Fez Developer: “3D Games Are Mostly about Dudes Walking on a 2D Plane”

Fez has been fascinating gamers for awhile now. Its hook, aside from looking gorgeous, is that you can rotate the game’s 2D world. Although the game generally looks 2D, you’re tasked with visualizing the world as a 3D space. For that, Fez is shaping up to be one of the most exciting and innovative releases since Portal.

In an interview with GameSetWatch, Phil Fish of Polytron Corporation spoke about Fez, the third dimension, and how developers aren’t doing enough with their games. “Most 3D games that use 3D graphics and 3D worlds have a kind of 2D gameplay,” he explained. “There’s not enough verticality in most 3D games; you don’t usually use all three directions in 3D games. 3D games are mostly about dudes walking on a 2D plane. Most 3D games could be downgraded to a 2D, top down perspective and wouldn’t lose much of the gameplay.”

He has a point. Consider a game like Black Ops: You spend most of your time fighting enemies that are generally at the same elevation as you. Even if they’re up on a roof, they’re usually far enough away that the verticality is irrelevant. While the view is 3D, the gameplay of Black Ops is mostly 2D.

“Some of my favorite ‘vertical’ games in recent times would include Crackdown (or the identical Crackdown 2), Assassin’s Creed 2 and Just Cause 2,” said Fish. “It’s not complicated, they’re just games that let you move ‘up’ very easily. They present you with a 3D space, and let you approach it from many different perspectives, not just one of a guy walking on a floor.”

“I’m rarely playing an avatar-based game and not wishing that dude had a jet pack. [There are] not enough games about people flying,” he concluded. While the rest of the interview is worth checking out, Fish reveals a weakness of 3D games. Whether working through a puzzle, moving to higher ground in a shooter, or jumping off skyscrapers in an open-world game, the third dimension is a tool that developers can use to make their games more dynamic, strategic, and intelligent. And yeah, every game should have a jet pack.

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Video games became an amazing, artful, interactive story-driven medium for me right around when I played Panzer Dragoon Saga on Sega Saturn. Ever since then, I've wanted to be a part of this industry. Somewhere along the line I, possibly foolishly, decided I'd rather write about them than actually make them. So here I am.