2D vs 3D?

14 Dec
December 14, 2011

Been thinking about something a bit, thought I’d “take it to the internet” and ask you guys what you thought.

The issue is whether I should build a 3D duel board or a 2D duel board. Each has it’s pros and cons.


A 3D duel board would look something like this :

The advantages of a 3D board are :

– Screen real-estate is less of an issue, especially when you’ve got lots of cards on the board. It’s easy to adjust the camera a bit to take in everything at a glance.

– Adjusts to different resolutions fairly easily.

– 3D looks nice.

– It’s a convenient layout scheme for mobile devices (remember, the plan is to develop for PC/Mac, then port to iPad, then to mobile) as you can push extra cards ‘deeper’ into the scene and rely on camera shifting to allow the player to move around and get a grasp of the scene.

Disadvantages of 3D are :

– Take a look at those pictures. How well can you make out the card art? For me, half the fun of a CCG is looking at the pretty art. I feel that, in 3D, you tend to not be able to see the cards themselves much. Yes, the background looks nice. But the card art is the prettiest part of the game, I feel you end up missing a lot of that in 3D.


A 2D board interface would look something like this :

Now, you’ll note that it still isn’t that easy to see the card art in the MtG version, there. But I think that’s because they’re trying to show the entire card, text and all. I like the trick Spectromancer/ Six Gun Saga uses, where the card rule text and details are hidden in the play-area version of the card, all the space goes to the art with a few vital numbers displayed around it. If you hover your mouse over that, then you get to see the full sized version.

The advantages and disadvantages of 2D are essentially a mirror of 3D. Card art is clearer, but screen real-estate is a struggle. Especially on mobile, check out what Spectromancer’s successor, Kard Kombat, looks like. Clearly they’re struggling to fit everything in as best they can.

So, what do you guys prefer? 2D or 3D? For me, honestly, I think the card art should be the focus and 2D displays that better.

A third option is to go 2D for PC/Mac and then switch to the 3D representation if I need to for mobile. I’d prefer to avoid extra work, but compared to building the whole game engine it’s not that much extra.

6 replies
  1. Matt says:

    As someone that plays card games on mobile, your examples above actually prove exactly why you should go 2D. Kard Combat is a really excellent implementation and their using a 2D board means they don’t waste a single pixel on perspective. Shadow era on the other hand is pretty much unplayable, largely because of their 3D approach.

    If it were up to me, I’d say implement in 3D, with the aim of having the desktop/tablet version display in a 3D view, but with an orthogonal cam on the phone-and test regularly on target phone aspect/res to make sure everything’s in there.

  2. MaximB says:

    While 3D looks better, for a card game the more important thing is to easily be able to see all the cards – and that is 2D.

  3. Leslie says:


    I just love what they did for MTG2012 and would not be able to go back to a 2D board.
    That disadvantage of small art is solved via a zoom feature. In MTG you scroll your mouse wheel up and down over card to quickly zoom in and out on them.
    Just don’t do what is going on in that 2nd shot, eeek. .way too bussy. The board must be clean like the 1st one.

  4. xiani says:

    “3D looks nice”

    It does, doesn’t it?

    That might be a side-effect of the particular examples you have there, but I prefer the look of 3-D.

    Would probably get sick of it after a while though, and if I was playing seriously then information design trumps looks every time, but to get people hooked to start with…how hard would it be to have a toggle between the two, and default to 3-D?

    There will be many people, people who will have never heard of this game, and their first impression will be one screenshot at the top of a post on whatever site they follow for new indie games news. First impressions count!

  5. Konrad says:

    Looking at these examples, the 3D board looks really nice.

    2D seems crowded. You could perhaps go with a 2.5, pseudo-3D approach, but that would probably just take the cons of both worlds.

    I’d vote for 3D with some clever camera movement / orientation that would slightly change for each step to the most favorable position.

    I love 2D games in general, but 3D here really adds to the immersion. You should be able to zoom in on any card of course. While I appreciate the art as well, I like to read the card rules on the card itself. Most players will be like this – they will put an emphasis on the art first and only the text soon after. By time they will get to know the card either way. Being able to see cards up close is not a feature that really matters during the game from a design point of view imho.

    I can imagine my wife saying she wants to play the game on the very first shot, but not the 2D ones. She has never played MTG, but she loves board games. I guess your choice should also depend on who your target audience is – more hardcore or more casual gamers.

  6. Charles says:

    I think it’s all been said and in the end, if you want commercial success (there’s that RPG awaitin’), you’ll probably need to go 3D.


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