Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Make a video game! Part Two

In my previous entry, I quoted one of the inventors of the PC as saying that the reign of the PC is over.  Well, Forbes has been saying "The PC is dead" for years now, and the PC still refuses to die.  I think what will eventually happen is that the PC will lose its cachet with household users, and go back into the office and the laboratory whence it came. But it will not die.  After all, you have to develop all those Android and iPod apps on something.

(When I say "PC," I'm including "Mac" in the mix.  Don't get your senstivities all in a twist, okay?  I'm also going to throw laptop and notebook PCs in with the desktop ones - basically, any computing device that uses a keyboard and mouse for input, and a pixellated display for output.)

The latest wrinkle in video and computer gaming is 3D gameplay.  You're all familiar with 3D movies, some recent notable ones being Tangled, Harry Potter and the Installment of Doom, and Captain America.  I only saw Tangled in 2D, although I can imagine that it was spectacular in 3D.  I saw Harry Potter in 3D, and to be honest, it didn't need it.  Don't get me wrong:  the movie was great, the 3D effects were great, but the 3D effects did not enhance the story.  The story is very well told, and it can stand on its own, without the aid of 3D.

Nevertheless, 3D cinema is here to stay.  The moviemakers are doing it right this time, and though I think it's just a recycled fad, I also think it's permanent.  As my Harry Potter experience showed, not everything needs to be 3D, but for some movies, it really makes a difference.

Now 3D is moving out of the movies and into games.  Kenneth Wong writes a thoughtful piece about it in the June/July 2011 issue of Computer Graphics World, called "Seeing Double:  Stereo 3D Moves from Cinema to Game Cinematic and Gameplay."  Okay, that's a long title, but Wong makes a good case for 3D.  He says that it's kind of clunky right now, like the original Atari 2600's sprites were kind of clunky back then, but that it can only get better with time.  The entry point for 3D gaming is "Nvidia's $149 stereo 3D kit, called 3D Vision."  Think of that!  For only a hundred and fifty bucks, you can get a glimpse into the future of gaming.  That sounds  pretty good.  (But you'll need a PC or Mac to do it.)

He quotes Mike Roush, from Gaijin Games (developers of the Bit.Trip game series) as saying '"3D is such a young medium right now. It's just going to get bigger.  Being in the first round of game deveopers to work on stereo 3D is an honor."'

Then he quotes Vernon Wilbert of Digital Domain.  Wilbert notes that every breakthrough or incremental improvement in interactive entertainment (by which Wong means "games") is, as Wilbert puts it, "a push toward the holodeck."  Star Trek fans will understand that reference.  Says Wong, quoting Wilbert:  '"It's getting you one step closer to the holodeck.  Stereo is the gateway to something else."'

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