Definitions

promenade tile

Tile-based game

A tile-based game is a game that uses tiles as one of the fundamental elements of play. It has different meanings depending on how it is used. There are many traditional games which use tiles, but when referring to video games, normally a tile-based game means a game which uses tiles as part of its graphic output and/or unit movement system.

Traditional games

Traditional tile-based games use small tiles as playing pieces for gambling or entertainment games. Some Board games use tiles to create their board, giving multiple possibilities for board layout, or allowing changes in the board geometry during play.

Each tile has a back (undifferentiated) side and a face side. Domino tiles are usually rectangular, twice as long as they are wide and at least twice as wide as they are thick, though games exist with square tiles, triangular tiles and even hexagonal tiles.

Traditional Tile-based physical games

Tile based games that use non-rectangular tiles

Tile-based board games

Video games

A tile-based video game is a type of video or computer game where the playing area consists of small rectangular, square, or hexagonal graphic images, referred to as tiles. The complete set of tiles available for use in a playing area is called a tileset. Tiles are laid out adjacent to one another in a grid; usually, some tiles are allowed to overlap, for example, when a tile representing a unit is overlaid onto a tile representing terrain. Tile-based games usually simulate a top-down or isometric view on the playing area and are almost always two dimensional.

Tile-based games are not a distinct 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 game and Civilization is a turn-based strategy game, but both use tile-based game engines. Tile-based game engines allow developers to create large, complex gameworlds efficiently and with relatively few art assets.

Early video game consoles such as Intellivision were designed to use tile-based graphics, since their games had to fit into video game cartridges as small as 4K in size. Regardless of their outward appearance or game genre, all Intellivision games are tile-based.

Notable tile-based video games include:

Most early tile-based games used a top-down perspective. The top-down perspective evolved to a simulated 45-degree angle, 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. Ultimate Play The Game developed a series of computer 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. Notable titles include:

  • Ultima Online, which mixed elements of 3D (the ground, which is a tile-based height map) and 2D (objects) tiles
  • Civilization II, which updated Civilization's top-down perspective to an "isometric" (more accurately described as dimetric) perspective.
  • The Avernum series, which remade the top-down role-playing series Exile with an isometric engine.

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

Some entirely 3D games have been tile-based; one notable example is the Neverwinter Nights series from BioWare.

Some games, like side-scrollers, are technically also tile based (that is, the playing area is made up of graphic tiles), but are normally not referred to as such. Lode Runner is another example.

Early tile-based games shipped with pre-constructed levels or generated levels at game startup (for example, with SimCity and Civilization) or on the fly (as with Roguelike games). A feature of tile-based games is that they allow for the creation of easy to use map editors, and many tile-based games come with an editor that allows players to construct their own levels. While completed levels for a game may hide all traces of tile-based technology, use of an editor for such a game strips away all polish and reveals a game's tile-based framework.

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