Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Going Out of My Depth - 3D Gaming

Although we’ve had 3D movies since the 1950’s, gaming in the realm of the third dimension is a relatively new phenomenon due to a number of factors: the technology seems to be advanced enough now to be capable of it, the presence of more affordable home units with 3D capability has offered game companies incentive to try and see whether or not there is a solid market and demand for games that support it. So far though I don’t think I’d be far off the mark to say that it’s been a mixed bag at best.

I’m going to be completely honest here: I’m not a huge fan of 3D gaming. Just because I’m not though, doesn’t mean that I don’t see the point of it, and think that some of the ways that games have presented its usage to be somewhat clever. I think that the 3DS Augmented Reality is something that could really have some decent applications if people are willing to put enough time into it.

On the other end of the scale I thought that the recent gimmick that Sony has come up with where two people can play multiplayer on a single 3D tv by using one of the stereoscopic images as their own personal screen to be a cute, if ultimately pointless idea. It mostly comes down to the fact that not a whole hell of a lot of people are playing each other in living rooms anymore. This application came about seven years too late, and even if it would have been released back when being accused of screen looking was something that got tossed around a lot it would still probably be so prohibitively expensive that almost no one could actually make use of it.

These things aside though, I mentioned that I can see why the gaming industry is trying their hand with 3D: because to them it’s a stepping stone on the way to what make are viewing as the holy grail of gaming: total player immersion - which is sort of the soft topic for this week as a whole. The ultimate goal is to provide the gamer with an experience that is either a) going into a holodeck equivalent or b) controlling and experiencing a game in essentially the same way that a person experiences a dream. While both of these possibilities are probably still a ways off, you can see the progression towards them: more realistic graphics, interfaces like the ones from America’s Army, and now with this current generation motion controls and 3D applications.

The thing with 3D though, is that even though gaming hardware and software can now support it, it’s not necessarily a good idea for them to do so. I will say that it’s a good thing that unlike some of the recent movies that have come out, no particular game or system absolutely forces you to use 3D in order to play it, but when one of the pros to a feature is the fact that you can turn it off if you don’t want to use it that doesn’t reflect very well on the actual sustainability of the feature.

Aside from the glasses, which can and will cause headaches and nausea - some people, myself included cannot even sit through most 3D films without feeling like they’re on the bad end of a drinking binge - there’s also the limitations of glasses-free versions like that which the 3DS uses. Mostly the fact in order to actually see the full effect that the handheld must be kept completely still and at a certain angle, not the most intuitive thing in the world when it comes to something that you’re supposed to play on the go.

Even though the industry is decades old at this point, these are the first shaky steps along the way to a new plateau, 3D might not be the grand finale to it, but it’s certainly something that merited trying out along the way. Of course, this also begs the question of what actually happens when we reach that plateau, but that’s me getting a little ahead of myself. At least for the moment.

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