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The Comparative Value of 2-D Vs. 3-D Graphics In Games 107

Posted by Soulskill
from the tetris-vs-quake dept.
GameSetWatch is running a feature discussing the value of graphics styles in games. The authors point out that while certain genres, such as first-person shooters, benefited immensely from the advent of 3-D graphics, some types of games didn't handle the transition as well. A player's perspective, and his interaction with the game's camera, can often make or break an otherwise excellent release. "Before making the full jump to 3D, many genres made a move from classic 2D to isometric 2D as an intermediary step. For example, the original Civilization had a traditional top-down grid view while Civ 2 had a three-quarters isometric view. While this new perspective gave the game world a more life-like appearance, the change did come at a cost to the user's game experience. Namely, distances are much more difficult to judge on an isometric grid as the east-west axis takes up twice as many pixels as the north-south axis. To solve this problem, for Civ 4, our 3D perspective actually hearkened back to the original game as we showed the game's grid straight ahead and not at an angle. The easier the players perceive the grid through the graphics, the better they can 'see' their possible decisions."
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The Comparative Value of 2-D Vs. 3-D Graphics In Games

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  • by ShakaUVM (157947) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @01:05AM (#25881897) Homepage Journal

    >>Age of Empires and Age of Empires II is a great example of this. A great game that goes down the crapper in later versions trying to "go 3D."

    You mean Age of Empires III, right? I and II were 2D.

    And, yeah, I totally agree. Moving to 3D made the game worse.

    Along the same lines, I'd say that Super Mario 3 was better than the Super Mario for the N64, but game companies always have to have the latest buzzwords or they think people won't buy it (and they may be right -- I bought Force Unleashed for the PS3 instead of the Wii since the Wii's resolution is so blocky).

    While the main reason people do 3D instead of 2D sprite games these days is that 1) 3D scales (you don't have to have individual artwork for each resolution level) and 2) You don't have to animate each frame individually, you can do "2D" games that are actually 3D, but presented in such a way that the player doesn't need to worry about depth. Civ IV did a very nearly perfect job with this, with the exception that when you zoomed out, it sucked the map back onto a globe which obscured most of the map you were trying to zoom out to look at.

  • Re:"hearkened?" (Score:3, Informative)

    by RuBLed (995686) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @01:35AM (#25882035)
    Well it seems that Soulskill is keeping up with his Bible reading...

    Joking aside, here's the definition [merriam-webster.com].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @01:51AM (#25882133)

    This will reinforce and reiterate the above. If you bring it down to the basics, it's mostly a question of style vs. functionality.

    You can have a 2D game that looks 3D. (Pre-rendered sprites, etc.) And game play will still be pretty much as it was without the 3D look. So it's a style choice, and if done well it can make things look nice.

    Likewise, you could have a 3D game that has the render engine set up to produce cartoon lines and cell-shading. Yet it's obvious from the mechanics and gameplay that it's built on a 3D engine.

    The thing that should be considered first and foremost is the mechanics. Will 3D space benefit the gameplay, or will it water it down or make it too hard or confusing? If not, just make a 2D game but give it the 3D look (if desired) via the artwork. Going the other way is even more of a style choice. Cell shading can look wierd based on the light dynamics or color pallette, so it's actually more things to work out on the content side design wise. Although if you're doing something based off an existing comic or cartoon with an established look, the cell-shading might not be a bad idea.

  • by EvolutionsPeak (913411) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @05:19AM (#25883525)

    In all fairness, you can pretty easily ignore the camera component of War3 and get along just fine.

  • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @05:21AM (#25883541)

    I have to disagree with you.

    I'm a VFX artist so I use a lot of 3D to solve problems. And I also use a LOT of 2D to solve problems.

    First. You can have one sprite rotate an infinite number of degrees without ever entering the third dimension. If it's an isometric top down view. Just rotate the sprite. There. Done. A "Sprite for each direction" has been outdated for decades. Next you're going to be saying we need a unique sprite for every screen position. ;) I kid I kid.

    Secondly. I think that we're extremely under utilizing our super fast graphics optimized desktop systems and consoles. Pre-Rendered content will by and large look better. It can be put onto a render farm and baked for days on end. We have gigs of ram and 7200rpm hard drives. Our systems can easily handle a gorgeous super sampled sprite with 10,000 frames of animation. I think sprites are under appreciated. Load up Baldur's Gate 2. It still looks great. I'm terribly addicted to Fallout 3. But Fallout 2 still looks pretty good 10 years later. That's thanks to sprites. I would love to see some HDRI sprites rendered with silky smooth animation. Especially for Turnish based games.

    Third. And by this point I'm pretty much not even responding to your post just rambling FYI in case you're trying to figure out what I'm responding to... :) 2D allows you to cheat things much easier. You can pour detail into 2D. You can't pour detail into 3D. Because everything has to "work". Want to increase the detail on a building in the background in 2D? No problem have a matte painter touch it up in an hour or two. Want to increase the detail on a building in the background in 3D? Well... now you have to actually put in that detail... and make it work. It's infinitely more difficult to cheat.

    Lastly 2D lets you get infinitely more stylistic. In 3D everything has to be procedural. It goes back to having to be "right" and actually "work". A painterly style requires a nightmare of work in 3D. In 2D it's easy. You paint it.

    Even if we could render out of Renderman, Mental Ray or Brazil right now in real time games still wouldn't look as good as movies without the final 2D Polish. It's the composite that can take a shot that in 3D rendered out looking like a video game and sell it as photo-real.

    2D is the underutilized and under appreciated workhorse that I think needs to be re-evaluated by game companies. 2D has come a long way just as 3D has. There isn't a false dichotomy between "Modern 3D Game" and "SNES looking game". You can have a 2D Game which is visually more photoreal than a 3D game. And you can have a 3D Game which is more stylized than a 2D Game.

    There is no "VS" there is just pragmatic implementation of what works best.

  • by KDR_11k (778916) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @07:57AM (#25884405)

    I don't think Zelda was very cinematic before it turned 3d, it was less linear and more about exploration.

    Phantom Hourglass was way better than the 3d Zeldas though too damn easy. Then again, all somewhat recent Zeldas are too damn easy since the damage you take doesn't grow much while your HP and the healing items you carry increase a lot and in any Zelda after the first two there are tons of breakable things to get hearts from instead of having to beat up enemies to get health back.

IF I HAD A MINE SHAFT, I don't think I would just abandon it. There's got to be a better way. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.

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