Another really long post by me. China may start requesting that I bring its wall back.
Keep in mind that this is my opinion. I don't claim any of this as fact, but these are simply tips that I'd give to people new'ish to making themes. These aren't meant to be taken offensively, but to help make good themes.
1. Graphics are vital.
Let's be serious, no one wants an XMB thatís ugly. If you want to have a successful release, your theme needs to look nice. Put effort into it. Let's say you aren't a total Photoshop pro. Then look up some tutorials and ask for help. Please, don't run to the XMB 'gods'. They get PM and IM messages out the wazoo. Ask around for someone who is good and isn't busy. To tell you the truth, I don't find myself that great at Photoshop. I have great ideas for PRXs, but I can't back it up with Photoshopped graphics. Then we have someone like simulacrum who is great at Photoshop but doesn't know how to create themes and doesn't have the time to learn. Put the two of us together and you get amazing themes like Apollon and heartbeat. For all of you that enjoy those two themes, would you have liked them as much if the graphics were significantly worse?
2. CTFs are your friend.
CTFs are sooooooo easy to use and relatively easy to make. So why do people not make them when they release? I know it looks confusing, but if you can make a theme, you can do something as simple as creating a CTF. The images for the PTFs are the hardest part. All you have to do is make sure that the wallpaper is 480x272 and 24bit, and the preview picture has to be 300x170 and 24bit. Making it 24bit is easy. You just select 24bit after you save your file as a BMP. As for the preview icon (the annoying-as-hell 16x16 PNG image of doom), use MSPaint (you know, that program that everyone draws pictures of dicks in to set as the wallpaper at school) to save the image. Make your 16x16 icon in Photoshop then copy it into Paint and save it as a PNG. If the PTF creator wonít accept it, save the image as a 256-color BMP (it's one of the file type options in MSPaint's save dialog box), then save it as a PNG. Then, you make the PTF. Save it as default.ptf, put it in your cxmb folder on your memory stick, along with your vsh folder for the theme (and any other folders you may need), and edit conf.txt and enter "default.ctf" at the end. Blammo, you have a CTF! It makes life much easier for everyone and your theme will probably get more attention.
3. Be innovative. But don't overdo it.
Cookie-cutter themes may appeal to a good number of people. I know the trillions of dock themes are valued by many, but try not to follow the crowd. If you found a cool effect or a smooth new use of an old offset, use it. Just don't overdo it or use it in a bad situation. heartbeat and the Creme themes included color changing, because it fits and is a cool effect that hasn't been abused too badly yet. Apollon has a very subtle glow in the background that I don't think that any other theme has it included yet. These are innovations that are done well because they were done properly. Had Apollon's glow been too much more, it would have been ugly. Not only would it have been too obvious, but scrolling vertically would have looked a bit broken. Take the time to make all those cool effects fit in. To get back more on topic, you really need to ask yourself "Does this theme bring something new to the table?". Even with such a limited set of tools and tweaks that are available to work with, there are still endless possibilities to work with. So many are still undiscovered. Sure, many of them are in offsets yet to be identified, but more than enough are within the reach of any theme creator. It's just a matter of making the best of what you have to make something new out of it.
4. Polish it up.
Those couple of tweaks you could make to your volume bar and the x axis position adjustment to one or two of your icons may not be that important, but people DO notice small errors. Especially if there are a lot of them. Ensuring that you have smooth scrolling and everything is as pixel-perfect as possibly can only help you. And unless you're on your deathbed, you have the time. I spent a day just looking over ClickSlide and adjusting minor things. Not that a few rather obvious errors didn't slip through the cracks, but taking that time made the theme look better. I admit that I probably should have polished it a bit more. Even when you're done, the theme isn't. It's just a matter of when you want to stop.
5. Triple check, if you must.
The last thing any sort of developer wants is a bad release. Test your theme. Remember to restore your flash0 to the 100% original Sony default theme, then test your CTF (and the flash0 version if you are including it). Throw your release notes in Word. I kick myself all the time when I have typos (which I'd probably have dozens of in this very post if xploren didn't so graciously fix them all for me ). Include anything that the users should know. Make sure ALL the credits are there. ESPECIALLY the important ones. If you used someone elseís PRXs or images, credit them (and you should have asked permission from them first). Even if you used a PRX as a base to work off of, give where credit is due. Angry posts in a release topic are bad. Make sure everything is in place before you release. (And don't pull a SchmilK and click 'Post' instead of 'Preview', lol.)
6. I don't care if you made the theme for yourself.
If you are posting a theme online, the world gets to see it. The world then gets to associate what you post with YOU. If you made the theme for yourself, you shouldn't be showing it around for people to begin. And if you want everyone to use it, then it has to have quality. Quality is going to mean including support for features that you may not use. Just because you never use your UMD tray doesn't mean that you don't include a UMD icon. If you don't have something to test with, okay, I'll give you a break. I, myself can't test Video/Music UMDs, any Slim feature, or PS3 stuff, which is why it often isn't supported in my themes. But RSS? Camera? GO!messenger? People use these sort of features. You not using it isn't a valid excuse for not including it. Not having an icon is somewhat understandable from time to time, but unless you absolutely have to take out a menu, don't take the damn menu out. You aren't the only one using this theme anymore. And please, remember to explain why a certain feature is missing, or why it's not working properly, all in the release notes and the release thread (explained on number 5 above).
7. It's confusing, not impossible.
Now, I haven't quite touched every part of XMB editing yet, but I've yet to see anything that is too hard for theme creators to do, when others have done it themselves. This means everything from sounds, to gameboots, to even PRX editing. Most of the stuff you have to mess around with to figure out. It took me ages to figure out what the fuck everything on the left side of the HexWorkshop window meant. Yet, I still made themes. If you just mess around with the tools, you will get it. So don't give up on hex-editing or RCO issues just because there isn't a tutorial or no one is on to help. There is a solution, always.
8. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time.
Unless you're a teenager on summer/winter break, you are probably busy most of the time. Many of us are too busy for time-consuming hobbies. I love seeing new faces in the scene, but if you don't have the time, don't work on themes. More than likely you'll just have a WIP thread or a half-done theme. If you really want to make themes, do a little here and there to work on your skills and don't do anything hardcore until you have time in your life for it. Good themes take time. And a little note... don't make a WIP thread for your own good. If you MUST show it, try the 'Rate the Above XMB' threads.
(Thanks xploren! You really fixed this up a lot. :P)
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