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We’ll do it live! (adventures in live development streaming)

We’ll do it live! (adventures in live development streaming)

Hey everyone, I’m Lauren, and I’m an artist here at Proletariat. I’ve done a lot of development live streams for our game World Zombination recently, so I wanted to talk a little about them—why we stream, what my experience with them has been, and how to make them go as smoothly as possible.

Why are we streaming?

Game devs do live development streams for a lot of reasons, from direct marketing of their games to just having fun and connecting with other gamers. The streams we do on Twitch at Proletariat have a few functions: they help build our community, they act as a resource for the indie game community, and they drive increased interest in the World Zombination beta (which hopefully means more people sign up for the beta email list).

We have goals for our stream, since we want to use it to engage and grow our player base. Our broadcasts have become good drivers for traffic: from one recent two-hour stream, we had more than 15,000 total viewers, more than 1,200 concurrent viewers at its peak, 25 mailing list sign-ups, and 28 new Twitch subscribers. All nice bumps in our community from simply doing our work on the air and answering some questions while we do it.

So…what do I stream?!

Why would people watch our stream? Probably for fun (and sometimes to learn things). So with that in mind:

Things that ARE fun to watch:

  • Painting the shiny bits on that sweet sniper rifle
  • Zombies exploding
  • Tweaking the VFX on vomit.

Things that are NOT fun to watch:

  • Fighting with Perforce
  • Exploring endless file directories
  • Naming Photoshop layers
  • Watching a .psd file take five minutes to open because you’re addicted to layers
  • Unity loading screens
  • Taking two minutes to find a reference folder on your desktop among the cat gifs (so many cat gifs…seriously?)

I try to maximize the fun (or interesting/educational) to watch parts and minimize the bullshit. Yes, the bullshit is part of game development; but no, no one wants to watch that.

I always clear my desktop of everything but one folder that has my psd, my reference folder, and jpegs of any process work. I have my layers set up in Photoshop, and they are named and masked and ready.

In addition to that, I’m usually working on something where I’m comfortable with the process and know how things are likely going to turn out. I don’t really want to be attempting to solve super complex artistic problems while I’m streaming. Part of that is vanity—who wants to screw up with an audience? But a large part of it is that your attention is going to be elsewhere. Something I’ve heard from a few people who have done art streams before is that they had a really hard time doing any work, because they were too busy fielding questions. Painting a concept, watching a chat room, and answering questions all at once is like rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time. So I try not to get too fancy with my head pats.

We’re all set up, we hit broadcast…oh, shit…we’re live!

I’m just doing my job, but now it’s over the internet with several hundred people watching. NO PRESSURE.

One thing I’ve figured out in doing these streams is that if I’m trying to engage people, I need to let them know that I’m watching the chat and taking questions. And that needs to be done beyond just saying it once at the beginning of the stream; viewers drop in and out of these things constantly. I will occasionally tell people that I’m taking questions, and will let them know the other ways in which they can engage with our game (Here’s the beta link! That’s an interesting question! We wrote a blog post about it recently! We have some pictures of that character on our Facebook!).

I talk about the game, too. People aren’t going to know what the hell I’m drawing a sniper rifle for, especially since it’s for a new IP from an indie studio. This is an opportunity to pitch what we’re working on, so I make sure to do it!

So that’s what I have to say about doing development streams. Well…almost. There’s another side of streaming that I want to address that’s a little more personal, and little more challenging. But that’s a discussion for another day, another blog post. For now, thanks for reading, and I hope this helps any would-be streamers!

– Lauren, artist

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