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Worldmap: Tiles vs canvas approach

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I'm building a game that I want to look similar to Ogre Battle on the SNES. I'm at a point in the planning where I'm working out a way of creating and rendering world maps. I have two ideas for this and I'm not sure which one I should pursue, so I'm looking for advice. Approach 1: Tiles The obvious way would be to have tilesets of water, forest, mountain, grass etc and slice out tiles when the game is running. Approach 2: Pre-rendering a Canvas The idea with this is to create a single, very large image file in Photoshop with the map terrain drawn on it. When the game is running it just draws whichever part of the image it needs for the part of the map that is currently on screen. I came up with the second idea because I cant see tiles in the Ogre Battle world map, and every tile based implementation I come up with looks very obviously tiled. Something I want to be sure to avoid though, is a lack of consistency with the visuals that a tile system would enforce. I was wondering if anyone had experience with a game drawn with this second method and whether it 'works' visually, whether it helps a modern game look like a 16bit game, or hinders, and whether it encourages better artwork or worse.

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I used the second approach for a prototype I did. I did it that way for the same reason: I don't like when the tiling is obvious (strangely enough, my current project is heavily tile based) and I needed to represent locations with very unique details.

My image was a 4096x4096 picture made with Gimp. And I was displaying it by portions of 512x512 pixels (the covered surface was small, about 0.5km x 0.5km, and I wanted a good ground precision, for a 16bit game look, you can display a smaller portion).

The look was as expected but the difficulty was to produce this image. At the end of the creation process, the image was made using about 20 layers in Gimp, something like 1.6 GB of memory used only for the image if I remember well, and it was a simple one !
The other difficulty in the creation process is: you have a lot of space and you have to fill it. It is not easy. I didn't want a clearly visible tiling effect but for example, how to generate a convincing grass covering a large surface without tiling ? Hopefully, "noise" was my friend, but it is not easy to get a varied yet homogeneous look.

The benefit of using this approach was important for my usage but, in a more general use, I doubt it to be evident. You can achieve a really good variety using tiles, it is less memory and time consuming and you can reuse your tiles for other maps and for climate/atmosphere variations.

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How about a tile/canvas hybrid of sorts? Sort of like the Flash authoring system from Adobe.

Basically each image or tile handles as an object with a x,y positioned origin. You could then f.e. drop animated grass tiles ontop of a background image and the whole map would seem less static.

The benefit of this would also be that you didn't have to cut the map image into chunks of 512x512 or load the whole map into memory at once.

I think the Torque 2D map editor works in a similar way. The XNA IceCream Milkshake editor (http://icecream.epsicode.net/videos/) which is now in the works has a similar concept of style.

The problem with this is that creating the map editor could take some time (been working on mine for 2 months in my spare time and it still isn't near completion).

Cheers,
Chaugnar

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Looking at the example world map, I think I am seeing hexagonal tiles; not entirely sure, but that often creates this kind of circular look. A tile would be the size of a tree, each tree its own tile. But I'm not sure I'm right, what do you guys think?

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