2D or 2.5D? The verdict!

Marko Tominić
by Marko Tominić
on 21 March 2017

Before anyone starts itching or getting anxious about the title, specifically about the part “2.5D”, please calm down and read the entire post knowing everything will be fine. We are not going to ruin Saint Kotar.

Not exactly every point and click adventure gamer, but probably the majority of them, when hearing or reading about the term “3D” in the same sentence with a p&c title starts getting nervous. Hearing about the term “2.5D”, which by its meaning is related with 3D, could trigger slight uneasiness. We have all witnessed in the past many p&c games made in true 3D, classified nowadays only as “attempts”, not exactly games. They’ve failed mostly because of the weird mechanics and controls, ruining good stories to be enjoyed. We at Tanais Games are crazily addicted to the point & click genre, but we are not crazy to ruin a potential worthly addition to the best genre out there. So, after many months of testing and brainstorming, recently we’ve finally decided Saint Kotar is going to be a 2.5D game. That’s slightly different from our announcement last year in June, when the game was announced as 2D. Slightly different? It is for the players, because even if the characters are going to be 3D, our top priority is making the game to look and feel like an old school 2D p&c game, enriched with modern effects and stunning visuals.

Let’s take a look what Saint Kotar in terms of 2.5D features:

  • digitally hand-painted 2D backgrounds
  • 3D characters with “2D shaders” applied, giving them a 2D look that fits/blends nicely with 2D backgrounds
  • scrollable camera in horizontal and vertical directions, fixed in angle (remember, our goal is to have Saint Kotar to look and feel like a 2D game)
  • parallax effect, creating the illusion of depth

Ok, but you may ask yourself what are the reasons? What benefits Saint Kotar gets as a 2.5D game in confront of true 2D? Here they are:

  • fluid natural movements and animations of characters
  • dynamic lightning and shadows of characters
  • better overall experience and immersiveness

Before this escalates in a wrong direction, I want to point out that we don’t think a p&c adventure game needs to be 2.5D in order to be good looking or immersive. Not at all! There are many p&c titles, old and modern ones, that are brilliant in true 2D! What led us to the reasons above is the fact that Saint Kotar has a psychological horror narrative, a serious dark tone within a real world setting. It doesn’t have characters with giant heads and long arms for example, or houses with strange unearthly shapes and dimensions. Something weird and mysterious is going on in the town of Saint Kotar, but the place is located in the mountainous region of Croatia. In Europe. On Earth. And thus, in order to achieve better player immersiveness in a real world setting, we’ve decided 2.5D approach to be the best. At some level this could be achieved in a true 2D approach as well, but never good enough as in 2.5D.
Managing 3D characters to blend nicely with 2D backgrounds in addition with a scrollable camera might sound easy, but it isn’t. Previously mentioned “testing and brainstorming” were actually all invested in these elements, and many developers called us crazy trying to have a scrollable camera in a 2.5D setup. Funny, because that wasn’t such a big deal after all. What drained time and energy the most are character shaders and scene setups. We’ve made huge progresses with both, but there’s a lot of work still to be done and we are far away from the final look. The best thing is that from now on we can only improve them, so we are really excited where this is going.

There’s a technique that’s very important even in games, it says: “Show, don’t tell”. So, let’s finally show all of the above mentioned with some footage of the gameplay and mechanics from Saint Kotar! This is the very first video showing the game in action, exciting! But please do note that the footage is pre-alpha and does not represent the quality and visual look of the final product. All backgrounds (and especially backgrounds), character models and animations, particle animations (like the fog or smoke from the chimneys), as well as UI elements, are still a work in progress and subject to change.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments! In the mean time our hard work continues as we are currently developing a playable demo of the game. The plan is to have it fully tested and ready to be published in a few months (late June or early July), which will lead to the start of Saint Kotar’s Kickstarter campaign. Keep following us for more news and updates!


Marko Tominić
Hi elcoldtown! No, Oxenfree wasn't an inspiration for Saint Kotar. And, for that matter, we weren't inspired by any other video game except Broken Sword (only in terms of gameplay mechanics and UI). Many fans see similarities with Black Mirror and Gabriel Knight, and they are right, but Saint Kotar is really just a product of our own imagination mixed with scenes or lore from detective, thriller and horror books, movies and tv series.
posted 31 March 2019 13:00:25
Loved the article, cool side-to-side comparison in the video, the game truly will benefit a lot from 2.5D. I've been following your development for a while and it's probably obvious but did you guys take some inspiration from Oxenfree? https://rawg.io/games/oxenfree I recently completed it, it's also full of dark mysticism and it looks kinda similar to 2.5D in its visuals.
posted 29 March 2019 11:32:36
Marko Tominić
Hi Anna Johnson! That's true, and after all, in terms of art what matters the most is to achieve a visually attractive game :)
posted 17 June 2017 12:12:18
Anna Johnspn
I second you! 2D animation is a good choice but 2.5D is much better especially when it comes in game development, either its about rendering a whole game or some little chunks of the scenes, 2.5D is always a preferable choice of mine.
posted 17 June 2017 07:35:45
Marko Tominić
Hi JanW, thank you for the kind words! We agree with you, even 2D titles tend to look very awkward in-game. In most cases that's because characters animations in modern titles are made with skeletal animation tools (like for example Spine), and rarely with the frame by frame technique. Achieving good animations with these tools isn't easy, and finding good frame by frame artists is hard. 2.5D can be tricky as well, but thanks to our talented artists we are on the right path to make Saint Kotar visually attractive and immersive.
posted 27 March 2017 12:47:56
2.5D definitely is the right choice. Worked perfectly in Black Mirror and that's the same genre. Even in comedy games, screenshots in 2D tend to look a lot better than actual 2D gameplay footage, so I am sometimes a little disappointed when finally playing a 2D adventure game. Go for it! Like your art style very much, by the way...
posted 27 March 2017 09:30:29
Marko Tominić
Hi Subterraneans, thank you for the comment! This decision wasn't an easy one and, like mentioned in the post, we took a few months for testing and brainstorming before making the final decision. You are the only one who commented here on the site, but the video was shared on many websites and social networks (facebook, twitter, instagram) and so far we didn't receive a single negative comment (with a total of almost 200 comments and 500 likes). The community reacted fantastically, above all expectations (we loved what we've achieved so far, but you can never be sure how the fans will react), and everyone agreed the 2.5D approach is better and that we've made the right decision. We are not taking your comment as a negative one, not at all, it's just your opinion and we appreciate it. We feel that the true 2D approach would have ruined the immersiveness and overall experience because of the horror and creepy vibe the game must have. Our next project (point and click of course) could be a comedy one, and in that case true 2D wouldn't be an issue. Keep following us and the project, I'm confident that in the long term you'll fall in love with the 2.5D Saint Kotar! :)
posted 23 March 2017 13:23:57
"What led us to the reasons above is the fact that Saint Kotar has a psychological horror narrative, a serious dark tone within a real world setting." This is exactly my problem, I find 2.5D point and clicks to be total immersion killers. You said it yourself in this post, it seems like you know what's wrong, 2.5D point and clicks games are forgettable for a reason. 2.5D and point and clicks won't ever mix. For reference Just reinstall the two first Broken Swords games and see how great and timeless they look. I really do hope you make the right choice and don't brush off my comment as "another" negative comment, but I trust you to be receptive to feedback. Thanks for everything, great communication with the fans! Oh well, it's 5 a.m. here, should probably get back to sleep :)
posted 22 March 2017 05:43:36
I find it pretty disappointing that you're not going to the 2D route. I found the 2D artstyle absolutely gorgeous. There's is just not enough modern adventure games that feels right, that completely clicks for me, when I first saw the 2D gameplay I thought that it was going to be finally that game to make the seamless mix between characters and backdrop while still going for a "HD" style. 2.5D kinda ruins it for me, no matter how smooth the animations or immersive the lighting stuff will be on release, when playing it I will always imagine how much better it would look in 2D. (more in the next comment)
posted 22 March 2017 05:42:45

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