Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Two different 3d Rants

I’m going to rant about 3D. In two different ways. Stick with me.

1) I think 3 D ruins some games. I remember when all games were 2D, then I remember the first isometric RTS games. (In fact arguably the first was ant attack). Moving the camera in isometric games was easy. When they introduced a limited 4-way rotate to the genre, that got darned confusing. Then came 3D. the first 3D RTS games sucked massively. Then we got mroe of them, and they sucked a bit less. In my limietd opinion the two that do it well are Total War and Company Of heroes. I think COH is better. Why? Neither game makes me waste half my gameplay moving the camera around.

I have a pal who has problems with 3D cameras. Real bad ones. he can’t play an FPS. He can kick my ass big time at CoH. He has tried Men of war, but literally prefers CoH because you can’t rotate the camera by default in CoH. I agree. Watch a video of Eve online and note how much time the player is fucking around with the camera. I played a 3D space RTS recently to try it out, and got sick of the 3D antics. I’m a human, not a bird. I percieve 3D but I’m not good at planning movement in it. I bet there are planets of bird people where Homeworld and Descent are the top 2 games.

BTW I *can* handle 3D in a game. I can kick ass at Call of Duty. I just don’t like a game to be all about the third dimension in terms of planning. Most mass market usable games operate in 2D. They use 3D graphics to draw an effectviely 2D world, with 2D gameplay. Descent and Homeworld were 3D, also flight sims. Not much else. Portal I guess?

2) When i said I perceive 3D, thats true. But it’s also a lie. I suffer from this. Stereo Blindness. It means two things:

  • I can’t see through binoculars easily
  • Avatar was dull.

Actually avatar was ok, but not earth shattering. I can see a vague slight 3dness to it every 20 minutes or so, but that’s it. I REALLY hope this isn’t the future of movies. If so, I’ll have to keep my money. Paying extra to have to wear dorky glasses to watch a movie in 2D is not my idea of progress. If people think we will all buy new TV’s for this, they are dead wrong. I went ot a demo at blitz games kindly given by the excellent oliver brothers on 3D gaming. Sadly, it looked 2D to me. Gutted. (On the other hand their engine is flipping awesome.)

Above all, I don’t like gimmicks driving artistic development. 3D might be good for the odd CGI film, but lets not default to it. It gets over-used and in the way. People with spears tend to point them self-conciously at the camera a lot. It makes film making even more expensive, and thus dumbed down and generic. (unobtainium? really?). Personally I would have taken every cent of the 3D budget and spent it on writers. Preferably Iain M Banks or Greg Bear, or anyone over the age of twelve, basically. I’m not convinced special effects or 3D have massively improved the long term quality of movies. In 50 years time will avatar be seen as a ‘must-see’ movie? I doubt it. Casablanca probably will still be, despite not even having color.

Sometimes it’s not all about the budget, or the tech.

19 thoughts on Two different 3d Rants

  1. I think I was probably just getting into Computer Games when the first 3D RTSs came on the market. I remember playing a demo of Star Trek: Armada and loving it. I also remember playing Star Trek: Armada 2 and hating it. The sole reason was the introduction of the Z axis (I *think* that terminology’s right). 95% of strategy games should be done on two axese because, as you said, humans are just not built to operate in an environment with a freely movable z axis. Even with flying aircraft we still use the ground as a reference point.
    Graphics are all well and good, but it you don’t have the substance in a game (or film) then it will all amount to nothing. The gaming industry seems obsessed with graphics and having a “cinematic” feel now. In a way it’s a blessing because it means that guys like you are more inclined to break away and do something that’s different and original, but on the other hand it would be great if the whole industry was like that.

    As a side comment, I haven’t come across Stereo Blindness before. That wikipedia article is quite interesting.

  2. Actually, I hope to that we as a race get a lot better at working in true 3D environments — because space is, you know, pretty much as full 3D as it gets — otherwise how can we ever become a real, bad-ass star-faring civ?

    That said, I agree with you on many points. I think 3D in games has a definite place, but I also agree that it isn’t used effectively most of the time. As far as movies go, eh … sometimes I watch movies just for the spectacle. If I’m looking for a real story I open a book. TV /movie writing is just atrocious to me for the most part (I admit to like Babylon 5, Firefly, Farscape … and some BSG).

    But hey — money goes were it goes.

  3. As a student pilot you learn very quickly that our brains do not accept travelling in 3D readily.

    Your brain has to learn perspective especially from height.

    Perhaps this effect is like what Cliff is saying in this article?

  4. I thought Avatar was ok. The 3D was interesting, but mostly it was just the special effects, CGI, and compositing that were worth looking at. If the story had been written by Greg Bear (or any other awesome SF writer) then it would’ve been a truly great movie.

    I’ve failed to put a game together for GAMMA two years in a row now. Last year the theme was 3D (like with glasses). My failure last year was due to an inability to figure out a mechanic that stereo 3D was absolutely necessary for. We’ve coped with the 3D projection to 2D for so long that our cheats and tricks (shadows directly under an object to indicate height; relative size, color, and ground plane position to indicate depth; etc) are more than adequate for nearly anything you can think of.

    I don’t think stereo 3D is a fad this time, but I also don’t think we’ll be seeing anything that truly requires it gameplay-wise for quite some time.

  5. I have never had issue with 3D in games – either 3rd person or 1st person. I think years of playing FPS and MMO’s have helped this skill.

    What I can not stand is simulated 3D in films. The 3D glasses are uncomfortable, do not work well with my prescription glasses, and – in the case of Avatar 3D – gave me a migraine 30 minutes into the film. I originally saw Avatar in its normal 2D form and to be honest apart from the 3D gimmick saw no advantage in watching it in 3D. 2D was perfectly fine and actually the image quality was much brighter than the 3D version.

  6. 3D games would be ALRIGHT if developers could work 3x within the same amount of time they do now, the real issue is that 3D games bring up HUGE amounts of issues because there is way more work to do making the animations look right, in 2D you can get away with “cheating” and offline renders.

    In 3D you can’t fake a lot of things you could in 2D.

    Supreme commnder : Forged alliance was a damn good 3D RTS, and I loved looking at my commander underwater, it’s just that the dev time and costs for such games is off the charts because many 3D games add enormous amount of extra work you have to do.

  7. Take a look at Smash brothers Brawl for the Wii, that’s a “2d” gameplay in a “3D” world and it works.

  8. One more game – Demigod works well in 3D, you should at least check it out – it’s a super fun game online.

  9. Hey Cliffski,

    got a link for a vid or text of the oliver brother’s engine?


  10. Cliff, you may have a problem with one eye, in that it is slightly out of focus with the other. This is fairly common, people who have this tend to suffer in sport as their hand to eye co-ordination and fast object tracking isn’t what it should be.

    3D was essential to gameplay on Decent, Homeworld and Freespace. The ability to think and play in 3D made some gameplay moments just damn cool.

    In other games it sucks. most RTS have a problem with this, with exception to SupCom with a fixed ismetric (why 3d anyway).

    Camera control is a massive problem in games, by far the best I ever encountered was the original Ground Control, with the fog of war, weapon ranges at height, flanking armour values it really made a difference to be able to see from different perspectives. Also the game was years ahead of its time.

    The 2nd sucked hairy dogs bollocks and was Awful

    guess which one was a console crossover

  11. Yup, this is exactly my situation. I wear glasses for long vision and its purely for one eye. I’m not completely clueless at sports, but it’s telling that my sport of choice (archery!) is played with one eye closed :D

    I’m sure 3D games will get better in etrms of usability, but gamers tend to forget that not everyone is used to the FPS mechanic. Take someone who has never played a 3d game before and cringe at the way they get stuck looking at the floor or the sky.
    This is likely yet another reason why the entire casual games market is 2D. Lets face it, even cheap netbooks can do 3D games, so its not all about the hardware requirements.

  12. Maybe cheap English netbooks can do 3d, but over here in America my cheap netbook can hardly run many 3d games released this decade. I definitely think there’s a system requirement reasoning for a 2d casual gaming market. I also wholeheartedly agree that 3d is REALLY overused in too many genres. Unfortunately most consumers don’t see it that way. To the average gamer, great 3d graphics seems to always be a higher selling factor than story, features, or even gameplay…which seems to explain the trend to expand budgets to include good 3d – there’s a return on the investment.

  13. Totally agree on the 3D sucks for RTS; it is really hard to render the 3rd dimension without mocking about with the camera.

    As for the fact that cheap laptop (read netbook) no being able to compute the modern render engine: try and run some software render engine instead (see Quake 3 for an example). The dual core computing power of the CPU on this machine are well above the lower spec of the one found on a lower end machine only 10 years ago.

    Just some thoughts.


  14. Right now, amazing 3d graphics sell, but will that always be the case? Think how blown away everyone was by Star Wars and its special effects in 1997. It was a quantum leap ahead in terms of SFX. since then, the pace of effects improvements has slowed mroe and more each year.

    If you showed me Revenge Of The Sith back to back with Avatar, I would have no idea which was more recent by its SFX.
    That is also happening with games. Can you tell the difference between COD 4 and COD 5?

    The last game I bought was mount n blade, whose graphics are pretty sucky vs bigger games, but that doesn’t bother me much any more. the graphics are ‘good enough’ to be immersed in the game. I’m sure lots of people feel the same way.

  15. I agree that the pace in sfx improvements seems to be slowing, but you have to admit that there is probably a near infinite amount of improvement that current sfx need before we can realistically render any situation in real time. Yeah, games look pretty good these days, and things haven’t changed too dramatically in two or three years…but start to look back 5 or 6 years. Games that looked great now look like cartoons. I have a feeling that in 5 or 6 years, the advances in say…fluid simulations & physics interactions in games… will make current games look like crud. Big developers are ALWAYS finding a way to tout their (albeit tiny) new graphical achievements as the next big thing. This is always the propaganda that makes its way into the mass market and sells video games. I don’t suspect that changing anytime soon.

    I DO believe there’s hope…indie and casual games that do aim well at their niche and hit the target sell quite well, and in some cases even better than their mega giant competition, and I think that as the sfx race slows that opportunity for the little guy will probably get blown wider and wider every year.

    I do hope that eventually mass consumers will begin to realize that there is more to gaming than pretty graphics, because I too am sick of big devs slapping great looks over crummy gameplay.

  16. Only just read this post but I’d just like to say that I also have stereoblindness (as a result of my left eye having an incredible squint when I was young).

    Avatar was also very boring for me and I keep saying I hope full well this isn’t the future also.

    I don’t think stereoblindness is all that uncommon, it’s just a lot of people are not aware they have it and just think 3D films are “a bit shit”. But I’m yet to explain my lack of true depth-perception to people and have them be aware of it before.

    It’s amazing to me the lack of public knowledge for stereoblindness, I guess it’s because it doesn’t really affect us beyond eye trickery like 3D video.

    I don’t really think there’s a solution to it, other than hoping it will go away. :(

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