Tile-based video game

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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.

Video game electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device such as a TV screen or computer monitor

A video game is an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a two- or three-dimensional video display device such as a TV screen, virtual reality headset or computer monitor. Since the 1980s, video games have become an increasingly important part of the entertainment industry, and whether they are also a form of art is a matter of dispute.

2.5D simulation of the appearance of being three-dimensional

The two-and-a-half-dimensional perspective is either 2D graphical projections and similar techniques used to cause images or scenes to simulate the appearance of being three-dimensional (3D) when in fact they are not, or gameplay in an otherwise three-dimensional video game that is restricted to a two-dimensional plane with a limited access to the third dimension. By contrast, games using 3D computer graphics without such restrictions are said to use true 3D.

2D computer graphics graphics that use a two-dimensional representation of geometric data

2D computer graphics is the computer-based generation of digital images—mostly from two-dimensional models and by techniques specific to them. The word may stand for the branch of computer science that comprises such techniques or for the models themselves.


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


Tile-based games are not a distinct video game genre; rather, the term refers to the technology a game engine uses for its visual representation. For example, Ultima III is a role-playing video game and Civilization is a turn-based strategy game, but both use tile-based graphic engines. Tile-based engines allow developers to create large, complex gameworlds efficiently and with relatively few art assets.

A video game genre is a classification assigned to a video game based on its gameplay interaction rather than visual or narrative differences. A video game genre is defined by a set of gameplay challenges and are classified independently of their setting or game-world content, unlike other works of fiction such as films or books. For example, a shooter game is still a shooter game, regardless of where or when it takes place.

Game engine Software-development environment designed for building video games

A game engine is a software-development environment designed for people to build video games. Developers use game engines to construct games for consoles, mobile devices, and personal computers. The core functionality typically provided by a game engine includes a rendering engine ("renderer") for 2D or 3D graphics, a physics engine or collision detection, sound, scripting, animation, artificial intelligence, networking, streaming, memory management, threading, localization support, scene graph, and may include video support for cinematics. Implementers often economize on the process of game development by reusing/adapting, in large part, the same game engine to produce different games or to aid in porting games to multiple platforms.

A role-playing video game is a video game genre where the player controls the actions of a character immersed in some well-defined world. Many role-playing video games have origins in tabletop role-playing games and use much of the same terminology, settings and game mechanics. Other major similarities with pen-and-paper games include developed story-telling and narrative elements, player character development, complexity, as well as replayability and immersion. The electronic medium removes the necessity for a gamemaster and increases combat resolution speed. RPGs have evolved from simple text-based console-window games into visually rich 3D experiences.

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, Godot, and Tiled.

In realtime computer graphics, a texture atlas is an image containing a collection of smaller images, usually packed together to reduce the atlas size. Atlases can consist of uniformly-sized sub-images, or they can consist of images of varying dimensions. A sub-image is drawn using custom texture coordinates to pick it out of the atlas. In an application where many small textures are used frequently, it is often more efficient to store the textures in a texture atlas which is treated as a single unit by the graphics hardware. Storing textures in an atlas reduces the overhead of a context switch by increasing memory locality. Careful alignment may be needed to avoid bleeding between sub textures when used with mipmapping and texture compression.

In computer science, an array data structure, or simply an array, is a data structure consisting of a collection of elements, each identified by at least one array index or key. An array is stored such that the position of each element can be computed from its index tuple by a mathematical formula. The simplest type of data structure is a linear array, also called one-dimensional array.

Text editor software to modify text documents

A text editor is a type of computer program that edits plain text. Such programs are sometimes known as "notepad" software, following the naming of Microsoft Notepad. Text editors are provided with operating systems and software development packages, and can be used to change files such as configuration files, documentation files and programming language source code.

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] 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, and all games on the platform were tile-based.

Namco Japanese corporation;  video game developer and publisher

Namco Ltd. is a former Japanese developer and publisher of arcade and home console video games, originally headquartered in Ōta, Tokyo. Several international divisions were established, including Namco America in Santa Clara, California, Shanghai Namco in mainland China, and Namco Enterprises Asia in Hong Kong.

Arcade game Coin-operated entertainment machine

An arcade game or coin-op game is a coin-operated entertainment machine typically installed in public businesses such as restaurants, bars and amusement arcades. Most arcade games are video games, pinball machines, electro-mechanical games, redemption games or merchandisers. While exact dates are debated, the golden age of arcade video games is usually defined as a period beginning sometime in the late 1970s and ending sometime in the mid-1980s. Excluding a brief resurgence in the early 1990s, the arcade industry subsequently declined in the Western hemisphere as competing home video game consoles such as the Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox increased in their graphics and game-play capability and decreased in cost. The Eastern hemisphere retains a strong arcade industry.

<i>Galaxian</i> Fixed shooter arcade game released in 1979

Galaxian is a 1979 fixed shooter arcade game developed and published by Namco. In North America, it was manufactured and distributed by Midway Games. Controlling a small starfighter, the player is tasked with wiping out the titular Galaxians, who plot to take over Earth and enslave mankind. Enemies appear in a set formation at the top of the screen and will make dive bombs towards the player while firing projectiles. Bonus points are awarded for destroying enemies in groups or in mid-flight. It runs on the Namco Galaxian arcade system.

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 (4 color) pixels instead. Atari used the term redefined characters and not tiles.

Home computer class of microcomputers

Home computers were a class of microcomputers that entered the market in 1977 and became common during the 1980s. They were marketed to consumers as affordable and accessible computers that, for the first time, were intended for the use of a single nontechnical user. These computers were a distinct market segment that typically cost much less than business, scientific or engineering-oriented computers of the time such as the IBM PC, and were generally less powerful in terms of memory and expandability. However, a home computer often had better graphics and sound than contemporary business computers. Their most common uses were playing video games, but they were also regularly used for word processing, doing homework, and programming.

ASCII American computer character encoding

ASCII, abbreviated from American Standard Code for Information Interchange, is a character encoding standard for electronic communication. ASCII codes represent text in computers, telecommunications equipment, and other devices. Most modern character-encoding schemes are based on ASCII, although they support many additional characters.

Atari 8-bit family series of 8-bit home computers introduced in 1979

The Atari 8-bit family is a series of 8-bit home computers introduced by Atari, Inc. in 1979 and manufactured until 1992. All of the machines in the family are technically similar and differ primarily in packaging. They are based on the MOS Technology 6502 CPU running at 1.79 MHz, and were the first home computers designed with custom co-processor chips. This architecture enabled graphics and sound capabilities more advanced than most contemporary machines, and gaming on the platform was a major draw. The first-person space combat simulator Star Raiders is considered the platform's killer app. The systems launched with a series of plug and play peripherals that used the Atari SIO serial bus system, an early analog of USB.

The tile model became widely used in specific game genres such as platformers 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, the Age of Wonders series and Battle for Wesnoth .

See also

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Framebuffer portion of RAM 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 a complete frame of data. 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.

<i>Star Raiders</i> 1979 video game

Star Raiders is a first-person space combat simulator for the Atari 8-bit family of computers. It was written by Doug Neubauer, an Atari employee, and released in cartridge form by Atari in 1979. The game is commonly referred to as the platform's killer app. It was later ported to the Atari 2600, Atari 5200, and Atari ST.

Pixel art Digital art created using raster graphics edited on the pixel level

Pixel art is a form of digital art, created through the use of software, where images are edited on the pixel level. The aesthetic for this kind of graphics comes from 8-bit and 16-bit computers and video game consoles, in addition to other limited systems such as graphing calculators. In most pixel art, the color palette used is extremely limited in size, with some pixel art using only two colors.

Television Interface Adaptor computer chip used in Atari 2600 consoles

The Television Interface Adaptor (TIA) is the custom computer chip that is the heart of the Atari 2600 game console, generating the screen display, sound effects, and reading input controllers. Its design was widely affected by an attempt to reduce the amount of RAM needed to operate the display. The resulting design is notoriously difficult to program, which is an ongoing challenge for developers.

Texas Instruments TMS9918 Video Display Controller manufactured by Texas Instruments

The TMS9918 is a Video Display Controller (VDC) manufactured by Texas Instruments, introduced in 1979. The TMS9918 and its variants were used in the ColecoVision and CreatiVision, Memotech MTX, MSX, SG-1000/SC-3000, Spectravideo, Sord M5, Tatung Einstein, Texas Instruments TI-99/4, Casio PV-2000, and Tomy Tutor.

Sprite is a computer graphics term for a two-dimensional bitmap that is integrated into a larger scene, most often in a 2D video game. They were developed at Texas Instruments by Daniel Hillis. Originally termed "Pixies," the name was changed due to it already being under copyright.

1979 has seen many sequels and prequels in video games and several new titles such as Galaxian, Warrior and Asteroids.

The Namco Galaxian is an 8-bit arcade game system board, which was first used by Namco for Galaxian in 1979; it was the first board from the company to use the Zilog Z80 microprocessor. It uses specialized graphics hardware supporting RGB color, multi-colored sprites and tilemap backgrounds. Its introduction of colorful tilemap graphics distinguished it from the Taito 8080 monochrome framebuffer system of Space Invaders. Namco Galaxian also introduced a sprite line buffer system, which was adopted by later systems such as the Namco Pac-Man, Midway's Tron hardware and Sega Z80.

In the history of video games, the second-generation era refers to computer and video games, video game consoles, and handheld video game consoles available from 1976 to 1992. Notable platforms of the second generation include the Fairchild Channel F, Atari 2600, Intellivision, Odyssey², and ColecoVision. The generation began in November 1976 with the release of the Fairchild Channel F. This was followed by the Atari 2600 in 1977, Magnavox Odyssey² in 1978, Intellivision in 1980 and then the Emerson Arcadia 2001, ColecoVision, Atari 5200, and Vectrex, all in 1982. By the end of the era, there were over 15 different consoles. It coincided with, and was partly fueled by, the golden age of arcade video games. This peak era of popularity and innovation for the medium resulted in many games for second generation home consoles being ports of arcade games. Space Invaders, the first arcade game to be ported, was released in 1980 for the Atari 2600. Coleco packaged Nintendo's Donkey Kong with the ColecoVision when it was released on August 1982.

Filmation (game engine) Video game graphics engine

Filmation is the trademark name of the isometric graphics engine employed in a series of games developed by Ultimate Play the Game during the 1980s, primarily on the 8-bit ZX Spectrum platform, though various titles also appeared on the BBC Micro, Amstrad CPC, MSX and Commodore 64 platforms.

In video games, first person is any graphical perspective rendered from the viewpoint of the player's character, or a viewpoint from the cockpit or front seat of a vehicle driven by the character. Many genres incorporate first-person perspectives, among them adventure games, driving, sailing, and flight simulators. Most notable is the first-person shooter, in which the graphical perspective is an integral component of the gameplay.

Isometric video game graphics are graphics employed in video games and pixel art which angle the viewpoint to reveal facets of the environment that would not be visible from a top-down perspective or side view, thereby producing a three-dimensional 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 occur; some form of parallel projection, such as dimetric projection with a 2:1 pixel ratio, is the most common. The terms "3/4 perspective", "2.5D", and "pseudo-3D" are also sometimes used, although these terms can possess 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.

1970s in video gaming video gaming-related events during the 1970s

The 1970s saw the development of some the earliest video games, chiefly in arcade versions, but also several for the personal computer and the earliest games consoles.


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