Tuesday, March 15, 2011

3D or not 3D

No question, 3D was the story of the show at PAX this year. The expo floor was jampacked with 3D displays for games of all types, and one of the longest non-Portal 2 lines was for demonstrations of the Nintendo 3DS. There is a sense of inevitability about 3D. No matter what reservations you may have about the technology -- the glasses, the eyestrain, the dimness -- they do not matter. 3D is coming.

One of the first things I saw on the show floor was an enormous display running a demo of Crysis 2. I wore the glasses for about 30 seconds and had to take them off. It's inaccurate to call the sensation I was feeling a headache. It was as though the signal from my eyes to my brain was doing barrel rolls. There was undeniably something impressive about looking into the game screen, but the physical discomfort was hard to take. Maybe prolonged exposure to the display would alleviate the symptoms. It's hard to imagine taking the time to break through the wall.

After I stood in line for about half an hour to play Resident Evil on the 3DS, I came away thinking that Nintendo has, once again, figured out something that its competitors still don't understand. The 3DS, at least in the couple of minutes I played it, does not hurt your eyes. The display doesn't flicker. The depth of field also isn't overwhelming -- no more of a graphical accoutrement than bloom lighting. And this is, I think, a good thing. It is easy to pick up a 3DS and play it, something that is not true about any other 3D technology that I've seen.

Oddly, my favorite use of the technology was during a viewing of the new Mortal Kombat -- a 2D game (which looks sweet even on a traditional display). Because the fighters moved along a line, they were in focus even when I was without glasses. Only the background was blurry. With glasses on, the fighters looked no different -- maybe a little heftier -- but the arenas were given a sense of depth, and when extra-powerful attacks broke the plane of the screen toward me, it felt earned instead of gimmicky.

Recently I've been playing Killzone 3. My review is coming this week, but I found myself wondering, the whole time, what might have been added to the experience if I'd been playing in 3D. Like its predecessor, it's a decent shooter that suffers from a lack of imagination. I can't imagine that playing in 3D would have changed what I didn't like about it. It still would have been full of long, bland shooting arenas. The mech sequences still would have been loud and disorienting, probably moreso. Yet, based on my other experiences with 3D, I think that the new perspective would have dominated my entire experience. I wouldn't have even thought about the fundamental game, but the technology. Unlike with the 3Ds, it would have been the main course and not a seasoning. And I'm not sure what good that would have been.

Is this the future? Sacrificing innovation in gameplay for an expensive technological upgrade? Or is that just the story of video games, same as it ever was?


Anonymous said...

Yes, 3D is coming. But one day it might be going. This has happened a few times at the cinema.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. 3D has come and gone more than once in more than one form of media (including games) in the last 50+ (60+?) years.

This is just the latest iteration. Sure it's executed with more finess this go-round, but I don't think anything offered in the next three years, in terms of 3D, will truly make this gimmick stick.

It is a gimmick, after all.

avixe said...

Like it was with HD, it's either do this, or figure out how to make better content. This is easier.

TifaIA said...

3D comes and goes in cycles. It started in the 1950's with the Stereo Camera that simulated binocular vision. It amuses me when people say "3D is the new thing!" when it's anything but new. I remember back in the late 80's/early 90's when they were trying to revive 3D.

I think this time around is the first time that we are seeing companies put more effort into making good products for 3D. But it is, after all, a fad. It will eventually die out.

Enjoyed the article!

Hamwize said...

I think 3D will have its place in gaming when it's actually incorporated into the gameplay somehow. At the moment it just seems to be icing on the grahpical cake. I'd like to see some 'real' depth to the 3D. Like a Mario Galaxy type platformer where you can actually use depth perception in a real way to make jumps and navigate the gameworld. So far I've heard no evidence of anything like this. All anyone ever talks about is how it looks. Until 3D becomes part of the actual gameplay I agree, it is just a gimmick.

Crabs said...

Combine this with the 'Party' games bursting on the scene at the moment and you have a money making idea, i fear the casual market is taking lead in gaming sales.

I havnt tried 3D gaming yet but i cant see how it would benifit my experience, i can imagine buying an expensive TV and glasses playing it for a month and never touching it again, just like i did with the Wii/Kinect

girlplaysgames said...

I can see the 3DS making a lot in sales. I can see it paving the way for household virtual reality systems, which I think would be much cooler. As for the glasses, I have also found that they just give me a weird headache and mess with my vision. I have yet to see something so amazing that it is worth keeping them on for very long. It's been around for a while, nothing new, I don't think people are going to be wrestling in the stores for 3D items, but who knows.

Also, check out my blog! (Yes shameful self promotion, but I'm trying to get some readers!) I am a fellow gamer, and I offer a girls perspective on gaming. No I am not a pansy girl who only plays nintendogs either.


Bubble said...

Gaming industry needs to improve bad side effects of 3D gaming and then it will be the real thing..

SubspaceEmissary said...

Interesting. Good to know that the 3DS doesn't hurt your eyes. It sounds a little simpler than I imagined it to be too. It looks like just the next step in the progression of games, rather than a gimmick. Yes, they're doing it for sales, but surely its also bringing you slightly closer to the full-immersive experience?