So here's the story...
Loic Ferdinandi and I are just two college students working on the puzzle platformer called Blink. Our previous attempts at marketing the game weren’t very effective, and this was our big break in some sense. Swiftor, a popular Twitch streamer, gave us the awesome opportunity to show our game to a large audience for the first time. He played our game while we provided live developer commentary. We got in touch with Swiftor by winning a Taco Bell indie game contest, so I can’t really give you advice on how to go about contacting Twitch streamers, but I can tell you what to expect during a live Twitch stream, as well as what not to do during a live Twitch stream.
The stream was not a failure by any means, but there were a lot of things we wish we knew ahead of time. An article like this would’ve helped us quite a bit, but I wasn’t able to find any when I was looking just before the Twitch stream. Overall, we got a very good reaction from the viewers, and I want to thank Swiftor for playing and streaming our game even though it isn’t what you would typically expect to be played on Twitch. You can watch a recording of the stream here, our game starts at about 3:33:00.
Loic and I used Discord to talk with Swiftor during the stream. We made sure the microphones were setup right, but last minute changes rendered a lot of the preparation obsolete. I wanted to use a high-quality microphone, but once the stream began, Swiftor pointed out my mic was picking up feedback (such as an echo of voices). I quickly switched over to my earbud’s mic to try and get rid of the feedback, but it ended up switching to my laptop’s microphone, which I later found out made my voice sound like a whisper. Luckily, Loic didn’t have any microphone problems and was able to keep talking throughout the stream. However, it’s stressful having technical problems when nearly 1,500 people are listening; so don’t put yourself in that position. The moral of the story is: use headphones that have a microphone.
Be Aware of Twitch’s Delay
The biggest thing we wish we knew before the stream was how much delay Twitch has. Communication with Discord is near instant, but Twitch has about a 20 second delay. We had to comment on what Swiftor was doing in the present, but we could only see what Swiftor did 20 seconds ago on the Twitch live-video stream. The whole time we were guessing what Swiftor was doing based purely on what he was saying via Discord. This made us really confused at first, but we quickly figured it out. The delay caused us to leave moments of silence when we were waiting for Swiftor to talk and give us a hint on what he was doing, when in reality, he and the audience were awaiting our responses. Blink is not a game with a whole lot of action and noise, so the silence stuck out more than usual. We should have talked more about how we came up with ideas about the levels and characters, but we were too busy trying to guess where he was in the game. If a Twitcher is promoting your game, make sure you have a plan to fill up the empty spaces between lulls in the stream. Also make sure to leave space for your host to comment and ask questions since it is their show and they are the personality the audience wants to hear from. As a final note for this section, Loic and I caused some confusion on when our game was coming out (partially due to our mic issues); so make sure to have some sort of release date as well as pricing of the game in the back of your minds.
It’ll Last Longer Than You Think
We sent Swiftor a custom demo of Blink with some levels cut out to help speed things along and keep the stream interesting. Swiftor gave us a 30-minute “timeslot”, and we were expecting it to last 15-20 minutes based off of previous playtests. But it took longer than we expected, and Swiftor graciously gave us 40 minutes and finished the demo (It only felt like ten minutes to me, though). Swiftor wasn’t slow at the game--he plays video games for a living, after all--we just didn’t properly account for the factors outside of playing the game, such as: introducing ourselves at the beginning of the segment, Swiftor reading the in-game dialogue out-loud (which was quite cool), stopping to ask and answer questions from the chat windows, as well as asking us questions about the game. Given this, there are many things during a Twitch stream that’ll cause things to go along at a slower rate than you expected. It might be too early to make a rule of thumb based on one experience, but I’d say it’ll take about twice as long for a Twitch-streamer to get through a gameplay segment compared to an average play through. I want to thank Swiftor again for not cutting the demo short, as we got some of the best feedback in the last few minutes of the stream.
Chat Comments Don’t Last
Getting live feedback from thousands of people in the chat windows is one of the most exciting things about twitch streaming, but we were too busy providing commentary to look at the chat window during the stream. Afterwards, we weren’t too happy to find that Twitch only lets you view the last 100 or so chat comments. Luckily, one of our friends watching realized this and took dozens of screenshots of all the comments, so we were able to enjoy the feedback afterwards. So make sure you record the stream or those comments are lost forever.
We didn’t have much experience with Twitch beforehand, so we didn’t know about the Twitch chat commands that users can type to get more information about the game being streamed, or the event going on at the moment. Another friend (who allowed us to do this in his awesome apartment) informed us of the chat commands a few minutes before we were live, and we asked him to send the Twitch channel moderators the links to our website and Steam Greenlight page. Sadly, these pages were not the best choices to provide links to. Blink was already greenlit a year ago, so linking to the Greenlight page wasn’t really the best option. Also, I’ve only been paying a $5/month fee for our company’s website server. Judging by the number of times people were chatting “!blink”, I’m sure our low-bandwidth server took forever to load our website. What we really wanted was more Twitter followers, but we forgot to give a link to our Twitter page in the heat of the moment. We only ended up with five new Twitter followers after the stream. Make sure you have all of your links ready before the stream, because it is really easy to forget things when you’re broadcasting live.
So I’ve mostly mentioned what went wrong during the stream, but that is because that information is much more important to developers who are going to have their game live-streamed. Overall, it was a great experience. It’s really fun to hear hundreds and hundreds of people comment on nearly every aspect of your game. I received so many compliments that they eventually lost all meaning! You can know how deeply to consider some criticism by how often it’s repeated. It was a great experience, and I hope your “Twitching” goes even better by learning from our mistakes. Good Luck!