There are some major differences for 2D and 3D game art. Some people consider 2D games simpler to produce, and think 3D creates extra complexity. While that might be true to some extend, it’s good to remember that having 3rd dimension only adds one element to the game. In art production 3D can actually be a good thing as it separates different areas.
Also, bear in mind that 3D can still be used like 2D. You can use 3D models to render 2D images. You can also use certain camera views to make 3D game look pretty much the same as a 2D game.
Here are some differences between 2D and 3D games (when 3D is not used to render 2D images etc.). Please bear in mind that these are simplifications and in terms of production.
- 2D games use simply images (or animated images). So if you want to get some guy smiling, you have to draw each facial expression to see that smile. In terms of production it can be time consuming to make changes if you need to re-draw lots of images.
- 3D models are created by programs where you have a mesh and can use bones. This makes it quite easy to create different facial expressions when everything is set up: you simply create bit different positions for bones and you are done.
- 3D comes with camera angles. In 2D you are stuck with the images you see, but in 3D you can rotate and pan the camera freely. That’s a pretty big difference. You can also use different angles to create rear views or even 3D maps (simply move the camera very high and you can see a nice map of the level).
- 2D artists draw pixels (and concepts) while for 3D you need to prepare concept, create mesh, texture, rig and animate the character. Basically: you might need one artist to create a 2D character, but you might need 3 artists to create a moving 3D character.
Creating art for 2D games might sound less complex. It’s possibly true that 2D art requires less artists than 3D, but creating 3D art assets might actually require less time in a long run. If you have a very detailed 2D character, and you need to change the animation there’s no other option than to re-draw the animation. If on the other hand you need to do changes for 3D character animation – you don’t have to touch the mesh or the texture or the bones – only to the animation.
I’m fan of 3D art and somehow I like how you can separate different areas in the art production. That helps in the production, and if you still want to use 2D – you can always change the camera view.