Sunday, November 04, 2007

More 3D

Etcher's comment on my last post (The ED Shutter Glasses Review) made me think. He said:

"Too much adjustment needed, I think I'll wait another 10 years."

Here's the bad part. If things carry on the way they are, there's be no noticable difference in the technology in 10 years.

During my research I read numerous forum posts about people who wrote to ATI asking for Stereoscopic 3D support in their drivers. The answer was always the same:

"ATI has no plans to support 3D shutter glasses at the present time. We care about our user's needs and may support this feature in the future if we see a real demand for it."

What we have today is a vicious circle. Despite the amazing potential of this technology, on most systems the technology just isn't quite good enough. In an industry that's fueled by eye-candy, very few people are willing to sacrifice a little graphical quality for true 3D.

In other words, the technology won't get better until there's more of a demand for it...and there won't be more demand for it until the technology gets better.

I think this is a sad state of affairs, because speaking from experience, Stereoscopy gives you a unique experience that you can't get anywhere else.

Even with the limitations of this technology today, after playing various games in stereoscopic 3D, I have to say that it's the difference between playing a game on a 12 inch, black and white TV...and playing a game on a 40 inch 1080p plasma screen.

It's impossible to describe the experience adequately to someone who's never experienced it. All I can say is it's like the difference in realism between Wolfenstein 3D and Doom 3. Without stereoscopy you're playing a fun game. With stereoscopy you get a real sense of actually 'being there'.

As I mentioned in my review, this technology suffers for 2 reasons:

The first is the lack of support on non-Nvidia cards.

Nvidia cards use 'page flipping' to generate the two perspectives you need for stereoscopic 3D. This means with each refresh of the screen, a whole new picture is generated. Non-Nvidia users are stuck with interlaced page flipping, which means with each refresh only every other line is flipped. (basically if you numbered each horizontal line on your screen, even numbered lines would be for one eye and odd for the other)....hence the drop in picture quality.

This is an easy fix, all it requires is a demand for support.

The second is how 3D vision works.

The only solution I see for this problem of focal depth (like I said in my review) is to fit the glasses with sensors that can track each eye and the screen, so the software knows exactly where on the screen you're looking.

However, like I also said in the review, this isn't a huge problem. In all honestly, once I worked out what the ED controls actually did, it took me a couple of minutes to 'tune' Battlefront 2 to only give (a really tiny) double image when an object was literally inches from your face. I wouldn't even call it a double image...what you actually see is a few millimeter's 'bleed' around the edges of very close object.

What it boils down to is whether you're willing to lose a bit of graphical quality for 3D.

The only real problem I see with this technology today is our attitudes and the sheer number of variables involved with a product like this.

Basically, we all want plug-and-play. It doesn't matter how complicated something is, we want things to work right out of the box.

The average user wants to start a game, put on these glasses and get mind blowing 3D with absolutely no effort. This is certainly something to shoot for, but considering your graphics card, type of monitor and even your own eyesight effect the can understand how difficult this is.

The way I like to look at it is this:

When I first got into PC gaming, you had to set up your videocard, soundcard and controller or joystick manually for each game. This wasn't a big deal because it was standard practice. You thought nothing of manually calibrating your joystick and assigning your soundcard's Interrupt Request because that's just what you had to do.

For someone who cut their gaming teeth on a PS2 or a Windows XP system, this would be way too complicated and not worth the effort.

Long story short, it takes people willing to support a technology through its infancy to get to the plug-and-play stage.

Basically, I think shutter glasses are good enough today to justify a place in every PC Gamer's arsenal. If more people would take a chance on this technology and create a demand for it...I would honestly bet that Sterescopic 3D would be 'the next big thing'.


OzzyC said...

Basically, we all want plug-and-play. It doesn't matter how complicated something is, we want things to work right out of the box.

This has been a stated goal of the technical industry for a very long time... making the PC so that any user can expect everything to work, right out of the box. It's part of the reason that the PC evolved from a toy for technophiles to the common tool that everyone uses today.

I don't disagree with your point, but the willingness and ability to tinker with a PC still remains in the hands of the few. Remember, back when we were expected to tweak each game to our system, relatively few people played games.

Saffyre said...

*scratches head* Far too techie for me!

OzzyC said...

Thanks Saffy... you totally made my point