The Isometric Viewpoint wiki last edited by Prestige on 02/19/13 04:18PM
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Definition and Incorrect Use
According to its formal definition, true isometric projection uses 2-dimensional art to create a 3-dimensional appearance, with lines of perspective angled at precisely 60 or 120 degrees to each other and an angle of 30 degrees from the horizontal. From the isometric viewpoint, a perfect cube takes the 2-dimensional shape of a perfect hexagon intersected at 120 degree angles. True isometric projection is commonly used in technical drawing.
However, in video games the term "isometric" is commonly used to describe any top-down camera viewpoint that uniformly skews objects into a perceived sense of depth. These viewpoints can be along two (ex. seeing only the front and top sides) or three (ex. seeing the nearest three sides) dimensional axes. Many games referred to as isometric actually use dimetric projection, a similar form of parallel projection.
Even 3D polygonal games are sometimes referred to as having an "isometric" viewpoint if the camera is positioned to show a top-down view. This is inaccurate, as 3D models are rendered using perspective projection, an entirely different method of creating perceived depth. Nonetheless, this incorrect use of the term persists, especially when discussing games like Diablo III, which uses a camera viewpoint reminiscent of the 2D parallel projection that was used in earlier games in its series.
Application in Pixel Art
When the isometric perspective is used in a lower resolution video game or artwork in which individual pixels are pronounced or visible, the traditional angle of 30 degrees from the horizontal is usually substituted with an angle of 26.6 degrees. 26.6 degrees produces a line that has a uniform 1:2 pixel ratio that follows a neat pattern whereas 30 degrees causes a line to be generated which is visually less appealing and appears jagged.
For this reason, most artwork described as "isometric" in video games is actually a form of dimetric projection because only two of its three axes appear equally foreshortened.