The game world is stored across several distinct files called maps. These map files define the floors, walls, and ceilings of the world, along with other stationary structures like trees, pipes, and ice formations. Map files also contain a list of all actors that should be inserted into the world, and the starting position for each one. Everything the player encounters while progressing through the levels of each episode is specified in a sequence of map files.
Within the group files, individual maps are stored in entries named A1–11.MNI (for episode one), B1–10.MNI (for episode two), C1–10.MNI (for episode three), and BONUS1–6.MNI (two bonus levels per episode). There are 37 maps across all three episodes, 36 of them unique (A11 and B1 are identical).
Each map file contains the following sections:
- Global variables, which control the backdrop, music, and other map-specific global parameters.
- A list of actors to insert into the game world, along with the initial coordinates for each.
- A two-dimensional grid of (almost) 32,768 map tiles, which defines the static architecture of the game world.
All of the map variables are stored in the first six bytes of the file. The format is as follows:
|0h||word||Encoded map variables. See next section.|
|2h||word||Width of the map, in tiles.|
|4h||word||Size of the actor list, in words.|
Map Variables Word
The map variables are packed into a single 16-bit little-endian word, with some values interpreted as boolean flags and others as integers:
|Bit Position||Size (Bits)||Description|
|0–4 (least significant bits)||5||Numeric backdrop ID (0–31).|
|5||1||Rain flag. |
|6||1||Backdrop horizontal scroll flag. |
|7||1||Backdrop vertical scroll flag. |
|8–10||3||Numeric palette animation ID (0–7).|
|11–15 (most significant bits)||5||Numeric music ID (0–31).|
Map Width and Height
The game world size is conceptually fixed at 32,768 tiles² regardless of the actual dimensions, so the height of the map is constrained by the width. There are a limited number of width values that the game implements:
|Width (Tiles)||Height (Tiles)||Notes|
|32||1,024||Not used; width is too small to fill the screen entirely.|
|2,048||16||Not used; height is too small to fill the screen entirely.|
Smaller factors of 32,768, while expressible in the map file format, are not implemented by the game and will not work correctly. Non-factors of 32,768 could also be expressed, and will certainly break things.
List of Actors
The actor list has a variable size depending on the number of actors actually present in the map. The list always begins at offset 6h in the map file, and continues for the number of words specified in the preceding map variable.
Each actor list entry has the following structure, repeated at three-word intervals until the total size has been read:
|0h||word||Map actor type. Further processing is required to differentiate “special” actors from “normal” ones. See next paragraph.|
|2h||word||Initial X position, in tiles, relative to the west edge of the map.|
|4h||word||Initial Y position, in tiles, relative to the north edge of the map.|
The actor type read from the map file may represent either of the following:
- Special actor: Includes Player Start Position, Moving Platform, Mud Fountain, and Light Beam.
- Normal actor: All other actor types typically encountered.
If the map actor type is less than 31, it is treated as a special actor and the type is used unchanged. If the map actor type is 31 or greater, it is treated as a normal actor and the type is decremented by 31 before insertion into the world.
Due to the limited number of fields available in the actor list format, it’s not possible to define any per-actor attributes or characteristics – all actors of a given type display the same way, take the same amount of damage, and behave identically.
The game has a fixed amount of memory allocated for the different structures that comprise the game world (and scant error handling for some conditions). This means there are practical limits that a valid actor list should never exceed:
|Map Actor Type||Limit||What happens if limit is exceeded?|
|Player Start Position||1||Later Player Start Positions overwrite the earlier ones.|
|Moving Platform||10||Writes outside of array bounds, leading to memory corruption.|
|Mud Fountain||10||Writes outside of array bounds, leading to memory corruption.|
|Light Beam||199||Any additional Light Beams are ignored.|
|Normal Actor||410||Completely stops reading the actor list from the map file.|
Immediately following the end of the actor list, there are exactly 65,528 bytes of map tile data. This is interpreted as a two-dimensional array of 32,764 unsigned little-endian words in row-major order. Each of these words represents a single graphical tile of the game world, with the four tiles at the southeast corner of the map undefined. (The first tile in the array is at the northwest corner of the world, and the last tile is at the southeast corner.)
The map data is largely static; once a map tile has been read into memory it does not generally change. (There are a few specific actor types – mostly those that restrict movement or allow the player/actors to stand on top of them – that manipulate map tile values during gameplay, but these are relatively rare.) The attributes for each map tile value are defined in a separate file and specify how the player/actors interact with each tile during gameplay.
Depending on the numeric value of each map tile, it is drawn as either a solid tile (with no transparency) or a masked tile (with transparent areas where the backdrop shows through). Map tile values below 16,000 are treated as solid tiles, and values 16,000 or above are treated as masked tiles.
Masked tiles are relatively simple. First, a conversion is performed to convert the map tile value into a masked tile index:
[masked tile index] = ([map tile value] - 16000) / 40
The subtraction by 16,000 is necessary to remove the offset that differentiates the masked tiles from solid tiles. The division by 40 accounts for the in-memory alignment of the actual graphical data. (This is an implementation detail that is discussed in depth in the drawing chapter.) Map tiles in this range are always an even multiple of 40.
The map format allows up to 1,238 distinct masked tile indices to be expressed, but the game graphics only define 1,000 masked tiles. This means that the only indices that should be encountered in practice are 0–999, corresponding to map tile values 16,000–55,960.
Each masked tile graphic is drawn into the game world at the specified position. Transparent areas within a masked tile graphic are filled with the appropriate piece of the backdrop behind it.
Solid tiles work similarly to masked tiles, but they are packed more densely and there are more special cases. To convert the map tile value into a solid tile index:
[solid tile index] = [map tile value] / 8
The division by 8 accounts for the in-memory alignment of the actual graphical data. (Again, this is an implementation detail that is discussed in depth in the drawing chapter.) Map tiles in this range are always an even multiple of 8.
The map format allows 2,000 distinct solid tile indices to be expressed, and all of them are defined in the game graphics. Each solid tile index from 0–1,999 (map tile values 0–15,992) should do something, even if the result is not directly visible on the screen.
- Indices 10–1,964 are typical cases, where each solid tile is drawn directly into the game world at the specified position.
- Indices 1,965–1,986 are not directly used in any maps, however solid tiles of this type are dynamically created and removed by various actors during the course of the game. These generally display normally in the game world once created, although sometimes sprites are strategically positioned to hide the tiles from view.
- Indices 1,987–1,999 are used in menu frames and text display areas, and never display in any part of the game world.
- Indices 0–9 are never drawn by the game and the backdrop is shown in their place. Typically these are used to represent empty space or sky. Aside from their invisibility, these tiles have special meanings to the game:
|0||Empty space where the player and actors can move freely. If a Moving Platform is centered on this tile, it will halt indefinitely.|
|1||Empty space. If a Moving Platform is centered on this tile, it will move north during its next tick.|
|2||Empty space. If a Moving Platform is centered on this tile, it will move northeast during its next tick.|
|3||Empty space. If a Moving Platform is centered on this tile, it will move east during its next tick.|
|4||Empty space. If a Moving Platform is centered on this tile, it will move southeast during its next tick.|
|5||Empty space. If a Moving Platform is centered on this tile, it will move south during its next tick.|
|6||Empty space. If a Moving Platform is centered on this tile, it will move southwest during its next tick.|
|7||Empty space. If a Moving Platform is centered on this tile, it will move west during its next tick.|
|8||Empty space. If a Moving Platform is centered on this tile, it will move northwest during its next tick.|
|9||Invisible tile which blocks southern movement. (Player/actors can walk and jump through the tile, but cannot fall through it.) Not directly used in any maps, however tiles of this type are dynamically created at the tops of Pedestal and Mud Fountain actors.|