I am a software developer working on a strategy game in my spare time as a hobby. I still have very little knowledge of and experience with Geographic Information Systems and the different file formats, so please bear with me.

I am interested in using real-world maps as the stage for my game and have been investigating several online map data services to see if I could download an elevation map and convert it to raw data for my game maps. For example it could be nice to have an elevation map of the southern part of Africa for instance (nice simple cone shape).

For my purposes, the map data only needs to live up to the following:

  1. Depth of 8-bit, so between 0-255 values
  2. Elevation below sea level is not needed (sea level = 0)
  3. Low resolution, at best 1 kilometer, but 10 kilometer is fine too

I am ready to investigate many of the file formats offered to be able to do so. However, since I am just at the experimental stage, I am wondering whether there aren't already some files like that available, e.g. in *.BMP format.

P.S.: I am also open for fictional or procedurally generated maps to play around with.

  • opendata.stackexchange.com/q/12563/17639 duplicate?
    – kbrose
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 14:00
  • When I look at your question and then at the results that come up when I google "elevation map" and click on "pictures", I get the feeling that most of these google results should satisfy your requirements. Am I mistaken? Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 10:58
  • No, they need to be 8-bit depth without dithering or anti-aliasing. Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 19:36
  • If you find a map that you like, but it isn't in the proper format, you might try posting a question about how to re-format it on gis.stackexchange.com
    – csk
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 21:29

2 Answers 2


Not sure if this works for you or if you're still on the hunt for this. Try Terrain.party. Its where you can select any geographic region and it downloads the elevation map for use in the game Cities Skylines. I've used them to get maps of volcanos and mountain terrain, it works great.


There are 2 kinds of surface maps to look for, Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) for ground level, and Digital Terrain Models (DSMs) which include built environment like buildings, towers, etc. If you google DEM and keywords you should have luck. Might be of interest: https://gis.stackexchange.com/questions/279320/just-need-a-lo-res-8-bit-depth-elevation-map-either-real-or-fictional-bmp

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