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Advance Wars Series Map Editor

By João Pedro Schara Francese (Roma_emu)

Version 1.0 (2007-08-16)

ReadMe version 1.03 (2014-02-05)


For a long time, fans of the Nintendo Advance Wars portable series have asked Intelligent Systems for a way of sharing maps and playing online battles against other human players. While this program will not help with the online gaming part, it is the most mapmaker-friendly editor to be released this far.

Long-time fans may also have come into contact with the Advance Wars (1) editor developed by Kamek. It was the de facto standard editor used in PCs running Windows. His editor was very practical, and aimed to be as easy as the one built-in in the GBA game. All editors released after his tried to look like his in some way.

Later, with the release of Advance Wars 2, I updated his editor, adding the Neotank, Black Hole buildings and units, and the new building graphics. When Advance Wars Dual Strike was released, the editor was once again updated, now with not only with AWDS units and buildings, but also with an Extras tab, containing the BH-only buildings used in Campaign, such as Minicannons, Deathrays and Volcanoes.

Those were only updates though, and possible expansion was limited because I was not familiar with the base code it used. So I started developing a new editor from scratch. This editor is the result, with new features including variable map size, permanent preferences, drawing modes and undo/redo buttons. It still aims to look like Kamek's editor, so those who have used his editor in the past will feel at home. This editor was also designed to be multi-platform; to date, Windows and Linux versions are available, and a Mac version is planned.

Support for Custom Wars units, buildings and tilesets was planned, but not implemented due to other real-life priorities.

How to use

This editor works like the Advance Wars DS in-game editor. In the right panel, you can switch between Terrain, Unit and Extra modes. (Extra contains terrain types not available in the in-game editor.) Then, click a terrain or unit in the list, and left-click a tile in the map area to the left to place the selected terrain or unit in it. Some terrains or units have placement restrictions, and some terrains in the Extra tab are larger than one tile.

You can change the active Unit army by clicking the correspondently-colored city, and you can delete units by choosing the Delete (hammer) icon. Mouse shortcuts include the middle-button (click to switch tabs quickly) and the scroll wheel (switch armies when a building or unit is selected). Right-clicking the map area will select the terrain or unit (depending on the active tab) from the clicked tile. You can undo a previous action by pressing the Undo button in the toolbar (or with the Ctrl+Z shortcut), or redo an undone action the same way.

The default drawing mode is the Pencil, which places one terrain or unit at a time, and the mouse button can be held down so terrains and units continue to be placed while the cursor is dragged around. If you hold the Control button, each time you click the same tile the sprite will be changed. Holding the Shift button lets you place more than one HQ of each army. Line mode allows you to place a straight line of the selected terrain or unit; position the cursor over the start point, then hold the left mouse button, move to the desired end point and release the button. Square and Filled Square work the same way, but instead making a rectangle. Fill Bucket will fill an area of tiles equal to the clicked tile with the active unit or terrain.

Selection will let you select a map area in the same fashion of Square; you can then move the selected area around (both terrains and units are moved), copy or cut it with the Edit menu options, clear the selected area with delete (press Esc to only cancel the selection) or make a quick copy by holding the Control keyboard button while moving the selected area. More options regarding selected areas can be found in the Edit menu. Note that when you cut or copy an area, you can paste it in other instances (windows) of the editor.

The map status (information about placed armies) can be seen in the Status screen, which can be accessed from the Map -> Status menu (or the F8 shortcut). In this screen you can view how many buildings of each kind and units are owned by each army, as well as the total number of buildings (the in-game real limit is 60) and if the map contains data that is unavailable in one of the real games.

Map information can be saved in the Information screen (Map -> Information or Ctrl+I shortcut). The map author can set his or her name, as well as the map name and a short description of the map. It is strongly recommended to always fill the two first fields before sharing maps with friends. Map settings, including height, width and tileset (map graphics), can be set in the Settings (Map -> Settings or F10) screen. Note that so far the in-game editor only accepts 30x20 maps.

This editor stores some preferences in a .ini file, which must be kept in the same folder of the main program (.exe) file. The preferences that can be saved are as follows:

  • Background music can be disabled, or enabled with adjustable volume. To change the background music, put any MP3 music file in the editor folder and rename it to bgm.mp3.
  • Default width, height, tileset and terrain can be set.
  • Default author name can be set.
  • Undo/redo limit can be changed; keep it low if your computer has limited available (RAM) memory.
  • AW-style cursors can be disabled; drawing these cursors is CPU-intensive, so this is recommended for older computers.

This editor's default save type is the .aws map format. It can open files from old editors (with extensions .awm, .aw2 and .awd). It can also save in these formats, but incompatible units and terrains may not be saved. You will be warned if this happens.

You can save screenshots (pictures of the entire map) to your computer with the File -> Screenshot menu entry. You can pick one of the various file types:

  • PNG produces the best results (no quality loss), with reasonable file sizes. You can also make miniatures (half-sized pictures).
  • BMP is a format used by Windows that produces large files.
  • JPG pictures can also be saved. They have small sizes as well, but some quality may be lost. Useful if the website or program does not support PNG files.
  • XPM files are used mainly by some Linux programs.
  • ICO files can be saved to be used as Windows file shortcuts' icons. The picture is resized when needed to fit the maximum size of 255x197 pixels (the map's proportion is kept).

Some terrain tiles are special and worth mentioning or explaining:

  • Labs are HQ-equivalents: only one of them (either a Lab or a HQ) of each army may be placed at a time.
  • The terrain tile to the right of the bridge is the "destroyed minicannon" sprite. It will become a "destroyed pipeline seam" sprite if placed in the middle of a pipe line. When porting a map to the GBA/DS, simply change it to a normal plain tile.
  • The Sea kind of Black Arc can only be placed in sea areas; you will not be allowed to place it if there is any ground tile under the cursor or its adjacent tiles.

This package also includes some sample maps:

  • AWS maps: Meridian, Ripple Wave, Spanned Island and Trapped!.
  • AWDS maps: Red Sand Desert, Devil Lake and Devil Lake DS.
  • AW2 maps: Black Hole, The Circle and Triple Front.
  • AW1 maps: Butterfly Island, Road-Block, Spann Island and Wrench Island.

More maps can be found at the Design Maps section of Advance Wars Net:

Platform Differences

While I tried to make the editor the most plataform-indepented I could, sometimes it wasn't possible. Here are the platform differences:

  • The standard Linux version does not play background music.
  • Some dialog texts may be cut in the Linux version, due to the dialogs having fixed (hard-coded) sizes.

Credits and Contact Info

This map editor was designed and programmed by Brazilian programmer João Pedro Schara Francese. I, however, owe much of my inspiration to fellow Brazilian Kamek, who designed the original editor.

For the technically curious, I have used C++, the GUI toolkit wxWidgets, and mainly MS Visual Studio 6 as the IDE. 95% of the effective development was done in three months (december-2006 to march-2007).

If you have a suggestion, complaint or comment, send it to my e-mail: or

Special thanks to:

  • Nintendo and Intelligent Systems, for creating the Wars franchise.
  • Kamek, for creating the original map editor, giving me its source code so I could update it, and providing the AW1 pictures.
  • CO Sonic, Alex05 and ChessRules, for the AWDS Normal tileset, AWDS-style buildings and AWDS unit sprites.
  • Rimdev, omnitarian, Oracle of Wuffing, Kosheh and Zen, for the AWDS snow/desert/wasteland tilesets and Black Hole campaign weapons + volcano sprites.
  • Veggiehunter, for testing the Linux version.
  • Madcow, for creating Advance Wars Net and hosting the map editor for so much time.
  • DeathBerzerker, MoogleGunner, jb55 and UrzaMTG, for helping me various times or just for listening to my ratings...

Version History

v1.0 (2007-08-16)

  • Windows and Linux versions.
  • First public release. (Previous alphas/betas were time-locked.)

v1.0 Github (2014-02-05)

  • Source code uploaded to Github.


This projected is licensed under the terms of the New BSD license. See the file for details. This project and its developer are in no way affiliated to or endorsed by Nintendo or Intelligent Systems. Advance Wars is a trademark of Nintendo.


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