Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Facelifts and Tummy Tucks

Did you know that AQ turned 10 years old this year? TEN YEARS! Holy cow! Time flies when you're having fun! =)

In website years, that's incredibly old. Technology and all advances so quickly. When I first started AQ, the most popular browser in use was Internet Explorer 6. And I hated that browser for so many reasons, but one of the biggest reasons was its lack of support for alpha transparencies on PNG images. A lot of you probably don't know what that means and that's okay--you don't have to understand it. It didn't help much that none of my paint programs really supported it either. So AQ became littered with GIF images.

Even worse, when I started Atlas Quest, I had absolutely ZERO income. No job, no premium memberships, no nothing. My biggest financial windfall in 2004--the year I started Atlas Quest--was when I invested a few thousand dollars in Martha Stewart's company immediately after she was found guilty of insider trading. I bought some of her company then, and it went on to do very, very well over the next several months and I eventually sold it just before she got out of prison. As exciting as that was, however, it's not a windfall I could expect every year!

So my choice of images were largely what I could find online that were available for free. And you know what they say--you get what you paid for! I got what I paid for. *nodding*

Fast forward ten years later and things are different. Atlas Quest does earn its keep now, and investing in high-quality icons isn't out of the question anymore. I also have a couple of programs that can manipulate PNG images, and about one-half of one percent of the web-surfing public uses IE6. (Truth be told, it surprises me that anyone is still using it at this point, but I officially stopped worrying about that browser years ago.)

And I felt it was finally time for a major icon facelift! I've been using some of the same icons on AQ for over ten years now, and it needs a refresh! So that's what I'm in the process of doing now. There are some lovely icons too. High quality, top-notch icons. I have them in multiple sizes so I can use tiny little versions where needed, or huge icons that could be used as a menu button.

It's not a small task to update almost every icon on Atlas Quest--they now number into the hundreds. I'm getting there--hopefully in another week or two I'll be done. =)

In the meantime, though, I thought I'd share some of the new icons I plan to use. Give y'all a sneak peak at some of them.....

This is the bike-friendly icon. It will NOT be this big on the live website! But I'll have versions of all the icons up to this size so I won't be limited to a one-size-fits-all scenario.
By comparison, this is the smallest version of the bike icon I have available. I won't be using that either--not for the bike icon, at least. Some places were tags are used or the "close widget" icon might be this small, but not very many places will use this size. (Definitely not any box attributes!)
Shiny new blue diamonds! =)
Some icons will change completely. I'll be using this snorkel mask to represent "special equipment required" rather than the parachutist of before. The expensive new icon set I bought didn't include a parachutist, and I created the parachute icon when the attribute was originally called "extreme." It's not called "extreme" anymore (too vague a term for people to really understand, I guess) and changed it to "special equipment required." The icon never changed, though... until now! (I'd really love to find a few underwater boxes, BTW.)

Another icon that's completely changing.... the HIPS icon for event boxes. I kind of liked the mustache, but I've NEVER seen a box hidden in someone's mustache before. I have seen them disguised as soft drinks, however. ;o) (Not to mention that my icon set didn't include a mustache in it.)

This icon is for the "compass required" attribute, but I kind of feel myself wanting it throw it all over Atlas Quest just because it's a compass! And it's cool! And it's pointing (mostly) north! =)

AQ-hosted clues used to be represented by the AQ logo, but I never much liked that because it wound up looking like a link to AQ rather than an AQ-hosted clue. But my icon set did include this old, crinkly paper--a blank sheet of it! So the sheet of paper represents a clue, and the icon inside represents where the clue is hosted. =)

The box tags are all stars but different colors. I did that since I only needed to find one star then change the colors of it for all of the other tags. It was fast and easy! But it always bothered me a little because I felt it had to be a terrible system for people who are colorblind. I'm not colorblind and sometimes have trouble distinguishing between a tiny yellow star and a tiny orange star! So now those icons will all be different shapes. (The colors are still the same, though.)

I kind of like the "freshly hatched egg" to represent a new member, but my icon set didn't include any eggs. (Not even sunny side up eggs! *gasp*) But it did have this pacifier. I'm not actually sure how I feel about using a pacifier to represent a newbie, but it seemed like the best choice of the options available. 
These particular icons.... *shaking head* I've spent the last three days JUST working on these icons. These are the "trophy awards" for the number of plants you have. The icon set came with three trophies--bronze, silver and gold--but they were otherwise all the same. Somehow having only 3 different levels of P-ness didn't seem sufficient. I wanted them to have numbers like the existing ones did! But if I just wrote a number with any old font, it'll look like the old icons--a number written on top of the icon. These icons were classy! A big black number on top of them--not classy! So I wanted to make it look like the numbers were etched into the trophies. (Engraved? What's the difference between an etching and an engraving anyhow? How about carved into the trophies?!)

But I digress.... When I started working with these icons, I had no idea how to "engrave" the trophies and I spent three full days learning all sorts of new tricks with my photo-editing software to create these effects! And I decided that I also wanted to spell out the entire number--just just the first digit like the existing icons do. But the thin little trophies provided just didn't have enough space for up to three numbers at the same time, so then I had to digitally manipulate the silver trophy to be just a bit wider than the bronze one, and change the gold trophy to be wider still. More for me to figure out and learn! Which actually worked out pretty nicely because the trophies don't just change color as you level up, but they get BIGGER too! But in reality, the main reason I made them bigger was to fit the larger numbers on them.

And then! Even after I finally figured all that out, the numbers still didn't quite look right because they were flat. They clearly weren't following the curvature of the trophies. So then I had to learn more Photoshop tricks to figure out how to make the text wrap around the trophies. (Technically, I used GIMP, but I figured most of you probably never heard of GIMP. But it's like Photoshop. Except it's free.)

And unlike all of those other icons where I just needed one icon, I had to create 27 different icons for this because it's part of a set--one for each number I needed. (i.e. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 600, 700, 800 and 900). So I had to apply the text affects, and curve the text around the trophies for nearly THIRTY different icons!

Oh, then and create them for all of the various sizes. Turns out, when you take a 512x512 pixel tall icon and shrink it to 16x16 pixels, it doesn't look so good. Even shrinking it to 64x64--it didn't look so good. So I created a 512x512 and a 64x64 version for every one of them. The rest of the sizes I created with the necessary shrinking. And the 16x16 and 24x24 icons I said screw it--I just wouldn't use those anywhere. =)

Anyhow.... three long days later, and I finally have the new trophy icons completed. Those were hard. Those were a lot of work. I hope you enjoy them! =)

I've still got some more icons to work on.... especially the ribbons for finds and stars for message boards. They're both relatively large sets and will likely take a few days each as well, but those are the only other icons I have to do before I make these changes live. =)

Premium member hat icons.... My icon set doesn't really have much in the way of hats so those are pretty much the only icons that won't be changing. For now. Eventually I'd like to upgrade those as well, but there are just so many of them! And I'd need to find a new icon set with all sorts of hat options available. Someday....

AQ Mail widget icon

There is one place on AQ where you can see some of the new icons RIGHT NOW! If you check out the Add Widgets page for My Page, each widget gets its own icon. Since that's database driven and doesn't involve any code changes, I updated those several days ago. But unless you're adding a widget, you'll never see those icons. They were mostly changed just because it was as good as time as any to do so. *shrug*

Location-based search widget icon

Billboard widget icon (a premium member only widget)
Treasure hiker widget icon

But those are some of the icons you'll have to look forward to in the near future. Hope you like them! =)


Anonymous said...

These new icons look great! Thanks for keeping the site looking so spiffy.

Trishee =)

Andrea Palma said...

Thanks for all your hard work!

FloridaFour :)

Unknown said...

Nice! Looking forward to the new icons.