Lately I have been dipping my toes in the streaming pool once more. I have this weird relationship with Twitch as a whole and I have constantly tried to break out of team purple to give other services a try. For a significant amount of time I tried to make Hitbox a thing… which has apparently been either bought or rebranded to Smashcast. After that I flirted with Beam.pro the Microsoft offering, which admittedly is pretty great… but even it got rebranded to the awkward name of Mixer. As far as any semblance of regular viewers go… I have been my own worst enemy due to my indecisiveness.
The thing I noticed through all of it is that people treat Twitch as a destination that they go to for entertainment. Folks only really watched Hitbox and Mixer when I posted a link on twitter and even then… not that many because it was a largely unfamiliar interface. The key problem I have always had with Twitch is the latency between chat and screen making holding any sort of a conversation extremely awkward. That negative aside though… Twitch is the place where everyone already has an account. This means it is the location that I am already watching the streams of my friends, and when I do stream I often have random people stop by and visit. That was just not something that ever happened when I did anything on Hitbox or Mixer. So after much flailing about… I am back and committed once more to team purple.
One of the things I have been dabbling with is StreamLabs, an interface that provides some of the nifty widgets like the ability to have on screen twitch chat and notifications when events happen. The other day I was playing around on the site and noticed that they offered up a Stream Labs branded version of OBS Studio and decided to give it a shot. I have long been a proponent of OBS and while I have tried other options… it is the one I always go back to because in spite of its quirks it tends to be the most reliable. Ultimately what the StreamLabs version promised was better integration with their widgets which in truth… would have been more than enough of a reason to install it.
When first opened it asked me if I wanted to import my scenes from OBS Studio… which took away the single reservation I had about this experience. I have a bunch of scenes already set up and I was not sure how I felt about having to go through that process again like I did when I moved from OBS Classic to OBS Studio. It asked me to log into Twitch, and then managed the whole stream key thing automagically. Finally it ran a test on my internet connection and set a bit rate based on my throughput… which may be a little high given that a few people have complained about now having the internet power to watch me. I ran a speed test for reference… and as a result OBS seems to think I should be streaming about 4500kbps which seems to be a bit much for a couple of people.
For the most part the experience is exactly the same as the OBS Studio experience… that is until you hit that big green [Go Live] button and start streaming. Then it shifts to giving you a view that largely replicates the Twitch Dashboard all the while still giving you some basic control over your broadcast and allowing you to swap freely between scenes. Even better when you click the big button to start streaming… it prompts you for a Stream Title and the game you are streaming. So in theory no more going live with the wrong title and game. There is still the problem however of not giving you a great way to swap the title when you switch between games.
Essentially this one app fixes a lot of the nonsense that happened while streaming. If it somehow integrates with twitter and allows me to announce the stream it would cut down my interaction to a single screen. Previously on my second monitor I would keep OBS up in case there were issues or I wanted to swap scenes, a window of the Twitch dashboard up so I could interact with chat and check the health of the stream, and twitter to go ahead and make a post that I was going live. In all fairness there are also Discord and Slack windows up, but they are not directly related to the stream itself. The end result was a super busy experience and one that made it awkward to interact with people as they popped into chat.
Now I brought with me a bunch of elements that I had knocked out in Photoshop to give my broadcast some branding. However not everyone has that option and often times ends up needing to commission someone to create them for you. This is a great option and at some point I may even do it myself, however just to get started and piddle around with a stream… you are more than likely not going to go live with anything. Personally I use these elements to block the chat box when I am playing a MMO just to give me some semblance of privacy.
Inside of the StreamLabs client there is a Library tab that gives you access to a bunch of preset designs that you can then modify on the fly to create some sort of a style for your stream. While this is not exactly something that I am super interested in… it is really damned cool that it exists. Basically each design has a “Be Right Back” screen, a “Stream Starting Soon” screen, and then the on screen in game elements. More than enough doodads for someone to start with and then tweak and modify as they go forward and decide what the hell they want their stream to be.
I am still not a good streamer by any stretch of the imagination. I find it hard to fill the time while I am playing and externalize my inner monologue. However so far I am super happy with StreamLabs OBS and am starting to dip my toes into the other stuff like setting up a proper channel bot with games and such. Right now the biggest challenge for me is finding a time when I can set up some semblance of a proper schedule. At the moment I tend to announce my stream as I am going live and then maybe stream for an hour or two and disappear abruptly… all things that are not exactly “best practices” for streaming. For the moment though I am enjoying dabbling in this world again and I guess at the end of the day that is the most important part isn’t it?