Not all indie developers dismiss 3D technology so utterly – just look at Minecraft’s inclusion of a rudimentary anaglyph mode – but the majority certainly don’t seem to back it.
The root of this reluctance can be hard to trace however. Garrys’s Mod is based on Valve’s constantly updated Source Engine, has a thriving community of modders who provide new features through LUA scripts and undergoes regular content and engine updates to boot. Yet it doesn’t have any in-built 3D support.
‘I'm pretty sure the graphics card manufacturers all have some kind of software that can make any game 3D,’ admits the eponymous developer of Garry’s Mod., ‘Since we're using the Source engine I think it's pretty much guaranteed that GMod would be supported too.’
‘I'd imagine 3D is pretty easy to achieve whatever engine you're using, as you're just rendering the scene from two different angles. It'd probably take about five lines of code, maximum… [But] I don't think the PC market has really exploded for 3D yet, so I doubt it's worth the effort to even look into... I've never received any email or tweet or anything requesting 3D features in GMod.’
3D integration for Garry's Mod would probably be easy, in theory
Others would be more easily swayed on the topic, however. Approaching the idea purely hypothetically, Mode7’s Paul Taylor posited that 3D technology certainly could be used in Frozen Synapse.
‘As the walls in Frozen Synapse are rendered in 3D, you could get quite a striking look with them coming out of the screen,’ said Taylor, backing down from the original threats of what he’d do to whoever suggest Frozen Synapse 3D. ‘We’d focus on using the level geometry to create a greater sense of depth.’
Hypothetical questions aside, Taylor maintained that there were still no plans to actively support 3D in Frozen Synapse. Mode7 would consider it ‘if it was something that people genuinely wanted… [but we] don’t think the existing fan-base care about it.’
‘PC gamers tend to focus a lot on the quality of the game,’ said Positech’s Cliff Harris, explaining why indie developers tend not to focus on always having the best graphics or gimmicks. ‘They aren’t just looking for something disposable or a sudden ‘wow’, but something with a lot of depth.’
'Some games are better in 2D,' says Positech's Cliff Harris
‘The most popular PC FPS games tend to be the best ones, not the flashiest. Counter-Strike looks like crap, but people still play it. I get hundreds of suggestions for how to improve my games,’ says Harris, ‘3D is never, ever mentioned.’
The divide between genres is one that Harris thinks is incredibly important for the 3D debate too, maintaining that the strategy games that he creates make more sense in 2D. Some genres are more inherently compatible with 3D – ‘hidden-object puzzle games maybe, or stuff like Portal’ – while others are better with 2D.
It’s a stance that Mode7 mostly agrees with too, with Taylor saying that games have to be really slick if they want to appeal to hardcore gamers. It’s an audience he describes as being ‘very jaded [because already seen] a lot of impressive stuff’, so the speed and fluidity of the game is what’s most important. The implied meaning harks back to Facepunch Studios’ previous comment that 3D, as a visual effect, merely gets in the way.