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Chance Meetings at FMX 2010

By Neil Schneider

Over the past three years, I've had the privilege of speaking at a lot of conferences and meeting a lot of interesting people.  Last year, my high point at FMX was meeting Habib Zargarpour, former Senior Art Director at Electronic Arts (he works for Microsoft now).  It was from that chance meeting that great opportunities opened up for stereoscopic 3D gaming and an industry at large.

This year was no different.  At the end of my presentation about visual anomalies in PC gaming and our work with M3GA, I was approached by Oliver Eberlei, a student from the University of Applied Sciences in Dieburg, Germany.  He was very excited because he wanted me to see the work he was demonstrating in the FMX student exhibit.

L-R: Neil Schneider (CEO of MTBS), Oliver Eberlei (student), Tilmann Kohlhaase (Professor, Animation & Game Production, University of Applied Sciences), Jens Schöbel (Technical Designer, Crytek), Boris Weber (Programmer, Crytek)

While I regret not getting a picture of the game itself, it was a third person shooter where the character has to jump over walls and shoot objects which you aim at with a Wii remote control.  It was pretty cool!  What was even more interesting is that the game engine itself had no implementation for stereoscopic 3D, so Oliver had to custom write the subroutines to get anaglyph support and generate the stereoscopic 3D environment.

His teacher, Professor Tilmann Kohlhaase, was equally excited from an artistic point of view.  According to Tilmann, no rules or ideals have been set in S-3D gaming, and he likes the idea of students throwing out the rule book and discovering new things on their own.  For me, it is encouraging to see students like Oliver taking a direct interest in stereoscopic 3D gaming as I am hopeful that this will eventually translate to a later profession (no pressure, Oliver!).

Jens Schöbel, Technical Designer, Crytek

I also got to meet Jens Schöbel, Technical Designer for Crytek - the makers of Crysis and CryENGINE.  After nearly everyone got a turn to talk about S-3D gaming, I was pleasantly surprised to see Jens' fresh approach.  In addition to his demonstrated enthusiasm for stereoscopic 3D, he expressed the important point that everyone else missed: the fact that S-3D gaming represents a new method for basic communication.  He used the example of a heads up display that adds depth cues to highlight things that are more important than others.  Imagine an incoming missile indicator that pops out of the screen, or a chat window that slightly indents when messages are updated.  There are a lot of exciting things that can be done when given the opportunity.

Also, where other game developers have poo-pooed console S-3D gaming, Jens described it to be very promising - even on current generation consoles.  While this should not reflect console compatibility, his demonstration featured CryENGINE 3 running with XBOX 360 assets.  I saw something similar at SIGGRAPH, and it's very impressive in stereoscopic 3D.  Similar to Blitz Games Studios, I think Crytek will find a strong niche in S-3D gaming as they continue this path.

We will have more insights to share from FMX!  Come back regularly and share your thoughts below.