Home Editorial FRAPS or FAIL: Steam needs built-in video capture

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.


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4 replies to this post
  1. most of the target points for the Steam video capture function are already available by other software. dxtory as an axample does most of these already. (just streaming and warning messages aren’t available, but thats ok cause its just a video capture tool)

  2. “An “are you sure?” prompt for ending capture”
    Oh, right in the known feels.

    Awesome idea, to be honest. Half the functionality is already there in TF2’s replay feature, this doesn’t sound like something that’d be too difficult for Valve to pull off.

    I’m calling it, that feature will come with complete movie maker support like TF2’s replays in every game that Valve has ever even looked at.

    Although there must be a point where we must ask ourselves, “What else is this bloody program supposed to do?” It already manages about every game on the planet, in buying and playing, savegames, screenshots, mods, support, community, internet, does all of that ingame whether or not it is theirs (Hint hint, EA)…

    Now they’ve also got their first MMO up there and offer simplified subscription process. Just imagine what this’d lead to.

    One day, Valve will have officially taken over rule over everything. I, for one, would welcome a world in which Always-on, bad customer service, and particularly EA are all outlawed.

  3. That sure would be convenient, but I don’t think it’s as critical as you make it to be.

    Consoles do get reccording software, but just how good it’ll going to be is yet to be seen, plus from the current information they seem to be mostly “film and drop them on the web” orientated. So Wing, would you as an experienced youtube uploader, prefer this kind of method or do some post-editing before, from your videos I see you do the latter more, and that’s completely fine, but it just means console’s features just won’t be enough in this regard.

    Also unlike consoles, PC’s already has massive ammount of all kinds of software, freely available to everyone to statisfy their every need, that same FRAPS, it’s old and all, bit it’s still good and serves it’s purpose, isn’t it?

    So I don’t think that the fact of consoles getting this feature is a threat for Valve in any way. They’re a powerful PC game retailer there’s no way users would turn away from them just because they need to use additional software to film their games. Valve still might add that feature, to make their customers happier at some point, but not because of the pressure of competition.

    Annyway, I’d still love to see them adding it soon.

    • Well, as far as FRAPS goes, I hate it. It works nice, but if I switch a window (to adjust volume) or get a pop-up, my recording session ends. I would like to be able to go to my pause menu and quickly do something in another window, with the session continuing.

      It’s just frustrating. Sure, I could just make another recording, and stick them together, but having to edit videos is another nuisance.

      Actually, I have this one idea where I would start the recording with the intro to a random song, with it recording the game, and switch over to the song window after a few seconds to stop it, then switch back to the game to start playing.

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