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 Left4Dead S-3D Game Review 
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3D Angel Eyes (Moderator)
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http://www.mtbs3d.com/cgi-bin/game_revi ... news_id=63


Stereoscopic 3D Verion
http://digg.com/gaming_news/Video_Revie ... oscopic_3D

In some ways, I feel a little silly reviewing this game as it has been around for awhile now, and a sequel is due out in November. On the other hand, it's a great lead-up opportunity to their next release, and who could complain about killing zombies?

Check it out and share your thoughts.

Regards,
Neil

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Sun Sep 27, 2009 9:57 pm
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Nice review. I still haven't picked this up yet but I think I might have to after reading such a good recommendation. It looks like a fun game and should run pretty smooth on my machine. I was hesitating to get it because I wasn't sure if I wanted a horror game (I'd much rather play something like Mirror's Edge) but I might have to pick it up anyway. Also, if you like horror definitely check out FEAR2. I just started playing that tonight and it is scary as HELL!!!! I'm gonna have nightmares. Works really well with the Nvidia driver and performance is great.

@Neil: do you have all 3 of those drivers installed on the same machine and thats not a problem? Currently I'm running the Nvidia driver and I finally got the iz3D driver working again but I am afraid to reinstall the DDD driver cause it may have been conflicting (or maybe it was the Vuzix driver, I don't know).

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Sun Sep 27, 2009 11:33 pm
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I have all three installed.

I too ran into a problem, but I falsely diagnosed it based on the symptoms.

Here are some recommendations:

1. With Steam games, make sure the Steam quicklaunch logo isn't active. Otherwise DDD will "double-steam", and you will get a double injection problem. This is why you had the earlier problem where DDD was injecting even though the game wasn't running from the DDD launch window.

2. Make sure the other drivers are deactivated. Doesn't have to be uninstalled, but deactivated.

3. If necessary, in the task manager, you can uncheck the NVIDIA stereo services - but I don't think this is necessary.

4. In the DDD drivers, in the performance window, I made the mistake of having the copy texture toggle activated, and this made me think the problem was something else.

Regards,
Neil

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Sun Sep 27, 2009 11:43 pm
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One Eyed Hopeful

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Whilst I'm a big fan of MTBS and highly appreciative of Neil's work on behalf of us all to promote stereoscopic 3D, this review really got my goat. The chances of Valve ever fixing the 3D problems in Left 4 Dead (or the sequel, or TF2) just got smaller as a direct result of what was written.

Please never ever ever describe any game as an "anomaly free experience" in 3D when it actually has several glaringly obvious anomalies. The worst of these are the screen depth player names above the heads of your team mates which jarringly draw the focus of your eyes away from the 3d models, severely limiting immersion:

Image

3D screenshot of the above in JPS format

The same problem occurs with pop-up labels for things like levers or buttons which you're required to interact with:

Image

3D screenshot of the above in JPS format

Then there are the "3D skybox" objects (the distant 3d objects like the tower blocks surrounding the roof-top level of Mercy hospital) which are also drawn at an incorrect depth so that they appear to be closer to the player than other nearer objects which obscure them:

Image

3D screenshot of the above in JPS format

Image

3D screenshot of the above in JPS format

Finally, whilst it's nice that the game has a built-in 3D crosshair, it would be even nicer if it worked properly. If you look closely, you'll see that the crosshair is generally drawn further away than the character or object the player is looking at. This makes it look as if the character is partially transparent and you're seeing a crosshair which is behind them:

Image

3D screenshot of the above in JPS format (the lower half of the image has been edited to show what it should look like)

Image

3D screenshot of the above in JPS format (the lower half of the image has been edited to show what it should look like)

MTBS needs to be holding game developers to much higher standards than this review did. We're never going to see 3D properly implemented if flawed efforts like Left 4 Dead are whitewashed as "anomaly free". The seriousness of this error is compounded by the fact that the developer in question (Valve) have created games which together make up around 85% of the PC online action market. If they were made to understand the importance of patching their titles to work properly in 3D then, at a stroke, 85% of online gaming could really become "anomaly free" in 3D. Instead, any Valve developers who read this review (and don't themselves have 3D glasses) will think "I guess we must be doing everything right already so there's no need to change anything" -a totally wasted opportunity.

We all know the nVidia 3D ratings system is a laughing stock, assigning "Excellent", "Good" or "Fair" ratings to games apparently entirely at random. MTBS needs to be far more reliable and accurate to avoid becoming similarly discredited. When I read an MTBS review I expect every 3D anomaly to be highlighted and if an MTBS reviewer describes a game as "anomaly free" then readers should be able to buy the game with total confidence that it will be perfect in 3D.


Having said all that, I'm still a big fan of the game and I actually felt some other parts of the review relating to gameplay were rather unfair to the developers. For example:

"One thing that took away from the game is there are no surprises. Usually, you start a game with a modest arsenal, and as you advance, the bad guys get tougher, and the guns get bigger. In Left4Dead, every level features every weapon. No unlocks to look forward to, no enemies to anticipate – the first and the last mission are the same. The result is that while Left4Dead is entertaining, it’s not as scary as it could be. In comparison, while I have already finished these games and they are based on older technology already, I’d still be a ball of nerves if I played Doom 3 or the original Fear."

This couldn't be much more wrong. L4D incorporates an excellent AI "Director" which dynamically adjusts the intensity of the zombie attacks by analysing factors such as the health and skill of the players and their progress through the levels, deliberately creating lulls in which the players can regroup and draw breath and thrilling crescendo events in which they risk being completely overrun. The timing of the waves of normal zombies and the appearance of "specials" are different during each session, so a part of a level where you were previously pounded by a tank and dozens of zombies might be eerily quiet the next time you play it (and vice versa).

Even things like the location of weapon caches and other items are changed each time you play to keep the gameplay fresh and unpredictable. L4D is leagues ahead of more predicatable games like Doom 3 in this regard (where items are always in exactly the same location and the monsters always spawn in exactly the same "monster cupboards", triggered by the player walking in exactly the same area).

/rant
Cheers,
DD


Mon Sep 28, 2009 5:33 pm
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3D Angel Eyes (Moderator)
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Yeah, what he said.

@Neil: Also, on the front page news you say L4D is coming out in November but you mean to say L4D2.

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Mon Sep 28, 2009 6:05 pm
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Hi DickDastardly,

Thank you for your feedback. I'm very pleased that you read the review from head to toe and took it as seriously as you did.

The name tags are a tough call. On paper, it should be rendered at the distance of the object they are associated with. However, what if the hardware solution has mild cross-talk, and the tags suddenly become hard to read? What if it's an interlaced solution, and portions of the text can only be seen in one eye? I think this is a matter of preference rather than anomaly.

I looked at the JPS images, and I can't confirm the skybox problem. The clouds and mountains do not share the same separation proportions as the rest of the screen, and I can confirm this. However, a Skybox is often a 2D object, and having any separation at all often overcomes the incongruities. If they were strictly 2D zero separation objects, I would agree with you. As it is now, it struck me as reasonable. I'm open to debate, though. Can you point to multiple games that handle this correctly?

The cross-hairs I'm not sure about. What would be helpful is if we saw where the bullets hit relative to the cross-hair. That's a worthy test to see.

As for game play, this is subjective and a matter of taste. I either felt surprised in each round, or I didn't. In this case, I didn't. For me, L4D is a very enjoyable game - I just wanted to feel more nervousness when peering around corners.

Your attention to detail raises valid concerns. Part of our process has to consider how realistic it is for game developers to deliver a fully compliant S-3D experience in the short term, and gradually increase our expectations as they catch up and include S-3D in their day to day development process.

EDIT: Corrected the news too! Thanks!

Regards,
Neil

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Mon Sep 28, 2009 6:37 pm
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One Eyed Hopeful

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Neil wrote:
The name tags are a tough call. On paper, it should be rendered at the distance of the object they are associated with. However, what if the hardware solution has mild cross-talk, and the tags suddenly become hard to read? What if it's an interlaced solution, and portions of the text can only be seen in one eye? I think this is a matter of preference rather than anomaly.

Unless you're using a VR display with a separate screen for each eye, there'll always be some degree of cross talk in 3d. This is not a reason for incorrectly rendering things at screen depth - if it was, you might as well say everything should be rendered at screen depth (thereby eliminating cross talk altogether). Have a look at these two images and you'll see that the player names look much better when rendered at the correct depth:

In-game stereo screenshot

Edited version in which the player names have been moved to the correct depth

(The best way to compare them is to download them both and then start a slideshow in the 3D image viewer consisting of both images. You can then flick from the first to the second by left clicking, and back to the first by right clicking. Focus your eyes on Bill's face and you'll see that it's actually much easier to read the player names in my version than it is in the unedited one which requires you to totally refocus your eyes to read them).

Neil wrote:
I looked at the JPS images, and I can't confirm the skybox problem. The clouds and mountains do not share the same separation proportions as the rest of the screen, and I can confirm this.

You're looking at the wrong part of the images. The clouds and mountains are part of the 2d skybox and are rendered at the correct depth (even when viewed in 3d). The problem is with the 3d skybox elements. See here for an explanation of what a 3d skybox is (it's a technical term used by level designers which has nothing to do with stereoscopic 3d). Look more closely at the areas I've circled in my first post and you'll see that the distant tower blocks which I've marked in red are being drawn as if closer to the player than the much nearer objects which I've marked in green.

Here are another couple of screenshots which show the same issue (this time in TF2 which uses the same Valve engine). In the first one you can see the red gantry, cables and tower (all of which are supposed to be very far away) are rendered as if they're actually closer to the player than the (much nearer) green satellite dish:

Image

Stereo screenshot in jps format of the above

Similarly, in this picture the red part of the tower (which is part of the 3d skybox) is drawn as if it's closer to the player than the green tower base and terrain (which are part of the level):

Image

Stereo screenshot in jps format of the above

Neil wrote:
The cross-hairs I'm not sure about. What would be helpful is if we saw where the bullets hit relative to the cross-hair. That's a worthy test to see.

Again, look more closely at the jps images in my first post. Focus your eyes on the crosshair in the upper half of each image and you'll see that it's being drawn as if it was the far side of the character (i.e. behind them). Then look at the fixed version in the bottom half of the image. You'll see that the crosshairs there look as if they're immediately in front of the character, as if the character is wearing a crosshair shaped badge pinned to their front. With higher separation settings, the error becomes more pronounced. Have a look, for example, at this screenshot, taken with 100% separation:

Stereo screenshot of incorrect crosshair depth

(I'm aiming exactly at the edge of the orange poster so in both the left and right eye views the crosshair should be exactly on the dividing line between the poster and the wall (and that is where a bullet hole would appear if I fired). However, you can clearly see that in the right eye view the crosshair is a couple of inches to the right of this line, whereas in the left eye it's a couple of inches to the left of it).

Neil wrote:
Your attention to detail raises valid concerns. Part of our process has to consider how realistic it is for game developers to deliver a fully compliant S-3D experience in the short term, and gradually increase our expectations as they catch up and include S-3D in their day to day development process.

Three quarters of a year after the launch of nVidia's 3d Vision (and something like a decade after the launch of their original 3d drivers), our expectations should be for perfect 3d with no issues whatsoever now. Fixing something like the screen depth player names is as simple as changing a single coordinate in the code. Erroneously describing games which are riddled with problems as "anomaly free" just prolongs the time until developers finally get everything correct in 3d. (I'm sorry to keep banging on about this at such length, but it's something I feel very passionate about and if we can't even agree amongst ourselves on the correct way of rendering things like player names in 3d then we have no chance whatsoever of convincing developers to do it correctly).

Cheers,
DD


Last edited by DickDastardly on Mon Sep 28, 2009 10:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Sep 28, 2009 9:23 pm
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The player name thing is a pretty big issue. In the way the game looks right now it is basically useless to see the player names in 3D cause you can't read them without refocusing your eyes. They might as well not even be there if its not going to look right. Also I am not sure about the reasoning behind having them at screen depth. I don't feel ghosting has anything to do with this issue in the slightest. I also have no problem reading in-game text with my interlaced solution, so that point is neither here no there in regards to player names. I tested those sample images given and they look much better on the doctored versions.

Also the 3D skybox thing drives me crazy. A lot of developers use this "hack" for far away objects and it looks really bad in S3D. FEAR2 also does the same thing and it ruins the illusion. The annoying part is that the background (cityscape) looks really great in stereo in its own right. And the foreground looks really nice. But put them together and its garbage since the far distance looks closer than whats right in front of you. Your mind just doesn't accept it. I think they do this in order to keep the range of depth smaller as an optimization (also to avoid floating point inaccuracies with very large spaces) but it sucks when you see it in S3D.

In regards to the crosshair, I would actually prefer if you could just shut it off altogether. I find in the games where you can turn in off (like UT2004) I can actually aim *better* without it using only the depth cues are reference. Its not like you get a crosshair in real life and people have been killing each other for years, no problem. But if there is going to be a crosshair it should close to screen-depth (ie not doubled up excessively).

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Mon Sep 28, 2009 10:18 pm
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Hi DickDastardly and Cybereality,

I can't replicate your cross-hair problem. I'm not saying its right or wrong, I just can't replicate it. I don't see a transparent character or anything. However, my right eye is dominant. What does this mean? As an example, when some people use the "left shift" feature in the iZ3D driver where the crosshair is whole and only the left eye is shifted while separating, they still see a doubled cross-hair. I don't have this experience at all and can aim properly. It's not right or wrong, but it exemplifies that everyone's eyes are slightly different.

I learned something new with your 3D skybox examples. I had to stare at the images for a few moments to finally see the flaw. I find that in most games, the depth flaws are so obvious and easy to spot, but these were more elusive for some reason.

I agree with your player tag findings, though I still say we need to have realistic short term expectations of game developers. Here is a video of the anomalies we do acknowledge and are aware of:

http://www.s3dga.com/videos.html

The first video is the most important, and I think you will be pleased with it.

As for the expectations from game developers, there is a method to my madness. "Anomaly Free" was a bit liberal on my part, and I will make a point to be a bit more cautious next time - though I'm not the first to rate L4D very highly in S-3D! :mrgreen:

Regards,
Neil

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Mon Sep 28, 2009 10:34 pm
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One Eyed Hopeful

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Cybereality, I totally agree with everything you said m8, apart from this:
cybereality wrote:
But if there is going to be a crosshair it should be close to screen-depth (ie not doubled up excessively).

IMO the only correct depth for the crosshair is exactly on the surface of the object you're looking at. If it's too far away (as in my Left 4 Dead examples) or too near (as "close to screen depth" would be) then your shots won't land where the crosshair is.

Incidentally, with regard to 3d skyboxes, anomalies are not inevitable when developers use this technique. So long as the 3d skybox is scaled correctly, everything will work fine (I've made levels myself in which the 3d skybox looks perfect in stereoscopic 3d). Here are a couple of illustrations which show the difference between a correctly scaled 3d skybox (on the left) and an incorrectly scaled one (on the right). The images represent plan views of the level as perceived by the player:

Image

Neil wrote:
I can't replicate your cross-hair problem. I'm not saying its right or wrong, I just can't replicate it. I don't see a transparent character or anything. However, my right eye is dominant.

Eye dominance would certainly effect your ability to notice this problem, but if you look at this image again, closing one eye at a time, then you'll be able to see that the crosshair is displaced in both left and right views. (In both views it should be positioned exactly on the dividing line between the orange poster and the wall, which is where I'm aiming). This displacement causes the crosshair to appear as if it's actually behind the wall when it should look as if it's on the surface of the wall facing the player.

Neil wrote:
I learned something new with your 3D skybox examples. I had to stare at the images for a few moments to finally see the flaw. I find that in most games, the depth flaws are so obvious and easy to spot, but these were more elusive for some reason.

Yeah, it's much harder to spot this in static screenshots than it is when moving. Once you're aware of the issue, however, you'll find yourself noticing the problem in many games and it'll become like the visual equivalent of fingernails screeching down a blackboard. Apologies in advance for putting you through that ;).

BTW I loved the presentation you gave in your video -it was absolutely excellent and it's great that someone's getting this message out there. The only minor quibble I have is that sometimes you ascribed certain issues to the drivers which are actually the fault of the game developers. If, for example, the developers don't give any depth coordinate to an object (like a light halo) then it's not the drivers' fault that they draw the object at screen depth - they have no choice but to do so. Similarly if the developers give incorrect depth coordinates to objects (like reflections) then again, there's nothing the drivers can do but use those incorrect coordinates. They don't actually know that what they're drawing is a reflection -they're simply told by the game to draw object A at coordinates x,y,z.

Cheers,
DD

P.S. If the health question arises again, it might be worth stressing that 3d objects are what your eyes have evolved to see, so playing a game in 3d, which causes your eyes to constantly shift their angle of convergence (just as they do in real life) is actually far more natural than staring at a flat 2d image on a 2d screen (which means that your eyes aren't changing their angle of convergence at all).


Last edited by DickDastardly on Tue Sep 29, 2009 2:05 am, edited 1 time in total.



Tue Sep 29, 2009 12:54 am
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"We all know the nVidia 3D ratings system is a laughing stock, assigning "Excellent", "Good" or "Fair" ratings to games apparently entirely at random."

I still can't get one of thier certified games, star wars KOTOR to work, what you talkin bout willis? (snicker) (not the cat)


Quote:
MTBS needs to be far more reliable and accurate to avoid becoming similarly discredited. When I read an MTBS review I expect every 3D anomaly to be highlighted and if an MTBS reviewer describes a game as "anomaly free" then readers should be able to buy the game with total confidence that it will be perfect in 3D.


I used to get really upset that Neil did not have a 3D camera to take 3D photos to share with the users here, now he has one, I completely agree with your concerns Dick, so why instead of just complaining about the problem, offer your personal resources to make things better. Do some excellent stereo3d game reviews and post them here at mtbs3d, maybe Neil will even pay you for some. I like can do people that make the world better, and you seem like just the guy Dick, what will be the next awesome stereo3D review you are going to do and post here at mtbs3d for the community?

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Tue Sep 29, 2009 2:02 am
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One Eyed Hopeful

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martinlandau wrote:
what will be the next awesome stereo3D review you are going to do and post here at mtbs3d for the community?


Whilst I'd like to do a review or two at some point, unfortunately I have very little free time in which to do so atm as I'm in the process of setting up a new business. The little available time I do have is spent making stuff for games rather than writing about them.
Cheers,
DD


Mon Oct 12, 2009 2:34 am
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One Eyed Hopeful

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Well, the Left 4 Dead 2 demo is out and (suprise, suprise) it has all the same 3D anomalies as the first game. In fact, they've even managed to add some more - screen depth crosshairs and dodgy water reflections. Image
Cheers,
DD


Thu Oct 29, 2009 3:36 am
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One Eyed Hopeful
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As a S-3D Gamer, Name Tags at screen depth is a big no-no. I play with a true depth ( Eye width separation ) and the text just kills the immersion of my 3D scene, its like wearing dirty glasses.

If I could just turn the names off I would be happy.

I stopped playing Aion is S-3D because of round icons above your target at Screen depth ( all the rest of the screen depth info I could turn off ).

MTBS = Power to the gamer no? This gamer wants no elements in the middle of the 3d scene at screen depth :mrgreen:
Thanks
VieuxSec


Tue Nov 03, 2009 12:04 pm
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Thank you for your feedback.

Which S-3D solution are you using?

Regards,
Neil

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Tue Nov 03, 2009 12:41 pm
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Yeah, I am sorry about my earlier comments regarding 2D elements rendered at screen depth. It does not look right and is very distracting. MTBS should definitely lobby to have HUD elements rendered at a proper 3D depth or, at the very least, and option to hide the 2D HUD elements altogether.

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Tue Nov 03, 2009 7:19 pm
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One Eyed Hopeful

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If you activate the console and type (without quotation marks):

"sv_cheats 1"

You will have activated cheats and can use the following command:

"cl_drawhud 0"

Which will remove both crosshair, name tags and unfortunately the life bars of your mates at the bottom. Should work with Team Fortress 2 as well but of course it won't work online and you gotta watch out so other people don't use it to type: impulse101 or something.

/ Knasp


Sat Dec 05, 2009 11:43 am
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