Generate a game board map from a bitmap in XNA 

I am currently developing an adventure board game in XNA, in which the players can play various missions that take place on boards that are made up of horizontal tiles.

This entry will describe how a bitmap file can be used to quickly create a mission map, but first some relevant side information.

Board movement

In the game, players and monsters can move horizontally and vertically over the board:

Board movement example

Game pieces can move horizontally and vertically

Factors that limit whether or not a game piece can move from one tile to another (tile A to tile B) are (so far):

  • Tile B simply does not exist (the piece would move outside of the board boundaries)
  • Tile B is marked as a None or a Nonwalkable tile (see below)
  • Tile B belongs to another room and is separated from tile A by a wall
  • Tile B is occupied by another piece or furniture (another piece cannot stop at the same tile)
  • Tile B is occupied by a monster (players cannot pass through such a tile)

Tile types

I have chosen to limit myself to three different tile types:

  • None (tile has no properties and is ignored)
  • Nonwalkable
  • Walkable

When a tile is drawn later on, it can use any available texture, so the three tile types are more than sufficient.

The None type is not really needed, since such a tile cannot entered. I have kept it to separate tiles that are not to be considered as part of the game board from tiles that just cannot be entered. There is an obvious conceptual difference between the two situations.

Mission data

In the game, players can chose to play one of a large set of missions. To make it easy to create a large number of missions, I have chosen to define them as such:

  • The mission board map is represented in a bitmap file
  • The mission data is specified in an XML file

When a mission is loaded, the XML file is parsed into a mission object. The file points out the bitmap file, which is then parsed into a mission board map.

The board map only specifies the board tiles and thus the look of the board, while the XML file specifies everything else, like the name of the mission, the mission targets, board items etc.

The XML file content is the topic of a future post.

Bitmap parsing overview

Consider the following bitmap:

An example of how a mission map (really small, though) can look.

When the mission is initialized, it goes through the following steps:

  1. Parse the XML file (not covered in this post)
  2. Parse the bitmap into a mission board
  3. Initialize each tile using the corresponding color in the bitmap
  4. Divide the board tiles into rooms

I have chosen to handle bitmap colors as such:

  • Black corresponds to the None tile type
  • The light grey at position (0,2) and (0,3) – #c3c3c3 – is specified in-code to be handled as a Nonwalkable tile
  • All other colors are regarded to be Walkable tiles

The colors will later be used to determine which image that will be used for each tile:

  • Black tiles are not handled at all (they are None, remember?), thus they have no image
  • All other colors are converted into hex code (e.g. #ffffff instead of White) handled as such:
    • If one or several content textures have the hex code in their names (e.g. ffffff_1.png, ffffff_2.png etc.)  one is selected by random
    • If no corresponding image exists, the color is used to tint a random ffffff_x.png image

Finally, when all tiles have been initialized with a type, an image and, perhaps, a tint, they are divided into rooms. Adjacent tiles that have the same color are considered to belong to the same room. When the board is then drawn, I make the game draw walls between all rooms.

The process is really straightforward, as can be followed below. I have chosen not to include code for the Board and Tile classes that are mentioned below, since my classes are quite complex and I just want to describe the brief concept of how I parse the bitmap.

Step 1: Initialize the mission board

In my data model, the Board class has an Initialize function that takes an image as a parameter.

        public void Initialize(Texture2D image)

As you can see, the function only consists of two sub-operations. First, all tiles are fully initialized, then the board is divided into rooms.

Naturally, the bitmap has already been imported into the game content collection, which is why it is available here 🙂

Step 2: Initialize each tile

The InitializeTiles function really does nothing more than converting the texture into an array of colors, then applies each color the corresponding tile, as such:

        private void InitializeTiles(Texture2D image)
            //Convert image to colors
            Color[] colors = new Color[image.Width * image.Height];

            //Initialize the board tile matrix
            Tiles = new Tile[image.Width, image.Height];

            //Initialize each tile in the grid
            for (int y = 0; y < Tiles.GetLength(1); y++)
                for (int x = 0; x < Tiles.GetLength(0); x++)
                    Tiles[x, y] = new Tile(colors[x + y * image.Width]);

In this example, I have reduced the numbers of parameters in the Tile constructor, to make the code easier to read.

In my game, the Tile constructor uses the provided color to set the Image, Type and Tint of the tile. However, since this is really specific to my game, I have decided to leave the constructor code out of this post. Just drop a comment if you want to take a look at it.

Step 3: Divide the board tiles into rooms

Once the board has a grid of tiles, where each tile has a color, my game divides the tiles into rooms, using three functions.

The parameterless InitializeRooms function makes sure that all tiles are handled, at least once:

        private void InitializeRooms()
            for (int y = 0; y < Tiles.GetLength(1); y++)
                for (int x = 0; x < Tiles.GetLength(0); x++)
                    InitializeRooms(Tiles[x, y]);

The InitializeRooms function that takes a tile as a parameter, makes sure that the tile fetches the room index from any already initialized adjacent tile that belongs to the same room (if any), sets a new room index if needed then finally spreads the room index to all non-initialized adjacent tiles that belong to the same room (once again…if any).

For now, my function uses two sub-functions that cleans up the code a bit:

        private void InitializeRooms(Tile tile)
            //Abort if no tile or if already checked
            if (tile == null || tile.RoomIndex.HasValue)

            //Set negative room index if no tile or non walkable
            if (tile.TileType == TileType.None || tile.TileType == TileType.Unwalkable)
                tile.RoomIndex = -1;
            //Fetch room number from similar siblings
            InitializeRooms_Fetch(tile, tile.TopSibling);
            InitializeRooms_Fetch(tile, tile.LeftSibling);
            InitializeRooms_Fetch(tile, tile.RightSibling);
            InitializeRooms_Fetch(tile, tile.BottomSibling);

            //Set room number if none has been set
            if (!tile.RoomIndex.HasValue)
                tile.RoomIndex = roomIndex++;

            //Spread room number to similar siblings
            InitializeRooms_Spread(tile, tile.TopSibling);
            InitializeRooms_Spread(tile, tile.LeftSibling);
            InitializeRooms_Spread(tile, tile.RightSibling);
            InitializeRooms_Spread(tile, tile.BottomSibling);
        private void InitializeRooms_Fetch(Tile tile, Tile sibling)
            //Abort if either tile is null
            if (tile == null || sibling == null)

            //Fetch index if the tiles have the same color
            if (sibling.RoomIndex.HasValue && tile.Color == sibling.Color)
                tile.RoomIndex = sibling.RoomIndex;

        private void InitializeRooms_Spread(Tile tile, Tile sibling)
            //Abort if either tile is null
            if (tile == null || sibling == null)

            //Spread by initializing the sibling
            if (tile.RoomIndex.HasValue && tile.Color == sibling.Color)


The steps above are all you really need to parse a bitmap into an image.

In the game that generated the final result below, I have 12 “ffffff” images and 4 “c3c3c3” images. I have no images for the red color and no images for the darker grey rooms, which is why they use the same images as is used in the hallway and apply a tint above them.

In the image, I also display the room index. As you can see, all non and non-walkable tiles are given the room index -1, while all other tiles are divided into room 1-4.

Mission map with a 6×6 grid of tiles with images, types and room indices

If I want to create a totally different map for another mission, or simply edit the map above, this approach makes it reaaaaally easy to do so.

I will return to the XML file in another blog post, as well as how to draw walls between the various rooms, how to use different colors/images for the same rooms etc. etc. etc. But all that will have to wait for another day 🙂

I have chosen to limit myself to three different tile types:

  • None
  • Nonwalkable
  • Walkable