tUME - the Universal Map Editor


tUME is a map editor Greg Marquez, John Alvarado and Myself designed to help us create data for the various games of Future Classics. As such we didn't want to hard code it to edit only one kind of map as most map editors in the game industry do.

What is a map editor? Well many video games require maps. A simple example would be Pac Man. The playfield that Pacman runs around is a map. Where as Pacman has only one map, Ms.Pacman has several. Other examples of maps. In Command and Conquer each level is a map. In Sonic each level is also a map. Games like Bard's Tale or Stonekeep need a map that although the player doesn't see it it tells the program where to draw the walls and doors.

So, when we started tUME our goal was to make an editor that could handle any map for any type of game that we could think of. This lead us to several design decisions. One was that tUME would allow you to edit more than one map at a time. We decided to call these rooms and a collection of rooms was a map. This would allow is to make games that used more than one room per map (like Adventure on the Atari 2600). Each room could be any size. No fixed limits. Rooms are made from tiles and tiles are usually a fixed size for a given game. The most common sizes are 8x8 pixels or 16x16 pixels. We decided that tUME would handle any size tile. Of our first 5 games, 3 used 16x14 tiles and one used 3x3 tiles. We decided that we would not even bother to allow you to edit the pixels of a tile in tUME. The reason was that at the time there was a great program for editing graphics called DeluxePaint(DPaint). We knew that it would be a waste of time to try to duplicate all the editing functions of DPaint and therefore it would be better if the artists just edited their artwork in DPaint with all it's fancy functions and then use that artwork in tUME to make a room. The graphics are loaded from DPaint files each time you load the map into tUME so if you needed to change the graphics you could just pop back to DPaint, edit the graphics and then reload your map in tUME and the new graphics would be there.

Another decision we made was to allow unlimited layers in a Room. A layer in a room is similar to putting a piece of cellophane over a piece of paper. You can use them for whatever you want from annotating things in a room to adding more graphics.

We also decided to allow you to give a type to all the things in a map. You could give tilesets, rooms and layers a type. A type for us was just a number. This number was interpreted by a type of program we called tUMEPack.

Our biggest decision was to have all the 'smarts' for our map editor be in a separate program. Every game would require one of these separate programs and its job was to take the rooms, layers and tilesets from a tUME map and convert them to data needed for the particular game.

This program would interpret the types of the various things in tUME and decide what to do. For example if a tileset was marked as type '3' that might mean look that the pixels in the tiles and create a height map (or contour) from them. A contour is used in a side scrolling platform game like Sonic or Aladdin to tell the program where the main character touches the ground. Another tileset type might be interpreted on a certain type layer to tell the program were all the monsters start in a level.

If we started a new game and the data from the last version of tUMEPack didn't fit we'd just write a new tUMEPack program. Nothing needed to change in the main editor tUME.

After we used tUME to make the 5 games in Future Classics we found that other people needed a map editor too and so we started selling it commercially.

It originally ran on the Amiga but the Amiga was quickly dying in the market place and so our friend Dan Chang decided to port tUME to the PC.

Level 6 from Grimace's Forest in M.C. Kids

Quite a few people have purchased tUME and it is been used in quite a few products. Here's a short list.

If you have a need for tUME you can download it from here.

Note:  tUME is an old DOS product.  Unless you are doing a Gameboy game, Gameboy Advanced or Wonderswan game it is unlikely to meet your needs.  Gameboy development is still happening.  I don't think anybody is making SNES, NES, Genesis or GameGear games anymore.  It will still work for the PC but it only supports 8 bit graphics (ie, 256 colors).

Big Grub has a newer 32 bit map editor called Meat for Map Editing Art Tool.  It runs under Windows95/NT and supports 24 and 32 bit graphics and will edit more than just tiles.  Only one version of MeatPack (the equivilent of tUMEpack) currently exists.   I'm not sure if they are interested in selling it but you can ask John Alvarado at alvarado@biggrub.com.

M.C Kids