5 reasons why 3D gaming will totally suck...
19th Feb 2010 | 14:20
...and 5 reasons why it will rock your world
Five reasons you'll love 3D gaming
The PC's been quietly at it for years, but it wasn't until Sony's recent reveal that it'll be building stereoscopic 3D support into the PlayStation 3 with an upcoming firmware update that the world really started squealing "Ooh! Ooh! We want that!"
It's a delightful idea – but given how divisive 3D cinema has proven to be, is all this techno-kerfuffle really worth it? Here's the case for the defence, and for the prosecution….
Five reasons you'll love 3D gaming...
1. 3D is easy and free to implement
For the Playstation 3, it's all happening via free firmware updates. For the PC, it's a patch or a driver profile. For the Xbox… well, Microsoft don't seem terribly interested as yet, but given its ongoing Wi-Fi dongle, hard drive and Xbox Live price gouging, expecting something sickeningly unreasonable if it does have a crack.
In general, though, 3D is something that, aside from the initial hardware investment, is going to quietly build itself into gaming anyway. Less so for developers – even 3D propagandist Blitz Games reckons supporting stereoscopy adds 10-15% to game budgets. Hopefully the returns will make that worthwhile.
2. The Avatar method
At the moment (ie with the primarily Nvidia-endorsed 3D on PC games) we're stuck in a bit of a halfway house of token depth effects and the occasional gimmicky pop-ups. This is the same mistake 3D films were largely making until Avatar, thinking theme park rather than immersion.
Once this really gets going – most likely once the PS3 firmware updates and Sony tellys arrive – we'll see games that do what Avatar did. So, incidental effects like weather, dense vegetation and scale rather than visual stunts. The result – game worlds that feel more alive.
3D IN MIND:James Cameron's Avatar: The Game is one of very few games to be designed with 3D in mind, rather than being loosely supported after the event. Unfortunately, it was rubbish
3. 3D encourages motion
Let's face it, we gamers aren't the most mobile bunch. And why should we be? Games only require interaction from our hands. 3D, though, is an encouragement to move our heads a little, to appreciate the new sense of the depth and admire how that severed arm really juts out of the screen.
When the vista in front of us seems more there, we're going to behave accordingly. Which means no more fat necks. Possibly.
4. Glasses-free 3D is coming
Autostereoscopic 3D is on the (hopefully) not too distant horizon, promising 3D games and video without the need for bulky glasses. There are multiple approaches to this in the works, but the core idea is similar to glasses-based stereoscopy - different images are fired at each of your eyes.
The difference is that the display, not the glasses, separates the picture. The likely key to this is a degree of face-tracking so that the image can adjust itself to your position, as in general autostereoscopy has a limited field of view, the effect breaking down if you don't look at it from just the right angle.
3D TV:One of Sony's admittedly very attractive 3D Bravia TVs. The range isn't exactly famed for its affordability, alas
5. 3D is really going to come into its own with motion control
3D + motion control (ie Project Natal et al) = Augmented Reality. Potentially. Once we have a world that looks more like our world, and that is interacted with in ways similar to how we interact with our world, the false belief by so many people that games are like films with button-pushing may fall away.
Games are about creating an alternative to reality, a landscape of imagination to let our brains run riot in. If the ancient stumbling blocks of flat, two-dimensional pictures and all-too-physical controls can truly be removed, virtual reality might finally become a, well, reality instead of a dead, embarrassing buzzword.
Five reasons you'll hate 3D gaming
Five reasons you'll hate 3D gaming...
1. You'll need new hardware
A new TV for your PlayStation, a new 120Mhz monitor for your PC and, depending on what 3D tech you go for, a set of active, rechargeable 3D glasses. Going 3D isn't going to be cheap – why not spend all that cash on an impossibly large TV, a clutch of ace games, a nice new hat and some gourmet sausages instead?
At present, the incoming PS3 3D means this is all a bit of a Sony thing too – they're bullying us into 3D by saturating the tech industry with their expensive new tellies and Blu-ray players.
2. Loss of colour
Pass a game or movie through a pair of polarised stereoscopic glasses, separated into left and right images, and you lose light. In turn, you can lose colour and vibrancy (depending on the effectiveness of any colour correction tech employed).
Given most big-budget videogames already seem to think brown and grey are the only colours worth bothering with, where's the fun in 3D if these muddy worlds end up looking even more dreary?
3. Yeah, the glasses thing
You look like an extra from Back to the Future 2, the fleshy bit where your ear attaches to your skull will ache after a while, and whenever you look around and see anyone else wearing 'em the fantasy of the game world falls apart. And don't get us started on how preposterous it feels to wear 3D glasses over existing glasses – you look like a mad professor.
UNCOOL:It's OK, you definitely won't look like a total idiot whilst wearing 3D glasses, because it says Sony on the side! Problem solved
4. You stop noticing
Can you honestly say you were still cooing at all the visual frippery in Avatar in the last hour or so? Course you weren't. You were just hoping that the blue hippies would beat up the nasty racists, and that they'd stop saying 'I see you' over and over again.
And were you still noticing that the balloons in Up looked a bit poppy-out after the first couple of shots? Nope, you were just laughing at the funny dog.
We acclimatise to visual phenomena quickly; in fact, you'd adapt just as easily to playing games on a 14" black and white telly. When you adapt to what's there, what's the point in going to all this effort for 3D?
5. Patchy support and backwards compatibility
For all Nvidia's ballyhooing, try 3D gaming on PC now and it's a muddled mess of pleasing depth effects and crosshairs and HUDs that look like someone tattooed a hologram directly onto your retina. The stuff that works is undone by the stuff that doesn't.
Unless game developers are consciously thinking about how their interfaces, menu screens and cutscenes are going to look in glasses-o-vision, you're going to have a headache-inducing barrage of screen elements that don't know how to behave.
You can fix some of it with driver profiles on PC, but you'll have more fun just instantly playing the game with none of that 3D fuss. Once Sony's 3D-specific games such as Gran Turismo 5 arrive we'll have a neater experience, but running older games, on PC or PS3, in 3D just means a whole lot of bloody-minded compromise.
IN THE GAME: Nvidia's 3DVision dongle/active glasses, which go for around £100. You'll need to pickup a 120Mhz monitor as well, or they're absolutely no bloody use whatsoever
Also, if you're a crazy person:
It will make violent games too lifelike, worry 51% of general consumers. It's true – being able to see a little more depth is the tipping point that will cause millions of gamers to instantly turn into murderers.
Liked this? Then check out 3D gaming: everything you need to know
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