This opinion piece, due to length, will consist of several parts. Each part will be published on the following Monday, at 12pm EST until the series concludes.
The first video game to use 3D polygon graphics is a more controversial piece of gaming history, but with a bit of digging we can find I, Robot. The game was developed by Atari and released in June of 1984, for the Atari 2600 and arcade. The 3D graphics began to catch on, but it wasn’t til 1994 that we started to see 3D polygon graphics as a mainstream product. The Playstation brought 3D graphics to home entertainment systems, and shortly after the N64 was released.
Back in the days of arcades, a ‘main stream’ product was simply something that could also be developed for the home entertainment units – which started to pick up in popularity closer to the 2000’s, and would truly become its own market with the release of the Playstation 2, and its wide success.
But what were we moving on from? The age of [mainstream] 2D graphics. Although we still have 2D games done by indie companies, for the most part AAA companies have moved on to bigger and more 3-Dimensional things. It is also worth noting the beautiful Ubiart games(recent Rayman games, Child of Light, and Valiant Hearts). The ‘2.5D’ games have, to date, all been created on a tablet – although they do allow for other uses, such as watercolour or clay.
Almost every game prior to the PS1(1994) were developed in 2D. Legend of Zelda, and Super Mario Brothers, arguably some of the most influential games of all time, were developed in 2D for a large period of time. The games are not in 3D, and the storys don’t have a large amount of substance. So how are 2D games still considered influential after all these years, when we have shifted towards story driven 3D gaming?
Nintendo was – believe it or not – once considered a ground breaking company in the video game industry. And arguably, they still are breaking new ground through the Wii, Wii U, and whatever crazy invention the NX will be. Its just not always a push that the industry acknowledges it needs anymore.
The 2D Super Mario Brothers games were great on their own, but as far as ground breaking goes, we need to talk about The Legend of Zelda. Specifically, “A Link To The Past”. I’m not here to argue whether this is the best Zelda game of all time(thats a whole other opinion series), but I am here to convince you the 16-bit game still holds a strong influence on gaming culture.
The Legend of Zelda, which has been with us for 30 years (come February 2016) has had a release of quality games since its launch. Many fans believe the Ocarina of time to be the best Zelda game of all time, which would of never happened without A Link to the Past. I’m not going to spell this out with each and every Zelda game: The Legend of Zelda wouldn’t of continued existing without a game like A Link To The Past.
The Legend of Zelda has experimented with multiple styles of art over the years. Diving into Cel-shading over recent years, the games are almost always kept away from one style: realistic. To date, the only game with realistic graphics was Twilight Princess.
Yet the games continue to sell as if Nintendo’s life depended on it. (And to be fair, it sort of does.)
We could take so much more away from The Legend of Zelda. Besides releasing the games in whatever order they feel like(chronologically speaking), we have the music, the atmosphere, and the combat system has essentially remained the same throughout the series, only changing from a 2D into a 3D perspective. This allows to leave more of a ‘mark’ on the gaming world, then if Nintendo was constantly rehashing the games.
Put simply, if you don’t like Legend of Zelda, most people on the Internet won’t like you.
With so many other 2D games to go on besides The Legend of Zelda, it should be accepted easily that 2D games are not something to ignore.
There comes a point in time when innovation becomes pointless. 3D graphics are not pointless by nature, but when they begin to take away from the experience of a game, it becomes pointless. When ‘previews’ for games come out now, its all about the 3D graphics. Its all about the way that Witcher 3 looks, the way that the dog in Fallout 4 moves – can it not be about the game play anymore?
When we started prioritizing the graphics of the games over the game play, we sacrificed the most important part of gaming – the fun. Back in the 90’s, a glitch, a problem, or a game not being as polished as it could be, it didn’t effect the level of fun that we would experience in a game. But now it does.
Eric Haddad is one of the newer artists to join The Behemoth. Jumping on board for Battle Block Theater, he wrote up a blog post back in 2013 that still remains very relevant to the discussions of today. The full post is worth looking at, but I believe its fitting to end this part with one of my favourite sections from the post.
Quit worrying about style.
Seriously, if you want to be a good artist, if you want to have fun being a visual creator, just stop. Style will come naturally. Or it won’t. Screw it. If you want to be “marketable” a style can help but it isn’t necessary. Once you learn to draw well you’ll be able to mimic any style you want, just for fun. Or, in learning to draw well, you’ll come to find you actually do have a style of your own.