[NBI] Blog advice: Picture manipulation tools, and copyright

In my intro post for the NBI, I mentioned briefly tools that I use for writing up blog posts. What I didn’t mention was anything about prepping graphics for your posts, which for gaming bloggers will mostly involve screenshots.

If you are writing a blog that is very screenshot heavy or you want to do something fancier with graphics, this is likely going to be just a starting point. But for my purposes, the usual sorts of alterations I would make to screenshots involve cropping the screenshot down, and maybe touching up the image a bit if it has come out fairly dark.

A graphics manipulation program will also make it easier for you to lay out several pictures on the page, which you can do by combining them into a single new image that you fiddle around with until you are happy. Using cut and paste on the separate pictures to paste them into a new larger image as layers will let you move them around easily while you are working.  This, I have found by trial and error, is about a zillion times easier than trying to get separate image files laid out neatly in your HTML or word processor.

Once the image is in the blog post, you can use HTML/ formatting tools in your editor to position it. You can also adjust the size of the image in your editor via HTML or formatting tools, although the quality of the image may suffer a bit.

When you save the processed image file, you probably want to avoid using large graphics file types as that will make your page take longer to load. .jpg should be fine. (If you need more information than this about optimising for the web, it’s worth searching around via google as it’s a well trodden path with lots of good advice around.)

What I use


This is what I use, an old copy of Paintshop Pro (PSP) which we had a licence for in the house. It runs on just about anything (Windows based), and happily copes with anything I might ever want to do to my screenshots. If you feel like spending money on blogging tools, this one will serve you happily. I imagine the latest version does all sorts of fancy extra stuff, but this is good enough for me.

I’m also fond of being able to paste images from the clipboard direct into PSP. The picture above shows PSP with the ‘enhance photo’ menu open which is what I’d normally use to tweak the colour and contrast balance. All of these graphics programs allow you to easily roll back any changes if you don’t like how they look, so you can experiment a bit.

Free graphics manipulation packages

There are some good alternative graphics packages available.  These are three of the options available. GIMP and Paint.net both have large communities where you can ask any questions and find out about addons or tweaks. Picasa has Google behind it.


GIMP is an open source program, and the link I have given here is to GIMP for Windows. It’s probably better known as a Linux program, but the Windows one works fine too.


It’s a very powerful graphics processing package, can be a bit fiddly to use, and if you want to use it I suggest paying close attention to the manual.


Picasa is Google’s picture editor which was developed mostly to let people manage their photo albums online, but also lets you tweak and crop pictures for later use in blogs. You can download the client and use it offline to prepare pictures for publication/ upload.  It even has an option to upload your finished picture to Blogger (also a Google product).


It’s a nice simple tool without too many of the bells and whistles, and if you’re a bit nervous about diving into something like GIMP, this is probably the one I’d recommend you try for starters.


This started off as a student project to provide a freeware version of Microsoft Paint (avoid downloading OpenPDF by mistake from the same page, unless you really wanted it), and now has a fairly extensive following online.


I’d place this as a sort of happy medium between GIMP and Picasa in terms of complexity.

And those are just the start

There are also online tools which let you load up your graphic and manipulate it online, specialist tools which provide specific automated manipulations if you want to make your screenshots look like a funky collage or write your own text onto a picture of Einstein (hey don’t ask me, I just find this stuff), etc.

But you’ll likely find that most people use an offline tool to prep their pictures.

Copyright note

I am not a lawyer, but if you don’t own the copyright for an image, you should check with the person who does before you post it on your blog. Games companies typically don’t mind if you use media from their site, especially if you are praising the game (that’s why they make it available from the site in the first place).

If you want to check out libraries of photos, the Creative Commons on Flickr has pictures made available under a variety of licenses if you want to use them. The most basic is the attribution license, under which owners allow you to use their pictures in return for a link and an attribution (which is basic good manners anyway). So that’s one place to start. Different blog writers probably have their own favourite picture repositories, and no I’ve no idea where Rivs gets his hot chick pictures Smile

It came from the PUG: You can tell someone is a noob if ….

I always think it’s quite nice if people want to give tips to other players, as long as their information is basically correct.

But one I thing I have noticed in low level instances with alts this week is that as soon as anyone does so, the rest of the group immediately starts treating the other person as a new player. (ie. they’ll all talk to you as if you were a three year old and try to hold your hand through the instance.)

So for example, I was healing on a low level shaman and picked up an agility dagger that dropped in an instance, for my levelling spec. No one else in the group wanted it. Immediately the rest of the group asked why I’d needed it and (when I explained) jumped to explain that enhancement shaman should be looking for slow weapons and not daggers.

Sometimes a gal just wants an upgrade to her levelling gear, and not a lecture on how the offspec should be min/maxed at endgame! Just saying. But it’s hard to really convey that without sounding mean minded about people who are  just trying to help.

I wouldn’t mind but because they’d all evidently classified me as a noob, they were also giving me healing tips (which I really didn’t need, you can heal low level instances on a resto shaman by throwing earth shield on someone and going off to get some tea.)

Group 2: Raid mark roulette

In challenging instances, the group leader can help players out a lot by good use of marking.

Marks can be used to indicate the kill order for an assist train, to pick out which mobs should be targeted for different types of crowd control, and to make sure everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing and in which order.

In fact, there seem to be some generally accepted uses of marks. People often use the skull to indicate “Please kill this one first, ps. that means max single target dps, not AE to boost your numbers please.”

But I was in a random group last week where the tank carefully marked every mob, using different symbols each time, and there was never any discussion of what the marks meant. This actually worked better than you’d expect since the group was fairly together. Everyone who was able to CC picked a mark and did it and people held back on dps until they could see what was going on and which mob the tank had picked up.

But it did make me wonder at why anyone would think that marks explained themselves. (Maybe they should actually give us more explanatory marks than green triangle and purple diamond ….)

5 great ways for you to help new players

Blog Azerorth has a particularly challenging Shared Topic this week – it’s about helping new players.

Here are some other bloggers on the topic:

I do not spend a lot of my time  helping new players, if only because I don’t encounter very many. It also can be tricky to spot the new guys, often indistinguishable from experienced players who just act like newbies. So before I tackle the topic, here are a few pointers for newbie spotters. This is how you know you’ve got the Real Deal on your hands.

  • Player has not yet figured out how to use chat channels. They may use say or whisper instead, if they’ve worked those ones out.
  • Player does not know how to find the bank or auction house (or add any essential facility of your choice.)
  • Player is confused by need/greed conventions. Unfortunately this is easily mistaken for ninja behaviour. This could also just mean an experienced solo player who hasn’t grouped much.
  • Player can’t ask for help because they don’t really know what sort of help they need. If you are struggling with how to start combat, there’s no point asking for help with complex rotations.
  • Player went exploring and ended up in a totally inappropriate zone for their race/class/faction, and doesn’t know how to get back. (It’s the not knowing how to get back which scares newbies, more experienced explorers usually have A PLAN involving a bucket, 50’ of rope, and/or a hearthstone.)
  • Player got lost. (This does not hold for instances such as BRD where everybody gets lost.)
  • Player wants to improve or learn how to do something better. This is how you know you have a live inexperienced newbie and not an experienced zombie.

So, assuming that you’d like to help new players, how do you do it? Here are five things I try to do – and you will notice that I don’t go too far out of my way. I’m in game to play and have fun, not to act as teacher or big sister to the unwashed masses (err, excluding my actual sisters). I have also learned through experience that I won’t be helping anyone if I’m grumpy and out of sorts.

1. Answer (sensible) questions on global channels

A lot of people goof off in trade chat or the local equivalent, which is all well and good. But one easy way to help newer players is simply to answer questions on the chat channels. If someone has gotten as far as asking a question, it means that they’re taking the first steps towards helping themselves. And if you happen to be in the area covered by the channel and aren’t busy, why not answer?

I sometimes talk to people via whisper if they are asking warrior or tanking questions. For example, I spoke to a player last week who was asking how to gem gear for a protection paladin – it’s not a difficult question, and it’s also very little effort for me to give a basic informed answer, and offer signposting to decent tanking websites if the guy wants to read more.

2. Help new players to settle into your guild

If a new player joins your guild, you can help to smooth their experience. This doesn’t mean that you need to talk to them extensively every time they log on, especially if your guild isn’t chatty anyway. But you can help by making sure they know about guild activities, bulletin boards, addons, bank, or any other way in which your group usually communicates and organises.

It might mean as little as checking that someone has read the guild info tab (if your officers are organised and put useful information in there). Or asking if they want to join some regular guild activity if they are online and appropriate level.

3. Gold$$$

You can, if you choose, help new players by either giving them gold or sharing gold making tips. (Do lots of dailies to get gold for your epic mount, is a good one in WoW for example. Or start with two gathering skills.) A lot of players are ethically opposed to giving gold to beggars. Others may be amused enough by a good pitch to help an enterprising new player out with some starting cash.

I have been in guilds – and am sort of running one at the moment – where we aim to give people gold to buy their flying mounts at level 60 if they don’t already have the cash. The idea is that people can pay it back to the guild bank later and since we’re careful with invites, the facility won’t be abused.

If you’d rather give goods, then bags are always helpful to new players. So if you get chatting to someone after giving advice on a chat channel and would like to help them further, a gift of bags will not compromise your gold giving ethics but is a very helpful gesture. If you are a crafter, there may be other low level gear you can help players with. Glyphs and potions can be helpful too, if you don’t mind explaining how to use them.

In general, giving stuff to everyone who asks will make you feel like a sucker unless you just won the in game equivalent of the lottery or are a generous drunk. But giving stuff to ‘worthy’ newbies is a time honored way of helping new players.

4. Don’t bitch at people in low level instances

News flash. You will sometimes find new players in low level groups or instances. Do not expect these low level groups to function like well drilled raid groups in which every player has been studying their role for several years.

Instead, go in to have fun and be entertained. If the group upsets you, then you can always leave. But newer players can have an infectious enthusiasm and the better ones will take tips and advice if it’s offered in a generous way.

Low level instances are also often harder than higher level ones if you tackle them at the intended level and gearing. (I have come to the opinion that LBRS is the hardest instance in the game. It’s certainly the one I have seen completed least often lately.)

Give the lowbies a break. Assume they might be new. Give them a chance to take advice before you give up on them.

5. Don’t socialise if you are in a bad mood

This is the biggie. You cannot help anyone, newbie or otherwise, if you are burned out, stressed, bad tempered, or feeling anti-social. The kindest thing you can do for your fellow players in that case is to take yourself away from the social scene and either stay offline or maintain radio silence.

Never mind if you feel an obligation to help newbies. Never mind if you promised them an instance run. If you don’t feel up to it, make your excuse and back out. It’s allowed. And you need to put your own fun and welfare first.

It’s probably better if you don’t agree to do anything that you know you didn’t really want to do in the first place. People can take no for an answer. I know a lot of players who do have trouble with saying no, but it’s just one of those life skills that you need to learn for your own protection.