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Unstable Rulings - Greatest Hits
That said, gamers are going to game. While many are having good fun with it all and embracing the spirit, there are some people out there who think they're gonna be extra clever dropping surprise interpretations of unprecedented effects on unsuspecting opponents and adjudicators. There have certainly been no shortage of interesting and provocative un-rules questions (both silly and serious) posed to Un-Rules Manager Mark Rosewater these last few weeks. With release day finally arriving for everyone, I've collected some [[handy dandy]] rules reminders to help you officiate your Unstable drafts, or at least to provide an entertaining read.
Please note, this guide is not comprehensive. The Unstable FAQAWASLFAQPAFTIDAWABIAJTBT should be your primary source for rules clarifications. (Note that the FAQ has been updated with more goodies related to the variant cards, such as clarifying that to "turn over" a creature means to turn it face down morph-style.) I'm leaving out a lot of stuff that's just plainly stated in that FAQ (even though people frequently asked MaRo about it anyway), such as what type of dice are allowed.
- First and foremost, the official recommended draft procedure has recently changed. As we've known, most every Unstable pack has a coveted full-art basic land, but once in a while the land will be replaced with a Steamflogger Boss, which was on the same sheet. It is now suggested that only the non-foil basic land and the token are removed when opening a pack for draft. Thus, one lucky person will get a full-art basic and an extra card in their draft pool, while the person who opened Steamflogger Boss is out of luck. This is a change from the previous recommendation that would've made Steamflogger Boss a draft "freebie".
- Also, on the topic of draft procedure, since contraptions have a different back, the drafting of a contraption (but not which contraption) is considered open knowledge. And hey, while we're talking about contraptions, that special back with the crank counters we use to track our... sprockets or whatever? Yeah, that's not an actual card in game terms. It's just a memory aid. While you can affect assembled contraptions, you can't affect that card, and you can't affect the crank counter (or add another) through normal counter-manipulation, because the counter is not on a player or a permanent (though Clock of DOOOOOOOOOOOOM does let you affect that counter specifically).
- Spike, Tournament Grinder absolutely positively cannot fetch ante cards (in non-ante games), no matter how banned they are. Matt Tabak calls it "an immutable game rule". So no [[Bronze Tablet]] Shenanigans.
- The FAQ provides a list of cards Spike can fetch, but that list has been acknowledged as being incomplete. Furthermore, since the FAQ was posted, a number of old silver-bordered cards have now been expressly banned in Commander, ironically making it possible for Spike to fetch them in Unstable limited. This includes Richard Garfield PhD, R&D's Secret Lair, Ashnod's Coupon, and the Unglued "Double" cards, among others. That said, the cards you fetch with Spike have to be banned in an actual format overseen by WotC or the Commander people, and not just a constructed format you made up. Look at Me, I'm the DCI has no effect. Also, it has to have been explicitly banned, not simply illegal. (In other words, you can't fetch Platinum Angel just because it's not currently legal in Standard.) Yes, you can bring in outside cards with Spike (even though such an effect is usually limited to your sideboard). But they have to be real Magic cards, regardless of whether they are banned in another game. This also excludes oversized cards, gold-border World Championship cards, and Hero's Path cards.
- Speaking of Hero's Path cards, you cannot play "Face the Hydra" (or any other variety of solitaire Magic) on the side for the purposes of giving you reinforcements via Side Quest. Side Quest also doesn't interact between a main game and a subgame. Side Quest does technically allow you to target yourself - a decision made so the card would be usable without another game nearby - but if you use Side Quest that way at an Unstable event, Mark Rosewater is calling you out!
- Baron Von Count's ability says "Destroy target player." That's almost like "Target player loses the game", but with one big exception: If your opponent is a Two-Headed Giant thanks to Better Than One, you destroy only one of the players. The FAQ specifies that when one player of a Better Than One team leaves, "Whatever cards you gave your departed teammate remain outside the game, but you can carry on as a solo player." Another big one, placing an extra counter on Baron doesn't let you place it in the art. Casting something with all of 1-5 (like [[Staff of Domination]]) will not trigger Baron for each number because Baron only triggers once per spell, and only for the number Baron was on. Just Desserts does not trigger for the digits in pi, Baron doesn't trigger off the starting loyalty of a planeswalker spell, and you can't use More or Less to change numbers in Baron's art. Lastly, you cannot use Baron's ability to destroy a player in a separate game.
- If you have Modular Monstrosity, can you name keyword actions (like scry, proliferate, investigate, detain, etc.)? I DON'T KNOW! The FAQ says you can't, but Mark Rosewater says you can (but that such keywords wouldn't do anything except keep the Monstrosity from losing its abilities). Until one of those sources issues a correction, it would seem to be judge's discretion.
- Aside from that, the FAQ handles the basics of Modular Monstrosity pretty well, but we'll go over the oddball cases people invented anyway. Only one form of any mechanic per day, but you can use each variation of landwalk because each is a different word. (Here's a list of all of Magic's "walk" abilities.) You can't split up words in mechanics, so you can't use "basic landwalk" just because it exists within "nonbasic landwalk". As I'm sure you know, if Monstrosity leaves the battlefield for any reason (except phasing) and then returns, like all creatures it becomes a new instance of itself. Therefore it loses all its current keywords (including any keywords that brought it back like undying or persist). Obviously, this means Modular Monstrosity cannot retain keywords between games. On the other hand, it and every other Modular Monstrosity you play super-duper do remember every keyword you've used that day. That includes keywords you named only for your opponent to kill Modular Monstrosity in response to the trigger (with those keywords now counting as used). One ability is considered one ability regardless of how many languages it's been printed in - yes, even Pig Latin. Modular Monstrosity's ability only works on the battlefield, so you cannot take advantage of things like graft. The abilities you choose have to have been printed on an actual creature card, which rules out things like undeathtouch. You are encouraged to keep a list of keywords you've used, but Modular Monstrosity definitely does not allow you to break the rule against bringing outside notes into a game. Finally, "today" means between two Midnights of your local time zone, unless you're playing on Venus 100 years in the future, in which case use GMT. On a serious note, this means you can totally give a creature bushido 5 at 11:58 pm and then give that same creature another instance of bushido 5 at 12:02am (though keep in mind, some abilities are cumulative in multiples and some are redundant).
- With regards to Infinity Elemental, the FAQ covers everything pretty well. Infinity minus infinity equals infinity. Take that, math nerds! All the other usual damage rules apply, such as not dying to combat damage if you have sufficient simultaneous lifelink life gain. Oh, and just because you could never fully resolve an ability that instructs you to draw infinite cards doesn't mean you don't totally lose the game for trying. Math nerds lose again!
- Mary O'Kill's situation was complicated by the fact that MaRo gave some vague and incomplete answers early on. But we are now clear. Mary O'Kill does have an ability that can be used while she is in your hand, but Mary O'Kill has to be on the battlefield to switch two cards that aren't her. Since it's a switch, it does not count as a creature entering or leaving the battlefield. And yes, you can target your opponent's killbot, which can result in your opponent's cards ending up in your hand.
- Important note about Slaying Mantis! The reminder text for "Just a second" reads "As long as this spell is on the stack, players can't move cards on the battlefield." But what that reminder text did not make clear is that "Just a second" is actually a subset of "Split second". That's right! "Just a second" is "Split second" plus "Things cannot be moved". That means you cannot cast spells or activate abilities even if those require no board interaction (such as Force of Will). In other news, you cannot put Slaying Mantis in an oversized sleeve, and you cannot mangle Slaying Mantis to maximize its slaying power.
- Everyone reading this, and everyone not reading this, knows damn well what size dice can be used with Ol' Buzzbark. The FAQ states, and MaRo reiterates, that the intent is for the dice to all be thrown at once, however he does allow some concessions to be made. But do not confuse his occasional flit of generosity for true magnanimity, as he has expressly forbidden the use of card-friendly foam dice of the appropriate one-inch size. If you've put so much mana into Buzzbark that the ceiling would obstruct the dropping of the dice, you have MaRo's permission to cut a hole in your ceiling (provided of course that you own the premises in question and have all the proper permits). But even with all obstructions removed, you do not assume that infinite dice would hit every available target, because it would take the dice an infinite amount of time to arrive. To resolve a Buzzbark with a Krark's Other Thumb in play, get X pairs of dice (a green pair, and a blue pair, and a red pair, etc), throw those pairs, and for each pair pick one of the two to "count". And finally, Ol' Buzzbark does not have "Just a second", but that totally does not mean you can hide your creatures to protect them.
- If you played Unhinged, you may remember a creature called Frazzled Editor which had "Protection from wordy". You might have noticed that "wordy" came back on one version of Garbage Elemental, which can't be blocked by "wordy" creatures. What you might not have noticed is that the definition of "wordy" has changed. "Wordy" only looks at rules text and not reminder or flavor text. This was actually an old change, reflected in the Unhinged FAQ. The wording on Frazzled Editor was, ironically, an error.
- The FAQ said The Countdown Is at One has no effect if the subgame ends in a draw. That has been acknowledged to be incorrect. If the subgame ends in a draw, both players get double-damage in the main game.
- With Hot Fix, you do get a moment to prepare before your ten seconds start. Also, for players with mobility issues, MaRo said: "If someone has true limitations, it would be okay to adjust the time limit accordingly."
- If you resolve a Summon the Pack, you get to put any actual creature cards you open onto the battlefield, but you do not get to use any token cards.
- Speaking of Summon the Pack, that is the only way Cheatyface should be entering a game of Unstable draft. You cannot bring Cheatyface to the event and sneak him into your games.
- You like Mark Rosewater, don't you? You want him to be happy, don't you? And he is the Un-Rules Manager, is he not? So, if he tells you that you can crank [[Dispatch Dispensary]] to make a token creature and at the same time crank [[Inflation Station]] targeting the token that you are in the process of making, even though stacked effects with targets totally don't work that way in black-border, then is it not your duty, nay, your privilege, to carry out this ruling to the best of your ability?
- The stated intention of Hangman is that you just play Hangman. That's in the FAQ, that's on Blogatog, and that's from MaRo in a recent video with Trick Jarrett (starting at 15:00). Don't be dense. Just play Hangman. What's public in Hangman the game should be public with Hangman the card. No, you can't target a player in another game. Yes, you can modify the word length restriction using More or Less.
- Ah, More or Less. More or Less can do some wondrous things! You can roll a seven-sided die! (For any unusual-sided dice, just use the next size up and ignore rolls above the prescribed number.) You can give someone a high-six! (Use one hand along with one extra finger.) You can take something that calculates the difference between two dice and make it calculate the difference between three dice instead! But for all the wondrous things More or Less can do, there are many more wondrous things it totally can't. You can make a Four-Headed Goblin, but you can't give it quadruple strike. No more than you could make a Tripling Season. You can't change "Draw a card" to "Draw two cards". Nor can you change Roman numerals. You can't change numbers in art or numbers in expansion symbols. You cannot force an opponent to pay more for their spell on the stack. You cannot produce infinite mana by changing a (0) cost to a (-1) cost, and you cannot produce infinite tokens by changing a trigger to "Whenever zero or more creature cards are put into your graveyard". Interestingly though, you can make an opponent's card illegal by changing the copyright year to a year that hasn't happened yet... Just kidding. Can't do that either.
- You are not required to first pick First Pick.
- The Grand Calcutron is pretty straight-forward, right? Your hand is still your hand for anything that cares about that. However, there is a bit of conflict between the FAQ, which clearly says "The only card they may cast is the leftmost card in their program", and Rosewater who clarifies that you may cast cards not in your hand you would ordinarily be able to cast, such as cards with flashback, red "impulsive draw" effects, and your commander in your command zone. Oh, and speaking of command zone, yes Calcutron can be your commander, you don't have to keep asking.
- Some of you may question the wisdom of publishing an Unstable FAQ, complete with a section on Party Crasher, without specifically noting that it cannot attack on each player's turn if it is not untapped on each player's turn. If you're one of them, shame on you! Have you no faith in your fellow Magic player? But yes, Party Crasher only untaps during your turn, so normally Party Crasher is just a cute way to attack your opponent on their turn instead of your own. But with vigilance, or a means of untapping it, Party Crasher can attack each and every turn! (That includes combat phases that were stolen by Clocknapper.) Note that if you attack someone during their turn, they are allowed to assign blockers when you would normally be assigning yours. (The FAQ specifies that the player whose turn it is assigns attackers first, but assigns blockers last. Don't even ask me how that all works out in multiplayer with multiple Party Crashers.) With vigilance, Party Crasher can even attack and block in the same combat! In that case, it does full damage both on offense and on defense! (MaRo says it deals "full damage to each creature", but one can assume he's just describing the standard one-on-one combat, and that attacking damage would be divided among multiple blockers, and similarly when enchanted with [[Entangler]] his blocking damage would be divided amongst multiple attackers.) All this attacking and blocking combat damage is all done at the same time, unless abilities like first strike get in the way. And yet, despite all these combat shenanigans, Party Crasher still cannot block himself. Is your opponent's Party Crasher giving you a hard time? Offer it a comfy chair! You can totally use Entirely Normal Armchair to ambush a Party Crasher attacking you on your turn.
- Clocknapper does allow you to play a land drop during the main phase you stole. No word yet on whether stealing their precombat main phase and playing a land prevents them from playing a land postcombat; seems kind of weird that their turn would overall get two land drops, even if you did steal one. Thankfully, stealing their end step does not prevent their turn from ever ending. Also, your opponent's turn is still their turn, even if you stole every phase from it.
- Something very important came up during previews that needs to be reiterated, so I'll bury it way down here. As printed, Ordinary Pony would've resulted in an easy infinite combo that would've been super-fun the first time and super-dumb every time after that. What does this mean? It means power-level errata is back, baby! Ordinary Pony now reads "...you may exile target non-Horse creature you control that wasn't put onto the battlefield with this ability this turn, then return it to the battlefield under its owner's control." You'll have to try harder for your infinite shenanigans.
- The FAQ did do an admirable job of communicating the implications of Rules Lawyer. So I'll simply reiterate that "Destroy target creature" still kills Rules Lawyer, and "Destroy target player" still kills you.
- When a card says "Neither player may advise that person until the end of that turn," it means it! A passerby hit with a Kindslaver may not be advised by anyone in the game. They may not be advised by a teammate. They may not be advised before the effect begins. The chosen person also cannot be someone who was once a player in that game. You can however stop the Kindslavered person from forging checks or robbing liquor stores (or, you know, casting Terror on an illegal target). Kindslaver, as well as Better Than One, require that the person being drawn in consents to it, but if the first person you ask says no, you can ask another.
- Speaking of Better Than One, let's talk about Better Than One. Better Than One makes you a two-headed giant (or, if you were already a two-headed giant, a three-headed giant). The players you add are not supposed to be players previously eliminated from your game, but they can be active participants in another game, provided that all parties from that game are willing to put their game on pause. The person you are adding, in addition to qualifying as some definition of "person", must also be able to consent to joining the game, ruling out things like rivers and orangutans. (I suppose a corporation could consent, but the bureaucratic process for that would be prohibitive.) A teammate who joins you during a subgame joins you only for that subgame. When splitting up your permanents, including assembled contraptions, you can give your teammate any creatures you're borrowing from an opponent (from cards like [[Act of Treason]]), but the creature's proper owner still gets it back at the prescribed time.
- I would like to draw your attention to one word on Animate Library: "Enchant your library". If some nefarious hooligan attempts to steal your animated library, you get it right back (unanimated) because the aura falls off as a state-based action. (Hmmm, "state-based...." Uhhhhhh, never-mind.) A clone of an animated library is a sad, pathetic thing, vacant of both creature-ness and of cards to draw. While you did control your library at the beginning of your turn, it was not on the battlefield until you animated it, thus an animated library is very much affected by summoning sickness. It is possible to phase out an animated library, but you still draw cards from it and search it as normal (no matter what this dude thinks).
- If you read the FAQ description of Handy Dandy Clone Machine and did not understand its intention, I direct you to read it again. Actual real human hands attached to living humans present in the room with you (with a player's prosthetic hand being the only exception). So be nice. And that goes for clones of your homunculi tokens as well! Also, if the FAQ did not make it clear, a hand that chooses to no longer represent a homunculus does not change zones; it simply goes "poof".
- The Golden Rule of un-set play is to have fun, but just after that would be "The sleeve is considered an extension of the card." So you aren't required to de-sleeve cards like Cramped Bunker. The sleeves do have to be normal size, and the player using Cramped Bunker cannot block access to it with other cards.
- There's no official ruling on this, but if you draw cards off your opponent's library, and one of those cards is X, per X's ability you are required to reveal your hand beginning that moment. (Because, you see, it has an ability that can only be activated while in an opponent's hand. And also the card says so.) Think of it like morph. You aren't allowed to play a non-morph card as a face down creature, and you aren't allowed to keep your hand containing an opponent's X concealed. There is a modicum of trust involved. All relevant cards should be revealed when they leave the appropriate zones or when the game ends to prove no shenanigans.
- Finally, as noted in the FAQ, Urza, Academy Headmaster does not permanently gain its randomly chosen abilities. Each time you use one of Urza's abilities, you have to "reroll" again, not knowing what the ability will be when you activate it. If you get an ability with no legal targets, you get to "reroll" for another one. But if the ability is simply useless to you (such as +1/+1 to all your creatures when you have no creatures), or if the only legal targets are you or your own stuff, you are out of luck.
Post 1000 Followers Reflection - Possible advice for new streamers
After reaching the 'big 1000' followers; I thought i'd write up my experience with streaming on Twitch. I always see a lot of helpful posts here and maybe my own experiences may add to the plethora of great posts here.
I started in April of this year to see how things would go, I had done Let's Plays of some crappy wrestling games on YouTube sporadically over the past 7 or so years with fairly little fanfare, granted it was a tiny niche, but I did it out of passion for the games and I enjoyed bantering to myself.
The thought of putting yourself out there was really scary, especially with a face-cam and no chance to stop and edit your words if you mess up your phrasing. Worse yet, what about getting stage fright and not being able to come up with constant commentary live on the air?
I thought screw it, and hit the live button with one of my favourite games Deep Rock Galactic, it's a 4 man co-op game that gets pretty intense so the gameplay itself should be pretty entertaining, right?
My first few streams were very quiet, and my graphics and such were pretty basic. I had an old 720p webcam and had no clue about lighting, something that would be rather important later.
As an ultrawide monitor user my streams were 21:9 letter boxed with a big intrusive graphical overlay. Looking back it looked terrible. Grouped with the fact my face cam was tinted purple to match up with my synthwave a e s t h e t i c that I was aiming for at the time.
Ultrawide requires some large Field of View settings, and it becomes pretty warped when scaled back down to Twitch's 16:9 format but I rolled with it for a while.
Using a single monitor was really rough, I had to use a program called Restream chat which was very helpful for displaying chat on screen so I could keep up with mesages. This was much better than having my tiny phone open on Twitch chat to try and keep checking messages. But still, it was far from ideal.
Disable all view counts!I made the huge mistake of having a view count visible on my on-screen chat. There's nothing like seeing that number raise and then go back down to zero.
The general advice is to stream like you're streaming to 100 people which is sound advice on paper, but when you're starting out doesn't really help because you're still finding your broadcasting self.
There's no practice mode when it comes to streaming, you have to jump into the frying pan and perform. It is performance, be it a hype man or a more chill person like myself.
You really have to have some great confidence in yourself and your 'shtick' before streaming. As mentioned I had a few years of commentary experience from my YouTube videos so talking about nothing comes fairly easily to me.
No matter your setup, be it on screen chat programs, a twitch tab on another monitor, your phone; hide that Sword of Damocles that is the viewcount. You will feel 100% more relaxed.
My advice for what to do when there is no chat is pretty generic sadlyApologies if it's similar to other posts. I did a lot of 'research' before starting out for all of the advice I could find to make sure I wouldn't be bamboozled live on the air.
- Explain what you're doing, or treat your actions like a live review for potential people who are checking out the game. Deep Rock Galactic is an early access game so I explained the mechanics and general nature of the game to get viewers interested.
- If your game has NPC dialogue without voice acting, if you're up for it of course - narrate what's being said with your own voice or a voice matching the character.
- If you think you can one up no chat by having users-in-chat visible and extending the olive branch to them by acknowledging their presence. Don't! Not all viewers can be chatters and it's a general rule of thumb to not call out lurkers. Other posts I have seen have also mentioned this and I have to agree.
It's really sweet that a streamer has taken the time to acknowledge your lurk, and you can feel the nervous energy of a streamer trying to drum up some chat, but let lurkers lurk. I think that's a fair call.
- Tangential speaking: If the game is loading or you're doing, let's face it - a 'boring part' of a game. You can get away with some tangents. This is where your gaming history, knowledge and life experience can come into play.
There are many times when a stream goes quiet, you just have to keep the words coming. It's friggin' hard, and requires a lot of energy. Once again, there's no practice mode for Twitch but you do get better over time with streaming to yourself.
Any hooks or potential engagements to get lurkers chatting is a good thing. Your mileage will vary greatly of course.
I'm British and talking about Tea, Crisps and food is always a fun rabbit hole to go down. We love our crisp talk!
Eventually you will get your regulars; regulars are your saving grace when it comes to the early game of streaming. They probably love the regular game or games you play.
If the games you enjoy are multiplayer, even better. Get your regulars to come along and join the squad. This can both be a good thing and a bad thing sadly, which leads me into my next segment.
The friend and 'The friend'.I started playing Warframe without ever experiencing it before. People loved coming by and helping me out, be it advice or joining me in game.
Lots of my core regulars are Warframe fans who are still around today. Genuinely good people and genuine friendships have been made from this great little free to play game.
This is where I experienced my first worrying feeling with streaming. Warframe is only a 4 man squad game, so soon enough I had people wanting to join me in the squad. Most of the time this was fine but then a select few would ALWAYS want join.
As a new streamer, can I afford to turn people away, even if they are a little pushy? With hindsight, I will say YES. These viewers can fester and become a problem later. I will touch on this again shortly.
To go from no viewers to having a small pool of friends who are excited to play with you live is an interesting feeling. It was great to have regular players in a game like Warframe but you feel a little neglectful to not include everyone in a first-come-first-serve squad system. The more eager players would always invite themselves in over slower players who were also willing to join.
Being new to the world of streaming, this was a fresh concept for me. By this time I had a community Discord setup and I was coerced into another aspect of streaming I knew I was apprehensive of. And to this day I now forbid.
Joint voice comms with viewersNote: Regarding this section, this is my opinion as a mellow British man. This may work great for you, and in some games it's encouraged! (Games like Golf with Friends, SQUAD, etc) but for me, I no longer do this.
I got requests to jump into the open comms section of my Discord and have others come in to help me with Warframe. This was pretty cool for a while but in the back of my mind I could foresee problems, and problems I had!
The format of my streams is pretty relaxed, I'm a smooth talker and my commentary is pretty constant. To have this interrupted with other people over-talking me was really grinding me down.
This isn't a dig at anyone, especially those people who love your streams, after all these are people who spend genuine time watching YOU and enjoying you. It's a mixed feeling of love and mild resentment.
Not everyone can be a broadcaster and I have hosted broken English, bad microphones, keyboard clattering and background shouting of a busy household. You can put a brave face on this for a while but in my humble opinion having other voices in your stream really drags down the quality of your stream.
I have looked back on my VODs at the time, and have visibly seen from my face, my enjoyment and candour drop when engaging in multiple comms. Chatter and whimsy (Call this 'Stream Quality') took a nose-dive while trying to accommodate Discord friends, while trying to engage chat and focus on the game.
I decided to not use voice comms on stream anymore after realising it was not doing anything positive for my stream. I later returned to this format when I started playing another game which technically benefited from voice-comms. But I encountered another pushy viewer who started to take over.
You fight with yourself in your head, one moment you are grateful for friends who join you in game and spend time with you. The next you are starting to get anxious over facilitating overbearing viewers who are let's face it, trying to run the show. Not everyone is like this, but you will get them once you start openly inviting people to Discord.
I would say be careful of playing with friends on voice comms. I've had many great guests who have provided excellent banter, conversation and insights. But overall the quality of voice comms was very low when compared to my solo efforts.
You may be lucky and have some sterling personalities who CAN benefit your streams. But I would say stick to your own personality and keep it that way. People are tuning in for you, not others who really should not be broadcasting their voices.
You may think your friends are entertaining, but it's a chink in your streaming armour that could be impacting you in ways you may not see [yet].
If you get bugged for voice comms, be firm and say no. If they're that desperate to broadcast themselves, point them to their own 'Go live' button on Twitch. Sorry if this section sounds a bit harsh, but it was the first experience of streaming that I did not enjoy and it brought on some mild anxiety, and i'm not the worrying kind.
Again, you may have great luck with this. Games like Squad or Hell Let Loose need voice communications, so your mileage will vary depending on what games you stream.
Getting your ShtickHow do these streamers have these emotes and designs and stuff? Did they think of that from day 1?! I have no idea where to start with my designs and overlays!
I had no idea how to produce myself when I started streaming. At the time I was really into Synthwave. You know, that purple/blue 80's style stuff?
So I made my 21:9 overlay with some purple text and even made my face cam purple tinted to be different. Looking back, it looked very bush league. Purple camera, fuck me....
I have now landed on a very minimalist overlay; with a 15 pixel high bar across the bottom with my logo and 2 basic !social commands and a face cam. I also changed from 21:9 to 16:9 which despite flying the ultra-wide flag for a few months, is the better format for streaming. Letterboxed gameplay and intrusive overlays were not doing me any favours.
In terms of shtick let me explain how I got to where I am now. As mentioned previously; i'm a very big fan of chill. Not just 'i'm a dude playing games and i'm lazy'. But genuine chill. Jazz club chill.
I'm very lucky to have a deep voice and relaxing demeanour. So I slowly moved away from the synthwave stuff and made my stream into a lounge bar environment.
I went through many iterations of overlays and twitch panel designs after finally landing on what I have now. If I told myself back in April my branding would be a trumpet and i'd be playing soft jazz i would of never of believed my future self.
The point is, I think most new streamers will not know where the hell to start in terms of graphics and presentation. I didn't!
You will find your own branding and identity eventually. It's tempting to buy these expensive streamer packages in the hopes of looking professional. But the trouble with buying pre-made stuff is, so can anyone else.
Looking back, I wish I started off with no overlay and just a face cam and let your personality do the talking, literally. Graphics and overlay mean zilch if you are not entertaining/engaging.
I love making graphics and it was a bit of an experiment to get rid of everything and just have my face-cam and gameplay capture. But I've had no complaints about keeping it basic.
I have also done many late night reddit scrawls of this sub-reddit and a lot of people have said that a clean presentation is what they prefer. Of course reddit is just one source of wildy varying opinions, but it was a regular opinion that I saw come up, so I followed suit.
Don't sweat it when you're starting out. Just have a photo of you, or something you like as your twitch avatar and the rest will follow in due course.
For those that do check me out on twitch, my branding is a pink trumpet. Pink, because that's always the colour I pick for stuff in games because, well.....it's unique and something I always have done since customisation in games was a thing.
The trumpet is two fold, one I love jazz and it makes sense for my jazz infused streams (if the game allows for background music, that is) and the second reason is an example of shtick evolving on the fly:
I used to use a soundboard (Sound Alerts) for my stream, it was pretty funny in the early days for hand picked sounds to be played, and one was an old .wav file of Luke Skywalkers Force theme being played badly on a trumpet.
The bad trumpet became, for lack of a better word, a meme within my stream. I ran with it, and made it my thing. Finally, a thing! This was after a couple of months, so these things will take a long time to present themselves, but they will come if people find something to latch onto.
My story is just one, it can be a sound, catchphrase, icon. Anything that makes you standout. Just run with it!
A little self-indulgent backstory but I hope it demonstrates how branding/presentation hooks can manifest themselves after streaming for a while. It's simply impossible to have a perfect brand out of the gate, because you don't know the 'memes' / catchphrases and etc that will present themselves after your time spent streaming.
If you're not creatively minded, and are thinking of the design aspect of streaming. I would say don't worry just yet. Just rock gameplay and face-cam and see where the world of Twitch will take you. Don't waste money on designs as you WILL be changing them down the line, many times before you land on something that's truly you.
SetupI'll be quick with this as it's not so much an experience but some sharing of what I have in terms of gear, and what I went through to get my current streaming setup.
Luckily I already had a nice microphone (Rode NT USB) and a webcam so I was good to go for the most part.
The biggest hurdle was understanding lighting for my webcam. I thought my old logitech webcam was crap, but even my current C922 looked like ass with my room lighting.
I needed better lighting! To get my current look, all I have are two clip lamps pointing at my wall with cool-white bulbs. The light does in fact bounce back to my face to give an even glow. Bouncing light? Bullshit! But it's a thing. No need to buy those expensive face lamp things.
I tried the light-facing-you thing but god, I have no idea how people put up with those. I can't have any light sources near my purview while watching TVs or monitors, let alone for 3+ hours. Bravo to those that do.
I also invested in an elgato green screen which gives me that nice cutout effect, but it's in no way a requirement, nor does it 'add anything'. A box with a clean room is perfectly fine. Don't sweat the small stuff when you're new. Only sweat yourself, errr...moving on.
Much like the design section, a good setup won't mean a thing if you're not engaging. Just make sure you're not buffering and stuttering due to a poor bitrate choices. Do test streams and VOD checks regularly in the early going.
Be wary of the gimmicksI mentioned that I used Sound Alerts for a short while. This was a viewer engagement shortcut, pure and simple. People enjoyed playing sounds for free. It was funny when regulars would perfectly time a sound to match the gameplay situation.
But when more people came along, it became an issue. Spamming and poor timing made it unfunny and annoying, to me, and my regulars.
There are many gimmicks to infuse your stream like Sound Alerts. I would say be careful of making these an anchor of your streams because they can be abused.
Sound Alerts in particular allows banned members to still engage with the plugins, the same for the Streamlabs 'loyalty point' system. Banned members have tried to harass contact me via the Ask a Question feature.
These things can be helpful & engaging, but they can also be harmful going forward. At the end of the day, it really needs to fall on you for the prime source of entertainment. What's a steak dinner without the steak? Or to steal another great comment I saw:
If the restaurant looked great & had great service but dreadful food, would you return?
Troublesome viewers and nipping-in-the-bud-situations95% of your viewers will be great great people who visit your stream regularly. If you have external sources of engagement like Discord / Social media you can chat with your people outside of your streams. Awesome!
But sadly, it's the few who really bring down the experience. Chat trolls really aren't worth mentioning here as they are simply banned outright, pretty easy stuff.
This section I wanted to touch on festering issues within your viewership. I have found my community to be very respectful, both in the games I play and their general behaviour both in and out of stream.
I will share a couple of experiences with problem viewers, and how I dealt with them. By bad I mean 'potentially troublesome for my stream' not, outright bad human beings because that's not the case at all.
When you stream, you really want a smooth ride. Negative experiences really smash your energy and flow and will last until you stop the stream. If you have regular viewers who make you feel annoyed or you simply do not like these viewers for whatever reason, they must be removed or your stream quality will take a hit.
One example was a young viewer from Asia who would regularly come into stream and want me to play other games. They would also come into stream and say they were mad/sad/upset about life (often in broken English which made it worse). I won't divulge too much here, but it sounded like they were having a rough time with family/life.
We (I say we, because other great regulars helped this person) spent good amount of time both on stream via my dialogue on air and in discord trying to help this person. But there's only so much an engaged-live streamer can do for one person. After time my mod team and myself decided to remove this person from the community.
The game demands and constant chat hijacking was becoming, to be honest, annoying! I love the fact people spend time watching my streams, but I am only one man and our community can only do so much to help.
Matter of factly, there's nothing we can do outside of warm, welcoming streams. Your viewer's own lives simply cannot be your cross to bare. It's impossible. I have laid in bed thinking about many instances I have encountered like this on Twitch, did I do the right thing, did I do enough? Will this person hate me now? Am I bad for doing X?
Demanding games is a big annoyance to me, and you should never let a viewer continue with this behaviour, despite many friendly reminders. Being a regular is not a free pass for bad behaviour.
The second problem experience I will share was relating to the viewer who was on voice with me [the second time I allowed voice com use]. This person was a regular who would help me out with certain things for my games. Once again I was coerced into doing Voice-comms because 'it would be easier than typing'.
They got a bit comfortable joining me every day on voice. This person was not horrible in any sense. But the pushy nature of their personality and to be honest, rather dull anecdotes really made streaming a drag, the eye-rolling kind of drag y'know?
I was enabling this person by letting them in voice-comms every time I went live. I was starting my streams thinking 'ugh, here we go again'. This is NOT a good feeling to have! It's supposed to be fun and easy going.
Despite private PM's from viewers who were turned off by this person, I continued. Because once again, I love the fact people took the time to play games with me and I try to be as accommodating as I can as a decent human.
For reference, this person was the kind of person who would also want to post image links on stream, and literally want me to look at them on stream, despite me saying 'try not to do that mate! thanks!'. The kind who messages you 'hello' in discord via a PM everyday.
For those who have done the internet for many years, I think you know that kind of personality. I decided enough was enough and I outright removed this person from all forms of contact.
Even multiple twitch accounts were created and every form of social media was contact by this person. Yikes - bad egg indeed.
Was it the right thing to do? Maybe. Was it the right thing for me? Absolutely. Could I have messaged and said, look, nothing personal but, I don't like you, I don't want you on my streams anymore? Maybe, but that opens the floor to possible malice going forward. The atmosphere wouldn't be the same would it? I just needed this person gone from my streaming life.
Streaming is meant to be fun, but this one instance really bogged my mindset down for a good few weeks until I hit the ban-hammer. I love everyone who comes by, but to be laying in bed, again, thinking about stuff that is, to be honest, really really silly; is too much for anyone to bare.
If anyone is being demanding, complaining about your games, making you think 'ugh!' when you see them persistently pop up in chat with inane nothingness. Just get rid of them, it sucks to lose someone. Especially if you are new and you're trying to establish you stream.
These problems will fester and it reflects on your energy and well being. These people will move on to other things, be it other poor streamers or whatever else. You have to be happy, don't let others drag your performance down.
Your stream is your show and don't be afraid to timeout or even remove people completely. There's millions of people on earth who have the chance to come by your stream; don't suffer the bad ones for the sake of keeping their viewership. It will make you feel like a bad person at times, but you're only human.
On a side note of being firm, another personal experience for me was a son of a friend, who started streaming. I imparted the basic advice as you would, but this person came by my streams grabbing my attention with stuff like 'huh you have 100 viewers and I have 0'. Thankfully this has stopped, but it could of been an awkward situation if things festered.
By being too friendly, you open yourself up to these experiences. Just be wary going forward as a Twitch personality, if a hole can be exploited, it will be.
Follows and RaidsStarting out, hearing that follow sound is dreamy. Someone likes me, awesome! There's nothing like it. Be genuine in your response to a follow. Someone took a mild interest to click a heart, and most of the time that's taking an interest in your channel. Nice!
I always say thank you for the follow, warmly, not doting on it for too long. Sometimes follows are from weird 'bots' who follow lots of streamers. I guess they're farming their account for future view botting? Who knows.
If you're supremely lucky to get a raid, ideally, you should be hitting the roof no matter how big or small. It's scary getting a massive raid, and you will be nervous. Just roll with it and be you.
Viewers from bigger communities are generally understanding and will stick around for a bit. If it's a smaller raid, still be grateful as after all you have been handpicked for it. Any 'free views' is your own personal lotto win, and a warm response should be mandatory in my opinion.
To big streamers, dumping their load to you is probably nothing as they [hopefully] share that love every day. But they still chose you and that's awesome.
I always raid smaller guys with low viewers because I love making their day like other raiders did to me when I first started. I know what it's like to shit a brick and be speechless.
It's a nice feeling and although there's no rule-book to receiving a raid, nor requirements to how you should respond to one; it's a little perplexing when raiding someone who doesn't appear to give a shit, big or small.
Not everyone can have the perfect response to a raid, but to not appreciate it is kind of crappy. It has been quite cute when a couple of streamers got raided by myself and they didn't know what a raid was :) We're all learning this Twitch thing, so I'm not too bothered regardless, I just thought i'd mention my thoughts.
That's not to say raiding bigger guys isn't useless, i had a couple of low-level-friendships made with bigger streamers I've decided to raid. I don't do it much, but a few big bois i've tried have washed it off which is kind of meh. But they've probably had 5+ years of daily raids, so it's kind of mundane for them? Hopefully not though.
We're all different in this world, how we react to stuff, as long as your response isn't fake, you're good.
I'd say stick with the little guys, they'll appreciate it much more. Even if your raid is 2 people, always take the time to share the love. I've made some great friends from raiding, we're all in it together.
Routine & General Stream stuffThis segment may seem a little generic, sorry!
I stream most days and stick to a religious time, because i've always been viciously punctual. If you can't stick to times due to work and life that's fine for the early period.
If you have a Discord with a Live alert you should be good regardless. Those regulars who want to come by, will. If you're streaming random times it means you'll have a chance to hit people you wouldn't normally due to timezones and their own personal life scheduling.
I think the one true rule to growing is to keep streaming, as generic as that sounds. Make hay while the sun shines. You'll get days where you may be tired or just not up to it, that's fine.
But if you're ambitious and want to really make a go of things, you just have to hit the live button. Of course my 11 hour streams do better than my 2 hour ones.
Especially early on, it was so disheartening to go for 4 hours and have a quiet stream. But you are new, you just have to keep at it. The amount of times I second guessed myself in the early going, man..... It's rough.
But I wanted to meet new people and believed that folks would eventually find me and enjoy my relaxed content. That's what kept me going, and still does. It's a rough gig broadcasting, playing games, managing your community. But people are doing it and doing it well, there's no reason why you can't start today.
If you're being yourself, believing in your content, enjoying your own time streaming and looking back checking your VOD quality, the growth will come. It's inevitable.
It's a time served thing with no magic shortcut. Some games i've played have been better than others if we're talking specifically about growth (which less face it, all new streamers will be thinking about).
You're going to get the riff-raff throwing you off your stride, but when the regulars start coming by, when the big chats come, you'll realise streaming can be amazing. You just have to be Live to witness it.
Social Media and passive engagement
To be honest, i've never liked social media. I'm not one for posting pictures of guff, saying silly things on twitter and arguing on facebook. It's just not me......yet.
I see a lot of streamers who only post links on twitter to say they're going live, which is great if you have a pre-existing following. I guess.
For me I feel like I have worthwhile nothing to say. Why would anyone want to follow me on twitter? My answer right now is...to see some clips I uploaded? I don't want my feed to just be live links as who on earth would want that in their feed every day? Savage, but honest in my opinion.
Right now I use twitter to post the odd clip, other than that It's not doing much for me and I'm still working that out. I know how hashtags work but I feel like it's a little bit of a waste of energy. Perhaps this will work when I have more following. I focus on my Streams first.
The same for Instagram, there's only so many clips and dog pictures I can post. It's a learning curve social media. I have found zero use for it yet, which may come as a surprise for some.
On the other hand using my YouTube channel has been great for passive Twitch follows. I avoided uploading stream content for the longest time because I thought long form videos would be ignored.
But to be honest I've had a lot of people come by saying they've seen some of my YouTube uploads. Awesome! So I would recommend getting a YouTube up and running if you are starting from dead-nothing.
Again maybe Twitter & Instagram could become useful, but I would recommend focusing on your streams first. If your overlay and graphics aren't too intrusive, your VODs are literally free cloud based recordings of all of your gameplay. Use them!
Discord has been my favourite thing outside of Twitch. A general chat, Live notifications for Twitch, image & video rooms, movie chat - this scales exactly with what you want for your community it's an amazing free tool to engage with your regulars. There's literally no reason not to if you are looking to start a fledgling community.
How generic can you be, jesus! But it's true. I'm not a shouty hype man, just a random 30 year old southern english bloke. I get up every hour for a couple of minutes BRB and to stretch my legs. I'm not perfect, but things are clicking. For that I am eternally greatful. Streaming is one big 'should I, shouldn't I?' Just try it and see.
If your personality clicks with people, then you have the only thing that truly matters on Twitch, or anywhere infact when it comes to being an online presence. Best of luck everyone.
In ClosingOnce again, i'm still a total newbie at this Twitch thing. I'm amazed that anyone comes to check out this dozy British man. And if you spent time reading this, I hoped it helped in some way, be it a new streamer or someone looking to start.
People won't really understand the concept of 'playing games and people watching you do it' but as long as you're genuinely enjoying yourself it will all fall in to place as long as you keep at it. You should of seen the glassy eyed look of bewilderment when I explained what streaming is. :)
On the flip side, not everyone can do this and I've seen a few posts with that revelation here on reddit, and that's fine too. It's hard, it can be exhausting and you might think why the fuck am I bothering with this shit? But the good times outweigh the bad big time. Roll with the punches and you'll do pretty well, dare I say...good.
More generic advice that you've read before, but stay away from the big games like Fortnite, Minecraft and Apex, etc. You're gunning for those shortcuts, and you'll burn out wondering why it's not clicking. Just play the games you would play if you were playing games yourself.
I still play games like I would in my own time, except I have a few people who like listening to me. What a time to be alive. People sitting painting minatures, in their workshop, on the toilet! On their big TV, even their family watching [sorry for the language]. It's a great thing to try out.
Thanks all, I enjoyed writing this, sorry it went on for a bit. If anyone does read all this, feel free to ask any questions. I do try to help where I can!