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As we enter our month of gaming giveaways, it seems only appropriate that we look at the delicate art of live streaming PC and console games. Although it’s difficult to understand why anyone would want to watch strangers playing games, I have to be completely honest and say I found BanadanRob‘s SimCity sessions quite compelling (at least until I bought the game myself).
Note, we’re talking about live streaming here – if you just want to record, check out WeGame or FRAPS.
The first thing you’ll need to live stream games is an account over at Twitch.tv. I trust you can navigate over to the sign up button. Streaming also requires masses of upload bandwidth, and at least 1.5Mbs (up, not down) for HD. Check your speed over at Speedtest before deciding what to go with.
If you want to jump right in streaming some PC gaming, FFSplit is the easiest and cheapest way to go. With webcam overlays, audio narration and scene selections, it really offers all the basics for a good livestream, and performance is fantastic too.
To get started with FFSplit, open up the app and head over to the capture tab.
- Set FFSource as the video source – this will open up a composer window which is where we can composite layers.
- Select the windows default devices for audio input and output – this will allow you narrate your content.
- In the FFSource window, you can create create scenes in the section that says “canvas” – each canvas is a different scene you can switch to during broadcast. I found this wasn’t actually possible while playing SimCity, as the game captures the mouse and doesn’t let you move outside the game area, even to a different monitor.
- In the Layers section, you can add and re-order overlays, such as a web cam. Click Add New and select video capture device, and then your webcam.
- Add a layer for your game. In my case, it was easiest to define a screen region at the resolution the game was set to, starting in the top left hand corner of my main screen. It’s a little fiddly, but if you set it to capture the whole desktop now, and the game runs at a lower resolution, it will appear as a small box in the corner. You don’t want that.
- You can select the output – streaming, and saved to hard drive – at the bottom of the capture tab. Both can be done simultaneously.
- For streaming, you’ll need to get the stream key from your twitch.tv/broadcast page.
- Or just save to hard drive.
I was unable to capture console output from my Roxio device, but you may have better luck with a different hardware. Here’s a sample output of SimCity:
XSplit (~$5/month Personal Licence)
If you’re serious about your live streaming and would prefer a more professional solution, nothing beats XSplit, though it does come at a price.
As well as a reliable set of basic features you’d expect (it works with the Roxio GameCap device too), it also features advanced broadcasting functions – with a professional license, you can even record Skype video calls. Each scene can be individually configured to a different selection of video sources and cameras, or even a static advertisement, introduction logo or similar.
Here’s a test capture to demonstrate just a little of what it’s capable of. Even though there was a lag on the Roxio HDMI capture device, it handled the job admirably.
Here’s a capture of XSplit just using the video input from a Roxio GameCapture HD Pro. Don’t laugh at my n00b skills.
Roxio GameCapture HD Pro (Hardware; $120)
Roxio GameCapture HD Pro is a hardware device which sits between your HDMI source and your display – you can use it to record PC gaming too as long as you have a spare computer to act as the recorder – but it’s mainly designed for consoles. Can’t afford one? Never fear – we’ll be giving five – yes, five – of these fantastic Roxio game capture devices away soon, so keep an eye on the homepage for your chance to win.
The software supplied with the device is fine for basic recording and has a competent video editor for splicing and effects, but there’s no way to add a webcam overlay. Curiously, you can add audio commentary to a livestream, but not when recording to hard drive. Here’s a basic test capture for your “amusement”.
For streaming console games, unfortunately you do need to splash out on some hardware like the Roxio – but anyone can get started streaming PC games with just a Twitch account and FFSplit. Personally, I prefer XSplit, but the monthly subscription stings a little.
Do you think you’ll have a go and live stream games? Can you possibly contain your excitement for all the gaming goodies we’ll literally be throwing at you this month?