Monday, May 15, 2017

How to Be a Video Game Streamer Part 2: Setting Up Your Channel

Back into the thick of things! Let's move on to Part 2 of How to be a Video Game Streamer. If you've read through Part 1, hopefully you have had enough time to think about what your content is going to focus on. What you decide from here on out while shape how your channel with grow over the it's lifespan.

With your content and gaming persona in mind, you're ready to start Setting Up Your Channel. This task can be both simple and daunting.

First things to do is claim your Channel name based on the persona that you have created from Part 1. This will be the easy part. Head over to YouTube, Twitch, SmashCast, and UStream, signing up for accounts, and doing your darnedest to make sure that all of your gamer tags match. Why? Because this will make it easier for people to find you. As a fan, there is nothing worse then then going to Twitch, looking for your gamer tag 'Death2Smoochie', and not finding you. If your YouTube, SmashCast, and UStream name matches, but your Twitch ID is 'IPlayGamz', your fans will never be able to locate your stream. Part of branding yourself as a streamer is ensuring that your content is consistent among all platforms. That includes your gamer tag. If you find that your ID is already taken, then use variations of your tag. Add in dashes or underscores. Example: 'Death-2-Smoochie.' This will allow your name to come up in searches so people will have a greater chance of locating you.

Now that you have your ID claimed on these platforms, consider linking them up so that content can be shared. Throw in your social media profiles to, like Twitter and Facebook, that allow for cross-posting. This makes it easier to reach your friends and followers with any updates you have on your channels without the need for you to make multiple individual posts. It's one and done. Thank goodness for the internet!

But before you start posting, we need to get your Channels looking fancy. This means graphics, layout, rules, buttons, and plugins. This is where you are going to start hating life, especially if you don't have a background in graphic design. I'm going to use my Twitch Channel as an example of a simplified layout to give you all a better idea of what I'm talking about.

As you can see I have a banner, an avatar, and a video feed banner to inform people of my streaming schedule. I also have a Twitter-like chat bar to give viewers updates, and a series of boxes to the right of that, laying out my channel rules, and creative buttons that people can click so they can follow me on social media. Everything on that page is all tied to the same look with a 8/16-bit, old school gamer style. I even pixilated the social media icons to better match my design. If you check my YouTube Channel, it replicates the look. It may not be exact because YouTube and Twitch are different platforms, but you can tell between the two streaming systems that it's me. It's still TifaIA Cosplay.

Whether you have 1 or 1 million viewers, the look of your Channel needs to be represented in all forms of media that you are utilizing. If you need other examples, Google your favorite streamers and check our their pages. You'll find that all of the top game streamers have content that matches on every platform.

Before you jump in and start uploading images to pretty up your page, think about the overall look you want your Channel to have. If your focus is going to be on Minecraft, you may want to design your icons to center around that topic. Your avatar could be your in-game character skin. Channel buttons could be different animals in the game. You want people to know what your Channel is about in the first few moments of opening the page. People will know within seconds whether or not they want to stick around. And if you have nothing on your Channel that indicates visually that you are a Minecraft gamer, then don't expect people to stay.

So if you're a horror gamer, don't use bright colors or retro graphics as part of your design scheme. Go with a darker pallet (grey, black, rich browns). If you're a Nintendo gamer, use Mario and Legend of Zelda colors (but not their logos or characters, because Nintendo loves to issue CAD's) and Metroid-like backgrounds to act as your banner and buttons. The more you can connect your imagery to your branding, the more in-tune your audience will be to your work.

If you're ready to dive in, Twitch has a great overview on how to upload and edit the info panels on your page. YouTube's is more straight-forward with their Channel layout content, so there isn't as much to edit. But you can still mimic the style on Twitch to better replicate your brand.

Now that's all well and good if you have knowledge in graphic design. But what if you don't and you only have access to MSPaint? How can you make cool looking Channel graphics? You've got a few options available to you:

- Hire a graphic designer to create your content. And by hire, I mean pay them actual money. Do not cheap out and try the "well if you give me free graphics, I'll promote you and you'll get free advertising." That's not how it works. Graphic designers and artists are human. They need to eat and pay bills like everyone else, and they can't do that on "free advertising." How much would it cost? Depends on the designer. Check out websites like Freelancer and Guru. These are websites where people can offer their services for payment. Everything from copywriting to website coding. You can also check out art sites like DeviantArt and see if someone's work strikes your interest. Contact the person, set up payment, and give them a very detailed description of what you want your final Channel design will look like. Some artists will charge $15-$30 an hour for work, or give you a bulk rate of $150-$500 for everything. It depends on the person.

- Teach yourself! This will be the most time-consuming method, but if you are interested in learning, there are a load of tools for free that will help you out. And some of the best graphic programs out there don't require you to drop $1 grand to use them. GIMP is a fantastic image manipulation program that is completely free. It's Photoshop Lite, as I like to call it. But as I said, time. You need a lot of it. Graphic design isn't something you can learn overnight. It takes weeks of practice to focus on the craft until you get to a level where you feel that it's passable. Heck, I've been doing this for 10+ years and I still feel subpar at times. But for Channel graphics? A few lessons and some time to design is all you need.

- Buy pre-made Channel graphics. Websites like Tactical Lion Designs and Visuals by Impulse offer icons and images, bundled together to help those starting out their streaming Channels. The downside to this is that because these are easily accessible to anyone who's willing to buy, your visuals may already be in use by another streamer. Not that it's a bad thing, but it can be an issue with distinguishing your identity if you become popular. After a few months, if you see your viewership increase, you should update your graphics to better fit with your branding and create your own look. But for those starting out, looking for a quick way to get nice graphics at a reasonable rate, this is a good way to go!

Here's the legal section of the program so you don't wind up in trouble with your Channel graphics:

1 - DO NOT USE COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL. What is copyrighted? Most things are these days. Basically, if you didn't come up with the idea and draw it yourself, it's not safe to use. So no Mario. No Capcom characters. No taking an image from Google and using it. Even if you're not making money off the Channel (as in, you don't have a Donate button or anywhere for someone to give you funds), just don't do it. If you're wondering why I have a Moogle in my graphics, you'll find that I've tweaked the images so they are not a100% copy of the Final Fantasy characters. Loopholes ftw! But if I do add a Donation button, I'll have to change out the icons; to be safe in case of legalities.

2 -  If you hire someone to make your graphics, make sure to have a signed contract with you and the artist to ensure that you maintain full ownership of the final images.

3 - If you use pre-made Channel graphics, you are required to credit the creators/website where you purchased them from. You can do this in the info boxes on Twitch, or add them to your videos with a text title. Whatever you wish to do. Part of the contract you agree to when you purchase the icons is to credit their site. Don't skip this step.

Whew. We covered a lot in this post! But you now have the basic run-down of what to expect when you start making your Channel. And we haven't even begun to create video content yet. Join The Geek Spot in Part 3, where we dive into the streaming process.

Be sure to read up on Part 1: Channel Focus and Persona to start your streaming adventure.


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