Why "3D" Graphics Will Never be Good for PzC

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proline
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Why "3D" Graphics Will Never be Good for PzC

Post by proline » Thu Jul 19, 2018 9:21 pm

In previous threads, many have expressed skepticism about 3D graphics, but few have put their finger on why such graphics are bad. Here I will show exactly why they won't work well, and why they can never work well.

Image

Check out the image above. The hex grid is displayed as seen from directly above. The cities and terrain are depicted as they would be seen from not quite directly above, perhaps 20˚ off from above. The units, however, are depicted as seen from the side. Actually its maybe 20-30˚ above horizontal. Enough that you see mostly the side of the unit, but a bit of the top as well. The units are most distinct, and most beautiful when seen from this angle. It doesn't matter that the units aren't sitting on the board realistically the way a chess piece sits on the board because we don't expect that in 2D. The eye doesn't question it, it just accepts it and moves on with what matters- the game.

Image

Now check this one out. Because we are now working "3D" the units sit on the board the way physical pieces would sit on a chess board. That means the units, terrain, and hexes must all be depicted at the exact same angle or it will look stupid. Indeed, the 3D invites the eye to try to interpret everything realistically, so the tanks the size of runways hurt your mind a lot more in the above image. Now when you look down from above, you see only the top of the units heads! It is so, so hard to know what unit is what that way and much of the beauty of the 3D models is completely lost. To make it easier, they've added long shadows.

I repeat- we've gone from identifying units by beautiful profiles to instead identifying them by their shadows. That's crap.

Image

Ok, say the designers. No problem. Just tilt the whole board! Now we can see the sides a bit, but the angle is very oblique. That makes the hexes wider than they are tall. It makes east-west horizontal distances seem greater than north-south vertical distances. Sure, we can take this distortion into account, but that's extra cognitive load on the player, and not the fun kind of cognitive load.

In summary, 3D imposes the requirement to depict the units, terrain, and hexes all from the same angle and that's bad for the game. It makes it less playable from the straight above "God's eye" perspective that works best for board games. It makes scaling issues seem worse. And the only proposed fixes, the extensive use of shadows and making the player constantly tilt the camera up and down, are lousy fixes.

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Re: Why "3D" Graphics Will Never be Good for PzC

Post by AnalogGamer » Thu Jul 19, 2018 11:01 pm

I agree. At this level of unit size, it is best to stay with the 2D perspective.

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Re: Why "3D" Graphics Will Never be Good for PzC

Post by auda » Thu Jul 19, 2018 11:33 pm

Good points and I agree. The amount of compromises grow exponentially by adding a new 'dimension', in the end only makes graphics goofy. No real effect. Civ5 did some things right here, I believe.

So not to just rock the boat, an interesting way to solve this 3d 'issue' would be to keep the generated 3d terrain as it is, but make the units very small, like the size of the trees (yeah those cous-cous looking grains :P) in the OP's 3rd attached screenshot. The hex size could be a third the size of what it's now. At this zoom level (please refer to the screenshot again) the units would look like small specs, but would have a quick-id icon over it. When zoomed-in, one can see the models and battle animations better, and since each unit would be represented with more unit models, battles like infantry vs. infantry or tank vs. infantry could look more alive. Just imagine an infantry unit with 10 repeated models attacking the port like it is in the screenshot, or a group of tanks moving across the flat fields. Then the zoom-in serves as a more 'tactical' map mode, and the zoomed-out as a strategic mode.

The reasoning behind the above suggestion is to utilize the appeal of terrain that is now generously offered in 3d. So why not taking everything else into the next step as well? Think somewhere between Rome Total War and Civ 5 for example.

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Re: Why "3D" Graphics Will Never be Good for PzC

Post by rubyjuno » Fri Jul 20, 2018 10:16 am

I can see both points of view here. I can understand that the developers can't just roll out another Panzer Corps and expect people to buy it. There are many gamers today for whom style is as important as substance. However, as soon as 3D was mentioned my first thoughts were negative. The graphics of Panzer Corps are pretty much perfect for the kind of game it is - they are appealing (to me, anyway!) but don't get in the way of the mechanics of the game. This is why I couldn't get on with Panzer General 3D and don't like Order of Battle - because the graphics distract me from the game. I will, of course, take a look at Panzer Corps 2 when it's released, but fortunately I have a lot of of DLC and mods to wade through anyway.

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Re: Why "3D" Graphics Will Never be Good for PzC

Post by IainMcNeil » Fri Jul 20, 2018 5:14 pm

Much as I personally can see the appeal to the original PzC look, the key issues is that most people outside the hardcore PzC audience refuse to buy a 2D game. You may think this is ludicrous but this is the reality we have to deal with. The vast majority of gamers wont even look at the game unless it is 3D. If we want to keep PzC vibrant and healthy we need to appeal to at least some of those players. If PzC 1 released now looking as it did, it would fail and the series would be dead.

Riling against the move of games to 3D is like demanding the tide not come in. It's simply a fight you cannot win.

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Re: Why "3D" Graphics Will Never be Good for PzC

Post by proline » Fri Jul 20, 2018 9:18 pm

IainMcNeil wrote:
Fri Jul 20, 2018 5:14 pm
Much as I personally can see the appeal to the original PzC look, the key issues is that most people outside the hardcore PzC audience refuse to buy a 2D game. You may think this is ludicrous but this is the reality we have to deal with. The vast majority of gamers wont even look at the game unless it is 3D. If we want to keep PzC vibrant and healthy we need to appeal to at least some of those players. If PzC 1 released now looking as it did, it would fail and the series would be dead.

Riling against the move of games to 3D is like demanding the tide not come in. It's simply a fight you cannot win.
SSI went 3D over a decade before PzC was released. They probably also thought you can't succeed without 3D. PzC not only proved them wrong, but seems to have been far more successful and enduring than the 3D SSI games. Also, why did Apple release SpriteKit, a brand new API for making 2D games, in 2013? Because nobody will ever buy 2D? Remember how many people played Flappy Birds? Just take a look at the top 10 paid app iOS store games. Minecraft may be 3D, but it's a cheesy 3D not the faux realism PzC2 is going for. Plague Inc is 2D. Geometry Dash is 2D. There isn't one visually high fidelity game until you get down to Grand Theft Auto in #12.

I'd like to think I've made clear points about how the 3D vantage point makes the game less fun and your response is 'yeah, well, marketing said so'? I've got news for you. If it isn't fun, you won't be able to market it. It's a shame the time that is currently being spent re-inventing the wheel in 3D, and presumably making lots of moving and fighting animations that will be cool to see exactly once, couldn't have been used to give PzC the graphics overhaul it really needed. Higher resolution sprites to handle modern displays, better ways to tell the unit types and factions apart for beginners, etc.

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Re: Why "3D" Graphics Will Never be Good for PzC

Post by captainjack » Fri Jul 20, 2018 11:15 pm

I'm not against 3D as such, but for a game like Panzer Corps clarity and a user-friendly interface are more important.

As an example, OOB has some nice concepts (the supply lines and engineer abilities spring to mind) but the lower contrast between units and terrain makes it visually less appealing and the interface is clunky - but only in part because the game is a little more complex. I'll play it for a change but Panzer Corps is a more enjoyable experience because all you have to concetrate on is the strategy and tactics, and doesn't require constant effort to see what's on screen.

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Re: Why "3D" Graphics Will Never be Good for PzC

Post by hugh2711 » Fri Jul 20, 2018 11:30 pm

SO Well put proline, I have to agree with your origional post (and the later one).
If you want to see a real horror story where you can see what you described, this going from 2d to '3d' where there is actually a slider where you can change your angle of perspective find an old copy of the appalling MAX2. compare it with the origional excellent 2d MAX1.
If you think the 'modern crowd' who are conditioned for a '3d' sensory experience are ever going to enjoy (for more than a few days) or like a thinking/concentration game like PzC is like saying if you can do 3d pieces you will make origional chess a hit and make lots of money out of it. - not going to happen! (I regret to say).

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Re: Why "3D" Graphics Will Never be Good for PzC

Post by ycloon » Sat Jul 21, 2018 1:36 am

Thank you for this post, proline. I've not been following the PzC2 development and your post nicely highlights the problem associated with going to 3d. For me personally, one of the strengths of PzC is the visual clarity of the game (though there is room for improvement). I can easily tell different unit types apart and friend from foe. The 3d screenshot (from the PzC2 dev note) actually makes it harder to do all these. The shadows just make things worse. All games are abstractions from reality; the successful game retains only those aspects of reality that are fun to the player. I fail to see how the 3d aspect of reality makes for a more enjoyable version of PzC. In any case, doesn't Slitherine have a 3d hex-based, turn-based PzC type game, i.e., OOB? Why make PzC2 another OOB when players can buy OOB???? To Iain's point about attracting new players that insist on 3d, Slitherine should just steer them to OOB. Job done.

I don't plan on spending money on a 3d version of PzC (i.e., PzC 2). However, I would be open to a re-make of SSI's Fantasy General using the PzC platform. I think Slitherine tried to do that with Sovereignty in a way, but that game is so buggy that it's practically unplayable.

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Re: Why "3D" Graphics Will Never be Good for PzC

Post by AnalogGamer » Sat Jul 21, 2018 2:58 am

How about a compromise?

Use scalable, rotating 3D camera... with NATO counters. X's, Ovals, etc.

The terrain cans till be accessed, and "flown over". The players would KNOW where their units are, and all info needed.

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Re: Why "3D" Graphics Will Never be Good for PzC

Post by captainjack » Sat Jul 21, 2018 6:40 am

OOB allows a 2D option, which I use, but the contrast is still not as good as in Panzer Corps.

For another example, good black and white TV and films are still good now despite being less realistic than colour. Plot, casting, acting, dialogue, pacing and good camerawork can compensate for lack of colour, questionable effetcs and wobbly scenery (I'm looking at you Dr Who, and almost every other 60s, 70s and 80s Sci Fi series). In contrast, good effects with no substance can be extremely embarassing (far too many Hollywood films to count).

More realism isn't always better.

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Re: Why "3D" Graphics Will Never be Good for PzC

Post by terminator » Sat Jul 21, 2018 8:27 am

The 3D graphics does not disturb me, on the other hand the shadows are strange particularly for the infantry

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Re: Why "3D" Graphics Will Never be Good for PzC

Post by IainMcNeil » Sat Jul 21, 2018 9:08 am

What happened 20 years ago has no bearing on the current market conditions. The game you refer to was just badly done 3D. Good 2D is better than bad 3D but neither are commercially viable.

As I said there is nothing you can do to stop 'progress'. No amount of wistful thinking can turn back the clock.

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Re: Why "3D" Graphics Will Never be Good for PzC

Post by jeff00t » Sat Jul 21, 2018 7:09 pm

+1000 IainMcNeil

Let be Panzer corps 2 the first wargame with magnificent 3D units.
my custom single player mini-campaign in order of battle : normandie-niemen: Image
http://www.slitherine.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=374&t=79333&p=676302#p676302

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Re: Why "3D" Graphics Will Never be Good for PzC

Post by Elkarlo » Mon Jul 23, 2018 6:16 am

I agree. #D adds very little for being so distracting. It doesn't add anything for me, and it makes it harder to play and less fun to do so.
I also don't like the unit shadows. That too makes it hard to discern what is there, making it a much slower game, and it easier to make annoyingly simply mistakes.

Just add new alternative history scenarios, and maybe make things like Khursk bigger. Like at Khursk you control only 1/8th of the Axis forces, and how well you impacts the rest of the battle.

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Re: Why "3D" Graphics Will Never be Good for PzC

Post by edahl1980 » Mon Jul 23, 2018 9:49 am

IainMcNeil wrote:
Fri Jul 20, 2018 5:14 pm
Much as I personally can see the appeal to the original PzC look, the key issues is that most people outside the hardcore PzC audience refuse to buy a 2D game. You may think this is ludicrous but this is the reality we have to deal with. The vast majority of gamers wont even look at the game unless it is 3D. If we want to keep PzC vibrant and healthy we need to appeal to at least some of those players. If PzC 1 released now looking as it did, it would fail and the series would be dead.

Riling against the move of games to 3D is like demanding the tide not come in. It's simply a fight you cannot win.
The audience you are talking about wont buy PC2 anyways.
They want action. they want units going at eachother in live combat. They want to hide their sherman behind a building, then pop out and take a shot at the approaching tigers.
They want infantry hiding in a building, then the option to move that infantry over to the next building.
PC2 dont offer that. PC2 offer PC1 with 3D figures. SSI went down that road before, so why do you insist on failing?

PC and PG has always been strategy. You are not present when combat takes place. You make the decisions and get the report how things went.
Besides, PC2 looks like a scaled down version of Hearts of Iron 4.

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Re: Why "3D" Graphics Will Never be Good for PzC

Post by hugh2711 » Mon Jul 23, 2018 11:14 am

Hopefully you will have the options to turn the shadows and (as much of as possible) turn the other eye candy off?, then we might not have to buy a new laptop to play it.

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Re: Why "3D" Graphics Will Never be Good for PzC

Post by Kerensky » Mon Jul 23, 2018 6:40 pm

Graphics isn't really my specialty, so I'll only comment limitedly. Plus my tastes are always towards less modern made strategy games, which never look as nice as the biggest and newest AAA 3D game titles. Even BattleTech is quite ugly in many ways, really probably the best looking game I actively play is Xcom2, and that's years old. So yea, not much into graphics.

Anyways, I have to say I feel like I'm getting deeply mixed signals about PzC2 graphics every time we see preview images of the game. Screenshots come out, people comment on them unfavorably, and statements are issued like "1. The infantry model is standin and huge. We currently have no infantry in the game. They will obviously be there but we just don't have the models or animations in yet. "

I understand you want to attach something visual to your promotional material, but every time you show something obviously hideous that people are criticizing and comparing to other games (there will never not be comparisons!) we reach this point and start the same song and dance over again. And if it's true that these are unfair criticisms (unfinished, placeholders, alpha, whatever the reasons are) I really feel like you're just giving fuel to negative criticisms by showing off images in the manner you are.

Of course people will complain and it's unfortunate that forums in general have devolved to places to complain rather than actual discussion forums (just look at any steam forum, even on highly rated 90%+ positive rated, popular titles with many thousands or even tens of thousands of user reviews *shudders*). But I don't like this just giving free fuel to complain about.

If you're set on the trend that 3D is progress, show us some awesome 3D tank models the game is using and will be using. Maybe not in an actual game screenshot because the rest of the game isn't publicly ready to be viewed in that way, but in a purely promotional way(example below) If infantry models aren't even ready, don't just toss in something that is an instant and obvious magnet for criticism. The players who care about the gameplay and not so much the graphics, we won't hate the game and stop playing the game for it's graphics, be there in ALPHA or BETA or whatever state of it. Show those people (BETA testers) all the ugly unfinished materials, because our focus isn't graphics. It won't bother me to play with ugly un-animated infantry, I care about seeing the new mechanics in play, and I also care about pacing of gameplay and also system performance as well (are load times too load, are there too many long pauses between animation events). These hands on, hand picked testers will hopefully help refine the game.

For a perfect example, we could actually just go back to Panzer Corps. Show people who care about visuals and graphics the 3D models not as they might appear in game on map, but in all their 3D glory.

Image
Image

Now maybe you guys are just saving these kinds of promotional images for the big press push (the time leading up to launch) and if you do have assets like these planned and saved up for when it really matters, kudos to you! He's not wrong that 3D is progress and mass appeal. But it bothers me to have Iain himself come in here to play defense while he is simultaneously being undercut by other things said and other things seen. (even if I do like my niche retro (Battle Brothers), pixel (FTL, Starbound, Into The Breach), or 2D/Isometric view games (They Are Billions), I recognize that they are niche because as my best friend always points out when's the last time there was a subreddit for anything I play? Yea exactly lol).

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Re: Why "3D" Graphics Will Never be Good for PzC

Post by Buffalohump » Tue Jul 24, 2018 2:16 am

I must start by admitting that I will be purchasing the base game regardless of my apprehension over the move to 3D and reserving judgement until then. I understand the need to expand your customer base and the need to progress. However I think that many of us remember what happened with the Panzer General series and fear that outcome with our favorite pastime. I am looking forward to the game release and also hope to see many expansions.

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Re: Why "3D" Graphics Will Never be Good for PzC

Post by proline » Tue Jul 24, 2018 4:05 am

Kerensky wrote:
Mon Jul 23, 2018 6:40 pm
I understand you want to attach something visual to your promotional material, but every time you show something obviously hideous that people are criticizing and comparing to other games (there will never not be comparisons!) we reach this point and start the same song and dance over again.
If you read my original post, my critique has nothing to do with whether the particular 3D art in question is to your taste or not.
Kerensky wrote:
Mon Jul 23, 2018 6:40 pm
Of course people will complain and it's unfortunate that forums in general have devolved to places to complain rather than actual discussion forums
This isn't a 'complain about how it looks' thread- I believe that 3D makes gameplay worse regardless of how amazing the art is going to be. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the points I raised to start this thread. If, for example, you have a solution to how to make a 3D game where you don't either A) spend the whole game looking at unit's heads, or B) have to spend the game with the board tilted to an oblique angle that distorts the distance perspective, then please let me know.

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