3D on Playstation 3 will require compromise

A recent firmware update has prepared Sony’s Playstation 3 for 3D gaming, but players who take advantage will notice some drawbacks.

Eurogamer has an extensive article up on the making of PS3 3D, much of it quite technical. The big takeaway is that 3D games will be limited to 720p resolution and 30 Hz, compared to 60 Hz frames per second and 1080 in two dimensions. To the eye, games running in 30 Hz will appear as 30 frames per second.

To understand the difference, think of Uncharted 2 compared to Modern Warfare 2 in terms of smoothness.

3D on Playstation 3 will require compromise

Granted, most games run in 30 frames per second anyway, but therein lies the problem: Stereoscopic 3D games need to create two images for the 3D effect, so programmers need all the resources they can get to make it work. A game like WipEout HD, which in 2D ran at 1080p and 60 frames per second, is ideal, because programmers get headroom on both framerate and pixels.

“Because it was 60Hz we could just drop to 30Hz and in actual fact, that was it. There was no more work to do. That worked. It took very little time getting the game into 3D; there were very few problems with WipEout,” said Simon Benson, senior development manager on Sony’s stereoscopic team.

Games whose 2D versions run in 720p and 30 frames per second will be a big a challenge. With Motorstorm: Pacific Rift, for instance, Sony had to draw on the same tactics used for the game’s split-screen multiplayer — basically, knocking down the detail levels — to get enough power for 3D.

But at a time when game developers are avoiding split-screen entirely for the very reason that it requires too much power, this method doesn’t bode well for graphically intense games. It makes me wonder if a game like Killzone 2 is even possible in 3D with the current hardware. I’m guessing Sony will have to carefully choose which games will work in 3D this console generation.