Develop Your Plan (Savage)
Before writing any data files, it's critical that you first do your homework. If you launch into writing the data files without a good plan, you will likely run into a number of surprises and setbacks along the way. While such events won't stop you from successfully creating the data files, they will almost certainly cause unnecessary delays and frustration. So you will fare best if you take the time upfront to develop your basic implementation strategy, map out all of the basic building blocks you'll need, and design how everything should look and behave for the user.
The first thing you need is to figure out how you are going to go about developing your data files. We've provided you with a solid starting point in the Skeleton data files, and now those files need to be adapted. The sequence used for the Savage Worlds data files leverages a methodology that has worked well for a number of game systems. You are welcome to come up with your own approach, as there is no "right" way to do it, although we recommend you start with the methodology we've presented and adapt it to suit your needs.
Take the time to look closely at the game system for which you are developing data files. There are probably lots of subtle facets of the rules mechanics that you take for granted, but that will introduce complexities in writing the data files. In some cases, you will uncover holes in the wording of the rules that the game designers didn't intend. When you embark on writing data files for a game system, you have to tell HL exactly how things work, with none of the grey areas that the human brain adapts to so well.
Put together an outline of all the various building blocks for the game system. Map these pieces to the corresponding mechanism for representing each piece via the Kit. Also look at the various supplement books for the game system to get a concrete grasp of the new wrinkles introduced in those books, then figure out how those will impact your initial outline. When you're done, you should have a detailed outline of the various game system elements and a good idea of how you're going to manage them within HL.
The following is a list of some of the key Kit mechanisms to focus on during this process:
- components and fields
- component sets
- tag groups and tags
- phase and evaluation cycle
Look and Feel
Now take some time to evaluate how everything will behave for the user. The overall organization of the interface is critical to highly usable data files, such as what gets presented, how and where it gets presented, and how the user is allowed to make appropriate selections. Also give some thought to how you'll provide feedback to the user about the characters being created and any errors that might arise.
Once you have you have your visual organization and layout mapped out, you can translate that into the mechanisms provided by the Kit. This includes assessing where to use tables, choosers, menus, etc. It also entails determining what the contents of tables will look like and what portals the user will interact with.
We highly recommend that you sketch out how everything will look on paper. Sketches of each tab and how the information will be organized on each are invaluable. For some tables, additional sketches of the contents of each item in the table are also extremely helpful.
The last planning step is how you intend to visually "skin" the interface. The skin is the set of colors, fonts, textures, icons, and bitmaps that comprise how everything looks to the user. We highly recommend you defer any work on the skin until after your data files are otherwise completed. Once you have all the core behaviors operating correctly, you can switch your attention to the skin details. That being said, though, it is always a good idea to give a little thought to how everything will look at the outset, just in case there are layout implications due to your intended final look that need to be considered along the way.