One of the most common questions I receive in my e-mail is “How do I become a popular streamer?” often followed by “what did YOU do to become a popular streamer?”
I’ve seen more than a few people guess at why I grew in popularity. Some people say I was incredibly lucky. Others say I was just being as vulgar/grotesque as possible, akin to a “shock jock.” Some say it was just because of the volume of streaming I did.
In truth, it was a little bit of all three, plus a bit more.
When I started all of this a few years ago (Around January of 2011 was when I moved to Justin.TV), I had no idea what my end goal was with streaming. It was literally just something I was doing in my free time because it looked fun. I was initially unemployed, then began working with a small local business cleaning carpets/upholstery/hard floors, and doing other work related to water damage or carpet removal and installation.
My bestest buddy, Kyle, pointed out that there were a handful of people who streamed Broodwar. I did a little bit of digging around and found out that there were websites in existence (Livestream, Ustream, and Justin.TV) where people could sign up and stream for free. Back then, there were data caps and quality limitations on how much you could stream. You made no money from advertisements; hell, you couldn’t even control when commercials were played, they would literally come on in the middle of a game without any control at all from the user. There were no saved VoDs or any kind of archiving system unless you paid a ridiculous amount of money (per gigabyte). The software of the day was horribly inefficient, bandwidth was more expensive for everyone, etc…etc…
Basically, the entire industry was just starting to take off.
I was incredibly new to the industry and I had zero connections. No one knew who I was. I was a relatively average player, and I had no inside sources with Teamliquid or with any teams. Essentially, I was starting from scratch in an industry that was heavily populated with already-made names on a website where preferential treatment is dished out to established names.
I’m giving you this background now so that you can understand where I’m coming from when I talk about the things I did to get to where I’m at today. A lot of people feel incredibly overwhelmed when breaking into the streaming scene (or any new industry, for that matter), but it’s possible with proper planning, time commitment, and the right strategy.
- I did a lot of research into streaming technology.
When I first got into streaming, I was a complete and total noobie. I had never been involved in any kind of video/audio streaming before in my life, and every single program I’d come to use and understand was foreign to me. There were two huge problems to overcome when approaching streaming, from the technology side:
1) All of the software was relatively new and not commonly used, meaning there weren’t very many people using it, and finding it was sometimes incredibly difficult.
2) Finding help for your problems was impossible; you had to troubleshoot everything yourself. This downloading obscure .dlls or trying to figure out obscure and nondescript error messages. Forums and communities were filled with loads and loads of misinformation and it was impossible to take anything you read for face value because no one followed up with any posts.
The only way to overcome this was through brute-force research. Since there were no software guides or anything available, I would literally have to read up on encoders and how they function in order to understand what was the more efficient/optimal choice (vp6, anyone? hhehehe) for streaming, especially since my processor at the time (I’ll remember you forever, E6750) restricted my ability to stream and play simultaneously. Although, to be fair, the 300-500kb/s bandwidth caps placed on streamers at the time limited the amount of information you could even stream at all. Even when you had downloaded the correct program, sometimes you had to swap out the internal components (such as the encoder) for a more efficient, later version of said encoder. I remember that at one point I was using an encoder with an insanely weird name composed of all numbers that you had to download from some obscure Japanese website.
It’s mind-boggling how I was even able to stream, given the number of programs required to even get the stream running. Here’s what I needed to have running at the time in order to get a stream off the ground:
- Flash Media Live Encoder running with a modified h264 file
- Virtual Audio Cables service running in the background
- 2 Virtual Audio Cables running, 1 to connect audio from the computer into the stereo mix, one to connect audio from the microphone to the stereo mix
- Camtasia Studio to capture the screen region
Each one of these programs took a painstaking amount of research and tweaking to get them to run just right, and if any of them updated or glitched out, everything had to be readjusted and reset in order to get things working again. Troubleshooting was a nightmare and help was non-existent. It seems easy to think that “streaming just worked” from the broadcaster’s point of view because people never really saw what was going on from my end, but this was, honestly, one of my hugest headaches in getting started. There were a lot of programs being worked on at the time, namely the Livestream’s Livecaster application and Xsplit, which aimed to do things in a more streamlined fashion, but even they were rife with bugs and errors.
Why waste so much time researching into all of these different streaming options when I could just stream at the same quality as everyone else? The reason is because I was looking to set myself apart from other streamers in as many ways as possible, and streaming quality was an easy area to compete in since a lot of people weren’t motivated or knowledgeable enough to do the required research to set up a stream that looked nice. An easier option would have been to simply wait for one of these programs to come out before I started streaming, but every single day I wasn’t streaming I was missing out on the opportunity to grow my fan base of 5-15 people to something larger.