Sunday, June 26, 2022

Choosing Communication Methods on Stream

There are several ways to communicate the same point to your viewers on a livestream. No method is inherently wrong or right, but it’s more about what you want to get across with the method itself. In this entry we’ll explore a few different styles I’ve used on my stream over the years to communicate the same specific rule, and how each has helped in its own way. 


To set the scene, let’s talk about the rule I was trying to set up, and why I needed it. As I’ve mentioned in previous Twitch Playbook entries, I like to play games without hearing spoilers. But that description is a bit of an oversimplification, which I’ve used for the sake of writing these entries more clearly. In reality, I like to know literally nothing when going into a game. I don’t look at trailers or screenshots, I don’t watch other streams of the game, and I don’t read anything about it. I enter with as few pre-existing notions of what to expect as possible, and I like to preserve that ignorance throughout the time I play the game. In my opinion, this makes the playthrough more exciting. I may miss an entire section of an open world game if I’m not paying attention, and I could lose my favorite character in an RPG because I didn’t know what was best to do to prevent that outcome. Because my play habits for a game will form essentially in a vacuum, it can make a playthrough much more unique. In 2018, there was a popular story about how the Twitch streamer negaoryx played The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for 95 hours, beating most of the major bosses, before ever finding the tutorial and learning to do certain basic moves. This is the kind of thing that can’t happen when you’re receiving help, and it’s the type of thing I aspire to in any playthrough of a game. 

Now, there’s not really a tag on Twitch, or a pre-existing term in existence, to describe this specific kind of playthrough. Most people would hear about the way I like to play and equate it to the closest concept they’ve heard of before: no spoilers. And that’s true, I don’t want to know what’s coming up in the story. But the term ‘spoiler’ is very limited in scope. I also don’t want to hear anyone’s tips for how to get through an area, or hear what weapon they think is best, or even know what kind of choices they made for their own character. All of those things would seem to be okay if someone thinks that I want to play without spoilers, and it’s understandable if they make the mistake. But I needed a better means of communication for my own streams. 

The Souls games have a great community,
but it's not so great for the way I like to
play video games.

There are certain kinds of games where people are much more likely to come in and tell me things, and it can become a big problem. FromSoftware titles for example (Dark Souls, Demon’s Souls, Bloodborne, Sekiro, and most recently, Elden Ring) have the largest and most aggressive community of people entering a stream and offering unsolicited advice. I guess it’s because those games are so difficult that many people who have finished the game just take it for granted that other players will want any tips they can get. Certain Twitch tags, like ‘First Playthrough’ or ‘No Spoilers’ only attract this kind of attention even more, like throwing chum into shark-infested waters. Some streamers I know, who play games the same way I do, actually refuse to stream FromSoftware games, because it’s nearly impossible to prevent the game’s community from constantly trying to influence the experience. I adore those games too much not to play them on stream, and have gone through many methods to try to communicate my channel’s rules in the past few years. Some with more success than others. Below are a few of the communication methods I’ve tried, along with the pros and cons of each. 


The first, and clearest, way to communicate anything is to simply tell it to someone. This involves verbally saying what you’re trying to say to the chatter in question, and explaining what you’re trying to get across. Assuming you’re being nice about it, this way is most likely to get them to understand your meaning, and it’s least likely to offend them. However, this doesn’t necessarily work at scale. When I play a Dark Souls game for example, someone like this comes in several times every episode, and having to intricately explain the rules every single time someone breaks them can get old very quickly. Plus, this method also requires that the person break the rules before you explain them. Depending on the rule itself, you may not want to wait. 

Second, you can use your preferred chatbot software to set up a command explaining the rule. This would merely require that you or a moderator enter the command in your chat, and then the new viewer would be able to read it for themselves. This saves you the trouble of having to explain the rule every time you want to communicate it, but it also feels less personal. Depending on the chatter, they might even feel like they’re being singled out and attacked. For this reason, you’ll want to use rules commands delicately. 

The unsolicited tips got so bad while I was 
playing Bloodborne that the auto-responses 
were going off all the time.

Third, certain chatbot software can actually auto-respond to flagged terms and instantly spit out a message of your choosing. So in my case, I noticed that if someone heard my rules and responded with, “Got it. I won’t say any spoilers,” that usually meant they were still likely to break my rules, because they thought I was only asking them not to post spoilers. So at one point I had the word ‘spoiler’ and all its variations flagged, which would spit out a “It sounds like you read our rules and thought we’re only asking for no spoilers” message, which would then further explain the rules to anyone who said the offending word. This got messy really quickly, and didn’t make people feel very welcome. I don’t recommend it for arbitrary rules like mine, but you could certainly imagine this method being very useful to auto-ban anyone who says actual bad or hurtful words. 

In addition, you can set up a message for anyone who joins your chat, which they have to agree to before entering. This is usually just white noise to a Twitch viewer, and I don’t think people read them very often, but it may help in certain cases. On top of that, there are tags you can set, which I find are most useful when helping people find a community of like-minded people, rather than telling them what not to do. 


Luckily, the number of people entering my chat just to tell me how to play Elden Ring this year has been much smaller than the amount of chatters who would do the same when I played Bloodborne or Dark Souls a few years back. The way I communicate my rules has changed accordingly. When I was playing Bloodborne and new viewers would almost vindictively come in every few minutes trying to tell me their protips, I had all the strictest tools in place. The automod would instantly warn them if they talked about spoilers, and my human moderators would often have to time out and ban repeat offenders. 

These days, there’s a simple message for anyone who enters my chat, which says, “Hello! I like to play games and know absolutely nothing about them. Here, the only thing we DON'T talk about in chat is the game itself.” I figure this pretty much covers all the bases. When someone does come through and offer help, I try to be diplomatic. Even though they’re breaking my own rules, I thank them for their enthusiasm, and explain calmly about how I like to play without knowing anything. I also tell them I’m aware that’s not how everyone streams, and I know it’s not how everyone likes to watch streams, so I understand if that’s not their thing. However, if they do choose to stick around, I’d love to get to know them. This usually gets its point across, and using this method I’ve found a much higher rate of people who initially came in to offer help actually staying to join the show. When someone does try to offer help even after the explanation, that’s when I’ll post the chatbot message explaining the rules (and the consequences for breaking them again) more fully. Typically, when someone sees this after we’ve explained the rules, they understand where we’re coming from. Plus, seeing there’s a whole command for that specific scenario, they realize how big a problem it must be for us, and they join the chat normally.  

I’ve worked hard to come up with clear communication about my channel’s particular playthrough rules. Even now it’s still not perfect, but I’m proud of its evolution. You may not have the same interest in playing games without getting advice on your own streams, but consider anything you’ve struggled to communicate on your channel. How can the various communication methods I’ve mentioned help you in getting your point across? Are there scenarios where you could do more personal one-on-one explaining, or are there some things that would benefit from the colder strictness of a chat command? No matter what you choose to do, remember that there isn’t just one way to communicate the same idea on stream. You could be just a few revisions away from perfection. 

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Make Your Masterpiece on Stream

Throughout the lifespan of The Twitch Playbook, I’ve spoken about attempting the craziest stream ideas you can think of, letting your passions show themselves, and finding ways to let your channel enable you to reach your lifelong goals. Along the way, I’ve given examples of how Twitch has enabled me personally to reach unexpected heights and continually pay creative dividends. This time, I’m going to describe how my streaming passion has facilitated my biggest goal yet: thanks to my Twitch channel, I was able to illustrate and publish my own book! This is something I never thought I’d be able to do, and I’m still shocked to think that it’s really come true. We’ll go through my personal journey in accomplishing this task, as well as all the ways Twitch helped along the road. Even though you may have different goals, consider how your streaming skills might be able to enable your largest dreams, and where your channel might take you if you only stick with your streaming passion. 


I had a lot of fun creating this image
showing the actual fall of Troy.

As I mentioned in previous entries, I read a lot of books. And in the past few years, I’ve had a growing interest in Greek mythology. It’s such a rich tapestry of stories and characters, and it’s responsible (in one way or another) for inspiring most of the greatest artists across every medium, even to this day. At one point I came across a Greek epic, in the style of the ancient poet Homer, called Posthomerica. This was written in the 4th century AD, around a thousand years after Homer, and aimed to complete the arc of Homer’s stories (hence the name ‘post’ Homerica, or ‘after Homer’). Now, for anyone who knows Homer’s works, there’s a massive gap between the Iliad (the story of the Trojan war) and the Odyssey (the story of Odysseus returning from the Trojan war). The Iliad ends before the war is over, and many of the most famous events, like Achilles’ heel, the wooden horse, and the actual fall of the city, are not included within the Iliad’s pages. Posthomerica however, tells of all those things and much more, like how Troy was helped by Amazon warrior women, an African king, and even Hercules’ grandson, as well as many other amazing legendary events. These things were all part of the canon of Greek lore, but this was the only story which actually compiled them into one coherent narrative. I was shocked to find that Posthomerica, despite being arguably just as epic as Homer’s works, was mostly obscure among readers of the classics. And unlike Iliad and Odyssey, which each have dozens of audiobook editions available in stores, there wasn’t a single Posthomerica audiobook available on sale anywhere I could find. 

I became fascinated with the story, and in addition to wanting to hear an audiobook edition, I started thinking seriously about releasing my own text version. I got the rights to a classic translation of the text, and because I was publishing it myself, I was free to release the content as I saw fit. Of course, being who I am, that meant incorporating my Twitch channel into the process. 


As it would turn out however, my Twitch channel helped me to create this book years before I ever even began the project. Way back in the entry Attempt Your Worst Idea for a Twitch Stream, I talked about how I developed a show I could easily do while away from home. After trying several different ideas, I landed on the concept of coloring in a coloring book live on camera. It allowed me to revisit my passion for art, which I had been studying all my life before college, and it involved much less tech than trying to stream video games or other complicated ideas. In the years since writing that entry, the coloring book stream continued to evolve. I eventually got an iPad, and began learning to create digital art. I had always been trained in pencils, oils and acrylics, so using an Apple Pencil on a touch screen was a totally new experience for me. I decided that I would stream myself doing various art exercises I found online each time I traveled, to get more and more used to this new digital format. I didn’t do any digital art off-camera, but actually taught myself this new style entirely during the Twitch broadcasts. 

We even formatted and illustrated
the book & audiobook covers
live on stream. 

When I began thinking about publishing my edition of Posthomerica, I began kicking around the idea of illustrating the text edition myself. I grew fascinated by the artwork of classical Greek pottery, and decided I would create each chapter’s imagery in that style. Because I had begun teaching myself to use the iPad for my art, I used the iPad to illustrate the entire book, live on camera. Over the course of roughly 200 art streams, you can actually see my style continually improve, as I tried, failed, experimented, and revised over and over during my broadcasts. Not only were my dedicated stream hours an excuse to put in the immense amount of work required to illustrate a book, but I was teaching myself the craft live on stream as well! I quite literally would not have been able to create the illustrations without my Twitch channel. 

A similar thing happened when making the audiobook edition. After carefully studying the text for character motivations and pronunciations, I livestreamed various stages of my narration practice runs, the chapter narrations themselves, and the post-production editing process. These skills can also be traced back to Twitch streaming. In the entry Let Your Stream Passions Guide You in Life, I talked about how my love for reading the books I’d pick up in video games during my streams led me to creating a podcast where I narrated video game books, and that led me to becoming a full-fledged audiobook narrator on Audible. I also mentioned in previous entries how I used to stream the process of editing YouTube videos. This gave me the confidence and workflow needed to show my audio editing process while making the Posthomerica audiobook live on my channel, without having to figure out the process beforehand. 


This book was by far the largest project I’ve ever attempted. There were several points where I couldn’t imagine seeing the finish line, and I was often attacked by bouts of ‘impostor syndrome,’ thinking there was no way I was qualified to create such a major work. Throughout the entire process however, I simply followed the advice I always follow when streaming, and I kept going. No matter what, I pressed on, and derived joy from each little victory, rather than focusing on the final result. Being able to incorporate the process into my livestreams meant I could take some of the pressure off, by sharing the excitement with my community and dedicating stream hours to the project. After more than a year of work, countless off-stream hours, and 267 making-of broadcasts, I was finally finished. Posthomerica: The Fall of Troy was published on Amazon and Audible last month, and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. My Twitch channel allowed me to learn the lessons required, as well as dedicate the raw work hours, to make this dream into a reality. So the next time you’re getting ready to go live, think about what your Twitch channel can do for you. The fun, validation and communities we gain from streaming are all incredible gifts in themselves, but there’s a lot more you can accomplish with a Twitch channel, should you be interested in doing so. If you let your passions show themselves on stream, you never know where they might lead you. It’s possible that your channel could be the missing tool you need to create your next masterpiece. 

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Build a Better Streaming Habit

If you’re trying to start a Twitch channel, you may find things are getting a bit rocky. For many of us starting out, we can’t bring ourselves to do the shows consistently for more than a few days in a row. Like trying to start a campfire, you might find you can generate sparks but can’t get a flame going. This inability to stick to the plan may come from an unexpected place. You may be trying to stream the right things at the wrong time. In this entry, we’ll explore how the aspects you might love about streaming down the road can cause your channel to sputter in the beginning.   


When I was in school, I hated reading. On paper, I was an excellent English student- I was placed in advanced classes for reading and writing throughout my educational career. And while the ability to break down stories and answer questions about them came effortlessly to me in school, I never read books for my own enjoyment. I’d be forced to pick up The Great Gatsby or Homer’s Odyssey and I would skim the text, knowing what kind of questions the teacher might ask, and then I’d ace the test and never think about the book again. I wouldn’t even read the whole thing- only what I needed for the assignment. I resented books in general, because I associated them with work. I’d see other kids reading novels just because they liked them, and I’d be baffled. Why would anyone ever choose to read books voluntarily? 

But then when I got out of school, I picked up a book on a whim. I can’t even remember which book it was anymore- something for teens, below what was technically my reading level- but I remember really enjoying the story either way. I thought to myself, “Why didn’t they assign this book in class rather than the boring stuff we were forced to read?” And after reading that one, I picked up another. And after that, another. My speed eventually increased, and I would start going through books much more quickly. I grew curious, and got into the classics. And when I did that, I was shocked to find that The Great Gatsby, Homer’s Odyssey, and all these other dusty old stories I was forced to read in school were actually incredible. Now, reading has become one of my favorite pastimes. I finish a book every few days, and I ravenously explore every genre and author I can. The same act which felt like pulling teeth while I was in school is now something I excitedly pursue every day. 

Playing The Witcher games got me into the
novels and short stories.

When trying to build a Twitch streaming habit, this same principle applies. There are all sorts of things you can try to do on your channel in the beginning, and all of them
can be great ideas. But some of them won’t be the best choice for you right now. I formed a reading habit by finding things I enjoyed, whether or not anyone else thought they were the right choice for me, and I focused on reading only what I liked. This created a positive feedback loop. I liked the first book, so I moved onto reading another book. In streaming, you want to create that same positive loop. But because of how nervous many prospective streamers are, it’s easy to over-prepare instead. You may have researched all sorts of ‘best practices’ about growing quickly, how to engage your chat, or making your shows look as good as they can be. You may have even learned those things from this podcast. But if you take too many lessons to heart before actually trying to stream for yourself, you’re only letting a bunch of other people’s recommendations form a cage around your channel. Where’s the room for expression? 


When I was in school, teachers assigned me books they genuinely thought were amazing- and those books were amazing- but they weren’t right for me at the time. I hadn’t formed a love for the act of reading itself, so I wasn’t interested in thinking critically about an author’s intentions or analyzing complex prose. Just because I was capable of doing those things didn’t mean I should have been doing them. You may be struggling to form a streaming habit for the same reason I couldn’t form a reading habit. Until I was free of the expectations and limits of my education, I associated reading with what all those other people told me to think. I had a very narrow view of what books could be, and that almost destroyed my chances of ever getting into reading. It was only when I was free to create my own enjoyment that I actually stuck with it. 

When you try to implement too many things on your channel from the outset, whether they’re technical enhancements, different scenes you’re switching between, or even general do’s and don’ts that you learned from some instructional resource, the stream isn’t really your own. Your habit can’t form easily because you’re only doing a bunch of things other people told you to do. Try setting aside all the baggage you’ve picked up while educating yourself about Twitch, and just stream. Do whatever comes naturally to you, without thinking about anything you’ve learned. Find your own enjoyment in the craft. You’ll keep coming back because you’re discovering things for yourself, and at your own pace. It’s your journey. Don’t let it be taken over by someone else’s past experiences. And like me coming back and reading The Great Gatsby later in life, you can try the more complicated stuff after you’ve formed a genuine love for the act of streaming. But that love should always come first. That’s how you build a better streaming habit. 

Friday, June 3, 2022

Archiving Your Twitch Streams

In the entry Using YouTube as a Twitch Streamer, I spoke about how to get the most out of YouTube as a satellite platform to support your streams. There, I discussed several ideas for Affiliates or Partners, as well as a few extras for those who haven’t signed a contract with Twitch. But as I mentioned in that episode, my personal favorite use for YouTube is as a permanent stream archive. Any Twitch streamer can do this, regardless of Affiliate status, and it can be very useful in several ways. In this entry I’m going to cover the reasons I love archiving my streams, and take you through the various methods I tried when perfecting my workflow. 


So first of all, what are stream archives good for? Right off the bat, as you’ll know if you’ve been following The Twitch Playbook, I’m a big fan of watching old episodes to keep track of progress. And while it’s possible for a Twitch channel to save past broadcasts, they don’t get saved forever. They’ll stick around for a maximum of two months, possibly shorter depending on your channel, and after that they’re gone. I like to have my oldest streams around, just in case I want to watch them again later for some reason. I’ve found a lot of use from periodically revisiting episodes from a long time ago. Sometimes I can simply reassure myself how much better I’ve gotten, but other times I use those old shows to remind myself of a great feature I used to have, and possibly inspire something to implement on my current channel. 

For my kind of content, it's nice to have a
library of videos that viewers can browse.

Second, viewers can watch your archived streams. Based on the kind of content you make, the usefulness of this will vary. On my shows, since I play through singleplayer games and focus on the plot, viewers often like to catch up with the story’s progress by watching old episodes between streams. If I start on a sequel for example, the previous game may have appeared on my channel six months ago, and the stream wouldn’t stay on Twitch as a past broadcast for that long. Having an archive can be really useful for that. If you mostly do competitive games, entire stream archives won’t be as useful for viewers to watch in order to catch up with your streams, but they can be great to have in case you ever want to make compilation videos or track the improvement of your skills. Artists and musicians can find a similar use for this feature, being able to make timelapses or other clips from old paintings or performances without worrying about whether they’ll expire. 

And why put them on YouTube rather than Twitch? There are good arguments to be made for keeping your content stored on either platform. For me, YouTube is cleaner. There are better tools for sorting your content, editing after the fact, and adding descriptions, links and other information. Even though it’s nice to have everything all in one place on a Twitch channel, I personally think it’s better not to have my Twitch page cluttered with highlights alongside each stream. Plus, the way I archive to YouTube, the whole process is much more automated. 


Sometimes you need to let the machines
do the heavy lifting so you can focus
on more important things.

If you think about the amount of content I produce (now over 6,000 videos since starting my channel!), you could imagine it getting prohibitively time-consuming pretty quickly if I wanted to archive all my shows manually. For that reason, I worked hard to get all my episodes to YouTube in a way that requires the least input on my side, while still allowing the shows to be nicely formatted, well-organized, and uploaded in a timely manner. In order to reach that goal, I explored several different options: 

  1. Saving Locally - In streaming software like OBS, it’s possible to actually save a video of your stream to your computer while it’s broadcasting. This is technically the safest option for archiving, because if you have network issues during the show, all the content is still there in the local video file. However, this was overkill for my purposes, and the added time of uploading each file later would have taken too long.

  2. Highlighting on Twitch - As I mentioned before, you can actually make a Twitch highlight of a full stream, which will save it forever on your channel. But Twitch doesn’t have a great way to display large amounts of playlists, and there aren’t many good organization features for viewers looking through hundreds or thousands of old episodes.

  3. Download and Save - If you don’t want to save files locally while streaming, you could always download the stream from Twitch after it’s over, then post it on YouTube. This takes a lot of time however, and unlike the local saves, it will still show any network issues in the video you get from it.

  4. Video Export - As I mentioned in previous entries, you can actually click the ‘Export’ button on any stream in the Creator Dashboard, and Twitch will send it to your linked YouTube channel. This works well, but it takes time to encode and send to YouTube, and I personally don’t like having to remember to click that button after each stream.

  5. Multistreaming in Software - Within streaming software like Streamlabs OBS, you can actually go live to two platforms at once, right from the app. This only requires linking the two accounts (in my case, Twitch and YouTube) and hitting the Go Live button. It’s even possible to set the YouTube broadcast to private if you’re Affiliate, so it doesn’t break the 24-hour exclusivity clause in the Twitch contract. However, this doesn’t account for when you’re streaming outside of the software. And that’s what led me to my current method.

  6. Multistreaming with an Intermediate API - The solution I finally arrived at was to use the free intermediate service Restream, which would send my broadcast to Twitch and YouTube from its side. Now, you might think this sounds like it serves the same function as multistreaming from Streamlabs OBS, but it has one big bonus: my show gets archived, no matter what device I stream from. So whether I go live from my games PC, do a quick show from my phone, make art while capturing my iPad screen, or broadcast from an IRL streaming backpack, they all simply send the signal to Restream, and Restream does the work of sending the show to Twitch and YouTube. No need to set up all the specific settings on each device before I go live.

Depending on the setup of your channel, you may not need to use the same workflow I use. Even the options that were imperfect for my own streams might be what works for yours. If you want to archive your shows, make sure to consider what you actually need, and tailor your choices to those criteria. Just like I did when coming up with my solution. But no matter what kind of content you make, I think you’ll find some use from having your old streams around. Whether you curate them for others to watch, or you just keep them private to watch on your own and make videos from, consider archiving the streams you make on Twitch.