How to develop your own HQ Trivia

3 tips on how to create, produce, and stream a live trivia quiz

We launched PlayTrivia, our end-to-end solution that unites ultra-low-latency video streaming and massive multiplayer interactivity.

The popularity of HQ Trivia has been skyrocketing since its inception in August 2017, consistently reaching millions of live viewers with their daily quiz show. As we discussed a few months ago, the app is a clever combination of the power of television and the popular game show genre, the interactivity of the mobile phone and the immediacy of live streaming.

Given its viral success, how could you not want to make your own HQ Trivia-style app? Though the enthusiasm is probably already coursing through your veins, certain questions might linger: How do you develop the app? What kind of equipment is required to produce a live trivia game? And how do you stand out among all the other live streaming and trivia apps?

In this article, we’ll explore three helpful tips about developing your very own version of HQ Trivia, including how to set up the production, and more importantly, how to differentiate yourself from the trivia behemoth itself.

1. Low latency video and scalable servers

At Ex Machina, we have over 10 years of experience making television and video interactive. In 2009, we supported 1 VS 100 on Xbox Live, the largest multiplayer game show ever on any console. We have also built hundreds of interactive apps to help bring television to life, including the official app for The Voice in over 20 countries and a play-along platform for Deal or no Deal.

In recent years, we have spearheaded several successful projects that combined our experience with large-scale interactivity and live-streaming video, using Facebook, Twitch, YouTube, and other platforms. Based on this experience, we developed a white label live trivia solution that can manage hundreds of thousands of players under one digital roof.

Developing a scalable live trivia app brought two important challenges to the forefront: providing low latency video to millions of players, and syncing the trivia game in real-time so that everyone is served each question and answer at the same time.

Scalable servers

Developing applications for television requires scalable servers. As soon as you send a push notification or the presenter asks the viewers to open the app, there is a huge influx of players in one fell swoop. As a result, we developed a scalable and redundant platform using Amazon’s AWS cloud solution without a single point of failure. It also has the ability to survive instance failures and reboots.

Low Latency Live Video

Over the last few years, there has been a growing trend of reducing the end-to-end latency of live streams. With the rapid growth and resounding success of Periscope and Twitch, we have seen enormous investments on the part of Facebook and YouTube to help provide a reliable live stream solution.

Experience Latency for different live stream platforms

But hosting your own platform can be costly and complex. There are many live video standards to consider (Dash, HLS, RTMP/RTSP, WebRTC), with each one offering many different configurations to optimize buffer time, latency, and cost. The intricacies of selecting a low latency video platform and CDN partner will depend on your region, your audience, and your quality requirements. That’s why we integrated partners with different specializations to provide the best solution for any use case.

If you’re looking to entertain the masses, don’t miss our other write-up on how to prepare for scale when developing your own HQ Trivia-style app.

2. Studio and production

In addition to a scalable environment, you will need a fully-loaded production hub that allows you to produce and manage live trivia games. This setup would include a studio, production setup, production team, and a presenter who knows how to keep eyeballs glued to the screen.

Studio

It doesn’t take much to stream a live trivia game — a single camera and a green screen should do the trick. However, if you take a page out of a professional Twitch streamer’s book, a high-quality camera, microphone, and ideal lighting can go a long way towards star-quality video and sound.

Some examples of what a basic live trivia studio requires:

  • A soundproof room
  • A green screen for chroma key
  • An HD Camera with SDI/HDMI output
  • One or more external directional microphones
  • A tripod
  • Three-point lighting:
  • Lights on the presenter
  • Lights for the back of the presenter
  • Lights to illuminate the green screen

In addition, you should consider a teleprompter for the presenter text, a way to communicate directly with the host, and a screen to display real-time results in-studio.

Example of a studio design for live trivia shows

Production setup

Once your recording studio is all set up, it’s time to actually deliver the video to the end user. First, you’ll need to chromakey your background. You also need to consider an introduction video, an optional countdown timer for that extra dose of adrenaline, and any other clips you want to incorporate. These clips define your style, so make sure you take care to use a consistent and attractive design flow.

You can keep your production running smoothly with free software like OBS, or invest a few bucks in digital tools like Xsplit or Wirecast. Alternatively, you can purchase hardware — like a Tricaster — to switch between inputs. And for existing media companies, you can of course also use your existing studio for the production of the live show.

Production team

Producing a live show requires a huge amount of teamwork, so choose your cohort wisely. From brainstorming questions, to writing the presenter’s texts, to producing the livestream and hosting the trivia quiz, your team will constantly be sharing information.

You’ll need multiple groups: one will be populated by creative writers that tie all the questions together with smart and witty lines, and another will create trivia questions, both easy and challenging, that are difficult to ‘hack’ on Google.

For when the camera is rolling, you’ll need a producer that understands the intricacies of live video and can easily switch between different scenes and setups to make the broadcast more interesting. And finally, you will need a quiz operator, who can manage and trigger each question at exactly the right moment.

Presenter

Your presenter, the star of the show, may just be the most important person you hire. HQ Trivia did a great job hiring charismatic boy-next-door Scott Rogowsky as the face behind the majority of their streams. He has built quite the fan base among HQ Trivia players, who tend to vocalize their disappointment when he’s not on duty.

3. Differentiate from HQ Trivia

If you want to make it big, you’ll need to find your own niche and a unique flair that makes you stand out from the crowd. This can be accomplished by choosing a specific vertical (sports, movies, science, etc.), creating different game types that include points, leaderboards, and life lines, or creating a unique show that provides a whole new type of entertainment value.

Based on our experience working on interactive apps for many popular television game shows, we have pinpointed 3 essential ways to improve the live in-app gameplay experience.

For example, introducing different leaderboards with different scores. This can be a leaderboard with the total money won, but also a leaderboard based on correct answers. You can also increase the number of points when the questions become more difficult or reward players that answer quickly.

Another way to create more competition is to allow players to compete against friends, family, colleagues and other groups. This can be done by integrating a friends list in the app, syncing with Facebook or by creating local leagues for which people can invite each other.

And finally, to make the game more dynamic you can introduce new game modes. This includes introducing new types of questions, introducing different rounds within the game, or adding life lines.

Read more about how to make HQ Trivia better, backed by lessons we’ve learned from collaborating with the best of the best.

Ready to Make your own version of HQ Trivia?

PlayTrivia is the white label live trivia solution that blends questions, quizzes, and the live production into a single easy-to-use interface. We have crafted a dedicated platform specifically for managing gamified live stream apps that can support different types of questions and gameplay (high score, last one standing, elimination, 12 questions and other modes). By working with us, you’ll enjoy access to our smart question library, which validates each question and answer against the possibility of being Googled.

PlayTrivia is a single solution for bringing live-video quiz shows to the largest possible audience. We support and fully integrate with multiple low latency video network so you can enjoy the most efficient and affordable video distribution around. Our end-to-end solution support latencies with delays from 5 seconds to less than 1 second — plus, viewers can play along on iOS, Android, and web. Our flexible configuration also allows us to support any use case you throw our way, from global formats to localized versions for smaller audiences.

Convinced? Find out more about PlayTrivia or contact us today.

PlayTrivia — The end-to-end live trivia platform