If you’re a fan of video games, chances are that you’re more than familiar with Let’s Play’s. These series of gameplay commentaries have gained massive success within recent years and now make up a large and thriving community on websites like YouTube. People everywhere are starting channels and producing these videos at an ever-increasing rate. But how do they do it? How do you get started? Where do you begin? If you’ve never done anything like video editing or screen recording, these can be difficult questions to tackle. Luckily there are guides like this one to help you figure out how to record your gameplay, commentary, and then edit it all together.
How to record gameplay
So, the first issue to tackle is recording the gameplay itself. This greatly depends on what platform you intend to record games from: console or PC, as each one has its own separate solution. Let’s start with consoles
It doesn’t matter if you’re an Xbox or PlayStation fan, either way, you’ll want to get a game capture card. While most modern consoles (like the Xbox One or PS4) can record gameplay natively, the result is often sub-par in video quality and difficult to export to a computer for editing. So to get good quality video that will be easy to edit, you’ll want a capture card.
Shown above is the Elgato HD60, which can be found at the following link: Elgato HD60 Game Capture Card. It works by passing your console’s HDMI output to Elgato’s software on your computer. While it is expensive, it is one of the most recommended ways of recording console gameplay. Easy to use software that works out of the box is pretty hard to beat, and Elgato reigns in that case. Press record, give your video a title, and it takes care of the rest.
Now, if you’re wanting to record gameplay on a computer, you’ve got a much cheaper, but slightly more complicated option. Open Broadcaster Software, more commonly referred to as OBS, is a free and open source option for screen capture software and can be downloaded from the following link: OBS Screen Recording Download. It’s used by everyone from Let’s Play beginners to veterans of the trade. While it can be a little tricky to set up and fine tune, the result is a good quality video of whatever you need from your computer. Here’s a video to help guide you through the setup process:
It’s important to note that I do not recommend using the mic recorder in OBS for your voice-over commentary, as this will put your mic audio and game audio in the same track, making it difficult to edit your commentary audio later. We’ll cover how to record your commentary next.
How to record voice-over commentary
Now that you have the basics for game recording, it’s time to record your voice-over commentary. This will serve as your main way of interacting with your audience. Your commentary should consist of your reactions to events within the game, your thought process as you solve problems in the game, and engaged reading of the relevant in-game text (ex., signs, character dialogue, etc.).
To actually record (and edit) your commentary, I recommend using Audacity, which can be downloaded from the following link: Audacity Download. Audacity is a free software for recording and editing audio, and it is unparalleled in free performance. Here’s a good video on how to do some basic audio editing using Audacity: Audacity Audio Editing Video.
But what about the hardware to record this brilliant commentary? What about the mic? Well, that’s easy. If you’re gaming on a laptop, chances are that you’ve already got a webcam with a mic, so you can just use that. If you’re using a desktop without a built-in microphone, and you don’t have a spare webcam lying around, or you just want to upgrade your audio quality, you’ll probably want to pick up a standalone mic.
The Blue Snowball iCE and Floureon BM-800 are excellent starter mics. While the Snowball is essentially ready to go out of the box, the Floureon needs a little more set up, as it doesn’t come with a stand. Thankfully NEEWER makes a pretty good boom arm for a reasonable price that can be found here: NEEWER Boom Arm. These are excellent places to start recording your commentary.
If you get the BM-800 and decide to upgrade your audio quality, this power supply from Innogear will help properly power the mic to its full potential.
Another great mic recommendation is the Audio-Technica AT2020. While it is more expensive than the previously listed mics, it is an excellent mic with great audio quality, and would definitely make for a good upgrade path.
How to edit everything
Now that we’ve figured out how to record both your gameplay and your commentary, it’s time to get editing. There is an abundance of video editing software available, both free and paid, but I will try to limit my recommendations.
When it comes to free video editing, Lightworks is a pretty hard-hitting competitor. Boasting work with many Oscar award-winning films, it’s easy to see how it could be useful for even simple video edits. The only difficulty is that the software has a steep learning curve, and a fair amount of its capabilities may be beyond the needs of basic editing to get started.
For something a little more basic, VideoPad offers a simple and easy-to-use layout, while still remaining a powerful and versatile editing tool. Either of these pieces of software make solid choices for editing your Let’s Play, but if you want to gain a little more edge, here are some paid options as well.
Sony Vegas Pro is a widely popular choice. Its powerful and sleek design make it an excellent choice for bringing your videos to that next level of content and entertainment.
Adobe Premier Pro is another popular choice among paid video editing software. With plenty of tutorials online, you’re bound to figure out how to do just about any editing trick you can think of. If you want to add any kind of graphics to your video, you might also check out Adobe After Effects to really make your videos pop out.
I’ve given you the tools, now how do you actually do this?
Well, this is a hard question to answer. Every Let’s Player has their own style and way of doing things to give their videos their special bit of flare. But there are still some basics I can offer.
To begin, start recording your gameplay on OBS or your capture card, then start recording your mic audio on Audacity for your commentary. It might be beneficial to have these on the same hotkey shortcut. Now, move around the menu or click around before you get started while saying out loud what you’re doing. This will help you sync up your mic audio to the rest of your video later. Now, start playing your game. Give an intro at the title or menu screen, something to introduce your audience to the game and its basic principle. As you start playing, make sure you keep talking. This is important to video game commentary, as you should want to enhance the game with your input. Make jokes, talk about observations of the game, think out loud about puzzles or interesting features of the game, anything and everything you can talk about, you should. But be mindful of when characters speak in-game, especially during cutscenes. It can be annoying if you end up talking over important in-game audio, and you can end up detracting from the enjoyment of the game for your audience. You can attempt to play through the game in one sitting, but it can be far more beneficial to play in manageable chunks. Try and stop in places that make sense in terms of the storyline, where the game naturally breaks and pauses. This will help give your final videos a sense of structure and flow, rather than random bits of gameplay. When you’re finished recording, leave a few seconds of silence at the end of your audio. This will be important for cutting out background noise.
With recordings in hand, it’s time to get busy editing. Starting with the audio, fire up Audacity. Earlier in this guide, I showed a video on how to apply basic editing to your audio, and I will link to it again here: Audacity Audio Editing Video. Essentially, you just want to smooth out your audio levels and minimize the background noise. Now import your commentary audio over your gameplay, and use the bit where you clicked around the menu to sync everything up. It may be beneficial to do a quick scrub through the rest of your video to make sure everything is timed perfectly. You don’t want your scream to start before the actual jump scare in a horror game, or any other issues like that. Now start editing the video. Basic editing is mostly cutting out the “boring bits.” Things like long character creation, outside interruptions (i.e., someone knocking on your door), long scenes with little happening, etc. can all be cut out. For instance, let’s say you’re playing a survival game. You just cleared an area of enemies, and it’s time to check the surroundings for loot. It might not be the best idea to include this footage, unless you discuss something within that time, such as the direction of the game or how a recent in-game event reminds you of something that happened to you in real life. The important thing to remember is that you want to keep your audience engaged, and you can accomplish this by adding content to the game via your commentary. So, if whatever is happening doesn’t enhance the game in some way, it’s probably best to leave it out.
Once you’re done with that, you can see if you want to add any kind of graphics or effects. Many Let’s Players include this to give their content a little more edge. Things like sound and visual effects can add comedy and intrigue for your audience. For instance, if something in the background of your game moves and it startles you, a zoom shot on the movement with an alarming sound effect can add a little character and humor to your shock. You can also add little boxes of text to characters in the game, adding joking insight. None of this is necessary, but it can certainly give your video a little more intrigue.
Now that we’ve covered all the general ideas of how to make a Let’s Play, you might be wondering where to start. This is where it can be helpful to look at what other Let’s Players are doing and finding inspiration from them. This can be anything from seeing what kind of game would be popular to play to seeing what kind of visual effects they’re implementing. There’s always something you can learn from seeing what others do successfully. That being said, here are some Let’s Players to draw some inspiration from.
It would be wrong of me to not start with the king of Let’s Play’s himself, PewDiePie, real name Felix. Holding the world record for most subscribers on YouTube, Felix has made a huge name for himself and can practically be considered the face of gameplay commentary. iHasCupquake is known for her cutesie style of commentary, as well as her game-based baking videos. Next on the list would be Markiplier. Mark is known for his overactive style of playing and constant fan interaction, as well as his iconic pink moustache logo. Another prominent figure is jacksepticeye, real name Seán. His style is very high energy with lots of excitement, which has garnered him millions of views and subscribers. Geek Remix is a duo of female commentators who collaborate in their content. Their videos are recognizable for their pushing of societal norms and expectations, as well as a large amount of content outside of just Let’s Plays. The Yogscast is a group of Let’s Players and video game commentators who work on all kinds of projects together. Simon and Lewis are the original duo that started the Yogscast, but members now include Duncan, Sjin, Hannah, Kim, Martyn, Rythian, Nilesy, Zoey, Zylus, and Caff.
That’s all folks!
And that’s it! You’ve got all the tools to make your own Let’s Play. The rest is just practice and patience. Share your Let’s Play with us at @DH_UNT!