One of the biggest hurdles in providing a quality interactive stream is having to constantly jump around browser and application windows while still trying to play and keep the focus on the game you’re streaming. I’ve been streaming with MMORPG for years now, and it’s still always a fight to get the setup just right. Thankfully, the Elgato Stream Deck was just released and solves just about every issue you can think of when it comes to stream juggling.
The folks at Elgato (makers of the popular HD60 and HD60 Pro), sent along a review unit of the Stream Deck last week. I could test it out, despite meddlesome and sleep-avoiding babies, and now I can’t imagine streaming without it. Even folks with multi-monitor setups still often have to alt-tab or swap between displays to do things like run GIFs, mute sources, change scenes, or send messages. The Stream Deck has 15 customizable LCD keys to assign functions to and take away a lot of that tedium.
If there’s one thing it can’t manage, but the sheer virtue of needing more direct input, it’s actually chatting with your viewers. It can, however, send out canned messages to chat, which you can customize and nest under folder buttons. Folders work like they do on say your smart phone – even though there are 15 keys on the Stream Deck, you can use folders to nest near limitless hotkeys and actions.
I’ve personally only got about 9 of the 15 keys in use right now, because I’m not used to having this much control over every little detail. I’ve got a customized Tweet to send out info when I’m streaming, a Mute button for the mic on OBS, three different scene changes for OBS, two celebratory GIF buttons for when I don’t suck hard in-game, and Twitch Chat buttons to send out messages there. The only thing I still need is a “Go Live in OBS” or “End Stream in OBS” button, which I’m sure are coming.
Using the Stream Deck software, Elgato has a ton of stuff pre-set for you to choose from, even setting up the ability to play and pause or skip music if you’re the streamer that plays songs while you game. What’s cool, but something I haven’t tried yet myself, is that you can make custom button icons for each of your buttons. If you wanted them to look snazzy or distinguished from the basic ones Stream Deck uses, you could say put a picture of a PUG where the PUG button is (see below), or a shot of Link, screen-crabs of your scenes even. As long as they adhere to the 76x76 pixel size.
When Elgato announced the device a few months back, I was ecstatic. You can customize your keyboard’s hotkeys to do a lot of the things the Stream Deck does, but it’s a pain to setup and most people won’t bother. I was getting used to just having to juggle nine-million tabs or apps while streaming.
The Stream Deck takes a lot of that hassle out of the picture, and the drag and drop software interface makes it extremely simple to add flare and control to your streams. I can now keep my games running at 4K, with Restream Chat in full-screen, while using the Stream Deck to manage scenes, activate GIFs and send out tweets while muting my mic when the baby starts crying. Basically, it’s a busy streamer’s lifesaver.
The price is the biggest hurdle - it’s a bit of an investment at $150, but if you’re serious about streaming and want this kind of flexibility, it should be worth the chunk of change. You can order on Amazon, GameStop, or Elgato’s own store.