Is there a way, short of placing an instance of it offscreen , to preload graphics for a layout that could be created?
(they make sounds I don't want going off at the start)
sometimes when my character uses a new skill or some explosions pop up there is a small drop on framerate each time a new layout has to load them up.
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Nope, you need to have it on the layout that's currently in-use. Quick fix to your audio on spawn issue: run that event with the condition Sprite/family/etc: is on-screen.