Cultivate: The Art - Trials with Tiles

03 Jun 2019
Written by Gwen

We knew we wanted to develop a tufty style of terrain for Cultivate: Before Time. The question was how to go about this…

We originally tried having one large sprite for each area of the terrain, but there were two things that nudged us in the direction of tiles instead:

  • Having one large sprite for each area would mean each area would need to be designed individually, whereas with tiles, we would be able to re-use the tiles in different formations in order to create new areas of terrain.
  • Since part of our game involves cultivating the land, the player needs to be able to dig! For anything other than a tilemap, this is a complex problem.
  • The need to keep a balance between CPU load, GPU load and memory. Having a large sprite that needed to load each time a player entered a new area would use up more resources than small sprites used repeatedly.

There are many games out there that use tilemaps, including our favourites: Stardew Valley and Don’t Starve. In terms of the style we’re looking to achieve, we’re not going for a pixel art style, we’re going for more atmospheric and tufty, so definitely more on the side of Don’t Starve.

So, we designed a tufty tile set (see examples below).

Several tiles for the game's tilemap.

And the result when combined:

Combined tiles for the game's tilemap.

Through some trial and error, I discovered several things to keep in mind when working on tiles:

  • Make sure you have a system in place for making the lines, from one tile to the next, line up. A fractional difference can be rather obvious once the tiles are in place.
  • Keep an eye on the edges - after exporting and placing in Unity, we occasionally discovered a line of rogue pixels, which really interrupt the flow of the tiles and highlight rather than hide the seams.
  • On their own, the tiles in one colour look rather flat. This is not the look we want for the game, so we made a shader (I say ‘we’… Jen… Jen, coder and genius, made the shader!) to add some texture.

Tilemap tiles in the scene.

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