The third-dimension is very much in vogue these days. Gone are trips to the cinema marked by the understanding that for all the entertainment on offer, it was always going to be a very flat experience.
Now, with a few lose coins exchanged for a pair of Rayban-esque shades that cause the entire auditorium to recite lines from The Blues Brothers, the long-elusive field of depth will show up in all of the latest Hollywood entertainment.
The games industry, like many others, has taken note of the new 3D trend, and has reacted to it quickly. The Nintendo 3DS is almost upon us, and tech and middleware firms like Nvidia and Scaleform have incorporated 3D tools and services into the products that they offer.
At the forefront of the expanding group of games studios incorporating stereoscopic 3D capabilities into their proprietary technology which is being licensed out is Crytek.
Released last month, the 3.2 version of the CryEngine 3 SDK includes full stereoscopic 3D support for all supported platforms with what Crytek has called almost no performance impact or compromise on graphical quality.
Developers are also not required to write any new code or to change any assets to take advantage of the 3D technology.
The CryEngine 3 Live Create allows for simultaneous editing across all supported platforms, running in 3D. The new engine is also easily capable of handling HD 3D, and has multiplatform native support for HDMI 1.4 stereo standard, frame-compatible formats for pre-HDMI 1.4 TVs, anaglyphic 3D and stereoscopic projection.
“We’ve been working on S3D at Crytek for a few years now – probably before most other developers, because we realised early on it would be a key feature for gaming, movies and simulation in the near future,” explains director of CryEngine global business development Carl Jones.
“So we made a call to spend some time coming up with a new method that wouldn’t compromise on quality. The result of our research is Screen Space Reprojection S3D; a new approach that gives us great stereo 3D with zero compromise, launched in CryEngine 3.2.”
Not yet a year on from its original, 3D-free release date, CryEngine 3 contains such high-end features as volumetric, layer and view distance fogging; parametric skeletal animation, dynamic pathfinding, automated navigation mesh generation and high speed texture rendering, plans have also been put in place to bring a free-to-use engine version to market.
“Developers using CryEngine 3 can be certain that their product will look great in S3D without them expending any effort on implementation or asset production,” Jones states.
“We build CryEngine 3 to ensure our developers can spend the maximum time possible on content creation. S3D adds a huge amount to interactive entertainment: immersion, depth, emotion and gameplay all benefit from S3D and the CryEngine 3 solution is display and hardware independent.”
As for the future, nothing is going to be left to chance.
“We spend a lot of time and effort on research. We have a freedom at Crytek to experiment with new technologies, often ahead of the curve, as was the case with S3D,” Jones says, smiling.