Visual Building Blocks
The visual presentation of each game system is wholly distinct from the underlying mechanics of the game system. However, it is no less critical to the overall usability of the data files. All the visuals are constructed from an assortment of generalized building blocks that are designed to allow you to tailor the interface to the nuances of each particular game system.
The overall structure of the visual interface is dictated by the way HL is designed. For example, the use of edit panels, summary panels, and tables of information will be common across every game system. Within that overall structure, though, the data file author can tailor the interface in a wide range of different ways.
In general, you will find yourself designing the contents of panels and sheets, which are very similar in how they work. Both contain one or more templates and/or layouts, which allow you to position groups of individual visual elements. Templates contain one or more portals, while layouts contain a combination of portals and/or templates. This general structure applies to all visual elements that you'll create as an author.
The Kit provides a variety of pre-defined, visual building blocks that you can use, adapt, replace, and extend. This should make it possible to get something working in relatively short order, while also allowing you to extensively customize the interface to the needs of virtually any game system.
Each of the visual elements is outlined in the topics below. Further details on many of these elements can be found in the more advanced sections of the documentation.
- Panels and Forms
- Sort Sets
- Encoded Text
Re-Using Visual Elements
Visual elements are all globally defined. Consequently, you can define a template once and re-use it in multiple tables or layouts. Similarly, you can define a layout once and re-use it in multiple panels or sheets.
However, what if you want to display multiple pieces of information that share the same template from within the same layout? Or what if you want to re-use the same layout within the same panel or sheet? The Kit uses template references and layout references when specifying the use of these visual elements. Multiple references can re-use the exact same template or layout, with each reference being assigned a different logical name for use within the containing visual element. The logical name is then used in any positioning scripts for the containing visual element to uniquely identify the correct template or layout.