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I'm currently working on a 2D soft-body physics engine (since none exist right now -_-), but I'm worried that there's no point to spending what will most likely be years on it.

Although I love working on it, I doubt such an engine would get any income considering anyone willing to pay money for the library will likely to be working in 3D.

Do 2D games have any sort of future in the game industry?
Should I just drop my engine and find something meaningful to work on?


I've been trying to think of a unique way to implement my physics engine in a 2d game by looking at games that are multiple dimensions, but still in 2d perspective like Paper Mario. Any ideas?

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closed as not constructive by Josh Petrie, Jeff Atwood Dec 7 '11 at 20:47

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

"I'm currently working on a 2D soft-body physics engine (since none exist right now -_-") - Good job! But why not extend Box2d rather then starting one from the scratch? – iamcreasy Dec 7 '11 at 7:13
@iamcreasy: "But why not extend Box2d rather then starting one from the scratch?" Far be it from me to speak for Griffin, but that would be much, much harder than doing it yourself. Understanding someone else's complex codebase to the point where you can make major changes and revisions is far more difficult than just writing it yourself. – Nicol Bolas Dec 7 '11 at 8:00
"Do 2D games have a future?" Yes, of course they have. Next! – o0'. Dec 7 '11 at 8:27
Angry birds. Surely that proves 2D has a future. In fact, of all the top sellers on the app store, how many are 2D and how many are 3D? – Muzz5 Dec 7 '11 at 12:53
This question is mostly speculation. – Tetrad Dec 7 '11 at 15:23

11 Answers 11

up vote 65 down vote accepted

"People" have been declaring the death of 2D games ever since 3D games came into being. Hell, Sony even tried to outlaw 2D games of any kind on the PS1. And what's one of the most well-remembered PS1 games?

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. A 2D game.

2D games aren't dead; they will never be dead. Even if you wiped every 2D side-scroller off the face of the Earth, there would still be puzzle games (Tetris, etc) and other simple 2D games (SpaceChem, etc). These would gain nothing by adding a third dimension.

Should I just drop my engine and find something meaningful to work on?

I would say that your problem probably comes from asking the wrong question.

You say you're making a "2D soft-body physics engine". That statement alone is part of the problem: you making an engine, not a game. Do you know what you intend to do with this "2D soft-body physics engine"? What is your gameplay? Why should people want to play your game?

If the only answer to that is that it has a "2D soft-body physics engine," then you need to rethink how you're approaching the task of making a game at all. You're thinking like a programmer: making something because it seems kind of interesting. You're not thinking like a game designer: making something because it could make for good gameplay. Programmer thinking can lead to good gameplay, but it's a lot less likely to.

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+1, very good point about programmer vs. game designer thinking. – aaaaaaaaaaaa Dec 7 '11 at 11:10
yes, something i hadn't thought about before much, +1 helped me out and i didn't even need to know the answer to the main question ;) – Randomman159 Dec 7 '11 at 13:27

Indeed 2D games still have a future in the game industry. I even think that 2D games are coming back in force, because of (most of the time) lower prices, because of less powerful devices, because of nostalgia.

There is plenty of 2D Indy games such as World of Goo, Aquaria, Braid, Gish, Crayon Physics etc. with a very decent number of copy sold. There is even non Indy games such as the new and very attractive Rayman Origins. I'm pretty sure there is much more to list here, but I don't get them in mind right now.

The 3D is not anymore something considered as "new", and the 2D is not anymore something considered as "old". Both of them are old, and both of them can creates something interesting that can attract players. It's up to the developers to chose the style that best deserves the game.

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Also triple-A titles raise expectations and quality 3D assets are rather expensive. – Den Dec 7 '11 at 11:02

2D means two things - graphics and gameplay.

2D graphics are much less popular nowadays, although will never truly disappear. 2D is somewhat of an artistic choice, as many people find 2D graphics to be more beautiful than their 3D counterpart.

2D gameplay will always be going strong. The reason for this is because so many games rely on it - Tetris, Street Fighter, and Sonic are all games that work better when restricted to a 2D plane.

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This choice is affected by price as well. Low poly 3D art is cheaper than high quality 2D art, which in turn is cheaper than high-quality modern 3D art (high-poly, all sort of maps and textures etc.). – Den Dec 7 '11 at 11:33
@Den But high quality 2D art is also far prettier than low quality 3D art. If you are looking for beauty on a budget I'd pick 2D any day. – aaaaaaaaaaaa Dec 7 '11 at 11:41
@eBusiness I completely agree. – Den Dec 7 '11 at 11:46

There may not be as many high-budget or high-profile 2D games being made for PC, Xbox or PS3 these days, but 2D games certainly do still have a future. One only has to look as far as the Apple App Store: there's an abundance of games for sale lacking a third dimension, and they're turning a profit.

The best advice I can give you in developing a 2D soft-body physics engine is to make a game, not an engine. You'll find that having actual game code in front of you, with actual use cases, will help design your engine and discover exactly what problems it's intended to solve. (Programmers are more likely to buy your library if they know it will solve their problem.)

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A really short answer to debate:

Now 3D TVs are available to the masses, do you think 2D TVs have a future?

What I'm trying to say is that just because a new technology has been invented on the same platform as the one you're using, it doesn't mean it's going to replace it... I'm sure the BBC are not worrying about their investment of thousands of monoscopic cameras (single lensed).

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Have you ever played this game called "Angry Birds"?

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2D games certainly still have their place. In the world huge bugets and large dev teams thrive with over 1 million copies sold.

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+1 for Terraria. It has very many similar mechanics to Minecraft and you can think of it as a 2D version of that game. I've had more fun with Terraria than Minecraft. I actually am working on some additions to Box2D also, for my own game making aspirations. Call me 2D biased but there is absolutely a future to 2D gameplay. – Steven Lu Dec 7 '11 at 20:25

2D Game development has disappeared from large companies, but this doesn't mean that developers have stopped creating beautiful 2D games such as Angry Birds.

2D game development is the first step that we all need to go through when we want to move from classic programming to the modern game development world.

Nowadays with the power of HTML5 and the new Javascript APIs we can create 2D games for browsers without having to learn other technologies like traditional flash. With WebGL we can even create 3D games!

One could argue the answer is both "yes" and "no".

No, because every game developer no matter their age creates a 2D game for fun.

Yes, because 3D are the new standard for desktop games. Mobiles games are mostly 2D though.

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Most of the best game I have played where in 2D! The gameplay you can have is very different from a 3D game, and so people will still play 2D game for a long time (people still read newspaper, listen to radio and go to gigs (even classical), right?).

Take a look at Braid, Limbo and more recently Trine (not very related but mind-blowing 2D graphics, so whatever;)).

If you want to break through in the world of 2D, you have to be original. If so you'll have a sufficient income, be sure about that!

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+1 for Most of the best game I have played where in 2D!, I have the same experience. – famousgarkin Jan 7 '12 at 13:55

I think that 2D games will thrive for a very long time - well into, if not past, the life of your project. For the most part, 3D game graphics are still in their nascency and either require special, expensive equipment for large format games or have limited accessibility on mobile devices. On a basic physical level, complaints of headache, dizziness and nausea are common among 3D users and there is a considerable base of people who prefer 2D.

Given you are working on a physics-based game engine, I imagine that were you to decide to delve into stocking 3D games, it would be a much easier transition than were they action and graphics heavy games; rendering shapes and physical world laws into 3D is arguably much less involved than say creating a 3D environment for a first-person shooter or sport-based game.

Last, more important than 2D vs. 3D is the merit of the story line and user need. A game may be in awe inspiring 3D, but if it's not engaging, people will ultimately not be compelled to play it. Sometimes, and especially on mobile devices, simple and fast (e.g. Tetris) trumps a game full of fancy 3D effects that take a long time to load.

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There will be plenty of 2D games in the future... are they going to be pixelated sprite and tiled background based... probably not.

I don't think games can simple be split on 2D and 3D. For example Xbox 360 doesn't have 2D API. Is that mean that all games on Xbox 360 are 3D? Another example is the game Chess. It's a 2D game no matter how you draw it. You can have pixalated art, vector flash art, 3d prerendered images, or a 3D rendering with all kinds of light sources and per pixel shaders. Chess is still a 2D game. I agree that if you allow some camera movement around the chess board this will add some simple 3D mechanic but I still don't want to call it 3D game.

I think we should talk about games as 2D mechanics and 3D mechanics. Your 2D soft body physics engine can easily be coupled with some fancy rendering library... as long as your gameplay remains in a plain the engine should be good.

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