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Steam Link with RetroArch + Ice, running emulators for SNES and Genesis in Big Picture Mode

Yesterday was a wonderful day, I finally got my Steam Link working flawlessly with RetroArch and a PlayStation DualShock 4 Controller on the big screen in my living room. It was my third attempt at getting an emulator to work with the Steam Link and now I can teach you exactly what I did and what I have learned over the past week.

Since I got my Steam Link I have been obsessed with the idea of running old school games like Super Mario World for the SNES and Sonic the Hedgehog for the Sega Genesis (MegaDrive). I saw some people had done it already so I knew it could be done, but the tutorials out there leave much to be desired and can be confusing and over complicated at best.

I will try in this article to keep things simple. I will explain some of the basic concepts that you need to understand to get this working. If you have any questions please leave me a comment and I will try to help.

How to run emulators on the Steam Link

We will be using RetroArch, which is creating quite a bit of buzz in the emulator world right now because it allows you to control multiple emulators and works on multiple platforms. RetroArch is kind of an emulator manager, it is more than that but for the purpose of this article it allows you to have multiple emulators all under one interface.

Then we will use a piece of software called Ice to create the bridge between RetroArch and the Steam Platform. Once we have RetroArch and Ice configured we can use our Steam Link to launch emulators and play retro games directly from Steam in Big Picture Mode with a seamless integration.

Where to save every thing?

There are no rules where you save RetroArch, Ice or your ROM files. I will show you how I have it on my machine to make this tutorial easier to understand.

I install some of my Steam games on my extra hard drive. I have a folder there called “SteamLibrary” and this is where I install some of my Steam games. I decided I would keep all of my game files all in one place so now I have RetroArch, Ice and my ROM files all in a SteamLibrary folder on my 1TB external hard drive.

So E:\SteamLibrary\steamapps is where some of my Steam games are installed.

I then created an “Emulator Folder” under E:\SteamLibrary\Emulator so that I can store every thing connected with emulation all in one place.

Then I created:
E:\SteamLibrary\Emulator\RetroArch
E:\SteamLibrary\Emulator\Ice
E:\SteamLibrary\Emulator\ROMs

Inside ROMs I have two more folders which contain some ROM files:
E:\SteamLibrary\Emulator\ROMs\SNES
E:\SteamLibrary\Emulator\ROMs\Genesis

Remember there are no rules here, you do not have to have this structure and the fact that these folders are inside my Steam folder serves no relevance to the tutorial whatsoever because you can install these things wherever you wish.

First let’s download and start RetroArch

Before we think about Steam or using the Steam Link its important that we get RetroArch running first. You will need to install “RetroArch” load up a “Core” and then load some “Content”. In other words we will use RetroArch to load a console for example the Super Nintendo core then we will load a game which is also called a ROM file.

Download the latest stable version of RetroArch for Windows and unpack it into E:\SteamLibrary\Emulators\RetroArch, you will need WINRar or similar to unzip the 7-Zip file. You can choose between 32-bit and 64-bit depending on your current operating system. I use Windows 10 so I went with the Stable 1.3.2 64-bit download.

After you unpack it, launch retroarch.exe and you should see the RetroArch GUI. Now we need to download our first Core and then we can load a ROM file.

RetroArch GUI

RetroArch GUI

Navigate using your keyboard and follow the steps below:

Download a Core:
Settings tab > Online Updater > Core Updater > bsnes_balanced_libretro.dll

Once you have a Core downloaded you will need to load the Core.

Load a Core into RetroArch:
Settings tab > Load Core > bsnes_balanced_libretro.dll

Once you have a Core loaded you can now load a ROM file.

Load a ROM File:
Settings tab > Load Content > Select File > E:\SteamLibrary\Emulator\ROMs\SNES\Super Mario World.sfc

If all is working correctly you will see the game you just selected and you should have control using the keyboard. For a more in depth article or if you get stuck with my guide you can read Getting Started with RetroArch you can also ask questions on the LibRetro Forums and you can check the LibRetro Wiki.

IMPORTANT: YOU MUST HAVE RETROARCH WORKING BEFORE YOU CONTINUE!

Using Ice to add ROM files to your Steam Library

Once we have RetroArch working we need to create the bridge between Steam and RetroArch. To do this we will use a really awesome GitHub project called Ice created by Scott Rice. Ice will scan our ROM folders we created earlier and add any games it finds into Steam as non-Steam games. Its customizable, with a fairly low level setup. It also helps you find artwork so that your ROMs look great when you are running Steam in Big Picture Mode which is the mode launched by default when you use your Steam Link.

Configuring Ice to work with RetroArch and the Steam Platform

Download the latest version of Ice and unpack it into E:\SteamLibrary\Emulators\Ice.

There are three config files that you will need to edit to get Ice working correctly.

config.txt
consoles.txt
emulators.txt

The reason I showed you my file structure earlier is to try and help you understand how to configure the Ice config files.

Here are my config files, you can of course configure Ice to work differently but for the purpose of this article I will show you what I have in my three config files. I have removed most of the content that comes in these files to keep the demonstration simple and to show you that some things are not needed for our particular setup. Please review the files you downloaded from the Ice website and compare them with mine. I have added some of my own comments to help you understand how these three files work together. I am currently running both SNES and Genesis/MegaDrive on my Steam Link so if you only want SNES games you can ignore the Genesis stuff but I have left it here to help show you how this stuff is working.

config.txt

[Storage]
# My ROM Files:
ROMs Directory=E:\SteamLibrary\Emulator\ROMs

[Grid Images]
# The default is ConsoleGrid (consolegrid.com/api/top_picture)
# If this field is left blank, Ice will not attempt to download images
Source=consolegrid.com/api/top_picture

consoles.txt

# This [WORD] represents the category in Steam
[Super Nintendo]
# nickname must match you folder name in your ROMs folder
nickname=SNES
# This is the name you specify in emulators.txt
emulator=RetroArch_SNES
# This is the file extension of the ROMs in the ROMs folder
extensions=sfc

[Sega Genesis]
nickname=Genesis
emulator=RetroArch_Genesis
extensions=md

emulators.txt

[RetroArch_SNES]
# Location of RetroArch.exe
location=E:\SteamLibrary\Emulator\RetroArch\retroarch.exe
# Location of SNES CORE and some launch options
command=%l -fullscreen -L cores\bsnes_balanced_libretro.dll %r

[RetroArch_Genesis]
location=E:\SteamLibrary\Emulator\RetroArch\retroarch.exe
command=%l -fullscreen -L cores\genesis_plus_gx_libretro.dll %r

Ice will also grab the artwork to use for the ROM’s when in Big Picture Mode. But the ROM file name must match the name found on the consolegrid.com website.

For example I had to rename my Super Mario World ROM to “Super Mario World.sfc” before running Ice so that Ice could get the correct artwork for me.

Once you have your config files edited and pointing to the correct locations on your hard drive you must exit Steam and launch Ice.exe. If all is successful you will see a screen which looks similar to the one below.

Ice for Steam Link

If you have some issues with Ice you will need to read what the Ice console tells you and Google for any problems that it reports. You can also read the Ice Getting Started Guide where you can read more about the ROM folder structure and how to set custom images and icons for your games in Steam.

If Ice executed without any issues it’s time to load up Steam, launch Big Picture Mode and test if all is working correctly. Once you are happy that all is working as expected on your desktop it’s time to move into the other room and boot up your Steam Link for some awesome retro gaming fun!

It should work flawlessly once you have all the kinks ironed out.

Steam Link with RetroArch and Ice running in Big Picture Mode

Steam Link with RetroArch and Ice running SNES Games in Big Picture Mode

This is a dream come true for me and I hope that you are also able to play some ROMs on your Steam Link. It brings back a ton of childhood memories and I am excited to play on the Steam Link with my friends and family.

The Finishing Touch, Using the 8bitdo SFC30 Wireless Bluetooth Controller with the Steam Link

Wireless SNES ControllerI just purchased the 8bitdo SFC30 Wireless Bluetooth Controller. I have no idea if this thing will work. I will update you here as I get my hands on it to let you know if the SFC30 works with Steam Link and RetroArch.

 

The Final Word

After trying for several days I truly believe that this article outlines the best setup for running emulated games on the Steam Link. Many people are using LaunchBox or BigBox as a layer in-between Steam and the emulator but this comes with it’s own issues. I personally was not able to get things working using LaunchBox, my controllers never worked and it looked horrible trying to navigate LaunchBox plus I really don’t see why you would want to use LaunchBox when you can launch games directly from Steam Big Picture Mode which looks great and it just works better.

If you add more Cores to RetroArch you simply add a few lines of code to your Ice config files and then run Ice again. If you add more ROM files you simply exit Steam and run Ice again. I love how RetroArch works independently in this setup. I can swap shaders, configure controllers and do all of that fun stuff directly in RetroArch, afterwards I just boot up my Steam Link and it works flawlessly.

I really hope you have been able to learn something today and If you have any questions, comments or praise to give, please do so in the comments below and I will try to reply.

Known issues and Frequently asked Questions

I will try to keep this article updated and if I get similar questions from people I will try to add them here as a help resource.

Where can I download ROM Files?
It is actually illegal to download ROM files. People say if you own a physical copy you can download a copy of the internet. This is not true. The copy you download is an illegally distributed copy and this is not ok. You will need to purchase a Retrode 2 and create your own ROMs using your original games. These ROMs will be backup copies of your already purchased games. You can purchase games from dkoldies.com and lukiegames.com and make your own backup files.

Issues with the Steam Controller not working with RetroArch!
I did have some issues with the Steam Controller bindings when I launched my first game and you will need to modify your Steam Controller to map it to the keyboard inputs used by RetrocArch. I actually just used my DualShock 4 controller via Bluetooth and it worked instantly with no extra setup required.

Problems when running Ice and the consolegrid API!
Originally in my ROM folder I had folder called “MegaDrive” which made Ice report that the consolegrid API was down, but in reality it just didn’t know that MegaDrive was is also called Genesis. I renamed the folder from MegaDrive to Genesis and then Ice worked correctly and grabbed the artwork from consolegrid.

Everything seems correct after running Ice but the games just wont load from Steam!
Test the ROM and the Core directly from RetroArch first, Launch retroarch.exe and make sure it works as expected before running Ice and trying to launch it with Steam. If it wont work just using RetroArch it definitely wont work using Steam. During the setup process I had downloaded the bnes_libretro.dll it took me a good thirty minutes to realise that I had downloaded a NES Core instead of a SNES Core which prevented it from running in RetroArch. I switched to the bsnes_balanced_libretro.dll and then it worked as expected.

Games launch correctly but my controller does not seem to work!
It seems sometimes that if you have a controller plugged in to your desktop PC, RetroArch gives priority to that controller and then the controllers connected to the Steam Link don’t seem to work. Unplug any controllers from your desktop before launching your games in Steam.


CPU issues when streaming and playing games

I noticed I was getting lag spikes in game after starting to stream with OBS. It was not because of my internet speed but because my CPU was using 100% of it’s processing power and killing my mad skills in CSGO. This was causing me to have some pretty horrible issues when streaming and playing games on Twitch.

How to fix CPU related issues when streaming and playing games?

The information in this post will apply to all games not just Counter-Strike Global Offensive so if you have a CPU streaming issue please read on.

I didn’t stream on Twitch much since the summer. Mostly because of other projects and because I started hitting the gym a few times a week! I formatted my PC and put Windows 10 on it plus bought myself a brand new BenQ XL2430T 144Hz monitor and I had taken my green screen down to have a huge sort out in the room I use to stream. All of these things combined meant I had destroyed my streaming setup! Putting things back together takes time but I started to do that this week.

Starting fresh

So previously I guess I had tweaked my CSGO game and my streaming settings, something I must of totally forgot about.

I tried to stream the other day and my CPU was running at 100% and causing CSGO to stutter which made me play really badly. I had to make a some tweaks again and now my CPU is running at around 90% which is perfect in my opinion because I have almost maximum performance from my PC and no issues while streaming and playing games.

Before we start tweaking

If you understand a few simple ideas then you will be able to make choices that work for you rather than just plain copying me. We all have different gaming rigs and stream different styles of games so the fixes are down to you to makes choices.

Understanding the streaming process

When you stream your capture software usually XSplit or OBS is recording your screen at the number of frames you specify, then it is resizing the dimensions of the capture as you specify and then it tries to compress it to the size rate which you specify (1800 KB/s in my case) then it sends it down the wire to Twitch.

So the more frames you have and the larger your screen resolution the larger the amount of data your CPU has to crush in order to meet your specified streaming KB/s.

On top of that CSGO is known to be a very CPU expensive game, the source engine that runs Counter-Strike uses the CPU more so than other games. Newer games pass much more of the graphic processing work to the GPU.

So in my case both CSGO and OBS are using my CPU.

You can check this by going into Task Manager, on Windows by pressing CTRL+ALT+DEL.

CPU issues when streaming and playing games on Twitch

Analyse CPU issues when streaming and playing games on Twitch!

Reducing your CPU usage is easy

You have to make some choices as to what works best for the style of games yo pay and what software and hardware you use. I outline 5 fixes below.

You may have to use all 5 of them.

Fix 1: Free up valuable CPU processing power

Press CTRL+ALT+DEL and go in to Task Manager. The first unexpected thing I noticed in Task Manager was a little program called “RzStats.Manager.exe” I saw that is was using between 10-12% of my CPU when I moved my mouse. This is because I have a Razer DeathAdder 2013 gaming mouse and when I installed the Razor Synapse 3.0 software it asked me if I would like to turn on statistic tracking for my mouse. At the time this seemed like a great idea. I soon realised that all it really does it create a heat map which is in my opinion completely useless. I disabled statistics tracking in the Razor Synapse software and then the CPU usage disappeared and I gained an extra 10% free processing power.

Analyse what is going on under the hood of your machine using Task Manager and work out what programs are hogging CPU and decide if you need them or not.

Fix 2: Reduce the amount of CPU used by the game you play

In my case CSGO is using my CPU. I like to have all my graphics settings on maximum and I still get over 150 FPS. Reducing the screen resolution of CSGO can give you more CPU if you combine that with lower graphics settings you can free up a lot of CPU power. I play 1080p and I prefer gaming in full quality so I won’t be reducing my settings in CSGO. This is my personal choice.

Adjusting the game quality settings and resolution of your game can sometimes free up CPU power, especially if your game is known for hogging CPU.

Fix 3: Stream at a lower FPS

Reduce the the number of frames per second that you record in. This is what I mentioned earlier. If you are capturing in 60 FPS you are capturing twice as much data as someone who is streaming at 30 FPS and you may have to reduce this. If you are streaming a game like Hearthstone you can probably go as low as 24 FPS without much visual concern. CSGO is a fast paced FPS and I choose to stream at 60 FPS. I can’t sacrifice this.

The lower the frame rate you stream the less CPU will be needed.

Fix 4: Downscale your stream

Downscale effectively throws away some of the data so the CPU handles less data. The less data being used the less work it does. I record my screen at 1080p and I downscale to 720p. I don’t believe many of my viewers watch my stream at full screen and even if they do 720p is still classed as HD.

The more you downscale the less CPU you will use.

Fix 5: Spend some money!!

If you have tried all of the above and still you find your games unplayable it’s time to bite the bullet and spend some money. I am serious, If you think you can be a streamer on a cheap old laptop you are probably wrong. Have a real hard look at your setup, is it really a gaming setup, more importantly can it even stream…

If all else fails go and spend some money on some new kit! 

My crappy old gaming rig

Yes I want to upgrade, I consider my setup a little old now because I have to make sacrifices to stream! I am waiting for the release of the Oculus Rift before I do any thing major with my rig. I want to be an early adapter of the VR technology that is coming and I want to stream that sh*t! Yeaaahh Buddddyy!

Motherboard: ASUS – P8P67 Deluxe
Processor: Intel Core i7-2700K CPU @ 3.50GHz
Cooling: Antec Liquid Cooling KÜHLER H2O 920
RAM: 32 GB Geil Evo 2.400 MHz DDR3 RAM
OS Hard Drives: 2 x Kingston 240GB HyperX SATA III SSD
Data Storage: 2TB Western Digital HD
Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 7800 EYEFINITY 6
Power: AMD Radeon HD 7800 EYEFINITY 6
Case: Akasa Venom Full Tower Yellow

Please look at my gaming rig spec above and if your machine is a lower spec than mine then you are probably going to have to make even more compromises than I did. if compromising is not something you want to do then you will have to simply go and spend some money on buying some better streaming kit.

The Final Word!

I left my CSGO settings on maximum plus I really want to stream at 60 FPS. My compromise comes with fix number 4, I downscale to 720p and this was enough to keep my CPU usage in check. There are some other smaller optimisations that you can make but I haven’t mentioned them because if you can’t fix your issues using fix 1, 2, 3 or 4 then I suggested you go straight to option number 5.


The best upload settings for Twitch

I wanted to make a short video on what I think are the best upload settings for Twitch. Quite simply through trial and error over the last 1.5 years of streaming I have learned what does and doesn’t work. According to Twitch your upload settings should be calculated based on your personal bandwidth upload speed. In practice I have found this is not accurate information. I was originally using the above guide to set my Stream upload speed. I started to get complaints from viewers who simply couldn’t see my Stream. I have noticed when I am on a slow connection I experience the same black screen issue when visiting some streams.

Viewers complaining about a black screen

My basic understanding is as follows. Just because you can upload at 3500kb/s does not mean your viewers can watch your stream. If a viewer in your room has a slower connection for example 1000kb/s they simply wont see the stream. This is because they can not download quickly enough the stream you are trying to send.

A lesson to be learned

When you receive a complaint from a viewer do not instantly assume they are in the wrong. I have tried to advise many streamers that the settings they use are too high and that I can not see the stream. Often another chatter raises his voice and say’s “Well it is perfect for me!” and the streamer simply ignores my comment at which point I leave the stream because I just see a black screen. Now consider the number of people who do not even comment and simply leave the stream assuming it is broken. Remember where there is smoke there is fire, if you keep getting feedback from users that are trying to tell you something then you should pay attention and investigate the issue. Remember there is no point having crystal clear stream in ultra high definition, if people can not even watch it.

Why does Twitch recommend streamers to use such high settings?

I think the settings Twitch recommends are accurate based on video quality alone, if you want to stream 1080p at 60 fps I think for optimum quality you should be using 3500kb/s as recommend by Twitch. I also believe that perhaps when creating these articles Twitch is taking into account that there is a ‘Video Quality Option’ on the Twitch video player where users can adjust your stream quality and set it to either Source, High, Medium, Low and Mobile. But new and un-partnered streamers do not always get this luxury all of the time. You will probably not have the ‘Video Quality’ option on your stream.

Video quality settings can be found on the bottom right of the video player but new streamers may not have them.

Video quality settings can be found on the bottom right of the video player but new streamers may not have the option and their viewers are forced to watch at Source quality.

Best upload settings for Twitch Partners

If you are already a partner then you will always have the ‘Player Options’ popup and in that case it makes sense to use the recommended upload settings. If you have the ability to stream at 3500kb/s then it makes sense to do so because users on slower connections can adjust the rate at which data is sent to them.

Best upload settings for non Twitch Partners

I really believe there is a sweet spot at around 1600-2000kb/s where you can have great quality and the largest number of possible viewers. It is a happy medium between quality and maximum viewership.

The best upload settings for Twitch

Adjusting the upload settings for Twitch in OBS.

The Final Word!

If your a partner by all means you should be using the maximum upload speed that you can. If you are new to twitch and are not partnered I believe you should lower your upload setting to around 1800kb/s. If people can not watch your stream you will have less viewers, less chatters and a harder time making it big on Twitch. Drop the upload speed and once you become partnered you can stream in ultra high quality.


How many people can you invite to a Steam group per day?

The simple question with a less than simple answer. Steam groups in my opinion is one of the very best places where you can work to build new followers and viewers for your Twitch channel. The Steam community is a place where you will find your target audience, Gamers. Gamers are the people most likely to come and watch you on Twitch and Steam has literally millions of Gamers you can access.

If you do not have a Steam group then I suggest you start one. I am working on another article at the moment where I will show you how best to do that. I currently own 4 Steam groups.

I wanted to know how many people I can invite to a Steam group per day, what are the Steam group invite limits? It seems at a certain point the invites you send from the group no longer send. You can check this by reviewing your groups history. This is frustrating, but there is obvious reasons for this, for example limiting spam on the Steam network.

Google to the rescue…. or not!

I googled this question, but there is no real answers out there. I just found lots of conflicting wishy-washy opinions. The two best articles I found on the topic can be found on the Steam forums and Reddit. Neither of the posts answer the question. So I set out to discover for myself and see just how many people I can invite each day, per group.

What I did…

I have 4 Steam groups which I have been growing over the last year. I haven’t sent any invites in the past few months. I started with my main group and I invited as many people as possible, once the invites stopped being sent from that group I moved on to my second, third and fourth group. So each day for the last 10 days I have sent as many invites as Steam would allow.

The Numbers and The Steam Groups

Below are some tables detailing exactly how many invites I was able to send on each day for each group. I have included the actual group size in terms of number of current members and all of these groups are at least 6 months old so they are all quite similar in size and age. As you can see the results are a little strange, the number of invites sent goes up and down per day for no obvious reasons. I was inviting people at a rate of 3-4 people per minute and only working with one group at a time.

Steam group: FiveManDown
Members in group: 1376
Total invites sent in 10 days: 776
Average Invites sent per day: 77

Date Invites Sent
September 8th 388
September 9th 6
September 10th 0
September 11th 170
September 12th 61
September 13th 0
September 14th 0
September 15th 0
September 16th 151
September 17th 0

Steam group: Skins Club
Members in group: 3833
Total invites sent in 10 days: 702
Average Invites sent per day: 70

Date Invites Sent
September 8th 4
September 9th 439
September 10th 46
September 11th 131
September 12th 51
September 13th 0
September 14th 0
September 15th 0
September 16th 31
September 17th 0

Steam group: Twitch CSGO Giveaway Alliance
Members in group: 907
Total invites sent in 10 days: 633
Average Invites sent per day: 63

Date Invites Sent
September 8th 0
September 9th 0
September 10th 0
September 11th 101
September 12th 149
September 13th 0
September 14th 44
September 15th 220
September 16th 119
September 17th 0

Steam group: FMD CSGO Giveaways
Members in group: 545
Total invites sent in 10 days: 589
Average Invites sent per day: 59

Date Invites Sent
September 8th 0
September 9th 0
September 10th 0
September 11th 0
September 12th 1
September 13th 378
September 14th 122
September 15th 0
September 16th 66
September 17th 22

Any conclusive findings?

It seems that there is a daily limit across all groups. For example my fourth group did not gain the ability to send invites till much later in the test perhaps after my other groups had maxed out on invites. It would appear that you can send around 270 invites per day.

Total invites sent in 10 days: 2700
Average Invites sent per day: 270

Date Invites Sent
September 8th 392
September 9th 445
September 10th 46
September 11th 402
September 12th 262
September 13th 378
September 14th 166
September 15th 220
September 16th 367
September 17th 22

The Final Word

The Answer: 270 Invites Per Day! It looks like you can invite about 270 people per day across multiple groups. Somewhere between 250-450 people can be invited per day for a single group, but not all groups can be maxed out every single day. If you have multiple groups you can only max out one group per day. I still believe it is better to have more groups than less especially if you are trying to gain followers for your community or Twitch channel.


The best Twitch profile banner template with PSD download

I am currently reworking the graphics on my Twitch channel and I noticed some interesting things about the Twitch profile banner image that I will share with you. It took me a little while to figure this out so I hope you like it! Also if you are looking for more followers then I have a bunch of Fiverr gigs that can generate you a lot of followers on Twitch. Check out some of my customer reviews, I am very proud to say I have many happy customers!

So let’s take look at what I learned about the Twitch profile banner. I have also included a free Photoshop file for you to download.

Twitch Recommends

Twitch recommends that we upload an image which is 900 x 480 pixels. I noticed that this size is almost a 16:9 resolution. 16:9 is a very common ratio size for video and most HD monitors work using a 16:9 ratio.

I have attached an image below which shows a 900 x 480 pixel image that has been stretched so it’s width is 1280 pixels which allowed me to test it against a 1080p resolution or 16:9 image ratio. As you can see there is a small red bar at the bottom of the image that represents the difference in size between the recommend Twitch profile banner size and an image which is 1920 x 1080 pixels.

900-stretched

Twitch profile image and it’s strange behavior

I noticed that if you upload an image which is larger than 480 pixels in height Twitch will resize it to be 480 pixels and then it stretches as the screen size gets bigger.

As monitors change in size so will your background and how it looks.

I have included two images below which will show you how my 1080p test graphic changes depending on the size of the users monitor. To test this you can simply drag your Twitch profile window bigger and smaller, this will only work if you already have a large monitor.

test-graphic

1080p-test1

1080p-test2

Working with really huge monitors

Finally Twitch encourages you to add a background color to your image upload and I figured this is to support really huge monitors. But I don’t seem to be able to produce a scenario where a background actually requires the background color to be present because it seems to always stretch the image to be as big as the users screen.

The Best Background Size

After much testing I can recommend creating a background profile image that is 1870 x 500 pixels. This allows you to create a really good design plus it doesn’t create the awful scaling problems that seem to happen with images that are using a 16:9 ratio.

Twitch Profile Banner Template PSD

I have created an Adobe Photoshop file which can be used to create stunning Twitch profile backgrounds that work across all screen sizes. Below is a link to my Twitch profile banner template and a sample of how it looks.

Click Here to DOWNLOAD the Twitch profile banner PSD file

I have put some notes in the file but basically the majority of the important information and image should be placed in the area marked Visible Area #1. This allows all users to see your message and main graphic.

twitch-profile-template-background

Visible Area #1 – This area should contain any important messages you want the user to read. Be careful of the Twitch footer overlay and Twitch profile Avatar.

Visible Area #2 – This area can be seen on larger screens that support 1080p HD. This area can contain nice art work. Most people will see this area as well as area #1.

Visible Area #3 – Most people will not see this area but some people may see it.

Sample Background

I made a very quick sample background which looks beautiful across all screen sizes.

example-1280px-800px

example-hd-screen

example-fullscreen

The Final Word!

I hope you found this tutorial informative and useful, please leave me a comment below with a link to your Twitch profile if you use my photoshop template, I would love to see what you can do with it!


Paying for Retweets – A waste of Money?

I wanted to share a recent experience I had, I have been using Twitter to see what kind of user engagement I can create. I am looking at different ways to see if I can get new followers, retweets and favourites on Twitter and then can I get these people to follow me on my Twitch.

Creating a Tweet to get Retweets

I have done this a few times. Create a nice graphic and give people a good reason to retweet your message and you will get lots of retweets. This is a recent tweet I did, where I am giving away 2 x Bloodhound passes for Counter-Strike Global Offensive. I find this works well, giveaway tweets always work for me.

To create a good giveaway tweet I tell them what I have and I tell them what they need to do to get it. They need to retweet the message and they need to follow me on Twitch.

I have picked up approximately 30-40 new Twitch followers with this tweet within a few days of tweeting it.

Paying for Retweets

I found a service called TweetEnterprise where you can find user accounts of people that can retweet your message or even tweet a message for you for cold hard cash!

I spent a total of $11 and in theory my tweet was retweeted to around 3,468,827 Twitter users. I used these accounts below, I have included the number of followers they have and the cost of a single retweet from each account.

@DjKingAssassin – 3,311,591 – $8
@GaminRTs – 102,378 – $2
@ShoutGamers – 54,858 – $1

After I paid, I saw the retweets, it is in no way a fake service. I spent the money and the tweet was retweeted quite clearly by these accounts above. But I saw nothing to suggest that it created any more interest in my giveaway. I can only assume that these accounts are so diluted with messages that the people following them are either zombie accounts or they just did not like my tweet. I picked the accounts above because two of them seem to be gaming related and the other one was the largest account on the TweetEnterprise site.

I saw no real increase in retweets, favourites, tweets or follows… Nothing… Not a thing… I was disappointed. It is a huge shame because I would use such a service again if it had worked. I may try again a second time with a different approach or maybe using some of the smaller cheaper twitter retweet accounts.

The Final Word!

I don’t know if paying for retweets actually works, for me I just tried this service once and it didn’t have any real effect on my already quite successful tweet. For the record this tweet had around 110 retweets before I paid my $11 and at the time of writing this article it had 126 retweets and 44 favourites.


Download videos from Twitch FLV to MP4 convert

I recently attempted to make a small montage from some of my past broadcasts on Twitch. It is not as easy as you would expect. Firstly there is no way via the Twitch site to download videos, you will need to use a 3rd party website to get the video file from Twitch. Secondly once you have the video file it seems most video editing software doesn’t understand the format. Videos from Twitch download as the FLV file format which I found will not import into iMovie or Adobe Premier.

How to download videos from Twitch

This is the easy part, there is a few tools online which will take a Twitch URL of a previous Twitch broadcast and allow you to download the video.

Here is a current list of Twitch video grabbers:

Once you have the video you will need to convert it into something more useful like an mp4 video file.

Converting Twitch FLV to MP4

For this I use a tool I have been using for years, it is with out doubt the best video converter there is… simply because it is free and it works! Imagine that!

You will need to download handbrake and this will convert FLV files to MP4 files.

YouTube Video – Convert FLV to MP4

I decided to start making some video tutorials to help streamers who visit this blog. Here is my first video tutorial. I will show you exactly how to download videos from Twitch and how to convert Twitch FLV files to MP4 files easily with handbrake.

The Final Word!

Handbrake is awesome, Twitch FLV file format is not so awesome. It would be great if Twitch would allow direct download via their site in MP4 format but for now we need to use this work around. If you plan on using Twitch content to make YouTube videos regularly then I recommend making a copy of all broadcasts at the time of broadcasting, this is easily done with OBS. See option 3 of this article for a brief how to.


Using Twitter to get Twitch followers

I wanted to share with you some of the things I do to get Twitch followers using my Twitter account. I will show you my own techniques that I use to grow my Twitter followers and my Twitch followers.

Get it RIGHT! Setup your Twitter bio like a BOSS!

The first thing you need to realise is that most people wont just find you by accident. You need to help people discover your Twitch channel and you need to tell them to follow you!

Visit my Twitter page and read my bio (Hey, send me a follow while you are there!), you will notice I use the website field to promote my YouTube channel and I use my personal bio to tell people that I giveaway CSGO skins and that it happens very often. Also I include a link to my Twitch channel because people are probably to lazy to type it.

Get Twitch FollowersMy bio is designed to lure people to my Twitch channel and I encourage them to follow me, it really WORKS!

Remember not to lie on your bio, If you are not giving away skins don’t pretend you are. Tell them something else which is cool and true about your channel. I am a CSGO streamer and CSGO players love skins, so this works great for me!

Now your Twitter bio is ready and you can generate interest in your Twitter page!

Archie.co auto favorites tweets!

I used to use TwitFox, but that service was recently shut down because it seems that Twitter doesn’t like services that auto favourite or retweet tweets. My theory in life is people get rich by exploiting loop holes while they exist. I don’t know how long Archie.co will be online but right now it generates me between 25 and 50 new Twitter followers every single day.

Archie.co searches Twitter for specific types of tweets which contain specific keywords and then it favourites them for you. This generates an email from Twitter to the user and other types of notification. Then hopefully they will visit your Twitter profile and like your bio, then follow you on Twitch. It’s a numbers game but it works!

You choose the keyword and archie.co does the rest. If you play World of Warcraft perhaps you can make archie.co look for tweets about “WOW” or “MMO Games”. This helps find people that are interested in the type of games you stream.

Unfollowers.me creates an auto-responder!

If they haven’t already followed you on Twitch after reading your bio, you can now send them a private message via Twitter telling them about your Twitch channel. Hopefully now they will follow you on Twitch.

Go to Unfollowers.me and after you login via Twitter visit the “Automate” tab. From here you need to turn on “Welcome DM” messages.

Create a good welcome message, include your Twitch URL and tell them again why to follow you. Here is my welcome message:

TY for follow, I do lots of CSGO Skin give-aways, Why not follow me on Twitch? http://www.twitch.tv/fivemandown

Now you are fully automated, archie.co is generating traffic to your page and unfollowers.me is telling people about your Twitch channel. This is how you can use Twitter to get Twitch followers!

The Final Word!

BOOM! You are officially a BOSS! As your Twitter grows you also have the ability to send cool tweets to your followers and continue to reap the rewards of your hard work! Remember people need all the help you can give them when it comes to following you, make it easy, make it worth it and be clever about your automation so your social media can work through the night and create interest in your Twitch channel!

Please leave me a comment below – I would love to hear how you have used this article to grow your channel or how you have tweaked this method to get even more Twitch followers!


Get 300 extra Twitch followers every month!

I am sure you are already using FollowTrainTV but still you are looking for even more Twitch growth, well Twitchstarter is an online community that can help you gain extra viewers and followers. Gamers of all ages and disciplines from professional gamers to people who just found out what an Xbox One is use Twitchstarter. They have many great articles and information which can help you become a better streamer. They have a bunch of cool tools, websites, forums and blogs. It’s really a go to network for Twitch streamers and gamers in general!

I have been using the Twitchstarter service now for several months. I have been a premium member, I have paid for banner adverts with them and I have used some of the free tools they have to offer.

If it suits your budget I would recommend trying everything you can, the thing about streaming is something may work for you even if it didn’t work for someone else and vice versa. You have to simply try things and see what works. I also have a bunch of Fiverr gigs that can generate you a lot of followers on Twitch. Check out some of my customer reviews, I am very proud to say I have many happy customers!

How can you get 300 extra Twitch followers every single month for free?

This is easy peasy and it just takes 5 minutes per day. There is a tool on Twitchstarter called ‘Followers Club’ this is a follow for follow exchange system. This means you will follow 10 new people per day and in return you will receive 10 new followers. This is almost guaranteed that you can get 300 extra Twitch followers every single month. You just have to dedicate 5 minutes of each day because there is a maximum of 10 new followers per day.

Visit the Follower Club here: http://www.twitchstarter.com/free-twitch-followers-club.php

At the time of writing this article I have been using Twitchstarter for several months, nearly as long as I have been streaming. I have 10k in followers and over 100k in views on Twitch. According to the data on my Twitchstarter dashboard they have sent me 1705 followers and 290775 views.

It is common that people will follow and unfollow so the exact amount of followers I currently have from the figure above is probably a little less. Also I assume the view count is something to do with my Twitchstarter profile and not to do with my Twitch video views. But I think you would agree it’s been a great help to me and my stream.

The Final Word!

Many people have said to me that followers are not important but what is important is concurrent viewers, this is true. But having lots of followers increases your viewership and it also shows people that you are someone who is worth following.

Even now when I already have 10k in followers I still try to use the Followers Club every single day because the more followers I have the better, it is as simple as that!


3 ways to make Twitch video highlights

Making video highlights from your Twitch stream can be a great way to gain extra viewers and followers. Video highlights are online 24 hours per day. When you are sleeping in your bed there is a chance someone, somewhere could be watching a video highlight from one of your streams. They may instantly fall in love with your charisma, wit and wonderful charm, then they can visit your channel and follow you, eager for your next stream!

Making Twitch video highlights is like putting money in the bank and leaving it there, Twitch video highlights are a solid investment.

Activating past broadcasts videos on Twitch

First things first! How ever you choose to make your video highlights you should edit the settings on your Twitch account to automatically archive your past broadcasts. This requires zero work and automatically creates content for potential followers to view. It also makes creating highlights easier.

By always recording your stream it will be easy to make a highlight when cool things happen on stream. Plus your regular viewers can re-watch your previous streams when they miss a broadcast and your offline.

How to activate automatic recording of past broadcasts

There is a great tutorial on the Twitch support site, rather than re-invent the wheel I will just link to that article.

http://help.twitch.tv/customer/portal/articles/1575302-videos-on-demand

Users can not upload videos to their channel, it is for previously streamed content only.

1. Create video highlights using Twitch

Past broadcasts can be found on your Twitch Profile.

http://www.twitch.tv/<Your Username>/profile/past_broadcasts

Select a video from the list and then under the video player there will be a small gear icon which will allow you to “highlight” a clip from that stream.

Use the yellow sliders to locate the clip then fill in the form and click “Create Highlight”.

2. Create video highlights using YouTube

This way works in a similar way to the above method. You will use a previous broadcast or a video highlight and export it to YouTube. Once you have exported the video to YouTube you can edit it there using the YouTube video editor.

First you will need to connect your YouTube account to Twitch.
You can do that here: http://www.twitch.tv/settings/connections

After you stream you can visit your past broadcasts or video highlights and in the same way locate the gear icon but this time you should choose “export”.

After you have finished exporting the video it will take sometime before the video is uploaded to YouTube. You will get an email when the export is ready to be viewed. I recommend setting the video to “Private” when creating an export and then manually activating it on YouTube when your ready for it to be live and seen by your channels subscribers.

3. Create video highlights using OBS and video editing software

For the highest quality videos and for those of us with a lot of time you can record your streams using your video streaming software. If you stream with OBS you can easily record your streams and use them to make highlights on video sharing websites.

Just do the following in OBS:

Click “Settings > Broadcast Settings”

Check “Automatically save stream to file”

Set the file path to somewhere you can locate the file later. The video file can easily be imported into a video editor like Adobe Premier, edited and uploaded to YouTube, Vimeo or any other video sharing site you use.

The Final Word!

Video highlights are like money in the bank, you need to create them to grow your following!

I recommend that you use both Twitch and YouTube. There is no harm in having similar content on both sites and there is also no harm in having different content on both sites.

There more clips you can create the better.