Well apparently it is that time, the end of the Newbie Blogger Initiative month. I think overall it has been a great success for the community. Syp has a nice wrap up post, and a list of all the blogs and articles over on his site Bio Break, so rather than copypasta, I will just send you guys there. Huge thanks to Syp for pulling this all together, and it cannot be sheer consequence that this all culminates on his birthday. So in addition to the thanks, sending a bit Happy Birthday your way.
The Cutting Room Floor
I’ve had a stack of posts kicking around in my skull for the better part of a month, but my schedule has been insane so none of them actually made their way to paper. However since this is still technically within the month, I wanted to throw together a post I had been meaning to for a few weeks. Essentially without really meaning to, I have come at my posts from the stance of helping bloggers through some of the more technical aspects of hosting your own blog.
In the process there have been several items I wanted to talk about, resources I wanted to share, that have just been left on the cutting room floor. Pieces of debris that never quite made it into a fully realized topic form. So as a warning, today’s topic is going to be a bit more freeform than normal for me.
One of the coolest inventions of the post-wow world is the tooltip script. Essentially multiple websites now allow you to easily add a script snippet to your blog template, and then when you link to a given website it shows a nice mouse over popup of the items description. These really add a nice level of detail to your posts, your readers can see exactly what an ability does when you talk about it, without you needing to devote time to actually explaining it. If you want to talk about a nice piece of loot, you get instant access to the stats without needing to come up with some arcane formatting for it.
The first website I can ever remember doing this was Allakhazam, but over time more and more websites have adopted the practice. Originally it was pretty contorted to get this information into your website, but now most of these sites offer a simple one line script include. It is likely that whatever game you play, has someone offering a similar service, but below are some of the more common ones by game.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
Torhead offers for SWTOR the same level of support we are used to from WoWhead. Updated constantly, should have pretty much any tooltip you would want to link to. To include them in your site, just add this snippet somewhere in the header of your template.
The links that are produced look a little something like this: Jolee Bindo’s Lightsaber
DarthHater really hit the ground running, and early on claimed a huge share of the item database traffic. Does not seem to be nearly as complete as Torhead, but still definitely a viable option. To include the links in your site, just add the snippet somewhere in the header of your template.
The links that are produced look a little something like this: Jolee bindo’s Lightsaber
KnoTOR honestly seems to be abandoned, or at least they update extremely slowly. I am including them however because they really had the nicest looking links available when it was being developed on actively. To include the links in your site, just add the snippet somewhere in the header of your template.
The links that are produced look a little something like this: Jolee Bindo’s Lightsaber
World of Warcraft
Really as far as wow item databases go, the only one of any real significance at this point is WoWhead. They came from out of nowhere and have continued to kick ass expansion after expansion. To include the links in your site, just add the snippet somewhere in the header of your template.
The links that are produced look a little something like this: Shadowmourne
The Allakhazam network has been around in one form or another since the opening days of the original Everquest. They support pretty much every game that comes out. The side effect of supporting everything however is that they may not support a specific game as good as another content specific provider. However they are an add once, use many juggernaut for tooltips. To include the links in your site, just add the snippet somewhere in the header of your template.
- Everquest II
- Final Fantasy XI
- Final Fantasy XIV
- Lord of the Rings Online
- Warhammer Online
- World of Warcraft
- Star Wars: The Old Republic
I wanted to include this one, despite the fact it is somewhat more experimental. Ask Mr. Robot was an amazing resource for World of Warcraft gear planning. They seem to have shifted focus over to Star Wars: The Old Republic, and with it they have a really cool item database in the works. The integration process is not yet as simple as the others, but they have a blog post on integrating it with wordpress. I personally have not gone through the trouble myself, but including this out there in case someone else wants to.
Those Amazing Fonts
Sooner or later you want going to want to do some work with interesting fonts, either to label images, or create logos for various post series. The problem is the fonts included in windows are boring as hell. Something a good number of users do not realize is that fonts are licensed, and the various font foundries have teams of rabid lawyers crawling the web looking for violators.
The safest option is to simply stick to using nothing but freeware or open source fonts. The big problem is, that if you type “Free Fonts” into Google you get a complete mess of sites that are sometimes a bit questionable at worst, and at best full of low quality fonts. There are a few websites I have used for years, that have consistently high quality fonts.
If you read comics at all, be they digital or print, chances are you have run into Blambot fonts and never knew it. Personally I think they are the best font shop out there. They sell their fonts for a pretty reasonable price, but even better they offer a good number of their more recognizable faces completely free. All of the fonts in the above image are from Blambot, as are the fonts I use in the Tales of the Aggronaut logo.
While Blambot represents one amazing font studio, DaFont is essentially a massive search engine for awesome free fonts. There are many websites out there that serve a similar purpose, but what sets DaFont ahead of the competition is the fact that it breaks fonts down into stylistic categories. If you are looking for a fantasy font or a Sci-fi font, within moments you can instantly jump into long lists of similar styled fonts. You are given a preview of the font in the main list, and can jump into a complete display of the entire alphabet for each. They have a huge selection of open source versions of familiar type faces, so there should be something to fit any of your design needs.
I did warn you ahead of time, that this post was going to be pretty free form. I am including this resource here because they do occasionally link awesome fonts. More than anything this is just a great web design resource. I have it in my RSS Reader and they cover everything from WordPress Tips, to Free Graphic resources, to of course great open source fonts. If you are running a website in any form you need to watch this page periodically.
Personally I am a Photoshop user, started using it somewhere around version 2.5 (circa 1994). While it can do amazing things, it has an equally astonishing price tag associated with it. It quickly becomes hard to justify the cost, if you are not using it professionally. Luckily for the rest of the world, there is a great image manipulation software that is open source.
Gimp can do pretty much anything you will ever need to do from photo retouching, to painting, to really nice logo work. It has a pretty rabid community supporting it, and there are plugins out there to do any manner of effects. The biggest problem for me, is that coming from Photoshop, it has a very different user interface. With the 2.9 release (not yet available for windows) supposedly it brings things more in line with the “Photoshop” standards. However luckily for the Photoshop natives out there, there is a custom fork of the gimp project called Gimpshop. Essentially it sets up the shortcuts and windows into a much more Photoshop like arrangement.
If you are more familiar with vector graphics like Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw, I have you covered too. I am actually just starting to use this a bit myself. I have been looking for a more simplistic vector program, and so far while I am still learning this one, it feels very robust. I never actually learned Illustrator very well, and was a longtime Corel Draw user. So far the controls and tools feel clean and familiar. You have the ability to export your graphics as either an SVG directly for use on the web, or rasterizing it as one of many image formats. Would have come in extremely handy back when I was trying to diagram WoW Raid strategies.
Windows Live Writer
I cannot express how much I love this software. Writer used to be a stand alone project, but is now included as part of the Windows Live Essentials package. While Windows Movie Maker is pretty awesome, the only part of this package I really use is Writer itself. Essentially it acts as a WYSIWYG editor for your blog. When you configure your blog with the software, it logs into your website and downloads all the CSS information for your theme.
If you look at the image above, that is side by side screenshots of my Secret World impressions post. On the left is the site as I composed it in Live Writer, on the right is the site in Chrome. This completely frees you from wondering what a given post will look and feel like when you publish. The real money feature is the image manipulation. You can resize the images freely, set the alignment, word wrap, margins, borders all without any manual manipulation.
Basically for me it frees me up to just write, without having to worry if it is going to look right or not. Over the years I have noticed a good number of other bloggers using it. People seem to either love it or hate it. It supports a wide number of common blogging platforms. I use it for example on my custom hosted WordPress, but I have also connected to a blogger and had equally good results.
While personally I have not participated in the NBIMMO as much as I would have liked this month, it has spawned an amazing number of quality blogs in the process. Often times lately, my schedule has dictated that either I get to play the games, or write about them. I more often than not choose to play, and as a result I go for weeks without posts. Luckily however a good number of these new blogs have been extremely prolific.
I still think this was an amazing idea, and I hope as we officially exit NBIMMO month, the community sprit will continue. While there are tons of us out there, we are at the end of the day a pretty small community. I never would have started up my blog in the first place were it not for the great support of other game bloggers. So I hope as time goes on, each of us can continue to offer support when others need it.