Cool Indie Level Editors

I have a confession to make: I love level editors! I’ve used a lot of different level editors over the years (most of them proprietary) and I’ve even helped design a couple including Ntropy which is still the in-house level editor at Nihilistic Software. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, a level editor is a software tool used for building worlds for video games. Levels (also refereed to as worlds or maps) are basically the physical space that the game’s characters move around in and interact with. Levels contain all of the fun stuff that the player gets to do in games – solve puzzles, jump over stuff, kill the bad guys and save the princess. All these things get designed and then assets are created by other members of the team and then finally they’re assembled and tuned and tweaked endlessly in the level editor by a level designer.

If you’re read my last couple of blog posts, you’d know that I’m currently writing scripts that will allow me to use Photoshop as a level editor for the 2 games I’m currently developing. I’d love to be able to write my own level editor from scratch (like you’ll see in the following images), but sadly since I’m not a programmer I have to build my tools on top of existing technology – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it’s just that it’s sometimes nice to develop tools that are made specifically for the game that you’re making rather than trying to shoehorn functionality into someone else’s tool.

Anyway, I’ve gotten off track here. What I really wanted to show you was some of the awesome indie level editors that real-life indie game developers have made and are using for their games. Someone over at TIGForums started a thread called “Show us your level editors” (which was a positively brilliant idea) and lots of people have responded with screenshots and info.

Editor for the highly anticipated game Fez. This one looks super polished.

Editor for one of my favorite iPhone games, Trainyard

Cool looking tile editor plus a writeup on how it works: http://wootfu.com/2011/02/editor/

This level editor looks better than some games!

That’s only a few of the level editors mentioned in the thread, pop over to TIGForums to see more screehshots and to find high res images of the editors I posted here.

And since we’re on the subject of level editors, here are some links to level editors (some free, some paid) that you can use for your projects.

  • Ogmo Editor: A free cross-platform general-purpose 2D visual level editor built on Adobe AIR.
  • Tiled Map Editor: A free multi-platform general purpose tile based map editor.
  • Corona SVG Level Builder: A set of libraries to be used in a Corona SDK game that allows you to create Corona SDK physics based levels in Inkscape.
  • Weltmeister Level Editor: Level editor for the Impact JavaScript game engine
  • iTileMaps: Level editor for iPad, compatible with Tiled’s file format.
  • LevelHelper: 2D level editor that’s compatible with Corona SDK and Cocos2D.
  • DAME editor: The “Deadly Alien Map Editor” is a free multi-platform 2D editor.
  • World Construction Kit: A toolset/framework for rapidly developing physics based games and websites within the Flash IDE.
  • Gumbo: Gumbo is a drag and drop tool for creating Corona SDK maps, levels and GUI’s (requires Microsoft Silverlight).

I know I’m missing a bunch of other great level editors from this list. f I missed your favorite level editor, please be sure to mention it in the comments below and I’ll add it to the list!

21 thoughts on “Cool Indie Level Editors

  1. IndieGames by ChrisK

    Yesterday a new version of one of the very best of the best level editors was released: DAME 2.0 http://dambots.com/dame-editor/ I highly recommend it.  You can output as xml or even as flixel or flashpunk as3 source code and it can do *everything* from parallax onionskin to connecting tile corners automagically.

  2. Anonymous

    Check out WCK for Flash. It’s not an editor unto itself, but for people looking to create vector graphics (non-tile based assets) games, it turns the Flash IDE into a full fledged game level editor. The physics portion of the engine is running an Alchemy (very fast) port of Box2D. More details on WCK here, http://www.sideroller.com/wck .

    I used it for the development of the sidescrolling portion of this game for PBSKids, pbskids.org/electriccompany/pranksterplanet/ .

  3. Demented

    There are a couple non-tile based editors I think are worth to mention:
    -The first is the one comming with the indielib http://www.indielib.com/ which comes with handful of sample levels one with the tileset of Aquaria.
    – The second is Gleed2D which has several forks and it’s easy to customize to the developer needs.

  4. Tim Miller

    Thanks for the tips!  Here’s the link to Gleed2D for those interested: http://gleed2d.codeplex.com/ tho it looks like the site hasn’t been updated in a couple of years, not sure if the project is still active.

  5. Bensmiley45

    I’ve recently released a non tile based level editor for iPhone and Android. It has in built physics simulation for testing and can load game elements from SVG or by tracing PNG images. It’s called Shape Workshop and can be downloaded here.

  6. Joseph Peter Chakalis

    Does anyone here work with Unity? I’ve been looking for something other than the built-in level editor to make 3D levels in and then import the output directly into Untiy. If anyone has any suggestions, that would be awesome.

  7. Level Factory

    Don’t forget Level Factory, a sidescroller with a build-in level editor! You can try it out at levelfactory.com !

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