If you had asked me two weeks ago what I thought the true potential of the PS4’s sharing features would be, I’d have likely replied “posting pictures to twitter” or “nothing yet, but YouTube uploading will be good when that becomes available”, completely dismissing what has become not only my favourite sharing feature, but one of my favourite parts of the PS4 – live streaming to Twitch.tv.
I would have never considered streaming before, and hadn’t really thought of it as a viable way to show the community a game before its release, but now I’ve realised the potential for not just me, but for you – we’ll be able to play games in front of your eyes as a companion to our review and give you all a better impression of how the game looks and plays. That’s something we’re going to start doing.
In fact, it’s something that I’ve been doing, albeit unofficially, over the past few days. I’ve streamed Killzone Shadow Fall, Knack and Resogun a few times and it’s always been a rewarding experience for me and everyone watching. Essentially, the PS4 gives us at TSA a way to easily show off your most anticipated games once the embargo lifts, quite literally with the press of a button.
You see, all you’ll need to do to start sharing on Twitch or UStream is click the Share button on your DualShock 4 – it’s where the Select button used to be – then choose your service and give your stream a name and even tweet out the link to bring viewers in. From there, you’re able to place a picture-in-picture overlay of your face onto the screen and speak directly to people (or not – it’s up to you), who can comment on the video service of your choice and the last two comments will show up on your screen, meaning you can converse with people watching.
This offers a great way to answer any questions about the game and just discuss things without losing focus or zoning out into a world of your own. In fact, it even paved the way for a brilliant gaming-related talk show on Twitch, named The Spartan Show. It’s a great justification for the purchase of the PlayStation Camera, and it even zooms into your face to complete the PIP look.
As well as watching these on the video services, you can select “Live from PlayStation” from the Dynamic Menu at any time – even if you’re in a game – and watch someone else play a title live. It’s sublimely integrated into the core of the system and it’s clear that Sony knew they were onto something special with this streaming push. If you’ve not got a PS4, then you can naturally watch through Twitch, but PLYSTN – designed by TSA co-founder Alex – offers a great way to view purely PlayStation streams from a PC.
Streaming doesn’t offer the greatest video quality, and there’s a large degree of compression even when streaming at “Best”, but that’s something that’s true for all the sharing options, to make sure that the uploading experience is as quick and easy as possible. There’s definitely room for a non-compressed option down the line for higher-speed connections, which I hope is something that they’ll implement, but for now, this just works and that alone is enough.
So, beyond streaming your videos live, pressing the Share button on the controller will also let you trim and upload video clips from the last fifteen minutes of play. Currently, this only supports uploading to Facebook, but if you’re able to download the video from there, then you can upload to YouTube manually, allowing you to share your videos publicly and far more easily.
The only issue is the compression. The below video – which was initially uploaded to Facebook via the Share button, downloaded at the same resolution, and then uploaded to YouTube, which naturally brought a bit more compression into play but allowed us to easily embed the video in this post.
Now, compare that to a video of FIFA which we uploaded to SkyDrive from the Xbox One, downloaded at the same resolution, and then uploaded to YouTube and you’ll see a bit of a difference – there’s still a bit of compression in the Xbox One video below, but it’s certainly less than the PS4 upload, and viewing each outside YouTube – here for the PS4 upload on Facebook and here for the Xbox One video on SkyDrive – shows that the Xbox One videos are just that bit better.
So, don’t expect high quality video content if you’re uploading from the PS4, although it will upload very fast, and it’s a nice way of giving a general idea of something or showing off that goal on FIFA, kill on Call of Duty or a new high score on Resogun. It’s easy to trim down too and ultimately takes seconds rather than minutes, so you can resume playing in no time. There aren’t many editing features aside from trimming it down, but this is likely so you upload fast and play more. Hopefully they’ll implement an editing suite in the future. It’s still a great feature, even if the on-system upload is limited to Facebook.
Connecting to Facebook has other quirks too, such as allowing you to import details such as your profile picture and full name, as well as share certain accolades like trophy unlocks on the system. It’s not the only social network you can use however, as you’re able to share pictures along with a caption and suitable hashtag – #PS4Share – on twitter in seconds, after pressing the share button or even just shouting “take screenshot” if you’re using voice commands.
Even these images are quite compressed compared to how they look on the system, and it can hinder some games, meaning you don’t really get your point across. For example, take a look at the uploaded, unedited image of Resogun below (and click to expand). It’s not that great, despite the game being a visual treat. Unfortunately, the compression appears to take place as soon as the screenshot is taken, rather than during the upload process, so there’s no salvaging the HD screens from the depths of your PS4.
The main thing to take away from the sharing features is that you won’t be able to show anyone “how good this looks” in 1080p and there’ll often be a degree of compression involved. It’s something that makes sense in context, and the incredibly simple sharing tools really make up for it, though exporting HD images or video through a USB drive would be welcomed.
Ultimately, it’s the broadcasting that’s the system’s biggest strength, and we can’t wait to share streams of gameplay of upcoming releases with you. We’ll hopefully kick that off today, streaming some Killzone, Knack, Resogun and anything else you’d like to see – I’ll leave a comment below and update the post with the stream details once they’re ready.