Making a toolkit

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Quantum P.
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Making a toolkit

Post by Quantum P. »

So. It's the year 2020, and I'm making a toolkit:
toolkit-prototype.png (10.77 KiB) Viewed 2455 times
What's in it:
  • Top left: Color combinations for normal/breakable/water
  • Left: Fake walls, line walls
  • Slightly to the right of the middle: the 16-color section. These are all items for which ZZT has a default color, so you need 15+ colors to get a complete selection of foregrounds. Pretty obvious by sight what is what: the only ambiguous row are those ricochets.
  • Top right: The haphazardly-packed miscellaneous section. Dummies, forests, doors, text chars for art, pushables. I started to include some forest blends as well but didn't fill in all the empty space.
  • Bottom left: Compact ASCII chart of my own devising; the reason for this toolkit (more on this later)
  • Bottom right: The 9-color section. These items do not have default colors, so a toolkit only has to provide 9+ colors to get a complete selection of foregrounds. This is where the solid and invisible walls are. Objects and passages are composable, meaning you can choose the background color by placing them on top of a fake wall.
But why make a toolkit?

This started with me pondering ASCII charts. The typical slim configuration takes up two boards: one for STK colors and one for an ASCII chart. Everyone pretty much settled on the same chart layout, which is decently compact but still takes up most of a board. I had a realization: most of the space is taken up by labels, not the chars themselves. So I began playing with ways to abbreviate the labels, and got something compact enough that I could fit both the chart and a decent amount of STK stuff on the same board. Then I started trying to figure out space-efficient ways to pack STK stuff, resulting in the prototype you see above.

Prior art: Dr. Dos's Colors R' Us is the only other toolkit I know of that combines STK and a chart on a single board, though he used a different approach: put most of the chart within a scroll. My only complaints are increased lookup time (having to page through the scroll to get to the char you want) and the fear of the internal editor's stat-deletion bug taking out the scroll. That last one is probably only an issue if you save while on the toolkit board -- a thing I used to do because I had a superstition that saving on the toolkit board would prevent stats on the other boards from being deleted. I do want to pay tribute to Colors R' Us, though, because (1) it did everything-on-one-board first, and (2) I actually think that using a scroll for the ASCII chart is really clever, and I'm surprised other toolkits didn't do this.

What's next?

I want to make further improvements before I declare this to be more than a prototype:
  • Better organization: My packing algorithm was greedy, resulting in stuff like solid walls being separate from the other walls, and those sliders-on-light-gray being crammed into a corner. The toolkit should be a pleasure to look at, even if it means removing a thing or two.
  • Labeling: It's not 100% clear where everything is, or what everything is. Forests, for example. There's a row that looks like unused space, but it actually has black-on-black solids, objects, passages, etc.
  • Improved selection of stuff: I left out stuff that I would actually use in a game (such as blink wall rays with black backgrounds) and included stuff that I could live without (duplicators? conveyors?).
  • Thing that I cannot explain, except by way of strange nostalgia: Blends. I always mixed my own, but I love looking at all the blends people came up (and undoubtedly stole from each other) over the years. Also, I never used blinking stuff in my games, but I'm tempted to add some blinking blends.
Speaking of things I'm tempted to do... Once it's "production ready," I kind of want to make a game with it, using the internal editor. You know, as long as I'm doing crazy stuff.

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Re: Making a toolkit

Post by H1~~ »

This is the most logically ordered toolkit I've ever seen!

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Re: Making a toolkit

Post by Commodore »

But so much empty space! But also good.

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