A World of Screenies
Author's Note: This article supersedes my earlier advice found in How to Make Good Screenshots, which is so out-of-date that it has grown mould and now supports a small community of Petpetpets.
Screenies or screenshots (alternatively known as screen captures, -dumps, -grabs, or print screens) are images a computer can take of the monitor's visual content.
Screenies are often used for practical purposes (such as to demonstrate a glitch you may be having that you want to report to The Neopets Team) but they are also used as a form of entertainment. For example, you might like to screenie that glitch purely because it looks so amusingly weird and you want to show it to people.
You will find screenies all over the Internet, but less common are places where it has developed into the art form that it has in Neopia. This article takes a look at the multifaceted and opinionated world of screenies and hopes to ferry newcomers on a sure path through the murk.
Preparation & Presentation
On Mac OS, pressing the keys Cmd+Shift+3 takes a screenshot that is automatically saved as an image file to the desktop. Pressing Cmd+Shift+4 allows you to choose the area of the screen that you want to capture.
On Microsoft Windows, pressing the key PrtSc (Print Screen) takes a screenshot that is placed on the clipboard. This must then be pasted into an appropriate program before it can be viewed or saved (Microsoft Paint works, if you have nothing more advanced). Pressing Alt+PrtSc allows you to capture only the active window.
Saving as a PNG will keep your screenie at its best quality, although PNGs can be quite large filesize-wise. JPEG is the best alternative if you absolutely need the filesizes to be smaller, but it will compress your files and create artefacts (or 'noise'; unsightly fuzzy-looking areas) on your images.
Cropping is generally considered to be imperative. If you've taken a photograph of a bird sitting in a bush, you probably don't want the branches to be taking up ninety percent of the frame: the subject is the bird and that's what you want the viewer to be focusing on; excess visual information is distracting.
Occasionally I do see screenies cropped a little too severely. If you're commenting on one of the Island Mystic's predictions, for example, there is no harm in keeping the Mystic's image in the frame; if you cropped out everything but the text, then it would not be immediately obvious where it was from.
Other editing you want to do should also be non-distracting:
Too many arrows, underlines, smilies, etc., can make the screenie appear messy.
If you are placing your comment(s) directly on the image (whether you're using typewritten text or are handwriting with a mouse or tablet) the text should be easy to read, nothing too fancy and in a colour that contrasts pleasantly against the background. A legible font doesn't have to be a huge font either. Moderation is the key word here.
It's usually best to stick with the same text style throughout; the text is not the star of the show and changing it purely for variety is unnecessary.
- Uploading Your Screenshot
Once you've found a free image-hosting website to upload to, you can put your screenie on the web. While uploading make sure the website isn't automatically resizing or converting your image to a different file format; you might need to untick a box to stop it doing this.
Once this is done, you can collect your image's address to put it on your page. The HTML code is:
<img src=" ">
The image's address should go between the two speech-marks. The image will now display on your page.
One of your Neopets' petpages is the ideal place for a collection of screenies, as it provides a large empty canvas.
The thing to bear in mind is that it is all about the screenies. It's a screenie page. We want concentrated screenie juice: minimal additives, if any.
Many people don't bother with a layout at all, perhaps just centring the content so that it looks passably neat. If you are leaning this way, I would at least advise the use of the paragraph tag for any comments you are typing below or above each screenie; it create a double-spaced paragraph, giving you a comfortable gap between the text and the image.
<p>This is a paragraph.</p>
Due to the width of many screenies there isn't much space to get creative with a layout and I think that's all to the better. Most people go for a single column, centred, in one unobtrusive colour while the page's background is in another unobtrusive colour. Black and white are reliable, but a solid pale colour wouldn't hurt either.
I would advise against interesting animations or background images - they're the additives mentioned above. If your column's colour is white, then you might want to give the screenies dark borders (either with coding or back in your editing program) to give them definition.
All this is simple HTML and can be done without experience in that area, but there are always premade layouts to be found if needed.
Some people prefer chronological order, with the newest easily found at either the top or the bottom of the page, while others go for categorisation, sorting the screenies into types (the Neoboards, Random Events, quests, glitches, etc.).
Whichever you choose, it's generally considered the done thing to keep any awards and comments/praise of your work in a separate section towards the bottom, so that those individuals who are uninterested in reading your fanmail can easily avoid it. Unless of course you have something amusing to share about said fanmail...
Comic vs. Memory
While the common assumption in Neopia is that 'screenies = funny', there is much one might want to record for more personal reasons; an admirable restock, for example, or the achievement of a long worked for goal, or a visit from the Fountain Faerie.
While one could certainly take a Fountain Faerie quest and put a witty spin on it, there is no necessity to do so. Many screenie pages have both a section for their humorous screenies and a section for their memories.
In fact it is not uncommon for someone to specifically seek out the latter, preferring the vicarious entertainment found in another person's experiences to the punchlines and invention in the traditionally funny variety.
Illustration - Yay or Nay?
There was a time when it was not common for screenies to be illustrated with cartoon-like characters and there is some debate as to whether it is for the good. Some people would say drawings can make a joke funnier than it would be without, while others point out that they look at screenies for the jokes and not for the cute little scribbles.
It's a matter of opinion and, I would say, your capabilities. It is your screenie page and you can draw on it if you want to, but it's worth considering how quickly and how well you can draw. There could easily be a big difference in time consumption between writing a funny remark and drawing out a whole character every time. You might try only drawing on some of your screenies, but the others might pale in comparison if you're not careful.
The second point of consideration: While it is an impossible task to decide where the line between 'good drawings' and 'bad drawings' should go, an inexpert hand is in danger of rendering screenies messier and less attractive rather than funnier and more attention-grabbing.
To my mind drawings offer an advantage in greater scope:
Firstly, if they feature a reoccurring character (be it you, one of your Neopets or another invention entirely) then that character's personality and idiosyncrasies will come across and add to the possibilities for jokes. It also provides something on which to hang a narrative; more than once I have seen a screenie page featuring multiple visits from the Tooth Faerie in her Random Event, while the page's character is shown to be have lost yet another tooth after every instance.
Secondly, in a word: Panels. Illustration gives you the ability to have multiple scenes to your joke. Imagine the following being written on a screenie of the Fountain Faerie's Random Event:
Me: OH MY GOODNESS I GOT AN FFQ SQUEEEEE! -faints-
FF: o.O So... you want to do my quest or not?
I can see this working illustrated or not. It's uncomplicated and nothing too unusual in choice of gag. We can imagine the scene ourselves and we definitely don't need any visual hints for it to make sense.
An alternative, longer joke:
Me: [suspicious] Are you the Water Faerie?
FF: No indeed - I am the Fountain Faerie!
Me: Are you sure?
FF: Well... yes.
Me: One hundred percent sure?
FF: [irritated] Yes!
Me: OH MY GOODNESS I GOT AN FFQ SQUEEEEE! -faint-
Such a lengthy dialogue, while possible to read with the attitudes in square brackets, would likely lack real impact if not anchored by some expressive illustration.
Of course, it can be pointed out that you might as well be entering the screenies as comics into the Neopian Times if they're going to be that long and complicated. Indeed, there is not necessarily much difference between illustrated screenies and NT comics, but just because your screenies might be accepted into the Times doesn't mean there's no reason you could want to put that much effort into your screenie page; one is not inferior to the other.
Funny = Original
Any joke may be funny the first time, but even the best won't be by the tenth repetition. If you want to entertain those seasoned screenie fans you will need to inject a bit of originality - not an impossible task, I assure you.
The best way to keep aware of which jokes have been done to death is to read screenie pages yourself, which you may already do. And, while of course you don't want to find yourself copying someone else's ideas, thinking about what makes you laugh can help you work out what you want to include on your own page.
Try discarding the first idea that comes to mind and thinking of something else instead. The obvious has probably already been done and there is nothing like an unexpected twist to a joke to make it truly funny.
Don't forget that the screenie does not already have to be amusing or even noteworthy pre-comment. The most common type of screenie is ones of the Neoboards, where so many witty remarks can be found that adding one's own can be unnecessary, but even something as dull as a batch of pound screenies has the potential to be given a splash of well-placed wit.
Screenie-making is brimming with disparate opinions, so I headed to the Neoboards to seek them out. I'll leave you with a selection of the responses.
- Illustrations. Yay Or Nay? Do the drawings make the screenie or was it better before that became such a trend? What do you think about it?
_Kate_e_did_: Yay. I like drawing and it gives the viewer a sense of your sense of humour.
Brynchilla: I love it when screenies have some sort of drawing. I think it adds something that is missing when you just have words. Then again, there are some screenies that are so funny that they can speak for themselves, and don't have to have anything.
Sabrieyl: Nay. It's like the screenie maker is trying to force it. Screenshot = capturing that one moment. Not taking it and drawing all over it.
_Kawaiidesu_: There are some pretty good screenies without pictures on them, but it shows more effort if the person draws on them.
Arcipello: I think they're very distracting, especially if they are going off on a tangent and making a simple screenie way too complicated. Most of the time they're not even funny.
Chimie119: I don't care, as long as they're funny.
- What's Your Favourite Type Of Screenie? I'm thinking along the lines of categories such as Boards, Dailies, Glitches, etc, but it's an open question.
Brynchilla: I don't like it when there are a ton of screenies showing off new avvies and such. I think it's too much bragging. When I look at screenies, I want to laugh.
Stacie12345678910: Board screenies tend to be the same thing over and over.
Sabrieyl: I prefer board screenies because the users on the site are the most unpredictable (compared to dailies or the pound).
_Kawaiidesu_: Any, really, as long as they're amusing.
Arcipello: Please don't post every little RE or win, it's annoying.
Rivliex: Anything can be funny, if you can add a twist through drawings or words.
- Does The Presentation Bother You? Is layout, crop, legible font, etc important?
_Kate_e_did_: If I can't read what they're saying, or the images are too small or too big, I do get bugged. If it's generally messy as well, thick lines or loud text, badly censored names on the boards, etc, I also tend to not get too far into the page. Layout, however, isn't important.
Sabrieyl: Extremely important. Layout, categories, neat cropping, typed comments improve on screenies a lot.
Arcipello: Plain or no layout at all for screenies. Too much loading and they should be the focus.
Chimie119: Cropping=yes. Readable font=yes. Layout=it depends. If I can't read the purple writing or see the purple pet due to the purple background, then I'm not reading the screenies.
Author's Note: Thanks to Giloleangel, _Kate_e_did_, Pinkitout, Neocoin101, Brynchilla, Kitty_1234_8, Stacie12345678910, Sabrieyl, Ahnyo, Lexi_304, Lisa_sweet_girl, _Kawaiidesu_, Anime_for_ever, Loveheart115, Spencer7639, Johnredds, Lovephones, Arcipello, Noobynewt, Rivliex, Pandipandabear and Chimie119 for answering my poll for The Truths, and thanks to Blo_0d_drinker and Yangwendi for the insightful critique.