Designing the perfect editing environment
for a different kind of video game

The problem: editing with Unity
I’ve spent the past few years working on Keyhole in the
engine that runs it, Unity 3D. But Unity leaves a lot to be
desired regarding interactivity and flexibility, and I’ve never
felt comfortable using it as an editor.
After my time at Intel, designing a custom operating
environment for sales & marketing staff, I knew there
could be a better way to do things. So I set out to design the
perfect art pipeline & editing tools for Keyhole.

The Unity editor was pieced together as we realized certain
features that were needed during our time at Stugan,
Sweden’s indie game incubator. It served its purpose, but I
knew we could do better.
The first problem was having to declare game assets in
Unity, when each of those assets had already been created
in Photoshop. There should be no reason to tell the engine
that a character, item, or environmental art asset exists. Not
only should it be automatic, but the location of those assets
could provide a great deal of information about how they fit
into the game.

Gravy Pipe — Keyhole's art asset pipeline tool
My solution to the art pipeline problem was to organize
Photoshop layers and groups in such a way that would
tell Unity where, when, and how to use them in the game.
Then I had a script created that exported each asset into its
respective folder, which would help to feed Unity that extra
information.
Once the engine loads the assets, it automatically knows
which characters appear in which age, in which location,
removing unnecessary options for the team when it comes
time to edit the puzzles.

Kite string — the game's custom level editor
The next step, a custom editor built from scratch, perfectly
handles all these assets and let me focus on editing the
game’s puzzles. Because Keyhole is such a unique game, no
existing editor does quite what I need it to do, and having a
new editor built made the most sense.
The editor was initially designed to work on a Chromebook,
but due to file access restrictions, we decided to make it a
Windows app. Either way, I can now make quick changes to
the game on the fly, as I watch players test the game.
These two tools have greatly improved my efficiency as a
game designer, and made editing the puzzles much faster
and less prone to mistakes.

And what good is a set of custom tools if you can't name and brand them like actual products? We do plan on open-sourcing these tools once the game is out, even if only for inspiration for other game designers.
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