Improving Screenshot Technology

Dear MMO Developers: Sometimes I want to take screenshots. Almost all of you are really great at providing a “take screenshot” key. Most of you even put it in the proper place, which is the “Print Screen” key if you don’t know. (Why some of you still insist on forcing us to use F12 or F9 or F10 or even F11 still boggles my mind, but I can let that slide. And there are even a few of you who think that saving your screenshots in a format other than JPEG is okay, but I won’t name names here.)

Isn’t it about time that we take the screenshot concept to the next level? I read that WoW just added a “selfie” thing, which I suppose in some way could be considered an advancement in the evolution of taking screenshots, but I’m looking for something a little more dramatic. And less dumb.

I want more control over the camera. I want to be able to control the composition of my screenshots. I realize I can do most of this by zooming into first person view, but I want to see my avatar, too.

There is really just one thing I need in order to make this happen: I want to be able to point the camera somewhere other than my avatar. Basically I would like a key that will put me into “mouselook”* mode when I’m not in first person view. It can be a toggle key or just to hold down. Then I can make a screenshot where my avatar is down in the lower left. Or perhaps I want to move him so that he/she is closer to the bottom of the screen. Being able to position my avatar anywhere but the exact center of the screen would be the most awesome thing ever.

So that’s it. A third-person mouselook key. Please add this in all current and future MMOs. (Or tell me how to do it if it’s already there.)

If you really, really want extra bonus points, you can also give us a way to change the focal point. I don’t know if 3D engines are capable of doing that yet, though. Something like that in, say, ESO, would provide some of us with hours and hours of entertainment from just running around taking pictures of your beautiful game world.

If you’re a free-to-play game (and you’re worthy of screenshots), I might even pay to enable this feature. Not much, though. Let’s not get crazy.

* The term mouselook originated, as with almost everything in 3D gaming, with Quake. (I think.) It means being able to move the camera around by moving your mouse, or being able to “look” with your mouse.

10 thoughts on “Improving Screenshot Technology”

  1. “And there are even a few of you who think that saving your screenshots in a format other than JPEG is okay…”

    I would be glad to dispense with .tga files, a format that was a fad around 2004, but I would very much like to be able to choose formats other than JPEG, with PNG and BMP being preferred.

    My case in point is LOTRO, which is a beautiful game and which takes screen shots in JPEG format. But Turbine insists on compressing them so much that they really make the game look far worse than it is. I am inevitably disappointed with how screen shots look compared to what I saw on my screen in LOTRO, largely because of quality.

    As for which key should take screen shots, I am with you. In 2015 if you feel the need to use something other than Print Screen, you better have a good reason. Steam goes with F12 because it has to co-exist with the game itself, which likely uses Print Screen. And let me choose where my screen shots end up. I don’t want to fill up the SSD that Windows runs on because somebody won’t let me choose a path.

  2. Ah, good point. Yeah it does defeat the purpose if the screenshots don’t look as good as the game.

    Directory choice would be awesome too. I usually move my Documents and Pictures folders off of C: for that exact reason!

  3. Oh man, yes. This. All of this. Very nice list of wishes for screenshots.

    I’m always taking screenshots and have to find the “Hide UI” command for various games. That can also be a pain as they all do it differently. I like FFXIV making it simple – Scroll Lock. But some games? GW2 is Ctrl+Shift+H – whaa? And TWS is something like Ctrl-Z… or is that Alt-Z… or something weird. ><

    1. I forgot all about hiding the UI… yeah I just experienced a problem in SWTOR. It hides the UI but not the nameplates! I have to turn them off completely or try to point away from the monsters. :)

  4. You are dead on. I’d like to add a few more:

    Build your game so that screenshots can be taken that hide the UI without the player having to do it manually. Keep in an option to take UI shots, mind you, but I want to make action shots easier to do.

    While we are at it, let’s get the full suite of the Internet on board. I want to share to Twitter, to Google+, to Facebook. I want to auto-upload to Dropbox or Drive. All without fiddling with crazy settings or leaving the game.

    Eye of Kilrog for everyone! MMOs need to add ways to float your vision and take cool screenshots for everyone. I don’t care if it is prohibitively expensive to use either!

  5. Archeage is the only game I’ve played that lets you free the camera and move it around that way. It’s still a bit awkward to me as far as controlling it, but it can be done and can also let you zoom in for extreme character closeups, which is pretty awesome when you’ve spent a bunch of time customizing a face.
    Unfortunately it does also make the terrible error of binding screenshots and freeing the camera to the F Keys… and doesn’t even let you add in a secondary binding for them elsewhere.
    I’ll agree with you, though, more games need free-able cameras. (I want it optional, though ’cause sometimes I’m perfectly happy with character centered mode.) And I’d like one with that option toggle to auto-hide the UI so I wouldn’t sometimes have to sacrifice characters and/or character pets in that search for an awesome action shot.
    But then I’m kind of a screenshot junkie, so I’m always wanting more options for them. I find myself a bit less likely to get really into an mmo if I can’t take awesome screenshots. I wouldn’t say it’s a deal breaker, but if the game was already only kind of okay…I may very well lose interest even more quickly than I ordinarily would.

    1. Yes, definitely optional. And I think I’d like separate keys for “with UI” and “without UI” because sometimes I like to grab shots for historical/record-keeping purposes that have UI information on them.

  6. Firefall has a great system although it doesn’t involve a little knowledge of the system and keybinds. Anyway, you can basically detatch your camera and move it around, it gives you options in this state to rewind as well. zoom in and out. It’s a great system for video creation and of course screenshots

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