No update message this week, as much of the schedule was eaten by prep work – toil without immediately visible results.
One of the background tasks is preparing the headmorph that will illustrate the fifth Commander M. Shepard writeup. It takes a while – nothing is documented, and I often need two days or so between rounds of work so I can again look at the model with fresh eyes. Furthermore the in-game has changed, several of the features in the character creator have been modified, there are more facial animation points, there’s something that I still can’t narrow down that has changed in the body model near the back of the jawbone, etc.
Though obviously this has little in common with the work of actual 3D model artists, it is quite interesting to understand how the technology works, and how the holistic perception of a face depends on the tiniest adjustments – say, the exact height of the corners of the mouth, which can completely change the unconscious assumptions about the probable character of a person.
In practice, however, it is mostly a lot of gradual tweaks to colour vectors, minuscule gradual adjustments to point coordinates, trying out tiny changes in scalar intensities… and a lot swearing, of course. And wishing we had a dang map of the LOD vertices so I can eliminate some clipping. And wondering why so few video games will allow for a normal, flat nose (especially since so many NPCs have proper African-looking noses).
Also, Trogg is man. Trogg bad understanding girly makeup. Trogg want to club mammoths. Clubbing mammoths simpler than girly makeup. And the signature blue lensflare in Mass Effect lighting tends to make lip gloss really shiny.
Current work headmorph :
Next to experiment with the bone offsets. Lifting the corners of the mouth a bit to get rid of the frown is doable (all ME3 mouths have been frownish-ed), flattening the nose isn’t, adding more of an epicanthic fold to the eyes might be doable without clipping.
Along with all the grunt work and new and revised entries, I’m occasionally upgrading illustrations – and removing fan art pieces when I don’t have time to contact the artist and get authorisation.
The source of illustrations for fighter video game characters is usually creativeuncut.com, which serves as a repository for concept art and master renders. The graphic standards match writeups.org’s (resolution, detouring, compression, etc.) and I know for sure it’s commercial art from the publisher.
Though I am generally satisfied with the enlarged versions of most pictures on writeups.org, the signature little artefacts of my enlargement script are starting to bug me. I would assume more casual viewers don’t experience this, but I increasingly take the time to redo illustrations from scratch when the workload is light (e.g., no lengthy detouring).
Oh, and also, 5,000 entries. Not terribly important in itself – “an entry” isn’t a very useful unit, a lot of work goes into refrusbishing entries rather than creating new ones, yadda yadda – but symbolically speaking it’s nice.
Roll call for this batch :
MILESTONE. The DCH mailing list shares some origins with Milestone comics – Kynn Barlett, who helped found the mailing list and ran its software and server, was a friend of the late Dwayne McDuffie and also helped with McDuffie’s online presence. Plus, many of us just plain liked Milestone comics.
Kynn’s Milestone writeups are IIRC from 1996, but Bryan Gittens just updated several to modern standards, added lots of material, modernised the stats, prepared illustrations, etc. :
FALLOUT. We briefly jump forward to Fallout 2 with a possible take on the Chosen One – one that strays further from the game’s mechanics than our sample Fallout Vault Dweller. Some technical aspects are still being discussed – since a major reason why we write up a lot of characters is to stretch the rules into all sort of directions and cranies – but I accidentally prepped it and I need to keep a clean plate. Plus, she’s cool. In fact she’s downright cold.
The History section for Catgirl (Carrie Kelley) was rewritten for quality by Ethan, who also added new pictures.
WORD OF WARCRAFT. A quick profile for a generic Quillboar (not that there’s that much to say).
INVINCIBLE. Bryan rewrote and considerably extended his older entry for Allen the Alien, and I rescanned the lead illustration.
UNIVERSE AZ. Two new variations of comic book characters as they exist in Azrael’s Universe AZ campaign :
- Added the geth pulse rifle to the Mass Effect 2 weapons locker, but still unhappy we don’t have the resources to playtest all this stuff.
- Additional ME2 illustrations here and there.
- The second entry for Tali’Zorah was picked to be our 5,000th entry for sentimental reasons. It covers everything from the end of Mass Effect to the beginning of her trial, plus detailled notes about the Quarians as they are presented in Mass Effect 2
Amazon sends me a lot of mail about offers and stuff. It generally goes to the trash, but this one occurs shortly after we concluded Gareth’s Dollhouse arc and I’ve prepared a Mass Effect writeup laced with Firefly references (for Adam Baldwin’s ME2 character). And the prices are good, and it’s stuff we like, and it’s stuff that writeups.org readers prolly like, so…. heh. Let’s go with it for once.
There’s a series of slashed prices on Firefly, Dollhouse, Buffy, Angel collections on DVD and Blu-Ray – frex the complete Firefly set is $14-ish. It lasts until the 16th of March, and if you order after using the link above Amazon makes a small donation to writeups.org.
OK, back to work…
I doubt anybody noticed, but writeups.org took a bad hit in its search engine rankings for a bit more than a month. As it turns out, Google (and perhaps others) want affiliate links (like our Amazon recommendations) done in a specific way lest they become wroth. So… that’s some more time spent on backstage stuff to repair the damage rather than writing, preparing images or publishing. But this is the Internet – if Google says “jump”, then by golly we’d better leap.
I also continue hand-placing adverts in individual entries, to make sure that they mesh well with each page. Hopefully this approach (selected recommendations, hand placement, low intrusiveness, etc.) will pay off compared to just scripting in bulk advert placements and calling it a day. I sort of… doubt it will, but at least I’ll have the satisfaction of craftsmanship.
Roll call :
- UNIVERSE 3001. Another big article from Chris – this time about a home-made character, the Wondergirl of the XXVIth century, Ms. Elna Kent.
- DC HEROES. A revised and improved version of the Bestow Power has been added to the DCH New Powers article. Older descriptions were removed from those entries that still had it.
- Thanks to Peter, we now have *another* writeup for Al Bundy, from Married with children. No, I don’t understand it either.
- Very very minor villain Pinball, seen in Squadron Supreme, now has an entry. Heh, if Al Bundy can have two…
- MASS EFFECT. Several things :
- Some excerpts from Art of the Mass Effect universe (<- Amazon link), which is recommended if you like seeing concept art. New shots for Wrex, the main two ME articles, the ME weapons locker, Garrus (second entry), Grunt, Zaeed, Kasumi, and Shepard's second entry. A handful of new screenshots have also been added.
- As a bonus, the Mass Effect (first game) article now has an extra section with technical instructions so you can play this 2007 game using 2013 rendering technologies. You can’t do that on a console, though – it’s a PC thing. Some of this advice can be used on a bunch of video games.
- The entry for Miranda Lawson bounced ahead of publication order, smugly ignoring all protests, and is now online.
- Added a new boxed section near the beginning of Staff Commander Mandala Shepard’s first entry to further discuss the choice of writing up a specific Shepard, and how it influences our Mass Effect entries.
- And as a bonus, a minor entry for Yeoman Kelly Chambers.
- SUPER-FRIENDS. RTM2301 covers the version of Dracula seen in 1978 on that famous show. As usual, not the house writeups.org statting style, but variety is good.
- CHARMED. Ethan wrote up Javna, a demon vanquished by the Charmed Ones.
- Kaga is a minor X-Men villain from circa 2010, who builds pretty useful giant mutant monster alien zombies.
- FALLOUT. Two things :
- One entry covering all four companions in the first game (the 1997 one)
- Some extra material from Roy has been added to the first entry for the Vault Dweller, as people who started playing the series with Fallout 3 were surprised by the low power level of Fallout 1 & 2 characters.
- Still waiting for illustrations for the rest.
So, like, 4,994 entries on this stupid site.
The recent entries have been fitted with the target payload of advertisements – the Amazon text recommendation, one Amazon picture recommendation, and from zero to three general adverts depending on how long the entry is. The general ads are served by Google, so they’re generally stuff that interest people who read content similar to writeups.org.
On one hand the site needs these (and people clicking on them, eh ?) to continue existing, but on the other I’m very wary of making writeups.org less attractive and harder to read. However it’s difficult to make an objective assessment about a site I have been working on for thousands of hours – after a while the pages are just there, and are no longer something one reacts to. So all comments are welcome, as usual.
Most of the current experimentation is about having a small number of large, visible ads and positioning them where they don’t break the flow of reading or looking at the pictures. For instance having large ads in the text column of entries was tried out and deleted. Even though they were smaller than most banner illustrations we use to break up long texts, they unpleasantly interrupted the reading. I’ve seen a big comics news site using this format in their text columns, forcing them to add an “article continued below” line above the advert – I’d rather avoid that, if our financials allow for it.
I contractually can’t encourage you to click on ads, but I think I can state that if you see something that looks interesting, you don’t need to fiercely resist the temptation to reaffirm your profound essence as somebody who never clicks on online ads. If it seems intriguing right-click, open it in a new tab and have a glance later – that’s enough to help us keep writeups.org alive.
Not a ton of articles this week, but IMO they’re detailed material and quite interesting :
- Gorgon is a Mark Millar-esque munchkin Wolverine foe, who also played an important role in the Secret Warriors series, so Gareth wrote him up.
- The Old West Weapons Locker has been considerably beefed up, which is fair for material about cowboys. Reorganised and tightened explanations, more guns, more pictures, lots of selected short videos, a few guns from the tail end of the era for Red Dead Redemption players, polished texts, etc. The article is now pretty robust, I say.
- One of the, err, triggers for the Old West guns article was Peter writing up one of my favourite childhood characters – Chris Adams, Yul Brynner’s character in The Magnificent Seven.
- FALLOUT. We have a Fallout arc brewing, though for now only the first game of this fan-favourite series of video games will get coverage. We start with a possible version of the Vault Dweller, using a typical Fallout character build and presenting the universe.
- S.H.I.E.L.D. (and SECRET WARRIORS). Last entry for our Secret Warriors arc – Quake (Daisy Johnson), the current director of S.H.I.E.L.D., was written up by Gareth.
- MASS EFFECT. Embedded a short video in Liara‘s entry to give a good sample of her voice and (lack of) inflexions in the first game, since I inexplicably forgot last time. FWIW I think that these entries have finally found their readership, as they now have a good traffic.
- Jobe added some information to John’s very old entry for 1980s TV parodic character Sledge Hammer.
- CHARMED. Ethan and Chris are continuing our Charmed arc — so now we have a profile of a second Charmed One, Piper Halliwell.
That be 4,985 articles now.
There’s been another push to catch up with the backlog on the DC Heroes technical material. There is some new general material too, but his update message is chiefly about technical stuff.
- SECRET WARRIORS. Three more from Gareth – plus one extra illustration for the main article.
- MASS EFFECT. The Mass Effect 2 Weapons Locker has been revised. One round of polishing and typos-killing for the text; added 3D rotation snapshots for all weapons, redid a lot of illustrations, added the missing shotgun. All that’s missing now is the Widow, some heavy weapons and more polish.
- MASS EFFECT ALSO. The Mass Effect 2 entries that link to a video so readers can hear the voices of the characters are now directly embedded in the article. Nothing to write home about but it’s more comfortable, it further breaks up the text column, and I wanted to have a look at the embedding options (and write two lines of CSS) since I have a videos-heavy article coming up. Videos have been added to the following entries :
- DC HEROES RULES STUFF. We be doin’ another small push to have all the rules material cleaned up and centralised in the New Rules File articles. This time :
- A polished version of the Acuity Power was added to the New Rules File (Powers) article. The older descriptions of the Power in individual entries were removed.
- The Eclipsed Drawback (formerly Shadow of the Bat, Shadow of the Ron and Shadow of the Devil) was rewritten and added to the New Rules File (Drawbacks) article. The Shadow of the (Foo) Drawback technical descriptions were removed from the individual entries.
- Older descriptions of the Time Slow and Time Stop Powers in individual entries deleted since these have been in the New Rules File for a while. Ditto for Weakness Detection.
- Modernised descriptions of the Scattershot Bonus and the Autofire Bonus were added to New Rules File – Bonuses, and the old ones removed from the deprecated Weapons Locker article.
- A small essay about the pricing of equipment and gear bought with Hero Points vs. other gear was added to the New Rules File (Miscellanea) article, and the older version removed from the deprecated Weapons Locker article.
- A modernised description of the Recommended Strength (Rec. STR) optional equipment attribute was added to the New Rules File (Miscellanea) article, and the older version removed from the deprecated Weapons Locker article.
- MORE DC HEROES RULES STUFF. Roy’s essay about playing DCH tablesless/chartsless is now up. It’s not something with which we have genuinely experimented, so if you do have experience with playing the game that way please let us know.
- HALF-LIFE. The History section of our old old old Gordon Freeman entry (which only covers the first game) was rewritten by Roy for quality.
- The Amazon banner at the top is gone, which you presumably noticed. We’ve begun to experiment with adverts on three (3) pages to discuss what’s least intrusive and best integrates with the site, so the traditional top-of-page banner can go.
- A pointer entry toward our huge “About this site” content, and other pages not indexed in our search engine, was added since some folks were searching for “FAQ” in the search engine and not getting proper results.
4980 entries now.
Back in the days, the update messages were archived in a single text file, which became a wee bit of a problem when said .txt went over 400kbs – most browsers didn’t like displaying such a page. It has since evolved, and for months now the Updates Blog has been running on the current version of WordPress.
This means that the individual messages now have a timestamp and everything, so having them bear the date as their title is no longer useful. Plus, we now have smaller and more frequent update messages, so mentioning the main attractions in the title has become feasible without leaving half the material out. And it’s better for those of you who get the RSS feed, too.
- WEAPONS LOCKER ARTICLES.
- I rewrote the part about the wartime rifles in the Old West article – I had merged the post-war models with the war models to simplify things, but upon rereading it just was oversimplified. The original idea was to avoid the technical gobbledygook as much as possible to stay in the spirit of classic Westerns and comics, but once one starts adding some basic explanations this becomes impossible. I’m still unsure of what the sweet spot would be.
- The tricked out Winchester from The Rifleman was added to the Old West article.
- Since the Shotgun Blast and the Stagger Power descriptions have been on writeups.org for a while, our Modern Firearms – Handguns article now integrate these.
- Both Jaws – that is, the James Bond giant villain, and the giant white shark from the 1970s movie – had their history section redone by Roy for brevity and quality. One of the two also had his vulnerability to electricity clarified. Can you guess which ?
- YOUNG AVENGERS. One new illustration for Patriot (Elijah Bradley), and one for Hawkeye (Kate Bishop), both prepped by Gareth.
- ANIMALS FILE. Mark added stats and texts for skunks and ostriches, plus some photos to make the article prettier.
- Acid is another character from a RPG campaign back in Ethan’s youth.
- SECRET WARRIORS. Three members of the team, as written up by Gareth:
- Added a big DCU History section by Chris to the Thundra entry. It’s weird how often this entry gets touched up.
4975 entries, by the way.
Dear people who like our online community archive at www.writeups.org,
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I had to take a break from the soul-crushing grind of the Amazon links. It’s not that bad in itself, but coming on the heels of the code sweep through the entirety of the site it’s a bit too much. So here’s a mix of new content, upgrades and rewrites. Roll call :
- TRESE. Our main Trese entry has had a big art upgrade, and now links to the newly-available Kindle version of the stories.
- MASS EFFECT (first game). A few extra screenshots now that my settings look about right. I can do screenshots of people using biotic powers without waiting for CDAMJC to finish the armour textures, so let’s get that out of the way. I’ve also done a few shots of people using their omni-tool, out of curiosity.
- Garrus – one banner upgraded.
- Kaidan – four new shots (some replacing old ones) of biotic and omni-tool use.
- Tali – two new banners replacing old ones, omni-tool.
- Wrex – four shots showing biotics and Immunity, and added a note in Personality to explain the point of the “Shepard” “Wrex” quote.
- ADVENTURE TIME. Ethan wrote that bear up. No, really.
- THE MATRIX. And now it’s Neo‘s entry that gets overhauled, so all our entries about The Matrix (1999 film) have been modernised. Like the rest the adjustments were chiefly technical, since the movie isn’t exactly characterisation-driven.
- LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES. Chris managed to cram a new entry in his schedule – the Silver Age era for Lightning Lad, covering his early pre-Crisis career.
- DOLLHOUSE. The second Echo writeup by Gareth is now up.
- WEAPONS LOCKER. Here’s a new chapter of our successful Weapons Locker series. This one is about the guns used in Old West movies, comics, novels, etc. with the usual emphasis on fictional depictions. As always feel free to comment, suggest more weapons, etc. Our Weapons Locker Guide article has been updated, of course.
- More placeholder pictures based on Blu-Ray screen captures were processed. That was the rest of the batch, so that’s done, which is good.
- The very old illustrations for our very old Doc Savage notes were replaced by some Vallejo covers, since those have the virtue of familiarity.
- The Planet had his texts and illustrations brushed up, though I was only supposed to correct his Initiative score. It happens.
- SECRET WARRIORS. We’re now starting a new arc by Gareth. Like with most teams we like the series was cancelled, and like with most teams we write up nowadays we’re going to start with a “base camp” article so we don’t repeat stuff in every entry.
- Old, obscure Night Thrasher character Aardwolf was rewritten and reillustrated.
- Old, obscure Daredevil foe the Dark Messiah was rewritten and reillustrated.
- Redid one column illustration for Daredevil, and two for Thundra.
- Pawsplay wrote up Bluejay, an interesting Champions RPG villain (who also appears in the MMO), to test stuff.
Back in the saddle, yeee-haw and all that – 4,971 entries.
Here’s what we’ve been up to lately —
- TRESE. Our big entry for Alexandra Trese – from the popular Filipino occult investigation comics – was expanded, updated, reorganised and improved by Adam.
- Likewise with the entry for Zero (from the Dark Horse post-apocalyptic series Zero Killer) by its author Peter.
- MASS EFFECT. I had to take a slew of screenshots while running tests with bloom (ME has quite bloomtastic aesthetics) and lighting so heh, might as well replace old shots in the entries. In this batch :
- MASS EFFECT TOO. Professor Mordin Solus‘s profile has been published as a break from the Amazon links grind. Say hello to Mordin and the awesome power of… SCIENCE !
- Went horse a-riding in Antonica for a short while to photograph a gnoll.
- FAQ. Two additions :
- Chapter 8 of the FAQ has been extended again. There are a few more important bits of information about making video games screen shots (writing everything up would be huge, and stop being current within a few years at most), and there is now a complete guide about scanning comic books for WORG illustrations. As a reminder, we’re always looking for volunteers to prepare images for the site – even if it’s just the initial scanning as explained in the guide.
- Chapter 2 of the FAQ has a new answer about the Amazon adverts and how we select them.
- Mike wrote up Jax Teller, from the Sons of Anarchy TV series.
- The individual entries for the Weird Sisters – Charm, Beauty and Truth - had a lot of repeated material between them. Now that we have a layout that allows for it, the three entries have been merged into one. The extra two entries have been deleted, so that’s two steps back from making it to 5,000, heh.
- The entry for Conan’s buddy Janissa the Widowmaker has been significantly enhanced, with lots of new content (texts and illustrations).
- MINOR ILLUSTRATION WORK.
- THE MATRIX. Morpheus‘ very old entry has been overhauled.
- EMBIGGENED ILLUSTRATIONS. There are now 4,350 large-format pictures in the right-hand illustration columns of the site. Which is still a small number compared to what remains to be done. Note that it is still mostly a dumb process where I don’t stop to think. Some pictures will have to be removed later due to poor quality, there are still unauthorised fan art pieces that need to be tracked down, etc. But for now the idea is just to keep ploughing through the mass.
- DC HEROES. More new Powers in the New Rules File – Powers :
- Time Slow
- Time Stop
- Ultra-Vision (modified)
- Weakness Detection
- Plus the Bloodless Gunfighter Schtick in our slick Schticks File.
- DOLLHOUSE. Where were we, who were we… ah yes, Gareth’s first of two profiles for Echo, as played by Eliza Dushku.
Headcount is still 4,964 due to the two deletions.