Lately I’ve had 3D on the mind. I was speaking to a fine, upstanding gentleman from _futurism about simulated 3D in flash, came across it again in a couple different AS3 discussions, have been reminded of it because of some trig work I’m doing, and also got talking to my friend Ken about it while he tried to finish his old save game of “God of War.”

It’s a really dangerous concept. Lemme explain:

When I think 2D, I can picture some pretty flawless games, many of which are decades old. When I think 3D, much fewer come to mind, and many of them still seem pretty flawed. Maybe there’s some nostalgia tied up in the old 2D, but when I play those games again, I find them genuinely exciting and inspiring. And now and then I find a new 2D for PC or flash that makes me feel the same way.

There’s this idea I’ve seen around quite a bit, and agree with, that video games are tough to produce. That holds the medium back a hell of a lot. They’re tough because they’re so damn complex, with so many dimensions, so many variables, so much to think about and you must think of it all as a single unit, not in pieces. Very demanding.

Then someone comes along and adds another axis. Suddenly our clunky controller or keyboard interface is even less useful because we’re trying to communicate more complicated actions through it. Our comprehension of the game world is severely lessened by a relatively narrow field of view and little or no camera control. A large part of our ability as players has become our perception of an axis that exists completely as an optical illusion, a z-axis pasted over a flat surface.

Personally, I find 3D games to be (on average) worse than 2D games. Even if they show more development talent and experimentation, there seems to be a greater chance of a fatal flaw arising or even total unplayability due to a single mistake in design.

Still, 3D is awesome and I’m glad it’s here to provide more room for experimentation and expression.

Then there’s flash. Honestly, flash has been capable of producing high quality games for years, definitely before AS2 was around. It’s been more powerful than Nintendo for quite a while and Nintendo had plenty of really great games going for it. Now there’s AS2 and soon there will be AS3 capable of so much hardware and software crap I can’t even believe it, but where’s the real advantage? What is it all for? So we can make 3D tech demos?

It is so difficult and rare to find just a simple, well done game in flash. I don’t mean a good “flash game,” but a good GAME game, programmed in flash. Why do we have to jump to 3D and particles and light shading and spring effects? None of that stuff is necessary to make a cool video game. We’ve known that for years.

That’s what worries me. When I look through flash forums and read blogs and play demos and the like, I see so much technology, so much demoing, so much flash, and so few finished products, so few proud designers, such little craftsmanship. If we can’t even get our simple 2D games done right, why are we spending so much energy on an extra dimension? Why are we making things that much more difficult on ourselves?

The answer, I believe, is to never do 3D . . . unless there’s a reason. For that matter, don’t do anything that will complicate development unless there is a specific reason for doing so. Don’t bother with 3D if you’re not prepared to handle the camera and perspectives and collisions. I mean, would you rather have a solid 2D game that everyone says is fantastic, or an okay 3D game that your friends say would be “really cool if the camera worked better.”

I’d much rather play a well done, simple game that any novice programmer could have built; than a badly done, complicated game that required a genius to assemble.

-Christopher J. Rock

About the author:
Christopher J. Rock (http://)
Film student at California State, Long Beach. I want to make the gaming world a better place.
  • ello mate.

    got a new post that you might or might not agree with – would love to know your thoughts though 🙂


  • You have a point about 3d being a problem because it complicates an already complex development process. 3d should be used when necessary. It’s been an interest of mine to do 3d in Flash for years, I’d been planning a lot of ways of faking it. I’ve got a bit of a fetish for 3d games with 2d gameplay, something we’ve seen too little of.

    Now that it’s finally possible for me to accomplish some of my 3d visions in Flash I’m starting to feel that pressure of complexity — Papervision is hard as hell! Which brings the question, is it worth it?

    Personally, I’m driven by the artwork for projects. If I want to give an impression of flying through a dense cityscape, I’d want to pursue a 3d solution.

    What’s important, and a bit more universal is the issue of scope. It’s not limited to 3d. For example, people that like to spend a year building a physics engine when they could’ve just faked it with a GE solution. 😉 The scope of your project should match your solution. While taking into account the future as well — where you’re going to take it next.

    I believe that the scope of my visions are reasonable enough to accomplish, for the most part, because of the art style that I tend to gravitate towards. I draw in a simple cartoon style by choice because I don’t like spending hours drawing complicated artwork.

    A great example is Katamari Damacy of a good balance. A low budget, highly experimental game. The simplistic artwork was not only easy on the game engine, it was a lot cheaper than aiming to make a world as complex as a GTA game.