Reading a map from a file is a good idea, but it requires a StringTokenizer and stuff, not to mention an application to (easily) edit and generate the file. I find it easier to take an image (gif) and read it pixel-by-pixel, and generate the landscape based on the rgb values of the pixels. The applet below is reading from this image:
The brown pixel (middle of the nose) is where the chest is. The black pixel (near the bottom middle) is the center of the view when the applet starts. Think of the view as a moving rectangle (the bounds of the applet) going over the loaded image. Here's a table of what is generated according to what pixel color:
It's smart to use PIxelGrabber for looking at each pixel, but if you're not worrying about being compatible with JVM1.1 then you can use the easier BufferedImage's getRGB(x,y) method. Here's the applet:
Press your arrowkeys to move around. You'll notice it's just a tile-based map generated from that gif file. Basically it's an extremely nicer looking scaled version of the gif.
If you want the source to the applet, you can find it here. Hope this helps you!