Does 3D Matter?

 

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This year both Sony and Nintendo were keen on presenting their new games in 3D. With and without the use of glasses, it was stunning. As some may say, seeing is believing. But before we all jump on the bandwagon, let’s examine gaming history. Although the technology being used may be new, the idea of getting games to spring forth from the screen is not. Various games and even dedicated consoles have tried, with varying degrees of success. None in particular have been groundbreaking or noteworthy. In fact, previous efforts to bring gaming into 3D have always seems somewhat gimmicky. So why should we be excited for 3D gaming? Does it even matter?




To answer this question, let’s consider the recent 3D sensation Avatar (2009). Avatar and 3D are synonymous because Avatar was filmed using 3D cameras. More importantly, Avatar was intended it be viewed in 3D. Shots were specifically composed considering how they would be received by an audience in 3D. Record-breaking time, effort, and money were spent to produce this 3D feast, but was it worth it in the end? Did 3D make Avatar a better film? The answer is arguable. Let’s just say that I would not want to watch Avatar in any form other than 3D. What 3D video gaming needs is its own Avatar. Something that players would not want to play in any other form other than 3D.

I firmly believe that the most important aspect of any game is its gameplay. To achieve a game that would ideally be played in 3D, the 3D would need to be an integral part of gameplay. Aspects of the game would be rendered unplayable if played without 3D.  As of now, I don’t really see a way that this can be achieved without the use of head-tracking in combination with 3D. I’m not sure if the PS3 Eye or Nintendo 3DS can do this, but perhaps with firmware upgrades, it may be possible. A good example would be Johnny Lee’s Wii head tracking demo…

 

Even then, the head-tracking would actually be more important to the gameplay than the 3D. The 3D would serve as an enhancement for the illusion, and the head-tracking is the part that actually allows you to explore the game’s 3D space. Another example is the Nintendo DSi’s Looksley’s Line Up (2010)…

Like Johnny Lee’s demo, Looksley’s Line Up uses head-tracking. It gives the illusion of looking into a 3D space, and most importantly, the game would be rendered unplayable without this. The 3D technology used in the Nintendo 3DS could enhance the illusion, but it could still be played without it. This is way that I hope 3D will be utilized in gaming. Games will have 3D either as a gimmick or as a tool for creating a more immersive experience. Clash of the Titans (2010) would be a good example of use of 3D as a gimmick. The film was originally filmed as a normal 2D film, but after the success of Avatar, the decision was made to add 3D. The 3D in Clash of the Titans was an afterthought.

For every successful new advancement in gaming, there are always followers trying to repeat or outdo that success. Whether it is the successful creation of new control methods, new gameplay aspects, new genres, or new ideas, the followers will always be right around the corner because like every other form of entertainment, it’s all about money. That’s why shovelware exists.

The Playstation 3′s 3D will likely have a smaller audience because of the price point of owning a 3D capable HDTV. The Nintendo 3DS on the other hand has the advantage of being the follow up to the greatest selling line of consoles as of current. Without the need of special glasses, Nintendo 3DS will definitely pique the interest of many gamers and non-gamers alike. Whether it is the Playstation 3′s 3D or the Nintendo 3DS, once the initial wow-factor subsides, we will look towards their respective game libraries to determine whether 3D is just a gimmick, or if it really enriched a new generation of gaming.

3D shouldn’t be viewed as the new way to play games, but as a way to enhance immersion. Just because a game is in 3D, it doesn’t inherently make it a good game. Developers should use 3D as a tool, similar to the way they use sound, music, plot and graphics. 3D shouldn’t be an afterthought the way that so many Wii shovelware titles utilize motion controls. HD graphics are pretty much standard now, but few games actually use the extra pixels as an integral part of  gameplay. Instead, HD graphics are usually used to create better looking images. I was thoroughly impressed with Konami’s Castlevania: Harmony of Despair (2010) because it used those extra pixels in a way that I hadn’t seen before.

Being able to zoom in and out of the entire castle map is something that couldn’t be done on a normal SDTV. I could be done, but the graphics would look indecipherable if a player were to zoom out, thus render it unplayable.

3D games are definitely fun to look at, but do they really matter? Well, that all depends on how developers end up using the technology. Hopefully we’ll get out own Avatar, or perhaps something even better.

image sources:

Tiny Cartridge

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