Friday, May 30, 2008

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Age of Conan

Ok, AoC it's out, everyone is happy (I suspect boobies have a part in this), even the screenshots are flowing.

The "only game where naked women means respect of the license material" looks promising, but like any MMO it will probably be so much better in a month or two and I'll probably wait a bit more before getting a copy.

Protip: judging by the palette of the game, a bit of photo-enhancing of the screenshots might be a good idea.

More Half Life 2 goodness

This one it's from CitrusFreak. He even does photos of celebrities! Too bad to reach this level of polishing in Valve screenshot you still have to use an add-on (garry's mod).
I hope Valve (and any other developer around) will include some kind of replay/screenshotting feature in future games.

Monday, May 26, 2008

A guide to better screenshots: Part 1, taking the shot

This first part will cover all that happens before tapping your screenshot button: we will probably go over stuff you already know, because this is done also for people that never did a screen before. If you are experienced stay with us, you may still find something interesting.
In the second part I will talk about post-production of the image, from really fine tuning and cropping to bigger changes that make our shot more similar to a real photo or an illustration.

Ok, there are three ways to make a screenshot on Pc games (Consoles are a completely different problem we will cover in the future).

Let's start with the simpler way: simply pressing the print screen button on you keyboard makes an image of your whole screen. Then you open a graphic program and press the paste button. This isn't a very good idea and may not work with some games. Also alt+tabbing during a multiplayer? Insane.

Most of the games today have a screenshot button. That means, a command that creates a screenshot at the press of a button and saves it in a folder in a remote location you'll take some time to discover. This button may or not be the Print Screen button.
Change it! If you're serious about doing screenshots, you'll need a button you can press easily in the middle of a fight. If you're playing a game that it's not mouse-intensive, you could also bind the command to one of your mouse button (this, obviously if you have more than three buttons on the mouse). I often do that when I need to do some screenshots for a review.

And then, there's the PRO way. An external program that hooks up to the game and takes the images directly.
There are two solutions that I know: Fraps it's a commercial program, so maybe it's not a good idea unless you're planning to capture videos.
Taksi it's the opensource alternative. Get that for free and be happy.
One function very useful it's telling the program to do an image every x seconds.

Next we are going to open the game of your choice and have a look to the graphic options. Generally speaking, you'll want the best resolution your computer can handle. This, because later we may need to crop the screen to focus the image on the part that it's really interesting and, starting from a 800x600 resolution, we may end with an image that is less than 500 pixels. This is especially important when we don't have a way to make the user interface disappear.
If the subject of your photo is not trying to make a bloody pulp out of you, you can also play with lower quality graphic and then put everything to maximum once you've found the right shot.

Next problem: the user interface. UIs aren't interesting to see in a screenshot. You should always try to get rid of them. The most obvious way it's to crop them out of the image.
There are other ways. World of Warcraft and other MMOs allow to toggle the interface with the tap of a button (for WoW it's alt+z).
A modding-friendly game may also allow the user to make it less big or toggle it entirely.

Next, the fun part. Taking the screenshot.
Two basic rules I'll suggest there.
First thing. Decide the subject of your photo and keep the rest outside.
Take your time, don't rush it. In Stormwind doing a shot or two of the entrance? Wait for that level 1 naked gnome to pass. Yeah, doing screenshots in online worlds requires patience.
You'll probably take some stuff out later by cropping, but while you take the shot you should already have an idea on how the final image will look like.
The second thing. Rule of Thirds! It's the basic rule of real photography, and it's not less important in virtual one. This is even more difficult in first person shooters, where we tend to put our attention in the centre of the screen. Once you see a good subject, start to frame it and forget about the hits you're taking. Images that look like are taken from a normal playthrough of the game are boring and should be avoided.

Next week we are going to talk about what happens after you're pretty much satisfied by your shot.
If you got any post-production technique you want to talk about send me a mail at my gmail address.

Lord of the Rings Online: A shire's hope

LOTRO got really an incredible engine: I would end up taking screenshots all the day instead of playing.

I mean, look at this: there's nothing Photoshop could do.

Halo 3: Ready for action?

Co-Op Play

Half Life 2 Episode One: Alyx


Saturday, May 24, 2008


Strangely enough there aren't many people on Flickr posting shots from Garry's Mod. This, opposed to the thousands of Second Life screenshots posted any day.

Too bad. If you have Garry's Mod photos uploaded somewhere else don't forget to drop me a line, and I'll probably link them in the future.

Halo 3: I've got your back

Joshuadamon makes outstanding Halo 3 screenshots. Not just enhancing the colors - as anyone else does - but also playing with the depth of field a lot.

The results are often incredible, as you can see in his photostream.

Friday, May 23, 2008

World of Warcraft: Warlock above the sea of fog

Infamous sent me this old screenshot done when he reached level 70. Inspired by this famous romantic picture.

It's quite a scene, and I find the thread between romantic wanderers and shady warlocks simply awesome.
Also, you can clearly see his mouse pointer - that's like the upskirt of WoW screenshots.

Bioshock: Abandoned bycicle

The attention for details you find in a game like Bioshock it's not very common. So many times software houses paint their games in broad strokes, completely forgetting that the atmosphere it's also crafted by small things.

Steve M did a lot of very good screenshots of the game, but there may be a lot of spoilers so be careful if you're still playing the game or planning to give it a try in the future.

Half Life 2 Episode Two: Smoke

Half Life 2 : Episode Two

Halo 3: Warthog Incident

Warthog incident

Team Fortress 2: Standing still in the middle of the battlefield

Standing still in the middle of the battlefield
Sometimes bugs are awesome.

Team Fortress 2: A Soldier

Too bad for a little clipping
Sometimes the KillCam of Team Fortress 2 gives interesting shots.

World of Warcraft: Toshley Station

Toshley Station
If you actually take some time to observe the gnome encampment in Blade's Edge Mountains, you understand a lot about gnomes in this world.

You can hate WoW, but you must admit there's is a level of complexity in the art design that others MMOs lacks.

Some rules

If this works - that means, if we actually get traffic and people start sending outstanding images - the idea is to open the group and the blog quite a bit. Right now the Flickr group it's only moderated by me.

I'd like to find some more members with different tastes. But that will probably take time.

Let's start


Ok here's the thing: screenshot used to be kind of a big deal when I started playing videogames. That was before gametrailers, youtube, etc.
This is a blog intended to collect and share interesting screenshots from any game.
Interesting means many things. In this case means following the rule of photography. So rule of thirds, an interesting set of colors, trying to make a point (or just show some awesome thing).
Unless you're doing screenshots for a review, nothing should stop you from using the print screen button as the trigger on your camera. When you're inside a game you should basically feel as a photojournalist in a virtual world.
Some games are even including ways to do really artistic images, letting the players alter depth of field, shutter speed etc.

Cheat it's fair game to me: and by cheat I mean photoshopping the screenshot, faking it in a way that makes it more outstanding, funny or awesome. When software house do that it's bad, but we can do it, we're not going to sell something.
Right now there is a group on Flickr where you can add the photos. Or you can drop me a link in the comments (better if you add them to flickr).

Also there may be some talk about overcoming the limitations of the medium, also image and video capturing on consoles.

P.S. screenshot don't really need to be bloody. That was just a reference to a certain batch of ninja gaiden ones full of money shots.