Picture Perfect

First, go watch this video. It’s hi-larious!

(Disclaimer: I haven’t actually played a game of Yu-Gi-Oh! since at least 2004, and I never plan to again.)

Today’s the deadline for MOG #35, which means that we have to get all the files to the printer today. Most of you probably think that editing a magazine is just a matter of receiving articles from freelance writers (or producing them in house), making sure the spelling and grammar are up to snuff, and slapping in some images. In a sense, that’s correct, but there’s more to it than that. Or maybe I’m just saying that to make my job sound more important.

Probably the most strenuous parts of the job is securing images. For many of Beckett’s other titles, which involve sports figures, they can go to their AP Images resource to get a picture of, say, Derek Jeter or Adrian Peterson. We don’t typically have that option (though two notable exceptions this year were Adrianne Curry in Nov/Dec 2011 and Chris Kluwe in the Mar/Apr 2011 issue — and if you’re not following Kluwe on Twitter @ChrisWarcraft, he’s also hi-larious, though I don’t think he does it with a sombrero.)

Technically, I think Trion could sue me for using this. But I'm hoping they won't.

That means that we need some combination of official art/screenshots from a manufacturer and screenshots provided by the writer. We can’t just go on the Internet and grab random pieces of game-related art because we don’t own those pieces and don’t have the express consent of the creators to use them. That applies even to random screenshots someone might have taken in-game. That doesn’t mean that I’ve never used Google Images to find something, but when I do, I check around to make sure that it came from a source — typically the manufacturer — that won’t lead to us getting in legal trouble.

But wait, it’s not that easy! If you’ve ever poked around the media section of game companies’ sites, you might have seen them offering “low resolution” and “high resolution” images. For the Internet, lo-res pictures, typically around 72 dpi (dots per inch) are fine, but print requires hi-res (typically 300 dpi) pics. Now, this can be worked around if the lo-res image is large enough. Because hi-res is four times sharper than lo-res (because 300/72 = 4-ish), we can display a lo-res image at 1/4 its size and it’s effectively hi-res. So math skills are needed at this job, too.

(Trivia: I got a 750 on the Math portion of my SAT but only 510 on the English.)

When it comes to screenshots, they’re almost always lo-res, but they’re usually big enough that we can still run them at a reasonable size. For instance, the display area of my monitor is about 21″ across and 12″ high. 1/4 of those numbers would yield an image of 5.25″ by 3″, which is usually big enough to be usable on a typical 8.5″ x 11″ page. And we can cheat a little bit if we need to to make it bigger. You probably won’t notice if the image is 5.5″ wide in the magazine and a touch fuzzy.

And when it comes to interesting images… well, let’s just say I’ve fought that war a few times 🙂 I’ve even got writer’s guidelines for submitting screenshots. And some manufacturers are much better at providing hi-res images than others. My favorites are the ones who maintain readily accessible ftp or press sites full of images that they update regularly — Trion, Turbine, and NCSoft rate among the tops on my list in this category.

The folder on our server containing all our MMO images

Then, once I’ve got all the text and images together, I turn them over to our art director, Eric Knagg, and hope that I’ve given him enough instruction, or at least labeled the images well enough, that he can emphasize the right ones and/or put them in the right places. Usually, that works out fine, but it frustrates me to no end how a non-MMO player like him can’t tell a Guardian from a Defiant. I mean, really! (Just kidding, Eric.)

When Eric finishes a design, he prints it out to me, I look it over (while also editing the Quark file for things like italics on titles), then hand it back to him with any changes I need made, which probably occurs on about 1/3 of the pages. After everything’s had a once-over, all pages are printed out again and assembled in magazine order for one last look at the whole shebang. Then pixies and leprechauns transform it into a magazine.

At least I think that’s how the last step goes. I’m pretty much out of the loop at that point.

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