Considering integrating your next game into a live streaming platform? Start here.
Live Video Streaming is disrupting the way that Game Studios market and develop games. Historically, video games were developed to be played by a single individual or with a group of individuals in the same room. As internet technologies evolved, online multiplayer matchmaking became a defacto feature for competitive style games. With the rise of live streaming platforms like Twitch, video game players now have tens of thousands of online viewers watching their gameplay. This new paradigm has created the concept of “crowd play” where the audiences themselves are participants in the game that they are watching. This new opportunity has led game studios to begin designing video games around the streaming experience and creating ancillary experiences to improve the experience for online audiences.
Twitch Extensions, introduced in 2017, created a way for developers to build customized applications that can integrate with Twitch streams. Extensions come in multiple varieties, ranging from simple panels under the video player to more complex video overlay extensions that allow interactive components to be placed directly on top of the stream’s video player. These extensions allow Twitch viewers to have direct interaction with streamers, alter the gameplay, or even receive gameplay rewards just for watching. Additionally, extensions built with Twitch Bits allows for building micro-transactions, which allow both the streamer and developer to earn additional revenue. Overall, the goal of Twitch Extensions is to create an interactive viewing experience that can help game developers build a community that loves to watch and play their games.
Design Tenets to consider
Based on examining characteristics of existing video game titles and existing game integrations I believe the following design tenets should guide the development of any game integration.
- Preserve competitive fairness: The Extension’s capabilities must be implemented in such a way that the competitive integrity of the game is not compromised.
- Deliver information in near real-time: Viewers have near real-time information.
- Provide differentiated value: The Extension should provide information that would otherwise be unobtainable by viewers. It should enhance the viewing, playing and streamer/viewer interaction in a way such that streamers/viewers would rather play or watch with the Extension than without it.
In this section, we review some of the ways that existing games have already used Extensions to enhance the streamer and player experience.
Viewer Companion / Overseer Extensions
A viewer companion Extension serves to be a “viewer’s best friend”. It allows viewers to immerse themselves in information about the streamer’s game that they would otherwise not be able to obtain by simply watching a player. These extensions ultimately serve the following goals:
- Help viewers strategize with streamers
- Help new viewers understand the game context
- Give viewers who have not played the game a taste of the game mechanics
- Expose viewers to information about new characters, maps, or items
Example Extensions: The PUBG Overseer extension is a Twitch Extension created for the First Person Shooter PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG). It provides several features for Twitch viewers, most prominently to toggle an interactive map that directly sits on top of the streamer’s video player. The map updates in real-time and allows viewers to see key in-game points of interest, such as roads, the streamers current location, location of loot, and the safe area of the map. Additionally, viewers can inspect the contents of the streamer’s inventory as well as read the descriptions of each item/weapon. Lastly, the streamer’s game statistics are shown to the viewers to highlight their performance metrics.
The Teamfight Tactics Companion extension is a Twitch Extension created by Sengage for the autobattler game Teamfight Tactics. It allows viewers to interact and consult with a graphic interface on strategic item combinations, and character profiles. Since Teamfight Tactics is heavily based on a rotating selection of strategic item combinations, the extension allows viewers to stay up to date on the newest item combinations and help them strategize with their streamers in real-time.
Technical Requirements: Compared to the other implementations described later in the document, the complexity of implementing an extension of this category is in the low-medium range.
The PUBG Overseer Extension for example requires APIs to receive live game information from the game server. Additionally, fast API response rates are crucial for viewers to receive up-to-date information and maintain a positive user experience. Furthermore, an authentication mechanism is required to connect the streamer’s in-game profile with the Extension instance on their channel.
The Teamfight Tactics Companion Extension uses APIs to receive static information about the latest item and character details as well as the respective images. A CDN is required to serve up the images that are hosted remotely. Extensions of this type can also be built to not require APIs or CDNs if the information and images are bundled with extension assets. However, with this second approach, an update to the item or image in-game will require a corresponding Extension update.
These extensions are used to enhance the viewer experience by allowing them to collectively influence key moments during the stream. These extensions ultimately serve the following goals:
- Create a community where audiences are actively affecting their content, in a choose-your-own-adventure style
- Give viewers who have not played the game a taste of the game mechanics
- Optionally, allow streamers to monetize from viewer participation
Extension Examples: The Darwin Project Spectator Experience is a Twitch Extension that was created for Darwin Project, an indie battle royale game. What the Extension enables is the ability for the audience to vote to determine key game decisions. During the stream, viewers encounter an overlay that prompts them to make a choice that is relevant to the actions in the game, such as where the next forbidden zone is (location on the map that viewers will accumulate damage if they do not leave). After the voting closes, the game will execute the option with the most votes. There are several voting options that provide the ability to aid specific players, for example, viewers can vote on a particular player in the match to be healed. While, this allows the audience to swing the tide of the battle, it can also be abused by having players with large audiences gain the most favorable votes.
The extension also allows viewers to vote on non-game impacting polls such as which player they predict to be the match victor. These poll results are displayed in-game to all players in the match. This allows audiences to “cheer on” particular players in the round while also not introducing any competitive advantages to either side.
The Fortnite Jump Poll extension allows Twitch viewers to vote on the landing location for a Fortnite streamer’s game. The extension also enabled streamers to set a price to participate in the poll. The streamer uses an interface on Twitch to initiate the poll. Upon closing of the poll, the results were displayed on the same Twitch interface, which allowed the streamer to make their decision based on the community.
Technical Requirements: Compared to the other implementations described in the document, the complexity of implementing an extension of this category can be anywhere from the low-high range.
Similar to the PUBG Overseer Extension, the Darwin Project Extension requires APIs to get live game information from the game server. However, since the viewers can directly vote to affect game events, additional APIs are required to allow ingress of information into the game server. As before, fast API response rates are crucial for viewers to both receive up-to-date information as well as have their votes reach the game server without a significant delay. Similarly, an authentication mechanism is required to connect the streamer’s in-game profile with the Extension instance on their channel.
The Fortnite Jump Poll Extension is the lowest technical overhead of all the Extension implementations discussed in the document. Since the polls are initiated by the streamer and the results are displayed in an off-game interface, no game APIs are required to power the experience. A similar extension could be developed independently of the game development, and would require updates only when fundamental game information changes, e.g. drop locations.
Twitch Plays Extensions
These extensions are used when the goal is to allow individual viewers to be direct participants in the streamer’s game. These extensions ultimately serve the following goals:
- Immerse viewers by allowing them to directly affect the content they’re watching
- Allow viewers to “cause chaos” and provoke reactions from streamers, ultimately helping build a relationship between the streamer, audiences, and the game
- Incentivize streamers to play the game as it allows for a higher level of audience engagement
- Allow viewers to receive in game rewards for watching and participating as part of the stream
- Optionally allow Streamers to monetize from viewer participation
Clone Drone in the Danger Zone, a single player dungeon crawler, released a companion Extension that provides an overlay enabling viewers to spawn allies or monsters in instance of the streamer’s game. These spawned characters carry the name of the initiating viewer, furthering the idea that they are a participant of the game. While the initiating viewer does not have individual control over the spawned character, this integration allows the game play to simulate a multiplayer experience in which the viewers can help or “troll” the streamer.
Technical Requirements: Compared to the other implementations described earlier in the document, the complexity of implementing an extension of this category is high.
Similar to the Darwin Project Spectator Experience extension, the Clone Drone in the Danger Zone Extension requires APIs to send and receive live information to/from the game server. As before, fast API response rates are crucial for viewers to both receive up-to-date information as well as have their votes reach the game server without a significant delay. Similarly, an authentication mechanism is required to connect the streamer’s in-game profile with the Extension instance on their channel.
The types of game integrations discussed are summarized in the table below.
Misc additional Twitch features
In addition to empowering the viewing experience through Extension, there are several other ancillary features that serve to benefit the Twitch viewer-game relationship.
In-Game Virtual Goods
The majority of Twitch viewership is centered around gaming. Rewarding viewers with in-game virtual goods serves to both incentivize viewers to watch their game streams, as well as provide a catalyst for a viewer to download/purchase a game.
The following are native Twitch features available to support this category of rewards:
- Twitch Community Loot Chests
- Twitch Prime loot
- Twitch Drops
In addition to these Twitch-native integrations, an Extension can provide a feature to reward viewers with virtual goods based on participation or witnessing key streamer events (e.g. streamer won a round after being outnumbered 1 v 3). This requires linking the game identity to the Twitch identity.
The Borderlands 3 Echocast extension allowed viewers to collect rewards during special events during the game called “Rare Chest Events”. Upon a streamer finding one of these chests, all active viewers of the stream who had linked their game account to the extension had a chance to be rewarded with an in-game item.
Tournaments and esports
Esports tournaments are among the most viewed events on Twitch. Additionally, many competing players stream their gameplay, especially when tournament qualifiers are distributed (e.g. Fortnite World Cup).
The following are several features which are popular with existing competitions.
- Tournament Standings Tracker
- Live standings and metrics
- Fantasy team integration
- Vote play by play or the outcome of each round
- Player/Team profiles
Below is an example of an Extension we created at Sengage for the 2019 Fortnite World Cup qualifiers.
Twitch Extensions on mobile do not exist as an overlay on top of the video. Rather they are placed in a dedicated section of the application, adjacent to the stream. This should be considered when designing mobile support for a Twitch Extension.
Montana Wong is the Founder of Sengage, a software company that is building new ways to experience content online. Their products are used by 20,000+ creators worldwide. They’ve also helped companies build integrations into popular live streaming platforms like Twitch.
I believe that entertainment and gaming are converging and that live streaming platforms are at the center of it all. Connect with me on LinkedIn or say hi on Twitter, mentioning this story as you write.
Check out some of Sengage’s Twitch Extensions over at https://www.sengage.io/twitch-extensions