Tech Interview: PlayStation 3D • Page 3

Evolution Studios on how Sony is building a 3D future for gaming.

Eurogamer: So just how difficult is it to convert a game to 3D?

Simon Benson: I think the content out there shows that we can retrofit 3D. Your worst case is taking an existing game. Something like WipEout: retrofitting 3D onto something as vast as that is your absolute worst case. And we've proved that's possible, it's been achieved.

Eurogamer: But the viability is going to be on a game-by-game basis isn't it?

Simon Benson: Absolutely. I think that's the big thing. The short answer is "it depends". It's very much on a game-by-game basis. What we try to do is look at reasons why 3D would make the game much more than just a visual nicety. To get a proper core advantage in there that's worth doing.

Eurogamer: There's a lot of emerging technology in Sony. We've seen Polyphony discuss head-tracking within Gran Turismo 5. How difficult would it be to marry the stereoscopic tech you have here with the ability to track head movement and literally look around the scene on-screen?

Ian Bickerstaff: Before I was mentioning virtual reality "caves" and that's exactly how they work. It's typically 120Hz shutter glasses with a head-tracking system and a 120Hz projection screen that you can move around and it's constantly adjusting the image based on your viewing position.

From a viewing point of view you don't notice that you're in a cube at all. It's constantly recalculating the perspective. So that's been done for many, many years now and it's something we've been familiar with in the simulation industry. It's almost bread and butter really. We can't comment on future R&D but you could imagine the way it could go.

Eurogamer: So you're not going to comment on future R&D but using the motion controller as well is a no-brainer, isn't it?

Simon Benson: The idea of stereoscopic 3D marrying up with the motion controller is a bit of a no-brainer, and you can certainly see applications there that open up plenty of opportunities for gameplay. There are lots of other things we can achieve too. We're just at the tip of the iceberg with what 3D is going to enable. Once the technology's out there, it'll be interesting to see the things that follow.

Ian Bickerstaff: Anything that's out there in the simulation or visualisation industry that's sort of cool and you can imagine the public liking, then you can imagine that rippling through to the public at some point in the future.

Eurogamer: We've seen quite a few crazy "glimpse of the future" demos from Sony. We've had Gran Turismo 5 running on at 240FPS, we've had a full 4K (4096x2160) demo of the same game, all using networked PS3s. What is the structure within Sony for doing all of this stuff?

Ian Bickerstaff: With the networked giant resolution display thing, I think that is a standard product developed at Sony Basingstoke. They do these big video walls, a genlock video solution. They can do giant screens using lots and lots of PlayStation 3s. I think that is a standard product.

We can call on that and benefit from it. We work very closely with Sony Basingstoke who develop a lot of very exciting tech for covering the World Cup in 3D for example. Real-time processing of images and all this sort of stuff. They've got a three-camera system that stitches together a panoramic view of an entire football pitch in real-time, and make it 3D as well using a depth-map solution. It's very clever.

Simon Benson: All these divisions are really happy to share, talking to us about their technologies. They'll give us source code, expertise. It's brilliant really. It's unheard of in some companies of this sort of size.

Ian Bickerstaff: I'm supposed to be flying out to Sony Pictures tomorrow to go to the 3D technology centre that they've opened up there. Again, comparing notes, cross-pollinating ideas, that sort of thing. The "Sony United" policy where everyone talks to one another does actually seem to be happening. It's not just hype, it's really working. It's amazing.

Eurogamer: So you've got all these potential uses of 3D across the company. Is there any one overseeing it all, ensuring there's no duplication of work or anything like that?

Simon Benson: It's all coordinated and more than that it's all very open too. We're very close to everyone who's doing similar things. It's surprising how even though we work across Europe, America and Japan, just how straightforward all the communication is.

Just the coordination effort that goes into getting the content to the shows... a tremendous amount of effort from across all of the Sony corporation, from the Bravia division to the games division. It's all worked very well. There is a central coordination but the engineers are very proactive in keeping each other informed.

Ian Bickerstaff: It relies a bit on local enthusiasm as well. Typically we've approached particular teams with a game we thought that would work really well in 3D and put it to them and suggested our 3D parameters and given the appropriate expertise but it relies on them on the other side saying, "you're right, it would look brilliant in 3D" and setting aside a bit of time to do the conversion and so on. Housemarque [Super Stardust HD] is a classic example.

Simon Benson: We've also got some pretty good internal broadcast systems where can publish information quite securely so it's very easy to share across timezones and across divisions. We use that an awful lot. It's all good, really.

Eurogamer: Have there been any 3D implementations you've had back where you've seen something that's genuinely surprised you?

Simon Benson: We've basically been approaching people who have the right games for 3D. What we've found over time is that the majority of them have a case for having the right kind of title. Often we'll talk to a dev team and you'll be thinking, "Yeah it'll be all right, but what's the reason why? Why would you put that game on in 3D? It would look good, but if that's all [then] it's not strong enough.

So you'll talk to their game designers and game directors and they'll explain how we do the 3D bit. And it'll be like, "Ahhh yes." It's been really interesting and creative in how the teams that we've spoken to have considered the 3D aspect and it's really encouraging that nobody's looking to just switch the game to 3D and that's it. They're always thinking about what it enables in their particular title.

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