Screenshots

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Overview

This article describes in depth the process of taking screenshots within City of Heroes.

Quick Primer

By default, the Print Screen key on a user's keyboard is mapped to create an in-game screenshot, in JPEG format, without the user interface (UI). The screenshot is stored in the screenshots subdirectory of the City of Heroes application directory. By default, unless City of Heroes was installed to a different directory, these are:

C:\Program Files\City of Heroes\screenshots (32bit Windows)
C:\Program Files (x86)\City of Heroes\screenshots (64bit Windows)

Alternatively, a user may type /screenshot on the chat command line in order to create a screenshot.

In addition to saving a screenshot, the screenshot (with the user interface) is copied to the clipboard, where it may be pasted into an image editor such as Paint, Adobe Photoshop, or GIMP, or into any application that supports images on the clipboard, such as Microsoft Word.

To get a screenshot of one's own character, it is common to rotate the camera around the character by either holding down the middle mouse button (or wheel, if it also acts as a button) and moving the mouse, or by holding down the Page Up key and moving the mouse. One can zoom in or out by either using the Home/End keys on the keyboard or the mouse wheel. The Page Down key on the keyboard restores the normal behind-the-character perspective and camera distance.

Mac Client

On the Apple Mac Client, to access screenshots, open the Applications folder in the Finder application. Once there, browse to the City of Heroes application. Command-click on the application to bring up the context menu and select "Show Package Contents." From there, navigate to the following directory:

Content / Resources / transgaming / c_drive / coh / screenshots

Once navigated to the screenshots folder, a shortcut to it can be created by Command-clicking on it to bring up the context menu and selecting Make Alias. Drag the alias to a convenient place such as the desktop or the under Places in the Finder window. The alias may be renamed if desired.

Alternatively, the following command can be typed into a Terminal window (all on one line), assuming that City of Heroes is installed in the default location under Applications. If it is in an alternate location, substitute the appropriate path, noting that spaces in a path must be escaped by a backslash. The shortcut location may also be changed if desired; the following places the shortcut on the desktop.

ln -s /Applications/City\ of\ Heroes.app/Contents/Resources/transgaming/c_drive/coh/screenshots/ ~/Desktop/screenshots

The User Interface

Screenshots do not contain the user interface (UI) by default. The UI are the elements of the game that appear over the main action window; for example, chat bubbles, the health and endurance display, the power trays, the chat windows, etc.

To take a screenshot of the game screen with the UI, a player has three options: pasting the screenshot from the clipboard, assigning a key to the "Toggle Screenshot UI" option, or using the screenshotui slash command to change the default behavior of the screenshot command.

Under MacOSX, command-shift-3 will perform a screenshot of your entire screen and open the image in Preview. However, the command-shift-4 function (screenshot of selected area) will not work while City of Heroes is foregrounded.

Using the Clipboard

The Print Screen key works in the game the same way it works within Windows (or Vista); it takes a screenshot of everything displayed on your screen. This screenshot is saved in an internal memory area of the Windows operating system called the Clipboard and not to a file anywhere on your hard drive. The screenshot may then be pasted into an image editor or any application that supports pasting images from the Windows clipboard.

This copying to the Clipboard saves only one image at a time. When Print Screen is hit again, the new screenshot overwrites the old one.

When the GUI (graphical user interface) of the game is active, hitting Print Screen saves a copy of the screen to a file in your City of Heroes game directory as well as saving a copy of the screen to the Clipboard. In the areas of the game where the GUI is not active (such as in the character creator or tailor screens), then hitting Print Screen will not save a copy to a file the game directory. Only pasting a copy of the image from the clipboard into some other program and then saving it from within that other program will save that image to a file.

If you run City of Heroes as a full-screen application, this means that Print Screen will copy the game window with the UI. Since this is an operating system functionality, it is not affected by changes using the screenshotui slash command, and the function cannot be disabled within City of Heroes or remapped to a different key as most commands can. Also, if a player is running City of Heroes using a multiple monitor setup, a screenshot from the clipboard will include all screens on one large picture, not just the City of Heroes game screen.


How to Export from the Clipboard

The use of Windows (or Vista) operating system Clipboard is the only way to save images from screens which do not have an active GUI (graphical user interface) such as the character creator/customizer screen. Here are the steps to save such a screenshot:

  1. In the character creator screen, hit Print Screen on your keyboard. That puts the image in your Windows (or Vista) operating system 'clipboard' which is an internal memory area. This will not save it to the City of Heroes directory because, unfortunately, the game wasn't coded to save screenshots while in the character creator screen (because the graphic user interface [GUI] isn't active in that screen).
  2. Switch to some other program that can read images. Microsoft Paint, which comes standard with Windows is such a program. Also Word works. The most popular free image program is Irfanview (go to CNET.COM downloads sections and search for it). To switch to this program, you can use Alt-Tab if it's already running in the background; otherwise you have to close or minimize City of Heroes to get to it. If you're in full screen mode of CoH, you can minimize it by hitting the Windows key on your keyboard and right clicking its tab and choose minimize. Or, hit the Windows key to pull up the program selector to start Paint, Word, or Irfanview.
  3. When you are in the other program, you can now paste from the clipboard into the program (Word, Paint, or Irfanview). Most programs recognize Window's shortcut key for paste which is CTRL+V (just FYI, CTRL+C is copy and CTRL+X is cut - which removes any highlighted data and copies it to the clipboard). So, in that other program, hit CTRL+V and the image will be pasted into it. Alternatively, many programs have 'paste' in their menus found under the Edit menu.

Vista Clipboard Alternative: Snipping Tool

Some Vista users have reported that they cannot get their Clipboard to work correctly from a City of Heroes screen. They often wind up with a blank screen that gets pasted into the destination program. The solution is a program that comes standard with Vista called Snipping Tool which can be found under the Accessories sub-menu of the Start button's list of Programs.

The Snipping Tool actually gives better control of screenshots because it has features such as highlighting just one area of the screen to take a snapshot of.

Using the screenshotui Command

The default behavior of the screenshot command is save the image without the UI. This may be changed by using the screenshotui slash command. To save images with the UI, type the following on the chat command line:

/screenshotui 1

To disable capturing the UI in screenshots again, type the following on the chat command line:

/screenshotui 0

Screenshot Keybinds

Players may use the screenshotui command in conjunction with the screenshot command and keybinds to create screenshots with and without the UI by pressing Print Screen and Shift Print Screen, respectively. To do so, type the following commands on the chat command line:

/bind sysrq "screenshotui 0$$screenshot"
/bind shift+sysrq "screenshotui 1$$screenshot"

The command to toggle the current screenshotui setting is:

/++screenshotui

And simply typing /screenshotui on the chat command line by itself will display the currently screenshotui setting (0 for off, 1 for on).

Options: Toggle Screenshot UI

"Toggle Screenshot UI" is available in the keybind options, and has no key assigned by default. Mechanically, it does the exact same thing as binding a key to /++screenshotui. There is no visible indicator that taking a screenshot with the UI is on or off, so players must either type /screenshotui to view the current status, or take a screenshot and view it to see the results.

Screenshot Image Format

By default, image files are saved in lossy JPEG format. In addition to the picture, the name of the character taking the picture as well as the picture's location (map and coordinates) are stored in the JPG's information. This information shows up when checking the file's properties.

It is also possible to create an image in the TGA format by using the screenshottga slash command. These files are typically much larger, but have the advantage of being an exact copy of what is on the screen without image quality loss. Player name and location information are not stored in TGA formatted files.

The Print Screen key may be remapped to produce TGA files instead by typing the following on the chat command line:

/bind sysrq "screenshotui 0$$screenshottga"

Screenshot Options

In addition to the chat commands, screenshot options may be set using the main menu. To access these settings, click on Menu on the health/endurance window and select Options from the popup menu. On the Keymapping tab, there is a section named Other. The relevant commands and their equivalent slash commands are as follows:

Screenshot (JPEG): /screenshot
Screenshot (TGA): /screenshottga
Toggle Screenshot UI: /++screenshotui

After selecting the desired key to bind to the screenshot option, click the Save and Close Window button to apply the binds.

Using Demorecord Files

Screenshots may be taken within demorecord files. However, there are additional issues players should be aware of when taking screenshots in demorecord files.

The Command Console

Unlike the live game, there is no chat command window during a demorecord playback. In order to issue commands to the playback, a player must open the demorecord command console. To do so, press the grave accent, or "backtick" (`) key, normally located on the bottom of the tilde (~) key on a standard keyboard. When the backtick key is pressed a gray box will drop down over the top 2/3 of the screen with a green > prompt and a cursor. Commands may be typed at this prompt as they are normally typed on the chat command line in the live game. Pressing the backtick key again will close the demorecord command line console.

Taking Screenshots during a Demorecord Playback

Unlike the live version of the game, the screenshot command is not bound to the Print Screen key by default, although the normal clipboard functionality still exists. In order to create a screenshot within a demorecord playback file, the screenshot or screenshottga command may be typed directly in the demorecord command line console as described above, or it may be manually bound to a key by typing, for example, the following bind command in the command line console:

/bind sysrq "screenshotui 0$$screenshot"

The Demorecord UI

The only UI elements in demorecord files are the chat bubbles and the command line console. There are a few differences in the chat bubbles between the live game and a demorecord playback. Each chat command is actually recorded twice in a demorecord file, which means that it will appear twice. Also, depending on when a demorecord file was recorded, it is possible that other messages regarding power recharges and other system messages may be recorded as well. If a screenshot with the UI is desired, some editing of the demorecord file to remove unwanted chat bubbles may have to take place.

As with live screenshots, the screenshot command does not capture UI elements by default. If chat bubbles and/or the demorecord command line console are desired to be in the screenshot, the screenshotui 1 command should be used on the command line console before creating the screenshot.

Accessing Screenshots from Other Directories

There is no known way to redirect screenshots to be saved in any location other than the screenshots subdirectory of the City of Heroes application directory. However, there are two methods that may be used to facilitate accessing screenshots from other folders.

Shortcuts

The easiest way to access the screenshots folder from another location is to simply create a shortcut to the screenshots folder. To do so, follow these steps:

  • Right-click in the location where you wish to create a shortcut to the screenshots folder.
  • From the popup menu, select New / Shortcut.
  • When prompted for the location of the item, type the location of the screenshots folder or browse to it using the Browse button.
  • When prompted for a name for the shortcut, give it a name that is desired to be the label of the shortcut icon.

This shortcut may now be used to quickly access the screenshots folder in City of Heroes.

Symbolic Links

Important Note: This section describes advanced functionality that should be used by advanced users only.

There may be circumstances where a shortcut may not be the preferred way to access the screenshots folder. In Windows Explorer and file dialog boxes, shortcuts are sorted as normal files, not directories. Also, some applications (notably The Gimp) are not able to correctly handle shortcuts properly.

In such cases, a symbolic link may be more appropriate. Symbolic links are supported by the NTFS filesystem that is in use on most hard drives on Windows machines. However, there are no utilities included with Windows to create or manage symbolic links. In order to use them, one must acquire a separate utility. Microsoft provides a free command-line junction utility available for download called Junction. There are also other utilities available to manage junction points graphically.

To create a symbolic link using Microsoft's junction utility, follow these steps:

  • Acquire the free command-line Junction utility.[1]
  • Extract the junction.exe file into an executable path. A common location to save such utilities is C:\Windows\system32.
  • Open a command prompt window by clicking on the Start menu, then Run, typing cmd in the prompt that pops up, and clicking OK or pressing Enter.
  • In the command prompt window, change to the directory where you wish to create the symbolic link. For example, if you wish to place the symbolic link on your desktop, change to the C:\Documents and Settings\username\Desktop folder.
  • Type the following command, substituting the location of the City of Heroes installation directory if necessary:
junction SymlinkName "C:\Program Files\City of Heroes\screenshots"

The SymlinkName may be any name desired. If it contains spaces, the SymlinkName should be enclosed in quotations marks. For example, the following command line will create a symbolic link to the screenshots directory named CoH Screenshots that will, for all practical purposes, function as if it were the screenshots directory:

junction "CoH Screenshots" "C:\Program Files\City of Heroes\screenshots"

Important Note: A symbolic link is strongly linked to its target directory. The files within it are not copies, they are the original files! This means that if you delete a file from the symbolically linked directory, it will be deleted from the original directory as well.

To remove a symbolic link to a directory use the junction command with the -d parameter. For example, to remove the above symbolic link, type the following on the command line in the directory in which the symbolic link was created:

junction -d "CoH Screenshots"

Important Note: Do not try to simply delete a symbolic link to remove it. It will remove the symbolic link, but it will also delete all of the files within it, which are the original files. In other words, if a symbolic link to the screenshots directory is deleted, all files in the screenshots subdirectory will be deleted.

A symbolic link may not be used to replace the screenshots subdirectory. City of Heroes uses filesystem calls that bypass symbolic links, and if the screenshots directory is removed and a symbolic link is created in its place, City of Heroes will recreate the screenshots subdirectory, which will cause it to exist side-by-side with the symbolic link. This could cause unexpected filesystem behavior and should be avoided.

Screenshot Color Adjustment

Any gamma setting applied within City of Heroes is ignored when the game creates its screenshots. If the game image appears too dark or too light on a player's screen with the gamma level set at 100%, it will appear with the same darkness/lightness when saved as a screenshot, even if a player adjusts his or her graphics settings to compensate within the game. Most popular image editing programs support gamma adjustment of images.