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For 2D top-down style sprites, what commonly used spritesheet formats are available?

By a sprite sheet format, I mean this: for any RPG Maker sprite sheet, you can count on all the walk animations being in the same place on the image between characters. For Final Fantasy 6's characters, you could open all their sprite sheets and compare them and in each one, the walk animations, crouching sprites, surprised sprites, etc would all be in the same places. They all adhere to a standard.

I'm using RPG Maker XP right now and it defines character tilesets as having four states -- facing up, down, left, and right, each with animation. This is really restrictive, and I'd rather have more options like Final Fantasy 6.

So are there any more common sprite sheet formats out there that I can use?

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Are you more interested in tiles shaped like squares, oblongs, hexagons, circles (that overlap), triangles, or something else? –  Randolf Richardson Aug 10 '11 at 2:02
Are you interested only in the style and projection of tiles for a final-fantasy like game? Other kinds of games, such as a zelda-like adventure game, or a metroidvania, or rougelikes, will have vastly different kinds of tiles, put together in different ways. Your question might be too vague. Are you asking for different ways to create characters in a 2d rpg? I ask because you speak of tilesets, and then character animations, which seems like two different things. –  Blecki Aug 10 '11 at 2:23
These are usually very specific to the game in question: I'm not aware of any standard 'tileset systems', apart from perhaps one or two specifically made for RPG maker type programs as already mentioned. –  Kylotan Aug 10 '11 at 10:26
@Randolf: squares, for sure. –  ashes999 Aug 10 '11 at 14:51
@Blecki: Yes, final-fantasy style. I believe this style is robust enough to accomodate many genres of games, including RPG, adventure, and roguelike. You're right, it is two different things, but they're usually together. –  ashes999 Aug 10 '11 at 14:53
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3 Answers

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As stated, there's not really any "standard system" for sprites or tiles. The closest such thing is something like RPG Maker sprites, which are only standard because there's a community built around the game (much in the same way that there's tilesets or mods for other popular games)

That said, there's a few options. You could find a set of free graphics to use and load them into game in that format. Many times the same artist will create sprites with a "standard" layout. The downside to this approach is that your options would be pretty limited.

A potentially better solution is to use one of the RPG Maker formats. The trick is that you are NOT limited in the same way that RPG Maker is, since you can define the layout of the sprite sheet. So, you can expand on the different actions per character to be whatever you want. The RPG Maker sprites have 12 frames for each 'character', 4 directions with 3 frames of animation per direction. A lot of times, an artist would make more 'actions' for a specific character, and would simply use another 'character' slot to allow for another 12 frames of animation, or poses, or whatever.

The reason commercial games (like FF6) have unique spritesheet layouts is because each game customized the layout for the game being made. RPG maker uses a standard layout format because it's a tool to make the games, and so it needed to be able to have a standard. Unless you're making a tool to make other games, you can easily make whatever changes you want to that standard. It might require some time spent editing graphics, but when making games, it's pretty important to have skills to edit graphics files, unless you plan on only making text based game.

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RPG Maker it is. Sad that there's nothing else out there at this time that's widely-used and has a wider set of frames. –  ashes999 Aug 22 '11 at 17:03
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There are no "tileset systems." The only generic solution games pick up is how tilesets work on a basic level.

Here's how tilesets work:

  • The sprite sheets contain sprites. These sprites all belong to a "region" which corresponds to a particular state. All those "walking right" sprites arranged in a row are in the region with the "walking right" state. The "dead" sprite (a still body, with no frames of animation) is its own region with the "dead" state.
  • A state may have any number of animation frames, or one frame (no animation). Different states can have different amount of animation frames. Some animations can be played faster, slower, or irregularly compared to others.
  • A character uses the sprites + animation for whatever state it's in.

Both FF6 and RPG maker do exactly that. FF6 however picked more states and more animation than RPG maker did, probably because they were actually going to make some money for it. Every other game has done the same thing, choosing exactly the states that suit them and exactly the frames of animation they want.

They're all just companies fulfilling their unique requirements using the same technique: sprite sheets. It's not like there's a third party offering an engine which features certain states and offers Y frames of animation for each. Each developer just developed their own system.

So here's your generic solution: Start wondering about your requirements! What states do you want? How do you want each of them animated? Then use the same basic technique as anyone else: draw them, arrange them in regions and animate them.

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If I had the ability to draw and animate and arrange them, I wouldn't need to ask this question. Instead, it's "programmer art" or finding something existing that can do more than just RPG Maker's four states of walking. –  ashes999 Aug 11 '11 at 3:15
@ashes999 Then I'm not really sure what you're actually asking. Are you looking for engines that use tileset-based art? Are you looking for programming libraries, or high-level game making programs? If not, what are you looking for? If you had it, what would "it" be, what would "it" do and what would "it" look like to use it? –  Jonathan Hobbs Aug 11 '11 at 4:06
I'm looking for a system of sprites, like RPG Maker XP, with more states. It's not the specific sprites I'm after; it's knowing the system, and being able to find resources based on that. Just like I can find free RPG Maker XP sprites if I want, once I know that this is what I'm after. –  ashes999 Aug 11 '11 at 9:13
Oh, now I understand you. You want to find a specific format people use for sprite sheets such that you can find them all organised the same way, in the same way that on any RPG Maker XP sheet, you can count on all the walking, standing, etc sprites being in all the same places. That really isn't clear in your question, you ought to edit it. –  Jonathan Hobbs Aug 11 '11 at 10:15
Okay, I've edited it again and already rewrote it once. I'd appreciate any editing you can do to make it more clear and concise. Albeit that I fear I already know the best answer -- RPG Maker XP or VX. –  ashes999 Aug 11 '11 at 16:43
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I'm kind of confused about what you're asking, but if a file format and tilemap editor in any way helps you, check out the Tiled editor and the TMX tile map format that it works with. I've used it for a sneaking game (top down tilemap) and for shmup levels (just lined up the spawns).

If you're developing for the iPhone/Mac and in objective-c, cocos2d supports reading TMX maps and rendering them.

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