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About Exano

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  1. If I read this right, you are putting these items together as a single image or a handful of images either in the atlas or externally? In this instance, I honestly would just use sprite sheets. Have one sheet for the default item, and one sheet for the item with the preview or what have you. If you just have too many items and textures, and using the atlas and condensing them won't work and you're still running into slow load times and rough memory management, consider only loading a handful at a time and just dynamically loading/unloading.
  2. Coding

    Depending on how much time you have, learning a language can be really beneficial to you. Programming is more of a mindset then it is specific code -- Lots of great games have terrible code (Though never strive for this, obviously ) Knowing one would be beneficial to you, even with engines like Unity. So if you've got a bit of time to learn, just dedicate yourself to coding. Its like an instrument, and has to be practiced like one. Just crank it out and you'll be amazed at how much you get done in little time. If you don't have a bunch of time, learning a smaller engine that doesn't require much or any code is probably preferable. You could always try and do both.