Tech Interview: PlayStation 3D • Page 4

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

Eurogamer: All of this isn't happening in a vacuum. Obviously there are other parallel 3D systems out there. NVIDIA have 3D Vision. Has that helped in any way?

Simon Benson: The one thing it shows is that there's a lot of interest everywhere across all the platforms, but from our perspective it's been useful to see some of the effects you get. A lot of the games aren't built with 3D in mind, the effect is just sort of "turned on". It's been interesting to see what you can achieve there, almost from a negative sense, what can go wrong?

Ian Bickerstaff: The NVIDIA system is a bit of a lucky dip. Some of the games look stunning.

Simon Benson: That's the more interesting side of it. You find something where you go, "Oh yeah, that issue will come about if you do something that way." It means you can make sure we work with all the teams to make sure we avoid doing that before we've spent any money on it.

Eurogamer: From what I understand, the NVIDIA system works by patching vertex-processing driver-side to create the view for both eyes.

Ian Bickerstaff: As we understand it, yes. And it doesn't know about what the game is and what the game is artistically trying to create. It's just a rendering technique.

Eurogamer: In a similar vein, there were 3D TVs at CES that were processing 2D images into 3D at CES, for example with Gears of War 2, but your system is effectively true stereoscopic 3D with the developer in control of the effect, how it works and what you see.

Ian Bickerstaff: Right from the design and conception stage of the game potentially you can take that all the way through the lifecycle, making all the optimisations for the best 3D experience.

Simon Benson: You can dynamically control the cameras pretty much the same way as when they're filming things like Avatar. They'll choose the separation of the cameras exactly based on the shot or even modifying during a shot if they want to.

And again, the game teams have full control over that whereas if you're doing something like a technical-level thing without the game designers' and coders' involvement, no one has any control over that. As Ian says, it's a lucky dip. We dynamically control the separation of cameras based on what's going on in the scene, maintaining the best possible quality.

Eurogamer: So you're not interested in just chucking out stuff from the screen and into your face?

Ian Bickerstaff: We can't guarantee we wouldn't do that from time to time...

Simon Benson: But that's more of a game design issue. Effectively the big focus is to make sure you create the best, most immersive 3D experience so that people using TVs in the living room are getting the best we can deliver on that. If the designers choose at that moment to throw something in your face, then that comes down to their creative decisions.

Some of that might be great. When they talk about the original Jaws film, they talk about how many times they're allowed to surprise and shock people. They reckoned it was two points but no more. It's a creative issue really.

Eurogamer: There is that effect when an object is hovering right in front of you and you want to reach out and touch it...

Simon Benson: Yeah, and that's a creative call for the teams. We don't just work on the technical level but on the creative level too and we advise the teams on stuff like that. We work with them not just on the quality of the rendering but also how they use 3D.

Ian Bickerstaff: We want a comfortable experience. That's the main thing. Something that's easy on the eye, and adds a little bit of spice every so often to make it more interesting but 90 per cent of it is a nice, easy-to-view experience.

Simon Benson: The immersion is always a great element, the more immersion you can get into a game, the more realism, the better it is. The 3D has got to be there to support the gaming mechanic. The 3D can provide a real benefit to the player, something tangible. Take a driving game for example. A simple thing here. Drive home tonight with one eye shut, that's similar to a 2D driving game.

Ian Bickerstaff: Sony is not recommending that by the way!

Simon Benson: You have two eyes. You can perceive depth, you can measure things, you can judge speed, you can judge distance and proximity. How does this apply to a driving game? You can approach corners and have better braking cues now. It's been proven in the simulation world, it's why a lot of driving simulators are using 3D technology.

It's because you can judge braking better. It's how your eyes work in the real world. People who've lost vision in one eye learn to compensate while driving by judging how far apart brake lights are, which is why people have more accidents in the dark. If someone ahead has a tail light out they think it's a motorbike. They have no depth perception at all.

But the fact that you can perceive distance with your eyes helps, not just with braking but avoidance of other vehicles. If you want to cut up the vehicle in front, the fact that you can judge relative distances easier helps.

Ian Bickerstaff: This is something you get from the simulation industry where you've got to get all the measurements absolutely correct to give a 1:1 correlation to reality. You can tailor it to optimise the reality of the situation.

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