Whiteboard Creation, New and Improved!

I’ve been working these past few weeks on improving the whiteboard creation system in several ways.  I’m finally ready to announce yovilleart.com, which is taking the place of this website!

The new YoVille whiteboard art site will have all the same features as here, plus some additional benefits:

1. The new one has a HUGE catalog of images to pick from, so you don’t have to upload images from your computer.

2. With the new setup, it’s easier to keep track of the custom pictures you’ve uploaded and purchased, because they are shown within your account.

3. Lower prices!

4. Multi-board allows you to create dual-, triple-, and quad-board artwork!

5. Better promotion and marketing.

6. Subscriptions are now available for UNLIMITED drawing.

To accomplish these improvements, I’ve teamed up with the folks at elfano.com, and we’ve put together a new site.

This means that the whiteboard creation here at lightningjamie.com is being retired!

If you purchased keys you may still use them.  If you purchased vouchers, they will still work.  But you may not buy keys or vouchers here anymore.

So what are you waiting for?  Head on over to yovilleart.com now and check it out!

Making Whiteboards: Now You Can Too!

I’ve been working hard to get this ready for release, and I am thrilled to announce, my YoVille drawing program, AutoDraw, is available for download!

Here it is in action:

As I have said before, the process of putting an image onto a whiteboard has two distinct parts:  First, to transform an image into a set of pen strokes, and second, to apply those pen strokes to a whiteboard.  The first part requires mathematical image processing, and the second part requires programming the mouse to move and click.

The way the system is organized, the website lightningjamie.com does the first part, transforming the image into pen strokes, while the AutoDraw executable does the second part, clicking and moving.   AutoDraw simply downloads the pen strokes from lightningjamie.com and moves the mouse as instructed.

For the user, it means that you can get a simulated preview of what it will look like after it’s been drawn.

The “tethered” architecture also means that there is a much smaller chance of the program being hacked, and illicit porn factories appearing and ruining it for everyone.

Zynga could probably shut this down pretty easily if they wanted, but I am guessing they won’t, because this automation is benign, and I might even say beneficial to their business.  But if it’s used to scam a lot of people, or if it’s used for porn, then it may attract Zynga’s attention and that will be the end of it.

My hope is that the system I’ve built can reduce scams, because people can inexpensively make whiteboards for themselves, instead of taking a gamble with a dealer.  That’s part of the reason for expiring keys.  If keys can be used to make infinitely many copies of an image, then they are too valuable, and only the serious art dealers will want them.  An expiring key can be priced much lower.

So what are you waiting for?  Go download it and try it out!

New Photo Tour

I know I’ve been really quiet for quite some time now.  I’ve been working on a couple ‘top secret’ projects and I didn’t have much that I could offer my readers.

But now I do have a couple things to offer.  One is a new and improved photo tour which should be less time consuming.  Those of you who have done the photo tour in the past know how slow it is.

The old photo tour was arranged in what I call a hub configuration, where a central location had a door for each photo op.  Going from one photo op to the next required two teleports: one to go back to the hub, and another to go to the next photo op.

Here’s a link to the new photo tour for Facebook users and another one for MySpace. These links will take you to the first of 25 rooms. Just keep going left-to-right. MySpace users may also leave comments for their daily coin run. Please no gifts though, because I am already flooded with stuff.

Update: Here are links for the end of the photo tour: Facebook and MySpace.  This is useful if you get disconnected halfway through, because you can start at the end and work backwards.

The new photo tour is in a chain configuration, where each photo op has a teleport door to take you to the next photo op directly.  Like so:

This is much faster.

The reason I didn’t set up a chain configuration before is that it requires every photo op to be very reliable, because a single error can ruin the entire setup.  If the photo ops are not under my control, then it’s hard to guarantee that they won’t break the chain, and if they do break the chain, it’s hard to fix.

I felt that the hub configuration was good enough, but even that got to be a problem because some of the photo op owners would change their setup to have multiple doors, which turned into a maze-like web of photo ops, which led people to get lost.  I think it’s good if more people decide to offer photo tours, but I don’t want mine to confuse visitors in a maze of doors.  That’s part of the reason I decided to set up the chain configuration photo tour.

So what else have I been up to?  What’s in the works?

I am putting together a website, which is almost ready, that will allow people to make their own custom whiteboards.  I’ve got a video posted, and I hope to have the website ready in a couple days.

After that is up and running, I am contemplating a url service which will provide links for those popup things that are normally posted to your Facebook wall.  Like factory mystery gifts, puppies, red/green/blue keys, Hollywood stars, and all that junk.  The problem with posting a raw URL (on Facebook or anywhere else) is that after a few people have clicked on it, it no longer works.  But a little web app can keep track of how many people have clicked on a link, and discard the URL once it has been consumed.

Then, after I’m done with that, I think I’ll re-do the maxing program.  I’m sorry to everyone who is wanting an update to the maxing program sooner rather than later.  As you can see, I’ve got a lot on my plate right now.  I am hoping in a week or two!

Creating Whiteboards

As I mentioned in the About Me section, I have some programs for creating whiteboard artwork.  The types of whiteboard work I do falls into two categories: it is either created from pen strokes traced manually (text is almost always this type), or it is created directly from an image.

Whiteboards from Manual Traces

When the desired output is only lines and not a full image, I will usually opt to use the tracing method.  For this I will start in Photoshop and manually trace the lines I wish to have drawn on the whiteboard. For text, I’ll type and position the message using the Text tool, and then trace over the letters with the shape layer.  The text acts as my template, and only the lines I trace manually will appear in the final output.  This is the time consuming part.

Then from Photoshop I export the shape layer in Adobe Illustrator format.  I then have a program which converts the poly-lines from Adobe Illustrator format into whiteboard pen strokes.  In the process, it also makes “double” lines, using a second line in the background color to make the lines appear thinner.

Then, in the final step, a second program loads the pen strokes and automatically moves and clicks the mouse, quickly tracing the lines onto the whiteboard.  Since the pen strokes are stored, it is easy to recreate any signs I’ve already made, which is convenient when I want to change a sign temporarily.

Whiteboards from Images

Creating a whiteboard copy of an image requires three steps.  First, I have to manually adjust the image into a certain format that is the right size uses only those colors that can be drawn on the whiteboard.  The whiteboards have only 8 pen colors.  For cartoonish images this is less of an issue, but when the original image is a photo, it can be difficult to represent the image with the pen colors available.

While manually editing the image, I will usually remove some of the fine detail, if it will not translate well into the final image, or if it will detract from the finished product.  Excessive detail can not only spoil the look of the final image, but more pen strokes create more lag.

Depending on the complexity of the original image, this can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, or sometimes more.  This first step is the most time consuming.

Once the image has been put in the right format, the second step is to process it with a program of mine.  This program takes the image as input and creates a long list of pen strokes as output.  These pen strokes are saved to a text file.

The third and final step is to take the pen strokes and apply them to the whiteboard.  This is done using a second program that reads the text file and automatically moves and clicks the mouse.  For some images this can take quite a while.  Some of the most detailed images have as many as 6000 pen strokes.

This example here has about 2300 pen strokes:

That’s it for now!

In the future I’ll be posting some examples from my portfolio.  I’ve made quite a lot of pictures over my YoVille career!

Links to Specific Rooms

Today someone was asking me, how do you make a link to a specific room, like the ones in the photo tour post?

First, go to YoVille.com and go to the profile of the owner of the room.  (This might be difficult if it is not your room or one of your buddies’ rooms, and in that case I can’t help you.)

Click the Homes tab, choose which house has the room, and click on the room to bring up a larger view:

Once the large view of that room is showing, at the bottom you should see a button to visit this room:

When you click this button, you will be taken to a URL on YoVille.com that will take you directly to this room in the game:

Now, if you want to create links for Facebook or MySpace, you need to take special note of the room identifier, which is the part after “d=” but not including “&poe=200”.  So in this example it would be h23017951.

For Facebook, the url would be


And for MySpace, the url is


Where you would replace the red X’s with the room ID.


The Photo Tour

The photo tour is a way to get coins and points with photos.  A high-scoring photo (score of 1000 or higher) will give 20 points and between 15 and 20 coins.

Unfortunately, you can only get one free film at each place.  Even different rooms in the same house, or different houses owned by the same avatars will only give one free film per day.  So to get lots of coins and points, you have to visit homes owned by different avatars.  This is where the photo tour comes in.

Each teleport door leads to a photo op owned by a different avatar.  I don’t have many avatars, so I enlisted my friends to help create the photo ops.

Since each one is owned by someone different, you can go from one photo op to the next to the next, getting one free film at each one.  So you don’t out of film after only five photos.

Unfortunately this can’t go on forever because there is a daily limit of 25 free film you can get this way.  But still, that’s a decent number of coins and especially points (if you’re not already level 50).

Here are links for Facebook and MySpace.  Enjoy!

My New Mug!

Check out the mug I got!

I can’t tell you how happy this makes me!

Intro to the maxing program

The most common question I get is “How do you do that so fast?”  To which I usually confess, “I wrote a program that helps me.”

At some point I hope to write a comprehensive description but for now I’ll just go over the basics.

The program does not hack YoVille in any way.  It does not use WPE, Cheat Engine, or any other program that modifies the behavior of YoVille.  Instead, it pulls pixels off the screen and moves the mouse and clicks.  It works through the normal YoVille user interface.

The best way to see how it works is to watch the video of how it looks on my screen when it’s running:

Click to view on YouTube: YoVille Mega Maxing 4

Each game is shifted a little bit to the right, such that the three buttons for rock, paper, and scissors just peek out from under the newer games.  And because the windows are semi-transparent near the bottom, it’s possible to detect the green check mark indicating whether the other player has chosen, even for the games that are mostly covered.  Because the games are stacked in this way, they can be closed when they are ready, instead of the earlier games having to wait for the later ones to be cleared.  This makes it faster for the maxees.

Another key feature, is how it handles all the other prompts besides just rock-paper-scissors game requests.  If a tic-tac-toe game request comes in, it will automatically decline, and with incoming gift notifications it will click ‘cancel’ which postpones opening the gifts.  It will also accept buddy requests and decline trade requests.

One of the nice side benefits is that I can talk while maxing.  The program automatically moves the mouse, but the keyboard works normally.  The game is mostly covered by RPS games, but I’ve arranged it so that the chat log is visible, so I can talk to people in the room.

That’s all for now!

If you have specific questions, leave them in the comments!

Transparency Glitch

I’m not the first one to discover this, but with enough beach streamers (and some other items work too), clothing will seem to disappear!

Try it for yourself.  Here are links for Facebook and MySpace

What looks like a single beach streamer in this picture is actually a stack of 25 beach streamers.

Apparently this has something to do with how YoVille renders transparent objects.  I haven’t done enough experimenting to make any meaningful statements about how YoVille rendering works, but I’m curious…

Room Decorating Game

There is a lot I want to say about maxing, trading, and whiteboard art, but first I want to talk about the new room decoration game.

Update Feb 4th: They seem to have caught on and fixed the gift loophole.  Darn! (But I’m leaving this article as is, even though it doesn’t work anymore.)

Specifically, what I think most people are interested in: it’s possible to get all rooms completed without spending money

Here’s the basic idea of how the game works:

You get up to 550 points for arbitrary, pretty much BS reasons

I say BS reasons because in a brand new room you can, for example, get the “plantastic” bonus for placing three herbs in the room, but in another room that has already reached 550 points, those very same three herbs will not get you any bonus at all.  Is it a coincidence that all rooms stop getting easy points at 550?  Trying to chase the specific bonuses like “plantastic” or “ruggy” is a waste of time and energy.

So how do you get past 550 points?

You get points whenever you place a “new” item in a room

You may have noticed some items in your inventory are marked as “new”.  Beyond 550 points, it seems that only items marked as “new” contribute to room score when they are placed, and the number of points they contribute is directly related to the value of the item.  More expensive items add more points.

Placing an item in a room removes its new status, which means you can’t simply move the items to another to a second room to add points to the second room also.  Only the first room gets the points, and after that it’s not new anymore.

Does that mean that you have to spend money to get decorating points?  Not quite, because:

Items are “new” when you buy them from the store, or when you receive them as gifts

Buying new items from the stores is certainly one way to get room points, albeit a costly one.  But they also made it so that items received as gifts are always considered new.  This is true even if they were not new before they were given.  In other words, giving an item as a gift restores its status as new!

Incidentally, transferring an item via trade does not restore its new status.

This means that by giving items back and forth between two players, you can get the room decorating points over and over again from a single item.  It works best with more expensive items, since it requires fewer placements to complete a room.

Here are some random items I tested, and their point value:
2400 points:  Shark Attack
4415 points:  Interactive Sandbox
1732 points:  Whiteboard
1222 points:  Floating Mine
3800 points:  Spotlight Mic
600 points:  Yellow Pool Shark

It requires a total of 15,000 points for a room to be 100% complete.

More on the decorating game later…

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