Every year, new breakthroughs make for ever more detailed 3D graphics. What started out with the Quake and Doom engines have given us the likes Frostbite 2, CryEngine 3, and Unreal Engine 3 – giving us high performance graphics rendering that makes 3D look *almost* real. The combined effort of which has been to make 3D the “in” thing ever since it came out.
In the face of it all, one would expect 2D to be relegated to the video game museums, or at least to indies just starting out in game development. While the second has indeed happened, 2D has not died out at all; it’s game hanging in there from the dawn of video games.The indie revolution has only made it more popular, making it acceptable for hardcore gamers to be seen playing 2D games. As a prime example, we have Limbo on the Xbox360. Not only is it on the bocks-exckss, it’s the number one indie selling title. Contrary to what you might think when you see the latest games, 2D has not, and will never, die out.
The reasons for my confidence? Read on.
1) We’ve mastered 2D. The game industry has come a long, loooong way since the days of Pong. We’re now at a state where pretty much anything you imagine in 2D can be built, which allows for some pretty awesome stuff – like the new Rayman by Ubisoft, or Shank by Klie Entertainment / EA. The industry’s mastery of 2D means that if the entry barrier into 2D game development has been reduced to almost nothing [we live in the age of Game Maker and Unity, after all]. Follow this train of thought logically and we get more high-quality 2D indie games than the entire industry in the 80’s. The knowledge, the “how-to-make” is already out there.
2) It’s easier to express yourself in 2D. No kidding, Sherlock. While 3D is pretty much the only thing if you’re building the next Deus Ex, it’s a fact of life that it’s far easier for a developer to get his/her ideas out cleanly in the 2D medium. A lot of wonderful RPGs would never have been done in 3D – hey, we don’t all work a Square Enix. Fact: it’s easier to make a 2D game. Lesser budget, lower development time and effort. Turn anything 3D and the effort required multiplies astronomically.
This loosely applies to art styles as well. Imagine Rayman Origins in 3D. It would have looked awesome. It would have been epic. It would also have been a nightmare to build. And as for playing, I wonder how that’ll go. Shank, for example, is much better off in 2D than in 3D. . It’s the art style, which fits in perfectly with the 2D side view.
3) It’s a different type of game.
Ever noticed how view good 3D puzzle platformers there are, compared to the number of 2D ones? While there’s no arguing with GlaDOS, the fact is that 2D is in many cases suited far better to platforming, while 3D is the best at pushing the player into intense action like racing or getting shot in the face. This works both ways; GTA V in 2D would NOT have been good at all compared to the 3D thing – but there are certain genres which lend themselves better to 2D.
So if you’re an indie developer, don’t be disheartened; there’ always a place in this world for 2D. If it’s good enough, like Limbo [or the Maze, haha] , that place is gonna be pretty damn big.