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BashersBashers is a Dutch gaming website, but with a more critical attitude and more background articles than most mainstream gaming websites. Posts you find here are direct translations of my Dutch articles written for Bashers.

Developer: Designing for 3D

February 22, 2011 | Bashers

In this article series, developers write about their line of work every Tuesday. Nikki Kuppens is game designer at Vanguard Games, which is currently wrapping up Gatling Gears.

Real 3D gameplay is what editor in chief Niels ‘t Hooft was asking for after Nintendo’s presentation of the 3DS. It was the same angle in which I was looking at the presentation of this new handheld and the first batch of games. It’s a topic that has been keeping me busy for quite some time now. Not only regarding the Nintendo 3DS, but with regard to using 3D in games in general.

Interactive

Up until now, 3D is mostly presented as an additional way of showing images, like what happens with movies. But to get to 3D gameplay, the technology will have to tie into the interactive nature of games. Designers need to view 3D not as a development like High Definition, but along the same lines as touch input, voice input and dual screens (to stay with Nintendo handhelds). I admit, my examples are mostly about methods of input. 3D is not, but for me it’s about the fact that they can influence interaction and create new possibilities for designers to do something with.

Now, I haven’t touched a 3DS yet and have only played on a PS3 with 3D glasses on for a very short amount of time, so as a designer I am not yet capable of throwing well-founded ideas out there. But still, I’m pretty confident that ‘real’ 3D gameplay is possible. In the comments on Niels’s report, a few interesting possibilities already came to light. It might take a while before developers will discover more briliant applications and be able to implement them successfully. That greatly depends on hardware and how the illusion of 3D is brought to life. 3DS games have a 3D screen available by default and can combine this with other device functionality. Zelda games have usually been very good at offering ingenious puzzles, since the DS also at connecting them to the possibilities of the hardware. If innovation doesn’t come from there, then maybe it will spring from the creative minds of Level-5 (Professor Layton) or Cing (Another Code, Hotel Dusk).

Point of view

My opinion is that, at this time, we do not have a complete picture of what is going to be possible with 3D. Not only regarding the visual effect, but also regarding the techniques behind it. Sony applied for a patent last year, on using 3D technology to replace split screen multiplayer. So both users will use the entire screen, but they’ll see different things. It has little to do with 3D gameplay, but it’s another approach that could lead to new ideas and there are probably more ways to look at it. But there’s a danger to using 3D in gameplay as well, if the player is not prepared for it. I remember a puzzle from Another Code for the DS, in which the reflection of the upper screen in the bottom screen showed the solution. Briliant use of new functionality, in a game that suits it well, but no player will solve a puzzle like that without a walkthrough.

I hope we will get to a point where 3D gameplay gets its own conventions, that designers and players know how to deal with it and that it transcends the gimmick stage. The 3DS having its own 3D screen is a nice start, although Nintendo doesn’t seem to demand 3D to release on the platform. My pre-order has been made, but without a game, though.

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