Lunchtime Discussion: Dimensions

Recently I’ve been playing a lot of Sonic the Hedgehog and it’s sequel for the Master System. Sound familiar? Bear with me, it’s still a useful point to start from. Remember way back to the days of Sonic when pretty much every game was in 2D. Sure there were a few games that made an attempt at doing stuff in 3D, but for the most part you got a 2D game and you were happy about it!

Now I’m aware that some of our younger readers might not actually understand what a 2D game is, after all they’ve been brought up in an age where 3D graphics are thrown about like confetti at a wedding. See 2D was when you could only move your character side to side, and up and down (unless you were playing space invaders). There was none of this fancy moving towards stuff in the distance, oh no. No the distance was for parallax scrolling and things that looked way cooler than the stuff you got to fight, just like the backgrounds in Marvel vs. Capcom 3.

Apart from a few downloadable titles, pretty much every title these days takes place in a 3D world. There are still some gems like LittleBigPlanet that do incredible thing with only two dimensions, but for the most part we play in a 3D world these days and I’m not really sure we’re better off for it.


Sure, some would argue that they make the world feel more ‘real’ and make it more immersive, opening up a lot more gameplay possibilities. The downside to this is 3D worlds are harder to create, the character models alone are a huge increase in work. By no means am I saying that developers are being lazy if they take an ‘easy’ option when building 3D models, but the simple fact of the matter is that 2D sprites are easier to create than a 3D model. The quicker and easier the creation process is, the more time there is to come up with something fresh and original.

With all the taken into account do you feel that 3D games have made it harder to innovate? They haven’t exactly stiffled it, but compared to the things that indie developers pull off exceptionally quickly with a 2D engine the mainstream industry seems slow and juddering. What’s your take?



  1. 1st point, i wouldnt say that LBP is 2D, side scroller yes but still 3D.
    all i can say about 2D & 3D is that i prefer 3D (in most cases), i still remember the feeling of when i saw gta3-D that was something special.

    But with the “3D” as it is now (as in jump out the screen 3D), i cant see me adopting it any time soon, for films yes but not gaming, i would have no eyes left

    • That was a deffining moment in gaming for me too! Going from the ace top down GTA’s and then playing GTA3 thinking, how are they going to make this work and being amazed is in my top 5 favourite gaming moments of all time. Also without 3D we wouldn’t have FPS games Wolfenstein and then doom, created this genre by going for a 3D game.

  2. SEU’s rarely beenfit from extra dimensions. The last R-type on the PS2 just had polygons to make it look posh. Having said that Space Invaders Infinity Gene is a good example of how to implement a third dimesnion in what is essentially a 2D game.

    • That’s a far more succinct way of expressing what I was bleating about below.

  3. For the record, you’d be surprised at how few wedding venues actually allow confetti these days!

    As for the 2D/3D debate, I would agree that innovation tends to shine through on 2D games in particular but I’d suggest that the whole world of 3D gamin limits the potential gameplay aspects. I mean (and I might open up a bit of a can here) when I think of the 3D games I have played recently, they pretty much just involve “running, jumping, shooting and driving” or other tasks which could be carried out in a heightened real life world.

    These limits do not apply with 2D games, 2D opens up the possibilities of puzzles, strategy games, even board games. 3D elements in these games rarely add anything that could not be achieved in a 2D environment. A 3D puzzler I can think of from the top of my head is cuboid, which I’m certain could be made in 2D with a bit of savvy design.

  4. 2D/3D – in my opinion is more a question of context and control than innovation or improvement.

    I’m here embracing the whole Move/3D thing, and am enjoying the kind of revalation that people have talked about with GTA going from 2D to 3D. There’s SO much potential!

    But I don’t think that AAA 3D game is worse than a classic 2D game – it’s just usually more complicated.

    And that’s where controls come in.

    Classic case – Adventure games (point and click), Monkey Island, DOTT etc. AMAZING – loved them all… haven’t been replicated very well in the 3rd dimension.
    Is this down to the story – possibly
    Is this down to the comedy – maybe
    Is this down to the graphics – a little

    No… It’s the controls. The extra dimension gives the ability for the developer to give all kinds of freedom to the player… but this freedom (unless executed well) can work against the whole experience.
    I absoloutely loved Grim Fandango… but the control system for moving Manny around sucked more than anything!
    I thought that Heavy Rain was incredible (and the Move integration is interesting), but the characters still steer like a tank, and suck the ‘lifelike’ aspect out of the game.

    Let’s face it – Mario/Sonic/etc were great, and for every classic, there were 10s or 100s of poor clones that didn’t stick in our memories. But were they made great because they didn’t really have much complexity and only needed a few buttons?

    I’d LOVE to play a good 3D Sonic game. The 3D Mario’s are brilliant, and innovative – they’re not as ‘perfect’ as some of their 2D incarnations, but they have SO much more to contend with (multiple gravitational sources). When these games flip to a 2D plane (which seems like a popular trait at the moment), the simplification makes the game much easier to control, and removes any of the previous frustration.

    A good example of this is the 2D (although 3D rendered) sections of Mario Galaxy, and New Super Mario Brothers Wii (all 2D, but 3D rendered). I think anyone would be hard pressed to say that any of the ‘classic’ Marios are superior. The same maybe, but there’s nothing negative to say about these sections.

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