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An example from Diablo 3:Diablo 3What is this view style called?

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These games are example of parallel projections, so named because lines that are parallel in the 3D space remain parallel in the 2D display. In games these are usually - but not always - axonometric projections.

An isometric projection is a type of axonometric projection. Sometimes this term is used in games as a catch-all for all kinds of axonometric projections, but this is not accurate. In an isometric projection, not only do parallel lines remain parallel, but the angles between axes are preserved (hence iso, equal).

Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, and many other games which are often said to use "isometric graphics", actually are closer to dimetric projections (since they're hand-drawn, it's hard to tell and a bit inconsistent between sprites). Diablo (including III I believe) is using a real isometric projection.

Contrasting the parallel projection is the perspective projection, in which parallel lines get closer together and objects get smaller as they get further away.

Many examples of projections

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-1 because no game is ever called a "parallel projection" game. (No, I'm not really going to downvote this... +1 for technical accuracy). – Beofett May 15 '12 at 7:29
@Beofett: People seem well-aware that e.g. Ultima VII is not an isometric game, but they have no idea what to call it. If they learned the right terms, they'd know what to call it! – user2640 May 15 '12 at 7:31
Somehow I don't see "parallel projection" ever becoming part of common parlance. It just doesn't have the catchiness of "top-down" or "side-scroller" or "FPS". – Beofett May 15 '12 at 7:34
@Beofett: I'd be happy if people just started saying "axonometric / axo view" instead of "isometric / iso view". Hardly anyone is using oblique projections today. – user2640 May 15 '12 at 7:39

This is generally referred to as isometric view.

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I believe it may just be Isometric, or 2.5 view (to distinguish it as appearing between 2D and 3D) – James May 15 '12 at 2:42
Diablo 3 is 3d isometric, since it's an isometric view in a full 3d engine (but optimized for the camera angle it's at). – Raven Dreamer May 15 '12 at 2:47
Thanks a lot, Beofett & James & Raven Dreamer – user101699 May 15 '12 at 2:47
-1 because I hold out hope gamers might use the right terms someday. – user2640 May 15 '12 at 7:26
@JoeWreschnig And how is that not the right term? – Sadly Not May 15 '12 at 7:35

While it is true that these games in the past used dimetric projection (nod to @JoeWreschnig), and that gamers and game devs call this "view from the corner" isometric projection (nod to @Beofett)... Both Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2 use something else - perspective projection.

Fun link:

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You just repeated what was already said. – Ramhound Jul 17 '12 at 19:16
@Ramhound No I didn't. Nobody said that perspective projection was used! – David B Jul 17 '12 at 19:24
Joe Wreschnig talked about it. – Ramhound Oct 4 '12 at 14:54
@Ramhound Joe said "These games are example of parallel projections"... "Contrasting the parallel projection is the perspective projection". So, he states the games are not using perspective projection, which is the opposite of my statement. – David B Oct 4 '12 at 15:30
@DavidB is correct. Ignore Ramhound's comment. The most up-voted answer is actually wrong for assuming D3 uses true isometric projection. – Dave Aug 25 '14 at 4:12

As there is much discussion on each answer, I'll try to word an answer to rule them all.

The general, colloquial term is "top-down view" or "top-down perspective". If contrasted to games like World of Warcraft or first-person games, it can also be called "fixed-camera view".

Exact projection types differ.

  • Warcraft, Warcraft 2, and Diablo use isometric projection. Isometric projections do not have perspective - objects are the same size on screen wherever they are in game world.
  • Diablo II is a rare exception - it is a 2D game (drawn of flat sprites) that has somewhat perspective projection (if enabled).
  • Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2, though, use a true perspective projection, with objects being smaller the farther they are.
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