A Tiling Dilemma: Room Sizes for a Space-Themed Escape Room App

Hey fellow Tilers! :rocket:

So, here’s the deal. I’ve been coding for a while now, but this is the first time I’ve dipped my toes into creating assets and elements for a game, and I’m feeling a little cough lost in space cough. :sweat_smile:

I’m working on a uni project that’s basically an educational gamified app designed as an escape room set in the cosmic world. Think of it as a top-down pixel art adventure to test your knowledge of the solar system. The plan is to make it responsive across various devices, so it’ll have a base resolution of 1920x1080.

But, I’m struggling to determine the ideal room size for this interstellar escape room. I mean, it’s got to have compartments and mini-rooms for challenges, not to mention space for all those snazzy UI components.

So, my fellow Tiled experts, I’m sending out an SOS signal to you all: any advice on what dimensions I should aim for when designing my rooms? My primary concern is ensuring that they’re suitable for different devices while still providing enough space for some out-of-this-world challenges!

Any help would be truly stellar! :star2:

Thanks, and happy tiling!

This doesn’t seem like a Tiled question at all xP

You shouldn’t worry about the exact sizing - you can and should scale the art based on the user’s screen size. For a pixel art game especially, you should expect to scale up - pixel art at a native size of 1920x1080p is huge, and will not look nice on any screen other than that size; with a much smaller target resolution, you can scale up to a wider variety of screen sizes. In addition, not everyone uses a 16:9 screen, so you should have a safety margin as you may sometimes need to show a little more on the sides or on the top and bottom.

Even considering room sizes in terms of tiles isn’t necessarily helpful, as the visual scale of tiles can also vary - in some games, a single tile is just a bit of texture, while in some, a single tile is an entire town.

Rather than thinking about room sizes first, think about gameplay and visual density. How much stuff do you want to fit on the screen, and how do you want this stuff to relate to the tiles? Choose your asset sizes, room sizes, and room-to-screen ratio accordingly. Blocking out some rooms with generic placeholder tiles can help you figure this out. In Tiled, you can set tiles to fit the map’s grid size instead of using its native size, so you can use almost any tileset for prototyping.

Other people can’t really help you with this decision, as the appropriate density for your levels depends on your desired gameplay and visual style. There’s no getting around making some rooms (whether as playable prototypes or drawn mockups) and iterating over different possibilities.

One generic piece of advice I can give is that you generally want the player to see the next point of interest from where they are now. A point of interest can be an interactive element, the door to another room, a unique visual, etc. Players will also tend to go to the next point of interest they see, so if you want them to make decisions, you need multiple points of interest to be visible at once.

Escape-the-room games specifically usually work in terms of screenfuls - a single room may consist of multiple connected “screens”, but generally you don’t have to scroll/pan much to see everything on a given “screen”. Even if the game is top-down rather than the more typical first-person view, this still generally applies. The idea is that the player can see most of the points of interest at once, so they can spend their mental energy on working out the connections between the different elements instead of on trying to remember what they were just looking at. Players should generally not have to think about too many connections between screens simultaneously - one or two at a time is fine, more than that will feel overwhelming - but of course, many connections in sequence is perfectly fine and can make your world feel more complex without overwhelming the player as easily.
It’s also common for screens to have sub-screens, so you don’t have to fit all the details on the screen all at once. For example, a radio may appear as just a small radio sprite in the room, but will pop up a larger overlay when the player interacts with it, and this overlay will have all the little fiddly bits the player can interact with.

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Hello eishiya,

First off, thank you so much for your in-depth response! Your insights and suggestions have been incredibly helpful, and I completely understand the importance of focusing on gameplay and visual density, rather than just room sizes.

I’m definitely planning to experiment with sizes as you recommended, but my main concern has been finding a starting point to work from, especially given the time constraints of a university project. I was considering working with a pixel size of 960x544 (which is half of my base resolution) and centering it on the screen, just to give me a starting point for building the rooms.

However, your suggestions have given me a clearer perspective, and I’ll be sure to take into account the various factors you mentioned, such as the visual scale of tiles and the importance of points of interest. I’ll work on blocking out some rooms with placeholder tiles in Tiled and see what feels right for my game.

Once again, thank you so much for taking the time to share your valuable advice. I truly appreciate it, and I’m excited to start experimenting and iterating based on your suggestions!

All the best,

At half your base resolution, the “pixels” will be 2x2 real pixels on a 1920x1080 screen. This is still small enough that to many people, your game won’t look like pixel art, but just “pixelated” - for modern gamers, you generally want the pixels big enough on their physical screens that they can tell the pixel look is intentional, and this is especially difficult to achieve on small physical screens like on smartphones. If you remember the “pixel artist renounces pixel art” drama from a years back, the game in question was Auro, and most of its actual problem wasn’t that people didn’t like pixel art, but that it was so high-res that most people couldn’t tell it was meant to be pixel art, and that its art didn’t take advantage of the medium’s strengths - the art was full of curves and lines not well aligned to the pixels, and gradients. For context, modern PC pixel art games are commonly somewhere in the range of 384x216 (5x to 1920x1080) to 480x270 (4x to 1920x1080), but some are even smaller. Very few are bigger. No pixel resolution scales cleanly to all common PC and mobile resolutions, so on some screens you will need to either expand/shrink the view, have windowboxing, or allow pixels to be scaled unevenly and have swimming or blurry pixels.

If you’re looking for a high-res look or a high density of detail, pixel art isn’t the most appropriate medium, and you may want to try a different look. If your reason for picking pixel art is its supposed speed of production rather than its look, note that you can achieve similar speed with vectors or a clean vector-like raster look, if you stick to a fixed palette and make a point of reusing shapes.