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Star Alliance Avatar Gallery - FAQ

Q: What are the conditions for use?

A: Very few, typically labelled under "use your common sense."

Okay, some more details:

- These avatars are freely distributable, key word "free." They are unavailable for commercial use, in other words do not host these somewhere else and force people to pay for them.
- Though they are freely distributable, don't simply rip them and claim them to be your work. An unbelievable amount of time and effort was put into this site and it's contents, so it's not nice to see several month's worth of work being ripped off in three minutes.
- You may use these avatars on any forum that allows them.
- Do not remote link the images. Save the avatar(s) you want and upload them to your personal webspace.

Q: Why don't you like remote linking?

A: Two main reasons:

1) Flexability. NiteFox says "I once had to rename a single file on the Hall O' SNES Avatars and received a load of e-mail from a load of different people complaining why their avatar wasn't working. We may change the format of the site at a whim, and if everyone remote links from our site and we change the format in any way then we will receive a load of e-mail from, frankly, idiots who don't even know how to download images and upload them to their own webspaces."
2) Bandwidth. Unbelievable as it sounds, but remote linking a single 5k image sucks up a lot of bandwidth if your face happens to patronise a pretty busy thread in a discussion forum. If a few hundred, possibly thousand people remote links on busy threads, then that bandwidth consumption is going to go way up. It's better to spread the bandwidth consumption to several different free webspace and image hosts than to leech off our servers.

Q: I want to use your avatars as default avatars on my discussion board, but downloading each image individually is a complete pain in the ass. Is there a quicker way of doing this?

A: Yes. Soon we will update the site with download packs. These packs will be available in many flavours, the first of which will be individual games (So you can pick and choose what avatars you want to download), then by system (So if you like all the Arcade avatars but don't want the SNES ones, fine), and finally the whole archive in one huge ZIP file. The same distribution rules will apply for these packs.

Until then, we don't deal with personal requests.

Q: My forum admin/moderator keeps telling me to pick another avatar, what should I do?

Listen to them. By far one of the biggest gripes admins have to deal with is overly-large avatars. Most admins set a reasonable limit of 10kb, a limit which all of our avatars literally limbo under, but other admins may set more stringent limits. A common limit is 5kb, and very few of our avatars are beneath that size. However, this shouldn't be a problem, as the 10kb limit is a good balance of size and quality, and a few forums have this 10kb limit set as a default.

The second reason is that the actual image dimensions are too large. Some admins (Though this practice is slowly dying out) place dimension limits for avatars on their boards to prevent table stretching. These restrictions are typically multiples of 8 (16, 32, 48, 64) and typically square. This is a particular problem with many of the Arcade avatars, which are full-size images. I did this because the quality of the images degraded severely. While most SNES and PC developers kept portraits nice and square (And often in tilesizes of 8), Capcom in their infinite wisdom decided on a more free-form attitude for their arcade machines. None of the avatars I have ripped from CPS-2 games look good when resized to 64x64, and very few look good when resized to anything beneath a 100 in any dimension.

By far the biggest avatar size in this archive is 120x224 for height or 176x160 for width. Check to see if this is okay with your board admin.

However, as technology matures, few people are reading discussion boards at a resolution where an avatar of 176 pixels wide will stretch the screen. Fewer admins are enforcing avatar dimension limits as well, but always be mindful of the rules when using avatars.

Q: My avatar was resized by the board, what should I do?

A: Again, nothing. This is an automatic dimension limit. Several boards have it enabled by default, and if you feel that the admin has no other reason than this to enforce it, ask them kindly if they will see about removing the limiter. This is particulary true if the board is new.

However, some admins are knowledgable of this and if the board has been going for some time with this limit in place then it is highly likely this is by design.

If your avatar looks ugly in its resized state, then simply crop a square the size of the maximum limit out of your avatar and use that instead.

Q: Why isn't *GAMENAME* in the archive?

A: Many reasons.

The first is that we do not own the game in any form. As you can see, this is possibly the biggest reason why we haven't dumped graphics from a game. Unless you want to send us the cash to buy every game ever made, then it's unlikely that we may get around to a game we don't own.

The second is that we do own the game in question, but there is no easy way to get the graphics while playing. Lack of screen capture, or poor screen capture quality is a majoring factor. With PC games in particular, if we cannot screencap an avatar we typically look to the files of the game itself to see if raw extraction is possible. If so, then we dump. If not, then we don't.

The third is that there is no viable material in a game. If the characters are represented by sprites in subscreens rather than portraits (For instance, Final Fantasy V), then we don't rip these sprites and pass them off as avatars.

The fourth reason is this: We have the game, it has viable content and we have the means to dump, rip, or extract from the game. We have all this but we don't have the time to do so. Please be patient, as we may get around to it eventually.

Another reason for lack of a game is that we cannot emulate it. NiteFox is our primary CPS-2 dumper and uses Kawaks as his emulator of choice. Kawaks cannot emulate every game but is by far a better graphics ripping platform than Nebula. NiteFox will not rip graphics using Nebula, he simply does not know how. Nor does NiteFox know how to rip graphics directly from the ROM files, but if there is a way he'll find it.

And finally: We play the games we get our graphics from, that means we typically play the game once through so we know where all the graphics are and then go get them. As a rule, we play games for enjoyment first then graphics second. If a game is viable, then we try to play it. If however something such as lack of translation prevents us from playing fully (I could name a hundred SNES RPGs that are still untranslated from Japanese) then we don't dump. Star Ocean is an exception to this rule, but NiteFox is still waiting on a full translation patch so he can complete his work on that game. The other exception is Front Mission, which was completed before the translation patch (Hence the Japanese name for Lloyd/Roid), but Front Mission also has a cheat to allow you to view every single portrait in the game, so it was but the work of minutes to get a complete dump.

Q: I've played *GAMENAME* and I've noticed that *CHARACTER*'s face isn't in your gallery, even though you have covered that game. Why is this?

A: Good ol' time limitations. This only applies for games where direct graphical ripping isn't available and we have to play the game from start to finish to get all the avatars. Final Fantasy IV is an example of this, as is Bust-a-Move. We simply haven't managed to get as far into the game to dump it. If we have, then we probably missed that avatar, and because it's so late in the game we don't have time to restart from scratch and get to that point. We may fill in these gaps at some time, but don't exactly count on it.

Q: Where did you get *CHARACTER*'s portrait from? It wasn't even in the final game!

A: The joys of either direct extraction or cheat codes. If something is left in a game but not executed in the final code, we'll find it.

Q: With Quake III Team Arena, why do you only include the blue team portrait and the standard (Non-team) portrait?

A: Because for most characters (With some exceptions) that's all there is. The non-team portrait (For solo games) is identical to the red team portrait. Dump it yourself (PK3 files open easily in WinZip) and see for yourself - The strange thing is that there are always three portraits for almost every unit when they could have managed with just two each. For the two added characters (Pi and Fritzkrieg) there is only one portrait - Despite there being three distinct files (Red, blue, and standard) that are all identical.

Q: *GAMENAME* wasn't even released, how did you get it?

A: The joys of emulation and software company insiders intent on releasing code. God bless 'em.

Q: Isn't that illegal?

A: Do we care? It's not as if we sacrificed small babies to get the games.

Q: ... Can you send me *ROMNAME*?

A: Nope. We're not a dispenser of illegal code, we just provide free-use avatars. And before you ask, any e-mail receieved on the subject will be printed, deleted, and the print-outs shredded and fed to a small and fat hamster. We get a lot of e-mail, see?

Q: I know you have *GAMENAME*'s dumps ready for release, can you send them to me before then?

A: No personal requests.

Q: If I send you *GAMENAME*, can you dump the graphics for me please?

A: No personal requests. As a rule we dump from the material we can find or have access to, but we will not receive (and in fact refuse) any sent games.

Q: Do you do sprite rips as well?

A: No. If you see any of us using sprites in posts, then that was for our own personal use. Sprite ripping is a lot harder than portrait ripping, a LOT harder. Even worse is animating them.

Q: Can you teach me the secrets to dumping or ripping portraits, oh wise sensei?

A: Maybe. We're not doing ourselves out of business just yet ;) Anyone with screen capture software can dump portraits, but there is an art in dumping them well. There are also several different means of ripping depending on the game, and it would take some time to compile a complete guide.

Q: Will you be covering different game systems?

A: Possibly. The systems covered are essentially our range of expertise, our knowledge of other systems can only extend so far.

Q: When do you update this site?

A: Randomly. Set deadlines and you're almost guaranteed to miss them. Consider that we have to dump, and maybe edit the avatars, update the necessary pages (Which might result in having to move game tables to a different page) and upload all the new files. If we did this regulary, then we would almost certainly reach a lull period where no updates can be made, or it isn't worth the effort.

Besides, NiteFox does all the page designs from home, and until he can get a nice new PC with a broadband connection he updates using the computers of the university he attends.

Q: Why are you using plain HTML for this? Why didn't you use a PHP system?

A: NiteFox loves HTML. He's learned how to do pretty much everything in HTML, and knows both how to code in HTML and use Dreamweaver to create nice-looking HTML pages. On the other hand, what he knows about PHP could be written in size 32 font on the back of a postage stamp. Ergo, when the choice between doing it in PHP or HTML arose, NiteFox went with what he knew best.

Besides, even if he did learn PHP (Which there is little chance of happening, as his university doesn't teach PHP in any course available), he would still probably do this site in HTML. If the SQL database necessary for running this site fails or goes down for any great length of time, then you can't see or even use this site thanks to the database. On the other hand, to be prevented from seeing an entirely HTML site, the server (Or at least it's HTTP system) will have to fail, and if that happened you wouldn't even be able to see the site whether it's HTML or PHP.

In addition, it would be nice to have a system where the entire gallery is updated in an instant, but when you consider how infrequent and sporadic the updates are you have to ask is it really worth it.

Q: I can code a PHP system for you, no problem.

A: That's not a question.

Q: Okay, I can code you a system, no problem. Would you use it if I sent it to you?

A: Nope. We gave some valid reasons as to why not above, the only one being unable to stand up to an actual, existing system being the whole "too lazy to learn PHP" one. Otherwise, we're not interested.

Q: How can I e-mail you?

A: For a non-guaranteed response, e-mail nitefox@btinternet.com. For a guaranteed response, don't bother e-mailing. If what you require is so urgent that a day's delay will actually kill you, then you can discuss with the entire Star Alliance staff at the star alliance forums

 

 

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