Saturday, November 27, 2010

Removing the Grid

In one of the upcoming projects we are working on at TreseBrothers, we have been wrestling with tile sets and "the grid." When building a environment based on tiles, lots of tile artists get obsessed with a concept called "removing the grid." You can go to great lengths to hide the fact that your world is based around a grid of square, same sized tiles. You can draw lots of variations of grass tiles, or create overlays to try to hide the grid. I have decided to can it--its not worth it.

Having wrestled with this, and done a lot of tile creation now, I have come around to believe that you want to find a balance between showing the grid and trying to hide it. In a game that is based on a grid, and especially when tactics are involved, a lot of the game play and strategic decisions are made based on that grid, distances that characters are from each other, and the range of different effects and abilities. Our goal will to be create beautiful tiles that make the grid subtle without hiding it. Especially on a small device like a phone, or when creating a touch-based RPG, its important that the control areas, and the target areas for a touch are clear.

That is why our art team has resolved--we will not hide the grid! The grid will be subtly obvious. Check out these sample environments based on our new tile sets. What do you think? Imagine them on your phone, and send in your valuable feedback!


  1. I believe you hit on the crucial point of the matter in this statement:

    "... a lot of the game play and strategic decisions are made based on that grid, distances that characters are from each other, and the range of different effects and abilities."

    However, I don't think this necessitates a catch all decision of visible grid vs. invisible grid. Instead, a visible grid can be provided to the player when they are performing the actions or making the decisions you outline in the quote above. Essentially, display the grid for the player when it adds value in the current context. Many strategy games accomplish this by obfuscating the grid based on the selected/active unit and/or available actions/abilities.

    For example, if a movable unit (such as a trooper) is currently active/selected, show a clearly visible grid overlay. When a stationary unit (such as a building) is currently active/selected, hide the grid overlay.

    This can be made even more granular. For example, a stationary unit (such as a fortification) is currently active/selected, show the grid when an action/ability that would benefit from a visible grid like fire/attack is selected.

    Of course, there should always be an option to turn the grid overlay on/off at the users discretion.

    Also for what its worth, hex grids rock, square grids suck haha. Keep up the good work you shady brothers!

  2. As you point out, showing the grid when it is important is an excellent way to allow it to be subtle when needed. Having an option to hide / show the grid sounds like a good idea in a grid or hex based game.

    Another option is to use semi-transparent overlays when an action is being taken. This is reminiscent of Shining Force or Final Fantasy Tactics, where the overlay both shows you the range of the activity you are attempting (move, attack, shoot) and also reveals the underlying grid.