GameSetWatch and Gamasutra have reprinted a really interesting article from Game Developer, where Soren Johnson of EA Maxis takes up the issue of 2D versus 3D in game design. Johnson maintains that while 2D is frequently seen as a relic of antiquated technology, there are plenty of places where it can make sense to utilise 2D over 3D. And, as Johnson points out, 3D graphics don't necessarily equal 3D gameplay, and 3D gameplay comes with its own challenges. 2D graphics also have their less obvious advantages:
All in all, 2D is an underrated style that is often unfairly ignored as an old technology. Developers should not underestimate the advantages of avoiding the technical overhead of maintaining a bulky 3D engine and asset pipeline.
Furthermore, well-made 2D graphics never really go obsolete. Sulka Haro, lead designer of Habbo Hotel, likes to point out that their retro 2D style looks just as good today as when the game launched eight years ago. If they had used 3D, Habbo would probably be on its second or third engine by now.
Once a 2D engine is up and running, the artists can focus on simply improving the game's look piece by piece. If 2D helps clarify and communicate the underlying game mechanic, then all the better.
It's a relatively short piece that's worth a read — this is one piece of the design pie that doesn't come up too frequently, though we often hear about issues with 3D cameras and viewpoints.
Analysis: The Quandary Of 2D Vs. 3D [GameSetWatch]