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distilledwater71

2D vs 3D for a solo programmer

18 posts in this topic

Hello everyone. I would like to know your thoughts on which type of game, 2D or 3D, would be easier for a single programmer to make well. Story is the most important aspect of a game to me, so I do not have a preference for either 2D or 3D, I just want to go with whichever one is easier and will give me less stress and technical problems in the end.

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Depends on your experience. Are you an experienced 3d programmer or a 2d one. If the latter do 2D if you want to finish quickly as 3D will end up being a steep learning curve. 

 

 

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To be honest, both can be difficult. I think overall though, 3D is harder. If you're going to make something very story based in 3D, eventually you'll have to deal with creating, loading, and animating 3D models. Basically it all comes down to your goal. Do you want to make something quickly, or do you want to learn.

If you have limited game programming experience, creating a 2D or 3D game from scratch could take a long time either way. If this will be your first project and want to start from scratch, go 2D.

If you want to make something quickly in 2D, try game maker or rpg maker. If you want to make something quickly in 3D, find an engine. If you make it from scratch, unless you have a lot of experience, just coding the basics could take up to a year from my experience.
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If you use an engine, there's not much difference. All the logic will be there for you, but I guess you want to write everything yourself.

Then I'm afraid 3D is going to be more difficult. Just try to draw why a bug happens, with the collision vectors in 3D. Now do the same with a 2D system. Anyone thinking this is not more difficult clearly has never took a shot at it!

 

Personally I suggest to have a try with 2D first, it seems there's a large "retro-wannabe"  community you might be able to tap on. To be honest, I think 2D minimality is ideal for story driven games.

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 I would like to know your thoughts on which type of game, 2D or 3D, would be easier for a single programmer to make well.

 

Answer it yourself by answering this question:

 

Am I any good at making 3D Art? (Animation, Models, UV Mapping) or could I Put the Time into learning how to-do this.

 

If your art skills are like mine (almost non-existent) then forget 3D, it adds far too much overhead graphics wise to make a game "well".

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If you're using a game engine, it doesn't matter so much, They will have all the 3d math functions already made, collisions, maybe physics, etcetera 

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It depends on how you are developing your game.   It is much easier to develop a 3D game in Unity or UDK than it is to write your own cross platform 2D games engine.

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I do not want to write the engine myself. I would gladly use an engine that already exists. With that in mind, would 3D still be more difficult to program than 2D?

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In general 3d is more difficult to handle than 2d, simply due to the added axis.  General programming parts of games suddenly have an added level of complexity.  Any vector math has the additional axis.  You go from simple top-down rotations to possibly needing quaternions (or some other measure) to avoid gimble lock, if this applies to your game.

 

But, some general concepts are the same. For example, for platformers, if you use a form of raycasting to check if your character is on the ground, you can likely follow the same method in 3d.  The calculations will be more complicated due to the 3rd axis, but the concept is the same.

 

Lastly, and I'm guessing you already know this, the art is usually more complicated.  Depending on the artist, some are better with 2d, and some with 3d.  For example, I've never gotten to where I can pixel much of anything, but I can model "acceptably" at least.  The other thing is that generally, more is expected of 3d games, since that is currently the "norm."  It seems that there is less acceptance of "programmer" art than with 2d.  Also, 2d games can more easily be "stylized" like neon style, or the desktop picture thing I've seen somewhere...this doesn't exist easily in 3d.  So you will likely have to make more "real" art instead of something stylized.

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I think another way to look at this question is to not talk about 2d v 3d at all. 

 

Do you have an idea for a game you want to make?  You should probably start there... if you aren't thinking of anything in particular right now, its very possible whatever idea you come up with it will lend itself well to one or the other.  Think of other games that are similar to the game you want to make.  Try to find other games that have an art style that you think would work well for your game and decide if you think you'd be able to emulate that style with some degree of success.

 

In other words, let your game dictate what you want to do.

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Don't forget the art. Art in 3D can be very difficult to make.

 

Oooh... I just read that and cringed. The difficulty of art is too subjective. If someone could consider a connect the dots picture as art, then I don't really think adding one extra dimension changes a lot. Import a proportionate human or whatever you like to a 3D editor and then modify a few bumps, export, done, same rules apply within 2D.


This whole thread and not just the original question has caught my eye. So I may accidentally include a response that is more relevant to someone else who made a comment.

Graphics
Freely imported graphics and/or very rudimentary shapes will cover basic image needs. You're just going to want to worry about where you'll get your graphics from, or how free is free while you browse.

Why wouldn't you just draw your own stuff? The curse of knowledge is why, look it up. The curse of custom art can be an adaptation, unless you're a professional artist, by the time you're done drawing you'll be in love and have one point of view no matter how sloppy discolored and hard to see it is, and it'll be crystal clear (to you), and you might think anyone with a different opinion is blind/deaf.

Game Logic
Someone mentioned collision, or handling the extra axis. I'm a bit of a game fan, I know plenty of 3D games that have absolutely no interaction involving the character lifting off of the ground, or aiming. Low realism may apply when needed. Someone could make a 2D logic game that uses 3D rendering, in fact I know games that have precisely that. Those were made by experienced game developers who knew what they wanted, retro games and newly innovated games alike. You may pocket that and take it to the bank for withdrawal if you ever worry about game feels or looks.

Impact on gameplay
I have thought of a common error, but it's not really up to how many dimensions there are. From experience added elements mean more work. A first step to limit elements, boxing the player in is probably the best answer, it helps by sterilizing and limiting your player's environment. Then you're able to direct the player however you like.

Leading to my next point, when you have nearly infinite elements. If you work in 3D an open world can occur accidentally if you decided to stick with a vast landscape. The result for a player is usually getting lost, forgetting any story, sequence breaking, or criticizing quality issues as they reach the edge of the map and fall off, if this goes on too long, gradual boredom until they reset the game and try again or quitting will occur; it is very possible to get angry at a game, because you can't tell if there was any effort put into it.

Programming with a toaster oven
If you're really technologically crippled while designing your game this will make a huge difference. Waiting to load and render will slow down progress. This could happen if you don't keep things utterly simple. Were that the case you'd be graphically limited by a 3d space, and you'd need to get the simplest possible 3D models or just stick to shapes.

I think that covers it
I can cite some game references if anyone's into that. This concludes my comparison of 2D and 3D for a programmer / game designer. I can't come up with a recommendation based on my own observations. Maybe if you have more of a taste for designing 2D or 3D that will be the key to what is easier, what interests you.
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Don't forget the art. Art in 3D can be very difficult to make.


Oooh... I just read that and cringed. The difficulty of art is too subjective. If someone could consider a connect the dots picture as art, then I don't really think adding one extra dimension changes a lot. Import a proportionate human or whatever you like to a 3D editor and then modify a few bumps, export, done, same rules apply within 2D.
You are right. The difficulty of is is very subjective. That's why I said that it CAN BE more difficult. I think you have many very good points. When I looked at the original post, there really wasn't much information, but if someone asks which is better 2D or 3D, they probabaly haven't done either. But, anyway, the whole nature of the post was really to ask opinions because to some 3D is just easier to them than 2D and vice versa. And you are right, it's possible to download and adjust models just like you can 2D art.

I find that when it comes making art, 3D has a steeper learning curve. MS paint is much easier than any 3D art package, but once you learn 3D, it becomes much easier. As to the poster's original question, to make a game quickly, I feel that 2D is easier. There's just a lot to learn when it comes to 3D.

Edit: Then again, if the poster just wants to make a framework of a game and then later get an artist, making the artwork is a moot point.
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I do not want to write the engine myself. I would gladly use an engine that already exists. With that in mind, would 3D still be more difficult to program than 2D?

Good to read that you are making a game and not an engine. There is a significant difference between writing a 3D engine and a 2D engine, but assuming you have a good engine, the only major differences become the art and spatial manipulation.


Note that it is not easy to build a game. Even simple hobby games can require hundreds of hours of work, and polished hobby games frequently require several thousand hours of work from an experienced developer.

Difficulty must be measured on that scale. If you are already investing one or more years into making a game, how much more difficult is 2D than 3D?


Assuming you have an existing and solid engine in place already, both 2D and 3D engines will basically have functions to play animations, functions to move things around, functions to add and remove objects from the world, and to otherwise handle game management tasks. In that regard there is very little difference between the two.

Again assuming an solid engine, some of the math is a little bit more complex. You need to have a reasonable understanding of linear algebra if you are going to manipulate things in 3D space, you only need geometry to move things in 2D space. There is some difference, but it isn't much of a difference when you consider the scale of a game. The extent of the difference is mostly a matter of your game design and how far your design deviates from the engine's functionality.

The art is the biggest difference. Creating tens of thousands of sprites is tedious and labor intensive, and is not inexpensive if you choose to contract it out. Creating models and textures and animations in 3D is somewhat less labor intensive, less expensive, and usually much faster.

Finally, as was touched on by a few posts, you need to consider the nature of the game. A game like Braid was a game designed around replaying the level backward and forward over time; doing this in 2D means recording and replaying much less data then a 3D world. Physics-driven games typically require dynamic motion and animation, such a thing is better suited for a 3D game since it is unlikely your 2D pixel artists can reasonably draw all such combinations.


Any path you follow will have difficulties. 2D or 3D is just one implementation detail among thousands. It is more about choosing a set of difficulties that gives you the best chance to complete your project.
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In my experience 3D is just as difficult as 2D games. With 3D you will have to worry about z axis coordinates as well as the usual x and y axis coordinates in your traditional 2D games. There are a number of questions you have to factor in such as: which language you are using, do you have the resources required and if not can you obtain them, how much experience do you have with programming game engines, how are your mathematical skills, and the list just goes on and on.

 

If you are just starting out, I highly recommend 2D. 3D requires much more work, yes I said they can be just as difficult as the other, but 2D is the place to start.

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I find that when it comes making art, 3D has a steeper learning curve. MS paint is much easier than any 3D art package, but once you learn 3D, it becomes much easier. As to the poster's original question, to make a game quickly, I feel that 2D is easier. There's just a lot to learn when it comes to 3D.

 

I have always found it easier to create 3D art than 2D art ... to the extent that when I was developing 2D games I would create models in 3D, ray trace them and then use these images as the basis for creating the sprites.  And now that I am coding 3D games the hardest bit for me in creating the art assets is the texturing of the models.  

 

From my own experience the question is more what type of artwork do you want.  Personally I find 'industrial' art (buildings, vehicles, robots, whatever) relatively straight forward, but 'organic' art (humans, monsters, animals) more difficult (even before getting onto the not at all trivial task of animating these models).  

 

In the end the art work and the 2D vs 3D question comes down to your own objectives and strengths and weaknesses - to start play to your strengths but also aim for something that you would find rewarding.  In my case the relative ease I found in creating 3D models (when compared to 2D sprites) plus the desire to move on from 2D to 3D led me to developing isometric games - can take out some of the pain of handling things in three dimensions while still visually ticking a lot of the boxes for me.

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