Take the 2-minute tour ×
Game Development Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional and independent game developers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

What is the best method to simulate height for a top-down tiled 2D game? One way I thought was to make tiles which are supposed to be higher brighter, but I was wondering if there was a standard or better implementation.

share|improve this question
add comment

1 Answer

up vote 8 down vote accepted

First of all and to clarify, do you require it to be completely top-down or do you consider something like this as being top-down too. In that example you can tell that the house is much taller than the barrel simply by the amount of tiles that they both span vertically. Also, allowing the character to move behind the objects is another good way to let the player realize how tall something is.

If on the other hand you really mean a pure top-down view of the world, you could try your own suggestion of giving different brightness values depending on the tile's height. Give it a try since it should be pretty easy to implement, and see if the results are satisfactory enough.

But if you wanted to give a stronger impression, perhaps you could add shadows too. Pick an arbitrary light direction and have your tiles cast a shadow on tiles below their respective heights. This way taller tiles would cast longer shadows than lower tiles, and give the player an additional visual cue of the height of each tile. It should be much harder to implement though.

share|improve this answer
Also if you're handling dynamic objects along an inexistent Z axis(depth) where you only have X and Y(width and height), You can try to use scaling to give impression of being closer to the camera. –  Gustavo Maciel Mar 11 '12 at 1:55
Just to fix the previous comment, In case, Z would be your up/down and x and y longitude and latitude. –  Gustavo Maciel Mar 11 '12 at 2:05
@Gustavo-Gtoknu Hadn't thought of that but it might give a neat effect too. :) –  David Gouveia Mar 11 '12 at 2:11
Yeah, but if you come to think of it, LOTS of SNES/GBA games used that effect, including lots of topnotch RPGS, like Zelda –  Gustavo Maciel Mar 11 '12 at 2:20
add comment

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.