So, you've found yourself wanting to make an LP
Let's Plays are fun. They're a good way of informing people about a game you love, or bonding with some buds by chatting shit over it, or making stories. It's good stuff.
But it's also something that can seem a little daunting, and, I ain't gonna lie, it's sometimes draining as hell to make one. But part of that is that a bad process can make things seem like much more work than there actually is. So, this post is a basic guide to stuff, and, hopefully, more resources will be added here. So, let's begin with the most important question, because it's going to inform the rest of your choices.
What Game Are You Wanting To Let's Play?
I'm not joking when I say this is an important question, because there are three different basic styles of LP in terms of creation, and the game you want to LP will heavily influence which method you'll be wanting to use for best effect. Let's go over them.
Screenshot LP (SSLP) - This one's pretty good for games where the action is slow paced, or not much happens for long stretches of time. Step based RPGs (y'know, the first person ones where you move one tile at a time) are an excellent example of something that works well with an SSLP. Lifesim games work well with it too. 4X games definitely work well with SSLPs (and, unless you're good at snappy patter, will drain you like anything if you do them as VLPs.) The same applies to visual novels.
Video LP (VLP) - This generally works better for the stuff where a lot of voiced lines, a lot of action, or where the animation is important. First person shooters. Sports games. Racing games. And some of the more modern RPG experiences, to name but a few examples (Although, keep in mind, general advice for your own sanity is "Edit out the stuff where nothing happens for a while, and edit down or edit out you dying a whole bunch in one encounter")
And finally, Hybrid LPs - As you might expect, this is a hybrid of the two, with video either being available as well as the screenshot update (Say, a youtube thing at the top and making it clear this covers the update too), or small videos to get across things you can't get across with screenshots (Examples would be the playing of a reflex based minigame, a video of a single battle in the game to show you what's what, a cutscene, or a short animation that looks super cool (Although GIFs can work for that purpose.)) This style of LP covers both your bases in terms of slow games where not a lot happens, but when something does happen, it's worth watching in real-time.
So, them's your basics. There are further questions you might want to ask yourself, such as whether you want to do post-commentary (Recording the footage, then recording commentary, then editing the footage and the commentary together. Good for stuff where you need to plan what you want to say), or live commentary (Saying it as it happens. This one works well with a group dynamic, a "shootin' the shit" style LP), but these are things you'll quickly learn. More importantly...
How the heck do I record this?!?
Well, that depends, don't it? If you're wanting to record video, then OBS, be it Streamlabs or classic, is generally considered the way to go nowadays, although other programs, like Camtasia, recording software that comes with your graphics card, FRAPS (Bit outdated, that one), and the like are also options. We'll assume OBS for now. Now, if you're recording live, no need to futz with much, just play around with the quality settings until you're happy, and remember, if you want to add a game to your scene, what nearly always works is "Game Capture -> Add new (then name it) -> Specific Window in that top dropdown, and then, the next one down, the specific game window you want."
If you're wanting to record post-commentary, remember to mute the microphone in OBS.
For post-commentary audio recording, Audacity is, hands down, the weapon of choice. Leave yourself 3-6 seconds of silence before you start talking, best practice is usually to start recording, wait that period, and, if you have a co-commentator, simultaneously play the video after you both count down from 3. Whether you go on 1, or go on "Play" is up to you, but you'll thank yourself for following this advice, as it makes syncing up the audio later much easier.
For screenshots, IRFanview is the program of choice. You don't even need to futz with much. Options -> Capture, set a hotkey (I use NUMMULT (That's "*" on the keypad), because so few programs use it), set a directory (The automatic naming out the gate is fine, honestly, as it's time and date based, so it'll always be in order), and away you go, hitting the screenshot key when you need it.
Or... If you want to capture things with a greater level of finesse... Record the game with OBS, then go through the footage with VLC Media Player (Like OBS and IRFanview, it's donationware), and you can capture screenshots from the footage in program. Find "Take Snapshot" in the menu, get to around the right times in the recording, and you can basically go through it after that at a slow speed or frame by frame. For frame by frame, the "e" key is the usual shortcut, but please note, you can only frameskip forward as far as I'm aware, so pick the time before you want. That way, you can get some dramatic stuff going on.
Well, I've got this footage/screenshots/audio, how the hell do I put it together?
Ah well... In the case of an SSLP, you're most of the way there! Use our batch uploader (please, upload to your gallery only, and a sub-gallery for the game (probably sub galleries for each update) within that for ease of archiving), write up your update, putting the image links in the right places... Most people would recommend working in a word processing program, naming your images, say "SpookyGame1-01", "SpookyGame1-02" before you upload them, so you can easily sort things out, and making sure you know where your images are going in the document before you post. Note that, in the case of visual novels or other dialogue heavy stuff, it's usually a good idea to have snapshots of the characters' faces, so, instead of posting twenty odd images of dialogue lines, you screenshot the start of it, then use the headshots for the dialogue between those important moments like scene changes, shocking things happening, etcetera.
For the VLPers... Here's where it gets a little fucky. You see, there's not many good video editing software that's free. Movie Maker is, honestly, just fine if you're cutting and splicing, adding audio, screenshots, and OBS is perfectly fine if you're just doing live commentary recordings, but your options are somewhat limited if you want to get any degree of fancy. Premiere is usually the recommended paid software, as Vegas has become... A bit shit, shall we say?
Anyway, the dark arts of video editing are for another time, and probably another poster.
Workflow is important
One of the biggest contributors to burning out on an LP is workflow. Plan out what you want to do ahead of time. This is especially true of SSLPs and Hybrid LPs, where knowing the game ahead of time is a godsend. But even in VLPs, the age old adage still applies: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Don't try to be fancy unless you've put in the work ahead of time to make the fancy bits easy. Have a script ahead of time you can copy paste if you're doing subtitles. Set out your goals, and think of good stopping points. Don't overwork yourself.
After all, you're meant to be having fun the same as your audience is. And if you're not having fun making the LP, it's better to take a break or stop, examining your workflow if you're taking a break to see if that's a contributor to your lack of enjoyment.
Good luck, folks, and have fun. Remember, questions are always encouraged!
Put your Let's Plays in here.
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