RIFT in 3D [nVidia 3D Vision]

Wow! Am I glad to be back. It’s weird not blogging for a big stretch of time after you’ve been at it for a few years. But, here I am and it’s good to be home.

Now for the big news. I didn’t want to say anything until it arrived, but I was lucky enough to get the first of several 3D Vision kits nVidia is sending over to Vagary TV. This is part of the reason I’ve been gone for so long actually — not a small one, either. I’ve been following this technology for a long time.  A couple years, at least. So when Ryan (whom you might remember from such About pages as this one!) called me from PAX East to he’d gotten an interview with nVidia, and then called later to tell me they’d offer to get us “3D ready,” to say I was excited would be an understatement. If there’s one thing I geek out over, it’s upgrading my computer. Chalk it up to a hardware limited childhood. Anyways, over the next week and a half, I emailed back and forth with their marketing lead to get everything set up. All told, they sent over a stock 580 GTX (not branded, straight from nVidia), a new 23″ monitor, and the 3D Vision kit, which consists of the shutter glasses, IR emitter, and cables.

Probably the biggest question I’ve been asked is “why?” That’s a pretty good question. Vagary is up and coming, growing more every day, but we’re still no IGN. This is a grass roots operation and anything we do, we do on our own as volunteers. What it comes down to, I think, is that nVidia really just wants to get the word out about how awesome this technology is — and it IS awesome — and realize that word of mouth is a great way to do it. They didn’t put any conditions on us. No “you must say glowing things” or “this hardware must be returned by X date” (it’s actually ours to keep). It’s simply: when you get 3D games, write about them. Very fair and something I’m definitely willing to do.

So how is it? Hands down, when this thing is working right, it’s the single best 3D experience I’ve ever had. 3D monitors tend to be 1080p and that high resolution makes IMAX look archaic. I’m not exaggerating when I say that some games, like Dragon Age: Origins, look more HD than HD. Games most often utilize the 3D to add depth to the environment, so playing games is more akin to looking through a window than viewing a monitor. Then comes something that surprises you: pop out. It’s not gaudy or gimmicky. I’ve yet to have something fly at me. What I have had happen is pop out adding to the depth effect. For example, I was running around in Scarwood Reach this weekend, happily questing, when a falling cotton floated right in front of my eyes. I mean literally – it made me jump back a little bit. But, then, it’s expected. Instead of playing the game by looking through the camera, you are the camera. After seeing what depth can add to games — even those that aren’t designed for it — I’m excited to see those that ARE. There’s some great potential here.

I can’t say everything is perfect and ready to roll right out of the box. In a lot of cases, it IS ready to roll. But, the thing is, not all games are designed for 3D and that can cause some issues. LotRO, for example, renders the sky in 2D and the rest of the game in 3D. What that means is real terms is the sky is flat. Where the landscape goes on to the horizon, the sky is a close swatch of color and wisp. It’s not bad, per se, but a little disconcerting. Then there’s the simple fact that people’s eyes, and how they experience 3D, are different. Thankfully, the IR emitter has a little depth wheel so you can adjust how prevalent the effect is right down to nothing. There’s also a bevy of other settings you can tweak and save for each game.

RIFT was kind of a unique case. At first I was disappointed. There was a lot of ghosting and the game pretty much had two planes: the UI and the game world. And for some reason where I would SEE the mouse pointer was actually about an inch to the left of where it was actually pointing. Pretty bad. A little digging found this thread, however, and I got it going pretty quick. Apparently, RIFT shares the same exe title as another game from the late-nineties and applies those settings to our 2011 MMO. After the tweaks, the change is breathtaking.

Imagine Telara as existing within an aquarium.  You’re looking in through the side and while you’re playing the rest of the room goes dark. All the sudden, you can look up through the glass side and see that the top, where you should be seeing ceiling, actually extends miles into the air breaking into a beautiful sky. The horizon, which should end feet before your nose actually goes on. You can feel the distance. That mountain cat on the far rise really feels far. Not far as in “that cat is small” far, but far like “I’m walking to the corner store” far. The inside of every porticulum looks like liquid, swirling and bubbly. And just as you’re leaning in, getting as close to that world as you can, something surprises you by reaching out and stopping just before your face. Sometimes it’s a fluff of cotton or a falling leaf. Sometimes it’s a spell effect. But every time, it feels like that glass wall has disappeared and part of you was actually there.

Some of you might have gotten the Nintendo 3DS. Let me use that for comparison. Take that depth, that resolution, that immersion and multiply it three-fold. THAT is nVidia 3D Vision.

Right now the kit goes for $150 and will work with any 120Hz monitor. If you have the chance, I definitely recommend picking it up. Stay tuned for a full review when out Managing Editor gets his unit. We’re going to do a dual review to give the best perspective.

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