My 3D Aventure in Digitopia

I was accused of trolling for posting what I found while testing a few games with 3D Vision. I don’t take umbrage but it reminded me that this is the first time round for some people.

The History

Before I address the fad aspect of 3D let me say I am no stranger. It has come a long way since the geForce 3 I had about 10 years ago. It worked, and I guess it never went away, even the test screen for the glasses is the same today as it used to be with a couple extra dynamic lights and a capital Nvidia (everything was camel case back then).

Review and Pictures of the 3D of Yester-Year


It worked surprisingly well with the games of the time (Solider of Fortune, Messiah, and then GTA III came later) but they all had the same problem. Sprites. There were no pure 3d games that I can remember only mostly 3d or 3d character model among sprites. Unless it was specifically rendered for a very low CPU they had to alleviate requirements by using sprites for trees, background, etc. This pulled you right out of the scene and should there be an off axis might block, screw, or duplicate the object(s) with sprites sitting as a solid plane across the lot of it.

This was all possible back when CRTs were king, refresh rates were 120hz. My Sony Trinitron 24″ was the king of both resolution and refresh rates and it was MANY years before I could bring myself to part with it. My affinity for large displays is not new. Only the 30″ Dell defeated the Trinitron, and it took the new 120hz ASUS LED to send the 30″ to the back seat (side of the desk). Honestly, I won’t be happy until my desk looks like the display matrix in Swordfish.

Present Day, Present Time

The very first experience with the new glasses was the nvidia demo. The logo, the letters n v i d i a coming in towards you one at a time, with a couple dynamic colored lights along the way, hosted inside a long corridor stretching back. It was déjà vu seeing it again after all these years. It was a perfect introduction, showing how much it has grown. The logo then come towards you then goes back, then back at you and this time it extends a good 6 inches from your face and spins. Bing.

I then jumped to the demo disk. NVidia 3D Vision Video Player. Garbage. Horribly written application. It was playing ok but it was a very low quality video, hence rather small on a 1920 x 1080 screen. I’m used to seeing 720p small on 2560 x 1600 but this was still small. In any case it wouldn’t maximize. Several stutters, audio continued, screen went black, true black, flashed back, switched, showed windows, back to black, still audio… no video, and the player would stop responding. I could get it back with ALT Tab but it wouldn’t start back up. I could stop, close and try it again but again, nothing more then 480p (if that) wide. Ok, so saw some video clips that looked ok (albeit small).

I proceeded to the 3DVisionLive.com website – HTML 5 stereo viewing on Youtube? Sure. Nope using Chrome. Everything says use Firefox. Ok, Firefox it is. I visit with Firefox – Youtube 3D tab – doesn’t render the CSS – shows the video player but that’s it, no choice, no navigation, just whatever is featured. I go to Youtube/3D – OK, plenty of videos. Nope, they’re all side by side. None that work with HTML 5 stereo mode, ok… uh… oh, here’s one – it’s 10s long. Can’t… find… another… – oh here, a plugin…
** it sucked. Don’t try it.

The Games

Battlefield
I had been waiting for this – Battlefield 3. Combined with my Novint Falcon with FGen drivers this thing should be the best experience ever. It started right up, no issues – 3D right away, click on and go. I wanted to play the campaign. To say I had a hard time with it would be putting it lightly. I think I played about 45 minutes total. The resume game started at the beginning cinema. Yeah, it’s like that.

I must say the experience was different. Not only could I see the room, I could feel the steps needed to get there, I could sense the cover available, I could see into depths that you normally cannot focus on. It was literally breathtaking. Combined with the Falcon forces, it really was the best experience I’ve ever had playing a game. Add in an additional vibration kick from the corded 360 Controller doing nothing poised on my leg and I was immersed. Completely.

I could see bullets, I could see debris flying, shadows, and all the trouble they went to for the first person view, and effects all seemed worthwhile, hell, even the lens flare made sense as it appeared to refract off goggles, which coincidentally you are wearing. I even must admit, I have not been using the sights correctly. I was using the wrong part of the sight to gauge distance and where my bullet is actually going to go. We’re talking feet up or down in some guns. Once I was able to watch the trail leave from one circle on the sight to the lines with distance ticks it all fell into place. I’m looking forward to the attack chopper.

I have not yet played in multiplayer, but I normally turn off the specific BF3 Falcon profile for forces as the virtual recoil is enough to handicap me without actual recoil on top of it. It will be different, but I wonder if I’ll be any accurate.

If my performance with 3D in the campaign is any indication, I’ll be schooling in multi.

Skyrim

I had seen a few beautiful pictures on the aforementioned 3DVisionLive website so this was the next on my list. I updated with some recommended Skyrim mods and gave it a whirl. It was noted as good by the 3D Vision HUD (great feature, BTW) and it showed. Recommended shadow settings may have offset the overlays and disconnected shadows I saw. My cross-hair is normally turned off but I bet that enabled it would be just as bad as the “hidden” indicator. Since the —o— was not optimized so it was in both eyes and that alone kept my eyes hurting to focus. I turned on the “3D Vision laser sight” which will help when the retical is not off like that – it was accurate as to where my arrows went, but since it was impossible to stop looking at the quirks, I quickly turned it off. The distance was not as apparent as some other games but it gave a vague sense of distance.

There’s a reason it got the rating of “Good” for 3D compatibility.

Diablo III

According to the official beta notes of “known issues” with Diablo III – they’re aware of the arrow issues. The game itself looks amazing. They will need to render the mouse in 3D, or at least offer an option for 3D players to prevent the doubling. Much like the sight in Skyrim the mouse pointer is in both eyes, which results in a vague uncertainty of where one has clicked. You will only see where you just clicked, not necessarily where you are clicking currently.

Character models, scenery and background. The second level of the Cathedral looked magnificent. I saw the individual blocks falling from the walkways. Where it was falling in, it actually tilted and cast shadow – and when it combined with the dynamic blue lighting of the fallen star, it was mesmerizing… except for the mouse pointer. I will be very excited to see this with a corrected mouse pointer.

Since the mouse is such a major dependency the double vision pointer pulls the rest of it down with it.

Batman Arkham Assylum

Minus AA and motion blur (blech) it’s compatible right out of the box (several years and patches later). I didn’t find much off about this one, the one thing I noticed was the cobwebs end up showing up in both eyes so they look good until you go through them but you have that issue with anything “really close”, especially fabric models. Cables are virtually round, shadows (ambient occlusion) have depth and there’s even a slight movement to the hallways when you rotate your head left or right.

It took me a while to regain my bearings from the fairly old save file but once I figured out where I was I attempted to get out to the outside to take it all in. Even the trees looked good, and especially when you have the papers shuffling and the miscellaneous leaves flying through the air it all drifts realistically (physx).

I believe the 3D adds to the playability of this game, especially when confronting many enemies at once.

Batman Arkham City

With such high action I did not expect much from this one. You’re literally swirling and swinging all over. It was a little burred and flickered, but no more then on a 60fps (60hz 1frame/hz) monitor or 30fps (60hz 2frame/hz) TV. Batman was notorious for this too as it looked much smoother on the PC as my, only up until recently, XBOX proponent friend can attest.

I played slower. I looked around much more. I used Detective mode a lot. Swinging around, jumping down and especially when fighting multiple enemies I was able to watch many of them at once. I could see using my peripheral vision not just the main character. I could see the hammer approaching and avoided. Again I could see into details I otherwise wouldn’t see. I was near some pump machinery and one of the engines had a culvert with a valve about a foot within the alcove of the pipe. I actually tried to turn off the 3D at this point and focus in on the same detail. I just didn’t see it in 2D.

Once I got to Catwoman (as you can see I’m not all that far through this one either) it was even more *ahem* pronounced. Not just the costume, but the every single detail of it. It sounds weird, but I think her collar sold me. The beginning scene has her crouching, listening to the conversation below. She turns her head here and there, occasionally pushing the collar back as her neck brushes it. It doesn’t react like cloth, but it’s not – it’s a bit rubberized, and reacted accordingly, during which time I was able to not only see the area between the collar and her neck, but focus my eyes inside of it.

Batman has shown me that having the option of focusing on any area of the scene increases immersion.

**Update: 2012 05 06**
Tried some additional games since then, I’ve been taking notes. Here is what I have so far.

RAGE
Not recommended
– does not appear to start, tried to force with CTRL T
3D did not work so I tried to see if the 120hz was any bennefit
– vsynch turned off – fps never went higher then 60
– vsynch application controled
– preferred refresh rate application controlled

Need for Speed: SHIFT 2
Not recommended
– everything is so out of whack, unplayable

Dirt 3
Excellent Rating
Everything looked and worked just fine but it really adds nothing to the game
Inside view looked good, but there was no depth to the track itself. Very minor 3D effect (default).

Mirror’s Edge
Good but still has 2D light sprites
Self shadow is a bit off
most renders correctly, enough to pull you out of it

Tomb Raider Anniversary
Excellent
I second that
feels like Tomb Raider, but little mroe 3D

Duke Nukem
Excellent
Turn off post processing effects
slight 3D most apparent with menus, text, and effects like “water splash” on screen

MS Flight X
Excellent
3D makes the textures on the ground look even more flat then they are

The problem with a lot of 3D is that game developers have been doing the shadows and shading via the textures for so long that it’s still present, much like the afformentioned sprites from the 3D 10 years ago.
It seems the more shading in a texture, the more flat it appears in 3D. When it’s done through in-game shadows and shaders you get a much more representative true to life image from the 3D. It shows in games like Battlefield and even Diablo where even the miscellaneous objects are all properly shaded and look good in both 2D and 3D.

Test Drive Unlimited 2
Excellent
More visual depth then some of the other games but such horrible voice acting, cheesy cheesy lines, and primitive driving simulation make it nowhere near the top of the list

LA Noire
3D Vision Ready
I’m going out on a limb to say that Nvidia’s 3D rating of Ready / Excellent depends on 0 persistant visual inconsistencies **note saw some odd things when I went back to play it again – car floating in the air, no lower tires – as of a particular vertical point the tires stopped and the rim kept going, so it had a whole rim but the tire was only the top 60% or so**
Excellent 1 – 2 and so on, depending on their ratio of expectation.

Very nice of blending with the media – blending with old style colors, and camera work is superb with the level of 3D incorporated. Still feels like multiple levels of Z buffers
I’m assuming shaders also contain a Z buffer which is why 3D was such a natural transition?

4×4 Offroad
Not listed
It had issues – ghosting on far off trees, and with the vehicle itself but you’re not often looking at the vehicle some tracks iwth more lighting are worse then others but for the most part the surrounding landscape looks very good and gives a good sense of depth. The vehicle ghosting may be enough to detract, I played several races with it on before I turned it off due to that particular issue.

Portal 2
Excellent
Nothing crazy that pops out at you but there was nothing to pull me out of it, the 3D was very accurate and added slightly to the feel of the game.

GTA IV / EFLC

On Deck.

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One Response to My 3D Aventure in Digitopia

  1. serin says:

    This post is so bland without pictures. I guess I’ll add some of the 3D screenshots I got. They look weird until you pop them into a 3D viewer.

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