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The 3D Gaming Summit: What The Media Missed

By Neil Schneider

We have just returned from the 3D Gaming Summit, arguably one of the greatest and most influential conferences we have ever attended and participated with. The energy was positive, the top names were in the room, and the vision of the future was nearly unanimous. An entire industry may have well been defined here.

3D Gaming Summit Panel

Left to Right: Josh Wexler, President, Threshold Animation Studios, Lorne Lanning, Chief Creative Officer, Oddmobb Inc., Alan Price, Studio CTO, EA Canada, Jesse Stern, Writer, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, James Bower, President & COO, Masterimage, Ashu Rege, Senior Director, Content & Technology, NVIDIA

I was very surprised when I returned home to find media coverage which bordered on being 100% disconnected from what was discussed and shared at the conference. It's almost as though journalists went out of their way to find faults than to seek out the bigger and more exciting picture.

First, let me share a few points about the challenges this conference faced. I've spoken at a lot of events, and while S-3D gaming is often covered for completeness, it's usually a token topic compared to stereoscopic 3D movies in the theater and the home. Nearly everyone miscalculated, and display manufacturers, game developers, and technology enablers are only now realizing how critical S-3D gaming is going to be for their businesses.

Neil Schneider

Neil Schneider, President of Meant to be Seen, Executive Director of the S-3D Gaming Alliance

Plans for The 3D Gaming Summit were announced eight months ago at the 3D Entertainment Summit. Everyone, myself included, was very nervous about how this would be received. Would the industry back it up with sponsorship and content? Would they even attend? Even in the last weeks leading to the summit, there was uncertainty.

Thankfully, it worked out better than anyone expected. When Joystiq began their summary coverage with the words "a small crowd of movie and game producers met this week," they clearly didn't illustrate the significance of what was happening. With respect to other gaming conferences designed for thousands of attendees, the 3D Gaming Summit was geared towards the CEO and decision making attendee. Nothing was more rewarding than enjoying lunch with Scott Cronce, the CTO of Electronic Arts, and listening to him talk about the new features he discovered in his 3D camera.

3D Gaming Summit panel

Left to right: Neil Schneider, President of MTBS. Frank Vitz, Senior Art Director and CG Supervisor for Electronic Arts (Canada), Matt Costello, President of Polar Productions Inc., Joshua Glazer, CTO & Co-Founder of Naked Sky, Kris Roberts, Senior Game Designer for Rockstar San Diego, and Grady Hannah, Business Development Manager for Darkworks.

I'm amazed that the media didn't pick up on Frank Vitz, EA's CG Supervisor and Senior Art Director, when he talked about new stereoscopic 3D design tools that have been internally created and developed. This is amazing stuff!

Bob Dowling and Jon Landau

Bob Dowling (left), and Jon Landau, Producer of Avatar

Was I the only one in the room when Jon Landau, Producer of Avatar (yes, the $2.7 billion worldwide gross Avatar), said "the potential for 3D gaming is GREATER than the potential for 3D film"?

Out of the countless exciting things that were shared and shown at the 3D Gaming Summit, the media instead focused on a single video clip of Lost Planet 2. CAPCOM had the disadvantage of showing the footage without being able to see it as it was playing. The demo was plagued with separation levels beyond belief and was clearly not optimized for the big screen. Out of the countless breathtaking clips demonstrated during the show, this was the one which received the lion's share of media coverage.

Perry Hoberman, Associate Research Professor at the School of Cinematic Arts (University of Southern California), angrily remarked about the 3D quality. Being a true 3D advocate, he was very upset that a clip could be shown like this, and that it could somehow reflect poorly on our industry and hold us back. While there is truth to this, I think Perry would be horrified if he learned that his remarks were poorly skewed and publicized, especially since the majority of footage was well demonstrated on that panel and others.

3D Gaming Summit

Left to right: Ashu Rege, NVIDIA, Mark Rein, Epic Games, Christian Svensson, Capcom Entertainment, Luis Giglioti, THQ, Greg Spence, Sony Online Entertainment

Ashu Rege, Director of Content and Technology for NVIDIA, was the panel's moderator. I think he handled it well by being non-defensive. His answer was that S-3D gaming is "bleeding edge" technology. It was such a minor thing that came out of an otherwise glowing conference, I'm stunned that it got any media coverage at all.

I don't know what G4TV was thinking when they titled Phil Eisler's presentation as "Watch NVIDIA Attempt to Convince You 3D is The Future of Video Games". I have never seen a credible journalist begin a story with such foolishness and sarcasm.

Phil Eisler, General Manager, NVIDIA's GeForce 3D Vision

Phil Eisler, General Manager of NVIDIA's GeForce 3D Vision

For those unfamiliar, Phil Eisler is the General Manager for NVIDIA's GeForce 3D Vision. I was really impressed with what I saw during his presentation, and marketing aside, they have some great ideas that could find their way in an industry S-3D gaming standard of some kind. For example, Phil demonstrated an auto-convergence feature that allows games to include depth and pop-out, but prevent guns from appearing to go into walls.

While Joystiq talked about Mark Rein (VP and Co-Founder of Epic Games) scoffing at the quality of current S-3D gaming solutions, they didn't share the full picture. Mark was unconvinced that XBOX and PS3 have the horsepower to deliver a great S-3D gaming experience, and he was reacting to (my) remark that Blitz Games Studios and Ubisoft both have S-3D compliant game engines on console.

Regardless of what Mark had to say, the bigger story is that he was there at all. Epic Games is by far one of the most influential and well respected game engine developers in the world. For Mark to show up and speak at an event like this speaks volumes. Mark could have screamed bloody murder for all I care – he was there. That's what matters most.

S3DGA Logo

To cap the event off, The S-3D Gaming Alliance meeting was held at the conclusion of the 3D Gaming Summit. It was closed to the media, and we will respect the privacy of those who attended. However, I think a lot of journalists would be impressed if they knew which of their gaming heroes and industry leaders took the time out of their valuable day to be in attendance. Thanks to some surprise guests, it became a standing room event for some (including me). Even some of our biggest critics made an appearance.

It's hard to understand why the gaming media seems to go out of their way to attack S-3D gaming. Why is it necessary for them to inject their stories with sarcasm? Why doesn't consumer interest and media coverage reflect each other? Is it possible that this is a defensive tactic? Are the media as unprepared for S-3D gaming as the rest of the industry was? We shall see.

As far as I'm concerned, The 3D Gaming Summit was a huge success on all counts, and it left me feeling very hopeful for S-3D gaming's future. I'm looking forward to its sequel complete with more industry players, more attendees, and much more content to show. Congratulations to a conference well done!

We hope to have access to the professionally shot videos from the panel discussions and presentations.  We will let you know as soon as we do.

Left to right: Josh Wexler, President, Threshold Animation Studios.
Lorne Lanning, Chief Creative Officer, Oddmobb Inc.
Alan Price, Studio CTO, EA Canada
Jesse Stern, Writer, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2
James Bower, President & COO, Masterimage
Ashu Rege, Senior Director, Content & Technology, NVIDIA