Making GIFs of your game

As wise men say, “A good GIF of your game speaks louder than hundreds of screenshots” and, while dealing with audiences with short attention spans, you need strong visual hook to punch a viewer in the face with all the awesomeness your game has. With free tools available there’s no reason not to make your promotional material stand out during “Screenshot Saturday” and even if you don’t like to share, GIFs are great for documenting the progress of your development. Let’s make some!

Capturing GIFs

The fastest and easiest way to get those moving images from your gameplay is various small screen-capture-to-GIF applications. I use them any time I implement a new mechanic, especially during gamejams, to quickly share my progress to Twitter, TigSource devlog or Imgur (progress albums can be quite effective self-promo). Great for early feedback without any playtesting too.

I’ve been using a couple of GIF recording applications (GIFCam and LiceCap) and just before starting to write about them I found out about ScreenToGIF, which at the first glance seems to have it all . Anyway, here’s a quick overview of all three tools (all for Windows OS).

GIFCam (free)

Most popular one. Only has three fixed FPS settings: 33, 16 and 10. What’s very annoying about it, that every time you launch GIFCam you have to change the very important settings (FPS, capture area) from the defaults. Especially, when selected FPS setting is not visible in the UI (it’s hidden under the arrow near “Rec” button). Also, get in to habit of hitting that drop-down arrow and choosing “New..” after saving a GIF if you plan to record another one and don’t want it to be appended to the first one.

GIFCam user interface

Good things

  • built-in GIF editor
  • built-in optimization
  • full screen recording

Bad things

  • no keyboard shortcuts
  • doesn’t remember capture area size or FPS setting
  • FPS settings are fixed
  • UI is quite badly designed
  • resizing capture area is painful

ScreenToGIF (free)

My new find and so far it looks very good both functionality and UI-wise, very fresh and still in active development. It combines both GIFCam and LiceCap and adds even more. Definitely try this one out.

ScreenToGIF user interface

Good Things

  • Nice, simple and usable UI
  • built-in GIF editor (you can edit any GIF, not only the one you just recorded)
  • no hardcoded FPS limit
  • saves session preferences like FPS/capture (yay!)
  • automatic GIF saving to a specified folder (blessing!)
  • shortcut keys (bindable, but only to function keys)
  • displays mouse clicks

ScreenToGIF settings

Bad Things

  • with default settings recorded GIF quality is not ideal
  • I forgot it had pre-start countdown checked and thought that my GIFs are being cut because of bug (not a real issue)
  • haven’t used it enough to complain about anything more

LiceCap (free)

I’m not using it anymore, but I spent some time with it and it’s terrible UI design while trying to make Crisp Bacon GIFs. So, for all those “good” times, here it is.

LiceCap UI

Good things

  • saves session preferences like FPS/capture
  • no hardcoded FPS limit
  • keyboard shortcut (for record/pause)

Bad things

  • hard coded pre-start timer
  • isn’t always-on-top
  • pressing “record” goes to “Save as..” dialog, which is a bit awkward
  • no editor

GIF examples

All examples recorded at 33FPS, because that’s a best setting enforced by GIFCam.

ScreenToGIF (default quality settings)
ScreenToGIF results
ScreenToGIF (best settings, with pixel change detection)

6 thoughts on “Making GIFs of your game”

  1. Hi ! Thanks to you, I discovered ScreenToGif and I totally love it ! I was using GIFCam, which does now offer to change the FPS settings, and remember them and the capture area size. But I really missed the keyboard shortcuts.

    ScreenToGif is really nice, and 2 years after your article, still in active development.

    1. Glad it helped you! I should update this article one day. Still using both of them and latest GIFCam improvements were pleasantly surprising.

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