GamesCom: 3D

One of the new technologies I was looking forward to experience in person at GamesCom was stereoscopic 3D for gaming. Just like Move and Kinect it is an experience that can’t be conveyed by any kind of established means of mass communication. The device I was looking forward to most was the Nintendo 3DS. Unfortunatly, Nintendo didn’t exhibit it at the show floor. Apparently there were demonstrations behind closed doors but I didn’t manage to get in. So I was left with what Sony prepared this year.

Off the bat, 3D wasn’t really very prominent. I saw a total of 3 (!!!) 3D-enabled demo stations. They say that this was because Playstation Move was Sony’s focus this year. It left a bitter aftertaste of Sony not being really confident with that technology. And if this is true, I can tell why.

3D Speechless

Speechless on how bad this is…

The first 3D station was the remake of Sly Cooper. I put on the 3D glasses, looked at the screen and wondered why the image was gone. It took me a few seconds to realize that the image was still there but incredibly dim. Apparently, the shutter glasses reduce the luminosity of the screen by half. What looked like a decently lit TV screen before became a large equivalent of a 1st gen GameBoy Advance screen. You know, the one without back-light. But hey, at least it’s 3D right? Well, kind of. Sure, there were scenes were the 3D effect really worked. In one sequence you had to crawl though a ventilation shaft. That looked fine. In the normal 3rd person view, the 3D effect was barely noticeable. You got used to it very quickly anyway and forgot all about it.

I thought maybe the screen was mis-configured. I wasn’t looking forward to Sly Cooper anyway. Next up, I tried GT5 which is a game I am REALLY looking forward to. The station was a cool racing seat with a steering wheel and the screen installed really close. I thought that would blow me away. It didn’t. Again, the screen got a lot dimmer with the glasses on. Even that close to the screen, the 3D effect was barely noticeable and didn’t affect gameplay in any way. The feeling of speed wasn’t more intense as I have hoped. I wasn’t able to grasp the track geometry any better than in 2D. The most disappointing thing was that the cars didn’t even look very plastic. They seemed almost like flat billboards. I have no idea if this is a limitation of the 3D technology or an artifact of some weird trick they are pulling off to get the 3D effect working. And as with every stereoscopic 3D I’ve seen so far, parts that move quickly tend to flicker a lot. Not the best technology for a racing game. The top it off, the head tracking we have been promised didn’t work either. Thank you, but no thank you.

There was a Killzone 3 station as well but it wasn’t working on that day and I haven’t bothered to check up on it later on. Killzone gives me narcoleptic attacks anyway.

All in all, this was a quite sobering experience. At this point, 3D TVs are WORSE than 2D. Having a bright, vivid 2D image is way more impressive and immersive than a dim, low-contrast, flickering sorta-3D. Again, I have no idea if the TVs were badly configured. But if this was indicative of how stereoscopic 3D is supposed to work, 3D technology is something I’ll gladly skip.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

One response to “GamesCom: 3D”

  1. Till

    Yeah, we already talked about it.

    I didn’t try it at sony’s booth, but i tried Aion with nVidia Shutter glasses and it was exactly as you described it. 3D polygon chars looked like 2D billboards, 3D objects on the ground are even worse. In this case it was a broken down cart, which actually looked 3D, but the problem is: the collision still only applies to the 2D-3D model (what?). Thus i was able to walk through one of the cartwheels as if it wasn’t there. Because it actually wasn’t. Ah you get me.

    All in all i wasn’t impressed, like I had planned.



The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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