Much discussion has followed the rise of stereoscopic 3D in the home entertainment space as a possible major next-frontier for gaming. At GDC Canada this week, Microsoft's Habib Zargarpour suggested that the success of stereoscopic 3D in the home is "up to the game content... much more so than film and broadcast."
The creative director is a two time Oscar nominee and veteran of ILM and 3D effects for over fifteen years, working on visual effects for Star Trek and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. He went on to work at Electronic Arts, and recently joined Microsoft Game Studios to help their 3D gaming initiative.
Compared to the anaglyph 'early days' of 3D, Zargarpour pointed out, game developers have it easy - "we're already in a digital medium, we're already displaying it on a digital device."
This 'naturally digital' approach for video games makes creating games a lot simpler than shooting a live action film -- where the 3D is not so easy to include from a shooting point of view, he explained.
In fact, the 3D veteran hopes that games may be the 'killer app' that helps 3D take hold in the home. "People aren't going to buy those TVs unless there's stuff to do with it", he said. While Blu-Ray 3D may be somewhat interesting, playing major interactive games in stereoscopic 3D will be a lot more tempting for consumers, he added.
While it may be "frustrating" for consumers who just bought an HD television to now upgrade to a stereoscopic-compatible 3D TV, Zargarpour believes many people will understand the value, and some may upgrade straight from SD to 3D HD televisions.
Making 3D movies can be enormously complex. But for today's video games, Zargapour noted, creators simply need to "move over by four inches and render it again" to enable 3D. He suggests the performance hit can be around 20-25 percent, and that he expects 30 frames per second and 720p resolution to be the standard for AAA console games going forward.
When it comes to Microsoft's use of 3D gaming, Zargapour referenced Blitz Game Studios' downloadable Invincible Tiger, the first Xbox 360 game to use 3D, and Ubisoft's Avatar: The Game, plus the Arkham Asylum: Game Of The Year edition out next week with 3D compatibility added.
"We won't have an HD-DVD/Blu-Ray [style] issue," according to Zargarpour, if the industry can agree on particular standards, an important step right now since there are multiple approaches to doing 3D.
And when the industry has fixed the standardization problems, there are exciting new gameplay concepts and really startling visual effects using 3D. But some effects will fall down when converted to stereoscopic - particularly trees and normal mapped effects, which will end up looking flat.
He concluded by referencing hardware such as Natal and PlayStation Move, suggesting: "With upcoming natural user interface hardware... think about how 3D can enhance that. You're using your body to interact with the game - but what if you can now see depth and that's part of the experience?"
Zargapour noted that this interaction "is a huge opportunity" to make a whole new experience for players, and these new interfaces combined with 3D may truly become the next level for video game interactivity.