3D graphics in “Casual” games

A forum member just emailed me asking if they should use 3D or 2D graphics in their forthcoming casual word game and whether they should make the graphics themselves. I don’t have a definitive answer but here is what I said (edited):

It is true that a lot of the target market’s PCs may not be powerful enough for some fancy 3D effects unless you can keep them simple and efficient. Could you still make a neat game in BlitzMax using the 3D card’s other effects like rotation, scaling, alpha etc? Probably. The word game sounds like a good idea. Certainly it’s what the market likes.

Another thing about 3D games is that in the “casual” realm, most 3D games are action games and people who buy puzzle/word games are expecting them to be 2D not 3D, but of course super-polished 2D. Something about 3D doesn’t always look that polished. If you look at some 3D bat and ball games, the 3D graphics can look a bit “jagged” and have bad joins etc. There’s even something of that in your 3D matching game. I’m not sure what the casual game player things of that, I don’t have any data.

However, on the other side of the coin, if you made a word game in 3D it might stand out from the other games enough to be different – and hopefully sell more. I had pondered the use of 3D in my games, but only in a simple way like rotating a tile around the X or Y axis with perspective instead of around the Z axis which is all Blitz Max can do. But I’m not ready to make a full 3D game, as there is so much that can be done in 2D. Also, I think that casual players who have been used to Windows Solitare and FreeCell etc are used to, and are happy with, plain 2D where they use the mouse over a single layer (like in a crossword or Sudoku puzzle on paper). Perhaps 3D will soon be creaping into casual games but for special effects only, not as part of the gameplay.

As I recall not all the graphics in your own game were your own so it’s hard for me to tell what you made and didn’t, but generally the standard was high and should be good enough for a casual game but often a game’s graphics need MANY iterations because sometimes the artist can’t see how it looks to others. This is normal though and as long as you accept that making your own graphics will be VERY time consuming and will distract you from the programming, then sure make your own graphics.

Even if you don’t make you own graphics, you’ll still have to spend a lot of hours directing the artist, plugging in the art, revamping it several times etc. This is my experience anyway. I keep a log of time spent on different aspects of making a game. My current game is over 500 hours and 17% of my time has been spent communicating with other team members, 32% on code (surprisingly low) and 30% plugging in graphics or working on graphical elements that aren’t pure code. We have an artist, I’m just the programmer, so imagine if I’d done the art too! (well I wouldn’t have been good enough for a start, but you get my point). The other 21% is stuff like planning, research, organisation (to do lists etc), testing, fixing bugs.

Good luck! I can’t make the decision for you about 2D, 3D graphics, only you can. Perhaps you should draw up a Pros/Cons list and think about it for a while, then go for a walk and see what you “Feel” intuitively as well. Then just get on and make the game. You’ll learn a lot just from doing that. For example, I though that Easter Bonus’s pixel art was great after Xmas Bonus and that it would be loved, but the casual market doesn’t like it so I went 3D rendered for my next games and they were way more successful…

Hope this helps!

One Response to “3D graphics in “Casual” games”

  1. GameProducer.Net » Carnival of Game Production - 6th Edition Says:

    [...] Birkett wrote several good blog posts, and three of them are listed here. 3D graphics in “Casual” games, My Latest Game is at the Alpha Stage (good breakdown of hours) and Can you make a living [...]