Whether you’re an emerging Twitch broadcaster or simply a gamer who wants to share your epic gaming highlights with pals, recording your video gameplay is all the rage these days. But which recording solution should you use if you’re just dipping your toes into capturing gaming videos? There’s no shortage of video recording tools out there vying for your attention, many with unique hooks or features.
We played with five of the most popular free gameplay capture tools around—Open Broadcast Software, Nvidia’s ShadowPlay, Raptr, MSI Afterburner, and Plays.tv—to try and answer that question. Each serves a different purpose, such as recording and sharing highlight clips, broadcasting your gameplay to the world, or creating a complete archive of your favorite game. This guide will point you toward the best recording software for your needs.
Let’s start with an overview of each of the programs in no particular order, followed by a look at what sort of performance hit each program inflicts on games.
Of the five game recording programs we’re covering, Plays.tv is by far the easiest to use. It makes it really simple—and fun—to post short gaming clips online, and it barely affects your game’s frame rates (which we’ll get to later on).
But Plays.tv isn’t just a video capture tool; it’s hooked into a website that’s sort of like an addicting Instagram for gamers. When you first boot up Plays.tv, the program presents you with a dashboard of popular gameplay clips from the Plays.tv website. Click on a clip you’d like to see and your browser will open to the video’s page.
As for the actual game recording features, when the app is running it starts recording your gaming sessions automatically. By default, Plays.tv will record up to 10GB of gameplay at 720p resolution and 30 frames per second. If you’d like to tweak the maximum storage capacity, resolution, bitrate, recording framerate, or other technical aspects of the video, all those options can quickly be changed in the software’s settings. The settings also let you disable automatic recording of full gameplay sessions if you’d like, and allow you to enable configurable hotkey-based video capture instead.
Once you’re done with your gaming session, Plays.tv pops up a window with your recorded gameplay, offering very simple tools for cutting down your video into a shareable 30-second clip. (If you’re playing League of Legends or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, the client will even automatically flag key moments like deaths, kills, and bomb plants.) Once that’s done, you add a title, a description, and upload it to Plays.tv with one click. The URL for your new clip is automatically copied to your clipboard for easy sharing on email, instant messaging, or social networks like Twitter and Facebook.
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