Level Maps
ecco the dolphin level maps

Level Maps

For Ecco The Dolphin, Ecco PC, Ecco 2, and Ecco Jr.

A level map is a complete representation of a games level graphics in the form of an image. A level map can be made up of a foreground, background, or both. Most levels use parallax backgrounds making it impossible to create an image representation using both. A parallax background scrolls differently than the foreground to provide a sense of space to the player. When parallax backgrounds are used, the maps are divided into two image files, with one representing the foreground and the other representing the background. The image representation is how humans interpret the game’s world. Computers interpret levels through data that represent graphical objects as instructions.

Ecco the Dolphin and Ecco 2: The Tides of Time have their own distinct methods of representing level data in memory. When a section of a level is needed, the data in memory is read and translated from a value to a graphic that needs to be loaded to the display. The data can represent a variety of things including a piece of graphical information and how it should be rendered to the display. The graphical information can be an index to a tile or metatile. A tile is an 8x8 pixel graphic, where a typical metatile in an Ecco the Dolphin game is a made up of 128x128 tiles, or 1024x1024 pixels!

metatile comparison

Ecco 2 constructs levels by combining metatiles with other metatiles. In the example above, a large metatile is combined with several smaller tiles to create a new metatile.

When level data is read, a tile or metatile is loaded with information on if it should be flipped. There are three different ways to flip a metatile; horizontal, vertical, or both! In Ecco 2: The Tides of Time, metatiles can be customized by combining them with other metatiles to create new metatiles! Metatiles are usually combined to add small details to rocks like coral and plant life. In some situations they are combined to add mechanical details to machinery like those found in the Vortex worlds.

The mega drives shadow effect

Some stages, such as Trellia's Bay use the Mega Drive's shadow effect to push the color palette beyond its limit.

The level maps from the Ecco the Dolphin series are not easy to create. Our collection was generated through a tool that incorporated reverse engineered code! This means the games code had to be studied, tests had to run on the data to see how it behaves. The end result lead to understanding the levels format! The level maps even incorporate palette switching, a technique used by the games to access additional colors when they are needed.

Our goal was to create these maps for you! They are free to use for your own personal projects as long as you give credit to us by linking to our website: https://eccothedolphin.online