Is it okay for a tree sprite be connected to its base tile?


I am new not only to this forum but to the whole field of 2D asset creation, so forgive me if my questions have a whiff of noob about them.

What I have been up to:

Creating 32x32 tiles. Some of these are flat textured tiles where no part of the design protrudes from the base 32x32 tile. However, some of them have (for example) a tree stump or a boulder sat on top.

My question:

  1. When importing into tiled, is it okay for objects to come attached to their base 32x32 tile (essentially all on the same layer) or should they be detached?

The reason I ask this is because it has just dawned on me that all my various tiles and their accompanying sprites are essentially all one layer. So for example: with my current design, every tree I import into tiled would also come with its own 32x32 slab of soil stuck to the bottom! :sweat_smile:

I feel I may already know the answer but thought it was worth asking.

Thank you for any and all help!

It was quite common in early games to have dedicated tiles for e.g. “tree on grass” and “tree on sand”, since they couldn’t have many layers. In modern engines, it’s more common to utilise multiple layers and tiles with transparency, so that you’d have your ground tiles on one layer, and trees with transparency sitting on a layer above that.

Whether it’s “okay” depends on your goals:

  • If you’re targeting retro platforms or otherwise low-spec platforms: this is desirable, as long as you’re not producing so many variant tiles of each tree on each ground type that your tile size becomes a problem.
  • If you’re targeting modern platforms but want to emulate a retro look, dedicated tiles can also help achieve that, by making it more difficult to accidentally create too many different layerings.
  • If you’re targeting modern platforms and want your tileset to be easy to use, then transparent tiles are usually the better option. It allows you to, for example, place trees on transitions between different ground types or on top of different props, all without having to draw a dedicated tile for that scenario.

Edit: There’s one part of your post I’m not sure I understood correctly. You mentioned art “protruding”: are you referring to just tiles that include props protruding from the ground but not actually sticking out of the 32x32 tile, or are you talking about tiles that are larger than the base 32x32 size? The latter is allowed in Tiled, but it may be more convenient to place those tiles in a separate tilesheet for easier use in Tiled. Tiled will draw oversized tiles as sticking out of their map cells, and this is a common way to create overlapping effects within a single layer. I even recommended it as one technique to create the look of overlapping trees in my tip sheet.

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Thank you for such a hasty and helpful response Eishiya!

It was interesting to read how things have changed over the years since the early days and it makes so much sense. It seems obvious to me now that anything other than a ground layer would essentially be treated as a prop so that you have greater freedom on where things can be placed, opens up a few tiles for many more combinations. At least that is what I took from what you said!

As for the added bit on the end of your reply; yes, I was referring to something larger than the base 32x32 and you have answered that now which is great, thank you very much! Going back through the layers in clip studio I can see that the damage isn’t so bad and thankfully, I did paint most props on a separate layer above the ground tile. I am glad I have got this cleared up because now going forward I have a clearer idea on how I should create the artwork for the tiles etc.

Oh and thanks a bunch for the link to your tip sheet. That is going to be such a valuable resource time I’ve finished in my painting software and head over into Tiled.

Yet more to consider:

“Dedicated” tiles give you more control over how the tree (or other prop) blends with the ground, which can allow tiles to be more specialised and make levels look more hand-crafted. For example, on the tree-on-grass tile, you can have grass blades overlapping the tree, and on the tree-on-sand tile, you can have piles of drifting sand covering more of the roots and trunk. It’s also possible to design these kinds of details as transparent tiles, so that each one can be used with a range of underlying ground tiles, e.g. a tree-on-sand tile with transparency could be used on sand-grass transition tiles and on rocky terrain tiles.
Tiles with just a single transparent non-specialised transition require less space and require less thought to use though, so they’re very common, especially in stock tilesets.
In my own tilesets, I like to draw those specialised (but still transparent) transitions when I can.

Tiles with transparency, whether specialised or not, can also be placed off-grid as Tile Objects, or on offset layers. Tiles with baked-in ground are likely to not look good when used that way.

And lastly, a tangent: Since it sounds like you’re just getting into drawing tiles, I recommend looking into Tiled’s Terrain feature if you haven’t already. If you design your basic ground tiles with that feature in mind, they’ll be easier to use, since the user (whether that’s future you, or someone else) won’t have to manually place each different transition tile. It’s unfortunately rather common for artists who don’t know better to design tilesets that are very difficult to use with features like that, requiring users to place every tile manually or to use more complex workflows.

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Even more tips, thank you ever so much!

Yeah, that’s a really good point at the beginning there when you talked about the pros of dedicated tiles. I suppose looking back on my thought process it would be dishonest to say it was a complete unintentional design choice. My reasons for doing this were (even if rather naively) was that I would then be able to have much more of a “stitched together” environment, where as you said, a tree could have leaves growing around the bottom or a boulder that is partially surrounded by neighbouring foliage.

Hmm, food for thought. That’s all really good to know. I will definitely look into the Terrain feature before I continue and see what I pick up, thank you for suggesting that.

When I place the tiles next to each other in clip studio just as a mock up of how they all mesh together it looks great (to me at least) because as you say, it looks all hand stitched together due to the dedicated tiles.
What I might do is just play around in Tiled. Import both the dedicated and non dedicated tile sets in and just see how they work, get first hand experience on the pros and cons of both ways of creating a map.

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