The User Experience
Overall Experience

Having played with the NVIDIA GeForce 3D Vision technology during the NVISION08 show in San Jose last year I went into this article with at least a good idea of what to expect.  Admittedly, at the show, I had only played for 5 minute spurts throughout the several days I was there so the experience there versus the one had here in my own home for a much longer time period had the chance of being completely different.

It wasn’t.  I was and am still incredibly impressed with the gaming experiences I have had while using 3D Vision. 

I honestly expected the glasses to be annoying, the images eye straining and the overall effect to feel like a gimmick but it never did.  The glasses, while admittedly still dorky looking, are light enough to not notice you wearing them even after 3 hours of playing Left 4 Dead…I mean *testing* Left 4 Dead.  The only minor gripe I have about the glasses is that flickering that occurs when you move your head away from the screen for even a second or two to say, check the score of a football game on a nearby TV.  The flickering is an attempt by the lenses to re-synchronize with the IR transmitter until it realizes it is no longer getting a signal and stops.  Sometimes, after just a few seconds away from the screen I would turn my head back to the display and the 3D effects would work again automatically, other times I had to push the resync button but I didn’t feel like that was a problem. 

I am a contacts user and such I feel like I know more about eye strain and how it can affect your mental state and vision during prolonged staring at a screen of any kind for too long.  I play a lot of Guitar Hero / Rock Band and one thing I notice about that game is how it eventually starts to hurt my eyes as I subconsciously keep my eyes open as much as possible while watching the notes scroll by.  I’m hardcore like that.  As I mentioned above, the longest I played on the GeForce 3D Vision kit was for over 3 hours while playing Left 4 Dead with some friends online.  Not only did my eyes never hurt but after I took the glasses off I didn’t have any “recovery time” for my eyes to readjust to the real world.  That being said, I was doing that testing on the DLP TV of 60-in, not the 22-in LCD but I would guess that with a 120 Hz refresh rate the effect would also be minimal.

NVIDIA GeForce 3D Vision Review - 3D Glasses for the Masses - Graphics Cards 44
NVIDIA showing off early stereo 3D at CES in January 2008

The depth adjustment in game is cool to play with and in my experiences with other people it was really hit-or-miss as to who like what depth levels.  The way I played was that I started with a shallower depth and then gradually increased the depth both as I played and during my total testing time.  The brain seemed to “learn” to handle the 3D imagery better as I went long, much in the same way you can train yourself to see the image in printed 3D Stereograms.  The higher depth settings offer “more” 3D so in my view the higher the depth setting you can use, you should. 

The visual effects you see are hard to describe but were visually impressive to say the least.  Things that are further away from the user appear further into the screen to the monitor or TV.  Unfortunately, because of the way games are made (at least for today) very few things ever appeared to come OUT of the screen – one of the cooler things that happens in movies etc.  The reasoning is that because the NVIDIA driver is effectively intercepting the Z-depth data from the DirectX information, and no sane game program would have included items behind “the camera” so to speak, that information just does not exist for NVIDIA to utilize.  I would expect that some games in the future WILL start adding that feature in though expressly for 3D gaming technologies.  The integrated demo that NVIDIA included with the control panel has an NVIDIA logo that does come out of the screen and it actually surprised me as I hadn’t seen that at all through a few hours of testing. 

Breakdown by Game

Left 4 Dead

I played this game the most simply because it has been the game of choice in recent weeks for me and my friends.  Not only is it simply addictively fun, the zombie-attacking-you-from-the-side routine actually translates into the 3D imagery quite well.  The game play is very fun and the additional feeling of zombies coming “at” you is unique to say the least and there are some interesting details like the way the smoke from your weapon change lingers on the screen.  The only downside to the 3D Vision technology on this game came with the text hovering over other characters heads or over items you interact with – the text didn’t seem to have the same location depth as the item it was point to and sometimes caused my eyes to freeze up and refocus as I read the text. 

Call of Duty 4

The CoD4 engine required me to turn off Glow and Depth of Field features to get the best 3D Vision experience but I have to say I didn’t much miss those settings once I got in the game.  The engine played beautifully with the NVIDIA software and even just seeing the depth provided by looking down the scope of a sniper rifle was impressive to see.

Call of Duty: World at War

World at War had a few more bugs and problems but was still very playable.  The smoke in the game, and the heat haze effect, didn’t play perfectly well with the 3D Vision and while I assume the game has the same support for depth of field and for glow, there were no settings in the control panel to disable them. 

Far Cry 2

Again here the fire effects in the game gave 3D Vision the most problems but the title still looked great through the 3D glasses.  In this game, I was forced to turn off DX10 mode and revert to DX9 in order to lower a couple of IQ settings that NVIDIA recommend for the best experience.

Guitar Hero: Aerosmith

A very simple title, the game didn’t require any kind of in-game adjustments and admittedly the difference between the standard and 3D versions of this game are fairly small.  Seeing the notes scroll from “inside” the screen to the front makes it more fun but doesn’t necessarily add to this basic rhythm game’s experience. 

Race Driver: GRID

GRID was a great example of how the NVIDIA GeForce 3D Vision technology can change how the game feels, especially when you zoom into the camera view inside the car itself.  All of the dashboard gadgets, steering wheel and other items truly fell separated and the sensation of driving was definitely stronger.  Even in out-of-car viewing angles other cards on the road added a new dimension (okay, a slight pun intended) to racing.

World in Conflict

Somewhat surprisingly to me, this game actually benefited dramatically from the 3D Vision technology.  Even though you have to turn off shadows in the game for the best experience, and the smoke on the field produced some slight artifacting, the overall game play was definitely better with the 3D glasses than without. 


This is the only game in which I found a game-ender: attempting to enable the 3D Vision technology caused the image to “freeze” on the screen while the audio continued to run correctly.  Hitting the 3D Vision button another time “unfroze” the image and any movements you had made during the lock up period were definitely being accepted and used.  It seems this is likely a driver bug the team will address soon after the products release. 

World of Warcraft

No, I didn’t test it but it looks NVIDIA recognizes that 12 million or so gamers might be interested in what they are selling.  Here’s the quote from NVIDIA PR:

The World of Warcraft Public Test Realm currently has a stereoscopic 3d implementation available for testing. Players can gain access to that server by installing the PTR client at With NVIDIA’s GeForce 3D Vision drivers installed, new options panel becomes available for 3D stereo settings. We are continuing to work with Blizzard (and other developers in our TWIMTBP program) to make the best possible experience, and they have already improved many issues like the mouse cursor being drawn at the correct depth and out of screen effects.

Display Experience

I tested most of the above games on both the Samsung SyncMaster 2233RZ 22-in 120 Hz LCD monitor and the Mitsubishi WD-60735 60-in 1080p 3D-Ready DLP TV to get the most balanced view of gaming with NVIDIA’s GeForce 3D Vision.  In my opinion, the 22-in screen size produced a great stereo 3D effect that was every bit as convincing and high quality as the DLP display.  But I couldn’t get past feeling like this kind of experience was going to be “better” on the larger DLP screen; even before I had bought the Mitsubishi screen (let alone played on it) this thought kept occurring to me.  It is quite possible that was some defect in my own mind but to me a 3D image should be LARGER than normal, maybe because we are used to seeing stereoscopic technologies at the IMAX and in movie theaters.  And it is possible that the push of passive 3D tech into the standard TV world (with promotions like the one I mentioned for the NFL playoffs) will help alleviate that preconceived notion.

There was only one notable caveat with the DLP displays that popped up – you cannot manually adjust the resolution of your screen to prevent overscan as this will destroy the delicate grid pattern the DLP technology uses.  When I first setup the system attached to the Mitsubishi TV I did just this and spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out why the 3D Vision effects were not working for me.  The work around fix is to simply select the next smaller resolution size (under 1080p) in the Windows configuration as this defaults to 1920×1080 during gaming mode for whatever reason. 

It goes without saying then that I absolutely fell in love with gaming on the 3D Vision glasses on the 60” DLP.  It was easily the most fun I have had with PC gaming in a long time and all of my friends agreed that the 1080p resolution, large screen and 3D effects really created a unique gaming experience that hasn’t been seen anywhere else. 

Experiences at Best Buy Demonstration Event

As I said earlier, even though I can (and did) give you my opinion on the experience provided by the GeForce 3D Vision technology from NVIDIA, I really wanted to get some outside views – preferably from people that don’t know what they are gaming on, who makes the technology, who I am, etc.  To do that I posted a spot at my local Best Buy and setup a camera to watch the reactions and record the comments (poorly) customers and employees had while playing some of these games on a large screen DLP TV.

Come see our first video production that provides a quick one-over review of the hardware and details the experiences from Best Buy in the middle.

NVIDIA GeForce 3D Vision Video Review (Download Quicktime H.264 file 298MB)

Note: I have had reports that the audio is very LOW on this first attempt – my apologies for that and I’ll try to get it fixed when I return from CES

As I state in the conclusion to that video, there are a few key points that I think should be noted from the third-party experiences.  First, everyone that tried them on was impressed and though the games just looked cool.  Second, no one complained of dizziness, eye fatigue or queasiness during testing.  And third, everyone I asked said that $199 was reasonable price for it.
That last part was kind of a stunner for me – I still think the $199 price tag is a bit too high considering consumers’ buying habits are down right now, but my opinion seems to have been overridden by the popular vote.

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