Posted by: Xalthorn | September 25, 2007

Mondestia Game Graphics

As I am now working the site into a more presentable form, I need to make some decisions on how to display the games, particularly the ones where you control a character walking around.

It makes no sense at all to have each environment or game use completely different graphics (unless of course, they are meant to look completely different).  Not only would it require more art to be created, but it would also detract from the integration of the site as a whole.

Because of this, although the gameplay in Dungeon Escape is far simpler than in Mondestia RPG, and there isn’t the same control as in the Home environment, they should all use the same map and display system as I only have to code or fix one system.

My main concern at this point is to ensure that everything Dungeon Escape needs is coded, but I need to make sure that the system can cope with everything I need for Mondestia RPG, even though it is not being developed yet.

Graphic Style

I’m currently aiming for the semi top down approach (like the older console RPGs like Zelda, Secret of Mana, etc).  Mainly because of its practicality and use of the available space.  The display fits a rectangle perfectly and therefore makes it easy to include in an interface design.

It doesn’t give the same three dimensional feel of an isometric display, but is very clean and avoids the argument of which way is up.

Another issue with the semi top down view is only being able to see the front and top of things.   This is bound to cause some annoyance for me when designing levels, especially when I need exits in all four cardinal directions in Dungeon Escape.

Interface Practicality

Another thing that has steered me towards semi top down is the practicality of the interface for the user.  As it is essentially a grid of squares (even though large objects and people will ‘spill’ over to squares behind them), selection of a target square is very easy as well, as opposed to an isometric system.

Design Implications

The final decision of whether to go for semi top down or isometric has to be reached very quickly as so many things rely on this decision.  One thing that is definite though, is that the main display interface is to be a fixed sized rectangle.  This will allow the rest of the interface to be designed around it.

I already have some semi top down graphic examples on the mondestia site ( and I need to do a couple of isometric versions to test practicality before I abandon such a view.



  1. It seems we are on the same page with JavaScript games.
    However, if you want to stay simple from a programming point of view, stick with top down.

    Isometric needs much more processing power once you et overlapping tiles. Depth management is critical and coordinate conversion is required as opposed to a simple onClick event for top down.

    Personally I like Isometric Games better, though they are quite complicated compared to other alternatives.

  2. It’s funny, but I seem to be having more issues and complications with deciding *what* to display rather than *how* to code it.

    I love isometric views, it gives instant depth and also allows for exits in all directions (which is a big issue for me with top down).

  3. How is it a problem to exit a top down map in all directions? Wouldn’t it work very much like pac-man?!

    Do you mean it’s hard to distinguish doors that are left or right?

  4. Ahh, I’m sorry. When I refer to top down I’m referring to the angled top down or Zelda like view.

    Outside maps only ever had doors that you would walk up to, never to the side as the objects overlapped the tiles behind them. Side and front exits were implied by paths leading to the edges.

    Zelda had a cute way of doing dungeons which was to have the room itself use a central first point perspective, even though every object inside there was viewed from above and in front. With this system, exits were available in all four walls.

  5. I see what you mean.

    I think this is only an issue if you have keyboard control. Using a mouse pointer you can use a changing cursor to give a hint for an exit.

    In this Zelda-like view, you could use graphical hints as well. Let the doors stick out of the walls or put signs or distinctive objects next to your doors.

    I looked up some zelda graphics on google (I have never played it before) and the central point perspective you were referring to had the odd side effect that the walls had another perspective as the rest of the objects. Which today (given the user’s experience with 3d and stuff) might look odd.

    If you keep the angled top down perspective you would see an exit on the front most wall from the outside, rather than from the inside (much like you would in iso-view).

  6. Sorry about that, I keep forgetting not everyone knows what Zelda is, it’s just become habit to refer to such a graphical style like that rather than ‘angled upper, front view of a tile based map with objects partially or completely obscuring tiles behind them’.

    The central point perspective looks completely odd as a static image but it’s amazing how fast your brain accepts it when you’re playing the game.

    I was going to cheat anyway and let the player rotate the view to any of the four main directions with a compass showing the facing.

    This not only lets me avoid odd sticky out bits and the hassle of where to put doors, but also let’s me place secret or concealed doors and exits that the player actually has to hunt for. This would add an extra dimension (no pun intended) to the game as the players feel another sense of achievement. Well, as long as the hidden exit is not a required exit to complete the game as this would cause frustration instead.

  7. Lol, nice description 😀

    ‘angled upper, front view of a tile based map with objects partially or completely obscuring tiles behind them’.

    No worries, I know Zelda and it’s outdoor graphics. Back in the day I wished so badly that I had an SNES, but alas I only had an Amiga…

    The concept of rotating and concealed doors sounds very intriguing. Though my main gripe with rotating tile maps was that the objects never turned with them, i.e. in Sim City 2/3 you always look at the building from the same side although you turned the map. This is even more apparent when you have detailed objects such as tables or chests…

    I am really getting curious to what you cook up 🙂

  8. Hehe, in their heyday I wanted both of those systems. By the time I finally got an Amiga, it was an A600 which I hated. I much preferred the look and style of the A500.

    I’ve done the rotation system in a game before and the system I used was really easy to implement. I just need to brush the dust off the code and re-implement it.

    I just loved the ability to spin the map around and find hidden things. One thing that annoys me with the Zelda type views is the sheer loss of map space with buildings (not being able to walk past the roof if that makes sense) and not being able to look behind buildings either.

    The trick is going to be making it perfectly clear which way you are facing and not confuse the player, especially in the isometric view.

    Actually, if I use an 8 way compass, standard vertical on the top down view will be North, and vertical on the isometric will be Northwest as North is rotated to the right.

  9. I got an A600 in ’93. It sure had it’s problems and I regretted not to have instead wished for the 500 or 1200.
    Though after a while I started exchanging chips and putting an hdd and ram in it became quite usable. I even hacked around in the system as much as I could. I still have it and take it out once in a while to play around with DPaint and some games.

    The rotation shouldn’t be too hard to code. Getting the look right is the challenge. I am not sure, but I guess I would be annoyed to have to spin the map just to be able to look behind a building. Tho it would mostly depend on how fast/slow the spinning itself actually is.

    If you have a distinctive compass graphic it should be very clear which way you are facing. There were several games on the Amiga that had rotation and as far as I can remember I never really had a problem to tell the direction. Though I mostly played strategy/sim games which might make a difference for the feel factor.

    As a side note on interface…
    I really loved the populous interface and how they managed to melt it into the diamond shape of the iso map.

  10. Populous had an amazing screen layout, and the fact that the map scrolled so nicely inside it’s frame made you forget that it was held in a restrictive frame at all.

    The fact that the controls were all laid out around the frame helped as well.

    However, with the release of games like UFO and countless others that filled a rectangular screen with isometric tiles, it’s hard to justify going back to a simple diamond view.

  11. Yes right. However, the diamond view makes sense if it is an alternative view of a top down map.

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