This piece, by Darran Anderson, takes a look at the cultural history of the isometric 3D we’ve seen in the past and present of video games in the context of Edwin Abbott Abbott’s Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. It’s a technology that has been used since the early 80’s, and it’s still being used to this day, so seeing just how far back that idea goes makes this a scintillating read.
Axonometry changed the nature of interactive storytelling in videogames. The ability to move around cities and interact with multiple characters—rather than simply repel invaders or pick off sentries—was crucial to the development of RPGs like Baldur’s Gate (1998). You could get drunk in a medieval castle (Ultima 8), assassinate insubordinate politicians (Syndicate), or play roulette in an irradiated wasteland (Fallout). You could even step inside a replica of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose (1980) in La Abadía del Crimen (1987). Despite (or because of) the mastering of “real” 3D, axonometry remains popular, as evidenced by Transistor (2014), Satellite Reign (2015), and Bastion (2011). Beyond nostalgia, it suggests we might be voyeuristic gods, rather than one of those tiny sprites.