This Guide is specifically targeted at the newer / prospective streamers on Twitch. It’s going to have lots of information that you may or may not know a few months into streaming, and lots of info about things I wish I knew back when I first started.
Where should you start?
Anywhere really. Where I recommend to start is with your username.
More importantly, the correct username. I can’t tell you how often I wish I changed my name to something more clever. I’m sitting here with “Games” at the end of my last name, meanwhile friends of mine are running around with cool names like UnrealPenguin
Pick your name carefully. Avoid clichés like numbers at the end of your name, Xs, Games, TV, etc.
Your name will follow you around for as long as you’re on twitch. If you’ve been a viewer for a long time but want to get into streaming, or you’ve just recently started with little to no following, then create a new name!
Hardware, Software & Visuals
This is a big one and a frequently one of the most overlooked topic to discuss. Most people assume the strategy “if you want to be the best, be like the best,” which is a valid strategy. But when it comes to equipment (PC, Capture card, green screen, etc.) however, it is something best done minimalistic. This will all be covered later in the guide, in the meantime just keep the word “minimal” in mind.
Find out if you like streaming in the first place.
When you first start streaming, you’re not experienced enough to know if you like it or not. You may go into it thinking it’s gonna be unicorns and rainbows, then after your first stream realize you’d rather eat a bowl of nails than go live again. It’s a really different world when you’re live than anything else you’ve probably come across in your life.
Take some time to learn the basics of your dashboard [twitch.tv/<username>/dashboard] and get your browsers outfitted with the Better Twitch TV add-on (an incredibly useful tool that I’ll never go without
Decide on Software:
Since you’re still testing things out, I recommend Open Broadcaster Software (commonly referred to as OBS). It’s completely free and is an industry standard. This is the software you’ll be using to turn your webcam, gameplay and voice into a stream (and send it to twitch servers).
Set up your first few scenes & stream settings in the software, there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube how to do that all properly and fit it to your bandwidth.
When you start, you’ll really only need 2 scenes: Talk Scene, and Gameplay Scene. One is for when you’re starting or ending the stream and you’re talking to your viewers, and the other is -you guessed it- for when you’re playing your games.
When someone follows, donates or hosts, generally they want on screen recognition of that. I highly advise looking into getting those set up on your stream. One of the leading sources for that right now is TwitchAlerts. You’ll want to set up Followers, Donations and Hosts (last one optional).
Below your video player on desktop, there is a space for your stream information. Commonly called your Panels. Create a separate panel for different bits of information; Who are you? What is your schedule? What is your social Media? What is your channel about? What stream teams are you in?
If you’re any good at Photoshop, then design some graphics for the panels, and if people click on the image you can have it direct them to a link somewhere.
Lighting & Production Equipment
When you’re starting out, you only need a desk lamp. Shine it at your face. Did you do that? Good. That’s all you needed to do. Microphone? a Blue Yeti is a great way to get into it, but a gaming headset can work too.
Do not, I repeat do not go and buy a green screen, studio lights, a super expensive camera, or a dual stream PC yet. Those are considered the “meta” of streaming, but are really unnecessary in the beginning stages of streaming. There will come a time when you are ready to upgrade these things, and you’ll know when that is. Start small, keep it simple.
Now that you’ve got the ship, time to decide on the destination. What kind of games are you going to play? Are you going to full time one game (only play one game)? Or will you be doing a variety? What about both?
These are all questions you need to ask yourself before you start. Pick a game, go with it. If you don’t like that game or it doesn’t mesh well with your entertainment personality, try a different one.
It’s all about having fun. If you’re not having fun, nobody will have fun watching you. So play the games you want to play.
- A little secret is the popularity of the games you play. When you look at the game list on twitch, scroll allll the way down until you find the games with 25- 99 viewers total. Those are the best games for you to get started on, because your channel will be more visible (closer to the #1 top streamer in the game). If you play a game with thousands of other people playing it, you’ll be so far down on the list that you’ll be virtually invisible.
Mods + Helpers
If you’ve made any friends on twitch before you started streaming, ask them to help mod for you in the beginning. If not, then ask some of your friends to give you a hand. They can keep you company while you’re trying to get your first organic viewers, and can help keep you sane through the quiet hours while you’re talking to yourself.
I advise also getting the app called “Discord.” It’s very useful for communicating with your mods – it’s across every platform and device and even has voice and system wide push to talk. Get your mods in there and have them talk amongst one another.
Mods are people assigned by the broadcaster of the channel (that’s you) to help administrate the stream while the broadcaster is doing their job. To give someone mod, type /mod <username> in your chat. To unmod them, it’s /unmod
Alternative Streaming Routes
Some of us can’t afford a PC to stream from or a capture card for console gameplay. A good way to get started in streaming is using the Twitch Apps on the PS4 or the Xbox One to get your feet wet.
I know a few people who have actually built successful streams around console streaming apps, and only just recently switched to PC with a capture card. They are totally feasible options.
Not to mention, all of your friends on the console will be able to see your stream from their dashboards, and you can advertise it through messages (politely, see my Networking Etiquette guide for more info)
Just keep talking and nobody explodes!
The most important thing to remember is you have to keep talking! Every minute you’re silent is a minute someone could have come in, and left because they were bored. Just because nobody is chatting doesn’t mean nobody is watching.
It’s a common practice to not look at the “numbers,” or the view count of your stream while live. Cover up any of that info so you don’t see it, and try not to peek. When someone does say hi to you, make sure you respond. Viewers love an interactive chat (That is, if you plan on having an interactive stream. Some people treat it differently).
Set a schedule and don’t push yourself.
- “When’s The Walking Dead gonna be on this weekend?” – UnrealPenguin
- “Oh I don’t know, they played it at 5pm last week, and Noon the week before.” – UnknownVader
See where I’m going with this? If viewers don’t know when you’ll be live, then how can you expect them to find your show again?
Also, don’t push yourself past your limits. In the beginning, it’s perfectly normal to only be able to stream for an hour or so. But the “norm” or status quotient is between 6 to 8 hours. Work your way up there.
“But, I don’t like twitter! That shit is for the birds.”
Well that’s too bad, because you need it to survive on Twitch. It’s how all of us streamers talk to one another, how we network, and how we communicate with fans. So get into the habit of using it, and don’t forget to look up good tags to use with your tweets.
As for other social media, use it as you will. All of it can help spread the word about your work, but twitter is the only “necessity.”
There’s a setting on Twitch that allows you to auto-tweet when you go live. Turn that off, and write the tweets yourself including the link. Observe proper grammar and spelling, and it’ll make a tweet that is much more personal and interactive.
The tags are important! Hashtag the shit out of it at first (to a classy level). It’s the only way your tweets are going to get exposure at first. Eventually, you’ll be able to get your viewers to help retweet and favourite your tweets, which also helps.
Any activity on a tweet bumps it’s ranking up in any of the tags that you placed in the tweet. The more favs and retweets, the higher on the list it will show.
Upgrading and improving your stream
While it’s okay to start out at potato quality, I highly recommend upgrading things as you go on. Slowly.
The way I did it is change or improve one thing about your stream every day after you go offline. If it were changing a notification sound, adding a new command, sending a message to a viewer, or anything really. That will get you in the mind-set to keep your channel in a constant state of motion.
Once your attentions start turning towards improving the quality of your cast, then you should start upgrading things. Provided you have the budget. Replace one piece of hardware at a time as you see fit, and make sure you learn about what you’re buying and how to use it.
A big problem I see is people buying all of the latest gear, dual PC’s etc. and not know how to use it.
Anything else I should keep in mind?
- Streaming isn’t easy. You’ll lose a lot of sleep, it’s a lot of work, 95% technical difficulties, demoralizing and the best thing to ever happen to my life. That should explain the kind of experience you’ll probably have as a streamer.
- If you like it, keep it up. Improve yourself, take inspiration from outside sources. Watch other streams, ask questions, learn how to make your stuff better. The more you’re into it yourself, the more your viewers will be into you.
- Activate your past broadcasts in your account settings, and watch them every once in a while! I recommend at least once a week, look at the previous week’s past broadcast. Find things you didn’t like, and things you liked, even things you liked that could be improved upon. Keep those things in the back of your mind as you cast, and try to improve them. Once the next week rolls around, repeat the process! After a while, you’ll be well on your way to a great cast.