Metal Gear Arcade: The Next Gen 3D Showcase • Page 2

Is Kojima's coin-op outing the future of console 3D?

As a side note, we may be overlooking one factor here the technical ingenuity of Kojima Productions. MGS4's anti-aliasing technique is known as "temporal AA". With this system, the odd and even frames are off-set a touch when the camera is static and then combined to smooth off edges. It's not so different from generating the same scene but with a much stronger off-set that suits each individual eye. It would then be down to the 3D renderer to work its magic on the RAMDAC to make sure that the left eye gets every odd frame, and the right eye gets every even frame. It would be the most cost-effective solution and in theory it shouldn't unduly affect the game's current performance level.

The concept of repurposing anti-aliasing buffers for stereoscopic 3D isn't a new one. However, it's convoluted, technically challenging and even if were possible, the fact is that PS3 hardware is already struggling with the MGS4 engine, and that includes its implementation on the online variant on which Metal Gear Arcade is based. Even if it was presented in beautiful 3D, would you really go to the arcades to play a game with performance as seen in the video here?

Frame rate analysis of Metal Gear Online, taken from the latest version of the game. It works and plays well in the home, but surely 60FPS should be the arcade standard?

As the analysis demonstrates, the Metal Gear engine running on PS3 can show somewhat variable performance, fluctuating between 20FPS and 30FPS at practically any given point. Much as we would love to see the PS3 tech running a state of the art arcade experience, we just can't see it happening with performance along the lines of what we're seeing in the home game. As it is, the trailer is consistently smooth, hinting that more powerful hardware is at work.

And speaking of more powerful hardware, Team Xbox reckons that the next Microsoft console will feature stereoscopic 3D as its defining factor, but while I can see it being incorporated in some form, the chances of it being the key feature are remote. With the amount of power the new hardware is expected to have, it's possible, but even with 3D "built-in", the issues of bandwidth, fill rate and memory still have to be tackled. Game developers could be facing the same issues they have this generation why make your game 60FPS when 30FPS looks so much prettier, or in this case, why go 3D when your 2D version will have so many more resources available to produce a better looking game?

There are some potential solutions though: run the 2D game at full 1080p, but in the move to 3D, combine a lower resolution frame buffer for each eye with refined scaling to make up the difference. GT5 Prologue on PS3 may well be "only" 1280x1080 at its native resolution, but it is convincing enough to live up to is 1080p billing. Addressing the challenges of stereoscopic imaging at the hardware level could also have a big impact while two scenes will still need to be generated, they will be based on the same graphical assets, the same textures. The RAM overhead at the very least could be mitigated. 3D like this will always be more costly than a conventional image, but clearly the impact can be lessened if its utilisation is pre-planned in the system hardware itself.

While the technical issues could be resolved, the notion that Microsoft is building its new system based on proliferation of a new standard of TV which has yet to be proven sounds implausible. And this is why utilising stereoscopic 3D within the confines of the arcade is a masterstroke by Konami and Kojima Productions, even if the choice of game itself is perhaps rather surprising.

The arcade business is in dire need of coming up with a way to differentiate itself from what the consoles offer, and the implementation of stereoscopic 3D is a compelling proposition a relatively cheap way to get gamers to forsake their home entertainment and turn gaming into a "good night out" the exact same reason why the cinema is embracing the same 3D technology. Will the relative slow pace and tactical gameplay of Metal Gear Online translate into an effective arcade release? It'll be a challenge that's for sure, but I'm very curious to see the result...

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