Apple Cider Mage has a very thorough post this morning on the practicality and morality of making money off of content, specifically gaming-related blogs, podcasts, and videos. It’s a good write-up, and you should probably go read it.
It was also a very timely read for me, as this is a topic I’ve thought about a lot lately. Let me be frank — I live off a very tight budget, and due to some real life circumstances it’s been a lot tighter than usual lately. I also put roughly 20 hours a week on weekends and evenings into content under the “Totally Legit Publishing” banner, whether it’s this blog or Cat Context or making videos about movies or whatever.
And I do this strictly because I love it. When I was a small child one of my favorite activities was borrowing my parents’ tape deck (yes, I’m old) and recording myself doing “radio shows”, and although technology has moved along honestly running a podcast about video games is not that different in spirit from sitting under a table and making up weather reports.
But it’s also time consuming, and I definitely spend a little money each month on things like a web server or an extra Humble Bundle for future giveaways. During my recent budget crunch I realized that I couldn’t really afford to keep doing all the hobbyist things I do because that time would be better spent being paid for things. It was an intensely frustrating realization.
I have a relatively successful blog and podcast! And I put a lot of work into them! Surely there must be a way to not give up any of that but still scrape out some pocket money each month, or at least break even. Or, as it turns out, maybe not.
(Actually, that is not entirely true as recently some friends gave surprise donations to the server fund. Those people know who they are, and I hope they also know how much I was moved by their generous spirit.)
Anyway, Apple Cider wrote that “[content creators] should be compensated for their time and efforts” and while I agree wholeheartedly with the spirit of that I’m not sure it’s a terribly practical approach. Unfortunately, content funding is a zero sum game. Readers and listeners and watchers have limited wallets just like the rest of us, and financial support received by Blog A is financial support not received by Blog B.
That doesn’t mean that content creators who are soliciting donations or patronage should feel guilty, but I think it’s worth reflecting before considering monetization. Is your content actually valuable? Is it more valuable than Blog B’s content? A couple of years ago I was asked to edit someone’s Kickstarter pitch, and my first question was “Why is your idea worth someone’s money?” If you don’t have a good answer to that, you may want to reconsider your quest for funding.
Honestly I’m not sure what my conclusions are for this post. (Good thing it was free!) I am a passionate advocate for the idea that everyone can start a blog and say what they have to say to the world. I am perhaps just not an advocate for the idea that everyone can and should be paid for said blog, particularly in a reality where there are limited dollars and an almost literally endless numbers of creators.
Blizzard has been a font of information about the upcoming Warlords of Draenor over the past couple of weeks, and so Liore, Arolaide, and Ellyndrial spent an hour talking about instant level 90s, the mass removal of class abilities, and mandatory Proving Grounds as the gateway for heroic dungeons.
Elly asks the important question, “Is paid instant levelling a good idea?” whereas Liore glosses right over that and gets down to haggling over the price. Meanwhile, Arolaide wants to know how we’re supposed to define “good players” if we all have meaningless talents and a handful of abilities. (It’s a good question.) Perhaps mandatory Proving Grounds are the answer, although we differ wildly over how accessible those should be.
Also, poop quest predictions! Complaints about paladins! Fond reminiscing of hijinx using Mind Vision!
This podcast was also livestreamed as a hangout on air:
If you enjoyed this podcast, please “Like” or “Favorite” it in your media consumption method of choice! It makes us feel nice.
* Eurogamer interview with Blizzard on the $60 insta-90.
* WoW Insider on the mandatory Proving Grounds.
* Official “Dev Watercooler” on some of the Warlords of Draenor changes including the ability pruning.
* Free Music Archive page for our theme, in THE crowd by The Years
Until recently one of the many new things in WoW that I hadn’t gotten around to really trying yet was transmogrification, which is Blizzard’s ridiculous way of saying “costume wardrobe”. I mean, I sort of tried it by quickly farming up a set of replica Devout and grabbing my Benediction out of the bank, but outside of tier sets I hadn’t really sat down and explored all the possibilities.
(By the way, Blizzard, I will never truly forgive you for introducing a costume feature this late in the game well after I tossed a bunch of my amazing Vanilla gear for bank space. Grr!)
However, for some reason I decided to install the Mog It mod on Sunday night, and suddenly a whole world of wardrobe options opened up before me. And while there are in fact a satisfactory number of hats and staves and things, I still have some big critiques of the whole transmog system:
1) Restricting costume gear to armor class is goofy. If it’s a PvP thing then make transmogs not visible in a battleground or arena! There is no good reason why my priest can’t dress up like a shaman, dang it.
2) There are very notable fun items not available for transmog. Why can’t I wear a .? Why can’t I transmog a mace into the . that my guild worked very hard on in Wrath and now will sit in my bank forever?
3) I don’t like the system of assigning a specific piece of gear a specific look. It’s a pain to manage, particularly if you’re still levelling/gearing up a character. I understand that this was done to improve the gold sink aspect, but I would much prefer paying to assign a specific look to a specific gear slot.
4) Dye. I want it. This is probably technically impossible, but I am making crazy demands for it anyway!
I often find myself saying to WoW guildies, “this quality of life feature was handled way better in RIFT”, but .. yeah, costumes were way better in RIFT. That all being said, I have an outfit!
Head: Aurora of Transcendence
Far and away my favorite priest hat ever.
These were my third choice for shoulders (first is too rare a drop, second doesn’t exist in-game anymore), but I like the flowy cloth bits.
This shirt is great! I farmed Stockades for about an hour to get it.
The gloves I really want are sold by the Ebon Blade but apparently transferring factions means I no longer get phased with the quartermaster. Argh.
A chance drop while farming Stockades for the shirt, but it matches the skirt!
A hint of Devout, of course. These show up pretty frequently in the AH and saved me the farm time.
I’ve never figured out what this staff is supposed to be. A flower in a strong breeze? A piece of seaweed that was run over? Whatever, it matches the color scheme perfectly and doesn’t overpower the hat.
I think I’ve mentioned before that for the most part my newly returned WoW guildies skipped the last half of Cataclysm. With that in mind this weekend we’ve got a handful of max-level folks going to Firelands for the very first time. It sounds… warm!
Ellyndrial isn’t able to make it but as a former Firelands raid leader he did manage to post some boss tactics for our noob group, and I felt I should share them today on a sunny silly Friday. Have a great weekend!
Ellyndrial’s Guide to Firelands Boss Fights
Dude with dogs
– Keep the dogs away from the boss, sometimes they try to eat someone.
– Kill all the spiders, some people kill the boss, or more likely fall down the holes.
Gatekeeper something or other that stands in front of a gate
– Literally no idea.
Firebird with flying moonkin and rolling balls
– Don’t stand in the fire. Seriously, stop standing in the fire. Also, kill the balls. Also some people fly and get rings of doom and hooray.
STOMP STOMP I WALK INTO LAVA
– Steering is hard.
Dude who drops the sweet fire-cat druid staff that all the hunters always steal
– Everyone stands in when he’s a scorpion, everyone spreads out when he’s a cat, repeat.
Ragnaros has LEGS?!
– Sort of complicated, but mostly don’t get hit by the hammer and don’t get hit by the fire. Unless it’s your job.
(PS: You can find Elly on the Cat Context podcast or his blog That Angry Dwarf.)
I wrote this guide a while back for my guildies and I figured I could share it here for folks as well. Are you a YouTube noob who wants to start making game videos? Below is my advice for how to jump in, at varying levels of commitment and expense.
Also, if you like game videos such as the Spelunky Daily Challenge or a review of Democracy 3 or the Cat Context podcast video version, check out our YouTube channel!
Even in the era of YouTube domination, recording video is still kind of confusing and technically obtuse, and also the more you learn about it the more you realize how much more you COULD be doing if you really cared. You monster.
I am by no means an expert I wrote a guide to getting started anyway! It’s broken down into three stages of increasing commitment, expense, and .. um.. fanciness. Start with #1, and if you find you like making game videos and want to get more in depth then read the next stage. (There is no shame in doing the simple and cheap stage forever, either.
Cost: $30. Set-up time: about an hour.
Go download the free 30-day trial of Mirillis Action!.This is relatively new software and I hear it not only does a good job but it’s also very user friendly. If you like it, it’s also the least expensive game capture software out there right now with a one-time price of $30. There’s a pretty good video on YouTube of someone going through all the Action! menus and explaining the settings that is probably worth skimming at least.
Hint! A nice compromise between file size and quality for YouTube is 720p, which means you want to set your recording software to record at 1280×720 AND your game window resolution to 1280×720.
Hint! Raw video files are huuuuuge. Apparently Action! has pretty good compression naturally, but plan on using up about 1 gb for every 60 seconds of recording.
At this stage you can just record your audio live with whatever mic you have through Action!.
Hint! You want to hear your voice over the game sounds, so make sure you keep the game volume pretty low while recording.
Editing and Uploading
Let’s not worry about editing at this stage. You have a video with game audio and commentary! Log in to YouTube and upload that puppy.
Hint! If your YouTube account lets you add custom thumbnails, they should be 1280×720 in size.
Hint! The main way that new people will find your video on YouTube is via the tags, so make them good. For example: “The Wolf Among Us”, “Wolf Among Us”, “Telltale Games”, “Wolf Telltale”, “Wolf Among Us Walkthrough”.
Cost: $0. Set-up time: 2 hours.
We took care of video in Stage One for the most part, so there aren’t really any tweaks here. If you are so inclined you can find alternate codecs to do various things, including ones that will record a very similar quality at a much smaller file size. I use the Lagarith Lossless Codec myself, which gives me files of about half the size as the default codec.
The first step to improving audio is recording your commentary to its own track. Download Audacity, which is free and freaking amazing. You can do a lot with Audacity, but basically at this point you only need to know two things: make sure the microphone drop-down menu right above the recording area is set to your mic, and then click the red circle button to record. You can run Audacity while you’re recording the video for live stuff, or record the voice track later for post-commentary.
Choose “Export -> as wav” when you’re done. Now download Levelator, which is also free. Drag and drop your .wav file on top of Levelator and it will work its magic to make it sound better.
Hint! There could be a whole additional post on Audacity, but basically highlight any part of your sound file with your mouse and hit the Del button on your keyboard to remove it. Highlight a segment and click Generate -> Silence to make it silent. CTL+2 zooms in, while CTL+3 zooms out.
Editing and Uploading
So now you have a video file with game sound and an audio file with commentary. Open up the free Windows Movie Maker (or I guess the free iWork editor if you are on a Mac?). Click on “Add Videos”, and point it to your video file. Use the little pull-down menu next to “Record narration” and select your audio file. Save, and under the “Save Movie” pull-down menu select “For YouTube”.
Once that has finished rendering, upload it to YouTube. Watch your video and savor the improved sound quality.
For extremely basic editing after uploading, try the YouTube Editor. It handles like a 3-legged cow, but it is free and will do basic things like combining uploaded videos into one or trimming the ends off a video.
Hint! Rendering takes a super long time, probably at least twice the runtime of your video depending on your computer. Start the process and go watch some tv or do something else on the computer that doesn’t require much processing power.
Cost: $50+. Setup time: 3 hours.
Keep being awesome.
Also keep being awesome. Have you tried post-commentary yet? I like watching my video after recording and then doing the commentary, although sometimes that makes my obviously awesome jokes sound a bit rehearsed.
Hint! Want to just put some music in the background? Check out the Free Music Archive. Don’t use copyrighted music or YouTube will kick your butt. Also, don’t forget to turn the music volume down very low in your editor so it doesn’t muddle your voice.
Editing and Uploading
Okay, let’s get serious about editing! The first step is telling Windows Movie Maker to bug off. There are a lot of video editing software options but I like Sony Movie Studio which starts at $50. Here’s a quick video I found on setting up Sony Movie Studio the first time, but the important bits are making sure the editor is set to 1280×720 (just like Action! and your game) and “Internet” or medium-level quality. YouTube compresses things a lot, so a mid-level quality means short rendering times and just losing quality that YouTube would stomp down anyway.
Like Audacity there are SO MANY THINGS you can do with Movie Studio that I can’t even get into it. Project -> Import Media lets you import your video file(s), sound file(s), and any still images to use in your final video timeline. Like Audacity you can highlight segments with your mouse and then cut/copy/paste. The other things you need to know is Project -> Render As (create the video file on your hard drive) or Project -> Make Movie (create the video file and then upload to YouTube). You can choose to render your whole video or just the highlighted part, which is good if you have a long recording that you want to break up into two subsequent videos.
Movie Maker also has a fairly solid internal sound recording feature which is good in a pinch, but you will get the best quality by recording and editing with Audacity and then importing the sound file into Movie Maker.
Hint! There is way too much to talk about here for Movie Maker, but if you want to explore some of the advanced moves click the little “Event FX” symbol in the far right corner of any video track. This opens up the FX window and lets you play with pan, zoom, adding watermarks, and a bunch of other things.
If you finished Stage 3, you now have now learned some techniques for advanced video, audio, and editing. Now it is YOU who is the YouTube master.