As 3D technology experienced tremendous growth for the past decade, video games keep looking more and more realistic. 3D games became much easier to make with a handful of convenient game engines that enable anybody to have a chance to dive into the industry. While many studios aim to be as cinematic as possible, traditional 2D animation in game trailers is a great way to add spice to the 3D realm. Whether it is an early stage video displaying key concept, or a fully polished final trailer to show the world the final product, choosing to use 2D animation in those videos is still very common.
Why is 2D still so vastly employed in the first place? Some may assume that with this boom of technology and the easiness of making games, 2D games will gradually die down. Yet the use of 2D is still prevalent during the development process, and sometimes, even becomes the highlight of the game.
3D technology is able to draw people into an alternative reality: viewers would witness lifelike human models, environments and special effects. While this almost surreal experience fascinates many gamers, they also find excitement in another way: rather than teleporting to another space and time, diving into a canvas sounds particularly thrilling. 2D art has a unique style and feel that is deemed to be very hard to achieve in the 3D world: it provides complete freedom in the creation of unusual settings and characters. In addition, it distances itself from familiarity, and embarks players onto a journey within a world that challenges their normal conceptions.
That is why, many game developers wouldn’t completely let go of 2D and even choose to incorporate 2D as their main selling point. Games such as Limbo and Ori and the Blind Forest have reached great success thanks to their distinguished atmosphere created through their art style – they stand out from other games and can be recognized at the glimpse of an eye.
One obvious reason to make a game trailer incorporating 2D animation is coherence: you have spent all that time creating an imaginative world, you wouldn’t want reality to break the fantasy. Aside from coherence, 2D animation is also a great medium of storytelling to introduce people to your world. A compelling example of this would be the following trailer for Child of Light, a platforming role-playing game renowned for its stunning art style and adventure:
The trailer draws us into the world by introducing the main protagonist and her background story through animating beautiful Middle-Age stained glass artwork, as if we were looking through one of those fairy tale books that we used to read during our childhood. It effectively welcomes people into this dream-like world. This trailer not only stands out for its exceptional style, it also is in harmony with the gameplay experience.
Here is an example of a similar narrative oriented trailer made by our team:
Ivion: Winterstorm is a board game that combines strategy and fighting. The video introduces players to the history of the world that they are going to battle within, and demonstrates the variety of beautifully drawn characters. 2D animation really helps bring out life from the static images and spark interest in viewers to explore this fantasy world.
If you are looking to make a trailer for a 3D game, you shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that 2D animation would be automatically placed outside of the choices. While we can have 3D tools to help render fire, smoke or water, the realistic quality might not always be the most suitable solution. What makes a video truly stand out would be an attention to stylized details. 2D effects animation yields total creative freedom to artists: they are allowed to defy the laws of nature as long as they look cool and create great visual impact. Stylized effects can be added into fully 3D footage and this clash of dimensions would form an absolutely eye-catching and unique effect. An example of that would be the following trailer for the character Jinx from League of Legends:
Jinx is a manic and impulsive character who kills her greatest enemy, boredom, with blasts and explosions. In coherence with her personality, the trailer incorporated many stylized 2D effects such as smoke, fire, light, explosion, electricity to add a sense of playfulness and impact. The animation blends in perfectly and serves as another character to help convey the outlandish characteristics of Jinx, which would have been very hard to achieve in 3D.
We have demonstrated how 2D animation can serve as a powerful asset for all types of games, and maybe there is another factor that makes it so difficult to part with: its nostalgic appeal brings back the good feelings we used to have when playing in front of those old game consoles that only had a limited color palette. Who never dreamed of jumping into those screens to become a superhero who defeats the evil? A free-spirited pirate who conquers the sea? Or a space pilot flying across the vast universe and competing with the speed of light? A trailer with a 2D animation style along with a cartoony appeal brings out our inner child.
To illustrate, here is a trailer we have created for Bloons Monkey City, a mobile tower defense game:
The main characters of the game are cartoony monkey characters very like what we would see on TV when we were children. The animation mimics their playful actions and is in coherence with the art style of the game.
2D animation can definitely bring your video game trailer to the next level – choose TAKEOFF and we can make the magic happen!
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