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Freeciv Graphics, and Tile Specification Files
Using Graphics:
To use different graphics with Freeciv, use the '--tiles' argument to
the Freeciv client. Eg, to use the 'engels' graphics, start the
client as:
freeciv-gtk3 --tiles engels
What Freeciv actually does in this case is look for a file called
'engels.tilespec' somewhere in your Freeciv data path. (See the file
INSTALL for some information on the Freeciv data path.) That tilespec
file contains information telling Freeciv which graphics files to use,
and what those graphics files contain.
That is all you need to know to use alternative graphics provided by
Freeciv or by third-party add-ons. The rest of this file describes
(though not fully) the contents of the tilespec file and related
files. This is intended as developer reference, and for people
wanting to create/compile alternative tilesets and modpacks for
The purpose of the 'tilespec' file and related 'spec' files is to
allow the detailed layout of the graphics within the files to be
flexible and not hard-coded into Freeciv, and to allow add-ons to
conveniently provide additional graphics.
There are two layers to the tilespec files:
The top-level file is named, eg: 'trident.tilespec'. The basename of
this file (here, 'trident') corresponds to the parameter of the
'--tiles' command-line argument for the Freeciv client, as described
The top-level tilespec file contains general information on the full
tileset, and a list of files which specify information about the
individual graphics files. These filenames must be located somewhere
in the data path, though not necessarily the same place as the
top-level tilespec file. Note that with this system the number and
contents of the referenced files are completely flexible at this
An exception is that the intro graphics must be in individual files,
as listed in the tilespec file, because Freeciv treats these
specially: these graphics are freed after the game starts, and
reloaded later as necessary.
Graphics formats:
All clients currently use 24/32 bit PNGs.
Tileset options:
In the top-level tilespec file you can set options for the tileset.
Each of these should go within the [tilespec] section. Currently
options include:
Strings (enclosed in "")
options : A capability string, this should be "+Freeciv-a.b-tilespec", where
"a.b" it the current freeciv version.
name : the name of the tileset
type : general type of tileset, different types have
quite different format. Supported types are
"overhead" and "isometric"
main_intro_file : GFX file for the intro graphics
unit_default_orientation : Specifies a direction to use for unit types in
worklists etc. See "Unit Sprites" below.
String vectors
preferred_themes : List of preferred client themes to use with this
priority : when user does not specify tileset, client
automatically loads available compatible tileset
with highest priority.
normal_tile_width : the width of terrain tiles
normal_tile_height : the height of terrain tiles
unit_width : unit sprite width. Default is always ok, setting is
provided just for symmetry with unit_height
unit_height : unit sprite height if more than 1.5x terrain tile
height in isometric tileset
small_tile_width : the width of icon sprites
small_tile_height : the height of icon sprites
fog_style : Specifies how fog is drawn.
"Auto" : Code automatically adds fog.
"Sprite : A single fog sprite is drawn on top of all
other sprites for fogged tiles. The
tx.fog sprite is used for this.
"Darkness" : No fog, or fog from darkness_style = 4.
darkness_style : Specifies how "encroaching darkness" is drawn.
"None" : No darkness.
"IsoRect" : A single sprite can be split into 4
parts, each containing the darkness
for that particular cardinal direction.
(Iso-view only.)
"CardinalSingle" : Four different sprites exist, each
holding the darkness for a particular
direction. Any or all of the sprites
may be drawn.
"CardinalFull" : The sprite is chosen based on the vector
sum of the darkness in all 4 cardinal
directions. 15 different sprites are
"Corner" : Corner darkness & fog, 81 sprites needed.
unit_flag_offset_x : Gives an offset from the tile origin at which to
unit_flag_offset_y draw flags behind units or cities. With isometric
city_flag_offset_x tilesets this should be non-zero so that the flag
city_flag_offset_y is placed correctly behind the unit/city.
occupied_offset_x : Gives an offset from the tile origin at which to
occupied_offset_y draw city occupied icon (in many tilesets placed above the flag)
city_size_offset_x : Gives an offset from the full tile origin at which to
city_size_offset_y draw city size number.
unit_offset_x : Gives an offset from the tile origin at which to
unit_offset_y draw units.
activity_offset_x : Gives an offset from the tile origin at which to
activity_offset_y draw normal unit activity icons. "Auto" icons are not
affected by this as they are usually wanted in different
offset than real activity icons for both to appear simultaneously
"Auto" icons are auto_attack, auto_settler, patrol, connect.
select_offset_x : Gives an offset from the tile origin at which to
select_offset_y draw selected unit sprites.
unit_upkeep_offset_y : Gives an offset from the unit origin at which to draw
the upkeep icons when they are shown along the unit. The upkeep
icons can safely extend below the unit icon itself.
If this value is omitted, normal tile height is used instead;
- Upkeep icons appear below the unit icon if the unit icons are
equal to tile height (typical in overhead tileset)
- Upkeep icons overlay lower part of the unit icon, if unit icon
is higher than tile height (typical in iso tilesets)
Like unit_upkeep_offset_y, but to be used in case there's only small
space for the overall icon produced. Defaults to unit_upkeep_offset_y -
not having alternative layout.
citybar_offset_y : Gives an offset from city tile origin at which to
draw city bar text.
hex_side : When is_hex is specified (see is_hex, below), this
value gives the length of the "extra" side of the
hexagon. This extra side will be on the top/bottom
of the tile if is_isometric (below) is given, or
on the left/right of the tile otherwise. The actual
dimensions of the hex tile are determined from the
normal_tile_width/normal_tile_height of the tileset
as well as the hex side. The "normal" dimensions
give the X and Y offsets between adjacent tiles in
the tileset - this is not the same as the dimensions
of the tile itself. The dimension of the bounding
box of the hexagonal tile will be equal to the
"normal" dimension minus the hex_side. For instance
"normal" dimensions of 64x32 with a hex_side of 16
for an iso-hex tileset will give hexagons of size
Booleans (FALSE or TRUE)
is_hex : set to TRUE for a hexagonal tileset. If is_isometric
is also specified then you have an iso-hex tileset.
Hex tilesets should be used with topologies 8-11 and
iso-hex tilesets with topologies 12-15.
String lists (a comma-separated list of strings)
files : A list of .spec files to scan for sprites.
See "individual spec files", below.
Terrain options:
The top-level tilespec file also contains information on how to draw each
terrain type. For each terrain type include a section "[tile_xxx]".
This section contains information on how to draw this terrain type.
(The terrain types are specified in the server ruleset file.)
[tile_XXX] options
tag : Tag of the terrain this drawing information refers
to. That must match the "graphic" or "graphic_alt"
field given in the ruleset file.x
blend_layer : If non-zero, given layer of this terrain will be
blended with adjacent terrains. Blending is done
civ2-style with a dither mask. Only iso-view
currently supports blending. Only the base graphic
will be blended.
The blending mask has sprite t.dither_tile.
is_reversed : Draw layers in reverse order.
num_layers : The number of layers in the terrain. This value
must be 1, 2 or 3. Each layer is drawn
separately. The layerN options below control the
drawing of each layer (N should be 0, 1 or 2)
layerN_is_tall : Left right corner of terrain sprites is not based
on normal_tile_width and normal_tile_height, but
to corner of the full tile.
layerN_offset_x : Offset for terrain sprites
layerN_match_type : If 0 or unset, no terrain matching will be done and
the base sprite will be drawn for the terrain. If
non-zero, then terrain matching will be done. A
matched sprite will be chosen that matches all
cardinally adjacent tiles whose terrain has the same
layerN_match_with : List of match_types to match against
layerN_sprite_type : With traditional tilesets each tile is drawn using
one sprite. This default sprite_type is "whole".
Which sprite to use may be specified using a
match_type, and there may be multiple layers
(each having one sprite). This method corresponds
to sprite_type "single".
A more sophisticated drawing method breaks the tile
up into 4 rectangles. Each rectangular cell is
adjacent to 3 different tiles. Each adjacency is
matched, giving 8 different sprites for each of the
4 cells. This sprite_type is "corner".
Additionally the top-level tilespec file should contain information about
the drawing of each layer. This is needed because the way each layer is
drawn must be consistent between different terrain types. You may not have
more than 3 layers (either in this section or in the [tile_XXX] sections).
[layerN] options
match_types : Gives a string list of all different match types.
This list must include every possible match_type
used by terrains for this layer.
First letter of the match_type must be unique
within layer.
Extra options
Tilespec should define style of extra graphics for each extra type in
section [extras] like:
styles =
{ "name", "style"
"road", "RoadAllSeparate"
"rail", "RoadAllSeparate"
"river", "River"
"tx.irrigation", "Cardinals"
RoadAllSeparate : A single sprite is drawn for every connection the tile has;
only 8 sprites are needed.
RoadParityCombined : A single sprite is drawn for all cardinal connections and
a second sprite is drawn for all diagonal connections;
32 sprites are needed.
RoadAllCombined : One sprite is drawn to show roads in all directions.
There are thus 256 sprites (64 for a hex tileset).
River : Cardinal connections are drawn, as well as delta at the coast
Single1 : Single sprite at layer Special1
Single2 : Single sprite at layer Special2
3Layer : 3 Sprites, tagged <name>_bg, <name>_mg, and <name>_fg
Cardinals : Sprite for each cardinal connection
Individual spec files:
Each spec file describes one graphics file (PNG format is standard,
although some clients may accept other formats as well) as specified in
the spec file. The graphics file must be in the Freeciv data path, but
not necessarily in the same location as the spec file. Note you can have
multiple spec files using a single graphics file in different ways.
The main data described in the spec file is in sections named
[grid_*], where * is some arbitrary tag (but unique within each file).
A grid corresponds to a regular rectangular array of tiles. In
general one may have multiple grids in one file, but the default
tilesets usually only have one per file. (Multiple grids would be
useful to have different size tiles in the same file.) Each grid
defines an origin (top left) and spacing, both in terms of pixels, and
then refers to individual tiles of the grid by row and column. The
origin, and rows and columns, are counted as (0,0) = top left.
x_top_left : x-coordinate of the leftmost pixel of the leftomost cell
y_top_left : y-coordinate of the topmost pixel of the topmost cell
dx : cell width
dy : cell height
pixel_border : Number of pixels between cells, unless overridden by axis specific value
pixel_border_x : Number of pixels between cells in x-direction, overrides pixel_border
pixel_border_y : Number of pixels between cells in y-direction, overrides pixel_border
tiles : Table of tags, each line having "row", "column", and "tag"
x_top_left = 1 ; Border (in x=0) also in left side of the entire grid
y_top_left = 1 ; Border (in y=0) also in top side of the entire grid
dx = 96
dy = 48
pixel_border = 1
tiles = { "row", "column", "tag"
0, 0, "tag1"
0, 1, "tag2"
1, 0, "tag3"
1, 1, "tag4"
Each individual tile is given a "tag", which is a string which is
referenced in the code and/or from ruleset files. A grid may be
sparse, with some elements unused (simply don't mention their row and
column), and a single tile may have multiple tags (eg, to use the same
graphic for multiple purposes in the game): just specify a list of
comma-separated strings.
If a given tag appears multiple times in the spec files, the *last*
such tag is used. (That is, in the order of files listed in the
tilespec file, and order within each file.) This allows selected
graphics to be "overridden" by listing a replacement spec file near
the end of the 'files' list in the top-level tilespec file, without
having to modify earlier files in the list.
Tag prefixes:
To help keep the tags organised, there is a rough prefix system used
for standard tags:
f. national flags
r. road/rail
s. general "small"
u. unit images
t. basic terrain types (with _n0s0e0w0 to _n1s1e1w1)
ts. terrain special resources
tx. extra terrain-related
gov. government types
unit. unit overlays: hp, stack, activities (goto, fortify etc)
upkeep. unit upkeep and unhappiness
city. city related (city, size, sq.-prod., disorder, occupied)
cd. city defaults
citizen. citizens, including specialists
explode. explosion graphics (nuke, units)
spaceship. spaceship components
treaty. treaty thumbs
user. crosshairs (in general: user interface?)
In general, graphics tags hard-wired into Freeciv _must_ be provided
by the spec files, or the client will refuse to start. Graphics tags
provided by ruleset files (at least for the "standard" rulesets)
should also be provided, but generally the client will continue even
if they are not, though the results may not be satisfactory for the
user. To work properly tags should correspond to appropriately sized
graphics. (The basic size may vary, as specified in the top-level
tilespec file, but the individual tiles should be consistent with
those sizes and/or the usage of those graphics.)
Depending on the information given here the tileset must/may contain certain
Theme Sprites
citizen sprites :
This provides citizen graphics. Each citizen has one or more sprites
which are shown in the city dialog. The types of citizen are "happy",
"content", "unhappy", and "angry". The tag name is "citizen.<type>_<n>".
<type> is one of the listed types. <n> is the number of the graphic
(numbered starting with 0, unlike most other graphics) which allows more
than one sprite to be used. No more than 6 sprites per citizen may be
Currently the citizen and specialist sprites may not have any
transparency, as this is ignored in much of the drawing. This is
considered a bug.
specialist sprites:
These provide specialist graphics just like the citizen graphics. However
specialist types come from the ruleset and may be changed in modpacks.
The sprite name is "specialist.<type>_<n>". Again <type> is the
type of specialist (currently "elvis", "scientist", "taxman") while <n>
is the sprite number. See "citizen sprites" above.
progress indicators:
There are three types of progress indicator. "science_bulb" indicates
progress toward the current research target. "warming_sun" indicates
progress toward global warming. "cooling_flake" indicates progress
toward nuclear winter. Each indicator should have 8 states, numbered
0 (least) through 7 (most). The sprite names are "s.<type>_<n>".
government icons:
There should be one icon for each government. Its name is "gov.<gov>",
where <gov> is the government name. Government types come from
governments.ruleset (currently "anarchy", "despotism", "monarchy",
"communism", "fundamentalism", "republic", "democracy").
tax icons:
One icon for each tax type. These are used to show the tax rates. The
sprites are "s.tax_luxury", "s.tax_science", "s.tax_gold". Commonly
the specialist sprites are reused for this.
right arrow:
A sprite "s.right_arrow" is used on the panel when more units are
present than can be shown.
Terrain sprites
base sprite : If the terrain has no match type or is layered, a
base sprite is needed. This sprite has tag
"t.<terrain>1" (e.g., "t.grassland1"). More than
one such sprite may be given ("t.grassland2", etc.)
in which case one will be chosen at random for each
matched sprites : If the terrain has a match type or is layered, a
set of matched sprites is needed. This consists of
16 sprites with tags "t.<terrain>_n<V>e<V>s<V>w<V>"
(e.g., "t.hills_n0e0s1w0". Each direcional value
<V> is either 0 or 1. Note that the directions are
in map coordinates, so n (north) in iso-view is
northeast on the mapview. (Note this only applies
for cell_type "single".)
cell sprites : For matched terrains that have cell_type "rect",
32 different sprites are needed. Each sprite is
a rectangle corresponding to one cell, and there are
8 different sprites per cell. Each sprite has
a name like "t.ocean_cell_u110" where "ocean" is the
terrain, "u" means up (north on the map) and
110 indicates which of the adjacent tiles are
mismatched. For instance u110 means
/B \
/\ 1/\
/ A\/C \
\1 /\ 0/
\/D \/
\ /
a matching terrain exists at C but not at A or B. In
this case D is the current tile.
; This specifies a civ2-like grassland tile. A single sprite
; t.grassland is needed; it will be drawn blended.
blend_layer = 1
num_layers = 1
layer0_match_type = 0
; This specifies a civ1-like mountain tile. 16 sprites
; t.mountains_n0s0e0w0 ... t.mountains_n1s1e1w1 are needed. One of them
; will be drawn to match the adjacent tiles. Assuming only mountains
; has this match_type, adjacent mountains will match.
blend_layer = 0
num_layers = 1
layer0_match_type = 7
; This specifies a civ2-like hills tile. A base sprite t.hills will be
; needed, plus 16 matching sprites. The base sprite will be drawn,
; dithered with adjacent base sprites, and the matching sprite will be
; drawn on top. (In most civ2 tilesets the base sprite is the grassland
; sprite).
blend_layer = 1
num_layers = 2
layer0_match_type = 0
layer1_match_type = 8
; This specifies a civ2-like ocean tile. Ocean is drawn via a cell-based
; system as explained above.
blend_layer = 1
num_layers = 1
layer0_match_type = 6
layer0_cell_type = "rect"
Terrain Special Sprites
tx.farmland and tx.irrigation provide the basic sprites for farmland
and irrigation. Additionally, there is support for drawing continuous
farmland and irrigation (as is used in Civ3). Here there are 16
irrigation sprites (and the same for farmland), starting with
tx.irrigation_n0s0e0w0 and running through tx.irrigation_n1s1e1w1.
An appropriate sprite will be chosen depending on which adjacent tiles
also have farmland/irrigation. If any of these sprites are not present,
the default sprite will be used as a fallback.
Unit Sprites
Units sprites can be either unoriented or oriented, in which case the
sprite that is displayed depends on the direction the unit is facing (it
turns when it moves or fights).
Unoriented sprites are specified as 'u.phalanx'. Oriented sprites have
a direction suffix: 'u.phalanx_s', 'u.phalanx_nw' and so on.
For each unit type, either an unoriented sprite or a full set of
the oriented sprites needed for the tileset topology must be provided
(you can also provide both, see below).
The game sometimes needs to draw a sprite for a unit type that doesn't
correspond to a specific unit, so is not facing a particular direction.
There are several options for oriented tilesets:
- If the unit_default_orientation is specified for the tileset, the
game will by default use that directional sprite. (The direction
doesn't have to be a valid one for the tileset.)
- Specific unit types may override this by providing an unoriented
sprite as well as the oriented ones; this doesn't have to be
distinct, so it can point to one of the oriented sprites, allowing
choice of the best orientation for each individual unit type.
If unit_default_orientation is not specified, an unoriented sprite
must be specified for *every* unit.
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