Our Definitions For 2D And 3D Are Broken, Please Fix

Illustration for article titled Our Definitions For 2D And 3D Are Broken, Please Fix

For years now, video games have been divided into two categories: 2D and 3D. With the advent of 3D televisions and portable consoles, those definitions might be antiquated. Time for an update!


2D video games refer to action happening on a 2D plane and typically are either side-scrolling or vertically-scrolling. What's more, the characters and environments are usually rendered in 2D. 3D video games refer to characters and environments rendered in 3D. Action and movements have depth. These definitions hold up on 2D screens, but as previously mentioned, video gaming could very well be moving towards gaming on 3D screens. (The upcoming Nintendo 3DS seems to be an indication of that.)

Here's where it gets confusing though. Super Mario 64 is 3D in the old-fashioned sense. But it's not 3D in the flying-off-the-screen sense of the word. Referring to it as a "3D game" and Super Mario Bros. as a "2D" game doesn't really hold up any more! Take a title like Wolfenstein 3D, which would be confusing for modern audiences as the game isn't in Avatar-like 3D. (The game itself is actually in 2.5D with the bad guys rendered as sprites, but that's beyond of the scope of this conversation!)

We need a new way to refer to gaming on a 3D screen. I came up with "Full 3D". And then, for example, Super Mario 64 would be simply 3D? But then, that might confuse those who do not follow gaming. Perhaps all these older games will be retro-actively displayed in Full 3D on new game consoles?

Suggestions are more than welcomed.



The funny thing is, this definition is wrong also.

Wolfenstein 3D is the same kind of 3D as Quake, or CoD, it's a 3D world represented on a 2D screen, if you look, even CoD has sprites around it's world (Quake doesn't however), vegetation usually uses sprites in most 3D games.

There simply isn't a 2.5D.

Personally I say 3D is where polygons are used, Wolfenstein, Quake, Descent, Half-Life, 2D is where no polygons are used, Mario Bros., Sonic, Jazz Jack Rabbit, World of Goo.

3D Fighting games like Street Fighter 4 are 3D, but only use the X and Y in game-play, however a Z direction is used, so it is 3D in my book.

3D popping-out-of-screen is just an optical illusion, it should be called optical-3D.

If you want to classify Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, Marathon, Duke Nukem 3D as something different, then it's raycast-3D, not 2.5D (Half a dimension? Are you people nuts?)

Sorry, this bugs me as much as new gamers calling a low frame-rate 'lag' on an offline game

I did my research as I'm writing my own raycast-3D engine.