After creating more than 400 YouTube videos, the second most frequent question I see in my inbox is “How did you capture this footage?” You see, gamers everywhere are looking for ways to share their virtual accomplishments – clutch wins, narrow defeats, successfully induced rage-quits, the works.
The problem is that recording and sharing that delicious digital footage isn’t easy or intuitive. Sure, it keeps total idiots from spamming YouTube with every kill they score, but even well meaning players can have a hard time making sense of the software and hardware needed to capture in-game conquests.
Hell, I still occasionally screw up recording sessions due to silly errors.
It’s about time PC gamers got an easier solution for sharing their memorable MMOments. It’s time the whole FRAPS/Afterburner/bootleg Chinese recorder thing got demystified. It’s time Valve added universal video capture to Steam.
Building on existing infrastructure
Valve has already added universal screenshot capabilities to Steam – players can bind any key they want to instantly snap a photo of their in-game memories. It’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s unobtrusive. A simple tool just pops up post-game asking the player what he or she would like to do with the images captured.
Why not code a simple-to-understand video interface into the Steam shell as well? Yes, I understand video recording is significantly more resource intensive, but there’s no reason Valve couldn’t limit the feature to machines above a certain spec requirement, or provide tooltips like:
- It appears your computer is having a hard time recording this footage.
Try upgrading your CPU before capturing gameplay.
- WARNING: You’re very low (1.7 GB) on primary hard drive space.
Video capture will auto-close in 10 seconds.
- Jessica, nobody cares about your Amnesia playthrough.
This game has been done to death. Seriously, lay off.
Once the footage has been recorded and the game has been exited, players would have the opportunity to review each video, make simple edits, export it, or upload directly to YouTube. Ta-da! The future is friggin’ here.
Stronger faster FRAPSer better
And if you’re going to add built-in video recording to the world’s largest PC gaming software hub, why not aim for the stars with dramatic improvements over every other existing commercial option? With just a small project team, Valve could easily concoct a capture solution that’s leagues beyond common answers like FRAPS. The intrinsic Steam video recorder could offer:
- Custom recording resolution and framerate
- A wide variety of file format output options
- Manual and automatic microphone volume levels
- Multi-commentator channels, stereo mixing
- Streaming capabilities to YouTube, Twitch, etc.
- An “are you sure?” prompt for ending capture
- Various optimizations for increased performance
- Automated warnings (as mentioned above)
These are just some of the ways Valve could trump the competition. And let’s not forget the most obvious advantage: Valve’s recording suite would be baked straight into Steam. It would be free for every player, making it the de facto capture tool for the entire world overnight. Or hell, throw in a $5 fee and feed Gabe N’s kids for thirty generations.
Like it or not, competition is coming
But whether Valve wants to implement universal Steam video capture or not, they really don’t have a choice. The big guns in console production are adding always-on footage recording to their next gen consoles, which will obviously see incredible sales. Sony in particular promised to deliver instant, integrated gameplay capture with the Playstation 4′s new Share button. And if Sony’s played this hand, you can bet dollars to donuts Microsoft has something similar up its sleeves with the 720/Durango/Xbox Infinity.
Soon, nearly every gamer (and hell, even their families) will have access to internet video broadcasting. Scary or not, that’s the fast-approaching reality.
If Valve really wants to keep PC gaming socially and technologically relevant, they’re going to have to catch up to or leapfrog the console competition. The company already has experience making screenshot and replay capture tools, and nobody doubts the company has the talent and funding to pull it off. Now they’ve just got to muster their resources (best idea: cancel HL3 and reallocated the money), make the software work, and help keep PC gaming on the top of the technological heap.