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List of tile map editors
A quick list of tile map editors. (For making level maps for old school 2d games like mario and zelda)
And below some thoughts on limitations and level design.

-- edit
I wanted to point out that if you depend on tile editors to get image data, for instance exporting a picture of the map you made to a png, a number of these editors changes the pixel data from the tiles you put in.
So the output is not always the same as the input.
It has to do with pre-multiplied alpha values and the codebase an editor is built on. DAME uses Adobe, and messes it up. Tiled uses QT and seems to convert back but messes up due to inherent rounding errors.
So BE VERY AWARE OF THIS if you need it later. If you will never use transparancy, you don't need to worry about it.
There's a lot of discussion on wether you should use pre-multiplied alpha images and what not. Loads of people on both sides of the argument. My stance on this is, only use pre-multiplied alpha values if you are absolutely sure you won't edit the images ever again. Make it part of the build process or do it in game. Don't make it part of asset creation.
Here's a very decent explanation of what is going on:

There are a lot of these very similar programs but there aren't that many that incorporate all features.
I haven't tried out most of them, or when I did it was a long time ago, so I cannot give strong recommendations. At the moment I'm using DAME and I like it. Tiled seems to be the most used and development is ongoing. The dates I added are the time of the latest update I could find.
If you know of any other tile map editors, or want to recommend or share your experience with a certain editor, please leave a comment.

Tiled (2013):
+ rules/automapping
+ tilemap ripping through python scripts
+ open source
- Save map as image does not always have the same pixels as the tiles you put in.

DAME (2013):
- a bit slow
- tilemap ripping is a bit buggy
+ lots of functionality
+ open source
- no longer supported it seems
- Save map as image does not always have the same pixels as the tiles you put in.

Tiler (july 2013, for unity editor):

Ogmo editor (2013):

LevelUp (april 2013):

tIDE (jan 2013):

Tile Map Editor (april 2013 pre alpha):

mappy(april 2013): (pro version $15)

Tile Studio (2012):
- 256 color
+ can remove duplicate tiles

TuDee (2011):

tUME (2009):
-256 colors max

Games Factory Pack/Map Maker (1996):
-old... :)

GameDev (2007):

TaT (2009):

D2D (2011):

Wasabi M (2010): (commercial license $15)

SaqMap (2006):

Map Ed (2005): (paid for commercial)

links to some old gameboy advance tile map editors among others:

Some thoughts on level design, tile map editors

I've been thinking a little bit about how I want to create levels and how tile map editors allow me to create levels. Turns out they're not really the same.
My focus in designing a level is on timing and attention of the player.
So I sketch (pen & paper) a general idea of the terrain I want to be in the level. It's hard to put into words exactly, but think of it as the skyline of a city. These are pretty unique, you can identify a city by looking at it's skyline. And I want the same for my levels.
Then in my head I place npc's, enemies, stuff the player can interact with. Because this determines the pace of the game in part. The timing between encounters is vital for what kind of feeling the player gets from a level. Metroid for instance feels really isolated, rpg's generally have a great distinction between towns and wilderness. Simon's quest is a slightly different kind but good example because it makes you feel completely abandoned when the terrible night sets in and all the townsfolk lock themselves in their homes, shutting you out. On top of that they tell you straightfaced lies in daytime.
I tend to adapt the initial level and terrain design to these sorts of vague things to get the maximum effect out of it.

So what ends up happening in a tile map editor is:
I make a map based on my sketch.
I add the npc's, enemies etc.
I play the level and shift things around.

The first step always takes a lot of time.
The second step is easy but I tend to shift things about a lot here. Multiple times.
The last step is what kills my productivity.

Shifting things about in a tile map editor takes a lot of time. Especially if you are working with multiple layers and have some complex features to the map.
This has caused me to consider building levels in my graphics editor instead (gimp or photoshop for instance), simply because nowadays technology allows us to. So why not? But that brings a bunch of other issues and isn't ideal either.

So I think what I want is something that magically converts my sketch to a map. Where the program knows about my tiles, which tiles belong to a certain terrain, which tiles make up the edges etc.. DAME's Tile Matrix feature or Tiled's Automapping are a decent start of this. With that knowledge you could then use a paint bucket to fill in the sketch. And then redraw or resize (parts of) the sketch at any time, where everything magically adapts.
This is actually pretty doable.
Maybe I will one day get so fed up that I will actually try to implement this, (at the moment I really can't afford the time, nor do I want to) but in the meantime it might serve as an inspiration to somebody.

If you want more ideas on level design I can heartily recommend a talk by Clint Hocking (designed Far cry 2 for instance) which I believe was this one at gdc 2007. Some of it is discussed here I believe:

From tile map editor to converter

I'm still thinking more weird things, like what exactly we need a tile editor for nowadays... not meant in a bad way. Just from the point of view that if you're a kid and you're just using pen and paper to draw a map. Then draw some grass and rock.
I think maybe the strength of a tile editor is to identify them automagically (converting that grass & rock (textures) to a (hidden) optimized tileset, interpreting the map sketch as a vector graphic to automap an area), and combine those things. Defining the relations between them (like Tiled's automapping). Then it basically is no longer an editor but a converter program, with maybe a GUI so you can define and adapt the conversion process.
Remapping a map with different input (map sketch, or grass & rock textures) would also be very powerful in that scenario.

You basically want a four year old to say: "Hey computer, I drew this island! And this is how grass should look. And the beach is sand, that looks like this! No wait, I changed my mind, the island looks like this, and the sand is now rock." And that the computer then spits out this perfectly optimized tileset with a bunch of mapindices.

But perhaps it's a bit overkill to convert it all to tiles. There are plenty of texture based level editors nowadays. Like the one in Aquaria (open source) and Braid, some old links:
The need for tiles initially came from a technology limitation. But I think it also establishes a big role in defining tactile gameplay (the feel of megaman for instance) so I'm reluctant to give up on it altogether...

Tiny Tile Tool

Shortly after I wrote this I decided to write a small tool to help me in my workflow and be a little less dependent on tile editors. You can get it here, windows xp binary + haxe source code.
Here's the readme.txt with some added pictures:

This is the tiny tile tool, I created it because I like to mess with my tilesets as I am creating maps. This tool can rip tiles from multiple pictures at once (map layers for instance), create csv files(comma seperated files) and convert csv files between different tilesets.

What do I do?

Select some pictures of your maps.
Make sure you set the Tile size and the max Tileset Width correct.
Click "Append unique tiles" to generate an optimized tileset, containing no duplicate tiles.
Click "Save unique tiles" to save the tiles to optimizedtileset.png
Click "Create csv for maps" to save separate csv for each map that's selected. (The filenames will be the same as the map pictures but have the extension .txt. If those files already exist they will be overwritten!)

If you have old csv data, like tile animations for instance, you can convert them to the optimized tileset by selecting the old tileset with which the csv was created, together with all the csv files you want to convert. Then press "Convert csv between tilesets". All indices in all csv files you selected will now be updated and overwritten to the optimized tileset.

Random notes:

- This is not a robust program and very unfinished, I tested only a couple of cases, tried to account for others but I mostly made it quickly to help my workflow. So if you want to break it, you probably can pretty easily. On the other hand, the haxe3/openfl source code is there so feel free to expand the program. Do whatever you want with it. Ports to other os'es should be VERY easy, a matter of build and run I hope.
- The tiles get zoomed to fit the window, so if things looks weird, that's probably why. Try saving the tiles and then looking at the result in whatever program you use to look at pictures.
- Be mindful of maximum image sizes, the program might be limited to 7000 x 7000, untested. Some mobiles and graphics cards are limited to 1024 x 1024 textures/images anyway.
- It only loads image files when the filenames have the extension: .png, .jpg or .bmp
- It only loads csv files when the filenames have the extension: .txt or .csv
- For converting csv files between two tilesets, the optimized map does not need to have all the tiles in the old tileset with which the csv files were created, but it does need them if those tiles are used in the csv.
- Converting csv files is blocking, and the windows version doesn't appear to update the progress label.. until it's done or has an error, sorry.
- It looks for optimizedTileset.png starting up, it also overwrites this file. If you add some tiles here those will be kept in the same order I believe. If you remove the file it will crash on windows xp. Probably a null pointer somewhere, so don't remove it. You can change the contents though.

Category: Experiments | Views: 2299 | Added by: Garfunkel
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