Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Card Creator V2 - A smoother workflow

I had a couple goals in mind when I set out to rebuild the Card Creator.  First, I wanted to be able to update a Google Spreadsheet document, and have the card creator read directly from there for building the cards, and second, I wanted to remove the Cairo dependency, because it wasn't working very well and I wanted to use Node4 which broke node-canvas.

Version 2 of the Card Creator does exactly that.  I hooked up the Card Creator into Google Sheets using the npm module: google-spreadsheet, and I swapped out node-canvas and Cairo for LibGD and node-gd.  What that entailed was a full rebuild of the card creation logic, but it was good to go back over it and update it and smooth out some of the minor issues.

In addition I redrew much of the art for the icons so that I could use non-pixel art instead, which scales better.  Granted, I am no artist, but I am doing all of the temporary art until I can find an artist to work with, if I decide to pursue this project seriously.

If you haven't read my previous post.  Card Creator is an application written in NodeJS that automates creating playing cards for a card game I'm working on.  It allows me to rapidly prototype and handles design, combining art assets, etc into print sheets for ease of production.

This new Card Creator program has improved my workflow significantly.  With the old program, making card changes required me to update the JSON files individually and change the values for each key/value pair in order to generate the cards.  Now I simply create a new row in my google document and run the program and it pulls in all the changes.  It's really nice for rapid prototyping.  I'm able to tweak values, update the descriptions, and then immediately run the program to generate the cards, and the sheetify script to create print sheets.

The script has a few points of interest you'll want to consider when using it.  First it's run by using the command: node creator-google-sheets.js which is the primary file.  (Make sure you're on branch version2).  The first thing you need to do to run it is include a google spreadsheet key to a google document.  In order to use the sheet, you'll need to publish it to the web, and then you'll have a link that has a long string in it.  That's your spreadsheet key.

I put my key in a private.js file which isn't included in the repository, so you can do the same, or you can simply replace the require('./private.js').google_sheets_key; on line 15 of the script with the string.  In addition if your spreadsheet has differently named headers for your spreadsheet, you'll need to update those in the mapping function (convertRow) on line 73.  That basically maps the row data to fields that the icon creator, background creator, etc are expecting.

The Card Creator works similar to before, it draws the background, the title, the description and the icons and then outputs it as a png file.  One thing to note, is that if you're working with node-gd, the documentation isn't fantastic, so it might take some trial and error to figure out how the functions work exactly.  For example, it took me a little bit to figure out which copy function worked for copying one image onto another.  Use copyResampled.  At least that's the only one that worked well for what I was doing.

I'm also rebranding the Card game I'm working on a bit, tossing some names around trying to find one I like.  I have a couple in mind, so we'll see if they stick in play testing.

Anyway feel free to check out the new Card Creator on my Github Page, if you're working with NodeJS linking up to google sheets documents is really quite simple and fantastic for automating work.  You can make the document read only (like I did) or allow programs to write to cells as well.  Nifty!

Cheers and thanks for reading!
Jason C / WakeskaterX