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 Portal Stereoscopic 3D Review 
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3D Angel Eyes (Moderator)

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By Neil Schneider



Introduction

Have you ever worked in a dead-end office job where days last forever, and the work is unbearably monotonous?  I have.  It sucks!  With the exception of the words "go home" and "day off", the coveted phrase of all office patrons everywhere is "there will be cake".

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Ah yes!  The office party.  The rare and legitimate excuse to stop whatever you are doing, and get your hourly wage for eating cake!  I will tell you this: that store-bought cake never tasted so good!  It was baked with love, I tell you!

So sets the premise of Portal by Valve.  Video game proof that we will do just about anything for that taste of cake!

 


General Game Review

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You play Chell, a silent protagonist that has awakened in some type of laboratory.  Like a rat in a maze, your whole purpose in the game is to understand the environment around you, and figure out ways to get from one room to the next.  The main tool you use to do this is a portal gun that opens doorways in one wall, and exits in another.

It goes beyond that, though.  Portal capable walls also include floors,ceilings, and platforms.  The forces of gravity take hold too!  Jump from a high place into a portal, and you will blast through the other side.

You also have to manipulate the world around you.  You often have to jump on moving platforms, or weigh down buttons with cubes to open doors.  There are even plasma charges flying around, and you will need to find ways to project them onto special nodes to activate machinery.  Lots of fun!

Image

Along your journey, you are prodded along by GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System), a conflicted computer system that clearly doesn't have your interests at heart, but is really trying to be nice about it.  Using "cake" as the cheese for the maze, GLaDOS understands the human psyche well - and you do indeed hope for some Duncan Hines around the bend!

While you will face death defying obstacles like poisonous sewage and child-voiced turret guns, I would classify Portal as a non-violent game.  It's not that there isn't any blood or gore (there isn't), it's that the purpose has very little to do with hurting or killing other characters.  In fact, all the characters are female, which suggests that the appeal for this game isn't gender specific.

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While I recognize that this game is a few years old now, I think the graphics are much too simple.  After you get through the main lab stage and move on to your escape, the environments begin to get visually interesting as you transition from a lab environment to more of an office environment.

It's weird because the game plays out as a training exercise in how to use the Portal gun and handle different environmental situations.  When things get interesting and the real story is just seeming to unfold, the game ends abruptly!  On one hand, you are left wanting more, and on the other - the game seems unfinished.

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To be fair, there are additional "advanced maps" you can play through outside the story line.  However, these are concept additions rather than added chapters for the story.  I think a stronger storyline with long term goals and ramifications would have worked very well for Portal.

So now the big question: how did Portal do in stereoscopic 3D?

Before I continue, Portal isn't following our traditional review process.  Normally, we send all the driver developers an email at least seven days in advance so they know which titles we will be reviewing.  We do this so all developers have an equal shot at having positive results through driver and profile updates.  We didn't do this for Portal because it's an older game, and all the driver developers have active profiles in existence.  It didn't seem necessary.

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Our earlier scoring mechanism was subjective.  This time around, the stereoscopic 3D portion of the scores will be 100% determined by MTBS' 3D Game Analyzer.  Let's see how everyone did!

 


NVIDIA Stereoscopic 3D Findings

Maingear X-Cube
Intel Core I7 Processor 2.66GHZ
6GB RAM
2 X GTX 275 (SLI)
Windows 7 64 Bit
NVIDIA 257.15 Stereo Driver
NVIDIA GeForce 3D Vision / Samsung 2233RZ Monitor

Readers will be pleased to know that Portal is very capable of having a combined depth and pop-out of experience, and the gun does not separate so much that it is uncomfortable.

Image

The biggest trade-off worth mentioning is the requirement to turn off the bloom and HDR special effects which Nvidia recommends. There is also a minor anomaly around the glass windows where they seem to be offset from each other in the left and right eye behind the glass.

As far as stereoscopic 3D gaming experiences go, I have to say it's really cool to jump down from high places and go flying through portals.  I'm also pleased to report that Nvidia's dynamic crosshair works.  Instead of a laser-sight add-on, the in-game crosshair dynamically adjusts according to what is being aimed at in stereoscopic 3D mode.  This is a nice touch!

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In other M3GA profiles, members have said that the crosshair doesn't work with Portal, but I find my aiming has been spot on, and when I turn the dynamic crosshair off, it is clear that I am missing the target.


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YouTube 3D Link

One of the benefits of older games is being able to use older technology!  An Nvidia 8800 series card or better should run Portal just fine.
 


iZ3D Stereoscopic 3D Findings

AMD Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition Quad Core Processor 2.5Ghz
Patriot Extreme Viper PC2-8500 4GB RAM
EVGA GTX285
Windows 7 64 Bit
Zalmon Trimon 22" Monitor
iZ3D drivers 1.11B2

While iZ3D had the advantage of supporting HDR and Bloom effects, it struggled with the portals themselves.  Many portals appear the way they should, while others are "black" or half filled and half black.  It's as though the image inside the portal was sliding off the screen as the stereoscopic 3D images were being adjusted.

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This was a new anomaly that was not catalogued in MTBS' 3D GameAnalyzer, so we added it to the list and the scoring mechanism as a non-critical anomaly.

To prevent the gun from separating too much in combined depth and pop-out scenarios, the "simple stereo projection method" will work very well in the Portal profile.

Portal is an older game, so an ATI 3850 or Nvidia 8800 series card should work just fine.

 


DDD Stereoscopic 3D Findings

AMD Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition Quad Core Processor 2.5Ghz
Patriot Extreme Viper PC2-8500 4GB RAM
EVGA GTX285
Windows 7 64 Bit
Zalmon Trimon 22" Monitor
Tridef Ignition 2.7

DDD won the battle of the 3D bulge with Portal.  The portals work, the HDR and Bloom effects remain active, and advanced users are able to adjust the screen elements (gun, scene, sky) according to personal preferences.

Image

If you are experiencing poor performance, this could be a hardware specific problem, as was the case with me.  Turn the anti-aliasing off, and that should solve the problem.  Similar to iZ3D, an ATI 3850 or Nvidia 8800 series card should work well in stereoscopic 3D.

 


Conclusion

Portal exemplifies how a game can still be fun despite having simple graphics compared to other modern titles.  While there are several bonus maps to play with, I would have preferred a much longer story campaign.  According to Steam, I finished the whole campaign in about six hours, so it's not a case of time flying while having fun (though I did have fun).

Perhaps Portal's biggest victory is its sharp witted script and non-violent nature.  I think our industry needs more mind sharpening games like this where it's your brain that gets you from level to level, and not just the size of your gun.  Maybe similar to the way Chell was a rat in a maze, Portal was a social experiment to prepare us for the next great thing in gaming?

Check out the gallery of Portal stereoscopic 3D images, and share your remarks below.

 

Game Play
8/10

Sound
7/10

Presentation
8/10

Immersive Nature
7/10

How Memorable is This Game
7/10

Stereoscopic Effectiveness NVIDIA
7/10

Stereoscopic Effectiveness iZ3D
8/10

Stereoscopic Effectiveness DDD
10/10

NVIDIA Overall Rating
7.33/10

iZ3D Overall Rating:
7.5/10

DDD Overall Rating:
7.83/10
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Mon Jun 07, 2010 8:49 am
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Petrif-Eyed
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A review that's spot on.
What i've heard portal was just an experiment at first and not meant to be released. When valve realized the concept was great and captivating they decided to polish it up and struggled to finish before the orange box release. It doesn't really matter for a game like this to be a tiny bit unpolished.

Best of the game:
1: Stereoscopy works great!
2: Portals! The concept is genious and opens up for new ways to play a game. The extra bonuses that yourself and objects are keeping the dynamic properties after passing the portal opens up endless creative possibilities.
3: Glados. Who is unable to love her wonderful personality? The final song is a clear hit!
4: Cute automatic turrets that kills you on sight!

Oh, i almost forgot the companion cube. <3

Worst of the game: Short.

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Mon Jun 07, 2010 11:23 am
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3D Angel Eyes (Moderator)
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Yeah this game was really cool. I played through it on the xbox but now I'm thinking of playing it again in 3D. Should be fun.

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Mon Jun 07, 2010 6:36 pm
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I do not have the "black portal" effect you are talking about with the iZ3D driver.
But the black glitch I see only happens in the portal opening animation which uses an effect that deforms the wall around the portal before the portal itself opens (or maybe I should say which deforms the texture of the wall since the geometry doesn't really move)

One the portal is open, the black glitch is no more and the portals work normally.

An other issue that I do see however is the difference between 3D portal and 2D portals. It's a bug that occurs when creating an "infinite" chain or portal through which you can see until infinity.
The first few portals are rendered as a true 3D scene and work perfectly in 3D.
Then the next portals are just 2D pictures of the previous renders. These 2D pictures do have a bug : they are not at the right scale and they are not centred properly : this is a bug that is visible with the iZ3D driver and also visible in your video from the Nvidia 3D vision driver. I would like you to mention this bug and also that you tell me if this bug happens with the Tridef driver.

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Tue Jun 08, 2010 10:17 am
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I recall that the blackness in the portals were at certain settings of stereoscopy. If you increase the settings a "black curtain" occurs in the portals.
I've also seen the 2d-effect when looking through many portals. Maybe it's because the objects through a number of portals are at distance (low 3d-effect) and something happens with the proper way to show the image during the way. To be honest i really don't know. :D

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Tue Jun 08, 2010 10:33 am
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Hi BlackShark,

Here is that black portal bug I mentioned with iZ3D 1.11B2 drivers. In this case, you only see the black image in one eye:

Image

The portal is in the back to the right.

As for the other bug, I will have to investigate. It's not so easy to see.

Regards,
Neil


Tue Jun 08, 2010 8:38 pm
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Ideed it's black, but I've never seen this happening.
Did you notice specifically when these happen, like specific rooms, or when you use specific convergence settings ?
I play with convergence settings similar to the one you use in your screenshot and I never have these black portals. Could it be computer specific ?

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Thu Jun 10, 2010 4:27 am
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I get the black portals if i increase the stereosettings above a certain rate. At some setting i can have half the portal ok, the other half black (left/right like the gameengine simply don't render anymore at the side, maybe an enginesetting in the console? Haven't tinkered with those anymore than disabling eventual huds and crosshairs). I don't have portal installed anymore and don't recall if it's convergence or separation or maybe a combo. I've used an 8800gtx with a c2de6600 to make systemvaluing possible.

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Thu Jun 10, 2010 8:36 am
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I'm able to duplicate it 100% of the time with this specific room. It mainly happens with portals in the distance rather than those up close. It's probably related to out of screen effects that I like to use, but it's unique to the iZ3D drivers.

I'm sure it's easy to fix.

Regards,
Neil


Thu Jun 10, 2010 9:16 am
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