Koji Igarashi, the producer of recent entries in the Castlevania series and assistant director of Symphony of the Night, gave a presentation on 2D games at GDC last week. Specifically, his presentation centered on the differences between developing 2D games and 3D games. Igarashi noted a few philosophical differences between 3D and 2D games, but also noted a few advantages that hadn't occurred to us. For instance, 2D games are easier to produce, faster to design, and faster to implement. Of course, all of this is generally cheaper than 3D production as well.
Another "advantage" Igarashi noted was that assets from one 2D game can be used in future games as well. Fans of Castlevania will know that the series has been recycling monsters for a long time. We're not exactly sure if we'd call recycling an advantage. Igarashi also mentioned that 2D games are good for team morale. In other words, one person can design an entire level for a 2D title, whereas one level in a 3D game requires an entire team of designers. This can lead to designers feeling as though they're doing "grunt work." A designer on a 2D game makes a much larger contribution. This leads to higher team morale.
Discussing the HD era, Igarashi noted that high definition actually makes traditional 2D game production much more difficult. In a genre where characters are created pixel by pixel, HD resolutions present traditional 2D game design with a huge problem. According to Igarashi, jumping from a resolution of 256X240 to a resolution of 1024X960 requires 16 times as many pixels, an enormous undertaking for a 2D studio. The only alternative, Igarashi noted, would be to hire a traditional animation studio, but such studios often don't understand game design. Mr. Igarashi, we humbly suggest you contact the fine folks at The Behemoth.
Finally, during a Q&A session, we asked Igarashi if he would consider creating an original Castlevania title for Xbox Live Arcade. Igarashi responded that Xbox Live Arcade isn't the only download service out there, but that he was considering creating downloadable games. While he did note that 2D games are less prevalent than they once were, he concluded his presentation by saying that "2D games will never die!" We hope he's right.