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# Tile-less Isometric Engine?

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7 replies to this topic

### #1Zokk  Members

Posted 23 May 2013 - 07:16 PM

Is there any 2D/2.5D isometric game engine available out there that uses a coordinate system, rather than a tile-based system? I'm getting tired of seeing all of these tile-based game engines out there for isometric games. I think coordinate-based games look so much better than tile-based ones. I'm looking for an engine that replicates the seamless backgrounds seen in games like Baldur's Gate and Planescape: Torment, rather than the blocky tiled environments of RPG Maker games and the like, which seem to be everywhere.

As they say in the PS:T vision document: "Tiling is for bathrooms, not games."

### #2frob  Moderators

Posted 23 May 2013 - 07:25 PM

Just about any 3D engine can do it.

Isometric view is just a specific viewing angle and camera configuration. You can use nearly any 3D game engine that you want, just constrain the camera to a height and angle to get your isometric viewpoint. It is easier to get an oblique projection than a pure isometric projection, but that's just an implementation detail.

Check out my book, Game Development with Unity, aimed at beginners who want to build fun games fast.

Also check out my personal website at bryanwagstaff.com, where I occasionally write about assorted stuff.

### #3JTippetts  Moderators

Posted 23 May 2013 - 08:00 PM

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Your use of the term "coordinate system" is somewhat confusing; even a tile-based game is going to use a coordinate system. But, as frob indicated, if what you want is a continuous coordinate space not limited to tile boundaries, then any 3D engine will do. However, Baldur's Gate and Planescape are not examples of this kind of game. BG and PS:T were Infinity Engine games. IE used fully pre-rendered backgrounds with encoded depth information, and 2D sprites super-imposed upon it. In their own way, they were every bit as limited as a tile-based game; it's just that they traded one set of limitations (grid-based-ness) for another (pre-rendered, memory-hogging gigantic bitmaps). If you're interested in actual IE game creation, you could check out GemRB for an open-source recreation of the Infinity Engine. You could implement similar using modern shader-based 3D engines as well. (I don't know the internals of GemRB, but I suspect they do something like this.)

Note that the content pipeline for an IE-like game is actually quite hefty. The tiles that you dislike in other games aren't perfect by a long shot, but they do aid in drastically reducing the amount of unique artwork that must be created, allowing for re-use of pieces to construct larger worlds or to construct levels procedurally from rule sets at run-time. IE levels are constructed whole-sale and pre-rendered in order to eliminate any appearance of tiling or repetition. This means that re-use of assets is fairly limited, and while procedural generation can be used in the pipeline for a lot of tasks, it is less useful at run-time meaning that it is more difficult to do randomly-generated areas and there is still a lot of hand-tweaking that has to be done, and a lot of hand-detailing that must be performed, in order to justify the decision to go with pre-rendered. If you have an art team, that's fine; you can put them to work churning out thousands of props and textures and composing scenes from those props. If you are a lone wolf or a very small team, the task actually becomes quite monumental. Some years back, I took a stab at generating some BG-ish scenes, and the labor involved in building the scenes to harness the advantages that pre-rendered offers (including a large amount of tiny detail) was daunting. Granted, modern tools do make things a bit easier but it is still a fairly huge task. There is a reason that art-related expenses consume the vast majority of game development budgets these days. Personally, in light of these facts, statements such as "tiling is for bathrooms, not games" simply do not belong in any serious discussion of game design, and serve only as tongue-in-cheek braggadoccio meant to hype a given project. If you don't like tiles, that's fine, but that doesn't make them useless or irrelevant as the quote seems to indicate.

Edit: Funnily enough, even the Infinity Engine uses tiles after a fashion. It's just that the "tiles" are a lot more complicated.

Edited by JTippetts, 23 May 2013 - 08:15 PM.

### #4Zokk  Members

Posted 23 May 2013 - 08:23 PM

That's some good info, there.

I guess I should also mention that I've already done a fair amount of research on the infinity engine, and read a lot of developer interviews with the Black Isle's developers about how they created their Infinity Engine games. I've also been digging around in my PS:T files using Infinity Explorer to see how various stuff works, as well. On top of that, I've downloaded GemRB, and have been looking for tutorials on how to use it to create a new game, but there's virtually no documentation or tutorials out there for doing that- at least not that I've found.

I've thought about trying to develop a prototype using CryENGINE 3 or Unity, but I'm not sure if I want to go that route or not, yet.

Edited by Zokk, 23 May 2013 - 08:23 PM.

### #5Plethora  Members

Posted 24 May 2013 - 11:07 AM

You may want to check out the game Phantom Brave for PS2 (there are also Wii and PSP ports of it).  It's a radically different game than BG or PS:T, but it uses randomly generated terrain on which the player can freely roam (ie, not tile based).  It uses 2d sprite assets in a 3D world, therefore the view is restricted to a more or less isometric view (with predefined rotations allowed).

At the very least it might give you more to think about.

I'm working on a game!  It's called "Spellbook Tactics".  I'd love it if you checked it out, offered some feedback, etc.  I am very excited about my progress thus far and confident about future progress as well!

### #6FLeBlanc  Members

Posted 24 May 2013 - 12:19 PM

You may want to check out the game Phantom Brave for PS2 (there are also Wii and PSP ports of it).  It's a radically different game than BG or PS:T, but it uses randomly generated terrain on which the player can freely roam (ie, not tile based).  It uses 2d sprite assets in a 3D world, therefore the view is restricted to a more or less isometric view (with predefined rotations allowed).

At the very least it might give you more to think about.

Looks tile-based to me. Tile-based doesn't necessarily mean you are restricted to tile-by-tile movement; just that the world is built up from tiles, or building blocks, that are usually aligned on a grid.

You can get pretty complicated with a tile-based scheme. Look at Torchlight 2, for example. It uses the concept of tiles, or chunks, only the tiles are large and can be complex. Play a few levels of TL2 and you can start to see the pieces that repeat.

### #7Plethora  Members

Posted 26 May 2013 - 12:22 PM

Looks tile-based to me. Tile-based doesn't necessarily mean you are restricted to tile-by-tile movement; just that the world is built up from tiles, or building blocks, that are usually aligned on a grid.

True enough.  I was more thinking in terms of tile (grid) based movement, that's why it popped into my head.  However, the OP was clearly talking graphics, not movement, therefore I stand correct.

I'm working on a game!  It's called "Spellbook Tactics".  I'd love it if you checked it out, offered some feedback, etc.  I am very excited about my progress thus far and confident about future progress as well!

### #8Tchom  Members

Posted 30 May 2013 - 05:49 PM

I'd use a 3d-engine with orthographic projection.

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