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Looking down on City Name

From The Other Wiki: Isometric projection is a form of graphical projection, more specifically, a form of axonometric projection. It is a method of visually representing three-dimensional objects in two dimensions, in which the three coordinate axes appear equally foreshortened and the angles between any two of them are 120 degrees.

In layman's speak, it's a way of faking perspective by squashing the vertical axes, thus forcing perpendicular angles to look wider. Also, close up objects appear the same size as distant objects.

In the days before true 3-D graphics, isometric projection was one of the ways artists suggested depth. Developed and formalized in the 19th century for technical and architectural drawings, it remains a popular way of creating 3-D-esque graphics in video games, especially for handheld systems.

Of course, in many cases in video games, the projection is not actually isometric in the mathematical sense, because a 26.57° slope is much easier to draw on square pixels than a 30° slope. But that would be nitpicking, so these games are called "isometric" anyway. The term can also refer to the vastly different Trimetric Projection (such as in Fallout 1 & 2 or SimCity 4).

The weakness of Isometric Geometry is that the same sort of line can be either distance or height, or even both in some cases. Usually, it's easy to tell; but no proper Penrose staircase could be built without this concept.

See also Top Down View, Side View and Three Quarters View.

Video Game Examples:

Other Examples:

  • Several Comcast commercials feature people driving around in an isometrically projected city/town, most likely in a Homage to Sim City 2000.
  • M. C. Escher used isometric projection to create many of his iconic Alien Geometries. The same sort of line can be used for height and distance in an Isometric Projection, and so Escher used the same line to represent both -- and left which one to the ever-shifting context.
  • Habbo Hotel
  • Homestuck mainly uses this perspective.
  • Japanese DJ Halfby's music videos by Groovisions use isometric projection. See here, for instance.
  • The art of pixel art group eBoy.
  1. only the first installment of the game; The Sims 2 and 3 are in 3D.
  2. Only some of them, others use a top-down perspective. Hardware power seems to be the deciding factor: The Playstation games use Isometric, while the Game Boy Advance games use top-down, for example.