"Why would anybody make a game in 2D these days?", the strawman in my head asks. Well, for indie developers in particular, there could be a few reasons:
- 2D is easier to program. Not a big deal for me since 3D isn't too much of a stretch, but when people are just starting out in game development it can be a lot to learn.
- 2D runs on more stuff. A lot of indie games run on limited platforms - Flash, the iPhone, older non-gaming PCs, whatever. Pushing the technology limits your potential audience to only people that have machines that can cope with it. This also applies to some types of games where the tech is processor-intensive enough without even getting into the 3rd dimension. Our game is definitely a case of this - right now my monster development PC gets a thorough workout every time I run a paint simulation through it, although more optimisation can always help with this.
- 2D art assets are quicker, cheaper and easier to produce. Budgets are Serious Business for indie devs, so this can't be overlooked. A sprite sheet is a LOT easier to put together than a skinned, animated, textured mesh put together in a 3D art package.
- People like the "retro look". Pixel art is a big deal in certain circles, and can gain you street-cred among a certain "hardcore indie" crowd. I'm not so into that (as detailed below), and I'm hoping that this game is going to look much more hi-fi than lo-fi, but some people dig the pixels, and that's okay.
If I want to play the retro-but-undisputably classic card, how about Tetris? Pacman? Space Invaders? Want something more contemporary? I think the aforementioned Goo and Defcon suffice pretty well, and both of those games have clever art direction seeping from every pore. But there's another one now. Machinarium. If you've not heard of it, go play the demo. Then buy the game. Then finish it. Then come back. I'll wait.
Done it? Good. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that the most visually stunning game you've ever seen? To me, it's jaw-droppingly beautiful (and it's a pretty bloody good game to boot). I don't know if we'll ever have the technology for it to be viable to make something that looks that good in 3D, or if there's even any point in trying. If a Flash game - a Flash game - can be that mindblowing, then why have we been wasting our time on 3D at all?
Take your polygons and shove them up your asset pipeline. 3D is dead; Long live 2D!