What Doom And Duke Nukem Did For DAZ Studio

What Doom And Duke Nukem Did For DAZ Studio


Screenhot from Destiny on PS4 from www.compositry.com, curtesy Bungie.


I was playing the well designed Destiny on PS4 the other day, and it just dawned on me. I mean, I’ve seen this in all major games the last decade, like Rage on PC and others. It’s something that we really don’t think about, but it’s there… And it all started back in the early 90’s…

What’s better than 2D and faster than 3D? Right, 2.5D… It’s a blend of two very different worlds. When done correctly it can give you unlimited creative ways of approaching your projects, super fast rendering and flexible design–all without sacrificing quality.

Ever since games like Doom, Duke Nukem and other 2.5D or semi-3D games appeared in the early 90’s, the process has been refined several times and is today industry standard in all modern games, whether it’s PC, PS4 or XBox One. The basic approach is simple: Instead of wasting memory and rendering time creating complex shapes, the shape or image is projected onto a flat 2D object. It can then be mass multipled hundreds of even thousand times for amazing effects.


Screenshot from Doom on PC, from www.moddb.com, curtesy ID Software.


Back in Doom, where virtually 50% of everything you saw was 2.5D, including your main weapon, all monsters, barrels, fences and floor light fictures, modern games rely more on 3D, and use 2.5D only for less significant items that can be easily mass-multipled. The Destiny screenshot (top of this page), still has lots of grass, fog effects and even dust particles in the air, all done using 2.5D–and I’d safely say that 30% of everything you see today is 2.5D and not 3D, especially in outdoor scenes.


DAZ Studio render using Dreamlight’s Rays Of Dreams for Stonemason’s Enchanted Forest.


And… it’s made it through all the way to DAZ Studio. We can see DAZ Studio 2.5D effects in grass, fences, trees, bushes and even hair. It’s also commonly used as fog, light beams, rays and even rain effects, since it’s much faster than rendering with real volumetrics. One of my own light sets, Rays Of Dreams for Stonemason’s Enchanted Forest, uses 2.5D effects to create beautiful foggy light and fog effects, right inside DAZ Studio (above screenshot).

I’ve been playing games since early 70’s. it’s amazing that “sprites” (images projected onto 2D planes), an effect that got invented during that era, is still being used 40+ years later… It has to do with our desire to push art and technology to its maximum. We know our graphic cards and CPU’s can only handle so much, so we fake our way to push the technlology. It’s all an illusion. As long as it looks real, our brain will perceive it as real.


Baroque Castle by Dreamlight, featuring 2.5D trees.


One challenge of the 2.5D technology is that the items are flat. That means they cannot be viewed from the side without looking “thin”. One way to trick our eyes from perceiving the 2.5D effects from looking flat, is rotating them towads the camera, so they always show their best side. Another trick is to use multiple items, and cluster two or three planes together so they look good from all directions. Above, a screenshot from my own DAZ Studio / Poser prop, Baroque Castle, where I used 2.5D technology to mass populate the scene with lots of trees, and specifically used clusters to avoid the flat look.

Simply put 2.5D is outstanding, because it takes the best out of the two different worlds, and if Hollywood uses it, why not you?

You can quickly create a 2.5D object inside DAZ Studio by creating a Plane Primitive. Raise it off the ground, so it stands and faces the camera. If you want the object to cast shadows, make sure it has shadow casting turned on in the properties tab. You can also turn off shadow casting, which speeds up rendering quite a lot. Next, you want to map the main image onto the plane, by adding a texture to the diffuse channel in the surfaces tab. Finally, carve out the object by applying a mask or alpha texture to the opacity channel in surfaces tab.


DAZ Studio render of a single 2.5D tree, casting a shadow on the ground. Designed by Dreamlight.


The mask should be a black & white image, where black is transparent and white is opaque or solid. That’s it! You’re on your way creating cool 2.5 effects. Now, you can do a lot of these, like I’ve mentioned above. One cool trick, is to raise the ambient too 100%, while lowering diffuse to 0%. That will make the object self-glow and show 100% illuminated even without lights. A down side to that approach, is that it doesn’t catch any lighting or shadows at all. By adjusting diffuse to 100% and ambient to 0%, you can instead let it catch lighting and shadows from other objects. It would then behave like a normal object, but without the self glow. Or, you can do a mix of both, to suit your taste or need in your particular scene.

It’s funny, that we mark our modern applications as 3D, when it fact, most of us play with 2.5D technlology, whether we know it or not; technology invented decades ago–that still makes our art glow and shine like a star. I bet Doom and Duke Nuken weren’t really aware of the massive legacy they would leave behind…

– Val Cameron

P.S. If you think this is cool, and want maximum benefits from 2.5D effects in your own DAZ Studio art, then head over HERE, for a MASSIVE new offer (time sensitive).

Happily sharing how to create great 3D & 2D art in DAZ Studio, Lightwave and Photoshop, Val Cameron, CEO and founder of Dreamlight, has been coaching and mentoring hundreds of thousands of artists since 2005. Bestselling DAZ 3D vendor with over 230+ video tutorials, plug ins and light sets.

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