Friday, May 26, 2017

Video Game Science: Study Shows Games Improve Memory

If for some reason you need more proof that video games are good for you, and won't rot your brain, the University of California at Irvine published a study in 2015 that may peek your interests. If anything, it comes with a sweet Infograph.

The study focused on if video games helped improve areas of the brain that affected memory - spatial as well as short/long-term memory. Using several test subjects and three different testing groups, the overall results look positive. Additional testing and more subjects are, of course, always needed to ensure the outcome is sound. But for what the researches had to work with, the content is good.

The first test had 3 groups: gamers, non-gamers, and competitive professional gamers. They were each given a questionnaire to fill out to gauge their gaming habits, followed by a series of enumeration and mnemonic similarity tests. When comparing the results, they found that gamers, both standard and pros, showed better mnemonic discrimination then non-gamers. Test 2 did a comparison of 2D and 3D games and found similar results, and improved memory among those who focused on 3D games.

Now if more science could be summed up in an infograph for people to easily digest, we might be able to combat global warming!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Weekly Link Round Up

Who's ready for the weekend? I know I am. Wow; this month has flown by with impressive speed. I think everyone deserves a nice, long, relaxing weekend of playing video games. Let's jump right on in to the Weekly Link Round Up. Some of the best, worst, and weirdest gaming news on the internet.

- Have you played Fallout 4 yet? No? Well apparently it's free this weekend on Steam. Starting today at 10am PST and ending Sunday at 1pm PST. On Monday there will be a sale for the item so if you like the game enough, you can buy it. No news yet on what the price will be at checkout. But that's a good way to celebrate a long a post-nuclear wasteland.

- Kotaku dives into a very important topic that is on gamer's minds: Why Video Games Are Delayed.

Okay so that's not a big issue right now. Most gamers are understanding when a product is delayed. Developers come up with new ideas, new technology comes up that enhances the game's experience, stories change, bugs happen, there are a myriad of reasons on why a game is delayed. In the wake of the controversy behind Assassin's Creed: Unity and No Man's Sky, developers are trying to play it safe. Gamers have been fighting back against incomplete releases and Day 1 patches. Promising games like South Park: The Fractured Butt Whole has been delayed since September of 2016, with a pending March 2017 release that has been moved again to later this year. The game looked great at PAX Prime. But if Ubisoft has their reasons to delay it, I can't fault them. I'd rather the game be as complete and bug free as possible before it's on store shelves, so it's worth the wait.

- XBox Game Pass, the new game streaming service, will begin it's roll out to all users starting June 1st. The Netflix/GameFly-like service will be given to Gold Members for a 14-day trial run, before you have to pay the $9.99 monthly fee. The goal is to have the gaming library update every month so new content is always available to consumers. Customers with the new feature will also receive a 20% discount if they opt to buy games that are featured.

- The Netflix Castlevania show got it's first trailer, and it's out! There really isn't much to talk about though. The animation looks nice, and it's better then I expected given that the main studio behind the designs tends to focus on children-friendly programs, like 'Adventure Time' and 'The Fairly Odd Parents.' The opening is cute, even though that person shoved the NES game a little too roughly into the system. You don't need to force it, dude. You can gently slide and push down, and it'll work. I'm curious, but I'd like to see more from a trailer before I make a verdict on if I will watch it.

- The U.S. Navy and the Office of Naval Research is pouring funding into a video game project that allows sailors to use magical spells. The "goal is to isolate the factors in first-person-shooters such as ‘Halo’ and ‘Call of Duty’ that improve cognitive functions like reaction time, multitasking, and attention span. The ONR plans to develop the game that best trains people for jobs requiring large amounts of screen time, such as sonar and radar technicians and pilots." I didn't know of a better way to word it, so that's direct from the press release! But why have sailors using magic? Well the hope is that the game becomes popular enough internally that they can make a "kids version" one day, and are trying to reduce the amount of violent content. Instead of guns, they use magic. Throw in a few digital monsters, and you've got something the kids will love! (Please note the sarcasm.)

- Finally, if you're looking for your fill of "good" gaming articles this week, head over to IGN where they talk about "trash games." As the name implies, trash games are the left-overs. They're not the big titles we think of when we talk about video games. They are the random piles of stuff that tend to get thrown aside. Sometimes they are glitchy, or look like 32-bit disaster zones. But some of those trash games are genius and push the boundaries of what's expected in video games. They provided inspiration to some of today's biggest indie hits, such as Five Nights at Freddy's and Papers Please. It's worth a read!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Progress With Voice Actors Strike

For those waiting, I am working on the next installment of the "How To Be a Streamer" series. Part 3 focuses on the video stream aspect and the editing of your content. It's easily turning into the longest post with the amount of commentary I have put into it, but the payoff will be worth it. Thank you for sticking with me! I hope to have it published in the upcoming days.

Back to today's topic: SAG-AFTRA's strike is producing some results!

Announced in the guild's Spring newsletter, some game companies are agreeing to SAG's terms in order to sign some of the high/A-List voice actors to their upcoming projects. SAG did not announce which companies are involved, but some of them have agreed to residual payments to voice actors if a game sells well. A full day's wage will be offered if a game sells 2 million units, with up to 4 payment periods if a game sells more then 8 million units. In all, 30 games from 20-25 companies have agreed to SAG-AFTRA's new terms. It was announced in April, but confirmed in the guild's newsletter.

Phil LaMarr, who is in so many voice acting projects that I can't even begin to start naming them, commented in the magazine that "These deals show that other companies see that what we're asking for is reasonable." It's hinting that the larger, triple-A developers may not be rushing to agree to the contracts, but other gaming companies get it.

Seven months in and the strike continues. At stake is live-able compensation for voice actors during and after their work sessions, more breaks during recordings (screaming for 5 hours straight doesn't sound like a fun time), and better transparency between the developers and the actors.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Speedrun Curse To Save Time

Did you know that it's really easy to cheat when you're speedrunning video games? I'm an avid fan of speedruns. I think they are a unique, fun way to play some of our favorite games by providing new challenges. Speedruns are not for the faint of heart. They require more concentration, level knowledge that surpasses the average player, and all the tricks to get to the end as fast as possible. Some speedruns focus on completing the game as fast as possible. Others, it's all about collecting every star/gold/banana in the shortest amount of time. It's quite an accomplishment when you are able to rush through a game and meet those goals.

TheNo1RetroGamer, one of the top speedrunning gamers, recently released a video showing how little effort it takes to trick viewers into thinking that they are watching a legitimate speedrun. A string of runners who have set records for Super Mario 64 and GoldenEye 007 have been exposed for cheating their way through the game. Cuts in the video or time code, slowing down the timer (most speedrun videos will have a timer so viewers can track the gamer's progress), even splicing in older speedrun footage to shed seconds off a new time - this stuff happens a lot!

It's an old tale of "never trust anything you see on the internet." Photos and videos can easily be altered to fit the story that the gamer wants to tell.

So how do you know if what you're watching is a real speedrun?

Stick to live streams. Most of the cheats happen in the editing room for the nice, neatly packaged video that gets uploaded to YouTube later. But it's difficult to cheat in a live speedrun when people are watching. Viewers, gamers in particular, are not shy to call out inconsistencies they see. If the timer is slow, or if they see the player force a glitch in the game to shed off a few seconds, you can bet people will speak up. It keeps the streamer honest, and the speedrun accurate. The community helps keep the "sport" alive and true to it's roots, even to those who try to cheat their way through it.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The King of Kong: The Musical!

You did not read that headline incorrectly. Someone is taking the documentary 'The King of Kong' and adapting it into a musical.

Let that sink in for a moment. Revel in the strangeness of that feeling.

Objectively speaking, on paper this doesn't seem like a bad idea. 'The King of Kong' is about arcade gaming legend Billy Mitchell and upstart Steve Wiebe. Mitchell has held the record for highest score on the Donkey Kong arcade game for decades. Wiebe wanted to beat it. The documentary is an insightful look at the art of competition, what it takes to win, and the lengths people will go to so as not to accept defeat. The film began with the intent of looking at game contests in general, before it focused in on Mitchell and Wiebe. If you're ever curious about the world of competitive arcade games, watching 'King of Kong' is a good place to start.

The documentary features everything you want out of a great story. The action of the gameplay and the gamers working up a sweat as they focus on their end goal. The drama of watching Donkey Kong score a hit on the player. The suspense of Wiebe beating the record, only to be trounced days later by Mitchell in a taped recording of himself besting the new score (which was very controversial at the time). You don't get this much content in a 'Transformers' film! Adapting the story into a musical isn't terrible - in theory. It has the makings of something engaging.

Seth Gordon, the director for the original film and the 'Baywatch' reboot, addressed questions at a press junket about the potential project. Scripts are in the works, as well as a line-up of songs to be included. The project is well under-way by all accounts. But, is this the right thing to do for 'The King of Kong'?

Something in my gut is saying this feels weird. The documentary is great. There's nothing that needs to be improved upon. Transforming it into a different medium detracts from the original content and could potentially dull the original message of the film. If the documentary didn't exist, and this musical was the first appearance of 'The King of Kong', I think there would be more critics willing to accept the premise. But when you have something so good already in place, why change it up?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Weekly Link Round Up

It's Friday! About time! This has been an extra long week for some unknown reason, and I think we all deserve a nice, long, relaxing weekend or playing video games. I know I'll be making time to partake in a few. With that, let's start off the weekend right with a Weekly Link Round Up. Some of the best, worst, and weirdest gaming news on the internet.

- Gaming sites are freaking out over Destiny 2. I guess the distaste of the first game has washed out of their mouths? One of the biggest news pieces to drop is that Activision/Blizzard is taking on the game for the PC port. Seeing how well the company manages their online IP's, that's a good step for Destiny to take. So if you want to know everything and anything about the new game, there's this site, and this one, and this one too. Bungie is going all out in trying to get people onto the Destiny train asap, lest they have another disaster on their hands.

- Business Insider is gracing us with the "worst and dumb" article of the week. The reasoning why PS4 and XBox One gamers can't play together. And that's because business. Yep. Business. That's it. Sony, Microsoft, and Nintedo all like to keep their secrets and keep people playing their content. They don't want to lose a life-time Sony gamer to Microsoft, so they don't allow for cross-connectivity. This isn't news, Business Insider. It's been like this forever. It won't change anytime soon. Final Fantasy XI has been one of the only games to bridge the gap between Sony, Microsoft, and PC. And we all know why. So, thanks for calling out the obvious, Business Insider.

- ScreenRant has a list of the 15 Worst Video Game Remakes that No One Asked For. It's kind of funny what's listed, because some of these are games you probably have never heard of! Did you know that the 2013 Deadpool game was "remastered" and re-released when the movie arrived? The game has no connection to the film and no new content was added. It was a bad port on a newer console. However Resident Evil 6 is on the list. It's not a remake but a sequel. I think this is the author's attempt at inserting his dislike of RE. Otherwise, the list is mildly entertaining.

- GameStop hasn't been doing well. Despite what the company may say to the public, some investors are warning stock holders to jump out while they can. Stock value has dropped by 1/3rd over the past 3 years, sales are sliding, and publishers are trying to sell more of their content direct to consumers to eliminate the middle man. While I don't want to wish failure to a company since jobs are on the line, GameStop needs to re-brand and re-market themselves fast if they expect to keep up with the digital age.

- Kotaku knocks it out of the park with an article about trash talking. There's an art to riling up your opponents, all in a good-nature manner that keeps the game fun. Silly article with some amusing insight.

See you all next week!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Another Netflix Announcement: 'The Witcher' in Production

The Witcher is coming to Netflix!

And I'm not that excited about it. The legacy of video game movies has been abysmal. With the exception of the Ace Attorney movie. It is the one bright beacon, in an otherwise dark and stormy cycle of crappy video game films. Will television fare any better? In the past, our only access to video games on TV has been through Saturday morning cartoons with Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario. They weren't bad shows, but it's clear that they were meant for children. They are not the quality of Steven Universe or Avatar: The Last Airbender in terms of content. Yet they entertained and delighted children for years. That's more then can be said for the majority of game movies.

So does this new move of taking serious games and turning them into TV shows...could this work in the one medium where game adaptations have been semi-successful?

We already know about Castlevania. The animated adaptation of the game will be on Netflix this year. There shouldn't be a surprise that another mature video game will be making it's way to Netflix as well. But why The Witcher?

A few reasons: it's a successful franchise selling over 25 million games since it's creation. The books that the game's are based on, are equally as popular and have been on the New York Times Best Selling list. The premise and setting of The Witcher are easy to manipulate into a traditional movie/TV story-telling model: if you break it down, the story is reminiscent of Van Helsing, but not as goofy. And with Netflix moving more towards gritty, ground-breaking action/drama sagas, The Witcher would fit right in.

Now here's some of the bad news:

Remember that quick blurb I posted in the Weekly Link Round Up a few weeks back about the author, Andrzej Sapkowski? How he wasn't happy with the reputation of The Witcher and felt slighted by the game's developer CD Projekt? He's serving as the creative consultant on the television show. Meaning this isn't an adaptation of the games, but of the books. “I’m thrilled that Netflix will be doing an adaptation of my stories, staying true to the source material and the themes that I have spent over thirty years writing,” said Sapkowski. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

So if you're a fan of the games, you might be disappointed at how much the Netflix series won't replicate that look. But if you like the books, then you're in luck!

The series is also being produced by Sean Daniel and Jason Brown, who produced the 1999 and 2017 Mummy movies, respectively. The new Mummy film looks awful and a quick cash grab. The 1999 Brendan Fraser one...okay I admit I have a soft spot for that movie. It's over the top, campy, and goofy in all the right ways. So imagine that for The Witcher and you'll quickly see why I'm concerned.

Third, it's going to be live action. Not animated. That's going to probably throw a big wrench into the design of the series for a lot of viewers. Part of the draw of The Witcher video games is that the monsters and baddies look every much like they are part of the world as the human characters. It's incredibly difficult to make ogre's look natural next to your male lead. Even with 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'Game of Thrones,' it's still easy to tell when you have a digital dragon on the screen. Which is why The Witcher lends itself so well to a video game environment, where everything is animated. Having that mix of animated and live action could be detrimental in making the crazy creates in Sapkowski's come to life.

It'll be interesting to see where Netflix goes with this project, but you can expect some twists, turns, and unhappy gamers in the process when they find out more of the details.

Interesting side-note: The books aren't actually called The Witcher. That title is owned by CD Projekt, and they may not allow Netflix to use it without getting compensation for it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

5 Reasons Why It Sucks to Play a Healer in a Video Game

Full disclosure: 97% of the time I play a healing job. There are a lot of things to love about it. Not only do you have the power over the lives, and deaths, of your teammates, you help control the flow of battle by how well you manage your healing abilities. One of the major components that draws me to healers is that you have to be an effective multi-tasker. Apparently I can't get enough of that in my daily life that it needs to seep into my gaming habits as well. I love it!

Final Fantasy XI Red Mage (RDM) was my ultimate dream job. The RDM was set up to be a balance of melee, white magic, and black magic. A literal jack of all trades having enough power in each category to morph into the role a party needs without being too powerful. In the grand scheme of the game it quickly evolved into White Mage 2.0. The tactical gear provided was limited, and there were already plenty of melee jobs on the market. What the game was lacking were alternate healers to make up for the small number of White Mages (WHM) that were available to level. And RDM acted as a nice stand-in.

This type of activity always invigorated me. I could pour my focus into the game and tune out the world for a few hours while I played RDM. It was a wonderful stress relief, even when I was taxing my brain and fingers. Even now on Final Fantasy XIV or Overwatch, I enjoy the jobs that let me multi-task to my heart's content. So again, healers. I'm an Ana player most of the time, and Astrologian is my lifeblood on FF14...until RDM comes out in 34 days.

As much as I love to be a healer, it sucks Donkey Kong balls whenever you play with people you don't game with on a regular basis. If they are outside of your guild, it's bound to result in you head-desking or face-palming a dozen times, while you ponder if "reporting for stupidity" is an option.

Here are the 5 Reasons Why It Sucks to Play a Healer in a Video Game, and why you should avoid the job/class at all costs:

5 - No one on your team will ever listen to you. That's not a joke. It's a fact. If there's a circle of lava or poison on the floor, other people in your party will stand in it like it's no big deal. They'll just take damage over time and think "eh, the healer can take care of it." Or be completely devoid of thought and not realize they are taking damage. And you can tell them hundreds of times to move, but they won't. They'll just keep on standing there like it's no big deal. Because who cares what the healer wants?

4 - People will constantly harass you for healing, even when at full health or after you have died in game. Sometimes it's trolls being trolls. But there are genuinely a lot of people who ignore the status updates on the bottom left of the screen and have no clue that your character has died. So they'll spam you for heal requests and you're dead on the ground. Can't heal when you're dead! But even when you say "I'm dead. Respawn in 10 seconds" the heal requests don't let up. It seems like a majority of people ignore the reality and hope you'll magically spawn back to life to give them the curing they desperately don't need.

3 - The gear kind of sucks. The end-game fashion looks great, but it takes a while to get to that point. Mage gear is notorious for looking like trimmed potato sacks that sort of fit your character's frame. In FF14, from level 52-54 you can receive multi-colored, pepto-pink and green jester gear for the healing jobs. It is atrocious. Most games at level 15, if you are a tank or a melee, has some respectable looking duds. But healers? Potato sack.

2 - Speaking of gear, it's expensive. For Healers more so then any other job. And a lot of this is based on the game economics. There are so few people who play as a healing job, making and selling gear is counter-productive for crafters. Why wait on one big pay day for a healing staff that may take 2 weeks to sell, when you can pour your resources into crafting blades for Paladin's or Warrior's, make 100 of them, and get the same profit in a fraction of the time? The few bits of gear that do exist for Healer's on markets are overpriced to account for the rarity. It sucks.

1 - Everyone will blame all failures on you. It doesn't matter what did or didn't happen. If the dungeon ran too long, it's your fault. If someone died, it's your fault. If the rare gear didn't drop, it's your fault. Healer's are the ones that get the bad rep, even when they do everything right. Why? We don't know. For being one of the toughest jobs to master with so much responsibility, people are quick to blame and assume you have the easiest role in the game. "You just cast cure and nothing else." Oh...if they only knew just how stressful it can be.

So do yourself a favor. Don't play the healer. If you want people to not care about your job of choice, pick Monk. Hand to Hand specialties seem to get the least amount of flack and all you have to do is punch things. That's a win-win scenario.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Mobile Zelda?

With Super Mario Run making waves in the phone game market, and the continued success of Miitomo, Nintendo is most likely already in development of their next product. What would it be, you might wonder? Well some are speculating that it's Legend of Zelda. Which seems like a logical choice in the lineup, and would be a good tie-in to the release of Breath of the Wild.

According to sources affiliated with The Wall Street Journal, that's exactly what Nintendo is working on next for the mobile market. While Nintendo has not issued any comments or statements to confirm it, they're not denying it either. We're back in speculation land again. Yea. It's probably best to wait it out, see what Nintendo says, and hey! Maybe it'll be officially announced at E3 in a few weeks?

Nintendo is planning on releasing an Animal Crossing mobile game later this year. Working with mobile developer DeNA to manage the product and maintain future updates once the app is released. Animal Crossing on mobile sounds like an ideal format for the set-up. You create and manage your own digital home of animal cuteness. By going mobile, you are able to check on your home throughout the day without having to wait until you are near a gaming console. Nintendo hopes to have this app link up to possible Wii/Wii-U versions of the game to make it more interactive - we'll see where that goes. As long as there aren't extreme paywalls to build and grow your homestead, this could be a fun app to have on the go!

Zelda seems like a possible game but let's not hold our breaths. Wait on Nintendo to give the official announcement and then we can all do the happy dance. As long as it's not like Mario Run. Good in theory, but that paywall...ugh.

Monday, May 15, 2017

How to Be a Video Game Streamer Part 2: Setting Up Your Channel

Back into the thick of things! Let's move on to Part 2 of How to be a Video Game Streamer. If you've read through Part 1, hopefully you have had enough time to think about what your content is going to focus on. What you decide from here on out while shape how your channel with grow over the it's lifespan.

With your content and gaming persona in mind, you're ready to start Setting Up Your Channel. This task can be both simple and daunting.

First things to do is claim your Channel name based on the persona that you have created from Part 1. This will be the easy part. Head over to YouTube, Twitch, SmashCast, and UStream, signing up for accounts, and doing your darnedest to make sure that all of your gamer tags match. Why? Because this will make it easier for people to find you. As a fan, there is nothing worse then then going to Twitch, looking for your gamer tag 'Death2Smoochie', and not finding you. If your YouTube, SmashCast, and UStream name matches, but your Twitch ID is 'IPlayGamz', your fans will never be able to locate your stream. Part of branding yourself as a streamer is ensuring that your content is consistent among all platforms. That includes your gamer tag. If you find that your ID is already taken, then use variations of your tag. Add in dashes or underscores. Example: 'Death-2-Smoochie.' This will allow your name to come up in searches so people will have a greater chance of locating you.

Now that you have your ID claimed on these platforms, consider linking them up so that content can be shared. Throw in your social media profiles to, like Twitter and Facebook, that allow for cross-posting. This makes it easier to reach your friends and followers with any updates you have on your channels without the need for you to make multiple individual posts. It's one and done. Thank goodness for the internet!

But before you start posting, we need to get your Channels looking fancy. This means graphics, layout, rules, buttons, and plugins. This is where you are going to start hating life, especially if you don't have a background in graphic design. I'm going to use my Twitch Channel as an example of a simplified layout to give you all a better idea of what I'm talking about.

As you can see I have a banner, an avatar, and a video feed banner to inform people of my streaming schedule. I also have a Twitter-like chat bar to give viewers updates, and a series of boxes to the right of that, laying out my channel rules, and creative buttons that people can click so they can follow me on social media. Everything on that page is all tied to the same look with a 8/16-bit, old school gamer style. I even pixilated the social media icons to better match my design. If you check my YouTube Channel, it replicates the look. It may not be exact because YouTube and Twitch are different platforms, but you can tell between the two streaming systems that it's me. It's still TifaIA Cosplay.

Whether you have 1 or 1 million viewers, the look of your Channel needs to be represented in all forms of media that you are utilizing. If you need other examples, Google your favorite streamers and check our their pages. You'll find that all of the top game streamers have content that matches on every platform.

Before you jump in and start uploading images to pretty up your page, think about the overall look you want your Channel to have. If your focus is going to be on Minecraft, you may want to design your icons to center around that topic. Your avatar could be your in-game character skin. Channel buttons could be different animals in the game. You want people to know what your Channel is about in the first few moments of opening the page. People will know within seconds whether or not they want to stick around. And if you have nothing on your Channel that indicates visually that you are a Minecraft gamer, then don't expect people to stay.

So if you're a horror gamer, don't use bright colors or retro graphics as part of your design scheme. Go with a darker pallet (grey, black, rich browns). If you're a Nintendo gamer, use Mario and Legend of Zelda colors (but not their logos or characters, because Nintendo loves to issue CAD's) and Metroid-like backgrounds to act as your banner and buttons. The more you can connect your imagery to your branding, the more in-tune your audience will be to your work.

If you're ready to dive in, Twitch has a great overview on how to upload and edit the info panels on your page. YouTube's is more straight-forward with their Channel layout content, so there isn't as much to edit. But you can still mimic the style on Twitch to better replicate your brand.

Now that's all well and good if you have knowledge in graphic design. But what if you don't and you only have access to MSPaint? How can you make cool looking Channel graphics? You've got a few options available to you:

- Hire a graphic designer to create your content. And by hire, I mean pay them actual money. Do not cheap out and try the "well if you give me free graphics, I'll promote you and you'll get free advertising." That's not how it works. Graphic designers and artists are human. They need to eat and pay bills like everyone else, and they can't do that on "free advertising." How much would it cost? Depends on the designer. Check out websites like Freelancer and Guru. These are websites where people can offer their services for payment. Everything from copywriting to website coding. You can also check out art sites like DeviantArt and see if someone's work strikes your interest. Contact the person, set up payment, and give them a very detailed description of what you want your final Channel design will look like. Some artists will charge $15-$30 an hour for work, or give you a bulk rate of $150-$500 for everything. It depends on the person.

- Teach yourself! This will be the most time-consuming method, but if you are interested in learning, there are a load of tools for free that will help you out. And some of the best graphic programs out there don't require you to drop $1 grand to use them. GIMP is a fantastic image manipulation program that is completely free. It's Photoshop Lite, as I like to call it. But as I said, time. You need a lot of it. Graphic design isn't something you can learn overnight. It takes weeks of practice to focus on the craft until you get to a level where you feel that it's passable. Heck, I've been doing this for 10+ years and I still feel subpar at times. But for Channel graphics? A few lessons and some time to design is all you need.

- Buy pre-made Channel graphics. Websites like Tactical Lion Designs and Visuals by Impulse offer icons and images, bundled together to help those starting out their streaming Channels. The downside to this is that because these are easily accessible to anyone who's willing to buy, your visuals may already be in use by another streamer. Not that it's a bad thing, but it can be an issue with distinguishing your identity if you become popular. After a few months, if you see your viewership increase, you should update your graphics to better fit with your branding and create your own look. But for those starting out, looking for a quick way to get nice graphics at a reasonable rate, this is a good way to go!

Here's the legal section of the program so you don't wind up in trouble with your Channel graphics:

1 - DO NOT USE COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL. What is copyrighted? Most things are these days. Basically, if you didn't come up with the idea and draw it yourself, it's not safe to use. So no Mario. No Capcom characters. No taking an image from Google and using it. Even if you're not making money off the Channel (as in, you don't have a Donate button or anywhere for someone to give you funds), just don't do it. If you're wondering why I have a Moogle in my graphics, you'll find that I've tweaked the images so they are not a100% copy of the Final Fantasy characters. Loopholes ftw! But if I do add a Donation button, I'll have to change out the icons; to be safe in case of legalities.

2 -  If you hire someone to make your graphics, make sure to have a signed contract with you and the artist to ensure that you maintain full ownership of the final images.

3 - If you use pre-made Channel graphics, you are required to credit the creators/website where you purchased them from. You can do this in the info boxes on Twitch, or add them to your videos with a text title. Whatever you wish to do. Part of the contract you agree to when you purchase the icons is to credit their site. Don't skip this step.

Whew. We covered a lot in this post! But you now have the basic run-down of what to expect when you start making your Channel. And we haven't even begun to create video content yet. Join The Geek Spot in Part 3, where we dive into the streaming process.

Be sure to read up on Part 1: Channel Focus and Persona to start your streaming adventure.