2D Spaces

Austin Tate's picture

This page acts as a resource related to 2D and 2.5D virtual worlds. These are often, but not exclusively, delivered using Adobe Flash technology. An introductory presentation is available at:


Technology to allow for the presentation of 3D and 2D virtual spaces via HTML5 and WebGL standards is becoming available via:

To be added to.




Jeff Hansberger's picture

2D vs 3D spaces

I think the 2D vs. 3D spaces is a red herring. The issue or concern is not 2D vs. 3D, it really is the complexity presented to the novice or occasional user. Vast 3D environments like Second Life give a lot of freedom and capabilities but that comes at a cost in complexity. The user is responsible for understanding and mastering this complexity, which can be too high a cost for the user that is inexperienced with the environment and is either neutral or skeptical of the technology. The learning curve requirement and lack of direct and obvious support for their task at hand can quickly turn many away from virtual environments. It is this inexperienced, neutral or skeptical user that is the target audience.

Therefore, we need to significantly constrain the environment and reduce the complexity presented to the user. We need to create an "ATM experience" where a user can walk up and immediately use the environment. If there is a button or menu on the interface, it serves a needed and obvious function. More a "The Sims" environment vs. "Second Life" where complexity is reduced. We need to present the user with a simple, single, cohesive environment like a single office room or small suite of rooms based on need. No upstairs, no outside environment, no flying, no twitter feeds that aren't being directly used for the current tasks, no software installs needed, no bells and whistles.

We need to identify what are the hardest aspects of current 3D environments for first time users and either modify them or seek to eliminate or reduce that aspect. For example, navigation can be confusing and difficult for first time users. By constraining the environment space, we've reduced the need to move the avatars significantly. Point of view or gaze control is another challenge. 

It's also important to identify more advanced or expert capabilities and enable those as users gain expertise or for the more experienced users. By designing in depth to include those more expert functions but without getting in the way of the novice user experience, we support their growing expertise in these environments and let them acquire this knowldege at their own pace. An advanced menu of functions, keyboard commands/shortcuts, or access to external spaces are examples of these expert interface levels. This however is secondary, the primary concern should be focusing and getting it right for the first-time and skeptical user. Part of the skepticism that comes with virtual environments is the stigma and link to games and gaming environments. By simplifying the environment, part of that stigma is addressed and potentially reduced.