Top 5 Considerations for 2D Game Design

5 considerations for 2D game design

To players, the differences between a decent 2D game and truly remarkable one may often be hard to pin down. However, like anything else that has been created, those aspects are always there by design. To some, they may come with intuition or by chance, but those who consistently craft winning games understand the principles behind great design and use them systematically.

When making your 2D video game, make sure to implement these five considerations into your design.

1. Memorize the Golden Ratio

Memorize this number: 1.618. This is the Golden Ratio, which represents the proportions that are usually most pleasing to the human eye. It’s a ratio that is found in art, architecture and throughout nature. 

If you take a good look at a painting or photograph that attracts your attention, you’ll likely find that the golden ratio is involved, with a focal point being 10 inches from the right of the frame, but 16 inches (give or take) from the left.

Use the Golden Spiral

The Ancient Greeks understood that by using the Fibonacci Sequence, in which each number is the sum of the two numbers before it (0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13, etc.), you get a 2D equivalent to the Golden Ratio, the Golden Spiral. This spiral can be seen in the shapes of hurricanes and galaxies, the shapes of flowers and even in the proportions of the human body. 

Compare your game’s layout to either the Golden Ratio or the Golden Spiral, or even your character’s layout if it’s large and detailed. Often, just adjusting the proportions slightly to conform with the Golden Ratio or the Golden Spiral will transform a decent-looking layout into something that really snaps.

2. Consider Your Orientation and Gaming Platforms

Your choice in gaming platforms will always affect your game design. Not only do larger screens allow for more detail in your graphics, but for more subtlety in movement. 

If you’re developing mobile games, you have the additional option of using either a horizontal or vertical layout. A vertical layout is great for a 2D game that uses primarily vertical movement. However, if you plan to release the same game on multiple platforms, the vertical design won’t port very well. 

Games, of course, don’t just involve height and width. Buildbox co-founder, Nik Rudenko, and Buildbox Instructor, Zack Griset, recently discussed the Golden Ratio on YouTube as it relates to game development and defined it as the perfect combination of camera position, character size and game speed.

3. Clarify Your Game Objectives

The goals you have set for your players need to be clear for an enjoyable gameplay. While you can certainly have more than one objective for the game, or different objectives in different levels, they should be cohesive and fit within the theme of your game. Common game objectives include:

  • Destroy or capture: eliminating an opponent’s presence from the game, like in chess.
  • Territorial control: controlling the game area, like in Go or Reversi.
  • Collection: such as coins or other items.
  • Solve: mysteries or riddles.
  • Race: as well as chasing or escaping.
  • Spatial alignment: such as Tetris or Tic-Tac-Toe.
  • Build: such as The Sims.

Similarly, the results from negating a goal need to be clear as well. For example, if a character crashes into an object, does the level immediately end, do they lose health or power, or do they lose points?

4. Focus on Your Camera Style

Camera movement in 2D games is much more limited than in 3D, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t require planning. Because the camera is limited to scrolling movement, you need to decide how your artwork is going to be projected. You can use 2D art, which eliminates the problem entirely, or you can use 3D art in your 2D game, which gives an illusion of three dimensions, with just a few design complications.

Carefully defining camera movement can create a more engaging – and often more challenging – game experience for players. Preventing the camera from scrolling backward, for example, limits the player’s opportunity to prepare for oncoming obstacles, even if the character can move backward. 

Keep in mind that if you are using 3D artwork and you want to keep perspectives realistic, then the camera should be fixed, or have limited movement through the play area. Otherwise, for example, a cube on the right of the screen will look like it’s in perspective at first, but as the camera scrolls to the left, its dimensions won’t change and it will look distorted. 

If you have started a 3D game that you feel might work better in 2D, Buildbox 3 has a handy conversion tool that lets you convert from 3D to 2D with a simple click of a button.

Parallax Scrolling: The 2.5D Option for 2D Games

If you feel your game needs some depth, consider using Parallax scrolling. This allows you to create a sense of three dimensions using only 2D objects, in that objects move at different rates of speed. The sky, for example, wouldn’t scroll at all, clouds scroll slowly, while trees and other foreground objects scroll more quickly.

5. Plan Your Character Style

The size of your character has several important implications throughout the game. Large characters can be infused with a higher degree of detail, which creates a better opportunity for your players to bond with the character. Both the amount of detail and the emotional bonding can be a great bonus if you plan to monetize your game by making custom skins available for purchase. 

The difficulty where large characters are concerned is with the amount of the gameplay area they occupy. Unless the game scrolls slowly, players won’t have enough time to react to objects that come into view. 

Small characters give you the opportunity to use a faster gameplay, however they don’t afford as much detail in the character design. Additionally, you will need to ensure that there is a healthy contrast between the character and the background so players can easily locate their character.

2D Video Game Development in Buildbox Classic

When designing your next 2D video game, make sure to implement the Golden Ratio, game objectives, character styles and other 2D game considerations. Luckily, Buildbox Classic makes designing 2D games easy and fun! Download Buildbox Classic and bring your game to life.

Tiana Crump

About Tiana Crump

Tiana Crump is a journalist and social media manager at Buildbox with a passion for inspiring others and driving brand awareness. As a gamer and creator, she enjoys sharing game development insights, tips, and success stories from the Buildbox community.