Last night i couldn't sleep and thought of some things. So here we go: Why dont we use a Depth-Collision-Map System for our Engine? Explanation: We have a background image with the layers and everything drawn by our designers. Additionally there is a second Image. This image just has values between white and black. white ist a non passable area everything between this is walkable area and the grey value corresponds to the scale drew has in the world.
this would solve our problem regarding the "depth" of our backgrounds.
I think this is a first solution step but if you have better ideas just post a reply
We'd also maybe need more layers that are in the foreground that can cover things in between (so the character can walk "in between" and can be covered, like railing of the staircase at the beginning of Toonstruck 1). But that is of course no problem in your approach.
A problem might be flying things - the depth-collision-map assumes that characters always walk on the floor and the scale is dependent on the position of the characters "feet" on that greyscale image.
How is this done in other engines (like adventuregamestudio or Wintermute engine)?
What are the recent plans about an engine anyway? Create an own engine? If so, which language etc? Another option may be to use the Wintermute engine and port it to other platforms like Linux. The homepage says that the code is available on request under terms of the LGPL2, so this might be a possibility. I don't know how clean and portable the code is, though.
Maybe they need no collision map but IMHO it would be desirable to be able to handle all kind of non-static stuff (and their scale) with this approach. For example flying NPCs (like King Hugh in the cutifier).
Anyway: the idea really isn't too bad, but you should really dig into some available engines (just the editing tools should be sufficient) to see how things are usually done. Even if you/we/whoever ( ;) ) write a custom engine for Toonstruck 2 this should give you some good inspiration.
I don't think we really need flying things, cuase we could make it like in TS1 were all the complex animations/action like flying scenes or the intro/outro are presented in a small movieclip (the .smk files)