3D is the next gen
Blitz's Research and Development Manager, Aaron Allport takes to the Develop stage to explain a little more about the technical wizardry behind the first 3D console game. "It is in post processing that things become expensive," he explains, "as you are rendering things twice."
Allport then discusses 'focus convergence' and the 'non linear depth buffer allocation' which – in slightly plainer English – just means that the 3D effects in the game focus upon wherever the action is on the screen, to ensure the best gameplay experience for the user.
The basic objective is not to "ruin the illusion" for the gamer. Another cool-sounding trick that Blitz has up its sleeve is what Allport refers to as 'inter-pupillary adjustment' which he says is "a very cool trick you can use for explosions and so on."
The Blitz team have put a lot of focus into the screen composition in the game (placing objects in the right place in the 3D environment), using 'parallax occlusion mapping' to add more depth to the surfaces of the world and ensuring that there are no quick camera cuts or switches to ruin the illusion of depth.
"If the camera cuts to another scene then it needs to be to a scene with the same screen depth," Allport explains. "So we tend to use lots of long camera pans and slow zooms, which really suit the 3D effect.
"The player becomes so much more immersed in the experience with 3D," he adds. "It is the next gen."
3D market growth
Back to Blitz CEO Andrew Oliver, who bounds back on stage to talk about marketing. (Normally, when faced with a PowerPoint presentation that focuses on sales and marketing data, our brains go hazy, but in this case it is surprisingly interesting...Read on!).
"There is a small user base, but this will explode over the next year to eighteen months," predicts Oliver. "I guarantee that in one year's time all your high street electrical stores will be stocking 3D TVs, particularly with the likes of Sky 3D on the way."
The market just needs educating and the lack of 3D standards and the lack of must-see content is – to date – what has been preventing this education from happening. "Right now, there are no ways for shops to sell 3DTVs," says Oliver, hinting that one major manufacturer ("I'm sure you can guess who") is looking at its own ways around this problem.
Then there are all the other problems associated with promoting a 3D game – how, for example, do you show off 3D screenshots or videos? And when will the cost of 3D glasses come down (currently they are floating around the £50 mark)?
These are all minor hurdles to be overcome in the shift to 3D gaming, in Andrew Oliver's informed opinion. For now, he assumes we will see more of the likes of the superb Invisible Tiger – 2D games with 3D options – as we move through the transitional phase in the next few years.
And as for the future, the Blitz guys hint at the possibilities of developing proper 3D games for Microsoft's Project Natal – the mere mention of which has the audience of games developers excitedly chattering at the end of the Develop presentation.