E3: James Cameron's Avatar: The Game • Page 2

Is 3D the future?

Besides, George says, it's not surprising there's a sense of distance when you're passively watching someone else play, rather than being the one in control. "It's so different when you play the game. It's sad people can't experience it here at E3, because the game's just not ready for that yet, but I guarantee you - it will definitely feel different," he promises. "As soon as you are engaging and able to control what the character's doing and where you're looking with the camera, it re-attaches you to the experience."

The other advantage of being in control, according to George, is you don't experience so much fatigue. After 15 minutes of staring at 3D visuals my eyes felt a little tired, my brain frazzled from processing so much information. I've experienced a similar sensation watching 3D movies, and I've never seen one of those that lasted longer than half an hour. Will our brains be able to cope with gameplay sessions longer than that?

"In my opinion, a lot of the fatigue you're feeling is to do with the fact you're staring at a 103-inch screen and you're right up close to it in a small room," George says. "But I know what you're saying - I've thought about this myself. We've been really worried about people's visual and mental endurance of the game. We have to be careful how much we move the camera; the camera's the key and we're working with it right now, trying to make it feel more immersive and organic."

Plus, George says, it comes back to the difference between observing and taking part. "I feel like there's a reason people feel fatigued when they're watching passively, like you were there. Watch any action game when someone else is demoing it and there's always a lot of camerawork going on, and it doesn't have to be in 3D for it to be exhausting.

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"But when you're the one playing, it's a different experience. Because your brain's anticipating what's coming next, it's almost like your brain can keep up a bit better. But if you're just throwing a whole pile of information at it, it's so much to take in."

If it's too much for your brain you could always opt to play Avatar the old-fashioned way. George is keen to stress the game stands up as a compelling third-person action adventure even in 2D - "The 3D is more the icing on the cake." In any case, you'll probably need a new telly if you want the full next-gen experience. DLP (Digital Light Processing) TVs are already available but they're not cheap, and the 103-inch plasma we're leering at is only a prototype. It'll be a while before they hit the shops, let alone before they come down in price to an affordable level.

Still, there was once a time when cassettes were cutting edge, all TVs were standard definition and being able to both drive a car and shoot a gun in a game was considered revolutionary. In the future, will all videogames be played in full 3D?

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"I don't think it's going to take over and be the norm," says George. "I mean, not all movies are made in 3D. But it's definitely an area that a lot of television manufacturers and software producers like us are interested in. Certain titles are better suited for 3D, so that's what's going to happen - you'll see a lot more of it, but not every game will be 3D."

Seeing as Ubisoft is leading the charge, can we expect to see franchises like Splinter Cell and Assassin's Creed going 3D? "I haven't heard any talk about that. But I'm sure in the future... I don't know. There's no official release of any information of that kind." George is treading carefully. "But who knows, right? I'd like to see it myself."

It will certainly be interesting to see how Ubisoft takes this technology forward and, in the shorter term, how Avatar turns out. This year's E3 has shown publishers are still striving to innovate when it comes to how we experience games, and there's still scope for new developments. Perhaps 10 years from now, we'll all be playing 3D games starring talking virtual boys with invisible colour-changing controllers. On PS4. In space.

Avatar is out this autumn for "all next-gen platforms".

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