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Art Video Games

The incredible adventure of 2D vs. 3D: Through the eyes of a Designer.

Throughout the years we have seen how graphics evolved and how different mediums influence our modern workflows. Today we have many resources to achieve our goals, and my purpose is to highlight a few of the thought processes I go through when deciding which route to take.

As designers, we have to think in the functionality of what we are creating versus how pretty it looks. This will help you decide which medium you will be using for your game and what technologies need to be used for completing it.

When video games started, we had limited knowledge of what was achievable, and the hardware/software we had at the time. This limited creativity to a simple 2D format, only rendering pixels and changing its color through code. We can easily say this sparked an interest to the public and companies immediately started investing in R&D to see how we can explore this new medium.

The race has begun, and the competition was fierce, many companies invested in graphics engines, while others invested in processing larger amounts of data. This constant battle has molded our graphics and processing capabilities enormously, creating extremely powerful pipelines to achieve our goals.

At the beginning of each project, we have the decision of which route we are going to take and how we are going to build it. This is when we plan out what type of emotions or experiences we want to create, and the art style we select for the project; once that is decided, our adventure begins.


While we are deciding which art style to use, we have to understand how both worlds impact the outcome of your project.

2D

  • This medium has been a part of gaming since the beginning, and has been used in numerous games throughout the years. It is also frequently used in the creation processes of every project, from concept art to even the documents we create for the creative team to follow. With that said, it is extremely powerful for expressing emotions; I have found that 2D artwork in games inspires a part of us that can help the outcome of the project. From the nostalgic factor to the freedom of venturing through abstract design, 2D helps you achieve this outcome while giving you the liberty to explore various art styles.
  • Now, even though this medium is powerful in sparking emotions for our users, there are a few who I wouldn’t say dislike, but need to be inspired through other formats. Here, 2D can only help with the initial creation process or certain elements of the project, and not the final result of the game.
  • Even though we have the ability to create fantastic worlds and experiences, they are constrained to the amount of exploration that can be done inside your game.

Below you will find a 2D image like we are discussing here; what emotions spark for you? Let me know in the comments.

Promo Art created for the Puerto Rico No Esta Apagao’ video game, developed by 8bit Bosses Studios. https://8bitbosses.com

3D

  • This medium is the most recent one out of the two we are discussing, and has also evolved enormously throughout the years. We have seen how the complexity of game worlds has increased and how much life can be in them nowadays. Even though we can create these worlds, we have to use a complex workflow to achieve them.
  • With this format we have to understand many other aspects that we don’t use in 2D. For example, in 3D, you have to take in consideration that the model will be viewed from all angles, while in 2D we only see one side at a time. This obviously makes the creation process more complex as we have to take these factors and integrate them into our creative process. With this being said, we have seen how new tech helps us with these factors and the creation process; helping us present more believable and life like worlds.
  • I have found out that 3D inspires certain areas like 2D does but in a slightly different way. Our 3D worlds need to feel alive, from virtual wind blowing the leaves of our trees, to NPC’s that walk around and interact with the world. We have to use elements we see in our day to day lives; otherwise these worlds feel flat or not believable. This makes the process take a bit more time to create, as we have to build our world with this in mind.
  • This medium lets us experience a world that feels alive, giving users that need more of the exploration factor a more lifelike environment that they cannot find in 2D games

Below you will find a 3D image like we are discussing here; what emotions spark for you? Let me know in the comments.


As you can see the complexity of these two mediums is amazing and gives your teams the liberty to create whatever they put their minds to. Whichever medium you use for your project, keep in mind the process and tools required for creating your world.

Here are some of the questions that usually come to mind when I am choosing one of the two mediums:

  • What is the target audience we are creating for, young ages or adults?
  • What emotions do we want our users to experience in our game?
  • Do we want our users to explore our world or we want to take them through an interactive story?
  • What technology are we going to use for the game?
  • What capabilities does the team have to achieve the selected art style?

The creation process of each team is unique and the use of the technologies nowadays highly depends on the experience you want to give to your users. Whichever route you take, use these key points to help decide what medium best fits your world; they have helped me a lot in the past, and I hope it helps you all as well.

Resources:

Below are two powerful tools to help you get into any of the mediums you choose to start learning.

2D creation tool:
https://www.gimp.org

3D creation tool:
https://www.blender.org

Here you will find beginner tutorials to get you started:
2D (Gimp): https://youtu.be/Q8C0LJPpr64
3D (Blender): https://youtu.be/7MRonzqYJgw


At the end of the day whichever medium you choose to use, the possibilities are endless. Just keep these points in mind while designing your game so you have a clear view of where you’re going.

Puerto Rico is growing in both areas rapidly and we encourage all to follow what the local talent is building. Never stop creating!

By Jonathan Martinez

Jonathan “el jibaro” Martínez, has worked as Lead Game Designer on multiple projects with a demonstrated history of working in the video game development industry. Skilled in Video Game Design, Level Design, Production Operations, Pipeline Creation, and Interactive Media; he is a strong believer that video games are the ultimate Art form.

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