1. Dragon of Legends
  2. Making DoL
  3. Cartography Corner: 2D RPG

Cartography Corner: 2D RPG Level Design Part 1

An introduction to a series of blog posts about my design process while working on Gammal Island, the first zone in our RPG, Dragon of Legends.

Hey there, my name is Desmond and I’m a level designer here at Thrive Games. I have been working with Thrive on their main project, a 2D online action RPG, since January 2017. While the website has only had one blog post so far, we’re going to keep adding more content like this, so let’s keep the momentum going. I’m here to talk about my level design process over the course of a series of dev posts.

2D RPG Design Challenges

Working with Thrive has been a fantastic opportunity to grow my skills, especially in a 2D RPG environment. Before working here I came from designing levels in a 3D environment using Unity, Unreal and Valve’s Hammer editor. Getting used to Tiled was a challenge at first, but the learning curve eased out once I learned that working with 16px square 9-tiles is more like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. Everything we do in Tiled uses a series of layers, and using said square individual pieces became complicated without the use of clever tricks of the eye.

A cross-section showing how the placement of environment assets looks in our Tiled editor, and how it looks in our RPG, Dragon of Legends.

One of the interesting challenges I faced when learning how to use Tiled was having to design the environment in chunks. Using Unreal or Unity, I mostly worked with large environments separated by levels/maps, but with Tiled in order to optimize the game we work with chunks that load in as the player moves through the level. So in doing so, you need to make sure that everything is aligned properly in the adjacent chunks.

a cross-section showing the difference of view from the editor in Tiled, to the in game appearance of entities in our RPG

Meticulousness and Quality Assurance

Layering in Tiled is extremely important: If something is out of place in a scene, it can take the player right out of the game. For example, If I’m not careful, the gap between two large terrain chunks could become immediately obvious, if the correct layer distribution is not consistent. During the QA process, I’ve taken great care to ensuring that trees and other decorative entities that are meant to be in front of the player model, stay there between map chunks. If these entities are not consistent, it becomes really hard for players to maintain their suspension of disbelief.

a cross-section showing the difference of view from the editor in Tiled, to the in game appearance of entities in our RPG.

If Dragon of Legends is to be successful, we must pay close attention to verisimilitude. We strive to make the environments realistic in that the terrain makes sense, and that every scene is full of life and uniqueness. We don’t want the player to feel like they have been there before, when it’s a completely new area they are exploring.


For my next dev blog post I will begin talking about how I designed each area of Gammal Island. I will try to delve into my thought process and technique. I will be separating my future blog posts into sections about each area of Gammal Island and do my best to deliver my experience and skills that I learned along my journey to you, the reader. Stay tuned for next week’s post where I discuss the beachhead and design of the town of Norstead.

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