with absolutely zero viewers to be found in our channel. In the middle of a race I took a glance at the viewer count to find 350 people. Our chatroom was getting spammed to Hell and back and I honestly wasn’t sure what to do. Given that it’s the internet, I assumed the worst of the situation and that our guests were trolls looking to do some late night harassing before moving on to the next hapless channel. I ignored them and played on, assuming the “trolls” would get bored and leave. In fact, the viewers actually came from another streamer’s channel who had stumbled upon Games and Grinds and told his viewers to take part in an innocent raid to say hi. After the majority of the viewers had cleared out, a few others hung back to explain the situation. Apparently it’s just a Twitch thing that happens every now and then. They didn’t mean anything aggressive by it and my previous assumptions were totally off-base. We chatted for a while and they gave me a few tips for the channel before moving on. So yeah, I definitely need to spend some time on other channels and get more acquainted with Twitch and the community. Of course, with my luck the next group of viewers to raid the channel actually will be a bunch of assholes that I welcome with open arms.
At its best, streaming is incredibly fun and exactly what I hoped it would be.
It was a grueling 24 hours, but it was absolutely worth it. I had a great time streaming and interacting with new viewers on Twitch. Sure, there were times that I wondered why I was putting myself through it, but closing out the channel at noon on Saturday left me feeling inspired to try plenty of new ways to stream. I initially wanted to start a channel to reconnect with gaming and experience it in a new way, and I certainly got a taste of that with this marathon. I’ve gone ahead and ordered new parts for a gaming pc, a big step toward opening up the potential of the Games & Grinds Twitch channel. Once it’s put together we’ll be able to really dive into the world of live streaming. Hit the link the the right and follow our channel to take part in the fun.