Prepare your inner geekness for this interesting bit of news that takes a look inside a game developer's mind.
The above screenshot may look like the level select screen from Monaco: What's Yours is Mine, and it is that, but there's more. Pieces of that image are actual bits of data that represent the level layout that the game engine utilizes for rendering its missions in the four player co-op game. It's called Steganography and creator Andy Schatz decided to implement it "for fun" one day.
But what does it mean to you, the Monaco player? Why do you care how Monaco stores its level files?
What's cool about this? Well, when people make their own levels in Monaco and they want to share them, they can just pass around this image file. I can also host an online repository with user-created levels and you will be able to browse through the levels by looking at the level images. You can get a sense for how big the level is, what time of day it is, whether it is well-crafted or not just by looking at this preview.
The really interesting piece in all of this is how it works.
To create the level data Andy is manipulating each 8-bit color. For instance - 1000000 might represent a shade of red. What he's doing is modifying the least significant bits to store his data on each color. So basically he's shifting the color by 1/256 a shade of red to have that one pixel be a 1 or a 0 for his level data. That gets encoded into an image that is 1060x480 pixels or 508,800 total pixels. Still with me?
Since images are RGB that means he has a total of 1,526,400 bits in each image for level data.
Pretty awesome. If you want to see more about it included images of the image level encoding in action hit up Monaco's Facebook page.