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To imagine the question lets have the following scenario:

We have Terraria (a 2D Platformer revolving around harvesting resources and building stuff). We have a large 3D sphere populated with resources (static) and creatures (dynamic and reactive). If the world of Terraria was 3D instead of linear 2D (with 3 layers in the 3rd dimension in total), what are the different ways one could deliver the visualization of such a world/game?

The example I have given above is for a 2D Platformer based on a 3D world. For the above case - the question is easily solved somewhat by converting the 2D platformer into a top-down planar game (Civ V to a limited extent - again represents a cylinder not a sphere; Rimworld nails the top-down solution almost perfectly, but some rasterization using tiles was required) - but lets avoid that and explore some better options.

Another example I would like to give for a top-down 2D planar game based in a 3D space:

We have a classic Top-Down space invader shooter, in this case, space is completely flat and planar - with limited depth in the 3rd dimension. What if the depth was infinite in the 3rd Dimension? What if the dimensionality of battles in realistic 3D space games were more accurately simulated instead (attacks arriving from multiple dimensions - and not just the same plane)? Ofcourse, keeping the 2d concept of the visualization itself in mind. What are the different ways to make this possible?

And also, is it even practical?

This is not easily solved by turning the UI into a platformer. Homeworld tackles this only to a certain extent - but it still limits the depth and reduces the significance of the 3rd Dimension.

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The old Roller Coaster Tycoon game uses 2d isometric tiling.

Isometric projection is a method for visually representing three-dimensional objects in two dimensions. You can read more details on the wikipedia particle about this: Isometric graphics in video games and pixel art.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I am well aware of isometric tiling - that addresses none of the scenarios. My 1st problem with isometric tiling is that it restricts depth of the 3rd Dimension - and restricts free rotations of the plane on which the isometric plane is based. For space-based games this becomes a real problem. For world/Sphere based games isometric may work - but again in that case the requirement was of a Platformer. \$\endgroup\$ – User3.14159265 Feb 2 '18 at 7:21
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A cheap way to do something like this would be to use parallax scrolling, and show details higher than the player scrolling faster than the terrain they're crossing.

You'll also want to consider some alpha blending so you don't obscure important game objects (like the player). Note that this is a concern with isometric views as well.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I looked up and understood that parallax scrolling is useful for background and far background objects. But what about foreground and near (w.r.t to the camera and not the character) foreground objects? How would parallax work for those without severely hampering the view of the character and its surroundings? I'm keeping in mind the "radar" or "Range of vision" of the player - which should mean equal depth in foreground and background. \$\endgroup\$ – User3.14159265 Feb 2 '18 at 7:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's where alpha blending comes in. You could do a static 80% transparent (for example), on everything in the foreground, or do it dynamically based on what it would otherwise cover up. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Storer Feb 2 '18 at 18:11

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