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Fresh Eyes on Stereoscopic 3D Gaming

By Erik Ose

MTBS met a lot of great individuals at the 3D Gaming Summit, and Erik Ose is one of them.  Erik is working to finish his Bachelors of Applied Sciences (Game Art & Design) at Ex’pression College for the Digital Arts.  He is very passionate about stereoscopic 3D gaming and was brimming with thoughts and ideas after The S-3D Gaming Alliance meeting.  After sharing a few emails, we thought it would be a great idea for him to share some of his points in a guest editorial.  So here it is - take it away, Erik!

I would have to say that stereoscopic 3D gaming may be one of the greatest "optional" opportunities for gaming whether it be now or in the next cycle of consoles and pc gaming.  Even though many of us are still trying to cope with and extend the current generation of hardware to reach HD quality, it is not hard to take notice of the integration of stereoscopic 3D in gaming.  At the recent premiere 3D Gaming Summit, I saw the bright immersive future for gaming with demonstrations of what would have been impossible only years ago.

Currently there are compliant televisions trickling on the marketplace, a firmware update for the Sony Playstation console that updates Sony's all-in-one entertainment box for 3D entertainment, and optional hardware combinations for the PC such as NVIDIA's GeForce 3D Vision technology that make PC's ready for amazing 3D content.  It's evident that 3D is budding, and this time, it should be ready for the consumers to adopt what is to become one of the new industry standards.

The phrase used over and over during the 3D Gaming Summit was "Seeing is believing", something that I have to say that  I saw both at the Game Developers Conference and the 3D Gaming Summit.  Sony's 3D ready Playstation in combination with its titles were outstanding demonstrations of what will soon if not already be available for 3D gamers.  NVIDIA's GeForce 3D Vision showed what seemed like unrivalled PC 3D gaming experiences with hit titles such as Battlefield Heroes: Bad Company 2 and Metro 2033.  Not to mention the list of the hundreds of games already on their compatibility list, NVIDIA has promised many more titles to support 3D thanks to combined efforts of developers, engine packages such as the Unreal Engine, and artists who all seem to be preparing the PC to be fully 3D compliant.

After all the great demonstrations, informative speakers, expert lined panels, hands on with the tech, and 3D gaming tournaments (I dominated the Super Stardust HD high score challenge so much they kicked me off!), I'd have to say its not going to be all fun and games when it comes to making 3D gaming a reality.

We all know it takes a lot of experimentation, failure, and all out loss to learn required lessons about technology's implementation.  In the case of 3D being termed as a "gimmick", it was the proverbial dead horse for some critics.  Of course this was until a visionary named James Cameron came along (with $2.7 billion in gross Avatar movie revenue).  During the inaugural 3D Gaming Summit, I noticed it was full of attendees looking for the "Avatar Renaissance" for 3D gaming.  It seems for 3D gaming to work, it may need that push by a title or console to be the 3D gaming success that will push the crossover to the general consumer, rather than just select adopters.

When the conference was over, I settled down from all the excitement, I gathered my notes and thoughts of the wonderful experiences I had over the two days, and thought of ways to convey the solutions we all had sought after.  The result is what I believe to be several observations from the 3D Gaming Summit that could make or break the immediate 3D gaming future:

1. The media has to be educated now on the new technology and have new stocked footage on what the "new" or current 3D gamer looks like and how those gamers could be superior when in stereo 3D mode.  The media, as we know, are a large part of conveying the new message of 3D (its not a gimmick!).  The "Seeing is believing" experience has to hit the media. The more exposed they are to stunning 3D gaming, the further the industry will go connecting to those that are unaware.  By separating the potential buyer into two groups (discussed lated), could it dispel cost myths for the media and attract more potential buyers?  Finally, having a preventative plan for negative publicity about 3D should be ready to prevent the last century from coming back to haunt us.

2. The glasses/head-ware will have to continue to become THE accessory for entertainment with designs catering to gamers who spend untold hours of play, those who are fashion conscious, those who need it for casual use, and those who need only the value wear.  GUNNAR is just one company making uber shades for the pro 3D gamer, and comfortable shades for the casual moviegoer.  Anaglyph has it's place - but not here.  We will not speak of it and will only reference it's relevance in stereoscopic 3D history.

3. The whole package needs to be easily handed off to the consumer with 3D compliant hardware, 3D titles under one standard, and/or easily matched technology such that proprietary poles don't pull the consumer's choices apart.  A flood of too many 3D technologies can cause too many headaches.  Also intermixing tech during the next 3D Madden game night shouldn't be a nightmare based on the differences of one friend's television to another's.  With shutter glasses coming to the market that are going to be universal among brands, this will fade away, and shouldn't be an issue for other hardware components.

4. Cost is an inherent obstacle for new technology.  Investing in a new 3D entertainment system can sound very expensive for those hesitant to be on the cutting edge.  Nevertheless, by breaking down 3D gaming into two groups based on cost, consumers can cross over into 3D smoothly by knowing there is a 3D option out there just for them.  Group one are those buying into 3D that will use options such as the low cost but effective Trioviz where consumers can use their current televisions, computer monitors, and possibly consoles for 3D gaming.  The second group are those willing to invest in a new, fully stereoscopic 3D compliant television or computer monitor with 3D glasses kit.

5. 3D development for the video game industry is a given with an easy addition of another camera in-game to create a stereoscopic experience.  The need as with cinema is for development to focus first in 2D, then master "optional" 3D modes.  A reasonable standard of comfortable viewing should be kept to prevent headaches, sickness, and unsatisfactory 3D game play.  3D issues as said before must be mastered at the end such as HUD design such that the crossover from 2D to 3D is seamless.

6. The "System Seller"!  I noticed that what would usher in 3D gaming greatly would be a line of titles for gaming that would have the Avatar effect such that the renaissance would beckon consumers into 3D gaming in mass.  The optional 3D mode would sell the title by providing the 3D gamer an edge, a level of immersion, and/or aspect of the game beyond anything that may have ever been done before in traditional 2D gaming.  Once again I reiterate, the gimmicky nature of 3D is averted with nothing but perfectly astonishing performance in 3D games while on the other hand the same title still holds up well in 2D.

7. The last observation are the unknowns we face. We need to prepare for the unknowns.  With the 3D tech taking off as fast as it is, they say in five years, 3D glasses may become a thing of the past.  But who knows?  As of now, even with the HD standard in television, many remain behind the times and enjoy their content in standard definition.  Mark Rein, VP and Co-Founder of Epic Games, questioned the endless hours of 3D gaming and its effects on gamers.  What are the ramifications of long term 3D use?  Many new questions will rise as we continue to make our way through these formative years.

When all is said and done, I can tell you this: in the end, I am someone who knows 3D is coming.  It is apparent after this first 3D Gaming Summit that so many individuals see the fine line between cinema and games becoming almost non-existent.  The 3D option is a given as I heard many enthusiastic developers say they all want 3D compatibility for their games.  It's time to make the future a reality and go beyond with the next generation of gamer.

Very interesting!  Do you agree with Erik's opinions and ideas?  Share your thoughts below.