The 3D Versus 2D Question

A question you must decide early on is whether your game should use a 3D graph­ics display engine or stick to 2D graphics technology. If a game uses 2D graphics, the first-person and third-person perspectives will not be available; those camera models require a 3D engine.

Virtually all large standalone games running on powerful game hardware such as a personal computer or home game console employ 3D. (Small games and those played within a web browser often still use 2D graphics.) With modern hardware now standard, you should use 3D graphics provided that you have the tools, the skills, and the time to do it well. If you do not have the more complex tools and the specialized skills to get good results, you should not try it. Good-looking 2D graph­ics are always preferable to bad-looking 3D graphics. While it may take the player a while to detect weak AI or bad writing in a game, bad graphics show up from the first moment.

This question becomes critical for games on low-end mobile phones and personal digital assistants. With no 3D graphics acceleration hardware, if these devices dis­play 3D graphics, they must do it with software rendering—a complex task that burdens the slow processors that run these gadgets. Think twice before committing yourself (and your programming team) to providing 3D graphics on such platforms. Here, above all, heed the warning that if you cannot do it well, don't do it at all.

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