[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 was the year of fire, the year of destruction, the year we took back what was ours

When we last saw Spinks, she was standing at the raceway in the Shimmering Flats. But when I logged on after the shattering, everything had changed.


She was standing on a small floating platform. The title ‘Raceway Ruins’ flashed up above her head. A look at the map showed that she was in the middle of a giant lake where the raceway had been.


Undead being quite good at the not breathing underwater lark, she dived in to have a look at where the raceway had been. You can see the floating wreckage on the lake bed here.


She swam across to a giant barge that was manned by both goblins and gnomes, and found that someone enterprising had brought both a flight master and some thanksgiving tables.

You can see why goblins are such famously good merchants, they really do think of everything.

Cosmetic gear – the best rewards of all?

burcosmetic I am very proud of my new cloak in LOTRO. It has no stats at all, and cosmetic gear allows me to wear it and have my ‘real’ cloak hidden at the same time. But more importantly, it matches the rest of my gear perfectly. I even have a smokey black horse to go with it, another reputation/daily quest grind reward.

The designers have thrown themselves wholeheartedly into cosmetic rewards and into creating hundreds or even thousands of pretty pieces to let players play dress-up. They appear as rewards for just about anything that isn’t raid related – they can be bought with skirmish marks, or from reputation grinds, or from holiday festivals (which is where this cloak came from).

Because there are so many, and they turn up from so many different and diverse sources, putting together a really good cosmetic outfit can be a challenge. Especially when you can mix in crafted and raid gear which actually does have good stats but also matches your look.

In fact, cosmetic dressing is part of an interesting endgame which mixes collection with fashion. And in which, even if you ignore the pieces which would require you to do content that you hate, there are plenty of other options available.

It also gets people talking. Because I’m relatively inexperienced with LOTRO, I often see really cool looking gear that I don’t recognise at all. Every player is happy to talk about where they got their nice cosmetic item from, bar none. All you have to say is, “That XXX looks great, where did you get it.”


I liked this cloak a lot, for example.

And by having cool gear from lots of different places, there’s not a huge amount of min/maxing involved in the gameplay.

Yes, some raid gear can look amazing, especially if you set it off with the right cosmetic accessories. But people also appreciate well put together lowbie costumes.

From being somewhat dubious (do I really want to play burglar dress-up?) I’m becoming a fan. Even if I’m lazy with collections, it’s so much more fun to people-watch in LOTRO where people put some effort into their costumes than in WoW where raiders all tend to look the same.

Another WoW-Tourist takes a look at Warhammer Online

Mengtzu, a self-acknowedged WoW-Tourist, reviews his experiences in Warhammer Online in a thread on rpg.net. He’s not just a fly by night tourist either, his Disciple of Khaine reached maximum level in the game. He also spots a downside to the living guilds mechanic by which guilds can level up and gain access for members to special teleports, guild auctions, and the like.

It is awkward for members of a small guild that cannot level quickly; your social choice has cut you off not only from the endgame elite, but basic conveniences that any character can access in other games.

There are a lot of screenshots in the thread, and although he likes a lot of things about the game, he ends by concluding that while WAR beats the 5-year old WoW content handily, it still isn’t a match for Blizzard’s more recent innovations or expansion zones. For example, back in the day it would not have been unusual for NPCs to narrate something that happened in the player’s absence. Now with phasing, WoW players expect to be there and to watch events unfold before them.

Read it and see what you think. In some ways it makes gloomy reading, he’s very objective about explaining why he liked or disliked different things, but you can see why it’s so hard for new games to play WoW at its strengths unless Blizzard really screws the pooch sometime in future.