Brass Lantern
the adventure game web site


Technical Information

This site uses something called Cascading Style Sheets, or CSS. It uses them a lot. See, the initial idea of markup on the web was that you delimited text by its purpose. HTML was not, at its heart, about design. You had content; you marked parts of it as being a header, a quote, emphasized text. You weren't supposed to worry about how it would look.

Then 1995 came, and the web took off. Designers started working on pages. Netscape started introducing their own special tags. And then, the TABLE tag.

Ah, the TABLE tag. It was in the HTML 3.0 spec, with some additional spices thrown into the stew by Netscape and, to a lesser extent, Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Designers jumped all over tables, and with reason. With them web designers could control layout with precision.

I lie. They could control layout, sort of. Tables worked differently in different browsers. But using tables was better than any of the other available options.

The World Wide Web Consortium, the W3C, paid attention. In December of 1996 the W3C released their recommendation for Cascading Style Sheets. CSS1 was designed to separate design from content. you could have control over positioning, fonts, colors -- all without having to use bunches of nested tables.

And it would degrade gracefully. If a page was designed properly, you could strip out all of the fancy CSS formatting and still have readable content. It might not look great, but it would be readable.

Even niftier, style sheets could be kept in their own files, away from the actual HTML pages. You could have one style sheet which was used by all of your pages. Want to tweak the color of a certain section of your web site? Make one change to one file and all of your pages would change to match. Magic!

Too bad Netscape and Microsoft fumbled. Support for CSS in IE 4 and Netscape 4 were broken broken broken. And why would anyone in their right mind use CSS when it didn't work and traditional table layout did?

Things are slowly starting to change. We've got browsers that do a better job of supporting CSS. Netscape 6, IE 6, Opera 5, all have enough CSS support for a guy like me to cobble together a site which looks decent in the new browsers, but can still be read using Lynx, or on Palms, or by screen readers used by the blind.

Now to the practicalities. I coded most of this site using Emacs, with help from the Windows CSS editor TopStyle. I like both of these tools a lot, and recommend them highly. Graphics were created with the usual suspects of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Random site twiddling was done through your friend and mine, Perl. The Perl script which handles news on the site was originally written by David Glasser for my old About site; Dan "inky" Shiovitz modified it heavily for use on Brass Lantern.

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