This article is extracted from my blog, and was also published at gamasutra.
2016 will be the year of VR. Maybe. Before, let’s look back to the stereo game feel:
My life / Disclaimer
For ten years now I have worked in CGI movies and TV-shows, and I witnessed the transition from 2D into 3D Animation, and then into Stereoscopic.
I must say up front, I am like 90% of my colleagues, not convinced about the utility of stereoscopic vision into passive video medias:
It works well for establishing shots but I feel confused when action sequences are divided in shorter cuts, (I read somewhere that our brain needs more time to apprehend a 3D picture than a 2D)
And most directors are not familiar with the fact that strong depth of field (the in-focus region in the frame) is friendly with stereoscopic vision (I want to look at that Pandora butterfly, but even though my eyes are targeting it, it remains blurry), which does not happen if I’m in control of the camera...
… Therefore what could be right for passive video medias is not necessarily so for videogames. But let me try to convince you to give it one more try.
I have been playing in stereoscopic vision for quite some time now, and I love it.
After all, a videogame (cinematics excluded) contains one continuous shot !
Nvidia’s Nvision allows to toggle between classic and stereo (with just Ctrl+T), and it is jaw-dropping with a lot of games. Let me try to summarize what is, for some games, better in stereo:
Platformers need stereo. I mean it. Mario in full 3D relies a classic “noon shadow” just bellow him to help the player anticipate his landing zone when jumping. But try
So for games that require great precision with the player’s placement (and punish him for any tiny mistake), playing in stereo improve a lot the game feel. Regarding my platformer experience, I played these in stereo: Darksiders2, Lord of shadow, Styx and DevilMayCry, and I was very happy with it!
Immersion: more drown than drawn
We could agree the more we sense a virtual world, the better we feel immersed in it.
I’m not talking about being emotionally implicated into a game, of course any game can achieve that (and it is probably more related to the narration), but I think photo-realistic games misses a point: they are beautiful: But beautifully flatten.
You have to play them in stereo to have the one little something they lacks: Volume.
I can suggest you to play, Tomb Raider, Assassins Creed’s, Evil Within, Remember Me, MGSV, Batman Arkham’s.
Specifically in this last, feeling the whole Arkham city when slowly gliding is really priceless, it is quite an experience on its own!
And what is a videogame talk nowadays without mentioning FPS ?
Well, the main focus here is to be the character, and to see the world through his eyes, his own perspective; stereo play very fit this point of view (if the camera shake is not crazy), and it gives the player the feeling of its avatar’s depth perception.
I successfully stereo played Skyrim, FarCry, Deus Ex, Dishonored, totally worth a try!
Relative set elements make more detailed sets !
This is a point I was not thinking about as a direct consequence to a stereo session, but now I have to write here that stereo make your image “prettier”, but in a weird way !
Of course, stereo needs the computation of two pictures instead of one (but does NOT half your framerate), and some fx could be glitched, so basically the graphics are not better.
What I mean by a prettier picture is that you are able to catch every little object that dresses the set, and distinct them from each other. When the camera moves, every single props silhouette is changing, its volume is very neatly cut from what’s behind.
In a flatten picture, a set of props is a mass, reduced to a global perception of several stuff, a stack of mixed colors. With stereoscopic vision, and when the camera moves, you feel every volume, as tiny as they are, and the general feel about that is an image more “accurate”, more precise... it feel almost like when you improve the resolution parameter!
I could not illustrate better that feeling with Luigi’s Mansion, when on top of the beautiful graphics and stereo, turning on the vacuum makes the whole props of the room jiggling, which improves a lot this effect.
I can also quote here Mirror of Fate or Witcher 2, but also some First person Explorer like Dear Esther, Ethan Carter which gives you the time to completely explore the set in every little details.
The “miniaturization effect”
As stranger as that could sound, I feel sometimes that playing in stereo miniaturize the assets!
You may feel in stereo, particularly on a very wide screen, that the assets are very near you, “at arm reach”. Their perception, accurate in volume, feels real, but often represent biggest objects for a desktop screen in the real life! So my brain fight this conflict by faking their scale: they feel like toys.
The biggest “toyification” I had was in LA: Noire, and I think that is quite related to its stylization.
Some could tell that it deserves the purpose of the game, but due to the artistic direction of the game, I do not feel it, and I quite appreciate it to be honest!
After all, we play games here; So it is natural to play games with toys !
The darkside, and its cure.
Be sure of one thing, game developer mostly have no time, no money, and no interest into putting efforts into the stereoscopic effect of their games. I imagine that the number of gamers that play in stereo will not worth it.
So yes, playing PC games in stereo could be a nightmare:
There are glitches: UI with no depth, shadow not in their volume, volumetric fogs or fx blinking, objects waaaaay to close to the camera.
But don’t worry, there is a salvation, http://helixmod.blogspot.fr (I’m not related to this website)
This site gather home-made stereo patch that fix almost every glitch per game !
I’m not related to that website, but be sure the day this guys stop doing this, stereo gaming will die.
I’m not playing 2D games in stereo, but with slow/platformer/explorer games, I really want you to believe me that stereo is definitely an improvement into the realtime interactive entertainement.
Yes VR is coming, but for a lot of actually available games, stereo is compatible and enhance the experience.
Please, give it a try ^^.
My rig is an ASUS VG278HR screen, with a Nvidia GForce and Nvision driver installed.