OXCGN’s 3D Gaming Comparison
©2012 Alex Baldwin
We will our lives in three spatial dimensions. We have two eyes. We see two images.
And yet, until recently, our games have only fed us one.
This made sense two decades ago when hardware restrictions confined game design to only up and down, left and right. And yet, the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 arrived with worlds that existed in three dimensions with depth. This shifted not just the way games are rendered as sprites gave way to polygons, but the way we control them as analogue thumbsticks became a necessity.
However, we were still stuck perceiving worlds with depth as flattened images on our screen. Nothing other than our knowledge of what is ‘correct’ and the ability to shift the camera indicated that the sun was not just a small yellow ball a few feet over the hero’s head.
We fill in the blanks for the information that is missing in a flat image and make assumptions that small or faded objects are far away, and use raised camera angles that enable us to see where an object or character touches the ground as a means of measuring how far away it is.
With the revival of 3D cinema, each of the major console and PC component manufacturers have begun experimenting in 3D once again after the infamous VirtualBoy failure. Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft and Nvidia have all made strides in testing the waters with varying degrees of success.
The following reviews of each major system’s implementation of 3D should help provide an overview of what you can expect if you choose to pursue them at the current time. Be that as it may, it must be noted that this is a very fast-moving period for 3D so new refinements of the technology and games can quickly appear.
Part 1: Nintendo 3DS
Part 2: PlayStation 3
Part 3: Xbox 360
Part 4: PC (Nvidia 3D Vision) (coming soon)
Let the games begin!
As the title implies, all games released natively on 3DS support 3D graphics viewed on the top screen using glasses-free technology. The screen relies on hundreds of fine, vertical slits that direct ever second column of pixels at the opposite eye, so the light from each column only reaches one of the viewer’s eyes.
Through displaying a different image for each eye, the 3D effect is achieved.
This looks just as good as technology requiring glasses, but with one significant drawback. As each slit needs to aim at a single eye, and your eyes are only centimeters apart, there is a very narrow sweet spot.
Movement from this position gives the appearance of shimmers and ghosting or ‘crosstalk’ on the screen as your eyes begin to see part of the image intended for the other eye.
If you move a bit further, you can actually end up directing the images at the exact opposite eyes than were intended, giving a reversed-depth image. This makes it difficult to play in moving vehicles or situations in which you may be unable to hold your hands steady.
Nintendo wisely added a hardware depth slider to the side of the screen, enabling you to adjust the ‘intensity’ (perceived distance between closest and furthest objects) to find a comfortable setting for you or turn off the effect entirely.
Unfortunately Nintendo have not provided any ‘convergence’ controls. Convergence refers to the overall position of the image in relation to the screen, with high convergence bringing more of the image ‘out’ of the screen and closer to you while low convergence pushes it back further into screen so it appears more like a window.
This leaves it up to the developers to get it right, which most do, but can result in some games looking too far away or some such as Rayman 3D actually being too close to the point that your eyes are unable to focus close enough and the closest objects split into two images.
Screen size is also an issue. Remember, most of your 3D viewing will be looking deeper ‘into’ the screen, making a small screen a drawback as you are looking at already tiny objects that appear further away from you.
If you are holding the 3DS a foot from you, a distant enemy can have the perceived depth of being another foot away.
Three dimensions… of pain?
This has been the first of a four-part series that tackles the current entries in three-dimensional gaming.
Check back in the next few days for part two, in which we’ll tackle the PlayStation 3.
©2012 Alex Baldwin
Filed under: Oxcgn Special feature, Xbox 360 Tagged: | 3d, 3d comparison, 3d gaming, 3d video game, nintendo, Nintendo 3DS, nvidia, Playstation, Playstation 3, Sony, three dimensional gaming, three dimensional video game, Virtual Boy