3D gaming: Tips, tricks, and buying advice
16th Apr, 2012 By:
So you haven’t gone the stereoscopic 3D route yet — but with top-notch, winter-release games like Skyrim andBatman: Arkham City making good use of 3D tech, you’re seriously considering it. The holiday season is upon us, too, and good, PC-centric 3D gear is now very affordable indeed. But where do you start? Is it like active- and passive-3D TVs, where there’s a huge variety in image quality? Is it better to stick with your current LCD panel and buy a separate emitter, or simply jack it all in and buy an all-in-one 3D monitor?
After extensive testing, with technology like Nvidia’s 3D Vision 2 and some of the top games of 2011, here is the best advice we can give you:
Spring for an all-in-one monitor
Given that you’re liable to need a new 120Hz monitor, get one with a built-in 3D emitter. It will save you time, aggravation, and desk space, and they’re not that much more expensive than monitors without it. (Granted, the 27-inch Asus monitor I used lists for $700, but you can get smaller models with all the features you need for about $300 less.)
Besides, any money you save will have to go to buying the glasses (Nvidia’s sell for $99 by themselves; if you need an emitter too, expect to pay $149).
Play the games you want to play
Computer games are a lot like movies in that what you get from one — or even from one studio — is not necessarily indicative of what you’ll get from another. Some titles will just look better in 3D than others. But the 3D is there to serve you, so don’t worry too much about tracking down the “best” games. Find the kind of games you like and give them a shot. If they don’t bowl you over, you can always just flip the switch.
I hate to get all goody-goody ergonomic on you, but don’t forget to give your eyes a break sometimes. Stereoscopic 3D is different than regular game play, and you may find it difficult to adjust to it. I’ve been living with this stuff for years, and after an hour and a half of playing Batman: Arkham City, my eyes were crying out for a spa treatment. When you’re being fed a lot of new information, take the time you need to process it.
Try before you buy (if you can)
If you know someone who’s got a stereoscopic 3D setup, see if you can snag a few minutes to see what you think of it first-hand. Try to play the kinds of games you like, see how your eyes react, and (perhaps most important) see if you think it’s worth the money.
Not every game or input device appeals to every person, so why should stereoscopic 3D? It is, after all, just another peripheral: Treat it that way, and get to know it before taking it home.
Walk away if you need to
Stereoscopic 3D is undoubtedly cool, but remember that it’s a feature, not a requirement. As we discovered with Battlefield 3, sometimes you’ll be better off putting aside the 3D and just enjoying the game in its “natural” state. As long as you like the game, who cares? There are plenty of other good 3D games out there.
Don’t expect miracles
Remember, we tested these games using one of the fastest video cards out there (that costs $700) on a system with a $1,000 processorand tons of memory. Your computer might not be that robust, so you might need a lower resolution or reduced details to get frame rates better than what you see in an old Rankin/Bass Christmas special. (Remember, with stereoscopic 3D your computer is crunching about twice as much graphics data as it usually does: 60 full-screen images for each eye per second, rather than 60 total per second.) The good news is that these games look pretty good even when they’re taking it easy, so don’t feel like you’re missing out, either.
With upwards of 500,000 pairs of 3D Vision glasses out there in the wild, clearly the technology is gaining in popularity. But everyone dealing in 3D games, from AMD and Nvidia to the studios, need to remember that the only thing that makes a good stereoscopic 3D game is a good game; the more of those there are, the better a deal stereoscopic 3D will be. With such unpredictable quality among some of the most popular titles this holiday season, clearly the industry still has a way to go. But I, for one, am astonished and impressed at how far stereoscopic 3D has already come. If it keeps on like it has, the future’s so bright, I gotta wear active-shutter glasses.