This tutorial was submitted by @Cnidarico.
Welcome to the mythos of the Champions Online roleplaying community. If you're like me and enjoy making stories for your character, then there is a good chance you've considered making a comic at one point. Whether you've been inspired by another person's creation or would like to try a hand at it yourself, this guide will provide you with the tools and the knowledge you need to produce a fine piece of art. Nothing here is meaningless, and each point has some importance to the final result of the produced comic. I would encourage those reading this to pay attention to each section and not skim over something, even if they feel like they know it already.
The first part of any comic begins with brainstorming. During this process you decide what exactly the story or the plot of the comic will be. Some important questions involve...
This involves the people in your comic. The hero, villain, civilians, minor characters, gods, etc. Each person in your comic plays some kind of role, whether they are standing in the background or engaged in the action. Your comic will also typically revolve around a character in the story, or a group of people. Deciding who the story revolves around is an important first step to making a comic. When you decide who the story revolves around you will automatically discover places where minor and other characters can fit in to the story, the most important part though is figuring out the focus.
Example) My hero on Champions Online is named Calculator Man, and his nemesis is the Human Computer. I want my comic to center around Calculator Man.
Once you decide who is involved in the story and who the story revolves around you can then ask the next question.
Perhaps one of the most important questions pertaining to your comic is this. What? What is the story about, what is the comic showing? This step is the most important one in the entire process because everything else you do from this point is determined by the question of "What?" So spend the most time on this step as you need.
The key to making a compelling story is to be as thorough as possible with your character. Knowing your character like the back of your hand will allow you to make comics about them much easier. Their habits, personality, history, powers, etc. It all plays a role in the story, as well as who is the main focus of your comic as decided in the "Who?"
Example) Calculator Man is a nerdy smart guy, he was always picked on in school by a vicious bully named Terry and never had a chance at being anything great. Once he discovered he could use a super calculator to mathematically equate all interactions he decided he would use this to counter all criminal efforts, as well as prove a solid fighter. Somewhere on the inside though, he still feels that sense of shock when he sees a bully.
If we use this as our historical example we can then expand upon it. If the comic revolves around Calculator Man, does it relate to his struggle to accept his intelligence as a heroic end? Will it somehow relate to Terry and will he make an appearance? Will it relate to his Nemesis somehow?
For the sake of this tutorial I will expand upon this example with a choice of my own, but what your comic can be about is nearly anything related to the character, I am just using history in this one.
Example) The Human Computer has enlisted Terry in his scheme to steal all of Darren's Pizza, and plans to surprise Calculator Man when he goes to stop him.
So now we have who and what the story is involving. We have that the comic revolves around Calculator Man, and that this issue of his comic will involve him trying to stop the Human Computer from stealing all of Darren's Pizza. We also know that Terry, the bully from Calculator Man's past, will make an appearance and play some kind of role in the action/story.
This is a pretty straightforward question. When is exactly at what time of day and at what date your comic is taking place. But it also applies to the time you have to spend on the comic as well. Making a comic can be time consuming, so managing your time to provide enough of your effort into making it is important. Sometimes you go through a dry spell and have no time to devote to the creation.
In Champions Online sometimes the scenery changes light or time of day too fast for you to keep track and take steady shots. I will cover how to counter this later in the tutorial, but for now just decide at what time of day and what date your comic will take place.
Example) The Human Computer will storm Darren's Pizza at noon on Saturday.
After deciding what time of day, what the story is about, and who is in it, then you can ask where it will take place. This can apply to nearly anywhere and is not necessarily confined to a single place. A hero doesn't magically end up in one spot in the comic and stays there till the end, he moves and travels with the story. A hero may be standing inside their group's ship and then hear a distress call on the planet, flying to the surface to the scene of the story. Deciding where your character starts and ends up is important to the comic, but remember that somewhere along the line they must encounter or be at the scene of the story you have created in your head.
Example) Calculator Man was walking in the Renaissance Center when he saw the news report about the Human Computer robbing Darren's Pizza on one of the many flying signs. He rushed into action and flew over to the scene. After a long heated battle he flew back to his apartment for a well needed rest.
Why are you making a comic? To show to friends, just for fun? No matter the reason asking why never hurts, because it shows the kind of effort you're putting into the story. If you're making the comic because you want to become famous and special inside a community then most likely you won't get a full experience out of producing something which shows to the world what your character is. The reason to make comics is to share a story and make people engaged in a character they would have otherwise never known about. It's about entertainment but also about sharing ideas and stories that will make us attached and connected with characters we see everyday playing on Champions Online.
And now is the main part of this tutorial. How do I make a comic? There's plenty of important steps, but we'll go through each one so that the subject is covered in depth.
Making the Comic
Tools of the Trade
To make a comic using Champions Online you will need the following.
- 1. A program to edit all of your screenshots.
- 2. A program that puts all of your edited shots together into comic panels.
- 3. Champions Online Demo Recorder.
I will recommend a few programs to fulfill these requirements, but the programs I use are just one of many choices. There are multiple programs that also do similar things.
When you take a screenshot in Champions Online, depending on your monitor size and resolution, sometimes the picture isn't quite fit for a comic. Either it is too big, has too much in it, or isn't the right shade/texture. To fix this you need a program to be able to adjust the pictures as you see fit. Photoshop is a notorious program to use for this end, but you can also use paint if you're very experienced or don't have the money for photoshop.
Personally I use a free program called Paint.Net. You can find it here.
This free program acts just like photoshop, but is slightly watered down. It provides all the same tools though, and allows you to use layers, transparency, etc. I recommend downloading this program and using it for the future comic book photo edits.
I personally am not aware of a lot of programs that let you make comics, so the best I can offer here is the program I use myself. The name is Comic Life, and you can find it here.
Plasq offers a download of Comic Life for both Mac and Windows, so there should be no issue with compatibility. You can either download the 30 day free trial or pay for the program. After the thirty day trial though all of your comic panels will say, "Made with Comic Life!" so I suggest if you're serious about making comics to just buy the program. It has a lot of features in it, which we'll go into later. I believe the highest I paid for the program was around $24.99, USD.
Here's a brief overview of Comic Life, in picture format.
Everyone who plays Champions Online has access to the demo record function of the launcher. In order to be able to use it you need to first take a demo record file, and then use the launcher to play it back. I will go through the steps of how to do that.
First while you're in the game you need to type a slash command to begin demo recording, the name of it is...
Where Name is the name of the file you're making, in this example I will use CM for Calculator Man.
When you begin a demo record your machine might stall for a moment as it prepares to capture the game. Be patient and after a moment you'll see this on the left side.
This means that Champions Online is making a movie out of everything taking place on the screen at the moment. This is cruicial to making shots for your comic. To stop recording type...
Depending on how long you had the game recording when you type this command you might either never notice anything change, or will experience a heavy slow. In each case don't worry, your file is being saved and you just need to wait for the game to catch up. Once you've recorded a demo you can find the file inside your Champions Online folder once more.
C:\Program Files\Cryptic Studios\Champions Online\Live\demos
NOTE: If you record a demo on Live it will not show up in your Public Test folder, and visa verse. If you record a demo on Live you must load the demo file on the Live server tag, and visa versa for Public Test.
So now that you have a demo how do you play it back? Open the Champions Online launcher to begin. Once you sign in before you click play look at the top of the launcher. It should look like this.
Click on Options and a new menu should show up.
In the advanced command line space you need to type this.
Where Name is the name you called the demo file. In my case it would be...
After you type it in click Okay and the Play, and your launcher should load up the demo file and play it back. You can exit this mode by clicking the red X at the top of the screen. I'll explain how to use Demo Record in depth later in this tutorial. For now this lets you know what you have at your disposal to use.
So now that you're equipped with the right tools how can you use them to start making your comic? I will show you how by using my demo record as an example.
Let's say I want to have a page in my comic where Calculator Man is dancing, and I want a good angle of it. All I need to do is take a demo file of him dancing, which I have, and play it back so I can take a screenshot of it. Let's begin by replaying the demo using the launcher. For this tutorial, we are getting a shot out of the dance emote. But this is hardly the only emote you could choose from. Take a look the emote list on CO Wiki for inspiration.
Champions Online ---> Sign in at the launcher ----> Options -----> Advanced Command Line (type in -demoplay Name.demo [Name is the name of the demo file]) ----> Play.
Once you load it up it should look something like this.
You might be saying, "Well that's fine and dandy but how I actually use this?" Simple! The arrows and buttons in the top left help you control the speed and progress of the demo file. The first one makes it go back to the beginning, the second one plays it, the third one stops it, the fourth slows it down, and the last makes it speed up. Generally you want to play the demo until you come to the part of it you want to take screenshots of, when you get there hit the pause button so everything freezes. So now that we have a demo of our heroic man dancing how do we get a nice angle for the shot we want? If we take one now it won't look at all that good.
Now we use a magic button called F2. This button will make the camera detach from how you had it when you recorded the demo, and it will allow you to fly around in free space. If you press F2 again however, it will lock back into place. So press it once to free the camera. Q moves it up, W moves it forward, A moves it left, D moves it right, S moves it back, and Z moves it down. Now that you have a good control of the camera let's put it in a nice position to take a good shot. Like this.
Great! Now we have a better shot. To take a picture of this just hit the Prt Scren|Sys Rq button on your keyboard, this will take a screen capture of your monitor as it is right now and post it to the clipboard. Now load up paint (NOTE: NOT paint.net, paint is good for cropping.) and click paste. You should have something like this.
Now we just need to crop out the extra around the shot. Like this.
You can use the select box to highlight the portion you want to keep. Highlight this selection and click either Edit ---> Copy, or use Ctrl C. Once you have that done use the select tool again, but this time use select all and delete the entire picture. When white space is left click either Edit ---> Paste, or Ctrl V and the portion of the shot you wanted shows back up. Now crop the box in paint to match the photo's edges and you have a nice screenshot for your comic ready to use.
I would recommend making a new folder in your Pictures library called something like Comic Pictures, or Issue 1, Issue 2, etc. It will make finding the pictures a lot easier. So, let's save this nice photo of ours into a folder called CM Issue.
Say I wanted a more complex shot though. Let's image I want to have Calculator Man waving while he is using his rocket boots, while he stands by a clone of himself that is also waving. Sounds pretty complex doesn't it? Let's break it down though and make it seem not so daunting of a task.
- 1. We need one Calculator Man using rocket boots.
- 2. We need one standing beside him on the ground.
- 3. They both need to be waving.
The key to solving this problem is doing all of the things we need inside the demo file. For example, when I take the demo file, in one minute I stand on the ground and wave, and then the next minute I move positions and turn on the rocket boots and wave. At both times I take two separate shots at the same angle, and then lay them over each other, using the erase tool to merge them together. Some pictures will aid in my explanation.
Here we have run the demo file till it got to the first point I was interested in. Here we take our first screenshot.
Once we have this open Paint.Net. When it loads go to the top and click Edit ----> Paste. Depending on your resolution size Paint.Net might ask you if you want to change the size of the canvas. Click, "Expand Canvas." It should look like this.
Next we ran the demo to the second point of interest and again took a screenshot. Go back to Paint.Net but instead of clicking Edit --- > Paste click Edit -----> Paste In New Layer. The result should look like this.
And now the magic begins. While you have the second layer selected, "Layer 2", click on the eraser tool. Now erase the side of the photo that has the first Calculator Man in it. What you'll notice is that you're erasing away the picture in Layer 2. What is happening is that because you're erasing the Layer 2 picture it is making that section transparent. Since the first image is the background the transparency allows it to show through and you end up with two Calculator Mans. Like this.
Now that we have the screenshot let's put it to use inside Comic Life.
Putting the Shots Together
Open up Comic Life. Here's a picture of what it should look like when you start putting together the comic.
Now it should look like this.
You can add photos, lettering, and speech bubbles to the panels by clicking on them and dragging them to the panels. Comic Life lets you edit everything as you place it, and there's plenty of options to choose from. I'll let you explore on your own, but for the sake of this tutorial I will show you a page I could create using the images in CM Comic.
Publishing the Comic
In order to put the comic together in a PDF you need to finish it and save it as a Comic Life file. Once you have that done, open it up in Comic Life. This next part requires you to have Microsoft Word. If you don't have Microsoft Word I'm not sure how you can accomplish this, but I believe there is a "free" version of Word called Open Office, though I am not sure how good it is. I will assume you have Microsoft Word for the rest of this process.
With Comic Life open go to the page you want to copy. While you have the page up hit Ctrl A, and go to Microsoft Word. While in Word hit Ctrl V to paste the image, and it'll fill the page with your comic page. Do this for every single page of your comic until your entire comic is inside the Microsoft Word document. Once this is accomplished go up to the top of the program and click Save As, and when you save it as a file choose the PDF option. This will organize all the pages into a PDF that makes it like a comic.
Now you have your comic PDF file and you want to show it to the world. Fantastic! One problem though, how are we going to get it out to people so they can read it? Personally I use google documents, which provides a link to the document and a download option. I'm sure there's plenty more places you can store and share the comic.
This tutorial went over the basics on how to construct a comic of your own, but there's more advanced techniques you could use to make a comic. Hopefully the information provided here is enough for somebody to give making a comic a try, and put a valid effort into it.