My brother is making all the software for the game. He has made a map editor that is still missing a bunch of stuff, and still has some issues that need to be sorted out. But it works enough to make some test maps and for me to actually see how a bunch the stuff I made so far works and looks in game.
I made a test map and took some screen shots of the progress so you can get a sense of all the little pieces that come together to get what you see.
Here's the finished product (ignore the numbers in the top left and those lines with the glowey ball at the right and bottom those are just some of the map editor controls) If you click on the image to look at the full size image it is zoomed out to 33% (to give you an idea of the scale).
First I make some parts water and some parts land. you can really see the tiles here and the water looks jaggedy.
Next I smooth out the contour of the water with some part land / part water tiles.
After that I make the ground more varied. My tiles were created in gradients and the map editor automatically enforces the gradients. It makes it much more difficult to see the tiles
Then I added map objects. The map objects are independent of the ground tile system. They don't adhere to the edges of the tiles at all, I just place things where I think they look good.
The last step is to add ground cover. A bunch of these objects are animated in game. including the water. We don't have sprites in the editor yet, or their dialogue. But I could make a series of linked maps and import them into the game and run around.