Killzone 3 dev explains the ups and downs of 3D technology

Killzone 3 is coming in 3D.Now this isn't a surprise but it's due to blaze a trail for future First Person Shooters using the technology to further immerseyou in the world.Killzone's Guerrilla Games, considered rendering every bullet in 3D because it 'looked incredibly cool' flying overhead but apparently the reality of such a venture was super-tricky.Thisaccording tothe game'sproducer, Steven Ter Heide, who we recently quizzed to find out about the intricatetrials and tribulations of workingwith 3D tech. So read on to find out how 3D is used in development and why Guerrilla Games see it as more than just a passing fad...

What additional challenges does a developer face when producing a game in 3D?

We can’t speak for other developers but for us it was pretty straightforward. Our content already was fully 3D, as in that the whole world we create already is fully realised in 3D. Everything has depth to it already. On the technology side, we of course have to increase performance in a smart way as we now have to render everything twice, once for each eye. The biggest things we came across were design issues we had not seen before, things like HUD elements or especially the crosshair, where do these ‘live’ on the screen. We have to take depth into account and these unnatural objects now need to feel natural and sit comfortably at the right depth not to become jarring.

How tempting is it to overdo the 3D effects - like having tons of stuff flying out of the screen into the players face?

Haha, that’s always a temptation. At one point someone on the team asked if we could render all the bullets flying around because it was incredibly cool to have these fly overhead. The sheer number of bullets flying, of course, proving a little more than just impossible.

Above: Thousands of bullets fly around in every level. You couldn't ask PS3 to render all that in 3D... could you?

How early in the development timeline of Killzone 3 did you know it would be 3D?

We started on it from day one. Being part of Sony of course means we’re closer to the fire, and when we learned of the 3D initiative we just asked to get a prototype TV as soon as possible. Everybody always talks about the importance of immersion, and 3D really helps that sense of immersion, placing you in the world. So for us it felt like a good idea from the start.

What elements of the Killzone series has the introduction of 3D enabled you to build on or ramp up?

Killzone has always been about immersion, putting you in the middle of this epic war. So those elements where we have things crumbling and going off all around you are the moments that work best in 3D. That said, we’re not making special content for 3D, we’re just enabling what we’ve always done to be viewed in 3D. Its still early days with the technology, even the movies are still getting to grips with what 3D can offer. So I think we will learn to take better advantage of 3D in the future.

How much more financial investment is there in a 3D game? Or do they just cost the same to create as a non-3D game?

Given that for us we don’t need to do that much for 3D to work, its a relatively small investment given the overall budget. There’s a couple of guys who are occupied with 3D, and their work mostly contributes to 2D being faster and better as well.

One of the main issues 'cynics' have with 3D is that it's 'gimmicky'. How do you see 3D? Is it an essential component of Killzone 3 or is it more of an optional extra?

Its an optional extra. For those people that enjoy the immersive experience, 3d will greatly contribute to that feeling.

What's your favourite 3D-only set-piece in Killzone 3?

There aren’t any 3D only set pieces, the game is exactly the same in 2D and 3D, and we do not create anything special for 3D. I think some pieces are more impressive in 3D, as you feel that you are in the middle of it a lot more.The ‘cheap’ tricks we talked about before are the most obvious ones, where all of a sudden your knife is floating in front the screen. We frequently see people reach out and try and grab it. Cheap, but very effective :)

Above: Now might be a good time to get out that fancy 3D knife. He's seen you!

Have you had to exercise restraint in some modes of the game when it comes to 3D - for example in multiplayer? We'd imagine extended play sessions of Killzone 3 multiplayer, if played in 3D, would mess with your eyes!

It’s something we’re testing at the moment, finding the right balance between immersion and chaos. It's early days for the technology, some people take to it immediately, others need some more time to adjust. As with the adoption of stereo sound, colour TVs or more recently HD. The benefits are clear, and we need compelling content. 3D is an option, if people experience any stress, the game is always playable in 2D.

Finally, if you had to make a prediction, will all future Guerrilla PS3 games be in 3D?

That's a difficult one to answer, not sure if all games benefit from 3D in the same way. I do think 3D is here to stay though, even though we’re not ready to talk about any future titles. Let's first ship Killzone 3.

16 Aug, 2010