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You’ve bought the game, you’ve mastered the basics – or failed horribly – and you’re ready to show off your exploits to the rest of the gaming world.
Could you be the next Twich TV guru?
That, or you’ve officially thrown in the towel on your Starcraft II career and are ready to become a broadcaster instead of a Baneling rusher. As Bronze Leaguers ourselves, we understand; multiplayer isn’t for everyone. Sometimes it can be more fun to watch than participate, especially if you catch a fellow Starcraft enthusiast throwing down the fabled Protoss Mothership as a last-ditch effort to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
The biggest name in the online broadcasting game is Twitch TV — a spinoff of the lifecasting service Justin.TV that’s become the place to go for match replays, streamed live broadcasts, and witty commentary for all walks of games. But we’re not here to tell you how you can watch the gamers’ equivalent of a live YouTube; we’re here to tell you how to participate.
What does it take to get a live game stream up and running? Spoiler: Not much. You aren’t going to need a bunch of technical wizardry or time to get going; just follow our simple instructions!
Create Your Account
To start streaming on Twitch, you’ll need to have an account on Twitch. Guess what that entails? Hit up the Twitch website – Twitch.tv – and make an account. Don’t get distracted by the live video playing at the top of the site’s main page; you might find yourself accidentally spending hours watching an Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 match.
And, yes, you can even sign up for Twitch using your Facebook credentials; one-button login, here we come!
Twitch TV settings
If you want to get serious about broadcasting, make sure you click on your name in the upper-right corner of Twitch’s main page (once you’ve completed the account creation process and logged in), and click on the “Settings” link. If you want to check out Twitch’s subscription feature – “Turbo” – which removes display ads from the service and gives you some extra chat colors and badges, feel free. We’re more concerned with the “Connections” portion of your Settings screen, which will allow you to link up your YouTube account (for easy uploading of stream highlights) and Twitter (to annoy the heck out of your friends when you’re about to go live.)
One more suite of settings to keep in mind: If you want to limit just who might be able to see your channel for whatever reason, you’ll find a host of privacy options – where else – within the Privacy section of your Settings screen. It’s there where you’ll be able to hide your broadcast streaming from Twitch’s primary directory and search features, as well as preventing users from viewing any of your past broadcasts. You can also give your account an access code, which you’ll then be able to give to your friends if you’d like to limit, but not completely ban, access to your broadcast archives.
Got it? Let’s get broadcasting!
Broadcast Your Games
Before we even show you the first thing about game broadcasting, let’s get the tough talk out of the way. You’re going to want to have a decently powerful computer if you want to simultaneously game and stream your gaming accomplishments to the Web. Twitch itself suggests that you should be rocking at least an Intel Core i5-2500K CPU, eight gigabytes of DDR3 memory, and an operating system at least as current as Windows 7 Home Premium.
Note that we didn’t say a word about graphics cards. Frame rates are important for the simple sake of having a quality experience to stream, but the prowess of your GPU shouldn’t directly affect your streaming capabilities.
Twitch doesn’t technically offer any kind of broadcast software of its own; it provides the service. You’re on your own as to how, exactly, you want to translate your gaming to stream-friendly content.
Our recommendation is that you grab a free app called Open Broadcaster Software — it’s one of the latest and greatest apps you can use to get a stream up and running for Twitch, and many consider it an even better (and more user-friendly) app than Twitch’s recommendation, XSplit.
Hit up the Open Broadcaster Software website, download the app, and install it. Once the installation process is complete, the app will automatically fire up. If you’re running a 64-bit version of your OS, you might not want to take the app up on this offer and instead launch it with administrator rights from your Start Menu.
Once loaded, you’ll see that the app comes with a single “Scene” already preconfigured for you. A word on that: A “Scene” is basically a single configuration setting, matching a single video source to a single set of options. It’s your game, for example; a second scene could be a video you want to play during your stream, or a switch to a different window that you want to feature, et cetera.
Open Broadcast Software
First, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve fired up your game — unless you have a burning desire to stream the contents of your desktop to the world at large. Alt-tab back to Open Broadcaster Software and right-click within the app’s “Sources” box – currently empty – and highlight “Add” with your mouse. Select the “Game Capture” option and give it a creative name, then click “OK.”
Game Capture software
Select the “Application” from the drop-down menu, which should be the title of your game that’s currently running in the background. You can also simply assign this input source to a hotkey, if you want to quickly jump around different streaming sources without having to manually toggle to a new input within the app itself – it saves plenty of time, trust us.
Manage your scenes
At this point, we like to hit “OK” and head back to the main Open Broadcaster Software screen. It’s time to fire up a preview to ensure everything is looking correctly, which you can do by clicking on (aptly named) “Preview Stream” button. If you notice a black border around your video – if you’re running your game in a window, for example – you can always kick up your game’s resolution, set it to full screen or, if you don’t mind a slight degrade in quality, enable the “Stretch image to screen” option on the screen you just existed. That screen, we note, you can get back to by right-clicking on your streaming source and left-clicking on the “Properties” option.
Tweak Twich TV's bitrate
Assuming everything looks good, click on the “Settings” button on Open Broadcaster Software’s main screen. Click on Encoding to take a look at the app’s quality settings. There’s a careful dance that happens between the app’s “Quality Balance” setting and its maximum bitrate setting — in other words, the quality of the stream itself and the maximum bandwidth the app should use to stream your game. When in doubt, go as high as your system and Internet connection can support and test, test, test before you push your stream live to the Web. When really in doubt, check out Open Broadcaster Software’s estimator tool to get a sense of what your settings could be.
Adjust your live stream settings
Under “Broadcast Settings,” you’ll want to select “Twitch / Justin.tv” under the drop-down menu for Streaming Service. You’ll then want to copy your Twitch “Stream Key” to the empty section within Open Broadcaster Software – you can find said key by clicking on the big “Get Started” button underneath the “Become a broadcaster” section on Twitch’s main webpage. Click on the “Show Key” button on the subsequent page to reveal that which you must copy and paste.
The Video sections of the app’s Settings screen will allow you to define your source input’s resolution (if that needs to change) as well as the maximum frame rate that the program should shoot for within the stream. It defaults to 30, but feel free to kick it up to 60 if your system and connection can support it. Audio will allow you to set up a supplemental microphone input in addition to your game’s normal audio, if you want to offer a little bit of commentary while you stream.
Click on “OK” once you’re done fiddling around in the app’s Settings menu. If your preview is still running, stop it, and click on “Start Streaming” to do just that. If you pull up your Web feed and notice that nothing’s happening, don’t freak out: If you’re running your game full screen, you actually have to be within the title in order for the streaming to work. Otherwise, you can always run the game in a window if you need to access other elements on your PC without interrupting the stream.
The Broadcaster Dashboard
However, you should now have your very own PC gaming stream up and running! Don’t forget to jump back into Twitch’s Dashboard (via the same, upper-right-corner drop-down menu that you used to access its Settings) in order to give your broadcast a title – and don’t forget to switch it from “Not Playing” to “Playing.”