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Tutorial: On Making Screenshot-based LPs / Playground Help

Discussion in 'Codex Playground' started by Elzair, Sep 28, 2010.

  1. Elzair Cipher

    Apr 7, 2009
    Click here and disable ads!
    Helpful Stuff to know about the Playground

    1. Posts per Page

    Posts per page is reduced to 15 (instead of the normal 25) so people don't have to spam so many replies just to get the next set of LP images onto a new page. This is not currently in effect.

    2. Filtering thread replies by User

    You can filter threads by user id. EG: Say you're reading this awesome LP but rather than reading everyone's crap, you want to just read the stuff posted by the thread author. Well, simply add &filter=USERID to the url.

    In this case, click on the user's profile and you'll see the URL has something like "u=11776" on the end. That's the user id. Take that id and add it to the end of your thread url:

    From this:

    To this (with &filter=11776): ... lter=11776

    Note how the thread paginates correctly with the filter. Also note that this works for any thread and with any user (IE: It doesn't have to be the thread's author).

    Tutorial: On Making Screenshot-based Let's Plays

    Since I have made LPs for ten (and counting) games, I thought I might share some of the tricks I have found. Since I prefer (and have only made) screenshot-based LPs, this is what I will cover. You are on your own for video LPs.

    NOTE: I have only used quotation marks to designate file names. You should ignore them unless I say otherwise.
    PROTIP: Use your initial post as a table of contents. I also suggest including an image appropriate to the subject matter of your LP.
    PROTIP: I also suggest you come up with a title for every update of your LP.

    Image Capturing Programs

    There are many utilities you can use to take a screenshot of a game. The most basic way to do it is to press PrintScreen and paste the resulting image into MS Paint. Here are my three current favorite programs.


    If your game can be run in DOSBox, you can use the built-in screenshot utility. Just press Ctrl+F5 to take a picture. (NOTE: In OSX, press fn+ctrl+F5 to take a picture.)

    All the screenshots are saved in the capture directory, which is defined in your dosbox.conf file (which, in OSX, can be called "DOSBox version# Preferences". In Windows XP, this folder is usually located in whatever place you installed DOSBox. In OSX (at least in 10.4), the default location is ~/Library/Preferences/capture. MAJOR CAVEAT: When I used the latest version of DOSBox under Windows 7, it stored my screenshots in a temporary location, and when I rebooted my computer, the files were lost. You should edit the config file to make DOSBox place them in a more permanent location (I place them in My Pictures).

    The pictures are named after the executable file DOSBox is currently running followed by an underscore and a three digit number: "program_xxx.png" (more if there are over one thousand screenshots of the same program). NOTE: If there are already screenshots of a program, DOSBox will start with one more than the highest current number; if I am taking screenshots of Ultima IV (whose executable is named, and there is already an "ultima_501.png", then the next screenshot will be named "ultima_502.png". The screenshots are saved as PNGs and always have the same resolution as the emulated program, which is usually 320x200.

    PROTIP: Since I like to keep organized albums, I add an extra zero to the file names if I know I will have more than one thousand of them. See below for how to do that.


    If you (and your game) are using a recent version of Windows, you could try FRAPS. It is mostly used for video-capture, but it can take screenshots as well (the default button is F10, I think, but it can be remapped). The screenshots are, by default, stored in FRAPS' installation directory, but you can change that.

    One nice thing about FRAPS is that, if your game is using DirectX 9+, it can display a yellow FPS counter in the corner of the screen that flashes white whenever you take a screenshot. This is helpful when you are taking many sequential screenshots (for example, of dialogue) and want to avoid duplicates.

    However, FRAPS is shareware, and the free version can only save images in BMP with the current resolution of the game. Furthermore, the naming scheme for screenshots, which cannot be changed, is "program_name YYYY-MM-DD HH-MM-SS-CS.bmp"; for example, here is the name of a screenshot I took of Oblivion: Oblivion 2009-07-04 17-26-04-06.jpg. Since I prefer my file names to just be a prefix followed by a number, this is a negative. Since many image-hosting sites, such as Photobucket, strip whitespace out of filenames, working with a lot of FRAPS images at once is a PITA. Also, I think FRAPS can only be used when the game is run in full-screen mode.


    If your game is a little older (up to DirectX 8) or uses OpenGL (I think), you could try ZScreen. It can save images anywhere (even on a remote FTP server), automatically upload images to several image-hosting sites, capture the full screen, capture a window or a selection of a window, name files with a very customizable schema, save files in several formats, automatically adjust the resolution, and use custom hotkeys. My only problem with ZScreen is that it does not have a way to instantly notify me when I take a screenshot of a game in full-screen mode. I use ZScreen for my ongoing LP of Ultima VII: The Black Gate.

    !Quick Screen Capture

    I do not know much about !Quick Screen Capture, but Brother None recommended it.

    Screenshot Captor

    Screenshot Captor was recommended by Zeus. I do not know much about it, but he said it was another option for taking screenshots of games too old for FRAPS.

    Image Editors

    This section is mostly a listing of programs that can resize/rename multiple files. If you want to edit a specific image, you can always use GIMP, Paint.NET, Picasa, Photoshop, and many others.


    IrfanView is a freeware program that supports batch renaming/conversion of images. Before I started using ZScreen for my Ultima Underworld and VII LPs, I would take screenshots with the built-in DOSBox screenshot utility and then use IrfanView to rename them and increase them to 800x600. Irfanview can rename files, change their resolutions, or convert them to different formats. For example, I found character portraits extracted from several games I LPed, but they were stored as 30x30 ICOs; I used IrfanView to convert them to 80x80 PNGs.

    I have noticed a few problems. If you tell Irfanview to change an image to a specific resolution, you MUST uncheck the option to preserve aspect ratio. This is why many of my earlier UW1 screenshots are 800x500 instead of 800x600. Furthermore, IrfanView has only a limited ability to modify the file names of input files; it can replace three specific strings (i.e. no regular expressions or escape characters) with three other specific strings. For instance, one can strip all zeroes from filenames by entering "0" in a search field and leaving the corresponding replace field blank. Mostly, IrfanView can only give the output files a completely new name based on a limited naming schema (however, it can certainly leave the name unaltered); for example, using the schema "ultimaiv####" will rename all the selected files ultimaiv0000, ultimaiv0001, and so on (although one can specify any starting number).


    If you are using OSX, you are kinda out of luck. You can use Automator to create a batch renaming script; you should supposedly be able to resize/convert images, but I have not managed to do it under 10.4.

    1. Open Automator (it's in Applications).
    2. Select "Finder->Ask For Finder Items" and drag it right. To save time, change the "Start At" option to your image capture directory. Check "Allow Multiple Selection".
    3. Select "Finder->Copy Finder Items" and drag it right. Change "To" to your desired destination directory.
    4. Select "Finder->Rename Finder Items" and drag it to the right. Click on the top list box and go down to "Replace Text". Then type in the prefix of your file names (ex:"ultima_") and replace it with something prettier (ex:"ultimaiv").
    5. You can experiment with resizing and conversion options, but, as I said above, I could not get them to work.


    Image Hosting Sites

    Now that you have taken your screenshots, you need to post them on the web. Here are some options.


    I use Photobucket for all my screenshots. This is the only one I have much experience with. You can create a free account that can store 500MB of images and has a monthly bandwidth allotment of 10GB. You can create multiple albums to store screenshots in. The normal uploader will upload 200 screenshots at a time; the buggy, Java-based bulk-uploader can upload 255. You can supposedly modify your uploaded images, but I have not had much success doing it. My only major beef with the service is that I cannot easily rename uploaded files.


    I do not know much about ImageShack.

    Picasa Web Albums

    I do not know much about Picasa Web Albums. I assume it is integrated into the Picasa image editor.


    I do not know much about Flickr.


    Imgur was another recommendation by Brother None.

    Convenience Utilities

    Now that you have taken all your screenshots and posted them on the web, you now only have to write the LP itself. Here are some utilities to help you. Since I am lazy right now, I will largely provide only *nix shellscripts and C source files.

    PROTIP: Since you are likely using Windows, I will try to write a few batch files to do some of this stuff later. Until then, you can use Cygwin to get a *nix shell for Windows.

    The following two examples will help you create a file with the images you want to use in HTML format.

    # This script prints a list of all the files starting with PREFIX in a given LOCATION, formats them into HTML, and appends them to $FILENAME.
    IMGTAG1="<img src=\""		# Replace with the first part of the URL to your images.
    IMGTAG2="\" alt=\"\">"
    IMGPREFIX="ultimaiv"										# Replace with the prefix of your files.
    IMGSUFFIX=".png"										# Replace with the filetype of your files.
    FILENAME="/Users/elzair/Pictures/test1.html"							# Replace with the full path of the file you want to create.
    touch $FILENAME											# Create the filename if it does not exist.
    cd $LOCATION
    for i in `ls $IMGPREFIX*$IMGSUFFIX`
    	do echo $IMGTAG1$i$IMGTAG2 >> $FILENAME

     * This program prints out the HTML-formatted URLs for images with a given prefix, suffix and number of digits in a given range.
    #include <stdio.h>
    int main(int argc, char **argv)
    	if (argc != 5)
    		fprintf(stderr, "Usage: %s prefix filetype start_number end_number\n", argv[0]);
    		return 1;
    	int i = 0, start = atoi(argv[3]), end = atoi(argv[4]);
    	char tagone[] = "<img src=\"";	//Replace with the URL to your images.
    	char tagtwo[] = "\" alt=\"\">";
    	for (i=start; i<=end; i++)
    		printf("%s%s%05d.%s%s\n", tagone, argv[1], i, argv[2], tagtwo);
    	return 0;

    Writing the LP

    Now, some of you may be happy with your system's default text editor (NotePad, WordPad, TextEdit, Emacs, etc.) After writing many LPs, I began to crave a WYSIWYG editor, so I could simultaneously view the finished product and edit it. You may notice that the images and comments in my earlier Ultima LPs sometimes seem out of synch; this is because I often had to guess which image contained the picture I wanted. I found a few WYSIWYG BBcode editors, but they did not do everything I needed, so I looked around for some WYSIWYG HTML editors.


    I ended-up using Amaya. It is open-source, cross-platform and does everything I need. The interface is pretty self-explanatory. You can add comments in between images, delete and move around images and so on. The only notable things are that Amaya uses <strong></strong> for bolding and <em></em> for italicizing.

    PROTIP: If you are transcribing dialogue and want to use character portraits, try typing the name (in lower case) of the NPC speaking before each dialogue. You can then use your editor's find/replace function to batch convert these names into image tags; however, make sure to check "Match Case" and "Replace Full World Only". Since most names began with a capital letter, you should not have to worry about placing random words with portraits.

    I know there are other WYSIWYG HTML editors out there, but I have no knowledge of them.

    After you finish writing the LP, you can use the Cool HTML to BBCode Converter to convert your file to BBCode.

    PROTIP: If you used Amaya, first open the HTML file in a text editor (use WordPad on Windows) and strip all the <p> & </p> tags (i.e enter "<p>" in the 'find' text field and leave the 'replace' text field blank). This will prevent the converter from inserting four-six lines between images and comments.
    PROTIP: While you are doing this, replace <strong> and </strong> with <b> and </b> and replace <em> and </em> with <i> and </i>. The converter I linked to does not recognize the <em> and <strong> tags.
    PROTIP: Don't bother changing the font size much. The converter does not recognize those tags either.
    PROTIP: I usually wait until after I have converted the text to BBCode to add in the portraits. I find this is less likely to cause weird problems.

    Final Steps

    Here are some tips and tricks when publishing your LP on the RPGCodex forums. Above all, make sure to create the topic in Codex Playground.

    Maybe it is just me, but I like to make a table of contents for LPs. It makes it quicker for readers to find specific updates.

    PROTIP: When posting an update, ALWAYS write something in the Subject line. Then, after you have published your update, search the forums for POSTS (not topics) made by you (i.e. enter your username in the "Search for Author" field). When you see the subject line of your recent update (it should be the top result), right-click on the subject, select "Copy Link", go to your initial post, edit it and add the link to your most recent update.

    Well, this should help get you started. Play on!
    • Brofist Brofist x 5
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  2. ironyuri Guest


    Once again you have proven yourself to be a true bro of the Playground!

    As a recent inductee into the Playground LP community I am glad to have something like this.

    I demand sticky!
    ^ Top  
  3. spekkio Arcane

    Sep 16, 2009
    TinyPic was bought by Photobucket recently and closed registrations shortly after that.

    Last week they tried to close uploads but had to bring them back due to massive butthurt and baaaww.

    Anyway, it's more or less in the "goodnight sweet prince" state.


    Personaly I use Fraps, HypersnapDX, AcdSee 5.0 (from 2002), EditPlus and VirtualDub.
    File hosting: Tinypic :salute: for most images, for porn/nazi/jew images (they don't mind, check out their "random pictures") and mediafire for large files.
    ^ Top  
  4. hoverdog dog that is hovering, Wastelands Interactive Developer

    Jul 8, 2010
    Jordan, Minnesota
    Project: Eternity
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
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  5. Brother None inXile Entertainment Developer

    Brother None
    Jul 11, 2004
    You forgot about imgur

    Also FRAPS is indeed annoying until I used it with BIMP lite, which will with one click of the button:
    1 Turn all the images into JPGs
    2 Rename all the images in the folder to image_* series or whatever filename type you prefer

    IT's how I finished my Sanitarium LP after !Quick Screen Capture stopped cooperating

    Oh, btw, !Quick Screen Capture is free and p good.

    Also real bros use notepad

    That said: :salute:
    ^ Top  
  6. Trash Pointing and laughing.

    Dec 12, 2002
    About 8 meters beneath sea level.
    Thanks. This is actually pretty handy!
    ^ Top  
  7. Darth Roxor Prestigious Gentleman Wielder of the Huegpenis

    Darth Roxor
    May 29, 2008
    I upload stuff to Photobucket.

    As for screen capture, I wholeheartedly recommend Ultima Online Screenshot Utility. It works neatly and since it's only an .exe + .dll requiring no installation or anything, it's pretty much unnoticable and doesn't hog resources like I know some other programmes of this type do.
    ^ Top  
  8. Zeus Liturgist

    Apr 25, 2008
    Nice tutorial!

    Just a suggestion, Screenshot Captor is free and pretty good at capturing Windows games too old, indie or otherwise strange for FRAPS to handle. I used it for my article about UnReal World RPG. Burned through a half dozen screenshot programs (all of which messed up the color palette) before discovering Screenshot Captor.

    I'll have to try that UO Screenshot Utility. What's the latest version? Google search mentions 1.5.x, but the latest I can find is 1.4, here:

    Edit: Eeh... jpg only? I don't know about taking JPEG screenshots. Especially with VGA games. You'll mess up your pixels! This is why I like Screenshot Captor. Not only does it handle .png shots, you can automatically set PNG compression to 9. Screenshots come out crystal clear.

    Ironically, that UO program would work nicely for modern, post-SVGA games, but for the old stuff I'd go with .gif or .png with an optimized palette.

    Edit: Okay even though I don't plan to use it I am a man obsessed and have tracked down a later copy of UOSU, v1.60, from the official site here: ... /uosu.html
    ^ Top  
  9. Furious Flaming Faggot Educated

    Furious Flaming Faggot
    Aug 26, 2010
    The President of France
    Thanks bro! I'm definitely going to use the last tip for any future LP adventures.
    ^ Top  
  10. Cassidy Arcane

    Sep 9, 2007
    Vault City
    ^ Top  
  11. ghostdog Prestigious Gentleman Arcane Patron

    Dec 31, 2007
    Useful thread :thumbsup:

    Screenshot pilot and Screenshot utility are two more free tools that can be used. I use ACDsee and Photophop for batch editing images.

    Protips: spell-check your damn LP. Don't overload the page with too many pics. Use jpeg format or not too big png.

    When writing the LP I always have a notepad on the right side of the screen and acdsee browsing the screenshots on the other. I use bbcode directly with notepad.
    ^ Top  
  12. LusciousPear Savant

    Oct 22, 2009
    MCA Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Shadorwun: Hong Kong
    Use Amazon S3 for photo uploads. Dirt cheap.
    ^ Top  
  13. Zeus Liturgist

    Apr 25, 2008
    I say we sticky this sucker for future generations.
    ^ Top  
  14. Dire Roach Prophet

    Dire Roach
    Feb 28, 2007
    Machete-Knight Academy

    You should also include a paragraph about how lonely and depressed you have to be to start an LP, and about the ungodly amounts of drugs and masturbation and crying you have to go through in order to finish it.
    ^ Top  
  15. BethesdaLove Arbiter

    Aug 7, 2008
    Fraps does it.

    Btw, you can automate anything with AutoHotkey. It even has a nice little sequence capturing util so you dont need to write proper scripts but can just record mouse and keyboard input.
    ^ Top  
  16. DwarvenFood Arcane Patron

    Jan 5, 2009
    Atlantic Accelerator
    Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Wasteland 2 Codex USB, 2014 Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    For screen grabbing one could also use Taksi, handy is that the screenshot can be automatically resized on saving, so no after-editting is required. Taksi

    Excellent post BTW, have been looking for a good "tutorial" but had to figure it out myself. Keep fighting the good fight, bro.
    ^ Top  
  17. DriacKin Arbiter

    Oct 9, 2008
    How about Wordpress for image hosting? I've never used it but I've heard of other people who have.
    ^ Top  
  18. spekkio Arcane

    Sep 16, 2009
    HypersnapDX does it too.
    ^ Top  
  19. Jack █▓▒░

    May 5, 2010
    Among The Ruins
    I use Grabby to take screenshots. Everything else I've used are too damn bloated.

    Excellent tut, bro.
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
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  20. Andyman Messiah Mr. Ed-ucated

    Andyman Messiah
    Jan 27, 2004
    Andyman Messiah's guide to making LPs:

    Writing: Notepad.
    Screenshots: Irfanview.
    Video: FRAPS.
    Inspiration: Mary Jane.

    Excellent read, Elzair. :salute:
    ^ Top  
  21. JarlFrank I like Thief THIS much Patron Developer

    Jan 4, 2007
    卐 The RPG Reich 卐
    For screenshots I use a freeware program called BlueShot. It's pretty good.
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  22. roll-a-die Liturgist

    Sep 27, 2009
    It's working very well for me right now. If you have your photo's hosted on Photofuckit, or another site that keeps file names intact, than you can just batch convert the URLs to what you need. There doesn't seem to be a bandwidth limit I've run into yet(And seeing as how the Photobucket first 2 posts ran out of space in 6 hours, I'd say it's holding steady.) The size limit is bigger for free, and the uploader is actually a lot more friendly and quicker.

    As far as most of this goes, some additional advice, I've got a face grid set up, than I've ctrl-c ctrl-v'd all the faces I've encountered so far onto. I highly advice this method. Also try to scale them so they are roughly even. In the Big Bang Age, the face's vary wildly in size, and I can predict the day when I'm going to be screaming like "WHY WON'T YOU FUCKING FIT GOD DAMN-IT" at my computer.

    As far as converting screenshots, I use the fantabulous, and very useful BULK IMAGE CONVERTER 2.0.0 by slade28. Which does what it's intended for quite well and quite quick for relatively little expenditure of resources.
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  23. Phelot Arcane

    Mar 28, 2009
    Hey, does anyone know why a Win95 game would be having "inverted" screenshots? All the captures are all these nasty colors, like it's 16 colors or something. I'm using zscreen.

    If I just use MSPaint then it just comes out black... and that's it, no other colors.
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  24. Murk Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    Jan 17, 2008
    I'd like to say that I've used FRAPs and hated it but recently found a nice program called Greenshot. It's a freeware screen-shot taking program that can take full-screen, window-only, user specified range, and has a built in function to take a screenshot of the last used range (very useful in games that have a static dialog box as you can just hit shift+printscreen and not worry about selecting the image-range again.

    Also, its free and requires no activation or trial period or blah blah and can save directly to .jpg of your specified quality.

    Very simple/handy -- does not due video capture tho.
    ^ Top  

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