I see some of module developers would use “always active layer” to define the look of the counter. They would leave basic image empty and add a layer, marked always active, with two images: full strength unit and unit on its reduced side. What are the advantages of such approach, if any?
when counters have dropshadows, with layer that is activated, the layer image must have no dropshadows, or otherwise opaqueness basic image and the layer adds up, yielding more prominent dropshadow. This also means that layer image must account for dropshadow offset => process of making counters is even more complicated.
Piece Mass Loader will not automatically add back sides of the counters with no basic image, rendering no basic image option unfeasible for larger games (unless you want to tinker with buildFile).
If I have a double-sided counter and I have a clean image of both sides, it’s very straight forward to implement using layers. What is the alternative when you need to flip the counter? Replace with Other? I found the Piece Loader nearly worthless anyway so I don’t see its inability to add layer image files as a detriment. I’ve already conceded that I either need to do a lot of manual entry in the Module Editor or its only good for creating placeholders to assign GPIDs and I do most of my heavy lifting by editing the buildfile.
I use the ‘Always Active layer’ instead of Basic Piece image for all of my counters that are created by Place Marker traits. This allows you to create the full definition including the base image inside a prototype, which is re-used by the corresponding Game Palette version of the counter.
You can still define further ‘flipping’ layers above the ‘always on’ layer and they behave exactly the same as they would over a BasicPiece basic image.
I don’t use drop shadows so can’t comment on that.
or its only good for creating placeholders to assign GPIDs
It is good for loading groups of counters that are all almost exactly the same. It is not good for loading a variety of counters with different setups.
I use “always active” layers whether I’m doing two-sided counters or not.
(1) As Brent says, it lets me define these things in Prototypes, meaning they’re more flexible for re-use.
(2) I usually have my dropshadow in a different always-active Layer (usually with its own Prototype). BasicPiece does not interfere (or “stack opaqueness”) because I leave that image completely transparent. I just put them in the right order so that the drop shadow is drawn “underneath” the counter image.
(3) Layer has a lot more flexibility & options if I need to come back and change/add something later.
I never thought of using an always active Layer instead of a Basic Piece. I’m a huge fan of prototypes so I’ll probably start doing that in the future. I agree that layers leave you with a lot more flexibility. Anytime you need to have multiple pieces for one counter, you’re just begging to omit some property by accident because you didn’t inherit properties or replicate behavior on the replacement. For modules as complex as mine, that’s frankly a nightmare just thinking about it…
As for drop shadows, I always use them on the layer image and only the layer image. I could only see using a Basic Piece image in addition to layers if there were stats or icons that are identical on all layers. Even then, I’d rather just add them to each image rather than have a Basic Piece image. As long as you only have one set of drop shadows, either on all the layer images or the Basic Piece, this isn’t something I ever really worry about.