Senile Dimensia

The recent boom in 3D cinema has rekindled my desire to game in 3D... damn you James Cameron!

Sometimes I hate being me. As technology develops in an attempt to satiate my appetite for progress, so my appetite grows. My desire for clarity in movies had me move from VHS to CDi pretty damn quickly although, in retrospect, the difference in quality was perhaps so miniscule by today’s standards that I may actually have been getting excited over nothing. The move to DVD was certainly a turning point for me though, as it’s when I really began to look at movies with that “wow” thought racing through my head every so often when a particularly detailed scene immediately provoked a reaction because you knew, unequivocally, that neither VHS or CDi could have captured so many visual intricacies.

The switch to HD just… well, I don’t really want to get into that just now because the rest of the article would be taken up with me enthusing over being able to see pores in people’s faces and the tiniest little hairs. Yes, it IS a good thing… if you’re me.

Instead, I want to talk about 3D gaming. It’s been around for quite some time, at least to a certain extent, but it was always based in a technology that wasn’t quite advanced enough to carry it off properly. Rather than the image being rendered at separate perspectives for the left and right eye, it simply took the original 2D image and processed the information to create a pseudo-3D effect rather than actual 3D. In some cases it worked adequately enough to convince the player that they were immersed in a 3D environment but, for the most part, it was a poorly executed optical illusion.

When games are set in a fast moving 3D environment and, let's face it.. most are, it make sense to offer an additional depth of realism

In the last ten years, however, the technology has advanced to the point where the dream of many tech-starved gamers such as myself may soon be reality. Not only have more monitors been released to the general consumer market which are compatible with the Nvidia 3D but the major technology players such as Samsung, LG, Toshiba and Panasonic have announced that their new wave of TVs for the market will be “3D Ready”, meaning that the home users will be able to buy their own 3D glasses without the need for additional hardware. This announcement came at the same time Sony revealed that 2010 would not only bring a line of 3D Bravia TVs but that they would also be adding 3D functionality to their Vaio range, BluRay players AND the Playstation 3… but this announcement came with rather a bitter taste, a typically-Sony proprietary taste; the Sony 3D range will be using shutter glasses as opposed to the polarised lenses that all other manufacturers are using. This, presumably, means that anyone with a PS3 plugged into a Samsung 3D set won’t be able to use the PS3′s 3D capabilities because the Samsung (or anyone else that’s not Sony, for that matter) would use the polarisation technology rather than synchronised alternating shutter glasses. I don’t see this as a good move on Sony’s part, but then it appears to be their mission statement to challenge the norm and shoehorn their own tech into the consumer market whether it’s the best approach or not. I’d love to ask the heads at Sony why they think their shutter technology is the best approach when the IMAX cinemas use polarised lenses.

I digress.

The 3D girl. It's not gaming, but it's the law.

When I finally got my new gaming PC, I was determined to discover whether or not I’d be able to use the full 3D capabilities of GTX 295 with my current set up of an InFocus IN83 projector… please say yes, please say yes please say… ok, that would be a “no” then. The NVidia 3D utilises the same shutter glasses tech as Sony are championing, which not only limits the availability to the home user (requiring a 120hz display, double the norm) but also means there is a high risk of the annoying flicker effect often found with this type of technology.

The advent of autostereoscopic 3D means that we don’t need any apparatus to enjoy an immersive experience as the system is set up to deliver alternate images to each eye, much like we have in the outside world where the offsetting of each eye is enough to produce the depth perception. The problem with this particular method, at the moment anyway, is that it’s prone to headaches and can’t be experienced for longer periods of time. Fine for a 90 minute movie but not great for a six hour gaming marathon. I say “marathon”… but, given the time some of us actually play, that’s more like warming up!

There are drivers available from iZ3D which will take regular 3D drivers and transform them into anaglyph type 3D so you don't need 120hz screen with shutter glasses or a 3D TV with polarised glasses. While that may be ok for certain gamers, it just doesn't float my boat... or bike... or stolen car. As Roy Walker says... "It's good... but it's not right"

So what do I do? I want 3D, it’s pretty much all I’ve ever wanted. Well ok, that and very high definition… and colour accuracy, no screen tearing, no framerate dropouts and a whole bunch of other things but that’s not the point! The point is that 3D technology has been around in one form or another since 1890 and yet in 120 years we really haven’t progressed enough to realise that polarisation is the way to go. The IMAX understands, the movie studios understand, but Sony and NVidia are still driving home the shutter glasses approach which, at the moment anyway, means fewer people can enjoy it and may be subject to headaches because of the way the technology works.

I look forward to the day that I can sit back on my sofa, power up the XBox and projector, don my polarised 3D glasses and step into a fantasy world where I can experience the landscape with more awe than I ever imagined, tackle enemies with more precision because I can actually SEE how far they are away and get straight into their exposed areas. I long for a point where I won’t have to consider buying a brand new projector with dual offset lamps, or LCD shutter glasses that are not only too heavy to use for long periods of time but also cause eyeache and headaches. I want to trudge through the undergrowth of Cyrodiil and watch as the wind whistles gently through the trees and experience the depth of field where every leave moves independently and feels natural to the eye.

I want all that, and it’s driving me CRAZY that I can’t have it.  I want it now.




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9 Comments

  1. The Preacher says:

    In some respects, I’m reasonably glad that 3D gaming isn’t that efficient. I get very wrapped up in some games, to the point of excluding literally everything else, and an additional layer of immersive realism would facilitate this all the more. I’d wind up like those people playing Better Than Life in the old Red Dwarf novels; dying of starvation, giggling like an idiot, having spent days and weeks lost in a game world.

    Until they get rid of the need for 3D glasses too I’m going to be less than enthused, because I have yet to try the 3D glasses that feel comfortable over my corrective vision glasses. Not to mention that surely wearing 3D glasses misses the point – having an unusual set of specs on your face surely is a constant reminder that it’s not real, and would distract you from whatever realism the added depth brings? It would me anyway.

    3D is a nice idea, but I think it still has a long way to go, and more problems to solve beyond the more obvious technical ones. Still, a fascinating thing to consider.

  2. MarkuzR says:

    I actually did something different today. At lunchtime I loaded up C&C Generals and Risen and tried them both with the iZ3D driver on my work PC. For being red/cyan anaglyph, it actually worked very well in terms of the depth of field and the stereo separation but, of course, the colours were away to hell as everything ended up with that annoying greenish tint that you get with red/cyan. Was interesting though, so tonight I may try it upstairs on the gaming PC through the projector with Crysis on 1080p… just for research y’understand.

    Wearing 3D glasses, for me anyway, doesn’t alter the reality of the subject matter… it’s no different to wearing regular corrective glasses, which I do every time I’m watching TV or playing a game. I don’t wear glasses in regular daily life but, if I did, I’m sure it wouldn’t affect my perception of reality. The beauty of polarised lenses is that they’re just like regular glasses – very lightweight and only a very slight darker tint but absolutely miniscule really. The LCD shutter glasses are different, however, as they rely on eletrical impulses to synchronise the left/right eye shutters with the image being displayed and so they have to be powered as well as receive signals. Much heavier and more cumbersome.

    If… and I stress IF… they put the effort into further developing autostereoscopic 3D then we simply won’t need glasses as our brains will do all the calculations for us. Glorious.

  3. Pete says:

    Dammit…. I want 3D glasses now to see your photos properly ;)

    3D gaming would likely be well beyond my price range until it became “the norm” I reckon! I do like the idea though :)

  4. Kat says:

    I can’t go 3D. I’d spend my time in games huddled in the corner too scared to move lol It sounds pretty spectacular though!

  5. Lorna says:

    I’m not impressed to be honest and though I may be a gamer and therefore am supposed to be a geek, I hate this headlong whoring rush for new tech. I don’t want to look like Ronnie Barker, uncomfortable in sily specs to play a game where things are flying at me. Just like with Natal, I don’t want it…I just want to ooze in my curmudgeonly corner and play a normal game on a normal tv with a normal controller. *twitches*

    Typical that the dicks at Sony have to take the contrary position and bring out their own thing. Again. I hate that they do this…it is why Blu Ray ended up foisted on us all…perhaps their victory with Blu Ray after losing with Mini Discs has made the overconfident?

    Interesting piece anyway…but after seeing you glued to 3D specs and weird images for a few days I’m dreading this tech ;)

  6. MarkuzR says:

    Why dread it though? It’s a choice, just like you don’t like playing games on the projector and I don’t like playing them on the TV… the difference with 3D is that everything is already there, for the most part. Games these days are primarily 3D rendered games in which case nothing needs to be done, they don’t need to be rewritten, they won’t go to great lengths to introduce artefacts that accentuate the 3D nature of the games… because they’re already 3D anyway. All it is is that choice of whether you play on a regular monitor or TV, or click the button on your remote that switches it over to 3D if it takes your fancy.

    Dreading a tech that will always be a choice is an odd thing to do. Natal may not always be a choice, just like the Wiimote isn’t always a choice, but 3D will be… especially when you consider that some people are medically unsuitable for it and they’d therefore be alienating quite a notable percentage of their market share.

    I’m all for it. I like having that choice :)

  7. MrCuddleswick says:

    The idea of 3D gaming is an exciting one I think, assuming I’d have a decent enough home entertainment setup to take advantage of it.

  8. The Preacher says:

    Lorna – “Typical that the dicks at Sony have to take the contrary position and bring out their own thing. Again. I hate that they do this…”

    Don’t get me started again… you know how long that particular rant is. Heh.

  9. Rook says:

    Blah blah blah blah. oh, girly pic, I understood that bit. :p

    I tried 4 different sets of 3D glasses on those images. The avatar pic and the bottom pic didn’t work with the same set of glasses, each looked better with a different set. The second pic looked fine with most but the girly didn’t pop in 3D right at all with any of them.

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