Group Browser

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April 25th, 2009

Keeping track of all objects, groups, hotspots, scripts, characters, and more in a big Overgrowth level can quickly become a headache. We started noticing this with Hale's massive Foothold map, and it's becoming more apparent now that I'm adding hotspots and other new entities to the editors.

So, we've been playing around with a number of abstracted interfaces to organize things. Awhile back I wrote about our object browser. The object browser helps users find and load content into a level. But, once the content is in the level, we might benefit from further organizational interfaces. Which leads us to the group browser:

Group Browser
Because we are using webkit for the UI, Jeff can whip up browsers like this really quickly.

The group browser displays a hierarchical list of groups and objects in a level. Clicking a name selects the corresponding entity in the editor, double-clicking a name allows the user to change the name, and clicking a group's triangle expands that group's list of elements.

Through these simple interactions, the group browser already has some power. It provides quick navigation to specific, named content, it presents an overview of all objects in a level and shows how they are organized, and it allows for sub-group selection (note: scrolling in and out over a group also accomplishes this). Eventually we may give the group browser much more power. For example, we might add a search bar, a "zoom to group" button, a "hide group" button, and assignable colors and annotations.

But, browsers like this can also be a bit clunky, and they're not strictly necessary. I'm a big fan of streamlined, immersive UIs that minimize the intrusion of floating windows and buttons. We don't want to clutter things up with a marginally useful browser. So, do you guys think the group browser will be useful, once it is in a more finished state? How can we make it better? What other sorts of organizational interfaces would you like to see?