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Mephs

What perspective do you prefer for platformers?

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I'm thinking about the possibility of taking my idea of a platformer further, but upon consideration of the perspective the gameplay takes, I hear a lot of conflicting views on what makes for the best perspective. 3D platformers to me look the most visually appealing and seem to offer an easy way to make gameplay less linear. Many 3D platformers however seem to suffer from camera problems when in confined areas. This is less of a problem in outdoor environments, but even so, I am aware that for some, a 3D perspective is unintuitive. Many people seem to point out that the gameplay in 3d platformers might actually work better if the game was presented in 2d... is this a valid criticism, or are people viewing 2d platformers through nostalgic rose tinted glasses? 2D platformers tend to have a more retro feel, and tend to be more linear in nature, but there are few, if any issues with camera control as in the most case, the camera is at a fixed viewpoint. My main concern with 2d platformers is that they are generally perceived to be retro or budget games.... there are a few exceptions to the rule, but I wonder how many people would in all honesty go and splash out on a 2d platformer? There is also the option of including a mix of 2d and 3d, with the camera taking a 2d viewpoint, but some level geometry and/or creatures being modelled in 3d as Mario seems to be in the New Super Mario game on the Nintendo DS. This is sometimes expanded with the ability of the player to move in and out of the screen similar to how players could move around in Streets of Rage. This offers some of the visual appeal of a 3d platformer, but still keeps the gameplay somewhat linear. There is the worry of 2d/3d art styles potentially conflicting with one another and there is the arguement of some prefering sprites over 3d geometry and vice versa. I am tending towards the idea of a 2.5d platformer with a mix of 2d and 3d geometry for the levels and 3d models for the characters as I think this would ease some of the burden of content creation, whilst also keeping the physics code involved a little more straightforward. In all honesty, I'd probably prefer to do a fully 3d platformer, but the AI, physics and content generation involved (among other things) looks like it could be overwhelming for a lone developer, or even a small team. If I can think of a way to include a lot of gameplay in a small level though, 3d might be an option. So from the perspective of an Indy developer working alone or in a small team, what perspective would you use? What advantages or disadvantages do you think there are to each perspective? Cheers, Steve

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Gamer Hat
I hate 3D platformers. First-person jumping puzzles are the stupidest game design mechanic ever - even more lame and annoying than magic keycards/door switches. It's not uncommon for me to throw away (or at least cheat through) a game that presents jumping puzzles. A 3D game designed entirely around them (i.e. a platformer) will never get my money. Ever.

Third-person cameras are a tiny bit better, but they still suck. Cameras are impossible to get right, and control schemes are insanely hard to make intuitive for third-person setups. The only case of this I've ever tolerated is Tomb Raider (the first, and recently Legends - but only because it was free) and even there I found dozens of places where the apparent camera angle and controls needed for solving a puzzle simply didn't work. I quit playing Legends out of extreme frustration after a while; it just sucks to press what seems to be the right keys and watch your character fall through a ledge or warp through a rope.

In general, 3D platformers were a nice theory back in the early 90's when we didn't actually have any to play. They've had 10 years worth of chances, and they still suck. I think that's indicative more of the genre's inherent shortcomings than anything else.

Conclusion: go 2D.


Programmer Hat
Designing 3D environments is much harder. Programming 3D environments is much harder. Getting quality 3D art is more work. First person platformers are just icky (residue from the Gamer Hat) and third-person cameras are damn hard.

Conclusion: go 2D. Whether you go sprite-based or using a side-projection camera is really up to you.

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Buissiness hat:
Graphically 2D is (rightly or wrongly) considered 'inferior' to 3D by the great unwashed, regardless of how well the game actually plays. This really depends what your market and aims are - trying to sell a 2d game to joe shmoe on a PS2 is going to fail badly (note this only applies to graphics, it can have 2d gameplay and they won't care).

Compare and contrast with the more casual/indie pc shareware market, where 3d is viewed as intimidating and will scare a lot of people off. And a whole load of people who remember 2d platformers and will actually judge how your game plays rather than how it looks.

Of course if you're not looking to sell your game you can probably ignore the above. [grin]

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3D platformers to me look the most visually appealing and seem to offer an easy way to make gameplay less linear. Many 3D platformers however seem to suffer from camera problems when in confined areas.


When i think of 3D platformers i think of Klonoa 2, which had great gameplay and a good static camera, though progression was linear.

I think that 3D camera perspectives can work pretty good, especially when you look at popular titles like Spyro, Jak & Dexter, Megaman Legends, and Sly Fox (they wouldn't make so many sequels to em if they didn't do something right). 2D programming however is easier than 3D programming, though the art can be just as difficult to produce for 2D or 3D.

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Something to think about...Most everyone agrees that the 2D Castlevania games were an order of magnatude better then the N64 3D effort...Really it depends on the game mechanics

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My favourite genre of game is probably 3D platformers. The likes of Mario 64, Banjo Kazooie and many more sit very highly in my all time fav games. The camera could get a little funky in places this is true, but in newer games such as Mario Sunshine (although the game wasn't as fun as Mario 64) the camera is damn near perfect and if you regard Zelda games as a form of 3D platformer, then the camera system in Wind Waker is (imo) perfect.

However, I am of the strong belief that 3D platformers will never work well with a keyboard and mouse (likewise fps games with a pad just don't feel right) so if your target audience is the PC, then I would advise against 3D platformers as 2D still kicks ass and is more keyboard friendly [smile]

All the best,
ViLiO

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I think that 2D and 3D platformers need to be looked at as two entirely different genres. 2D platformers have a certain gameplay: they center around lots of jumping, very tight controls, the need for accurate movement, lots of vertical mobility, and the ability to easily see everything around you at once.

3D platformers that try to do this fail. The ones that remain fun need to constrain their gameplay a lot: jumping is less frequent and often somewhat automated, accurate movement becomes less important and targeting is often also automated, there aren't as many vertical parts in the levels, and you have a very hard time seeing what's behind you or off to the sides, so the entire enemy attack methods become different.

Both types are fun, but I think there's a pretty big divide in fandom; some people love 2D and hate 3D, some love 3D and hate 2D, since the entire gameplay experience changes so drastically. This is different than a genre like RPG or RTS, where the actual gameplay doesn't have to change that much when you switch between 2D and 3D.

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Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter, Spyro the Dragon, Ratchet and Clank, and Super Mario 64 -- these series set the standard for what makes 3D platformers. If you haven't played at least some of them, you have no business making a platformer.

I like 3D when it's done well. Doing it well is hard. Really freaking hard. It's also really easy to blow it and destroy the game completely, even with simple things. 3D is great if you can pull it off, but don't underestimate the challenge. Making a 3D platformer work will take a lot of extreme care to do right.

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From what I've seen a lot of casual, younger gamers are awed more by graphics than anything else. They will decide they want a game and buy it if they see nice screenshots. Anything that isn't 3D is considered sub-par without even giving it a try.

On the other hand, I (and I'm sure there are others) value how the game plays over almost every other aspect. I feel with newer console systems a lot of 3D graphics actually detract from the gameplay. A lot of gaming styles work much better, and are more fun to play with 2D gameplay. For example, I think Mario Bros and the Zelda games for NES/SNES were/are much more fun than the newer, fancier 3D versions of those games. I got bored with Zelda for the N64 MUCH sooner than the SNES version.

One possible approach would be use 2D gameplay, even go as far as making it a true side scroller, but use 3D models and environment. Personally I'm sad that everyone feels they need to go all out 3D to sell games (ofcourse getting Sony, MS or Nintendo to approve a 2D game wouldn't be easy either).

I'd love to see some good old fashioned side scrolling platformers designed for newer console systems that take advantage of all the eye candy processing power that is available on these systems. I doubt it will happen though.

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Original post by Promit
Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter, Spyro the Dragon, Ratchet and Clank, and Super Mario 64 -- these series set the standard for what makes 3D platformers.


Of those, I have only played Crash and Spyro, but I do recall that Crash is an essentially 1D game, much like the original Super Mario Bros in terms of gameplay but with 3D rendered graphics (and of course, the various added features that makes Crash such a great series). I think this confirms Dranith's point that it's graphics, more than anything else, which sells a platformer. After all, there's a limit to how innovative you can be with gameplay which focusses on jumping on things.

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The differences are huge and many, and I adore excellent examples from both disciplines. Mario 64 may be my favorite video game of all time, though. It was an unapologetic video game, perfectly willing to transform into a 2D game when it was appropriate to do so, and no so hung up on graphics and scenery that it compromised its excellent camera system to favor vistas over a useful view of the action. Excellent game. If you make one that good, I'll send you money.

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Quote:
Original post by Robin S
Quote:
Original post by Promit
Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter, Spyro the Dragon, Ratchet and Clank, and Super Mario 64 -- these series set the standard for what makes 3D platformers.


Of those, I have only played Crash and Spyro, but I do recall that Crash is an essentially 1D game, much like the original Super Mario Bros in terms of gameplay but with 3D rendered graphics (and of course, the various added features that makes Crash such a great series). I think this confirms Dranith's point that it's graphics, more than anything else, which sells a platformer. After all, there's a limit to how innovative you can be with gameplay which focusses on jumping on things.
Ok I probably should've left Crash out.

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the fixed camera system in PoP: SoT was almost ok-ish. It got stuck at times, but allowed you to always follow the action from the best place. The most important part was that it allowed you to fail being perfect, and still play the dangerous parts of the game. You could very well trip on a corniche, but you would hang from it, after catching the edge. The only really dangerous part was when you would be trying to swing from one moving object to another. Like always, it only required timing, and you learned that really fast, but it still grabbed my guts when I knew how tight my window for that jump would be.

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I'm a big fan of side scrolling platformers built in a 3D engine. Two of the more recent games that have pulled this off successfully would be the Megaman remakes for the PSP (MM1 and X1). It's the direction I'm using for my own project and while it's not as simlpe as a full, 2d tile-based system, once you get the hang of building 3D levels in '2D' space, you will find it's a really advantageous setup. Best of both worlds, in my opinion.

Now, will it sell or appeal to a broad audience? That's for someone with a marketing hat to worry about :)

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Im a big fan of 3D scenery with 2D platforming. 2D movement and interaction is extremely easy to grasp, while 3D scenery can help give the game some needed depth.

Its what I wish they would have done for the metroid series, instead of using the FPS perspective where the movement and interaction gets muddled.

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What is your target audience and vibe of your game?

In my experience, 3d vs 2d generally has a large effect on the style of the game. To do a 3d platformer well without it looking or feeling awkward often ends up with a cartoonish and/or childish design for the art and controls. To do a more realistic and darker themed game is certainly possible, but presents a lot of problems in 3d. 2d on the other hand is simpler, and is more flexible in terms of what you can efficiently produce without it seeming awkward or jarring.

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