Jul 312013

Hey everyone, Bill Stiernberg here!

So sometimes map making comes up as a topic of discussion.  The maps in Rainslick4 were definitely my most complex and detailed yet.

While I didn’t record footage of myself making a map, I can show you the layers that went into one of them.  This will demonstrate to a small degree how these maps are built.


  • This is a compressed animated .gif – so it’s not at the full quality of the map in-game
  • The chests in this image were replaced by newer, better chest sprites in-game
  • This gif does not show the final animated map frames — like the flashing lights, flickering monitors, etc.
  • This gif does not show the process I underwent in building the various objects and tiles in the map itself, or how I placed them part by part.
  • It just shows each layer consecutively placed over the one beneath, which reveals a lot about how the map itself is constructed outside of all the art I had to make to begin with.
  • There’s a little artifact in the top right which is not visible in-game.


Enjoy! (Note also: the map is a looping GIF animation, so wait for it to restart if you want to see the whole thing)


Rain-slick 4 Map Layers Example (Click for larger view)

Rain-slick 4 Map Layers Example (Click for larger view)


This wasn’t the most complex map in the game, but I didn’t want to spoil some cool ones by posting them here 🙂

The overall process takes quite some time.  This image doesn’t reveal how long it takes to fully conceptualize a game location, and look.  It doesn’t show the time or effort it takes to draw the individual tiles and pieces of art, and make them look and work well together within a chosen color scheme.  It doesn’t show the steps to animate the map either, which is a big part of the presentation.

What you might get out of it is how many little details I put in.  Some of the layers you’ll see exist solely to ground objects with detail and ambient shadows.  This is a separate shadow layer from the one that falls onto player sprites, which is one of the final layers in the map and produces a more dramatic lighting effect to the game.  The shadows and shadow layers in Rainslick4’s maps were all custom drawn for each map in the game individually rather than using some kind of lighting engine or relying on older methods of lighting (like, shadows always fall to the right of walls).

Rather, with RS4, I wanted lighting to reflect the actual light sources in the maps more accurately.  I think it produces a more natural feel to the levels and is often pretty dramatic.  This particular map has a lot of glow effects and so that makes it a bit surreal as well.

Feel free to ask questions and I’ll answer them in the comments if you like!

-Bill Stiernberg (bill_at_zeboyd on twitter.  Deviantart page.)


Links to previous Art Columns: