Just recently Bel from Tales of the Aggronaut posted a piece on the “machinery of streaming” and about him being tired off widgets, overlays, alerts, and all of that stuff on the screen that is in the “meta” right now on Twitch and Co. Hence, I figured I’d write a piece about it and state my opinion on whether or not all of that stuff is needed… or rather why I agree with Bel in a lot of ways. Please check out his post as well! I’ll link it below, too!
As always, take everything here with lots of salt. I’m not the biggest streamer in the world but I do analyse and think about a lot of this stuff and talk with other streamers (that are partly bigger than myself) about stuff like this, so I like writing about it. How I run my channel/stream and what I like to do doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the only way of doing things. Keep that in mind and don’t get offended. Thanks!
So, uh, let’s start this from the beginning: What are alerts, overlays, bots and extensions?
Well, alerts, extensions and overlays are ways of creating a better or more interesting experience for viewers. As a streamer, you can opt-in for them or leave them out. Alerts pop up on the screen or play a sound and a gif or something when someone follows, subscribes, cheers, tips, hosts, raids, gifts subs, or buys merch. It’s a fun little thing that pops up on the screen every once in a while and it doesn’t do much harm, in my opinion, and helps since you don’t always watch the activity feed and since the sounds help you out. You can customise everything with services like stream-elements or streamlabs taking a load of work away from you on their sites respectively. Meanwhile, you can also use Twitch-integrated extensions that show up in your panels or when you hover over the screen. There are a lot of nice ones there that may get rid of frequent questions. When I used to stream Destiny 2, I used one of the extensions for that game so that people can see my gear, loadout and power level at any time without it distracting other viewers. You as a viewer could look it up and click it away whenever you wanted to, which was quite nice. There are also things like that for other games… and games like Ring of Pain or Dead Cells even have integrations that allow your Twitch audience to vote for your items, draw enemies (in the case of Ring of Pain, for instance), choose when to heal you (in Dead Cells’ case) or even appear as an enemy (in Domina, as an example) in the game… all of those things are funny gimmicks that can add to the experience.
Now, the problem with extensions is that I’ve seen some people use way too many. You can disable, rearrange them and enable them whenever you want… but some people just tend to forget and have everything up at the same time which can be very frustrating and distracting for users/viewers. In the same way, there are also overlays that streamers add in OBS itself where the most recent follower or the chat messages and whatever are shown. You can create your own overlay or play around with downloadable packs from the internet. I have a widget that makes chat messages appear on-screen for two seconds or something and one that makes emotes that are posted in the chat float around the screen for a second. Nothing big. I don’t like boasting with the biggest tip or the latest gift-subs or follows, which is why I don’t show those off on stream… but generally speaking, they can be good incentives for viewers to do that.
The idea behind that is that having a goal on stream that shows viewers that you’re very close to reaching a specific milestone or whatever is a somewhat subtle way of creating a “call to action”. You can use timers for that or have a goal on stream. I just recently mentioned that I’d play “Getting Over It” on stream if I were to hit 500 followers until my birthday (this upcoming Tuesday) and while I hate it… I actually added a follower goal and people that usually would just forget about it now basically hit that follow button. I don’t earn anything from it but it’s a milestone… half a thousand, you know? So I wanted to celebrate it and since we’re quite close, I figured… might as well put up that stupid goal. It’s small and somewhat subtle but still, it can be quite distracting or even obnoxious, which is why I don’t tend to do that often… if at all.
With alerts and these overlays, the good thing is that viewers have this “call of action” at all times present. Some people like being called out for subscribing and supporting the stream. Some people like seeing their name there and all of that. Hence, those people get rewarded. I personally don’t like it as I think it’s obnoxious and distracting to have a live-ticker of the latest events or whatever on stream at the same time. That’s also why I don’t like news shows on TV and read the news online since I don’t care about the weather and the stock market stuff that is obnoxiously being promoted below the reports, etc. In my streams, I hence have these occasional things going on at most… the chat messages showing basically lets people see that their messages did make it to my side and that I did not ignore them for a while but there’s just a delay… meanwhile, the emote-wall overlay is just a fun little gimmick that is quite cute and cool, in my opinion, when there are raids or breaks.
On top of that, you can also use bots to keep viewers engaged with *cough* gambling for loyalty points *cough* or to mess with each other and duel or whatever. There are lots of commands and scripts out there and all kinds of bots. A bot that I use, for instance, is called buttsbot and basically, it just hops into chat sometimes and butt-ifies messages… which can be fun at times. It’s silly and nothing big but it can be a bit of fun and create moments. A streamer I watch at times, Vicksy, once said that she added a bot to her stream because she’d sometimes be so busy with League of Legends that she couldn’t react to chat at all. Sometimes there is a lot of action that requires a bunch of focus… hence, the bot is there to give the viewers a bit more to do, like the occasional heist, duels, hugs, sound commands, and other features that enable viewers to have a nice time with her stream even when she’s not looking at chat right now.
In the screenshot here you can see the extensions I currently have. For a while I did pla ya lot of Destiny 2 and League of Legends as well, so I had those overlays activated for some quick info on the game. When I don’t play those games, I have them deactivated. So, they don’t clog up space or anything and people have a nice experience. Similarly, I can activate/deactivate the Ring of Pain/Dead Cells extension when I play those games on stream. Currently there are only three extensions active on my end. Two of which are in the panels below the stream (the Emote Panel that showcases emotes in a cool way) and the stream schedule (that I’ll probably just get rid of since Twitch added a schedule feature already… I’ll think about it). The Closed Captions that I have installed (see “Overlay 1”) appear on-screen, meaning that you’ll see them when you open the stream. You can turn it off without any issues, though, if you don’t need them. It’s just something that I installed for those viewers that don’t hear well or that can’t currently listen in or that are deaf. They may not be perfect and they may not catch every word I say… but it’s better than nothing and it makes the stream more accessible to people on Twitch that may also want to see my streams. Closed Captions are one of many examples for overlays that are actually great and somewhat important for content creators. These ones right there were created by Alejo Pereyra (Twitter | Twitch | Discord) and they are relatively easy to set up and, again, work quite well. You can customise the text/background colour, the location, the size or turn it off completely. It’s all up to you and I really like that about this specific extension!
The follower goal is a temporary thing but it will be there only until Tuesday and then it will be gone forever. I do have a gif of Magi (the necromancer) in the corner of the screen at all times as it belongs to my branding and then there’s also some emotes on some corners or gifs here and there just to fill out space. It could be distracting, potentially, if they were moving a whole lot but since they’re super slow-moving or since it’s minimal movement, really, I personally like it a lot and I only got good feedback about it so far, which is nice.
Apart from that, I either have a static purple background or a moving magical purple thing looping in the background instead of those fancy borders that everyone is using for their cams and whatnot. Bel also noted that it was fun in the beginning but eventually everyone was using the same things over and over again… or everyone is doing one thing because all the big streamers are doing it. Having chat up at all times, for instance, is something huge streamers can afford to do… small streamers with an inactive chat, however, could end up seeing it backfiring on them,… which is why my messages only appear for two seconds if at all to not cover any UI or game elements but still have that effect of “message is now being read” appear. I also have a tiny widget on stream that shows what music is playing when I’m on break or when I’m chatting… because I like crediting the musicians that allowed me to use their music when I mailed them. I feel like it’s less intrusive than widgets used by other streamers and overall, it’s a small thing and better than not crediting people.
So, overall overlays, chatbots, extensions, alerts, widgets, and all of that can create opportunities for streamers but I don’t think they’re needed. You don’t need to invest in some professionally made ones, either. I’m currently working on reworking all of my alerts to fit the Crypt theme I’ve got going on with art and animations/gifs made by myself and all of that and while it’s a lot of work, it’s going to be absolutely worth it once I’m done with everything. All my alert sounds are recorded by myself (either some sound effect that I just spoke into the mic… or a silly song cover for the sub alerts)… meanwhile, I’m not using an overlay in the classic sense at all and am still happy with my layout. I’d like to show one of those animations I created but it doesn’t seem to work in WordPress… which is a bummer… I’ll post about it once it’s done!
The most important rule in streaming is, in my opinion, to create content that you – yourself – would watch and enjoy…
And,… well, the streams that I watch don’t have all the live tickers and overlays and all the different obnoxious things going on at all times… or rather I’d stop watching streams if they were constantly flashing in my eyes or if everything was overstimulating my brain and trying to grab attention from me in all sorts of corners when I’m effectively only there for a game and the streamer that is playing it… or the personality behind the screen… or the community feel in the chat… or the interactions.
Bel also goes into his experience and him wanting to go back to streaming and also him not wanting to go back, in a way… It’s a very interesting read that goes into different directions and I enjoyed reading it a lot. I’d highly recommend checking his post out!
Anyways, what do your layouts, alerts, and overlays look like? Do you use any at all? Do you use a bot? What kind of streams do you prefer? Ever got annoyed by obnoxious live-tickers of chat and whatnot? Have you set up closed captions, yet, and if not why not? Let me know!