Tile-based video game

Last updated
An oblique texture atlas in the style of Ultima VI Tile set.png
An oblique texture atlas in the style of Ultima VI

A tile-based video game is a type of video or video game where the playing area consists of small square (or, much less often, rectangular, parallelogram, or hexagonal) graphic images referred to as tiles laid out in a grid. That the screen is made of such tiles is a technical distinction, and may not be obvious to people playing the game. The complete set of tiles available for use in a playing area is called a tileset. Tile-based games usually simulate a top-down, side view, or 2.5D view of the playing area, and are almost always two-dimensional.


Much video game hardware from the late 1970s through the mid-1990s has native support for displaying tiled screens with little interaction from the CPU.


Tile-based games are not a distinct video game genre. The term refers to the technology that the hardware or game engine uses for its visual representation. For example, Pac-Man is an action game, Ultima is a role-playing video game and Civilization is a turn-based strategy game, but all three render the world as tiles. Ultima III and Civilization draw the tiles via software, while the maze in the original arcade version of Pac-Man is made of tiles displayed by the game's graphics hardware. Tiles allow developers to build with a set of reusable components instead of drawing everything individually.

Tile-based video games usually use a texture atlas for performance reasons. They also store metadata about the tiles, such as collision, damage, and entities, either with a 2-dimensional array mapping the tiles, or a second texture atlas mirroring the visual one but coding metadata by colour. This approach allows for simple, visual map data, letting level designers create entire worlds with a tile reference sheet and perhaps a text editor, a paint program, or a simple level editor (many older games included the editor in the game). Examples of tile-based game engine/IDEs include RPG Maker, Game Maker, Construct, and Godot.

Variations include level data using "material tiles" that are procedurally transformed into the final tile graphics, and groupings of tiles as larger-scale "supertiles" or "chunks," allowing large tiled worlds to be constructed under heavy memory constraints. Ultima 7 uses a "tile," "chunk" and "superchunk" three-layer system to construct an enormous, detailed world within the PCs of the early 1990s.


The tile-map model was introduced to video games by Namco's arcade game Galaxian (1979), which ran on the Namco Galaxian arcade system board, capable of displaying multiple colors per tile as well as scrolling. It used a tile size of 8×8 pixels, which since became the most common tile size used in video games. A tilemap consisting of 8×8 tiles required 64 times less memory and processing time than a non-tiled framebuffer, which allowed Galaxian's tile-map system to display more sophisticated graphics, and with better performance, than the more intensive framebuffer system previously used by Space Invaders (1978). [1] Some video game consoles such as the Intellivision, released in 1979, were designed to use tile-based graphics, since their games had to fit into video game cartridges as small as 4K in size.

Home computers had hardware tile support in the form of ASCII characters arranged in a grid, usually for the purposes of displaying text, but games could be written using letters and punctuation as game elements. The Atari 400/800 home computers, released in 1979, allow the standard character set to be replaced by a custom one. [2] [3] The new characters don't have to be glyphs, but the walls of a maze or ladders or any game graphics that fit in an 8x8 pixel square. The video coprocessor provides different modes for displaying character grids. In most modes, individual monochrome characters can be displayed in one of four colors; others allow characters to be constructed of 2-bit pixels instead, which allowed up to 5 colors to be displayed by swapping between 2 colors via an extra bit in the tile index byte. Atari used the term redefined characters and not tiles.

The tile model became widely used in specific game genres such as platform games and role-playing video games, and reached its peak during the 8-bit and 16-bit eras of consoles, with games such as Mega Man (NES), The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES) and Shining Force (Mega Drive) being prime examples of tile-based games, producing a highly recognizable look and feel.

Blades of Exile features multi-character combat on a tiled overhead map BOEcombat1.png
Blades of Exile features multi-character combat on a tiled overhead map

Most early tile-based games used a top-down perspective.[ citation needed ] The top-down perspective evolved to a simulated 45-degree angle, seen in 1994's Final Fantasy VI , allowing the player to see both the top and one side of objects, to give more sense of depth; this style dominated 8-bit and 16-bit console role-playing games.[ citation needed ] Ultimate Play the Game developed a series of video games in the 1980s that employed a tile-based isometric perspective. As computers advanced, isometric and dimetric perspectives began to predominate in tile-based games, using parallelogram-shaped tiles instead of square tiles. Notable titles include:

Hexagonal tile-based games have been limited for the most part to the strategy and wargaming genres. Notable examples include the Sega Genesis game Master of Monsters , SSI's Five Star series of wargames starting with Panzer General , the Age of Wonders series and Battle for Wesnoth .

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Atari 8-bit family</span> Home computer series introduced in 1979

The Atari 8-bit family is a series of 8-bit home computers introduced by Atari, Inc. in 1979 with the Atari 400 and Atari 800. As the first home computer architecture with coprocessors, it has graphics and sound more advanced than most of its contemporaries. Video games were a major appeal, and first-person space combat simulator Star Raiders is considered the platform's killer app. The "Atari 8-bit family" label was not contemporaneous. Atari, Inc., used the term "Atari 800 [or 400] home computer system", often combining the model names into "Atari 400/800" or "Atari home computers".

In computer graphics, planar is the method of arranging pixel data into several bitplanes of RAM. Each bit in a bitplane is related to one pixel on the screen. Unlike packed, high color, or true color graphics, the whole dataset for an individual pixel isn't in one specific location in RAM, but spread across the bitplanes that make up the display. Planar arrangement determines how pixel data is laid out in memory, not how the data for a pixel is interpreted; pixel data in a planar arrangement could encode either indexed or direct color.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Framebuffer</span> Portion of random-access memory containing a bitmap that drives a video display

A framebuffer is a portion of random-access memory (RAM) containing a bitmap that drives a video display. It is a memory buffer containing data representing all the pixels in a complete video frame. Modern video cards contain framebuffer circuitry in their cores. This circuitry converts an in-memory bitmap into a video signal that can be displayed on a computer monitor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Color Graphics Adapter</span> IBM PC graphic adapter and display standard

The Color Graphics Adapter (CGA), originally also called the Color/Graphics Adapter or IBM Color/Graphics Monitor Adapter, introduced in 1981, was IBM's first color graphics card for the IBM PC and established a de facto computer display standard.

2.5D perspective refers to gameplay or movement in a video game or virtual reality environment that is restricted to a two-dimensional (2D) plane with little or no access to a third dimension in a space that otherwise appears to be three-dimensional and is often simulated and rendered in a 3D digital environment.

<i>Galaxian</i> 1979 video game

Galaxian is a 1979 fixed shooter arcade video game developed and published by Namco. The player assumes control of the Galaxip starfighter in its mission to protect Earth from waves of aliens. Gameplay involves destroying each formation of aliens, who dive down towards the player in an attempt to hit them.

Text mode is a computer display mode in which content is internally represented on a computer screen in terms of characters rather than individual pixels. Typically, the screen consists of a uniform rectangular grid of character cells, each of which contains one of the characters of a character set; at the same time, contrasted to all points addressable (APA) mode or other kinds of computer graphics modes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">X68000</span> 1987 home computer

The X68000 is a home computer created by Sharp Corporation. It was first released in 1987 and sold only in Japan.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Television Interface Adaptor</span> Video/audio/input chip of the Atari 2600

The Television Interface Adaptor (TIA) is the custom computer chip, along with a variant of the MOS Technology 6502 constituting the heart of the 1977 Atari Video Computer System game console. The TIA generates the screen display, sound effects, and reads the controllers. At the time the Atari VCS was designed, even small amounts of RAM were expensive. The chip was designed around not having a frame buffer, instead requiring detailed programming to create even a simple display.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">TMS9918</span> Video display controller

The TMS9918 is a video display controller (VDC) manufactured by Texas Instruments, in manuals referenced as "Video Display Processor" (VDP) and introduced in 1979. The TMS9918 and its variants were used in the ColecoVision, CreatiVision, Memotech MTX, MSX, NABU Personal Computer, SG-1000/SC-3000, Spectravideo SV-318, SV-328, Sord M5, Tatung Einstein, TI-99/4, Casio PV-2000, Coleco Adam, Hanimex Pencil II, and Tomy Tutor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sprite (computer graphics)</span> 2D bitmap displayed on top of a larger scene

In computer graphics, a sprite is a two-dimensional bitmap that is integrated into a larger scene, most often in a 2D video game. Originally, the term sprite referred to fixed-sized objects composited together, by hardware, with a background. Use of the term has since become more general.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">CTIA and GTIA</span>

Color Television Interface Adaptor (CTIA) and its successor Graphic Television Interface Adaptor (GTIA) are custom chips used in the Atari 8-bit family of computers and in the Atari 5200 home video game console. In these systems, a CTIA or GTIA chip works together with ANTIC to produce the video display. ANTIC generates the playfield graphics while CTIA/GTIA provides the color for the playfield and adds overlay objects known as player/missile graphics (sprites). Under the direction of Jay Miner, the CTIA/GTIA chips were designed by George McLeod with technical assistance of Steve Smith.

The following article is a broad timeline of arcade video games.

1979 saw many sequels and prequels in video games, such as Space Invaders Part II and Super Speed Race, along with new titles such as Asteroids, Football, Galaxian, Head On, Heiankyo Alien, Monaco GP, Sheriff and Warrior. For the second year in a row, the highest-grossing video game was Taito's arcade game Space Invaders and the best-selling home system was the Atari Video Computer System.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Isometric video game graphics</span> Type of video game graphics

Isometric video game graphics are graphics employed in video games and pixel art that use a parallel projection, but which angle the viewpoint to reveal facets of the environment that would otherwise not be visible from a top-down perspective or side view, thereby producing a three-dimensional (3D) effect. Despite the name, isometric computer graphics are not necessarily truly isometric—i.e., the x, y, and z axes are not necessarily oriented 120° to each other. Instead, a variety of angles are used, with dimetric projection and a 2:1 pixel ratio being the most common. The terms "3/4 perspective", "3/4 view", "2.5D", and "pseudo 3D" are also sometimes used, although these terms can bear slightly different meanings in other contexts.

A variety of computer graphic techniques have been used to display video game content throughout the history of video games. The predominance of individual techniques have evolved over time, primarily due to hardware advances and restrictions such as the processing power of central or graphics processing units.

Composite artifact colors is a designation commonly used to address several graphic modes of some 1970s and 1980s home computers. With some machines, when connected to an NTSC TV or monitor over composite video outputs, the video signal encoding allowed for extra colors to be displayed, by manipulating the pixel position on screen, not being limited by each machine's hardware color palette.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1970s in video games</span> Video game-related events in 1970s

The 1970s was the first decade in the history of the video game industry. The 1970s saw the development of some of the earliest video games, chiefly in the arcade game industry, but also several for the earliest video game consoles and personal computers.


  1. Mark J. P. Wolf (15 June 2012). Before the Crash: Early Video Game History. Wayne State University Press. p. 173. ISBN   978-0814337226 . Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  2. "De Re Atari". atariarchives.org. Atari, Inc. 1982.
  3. Patchett, Craig (1982). Designing Your Own Character Sets. COMPUTE! Books.