What Is a Tile-Map?
Naturally, Wikipedia has an in-depth definition of what a tile-based game is, but to get the basic gist there are only a few things you need to know:
- A tile is a small image, usually rectangular or isometric, that acts like a puzzle piece of art for building larger images.
- A map is a grouping of tiles put together to create a (hopefully) visually appealing “section” (like a level or area).
- Tile-based refers to the method of building levels in a game. The code will layout tiles in specific locations to cover the intended area.
In reference to the common tile types – rectangular and isometric – we will use rectangular tiles in this article for their simplicity. If you do decide to try out isometric some day, there is additional math involved to make it work.
Finding or Making Your Own Tiles
The first thing you will need when building your tile engine is a set of tiles. You have two options: use someone else’s tiles, or make your own.
If you decide to use tiles that have already been made, you can find freely available art all over the web. The downside to this is that the art wasn’t made specifically for your game. On the other hand, if you’re just prototyping or trying to learn a new concept, free tiles will do the trick.
Where to Find Your Tiles
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That link should give you more than enough places to find some decent tiles for your prototypes. Before you go crazy grabbing up everything you find, make sure that you understand what license everything is covered under and what restrictions they come with. Many licences will allow you to use the art freely and for commercial use, but they require attribution.
How to Make Your Own Tiles for Videogames
If you haven’t taken the plunge of making art for games yet, it might be a little intimidating. Luckily there are some amazing and simple pieces of software that get you into the thick of it so you can start practicing.
Many developers start out with pixel art for their games and here are a few great tools for just that:
These are some of the most popular programs for making pixel art. If you want something a bit more powerful, GIMP is an excellent option. You can also do some vector art with Inkscape and follow some amazing tutorials over at 2D Game Art For Programmers.
Once you grab the software you can start experimenting with making your own tiles. Since this tutorial is meant to show you how to create your tile map engine I won’t go into too much detail about making the tiles themselves, but there is one thing to always keep in mind:
Make sure your tiles fit together seamlessly, and add some variation to keep them interesting.
If your tiles show obvious lines between them when put together, your game won’t look very nice. Make sure you put some time into creating a nice “puzzle” of tiles by making them seamless and adding some variation.
Source: Tile Map