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  Mechanic #178 - Flatland
Posted: Jan 13, 2014

Play a 3-Dimensional game in two dimensions, one layer at a time.


This is a platform game where you experience a 3D voxel world in 2D, one plane at a time. To give a metaphor, if a sphere, which is a 3-dimensional object, were to travel through a 2-dimensional plane, it would appear to be a bunch of circles that grow and shrink. This is because a 2-dimensional existence can not comprehend a 3-dimensional one, and thus can only experience 2 dimensions at a time. This is a game about the circles, not the sphere.



Fig 178.1 - Sphere.

This is kind of what the world looks like, from a 3D perspective. In a typical game, that big troll guy would be a single object, operating as a single element. When it raises its hands to attack, the entire troll attacks. But this isn't a game about the big picture. This is a game about circles.



Fig 178.2 - Circle.

The player can only see one plane at a time, though he may move freely through the planes. As you can see, what used to appear to be a troll, now appears to be just a big blob. It is up to the player to figure out what that object is from an incomplete picture, and how to deal with it.

You'll also notice that the middle section has no arms. While it is moving in 3 dimensions, its arms are still part of a layer you can not see (or interact with). So while in the middle layer, you can attack the troll freely, without threat of being attack. If you moved to an outer layer, you'd just see arms, and they could hit you. You could even go as far as showing the inside (bones and organs) of the troll's middle layer to suggest that it is even more vulnerable.

  Conceptual Notes

- Another one of my older ideas, I never took the idea beyond the "It's a neat trick, but is it a game?" phase. Even now, I'm not sure what to do with it. I toyed with the idea of having the player be able to see the 3D world and then pop into 2D plane mode to solve puzzles and overcome obstacles, but I personally feel like there is a great element of danger and surprise in not know what 3D object you are seeing, and trying to figure it out.

- One possibility is to make it a two player cooperative game. One player sees the full 3D picture and the other only sees the middle plane. The 3D player can tell the 2D player what is going on (those circles you see are pendulums swinging in and out) and when to go.

- This idea originated a while ago, when playing Wonder Boy in Monster World IV, which used multiple layers to create castles and dungeons. Fun Fact: My first contribution to the internet, back when websites still used the blink tag and blue links, was a Wonder Boy fan site, where I cleared up a lot of confusion with the series - and if you know anything about the Wonder Boy series, it is VERY confusing.



Copyright 2007-2014 Sean Howard. All rights reserved.