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The Tiled Map Editor v0.9 recently added support for staggered tilemaps in addition to its usual isometric tilemap support.

What are the exact technical differences between these two types of isometric tilemaps? What are their advantages/disadvantages?

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up vote 36 down vote accepted

"Staggered" refers to the jagged edges of isometric maps that have an overall rectangular shape. These maps emphasize the north/south and west/east axes, and often have North up (example: Civilization 2). Diamond maps on the other hand emphasize the diagonal orientation and movement. North is often at the top right (example: Simcity 2000). Also notice the different coordinate systems:

Comparison

"Normal" or "diamond" isometric map:

Simcity 2000 screenshot
Notice the overall shape of the map is a diamond.

"Staggered" isometric map:

Civ 2 screenshot
Notice the overal shape of the map is a (rough) rectangle

See also this explanation:

The math in terms of rendering both types of maps is similar but has its differences. Diamond maps are a bit more tricky particularly in terms of optimizing the render loop.

Diamond maps are typically used in RTS and Tactical Combat types games whereas Staggered/Block maps tend to be used for RPG's and Turn-Based Strategy games.

In terms of the Tiled XML, staggered adds a new possible value for the attribute "orientation" of the map.

Finally, don't confuse these staggered maps with staggered square maps. The latter are a way to get pseudo-hexes:

pseudo hexgrid
Note how the tiles are squares, but movement and adjacencies conform to those of a hexgrid.

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Sorry didn't see your answer while writing mine. I like your answer better (more and prettier pictures). For completeness, maybe we can add the note about the xml to yours and call it a day? ("In terms of the XML, staggered adds a new possible value for the attribute "orientation" of the map.") –  Cameron Fredman Feb 22 '13 at 15:03
    
@Cameron: Sure, how about this? :) –  Junuxx Feb 22 '13 at 15:06
    
Lookin' good. You got my upvote. –  Cameron Fredman Feb 22 '13 at 15:08
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Awesome, I did not consider the map's orientation. Great choice of pictures btw. –  LearnCocos2D Feb 22 '13 at 15:21
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