I am currently discovering the world of isometrics, now I found out there are two approaches to creating the tilemap;

  1. Just create 2:1 ratio tile-images and draw those.

  2. Creating squares and transforming them to the 2:1 ratio. What is the general approach on developing an isometric game?

Now I was wondering a few things;

  • How do more known games like AOE1/2 do this?
  • What are the pros/cons of both methods?
  • Which method is preferred to be used in this day and age?

Edit added more general question

  • \$\begingroup\$ Why does it matter how AOE1/2 does this? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 10, 2012 at 23:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Because I think AOE is a perfect example of how a game using isometrics should look/work/feel. \$\endgroup\$
    – Thizzer
    Nov 12, 2012 at 8:52
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ AOE supported a maximum screen resolution of 1024x768. And didn't support 16:9 resolutions at all. My feeling is that good technical choices 15 years ago do not necessarily translate to good technical choices today, so there's only a limited amount of practical wisdom to be gleaned by examining the techniques used in implementing the games from that era. (unlike their designs, which are often still quite relevant) \$\endgroup\$ Nov 12, 2012 at 10:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ True, I added another question to the list.. \$\endgroup\$
    – Thizzer
    Nov 12, 2012 at 11:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Did you even read my answer? This site requires you to give feedback - please do so by voting/accepting or commenting, or both. Thanks. \$\endgroup\$
    – opatut
    Nov 12, 2012 at 20:39

1 Answer 1


I never did this, so I might be wrong with all of this. But I have a pretty good understanding of graphics programming, so here are my thoughts:

  • When AOE 1/2 were written, memory and disk space were valuable. A 2:1 tile-image is bigger than a square which is transformed.
  • If you draw squares and transform them, you do not have pixel-perfect control over you final image.
  • ... but it is easier to create tilable 2D sprites as squares.
  • transforming a square to an isometric tile is not necessarily trivial

I for myself would do the first approach (2:1 tiles), because it is easier to implement...

  • \$\begingroup\$ Of course I read your answer (forgot to +1 it), I understand 2:1 tiles are easier to implement and because of that it would be your method of choice but I was wondering what the general approach to isometrics is and why. There are a lot of isometric games out there but I find it hard to find information about how and especially WHY that way. (and I understand how stackexchange sites work, been around on sites like stackoverflow for a while now) \$\endgroup\$
    – Thizzer
    Nov 13, 2012 at 9:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well then, I guess, there is no real answer to your question. I think there is no such thing as "the general approach", people have always found different solutions with different pros and cons. As I said, I would go for 2:1, simply because it is easier. If your framework can transform you graphics tiles, you can just as well use that (e.g. use OpenGL with an isometric camera transform matrix). \$\endgroup\$
    – opatut
    Nov 14, 2012 at 6:21

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