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PlayStation 3D • Page 2

Today MotorStorm, tomorrow the Holodeck?

"Again, that's something drawn from the industrial side; they've been using that in industry for years. A lot of cars these days - they don't bother going to all the trouble of making a clay model... they do it in 3D and they all wear 3D glasses to view it that way. It's far more efficient. It's already been proven to be a good creation mechanic."

Next up, a full 3D version of the excellent baseball game MLB: The Show. Noted for its support for full 1080p60, it is a perfect example of a game ripe for the transition to 3D. Clearly it has the rendering bandwidth to support dual 720p images (1080p has more than twice the resolution of 720p) but more than that, it is an interesting example of how 3D can have a marked increase in the quality of sports-style gameplay.

"Sports are a big thing in 3D both in broadcast terms and in gaming too," says Benson. "If this was soccer, rugby or any other sports game, there's this idea of players before my eyes, in the room with me, on the field. All the mechanics like contact, batting, catching, bending a football into the corner of a goal, is it going in or not? Depth gives you all those characteristics - you can judge that, you can perceive it with 3D vision."

Composition-wise, most of the action uses TV-style cameras whereas I can imagine that proper in-game perspectives would give you a much stronger idea of how 3D would work in a proper sport sims: the vein of potential is rich indeed, especially bearing in mind the implications motion control has for this game in particular. And yes, this video did indeed show the ball being hit "out" of the screen and into your face, but such obvious uses of 3D were surprisingly infrequent during the course of the presentation.

Killzone 2 next, and the showcase takes the form of an in-engine cinematic as opposed to proper gameplay - a shame in a way as a first-person shooter would have been a very cool demo. The sequence on show happens to be one of the most famous videos to issue forth from the studios of Guerrilla Games, and you can see it in its original 2D form on Eurogamer TV.

"This is rendered out of the game engine," explains Simon Benson, suggesting that this 3D rendition is probably not being generated in real-time. "This really drives home the immersion side of things with all those particles... fantastic. You can see the sense of scale, the fact that controlling the scale element allows us to make that bullet massive if we want to, so it's a huge bullet.

Or I can make it tiny. I can vary it throughout the content to make sure that the cameras are set up in 3D relevantly for what I'm trying to show creatively. And that's the thing you don't have if you just sledgehammer it like a hardware-type solution [like NVIDIA 3D Vision], where you 'switch on' 3D and it's not being created with 3D in mind. This allows you to make calls on how you will present the 3D based on the content."

The original video was clearly impressive, but the move to 3D is quite remarkable. However, Killzone 2 is a 30FPS game and fast lateral panning motions don't look so impressive compared to the slick 60Hz output of the GT demo, for example. It certainly seems to be the case that frame-rate becomes considerably more important in the leap from 2D to 3D: 30FPS looks flickery and jerky in certain situations, whereas the 60FPS games pretty much guarantee a smooth, immersive, convincing effect.

Moving onto the playable part of the presentation, MotorStorm: Pacific Rift gives me an opportunity to try out a game that didn't fit the commonalities of some of the other demos. GT5, Super Stardust HD, MLB: The Show and WipEout all have 1080p modes. Not all of them are full 1920x1080, but regardless, it suggests that there is horsepower under the bonnet capable of rendering significantly in excess of standard 720p: handy if your pixel throughput is effectively doubling. All of those games also aspire to 60FPS, another key ingredient in convincing 3D.

Pacific Rift is different. It's a native 720p game and it's locked to 30FPS. It's an interesting example of 3D being deployed on a title to which I'd consider it would be quite difficult to retrofit 3D technology.

"It's a driving game, but with the perception of depth you have you get a good feeling of how fast you're actually going, the scale of everything around you is more understood," explains Simon Benson. "Now the other thing is proximity of objects. You can clearly see that I just clipped that rock, how close I was to the tree, how fast I am relative to the other cars.

These are all mechanics that are enabled when you have 3D vision, particularly in this view when you are inside the vehicle. Your eye position is set there for a more realistic driving experience. We use the real separation of your eyes... 6.5cm between the cameras to make sure you are perceiving the world much more realistically."

MotorStorm is an interesting demo piece. Aside from the bonnet of my chosen buggy protruding into the "real world" the 3D effect is remarkably muted. It just seems more natural and more realistic. A quick stab of the triangle button takes us to the external view and it's a completely different story with a much more in-your-face style to the visuals.

"The thing here is how we actually manage 3D parameters based on what we want to achieve, so when you are in third-person view we make your car mini, like a little radio-controlled car in a scale world," explains Benson. "That's a creative judgement that we made when we put this demo together.

"The reason why is that it increases the 3Dness of the world around you, you get more depth, but you're effectively reducing the realism side of that particular view. You couldn't really do that in GT, you'd keep it all big. We go for this view because it's a little bit more arcadey. When you go inside the vehicle, you get a much more realistic view."

The external viewpoint seems to feel somewhat odd. It's obviously 3D but detached and not so immersive. Going back to the internal viewpoint, the visuals seem more coherent and more in step with reality.

"Inside the car you're getting the same sort of view as professional driving simulators," adds Benson. "You're in familiar territory. That's the interesting thing. It goes some way to answering the question about people getting used to the difference of 3D. Hopefully you won't have to. If it's done correctly it should be more intuitive. In a lot of games we'll be modelling the real world."

Coincidentally, the big bonnet on the screen with a few ever-present polygon edges to look at suggests that dialling back anti-aliasing and perhaps resolution a touch was the key to getting the native 720p MotorStorm rendering twice as many frames.

The 30FPS side of the equation doesn't seem as impactful as it did in the Killzone 2 video demo. Here we're effectively travelling "into" the screen - the lack of big steps in left-right lateral movement makes the game look more natural, but there does appear to be a flicker of sorts that isn't visible in the 60FPS games and demos.

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About the author

Richard Leadbetter

Richard Leadbetter

Technology Editor, Digital Foundry  |  digitalfoundry

Rich has been a games journalist since the days of 16-bit and specialises in technical analysis. He's commonly known around Eurogamer as the Blacksmith of the Future.


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