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Three's Company

Sony's Simon Benson on why 3D is the next significant upgrade in home entertainment

This year Sony is backing 3D as the next major evolution of home entertainment, with its worldwide studios team incorporating the format into PS3 development and the first 3D games and demos already available. It's unproven and has very high costs associated with it, but that isn't stopping the company from exploring the possibilities across all game genres and technology, including its new motion controller Move – with 3D expected to be a centrepiece at this week's E3 showing in Los Angeles.

At last week's 3D briefing in London, GamesIndustry.biz took the opportunity to sit down with Simon Benson, senior development manager of Worldwide Studios' stereoscopic team, to discuss the "one big mission" of creating games that use 3D creatively for better experiences, why he believes the time is right, and just who those early adopters of the technology are going to be.

GamesIndustry.biz Do you have a sense of the proportion of 3D games we could expect by this time next year?
Simon Benson

It's a difficult one to be honest. We're certainly seeing a lot of momentum. What basically happened was when Avatar went out and everyone realised how big a thing 3D is, not just from the development side, but it's now been tested out there and people have gone "you know what, that is great, we love that, we want more." Suddenly loads of people woke up, thought that's it, I've seen the proof now, I'm getting on board. So the interest level went through the roof. There are a lot of developers out there now actively looking into this technology.

I couldn't comment on which ones are definitely going to make it to market or anything like that, but I certainly know from our perspective, Sony's side, it's something we believe in and we're going to push quite hard. I think you can see this with a lot of our games - you've probably already seen some quite big games. WipEout, Motorstorm, Gran Turismo in 3D - you can't get much bigger than that - Killzone-related things... So it's not something that we're being cautious about or just picking the low-hanging fruit. This is everything. It really boils down to one big mission, which we think is really important, 3D shouldn't just be a novelty. The games should use 3D appropriately - it's a new creative tool for them, in the same way that colour became a new creative tool when TVs changed from black and white to colour, but some people still choose to go back and do black and white. Really, I think the right sort of games need to exist in 3D, not just every game. You think to yourself, would Loco Roco type games benefit? It's a 2D game - maybe it should stay creatively a 2D games.

But there's certainly 3D games where it does. You can imagine sports games. Knowing what I know now about stereoscopic 3D, I'm still baffled how we can do so many games so well in our sports category as 2D games. If I was going to bat a ball in the real world and try to do that with one eye shut, which is basically the 2D version, that'd be really hard. If I tried to do any form of racquet sports, any of these activities we're used to having, stereoscopic vision in the real world is vital.

GamesIndustry.biz There's golf games and their weird 3-click system, so abstracted from the sport anyway that you don't even think that the depth perception isn't there.
Simon Benson

Stereoscopic 3D is one step closer to reality. You're seeing the game as you see the real world. So suddenly new things come into play. I think that there's some real revelations to come - we're just at the tip of the iceberg in what we can achieve at the moment. These games we're seeing here are taking a 2D game and converting it into 3D and we've seen the advantages that brings. In Super Stardust for example, it really helps you focus on the action, you can avoid the rocks falling on you. Take something like Motorstorm, and you can really kind of get the much better sense of where to break, when to accelerate, because you can judge them like you can in the real world. So these advantages, certain types of game are naturally going to gravitate towards ones which are "these must be 3D by default". 3D's so significant to this game, really changes the way you play it, and gives you all the cues you need to play it, to participate in this kind of event or whatever you need. And for those you always imagine that by default, people are just going to demand that. "I need this in 3D because in the real world I do it in 3D and I couldn't do it as easily in 2D." It's a bit of a game-changer I'd say.

GamesIndustry.biz You're not in a position to guess at how many 3D games are in development, then? At today's 3D briefing it was said that there are 100 3D films in development, which is enough to make this seem like a really big deal...
Simon Benson

I haven't got the numbers to be honest, but like I say there's a lot of momentum. I think the fact that we already have four titles right now... The interesting one to watch is E3 next week, keep your eyes open then, and you think you might learn an awful lot there that I can't possibly divulge now. There's something quite exciting times coming up, though. One thing that I'll let you into a little is the Move controller. A very, very accurate spatial controller there, allows you to interact with the space in front of you and project you into the game. You think now wouldn't that be good, if the visualisation of what you saw there was also spatially-related in some way, was also in 3D. Just imagine that coupling now of a Move game where you move your controller forward like that, and in the game something's moving clearly further into the screen at the same sort of distance. It just makes sense. That could be a really exciting area as well.

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Alec Meer

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A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.

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