Maybe two-thirds of what we saw at E3 involved 3D technology. Hell, Sony even had us wearing 3D glasses at their press conference! There was 3D racing, 3D platforming, 3D shooting and even 3D portables with "3D" in the name. Following this year's also 3D-heavy Consumer Electronics Show, it seems that the gaming world is getting the goofy glasses, like it or not.
But do we like it? Based on what we saw, do we think we need it? Are we going to drop the cash for a new 3D HDTV now? Are we sold? TLDR?
The Destructoid staff discusses all of the 3D we saw at E3 last week. I think you'll be surprised by how just one E3 has polarized the staff on this matter.
Read on for our latest Destructoid Discusses.
Dale North: I didn't go in expecting to love 3D, but I came out...still not caring much for 3D. It's not like it isn't cool; it just seems unnecessary. It seemed unnecessary for just about everything I saw on the show floor. Save for the 3DS. I'll get to that.
"The 3DS looks like 3D done right."
By their design, 3D isn't required. It's a really neat effect that you can slide on or off at your leisure. I bet a lot of thought went into that. I thought that all of Nintendo's examples of 3D were so pronounced that it made some of the higher-resolution PS3 games look bad in comparison. Even as good as these demos looked, I still don't feel like I "need" 3D. I'll take it on a slider, though. That'll be fun for awhile.
Benjamin PerLee: Well, Dale, in comparison, I came into E3 really looking forward to the 3D tech with the 3DS, and I wasn't disappointed at all. Part of the problem with 3D for consumers is that there is no standard, as every major tech company is releasing some new format of technology that, while interesting, is a competing format. Sony, the masters at this method of polarizing the market with inane formats, is doing it again. Nintendo, in contrast, presents one format, one standard, one norm that developers can work with. From a development standpoint, this is a dream. And it's so smartly designed. Want to share the game with a friend? Drop the 3D slider, and it's visible from a wider (or any) angle. Color me impressed.
And what we were shown proves that Nintendo is doing 3D right. The technology is solid, it works, and it's based on a powerful little platform that looks like it can do a lot, 3D or otherwise. I mean, you look at that insane little augmented reality tech demo, the target practice one, where you, the holder of the 3DS, watches as a real-life piece of paper in front of you morphs into warbly mounds or dragons that spit fireballs that, you, the holder of the 3DS, has to dodge in real life. It's crazy, and almost impossible to describe without playing it in real life.
Of course, that's the biggest problem with 3D: it's impossible to recreate without actually experiencing it firsthand. There's going to have to be some special evangelizing with this one.
Jonathan Ross: I didn't actually attend E3, so I can't speak to hands-on experiences.
Samit Sarkar: To Jonathan's point, you don't actually have to spend nearly that much -- it's a common misconception. Do 3D-ready TVs cost much more than standard HDTVs? Yes. But you can get them for under $2,000 at this point (and right now, we're in the early adopter stage anyway).
PerLee: Well, I'd rather drop $300 for a handheld, working right from the box, 3DS with some solid tech than $2000 for a 3D set up that requires a bunch of glasses.
Sarkar: Oh, totally. I think Sony's 3D push is folly as well -- I just get annoyed when I see people everywhere saying, "OMG 3D TVs COST EIGHT BILLION DOLLARS."
Nick Chester: You can't discount the cost, especially when many folks have just recently upgraded to HDTVs. In fact, it's possible to get "decent" HDTVs for far less than you ever could before, even in the $500 range... sometimes even cheaper.
But forget the cost for a second -- and I think this has already been touched on -- I'm not sold on the idea that I need 3D to enjoy experiences I already love. And I'm not entirely on board with the fact that it would immerse me in experiences that I don't currently enjoy. I played or saw a number of games in 3D at E3 or prior: Killzone 3, Crysis 2, Gran Turismo 4, and even Gears of War 2. With all of them, the 3D experience worked fairly well; I was able to perceive that extra depth, the trick that my eye was seeing three dimensions. It's neat, for sure. But you know what? After five or ten minutes of playing the game, that "neat" factor subsided; I was simply playing the game as I always had. I had completely forgotten that I was playing it in 3D.
As for the 3DS, it's a neat trick and impressive technology. No glasses! We hate glasses. You always hear people saying, "I don't want to wear those stupid glasses." Now you don't have to. But again, back to my point that I haven't seen or played anything that makes me think I'll want to be playing games in 3D. Kid Icarus Uprising looks great running in 3D on the 3DS; it also looks great not running in 3D. And considering the strain it was taking on my eyes (I found my eyes almost crossing after a minute or two of use if I focused too hard on the 3D), I have a feeling I'll be playing 3DS games with that 3D slider turned way down. To off. And I'm pretty sure I won't be alone.
Jonathan Holmes: My HDTV cost less than $400. As someone who's generally blind to the joys of high definition, I went to the store looking to buy the cheapest 32-inch (or larger) TV I could get. This was it.
As for 3D, I see it as the new motion control: the new thing to get non-gamers interested in gaming. It's not necessary to enjoying most games, and it can be a bit distracting at times. That said, it's a cool magic trick, and I could see how people might buy a 3DS for the 3D tech, and/or how rich-as-fuck PS3 owners might play as many of their games in 3D as they can.
That said, it's probably going to be slider-off 3DS fun for me most of the time. There was one 3DS demo I played where you had to have the 3D on, a game with a cat on a pogo stick platforming in and out of the foreground. Of course, for clever uses like that, I'll be all for 3D action. For the most part, though, I'm planning on treating my 3DS like a PSP, except I'll be playing games on it and stuff.
Chad Concelmo: Nintendo figured out this 3D thing perfectly.
From what I could tell from the games they had on display, they are using 3D as part of the gameplay, not just as a fancy effect. Just like the two screens with the DS, this is not just going to be an aesthetic thing with Nintendo. They are going to make sure the 3D technology is incorporated into the gameplay. That's what they do best! Imagine the first WarioWare game in 3D! Imagine the first 2D Mario! Stuff won't just look cool; it will play cool.
Sure, it will take a few months to a year for the creativity to really kick in -- that's what happened with the DS and the Wii -- but once it does, I think all gamers (even anti-3D ones) are in for a real revolution.
With Sony and Microsoft, though, they are treating their 3D like most 3D movies. It looks really cool, but it doesn't necessarily change the overall experience. Like Nick said, after ten minutes of playing MLB The Show in 3D at E3 (Samit would be so proud!), I didn't really care that I was playing it in 3D anymore. It really did look neat, but it doesn't really matter.
"With Nintendo, their 3D will matter. You can quote me on that."
Ross: Chad, I believe you about the Nintendo making the 3D matter -- could you elaborate on your thoughts about the slider? Why do you think they included it? Will there be games that simply will be unplayable if you turn the slider off? Will you only need it at certain times?
I'm definitely glad the slider is there, but its existence kind of suggests that the 3D aspect is gimmicky.
Concelmo: Oh, I don't think it is a gimmick at all. I can understand why people would think that, but here is how I see it.
The slider is there for multiple reasons:
1) Nintendo wants to appeal to as many people as possible -- especially with their handhelds. 3D is such a specialized visual concept that there may be some people who physically can't handle it. It may make them dizzy or mess with their eyes. Heck, there are some people who may not even be able to see it correctly. By adding a slider, Nintendo has not cut out any of its potential market.
2) 3D will be used like crazy at the beginning by all developers (see: Super Mario 64 DS -- why was that whole thing controlled with the touch screen again?), but as the 3DS grows older, designers will start to only use it when needed. For a good example, look at New Super Mario Bros. -- almost the entire game is played without the touch screen. The slider allows this option for games that don't need the 3D.
3) Even though the slider makes the 3D optional, I still think Nintendo and third parties will create games that force you to use 3D. Look at the Wii MotionPlus. That is a completely optional add-on, but the new Legend of Zelda requires you to use it. Once designers wrap their brains around the possibilities of true 3D game design, I think we are going to see games that have to use it -- be it because of the intricate, multi-planed level design or a specific visual style. It may alienate some gamers, but, with Nintendo, they like to push the limits of gameplay, not sit back and watch others do it for them. I can see a new Mario on the 3DS, for example, requiring use of the 3D.
The slider allows many more options, ensuring Nintendo sells more units!
People may see it as a gimmick, but I think it is anything but that. Actually, I would go so far as to say this is the first 3D I have ever seen in any medium that doesn't feel like a gimmick.
Matthew Razak: I was going to say that a lot of these arguments about the 3DS were leveled at the DS when it originally launched. People argued that its unique features would just become gimmicks and wouldn't really add much, but we saw that explode and change. Games on the DS have been incredible and offered such amazing variety. I think the obvious difference here, though, is that people are actually really excited for the 3DS, and developers are, too. So instead of everyone finding their footing for a year or so, we'll have companies hitting the ground running with stuff. Game quality should theoretically start at a higher level than DS game quality did.
Another thing aside from the 3D, which is obviously the big sell here, is that Nintendo seems to be actually committing to some serious Internet/network stuff. This might be overshadowed by the 3D, but I think it is important to note that the 3DS is bringing a lot more to the table than just 3D. Even if you think the 3D is just a special gimmick, this is still reportedly a really powerful handheld with immense game support, a plethora of other awesome features and a 3D camera. 3D is obviously the big shiny object everyone is grabbing at, but this system should offer a crapton more beyond that. For people who don't play in 3D (like Nick, it seems), the 3DS is still going to be an amazing system. No matter what the price point, it seems like you're going to get your money's worth -- even if you don't use the 3D once.
Chester: "I'm actually really curious as to what Chad means by 'true 3D game design.'"
Chester: I'm actually really curious as to what Chad means by "true 3D game design."
I think of myself as a pretty open-minded and creative person. Even with the introduction of motion control, I was able to think of dozens of ways it would be used in games. Even something like "waving your arm like a sword" was immediately obvious.
But with 3D gaming, I can't think of a single way it could change how we play games. Think about when we moved into the HD era, for instance: regardless of whether or not a game is beautiful and crisp and clean, it's the core gameplay elements that make it so great. It's things like more intelligent AI and physics on the current-gen consoles that really differentiate today's games from how we used to play games, not the high-definition visuals. Granted, I love gorgeous games -- I'm a "graphics whore" -- but it's how a game feels and plays that is key. What about 3D will change how we play games? No one has really answered this yet.
Razak: Nick, do you think that 3D not offering anything "new" will make the price point of the system not worth it? If the 3DS didn't have 3D, would it still be worth buying at the price the 3D tech is going to raise it to? It seems like a great handheld, period, so does it matter if 3D gaming is just a glaze like HD graphics?
Chester: Well, don't misunderstand me. I do feel that, from a tech level, the 3DS is far ahead of the Nintendo DS. But that's across the board, not the 3D in particular. I'm not crapping on the 3DS -- I think it's going to be a killer handheld. I'm really, really excited about it as a gamer. But of all of the things it offers -- more advanced visuals, a pretty kick-ass analog stick -- the 3D stuff has me least excited. I also think that Nintendo is going to come in pretty low with its price point; it'll surprise a lot of people.
Holmes: To answer Nick's question, that "cat-on-a-pogo-stick" 3DS tech demo I was talking about definitely used 3D in a way that felt new, and maybe even necessary. In the game, you're a cat who has to jump from platform to platform. Thing is, you can't tell which platforms are closer or farther away based on their size alone. In your average polygon-based game, you can tell which objects are closer to the in-game camera by their relative size. Bigger objects are closer to the camera, smaller objects are farther away, etc.
In this game, all the platforms were about the same size. Try playing the game with the 3D off, and you'll be misjudging jumps and falling to your death all the time. You won't be able to tell if the next platform is above you, beside you, or behind you. Play it with the 3D on, and you can see exactly where things are: objects near you are popping out of the screen, while distant objects appear to be deep within the screen. This almost made things too easy. Still, this is a cat on a pogo stick we're talking about. Good times were guaranteed from the start.
Now, am I saying that the game is more fun because you have to use 3D to properly navigate the space? No, not for me -- but this is coming from the guy who thinks that thinks that Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time nearly ruined Mario and Zelda. I'm not generally fan of "3D games," in all senses of the term.
That said, I'm sure there are a fair amount of people who will see the "cat-on-a-pogo-stick" game and declare it a revolution. They'll say "I never enjoyed videogames before, but this is different. This is fun."