Friday, August 26, 2016

Creating the Level Creator - Toolbar News

For the next Soko Banish release (1.3), I'll be updating its Level Creator to version 1.2 as well - a much needed update and one of my top priorities right now, as it barely received any changes outside of restoring the old functionality with a faster engine in its 1.1 (with game version 1.2) release. While one of the biggest changes is overhauling the level format (more on that in a later post), the coolest change I can talk about right now is what's been happening with the toolbar.

The 1.0 Level Creator toolbar is incredibly simple - not surprisingly so when you consider that the project was one of the first editors I ever created. It started as a simple toolbar for an unfinished Bomberman clone I was working on at the time, and when I repurposed the code for a Soko Banish editor, it retained that simple, static form, with some statues to make it reflect the in-game GUI. Unfortunately, that greatly limits it in what it can do, and it also makes it hard to add more objects or alternative looks for them. Previously, I've been solving this problem with a method very much inspired by Epsitec's Speedy Blupi editor - placing down an object and clicking on it multiple times with the same tool cycles through its looks. This is, unfortunately, a rather clunky way to do it. So how will the new toolbar figure into solving it?

What I've added to the toolbar is the simple but (in my eyes) disproportionately cool feature to replace individual items on it. Right now, this is done by double-clicking them, which opens a small pop-up with icons of all the choices available. Select one from there, and voila - the item on the toolbar has been replaced! This is possible thanks to a complete overhaul of the hardcoded toolbar (part of an effort to hardcode as little as possible in the new version) to instead generate itself dynamically, and the Level Creator will save your own personal setup for the next startup as well. Since the choices for what to put on the toolbar include variations, that makes for an easy way to plop down a lot of bones and kettles without feeling like you're playing a clicker game, though the old method will remain in the editor as an optional choice for those who are more used to it (developers, take note! Improving != removing). Since you need to replace items on the toolbar for it, it will naturally be widened as well to include more of those; maybe at the expense of the silly statues.

Of course, this likely won't be the only change to the interface. I'm toying with the thought of adding something like a select tool, which would let you move things that you already placed and also change the appearance of blocks and decorations (i.e. what the old method of placing those allowed you to do but the putting-them-on-the-toolbar approach would not). Nothing is coded yet, but this editor could definitely benefit from some user-friendly tools. There's also an exciting idea for the walls and decorations in my head that goes beyond a simple interface change which would have never worked properly without the dynamic toolbar, but I'm keeping that a secret for now. Stay tuned for more updates here and on Lanschilandia Games!

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