One of the initial questions in game development are whether to use 2D or 3D graphics. Some people say that one should use 2D because it’s easier, simpler or something that beginner developers just should stick with.
In my opinion, 2D games are not easier and simpler to understand than 3D. I think that 3D graphics should NOT be used just the sake of using 3D graphcis. There are AAA titles that would be much more playable using 2D art. If there are massive number of items and functions, then 3D graphics might slow down the game too much in order to be playable. It’s a shame that there are not many 2D adventure games from big companies (but luckily indies are still doing it), I think Monkey Island and Full Throttle (and others) were great as they used 2D.
But there are good reasons for using 3D. I list some of them:
– I simply think 3 dimensional gets you immersed in the game better than 2D. This is purely a matter of opinion, and it doesn’t mean that 2D looks worse. It means only that the 3 dimensional world is something I like.
– 3D physics gives you the option to use physics in great way. If you need to model a ball that would roll on any direction, 3D gives you this option easily. In a 3 dimensional world that’s possible, but not in 2D.
– Animations require less effort to create: if you would like to create 10 different combat moves for a 2D character, you would need to do quite a lot of artwork to handle that. And tweaking the animation requires doing the whole lot of work. In 3D you can create a mesh, add bones and animate the character. If the animation needs tweaking, it’s much easier to handle than in 2D.
– Visual effects (alphas, mirrors etc.) are bit easier to do in 3D. There are engines that can fake 2D to use 3D effects… but those engines are not pure 2D engines. In fact, they are 3D engines that look like 2D engines.
These are some of the reasons I prefer to use 3D, but that doesn’t mean you should start doing 3D. There are places for 2D art. Many puzzles and indie adventure games for example use 2D. What you could do to make the decision is to see what your needs and goals are, and make the decision based on that. If you have good 2D skills and experience, then go for it.