Another step-by-step visual guide toward basic mapping approaches.

  • Blind
  • 01/24/2012 06:56 AM

A follow-up to my recent tutorial on mapping techniques for beginners! Although there is an arguably endless diversity of map designs that can be achieved, many environments are grouped together based upon certain aesthetic and structural similarities. Examples include 'Outdoor' locations (Forests, Mountains, etc!), towns or cities, and of course dungeon maps. With that in mind, this article will help to zero-in on the overall thought process behind an often skimped-over inclusion: simple hallway areas.

Please note that puzzles, obstacles, etc., are considered secondary from the nature of this guide. As I have started, there are hundreds of other successful tutorials regarding puzzle design, bosses, and typical jRPG dungeon-fare. I will be highlighting the endeavors of aesthetic and visual presentation of these maps, more-so than their actual content. (This isn't to suggest there shouldn't be any!)

1.) Color Scheme and Primary Tiles

If you glanced at the first tutorial, you know where I'm going with this. Because nearly EVERY MAP has some form of ground or floor tiles (unless our hero is floating in a vaccum?!), it's essential to seek out the most appropriate pieces of the 'map design' puzzle. By this I mean tiles that are most aesthetically pleasing from perspectives of pattern, texture, color palette, etc.

With this example, I again have chosen a floor tile included from another common Rudra chipset. It's the most neutral and desaturated of the included ground tiles, arguably the most beneficial. (We don't want players eye-ing in on the texture of flooring... that should typically be reserved for the objects occupying the room--enemies, events, etc!) Keep it simple.

2.) Arranging the Rooms

Using various tiles and 'black space', loosely sketch-out a general outline of rooms throughout the bounds of your map. This may seem like an unnecessary gesture, but the overall shape and size should be highly considered before even beginning to contemplate gameplay content. As you can see, I have divided the example into three main areas of interest: the two passageways to the next map, and a middle 'hub' spot near the bottom.

3.) Adding Depth and Detail

Again, a pretty straightforward step. Use the appropriate wall tiles to establish a sense of elevation within the map. Setting up multiple 'tiers' or 'levels' in a single location adds a lot of dynamic interest, even if purely cosmetic. With this example, I added a small staircase connecting the two distinct 'floors' of the corridor area.

Once the base of the map is largely in place, second-layer objects should be used to decorate and structure the space. For this temple-esque tileset, I added commonplace items that include flaming stone torches, pillars and columns, cracks in the flooring tiles, golden vases, impassable 'holes', and a treasure chest. Likewise, look for a balance between empty space and clutter. The path between doorways should be passable enough for the Hero to move around (or for any subsequently-added puzzle events).

Balance out the area in making sure no corner is left uncovered. Embellishments are key--don't settle for what simply 'gets the job done.' If the tileset allows, mix up even the straightforward elements. I added "random" cracks and deteriorated walls in addition to the primary tiles, as well as various pebbles and stones scattered across the flooring. For inclusions that are not intentionally man-made in the map, disregard all sense of symmetry.

4.) Finishing Up

The color palette and "atmosphere" of an area is often as significant to it's impact as the actual design.

Lighting effects, air-overlays, and simple screen tints are often scoffed at for their abuse and overuse, but this isn't to suggest they are inherently detrimental. While no amount of Picture overlays will save poor design, they can certainly contribute to the ambiance of a strong map.

With this example, I added a very discreet fog overlay, as well as lighting effects that correlate to the torches. Likewise, I gave the map a reddish saturation with the screen-tint command. This adds a sense of malevolence and mystery to the area.


It's clear that far more thought and attention should be paid to maps with actual intractability--all the scattered enemies and puzzles galore. However, the visual quality of those areas should not come at the expense of gameplay. With planning and enough time investment, a marvelous middle-ground is far from unattainable.


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These tutorials are excellent :> Thank you, please keep them up!

btw thanks for using the 'tint screen' command, I have no idea why more people don't use it :\
Although these screenshots do look nice I've never been a fan of highly irregular architecture when it comes to interior mapping. All these principles could be applied to a regularly shaped interior map still, though.
(Socrates would certainly not contadict me!)
How did you do this lighting effect?
Self-proclaimed Puzzle Snob
This was tons of useful to me. Thanks for sharing your heart in this tutorial. It really shows that you are an amazing person with a big heart, and you should be crowned with some kind of... award or something. Anything to acknowledge your beauty.
This was tons of useful to me. Thanks for sharing your heart in this tutorial. It really shows that you are an amazing person with a big heart, and you should be crowned with some kind of... award or something. Anything to acknowledge your beauty.
Well thanks for the tutorials. It was pretty interresting and i think the map from my game looks better!...i hope. ^^
Thank you~ ^-^

These are semi-outdated now. I'll have to post some recent work, maybe with a more modern RM Engine.
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