The mid nineties saw a siesmic shift from sprites to polygonal models. This changed gaming forever.
Initially it was a rough transition, the 3D models were so basic that they completely lacked character and sprites persisted, strange hybrids existed for a while where 2D sprites would fight in 3D environments (Wolfenstein, Doom and Duke Nukem). Before long, though, the benefits of 3D level design and imrpvoing technology brought the third dimension into every home. We had Half Life. We had Deus Ex. System SHock 2. Times were good.
I was, ooh, about 12 when 3D levels began to emerge. As an avid gamer used to Mario and Metroid it was obvious that things would never be the same again.
Today games are so technically adept that they edge further and further into the uncanny valley. In fact the most visually successful recent efforts have come from teams shying away from photorealism. Mirror’s Edge, Team Fortress 2, the upcoming Borderlands. All show imagination and some gorgeous, abstract design and try to avoid replicating the real world.
Technology won’t stop of coUrse. There’s never enough polygons, textures could always be sharper, technically machines will get better, but our pursuit of reality might be beginning to stall. So how should we spend all the excess processing power lurking in the gleaming carapaces of our future machines?
THe answer, it seems, is 3D – again. Now not just the angular optical illusion of depth, but the actual third dimension,
The tech is theoretically all in place. Monitors of the future will be able overlay two images that can be blocked by a polarised layer. Glasses with a different lenses would present slightly different views to each eye and, bingo, 3D.
Processor wise you’ll be throwing two images up to the monitor instead of just one, so we’ll need the extra juice future GPUs will provide to really make 3D happen, but it’s there, waiting in the wings and I, for one, will be all to eager to step up and give it a go.
Will you look stupid wearing 3D glasses? Yes. But, if you’re anything like me, a man who has been known to hit himself in the forehead with his mouse after dying again during a particularly frustrating platforming section; a man who, when confronted with the idiocy of Games For Windows Live, has been known to flail his arms around wildly shouting “fucking PC Gaming!”; if you’re anything like me then you already look stupid playing games.
If you’re reading this thinking “STFU I look awesome playing teh g4mez!1” please send pics, I will run them through the Fonze-o-matic and serve you the cold hard overcooked steak of truth in another post.
I don’t care how I look in front of my monitor, it’s what I see on the monitor that’s more important. Real 3D isn’t going to revolutionise games in the same way as polygonal maps in the ’90s because it’s difficult to see how it can be exploited to create new gameplay types, but in terms of immersion we could be in for something quite special.
Imagine this: A narrow, dark Left 4 Dead corridor with real depth, and a Tank charging down that corridor, hulking form even more massive in 3D. The fear factor would be that much greater.
I’m reminded of a time my dad took me to visit a Gamesmaster convention when I was very young (I had to stand on a box to use the Nintendo Superscope). I have hazy memories of huge virtual reality machines in the middle of the hall. People in seats with hulking headmasks duelling in a virtual 3D environment. The queues were too long to have a go but I didn’t mind, by all accounts they were rubbish. Now, some ten years later we’re on the edge of actually realising the dream those massive machines were attempting to create, and we won’t be needing to strap into a huge mechanical suit to do it. If the second 3D revolution is here, then I’ll be willing to spend quite a lot to be a part of it.