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World of Warcraft in 3D

3D Gaming: World of Warcraft, etc.

Like a lot of you I waited to see the 3D Super Bowl ads and then watched Chuck in 3D (well the first 10 minutes anyway) and was disappointed with the result. The 3D Monsters vs. Aliens ad just sucked too: I mean, do we really need any more cute monster and alien movies? Bring back the real Aliens – you know, the ones that Sigourney Weaver used to fight, and put them up against the Vampires and Werewolves from movies like Underworld or Blade. Now that would be cool.

So why even bring this up? Because I was testing NVIDIA’s 3D gaming setup on an AMD/NVIDIA gaming rig at the same time and my wife, when I let her try it out, said it best:  "That’s what I thought 3D SHOULD look like." Best of all, the NVIDIA rig doesn’t just deliver – I’ve been playing World of Warcraft (WoW)with it all this week.  

Recently World of Warcraft patched to enable 3D, and this patch did what my brother had been unable to do – it got me off City of Heroes (which doesn’t support 3D yet) for awhile and onto Blizzard’s fantasy MMO alternative. I’d received the 3D kit and a Samsung 22" 120-Hz monitor (right now there are only 2 120 Hz monitors that support NVIDA 3D Vision) from NVIDIA last week and City of Heroes didn’t support 3D. So I set aside my cape and started grinding on a level 1 Warlock.

Getting Used to 3D

Initially 3D takes a little getting used to. It provides nice depth of field and clicking on things isn’t difficult, but it seems easier, particularly when getting jumped by a starving wolf or a band of bandits, to get disoriented initially and die trying to figure out which way to run.  Not that you can run fast enough to stay alive anyway, but maybe you can at least get some distance between you and where the things trying to kill you hang out so you don’t take several trips to the graveyard getting back to someplace safe. 

However, after a couple of hours I got used to the difference and started to enjoy the scenery. Just going to 3D takes you into a "movie set" kind of experience. Some things have kind of a cut out look to them, like they were formed from paper. You notice this particularly with leaves, which have a strange flat look to them. While water on the surface and buildings actually look better, swimming underwater will need a little work as it felt like the system was struggling trying to figure out how to render it. Given that you won’t be swimming underwater much though, that probably isn’t that big of a problem. 

3D Needs More Reality

You get the sense that to make things look natural, much of the imagery and game dynamics need to be rewritten because, and this is hard to describe, it just doesn’t feel right. You really miss physics – for instance, I noticed that the things around me weren’t moving (no wind) or even aware of my passage.  

It is no worse than 2D was. Instead, it’s just that with the third dimension I noticed the static nature of the World of Warcraft environment much more and missed the realism that I knew was possible but not yet written into the game. But now that the 3D genie is out of the bottle, I think developers will start stepping up to the challenge of creating game dynamics and including physics to complete the picture. And while it may take awhile, once all of this is in place, then I think 3D will really sing.

The 22" Limit

The other issue was the 22" monitor, but this may be relatively unique to me. You see I have two primary gaming rigs, one an HP Firebird with a 27" Dell monitor and one with an i7 with 3 NVIDIA 280 cards and 30" HP monitor. My work desk is an i7 with twin 4870-X2 that has twin 24" monitors. The 22" has me sitting with my nose much closer the screen than I’m used to in order to get the same effect. The next size up is the DLP TVs sold by Mitsubishi and I’m really tempted to pick up the 72" which is on sale at Amazon. Be aware that 120 and 240 Hz TVs were hot at CES and I expect we’ll see lines of 120 Hz monitors by year end so your choices will improve dramatically here.  

Anyhow, playing World of Warcraft in 3D on a huge screen would be one way to really impress the neighbors and would likely be a great deal of fun – assuming I can get my wife to help me lift that 72" set. But if you are in the market for a TV you may want to favor 120-Hz sets for a variety of reasons anyway. 

World of Warcraft Rant

In coming from City of Heroes (COH) to WoW, I really noticed how many more things are tedious in WoW than in COH. Games are supposed to be fun, not work, so why do you have to search for a trainer for instance? And upgrading, my Lord… if you upgrade online your account is put into a 72 hour semi-trial purgatory where you can’t trade, chat, or even join guilds. But if you upgrade with a box copy there’s no hold… I’m guessing this is because some folks were somehow gaming the system. But man, punishing folks for upgrading online in this decade – now that has to be a concept unique to WoW.   

Also, when you send in a trouble ticket you get a nice countdown timer. In my case it started at 1 hour 45 minutes, after two hours of gameplay it was down to 1 hour 30 minutes: WoW needs a new clock. Finally, I was struck by how many 50+ players were standing around complaining they were bored or acting out (I actually ran into three griefers in as many days), something I’ve seen in COH as well and typically isn’t good for any game’s longevity.  Being the biggest is great but it is far from permanent.

Wrapping Up:  Where 3D Gaming Works

Where the NVIDIA 3D system truly shines is in the strategy games that support it. Strategy games are more like board games with animation anyway and these things are just a kick to play and watch from this perspective. It’s like sitting back and observing as little mechanical people and monsters run around and attack things. Age of Empires, the game where I first saw this system implemented, is just wonderful to view and admire. As for 3D movies though, while they look wonderful, there isn’t much content yet, so this is more of an impress the neighbors thing at the moment. I’ll bet you can guess what kind of movies will be arriving first.  

If the game you like to play supports 3D, looks great, and you can find a 120 Hz monitor or TV in the size you like though, the concept of 3D could work for you. Realize selections will improve by year-end on both hardware and content. And if you get a chance, check the NVIDIA 3D Vision setup out and let me know what you think. Until then, you’ll find me in World of Warcraft screaming at the leaves. "Move damn you, MOVE!"  

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Rob Enderle
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Rob is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. Before…
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