Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
October 22, 2014
arrowPress Releases
October 22, 2014
PR Newswire
View All
View All     Submit Event

If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:

3D Me...
by Jon Brown on 06/22/10 08:01:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


I haven’t been to E3 this year, so I can’t actually tell you what the 3D display games have actually done with all that Z [depth]. Of course, I have watched the videos but, given the nature of the technology, I didn’t actually learn all that much. But that doesn’t stop me from hoping that, despite the tragically unfashionable glasses you have to wear, gamers are keen to have 3D in their homes.

But it’s not the hardcore early adopters that I am thinking about here - I want 3D displays to succeed because they will make games easier to “read”, and therefore play, especially for casual gamers.

Anyone who has run a game with a 3D environment, specifically one with any hint of free roaming, through user experience testing for casual or younger players will know it can be a pretty demoralizing thing to behold. It makes you want to make games the old fashioned way – make them and throw them over the wall straight into the market, without knowing the problems and then shout at the reviews if they’re bad.

Honestly, the ignorance is bliss, after all, games are reviewed by experienced adults who have highly honed skills, they can cope with anything, as long as it’s what every other game does. Everyone else, at least everyone except for a few million hardcore game players, is different, they find your game awkward to play, and they don’t blame themselves they, quite rightly, blame you.

I am convinced it’s the Z depth that’s the sticking point here. You might keep your action pretty much in a 2D plane, but if that plane is in the X and Z then be prepared to watch players struggle. These problems are not insurmountable. Iteration, usability testing and the time to do them both allows you to fine tune your controls, find the visual cues in the environment that lead the player astray, refine the geo to eliminate snags and chokes, and stop driving your poor test subjects crazy.

We will always have to do these things to make good games, so we should be following this process regardless of display technology but 3D displays will offer a level of environment readability that’s beyond anything we can currently do.

3D displays also provide an effective increase in real estate. Pushing and pulling game elements through the Z plane creates a sense of space far beyond a normal 2D display. As elements are separated by depth the brain finds it easier to distinguish between all the elements on offer.

The HUD, in particular, will no longer be something that needs to be picked out from the rest of the screen through excessive highlights and prompts. Action within the HUD will also be easier to emphasise to the player. It will be possible to draw their eye more effectively towards critical HUD information by pushing an element towards them, so it comes closer then moves further away, like current pulsing methods but a lot more forceful. You might think this isn’t much of a problem but getting less experienced players to notice the HUD is a constant battle.

For the reasons above, and a whole lot more that I haven’t found yet, I am hugely interested in 3D displays. They have the potential to grow the console market well beyond its current boundaries. Even better, fingers crossed, my job will get easier.

Related Jobs

University of Texas at Dallas
University of Texas at Dallas — Richardson, Texas, United States

Assistant/Associate Prof of Game Studies
Avalanche Studios
Avalanche Studios — New York, New York, United States

UI Artist/Designer
Bohemia Interactive Simulations
Bohemia Interactive Simulations — ORLANDO, Florida, United States

Game Designer
Petroglyph Games
Petroglyph Games — Las Vegas, Nevada, United States

Illustrator / Concept Artist


Billy Stever
profile image
3D tv/gaming is all a bunch of industry hype to cash in on a silly fad. And as a game tester it will make my job even more annoying. 8+ hours wearing 3D glasses would give me migraines. Even 5 minutes at my local mall testing out the 3D tvs they have on display gave me a mild headache. On top of that the 3D effect is minimal in my eyes. Totally not worth the money or annoyance.

For my QA viewpoint on 3D gaming check it out here:

Jon Brown
profile image
I do agree that longer play sessions are going to be out of the question with specs on for most people. But I also think we should be looking to the future, to a time when we can throw the specs away. This is no fad.

Maurício Gomes
profile image
I LOVE 3D...

Maybe, because I only see 3D in media. (my real-world vision is flat).

Jacob Pederson
profile image
I really don't get all the open hostility amoung nerds over the recent reintroduction of stereoscopic gaming. You see it on Slashdot anytime a story so much as mentions 3d in passing. Isn't stereoscopy the first step on that long road to the holideck? Aren't we nerds? Shouldn't we be in love here?

Personally, I'm absolutely nuts over my Mitsubishi 3d display combined with Nvidia's 3d vision tech. I was also there on day one to pick up a Virtual Boy. I was the only guy who actually liked the thing, but now, we've got the tech to actually pull it off. No more 4 color red, red, red, and black, I can actually play Left 4 Dead at full framerate and resolution while zombies run toward me (not just get bigger). I can play Dirt 2, and have the hood of my car start at the end of my desk, pushing out into an actuall world, not a flat representation.

Jonathan has a lot of good points here. With stereoscopy, "reading" a scene becomes hugely easier. Example: fps games almost universally feature some kind of arrow that points at the direction of incoming fire. In 3d, you can see where tracers are coming from without this crutch. Example: in Defense Grid, it quickly becomes very difficult to disentangle the intertwining over and under paths from each other on a flat render. With stereoscopy, everything pops into clarity.

Sure, stereoscopy could easily end up to be a fad, just like it was the last ten times. However, we are the people who make it or break it. So have a little love :)

Jonathan Lawn
profile image
I think the points about HUDs and signpost arrows are very interesting, but I do suspect that the extra costs, paraphernalia and headaches will appeal more to the more hardcore gamers. Perhaps though the Wii/Guitar Hero crowd will buy in.

By the way, I don't think it contradicts anything anyone has said yet, but in real life you can't use stereoscopic vision for anything over about 5m away, and it's barely useful for anything out of arms reach. Movement, and in particular sideways movement (strafing, in FPS parlance), is far more important, and scene analysis is more significant than either. I'm sure Maurício can confirm that very few tasks are hindered by a lack of stereo vision. Catching a flying mosquito is the only one I can think of at the moment!

profile image
While I love 3D, my biggest problem with current solutions is that the glasses are uncomfortable, the forced focus gives me headaches (if the camera is focused on the actor but I'm trying to look at something out of focus in the background, for example), the picture quality always appears to be lower than the 2D counterparts (with less vivid colors and clarity) and very few people who make 3D media really frame and utilize the z space, instead using it as a gimmick.

In response to the forum animosity, I think a lot of the hostility comes from the fact that when most people talk about how much they love 3D media, they are really talking about how much they enjoyed Avatar. While I loved the special effects and give a lot of credit to the good use of 3D space (rather than just having a flat picture in which something comes out at the audience), the movie was *unbelievably* awful from a script perspective. It is more than a little alarming to have a movie with such a stunningly horrible story get so much praise- especially to gamers as an audience already wary of high budget projects that are all graphics and no gameplay.

Stereoscopic images have been around since the mid 19th century (with 3D movies as early as 1890) and while they have their place, I don't think that it marks the future of gaming. I see 3D as being an important part of future titles but only after the technology allows for natural viewing, without glasses.

Dan Kyles
profile image
3D isn't going away; It's just going to take some awkwardness to get there.

I was highly skeptical about 3D, until I saw this report from MIT's TechReview:

Summary: Head tracking + selective projection.

It's pretty feasible to imagine an extension of this technology to more than two people; and it's also feasible that this will be commercial in 10-15 years. That might sound like a long time, but personally 2000AD doesn't feel that far back.

The biggest problem that I can see is that pointed out by @Korey; forced focus. I love to look around at the environments, especially when the plot is thin! What I can't stand is being forced to focus on a single area of the screen. I don't wear prescriptive lenses, but I feel like I need them when I cannot focus on a blurry background. Ironically, I'm wearing (3D) glasses at the time!

I'm not sure what the future solutions for this are. Solving this would be easier for real-time content, but surely nigh impossible for content captured at a fixed focus? And still it will require detecting changes in eye lens shape. Talk about technically difficult.

Michael Smith
profile image
Stereoscopic 3D, as it is today, is flawed. When proper stereo 3D tech comes out, you'll look back at today's tech like you would the blocky 3D of the mid-to-late 90s. It's just bad, but tolerable if the content is good enough. Most games of that time would have been better off exploring the 2D space more.

What's more, we already handle most of necessary components to realize a virtual 3D environment. Stereoscopic 3D just adds one more layer with no functional benefits, just reduced performance, resolution and/or display brightness. I don't just not like 3D, I think gaming and movies are better without it. Avatar certainly was for me.