This is largely going to be in response to “The Third Dimension” over at Blessing of Kings.
Consider a puzzle with chopsticks for a second here.
You are given three chopsticks. Make a triangle, one chopstick for each side. Trivial, right?
You are given five chopsticks. Make two triangles, again with one chopstick for each side. Still trivial!
Alright, try this one. You are given six chopsticks, now make four triangles, once again with one chopstick per side.
Uh oh. Anyone run into trouble here?
Go on, I’ll give you some time to try and make four triangles using six chopsticks (or toothpicks or pens or whatever you have).
How many if you got stuck?
How many of you realized this puzzle was also trivial, if you but think in three dimensions?
Making four triangles with six chopsticks is easy. Three resting on the ground, one triangle. The other three then form a tetrahedron. Voila, six chopsticks, four triangles.
The human mind is more than capable of thinking in multiple dimensions, and is in fact significantly better at thinking in more complicated dimensions. You might think making the leap from thinking in 2d to thinking in 3d is a hard one to make, but actually it’s rather easy.
It’s awkward at first, but making the jump from thinking in [x,y] to [x,y,z] is extremely easy, at which point trying to remove the z dimension and think back in 2d becomes the far more difficult task.
We, as humans after all, live in a three dimensional world. We may not be able to ordinarily move freely in three dimensions, without the aid of things like elevators and stairs we’re pretty much restricted to the x and y coordinates.
But try this. Hold your hand in front of your face. You know where it is, right? You know its x, its y, its z coordinates intrinsically. You can expertly move your hand about in three dimensions without any difficulty.
The question, then, is why do people have so much trouble maneuvering in three dimensions? It isn’t because we’re not good at it, or that there’s some sort of mental blockage or anything.
As with the triangle/chopstick puzzle above, the answer is ridiculously simple. I’m betting at least some of you already know.
Alright, look at the computer screen in front of you.
The laptop I’m typing this one measures in at 1280×800 pixels.
1280 by 800 by… huh. Nothing.
The problem with trying to simulate three dimensional movement is simply that our interface is two dimensional. Representing 3D is difficult on a 2D surface, actually being 3D is impossible. So we’re stuck playing the illusion of three dimensions.
And to top that of, the current WoW engine is pretty awful at representing three dimensions anyway. You might remember that flying combat was to be a part of Wintergrasp, but it was scrapped for largely this reason.
It’s not that we, as people, are inherently bad at moving or thinking in three dimensions. It is simply that our current methods of gaming are extremely limited in their capacity to emulate any extra dimensions.