Article: Easy ManiaLink Creator, Part 2

Yesterday you read an article from the TMU Writing Contest, about the EMC: Easy ManiaLink Creator Part 1. Today we continue from where we left off yesterday with Easy ManiaLink Creator Part 2. Written by Cyberfrog.

Table of Content (Part 2)

  • 2.3 ManiaLink Visualization and Direct Manipulation
  • 2.4 Weaknesses
  • 3.The Never Asked Questions (NAQ)
  • 4. Sources

EMC

2.3 ManiaLink Visualization and Direct Manipulation

The biggest portion of the graphical user interface (GUI) is occupied by the visualization of the currently edited ManiaLink. This GUI component is appropriately named the “Visualizer”. Changes in the Properties table (see Part 1) will be reflected in the visualization, as will addition of new nodes and removal of existing nodes.

It is also possible to alter cell widths by dragging their left or right edges. Cell content can be moved from one cell to another (if the target cell is occupied, the content will switch places). Cells can be moved from one line to another, or the order of cells within a line changed. Lines and cells can be copied and pasted. Copying a cell will copy the cell and its content (if any), copying a line will also copy all its cells and their content.

The hope is that working in the editor will be fast for anyone with just a minimum of experience with the editor.

2.4 Weaknesses

It is a bit difficult to describe the weaknesses of a piece of non-existing software, but here are some likely ones:

  • No support for the <manialinks> tag (there is some doubt the tag even works at all). With EMC, we are mainly interested in ManiaLinks that can be shown in the in-game browser, and XML files with that tag at the root cannot.
  • Only one media element can be stored per cell.
  • No XML source editing. One should be able to work as fast in the EMC editor as in a text editor. XML gurus are unlikely users EMC anyway, so it needs mainly to be beginner friendly.
  • Not beginner friendly enough. Users need still know of lines, cells and the different types of cell content, or they might be at loss of what to do in the editor. It does not take long to learn these things, but ideally it would not be necessary.
  • No support for custom XML comments (<!– Comment here –>) in the output documents.
  • Some inaccuracies in the Visualizer. This is unavoidable with text, as the text renderers are different in the game (DirectX) than in the editor, and not all text effects can be conveniently emulated. Text may take up more or less space in the Visualizer than it is supposed to, potentially in turn leading to incorrect cell and/or line sizes (if the cell content in wider than the cell, the cell will expand; if the cell content is taller than the line, the line will expand). This means that the EMC visualization should be considered an estimation only, and all ManiaLinks should still be tested in the in-game browser before they are made public.
  • The Visualizer will not play sounds or video. Of images, it will not display DDS-format images. These types of media must be tested in the in-game browser to ensure that they work.
  • Selecting multiple elements of the same type (e.g. multiple cells) and manipulating them all at once will probably not be possible initially.
  • A first release (if it ever happens) will likely not have ManiaCode support.

3. The Never Asked Questions (NAQ)

  • Q. Sooo – where can I get this thing?
  • A. Nowhere! Recall the “about this article” section at the very beginning of part 1.

The text is a vision, it does not describe existing software. There is a ManiaLink editor available though, written by Akbalder. Use the ManiaLink “mle” in the in-game browser if you want to try it, but do not ask me for support. For ManiaCodes, Nazgul has written the tool Easy TM that includes a ManiaCode wizard (http://www.tm-forum.com/viewtopic.php?t=1235). I haven’t tried this tool myself.

  • Q. (1) When will this be released? (2) Because you are working on it, right?
  • A. (1) I don’t know. Maybe in a few months after you read this, maybe never. (2) I’ve tried to, but I’m a lazy bum.

In autumn I begin on my Masters in software development, so work is going to be slow if progressing at all. It’s like studying. If you’ve spent hours on text books, reading a novel the same night might become less appealing, if you’ve even got the time for it.

  • Q. But… The first illustration looks like a fully functioning editor! WTF?
  • A. Dude, language! Eh… The thing is, it’s supposed to. But looks can be deceiving.

That “editor” (using the term very loosely) can currently only visualize a single ManiaLink XML file chosen by me (the path to it hardcoded in the source code). There is zero functionality beyond the visualization of a single ManiaLink.

  • Q. I’m working on an editor! Can I use any or all (heh heh) of your ideas?
  • A. Sure, go right ahead!

For one, ideas can’t be copyrighted (and it’s not like I’ve tried to patent any of them). But more importantly, I think it would be pretty neat if an editor with all these features were made, even if I’m not the author of it.

  • Q. I have some cool ideas! Do you want to hear them?
  • A. Not at this time…

Even thinking about how I would go about implementing my existing ideas can give me headaches. Obviously, if a beta version is ever released, user feedback and ideas will be immensely useful and highly appreciated.

  • Q. Is this the editor you mentioned working on in a TMX forum thread?
  • A. Not exactly. That editor would have ended up looking quite different.

That project was abandoned well before it was finished, due to lack of time and interest. I think the editor described in this document has more promise anyway, and some parts of the old one could be re-used to speed up progress. Some parts were in fact re-used in order to create the mock-up seen in Illustration 1.

  • Q. Are you crazy? Why did you even write this?
  • A. Probably, and… it seemed like the thing to do when I heard of the TMU Writing Contest.

The TMU Blog writing contest gave me a reason to put some thoughts on paper (figuratively speaking).

4. Sources

The most important sources:

  • TM-WIKI
  1. http://en.tm-wiki.org/wiki/ManiaLink_Page
  2. http://en.tm-wiki.org/wiki/ManiaCode_Tutorial

Honourable mentions:

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