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BlinksTale

Do 2d-to-3d transitions need to maintain the same number of user-managed-variables?

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Here's a trick we've seen in a good deal of major titles, and not in others: should 2d to 3d transitions maintain the number of variables the player has to deal with? In a 2d Mario game, we have X, Y and direction (touching with head vs. feet). In Super Mario Galaxy, we have X, Z and spinning (either spinning or not spinning). This has created one of the best feeling 3d Mario games to date, and all segments that require platforming switch from an X/Z view to an X/Y one, rarely if ever X/Y and Z (isometric, standard third person, etc). In a 2d Zelda game, we have X, Z, direction (facing right dir or not) and sword (swinging/not swinging). In a 3d Zelda game, we have X, Z, lockon (locked or not) and sword (swinging/not swinging). In a 2d Metroid game, we have X, Y, direction and sometimes how close you are to the enemy. In a 3d Metroid game, we have X, Z, direction and sometimes how close you are to the ground (dodging ground shocks). In a 2d Sonic game, we have X, Y, and ball (curled or uncurled). In a 3d Sonic game, we have in the air, and then basically press A to destroy the enemy, except in the platforming segments where we have X, Y and Z. Metal Gear Solid was basically a direct translation of 2d into 3d with a bunch more to keep things interesting and revolutionize game cinematics. Bionic Commando seems to be disregarding distance as a variable so that now we just have to worry about the X/Y location of the target on the screen, much like worrying about our X/Y position in the original game in relation to the target. This idea of a series of variables that we have to worry about making the transition from 2d to 3d and staying consistent seems to be recurring. With it, and I note that this is probably only one of many important features (including camera management of course), games seem to make brilliant transitions and still feeel familiar and maintain their fun side, but without it, games seem to make sloppy transitions and lose a lot of their audience. So, can you guys think of any more examples, or flaws in this argument? I believe it will help a great deal for future game development, but I need to figure out just what it is that makes these transitions work so well or fail so horribly. It's a tricky subject.

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I haven't played the titles you mention so I can't comment on them, but one thing your post brought to mind was Defender. I don't know if it's a variable per se, but situational awareness seems to me to be a big factor in making these transitions work. In many of the 2d games, it's possible to grasp your situation in the blink of an eye because it's all laid out in front of you. When you introduce the need for 360 degree awareness, it quickly can complicate the game to the point of frustration. (I experience this with a lot of 3d space flight sims versus the 2d space games of old.)

I don't think there's a set formula you can reduce this to, though. Often I think it's a good idea to lock the camera and/or design the level to mimic the threat awareness required by a 3d game's 2d cousin-- but then, I'm an old fashioned gamer so take that with a grain of salt.

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