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New to game programming; a question about surfaces.

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I''m pretty new to game programming, and I''ve just begun fiddling with what will be some kind of (probably) isometric 2D game. I''m pondering about how I should load my sprites. The easiest way would be to use a one file and one surface for each sprite, but wouldn''t it be a bit of a resource hog to have hundreds of tiny surfaces? Or are they efficient enough not to make much of a difference? The other approach would be to have loads of sprites in the same file and surface, but that would be really clumsy in this case as the sprites'' dimensions will vary greatly. I would also need to have some sort of ''map'' which marks out where one sprite ends and another starts. So which approach would you say is the best?

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