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We are all giving up on 3D too easily

I’m not a fan of 3D. Sure, my TV set ‘does’ 3D, but only as a pleasant side-effect of being the second best 2D TV in the shop. Yes, second best. Because the best one cost about twice as much. No, I didn’t want credit. Look, we’re straying from the point already, which is: I never use the 3D option. I also spend most of my time with my 3DS’ 3D slider at zero and prefer to watch 2D screenings of films at the cinema. It is safe to say I have not adopted 3D as my preferred viewing experience. So why am I starting to miss it when it’s not there?

Firstly, there’s my PS Vita, which I often wish had a 3D screen, especially while I’m playing games like Sine Mora. It just looks like it should be in 3D, probably because the OLED display is so inviting, begging me to step inside its vibrant worlds. Sure, I’d probably turn it off a few moments after turning it on, but I like to have the choice. That’s exactly how I feel about Pokemon X/Y, which eschews (gesundheit) 3D for the majority of the experience.

I’m sure I’m not alone when I keep reaching for the depth slider, thinking ‘oh, that’ll look great in 3D’, before realising the little indicator isn’t lit and there’s no 3D to be had. Then it’s like a little candle of joy goes out in my mind, or a little Toejam falls off the surface of the level deep inside my head. Bummer indeed.

“But… but…” (my subconscious stutters) “…I’m playing a 3DS and this is a game published by Nintendo its very self. What’s going on?” And the answer is I don’t know. Maybe it’s to save the developing eyes of Pokemon’s core audience, or maybe because the frame-rate already struggles in busy scenes. Either way, Nintendo has demonstrably abandoned 3DS’s Unique Selling Point for a significant portion of one of its biggest games. And that’s quite something.

But Nintendo isn’t alone. In fact, everyone seems to be abandoning 3D. Look at Sony. A couple of years ago, everything was ‘3D this’ and ‘3D that’. It was the Big Push of PlayStation, along with PlayStation Move, which was supposed to usher in the future of gaming. What have we seen born as a result of that brief era that made it to retail intact? Puppeteer. Oh and… well, mostly just Puppeteer.

And what a strange beast it is. Brilliant, but strange. Objectively, it’s superbly-presented but falls very slightly short in its actual gameplay. On the other hand, it encapsulates the potential Sony’s 2011 thinking had. It uses PS3’s power to create wonderful characters and a believable, magical, theatrical world--one that makes the prospect of 3D extremely exciting. With 3D enabled, the game looks like an actual diorama (admit it, we all learned that word from the Simpsons), to the point where you’re almost sitting in that front row, watching the magic happen first-hand.

It’s proof that the potential is great. But also, being a lone product of what already feels like a bygone era, it's ultimately proof that we’ve wasted that potential through running with it too early. Because it's almost perfect... but not quite. Images 'coming out at you' look amazing, but background walls have strange variations in depth and characters' edges appear to feature just two depths rather than many. However, it does have a brightness option to compensate for your dark 3D glasses, which is a big improvement. Basically, it's almost there. So very, very close to nailing it.

There are countless examples of premature 3D (re)births that aren’t just limited to video games. Cinema tried it without having the frame-rate to trick the brain into ‘seeing’ solid objects when moving at any moderate speed, nor the ability to shift focus points when you want to look into the blurry background. The Hobbit tried to fix the former, but then everyone complained they liked the old cinema frame-rate because super-smooth looked too 'real'. I despair.

Then games like Batman: Arkham Asylum's re-release included cheap 3D glasses that made the game ugly and the experience unsettling. Sony shoehorned 3D support into a load of games (whether they’d been intended to be played in 3D or not), instead of realising a concept behind the scenes then releasing it with a load of games designed to be used with it. Not just Puppeteer a couple of years later.

But the worst offender was Nintendo circa 2011. Have you played an early 3DS game recently? I have. Pilotwings Resort is a magical handheld title and one you really should experience with the 3D on. But not all the way to the top. Nosiree. I can only assume the thinking must have been to show off the sense of depth that could be achieved with the screen, but the reality is so extreme, the picture’s various depths become so detached, you can’t see the overall picture any more.

I said at the early 3DS preview event in Amsterdam that the games looked best with the 3D on at its lowest setting. Yet every time I picked up a demo machine, the slider had been left all the way up, demonstrating an effect that nobody could realistically look at and enjoy. It’s very telling that most, if not all, modern 3DS games now have comparatively modest 3D depth, even with the slider all the way to the top. In the rush to impress, moderation was completely forgotten at launch.

How ironic that Nintendo itself has now introduced the 2DS, which is effectively backpedaling away from 3DS’ sole USP. Without the 3D effect, it’s essentially a more powerful DS or a less-powerful Vita. Fortunately, the games are now able to sell the console on their own strength, but it took a while for that situation to establish itself after the console’s dreadful start.

Microsoft must be laughing so hard. Sure, it offered 3D in a few games’ options menus, but never shouted about it, instead letting Sony and Nintendo do all the developing and marketing, ready to jump on or off the 3D ship depending on how well it was sailing. Turns out it never really needed to get on board at all. Very clever.

But that 'Good Ship 3D' is clearly sailing away. And I find myself thinking ‘awww’ because I still hadn’t decided whether I wanted to get on it or not, stand on the bough and shout "I'm king of the world! Woooo!" Surely I should have that option. I don’t want a 2DS because I’m still willing to try 3D. I wanted to dust off my TV’s 3D glasses and immerse myself in Puppeteer's glorious world because I can see the potential. I wanted to peer into Pokemon’s world like it’s actually there behind the screen. Look at the difference between the Pokemon-Amie interaction on the 2D touch screen and the glorious 3D battle scenes on the top screen. Yes, it's a childish feature, but any adult can see that the characters on the 2D screen are not as appealing as the 3D versions.

I have no doubt there will be an Oculus Rift in the future where everything appears in 3D and sensors inside the device will be able to discern which object you’re actually focusing on and blur other depths accordingly. It will be amazing. But it looks like until that becomes a reality, it looks like 3D has had another resurgence, just like it has since the 3D cinemas of the 1950s, and failed once again.

I’m convinced abandoning it now, as it looks like we are, isn’t the right way to go because we’re giving up on amazing potential far too easily. I still must stress, I’m not a fan of current 3D. But when 3D does properly take off, I’m certain it will be amazing. I just fear we’ve just delayed that for at least another 10 years, simply by being so fickle.

You know that kid at parties who talks too much? Piplup in hand, way too good-looking, exceptionally well-educated in topics no one in their right mind should know about? Awesome at guitar? Well, that kid’s occasionally us. GR Editorials is a semi-regular feature where we share our informed insights on the news at hand. Sharp, funny, and finger-on-the-pulse, it’s the information you need to know even when you don’t know you need it.

27 comments

  • LEGOMatrix - October 25, 2013 7:03 a.m.

    When 3D is without glasses and viewable from any angle it will properly catch on. Holographics hopefully!
  • GOD - October 24, 2013 11:30 p.m.

    I like 3D, but my main problem is at the theater the glasses just bug me and I'm looking at such a big screen that I usually block everything else out and and I'm seeing into the depth of the footage so it doesn't seem any less 3D without the glasses. I have a 3DS but the 3D can be a little too finicky with making it look nice but not go into weird focus from how I'm holding it. I really do like it on some games though, and I feel the same way about Pokemon having things that you think will look great in 3D and then realize after that the light isn't on... I think it is due to frame rate sometimes though, as normal battles are in 3D, but double battles are not. Still it's odd how the overworld isn't, and more importantly, that the pokedex doesn't have an option to look at a pokemon in fullscreen with 3D!
  • imagremlin - October 24, 2013 5:45 p.m.

    I don't really care for 3D movies, but 3D games are a whole different ballpark. Resistance 3 and Killzone 3. Large 3D screen. Move+Sharpshooter. There are few gaming experiences that I would qualify as "ultimate" and those are included in the list.
  • Slayer11496 - October 24, 2013 3:36 p.m.

    I played Shadow of the Colossus for the first time on the PS3 HD collection, with the 3D turned on. It was very impressive to get the full scale of the vistas and the giants themselves. So far, my favorite use of 3D
  • Pruman - October 24, 2013 1:38 p.m.

    I could have cared less about the 3DS until I actually got one. Now I always play with the 3D on, usually maxed out. I'll be pretty sad if it goes away.
  • Balaska - October 26, 2013 5:19 a.m.

    You could have cared less? So you cared a little? http://people.howstuffworks.com/culture-traditions/tv-and-culture/10-common-sayings-wrong.htm
  • P0ck3tC1am - October 24, 2013 12:24 p.m.

    Ain't no 3d like Disney 3D.....Where as the movies, it's just a nice picture. Growing up back then you think "3D!? this shit better jump out at me." Bundle those extra cameras to give the effect.....then i will buy 3D.
  • michael-edmund-kelly - October 24, 2013 10:03 a.m.

    When people see how much better Full HD 3D TV broadcasts look than 4K 2D, on TVs that aren't half the size of their living room walls : That's when 3D will be cemented into everyday life. Same data rate, more immersive experience.
  • MeanwhileGuy - October 24, 2013 10:03 a.m.

    Personally, I love 3D, and I have no idea why the general public have chosen to abandon it so readily, especially after Avatar, Tron, Hugo and the like proved it can be used to great effect. If I could afford a 3DTV I'd use the function as often as I could, because from the demos I've experienced, the picture quality is amazing, and the sense of depth is nigh-on perfect with the upper-range TV's. The thought of playing something like Killzone or Uncharted 3 in 3D is almost to make me salivate. I think we can blame people's (wrongly) negative views on 3D on crappy converted films like Alice in Wonderland and Clash of the Titans, which chose the quick and cheap option instead of making a 3D film from the ground up, and as such were dark and smudgy as a result. That and people constantly bitch about the glasses. I also have regular glasses that I have to wear 3D specs on top of, and you don't see me complaining. As a last point: I was lucky enough to see The Hobbit last year in 48 frames per second, in 4K resolution 3D. And it was gloriously goddamn pretty. If Avatar's 3D was like looking through a window, The Hobbit's 48FPS 3D was taking away the glass. I have literally never seen picture that clear and sharp, and with so much depth, not even when I saw The Dark Knight in IMAX. If people are choosing to ignore that, it's their loss.
  • shawksta - October 24, 2013 9:35 a.m.

    For the record, im still enjoying games on the 3DS that do 3D well, Mario and Luigi Dream Team looks great and has neat depth with it on, while other games like Pokemon X and Y are clearly not meant to have it but it shoved in anyway. Then we have Super Mario 3D land that otherwise uses the 3D itself in certain puzzles, THAT is what we need more of.
  • BladedFalcon - October 24, 2013 10:02 a.m.

    You dont really need the 3D at all for those puzzles though. Solved myself just fine with the 3D off. Which goes to highlight the problem: it slightly enhances at best, but never accomplishes anything that couldn't be enjoyed otherwise.
  • JarkayColt - October 24, 2013 10:40 a.m.

    The 2DS makes this sort of depth-puzzle implementation even harder now as well. Apparently, the Zelda team didn't know about the 2DS until part way through development, so they had to go back and make sure all the puzzles in ALBW were still solvable in 2D. Kinda makes you wonder why they even bothered in the first place if they can't even commit to it themselves anymore.
  • shawksta - October 24, 2013 noon

    True
  • Doctalen - October 24, 2013 9:34 a.m.

    I find it hard to give up on a concept that I never enjoyed enough to support. The only time I can remember enjoying anything in 3D was Avatar. I remember it being fantastic, but when I saw it again in 2D I found out that I didn't even remember its 3D experience. Avatar certainly did a nice job of bringing 3D to the public but it certainly doesn't suffer from not having it. On top of that I can't think of any other experience that compared to it. The biggest problem with 3D is that while the concept old (I've heard reports of attempts when the film industry was still young) the technologies for the most part aren't that innovative. Very few actually try to improve on the lackluster attempts of their "ancestors". Then to make things even worse, if a revolutionary technology were proven to be successful, our biology and physics limit it's success. The only real way to make 3D work well is to use holograms. But since we don't have Star Trek tech, the closest to holograms is light being sent into special glass to give the illusion of depth
  • abetterbard - October 24, 2013 8:50 a.m.

    Thought I'd stop in and give my Two-Cents with a more optimistic view of 3D and the future. I run a tiny Indie Studio with an industry vet friend of mine (http://www.greenwoodgames.com). Right now we are working on a game exclusive to the Oculus Rift even though the hardware isn't even out for commercial release yet. Why? Because the hardware is -that- good. The Oculus Rift, even with it's initial growing pains with low-resolution and small title library of experience is the real deal. You aren't looking at a flat screen that has depth, you aren't able to take your eyes "off the 3D" to be back in the normal world - when you are in the Rift you are truly immersed in the game. Things will only become better as the consumer version with it's 4k resolution screen. There have been plenty of naysayers throughout the years against VR and to be honest they have the right. It was crap - it didn't deliver any of the dreams and visions we had of a future filled with exciting new experiences where we would be in the game. It's also possible that even the Oculus Rift won't exactly satiate your VR palette, but as someone who owns and develops for one I can promise you with the support of gamers and the gaming community the Oculus Rift is the first step in a LONG line of compelling and quite frankly RIDICULOUSLY awesome experiences to come. I strongly encourage anyone that is interested in VR or is on the fence about even caring to take look around youtube - watch people using it, see the excitement in their eyes for the first time, watch MINDS BE BLOWN! The future is here; -please- consider welcoming it with open arms. http://www.oculusvr.com
  • tomasspipass - October 24, 2013 9:03 a.m.

    I tip my hat to you Sir
  • Shinn - October 24, 2013 7:55 a.m.

    We're giving up on 3d because most people either don't like it or can't stand it. I'm a little of both.
  • tonypang - October 24, 2013 7:35 a.m.

    That wasn't how things turned out for Virtual Boy…
  • mafyooz - October 24, 2013 7:06 a.m.

    I've wasn't a fan of 3D in the 80s (apart from the Tomytronic handhelds, they were cool) and that hasn't really changed, but just as a side note I've noticed a few people mentioning holograms in the comments and wondered if anyone else remembers the Hologram Time Traveller arcade game, with the weird holographic cowboy? It wasn't a great game from what I recall, but from a technical point of view it was pretty damn incredible at the time and I've never seen anything quite like it since.
  • tomasspipass - October 24, 2013 6:37 a.m.

    the youtube occulus rift reaction videos of people on virtual rollercoasters and shark attacks make me chuckle :)

Showing 1-20 of 27 comments

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