In my first year back when I was studying, I had an argument with a teacher about making low-tech games. Basically, my point was that there was still a lot to gain from making traditional (in this case, 2D) action games whereas he argued that we need to strive for future gaming forms rather than re-hash existing ones. Today we have all kinds of games so this argument makes little sense, but this was back in the early 2000s – there were no proper online portals for distributing games, no commercial game engines available to the hobbyist and the indie market was small and mostly invisible. While change was certainly brewing, at the time making games meant making console games – or at least something that would be in a box, in a store and sell in excess of half a million copies.

While I will not deny that I probably would not have bothered were it not for nostalgia, the point remains valid – the development of gameplay was (and in some cases, still is) driven by a development in technology. Close to the end of the millennium almost every well-known developer tried to rehash their existing games into 3D action/adventure games – in many cases with really poor results – simply because we had the technology to do it and not because it offered a new and exiting venue to try out design ideas. A similar trend appeared at the birth of the Wii and now most recently with 3D glasses, though thankfully these concepts do not require a complete abandonment of existing mechanics.

In any case, I argued that the swap to 3D meant a significant change in how games are controlled and paced which meant games had to be designed differently  and by abandoning 2D games we were just limiting what we could do. Again, an obvious argument today but times were different. My biggest point was that technology used for 3D games allowed us to do things in 2D that simply were not possible back in the days of 16-bit consoles.

So, Bastion. I like it a lot – probably because of nostalgia but also because it does use modern technology to make a game that could have been made in the 90s, except for some important points like the amount of stuff happening at once and the mood set by the manipulation of color. It is also very polished, it has some really clever ways of letting the player manage difficulty and a varied selection of attack options that make the action feel different without affecting the fluidity of it.

In the last 10 years we have gotten to a point where instead of no decent 2D action games we have too many to try, luckily Bastion stands out.

2 Comments so far

  1. wisnoskij on December 5th, 2011

    Your teacher’s argument does sound very very obviously wrong. Even mainstream studios, that sell millions of boxed copies of games, still create basically 2D games.

    The entire RTS genre relies on 2D gameplay, and while the engine might be 3D and they might allow angle and zoom level changing that is mostly for reviewers to get good screenshots and in general a marketing ploy.

    I cannot help but think that the teacher really should of been able to guess at the outcome. But then it is always easy to see why the outcome was obvious after the fact.

  2. Saint on December 5th, 2011

    To be fair, the the argument was more about the disappearance of genres than 2D vs 3D perspective specifically. There were (still!) a lot of people raging about poor 3D adaptions back then and how games were better before, so I can sort of see why he would be vocal about it.

    … As it turns out, there is room enough for all kinds of games to be commercially successful so the discussion is kind of moot. Supergiant games want to, according to their website, “make games that spark your imagination like the games you played as a kid” – I think I can see where they are coming from and I think people who felt similarly back then might feel similarly about Bastion now, hence the story.

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Posted on Dec 05/11 by Saint and filed under Reflections | 2 Comments »