StarCraft II is one of the biggest releases this year and it’s been a long time coming. The original one was released well over twelve years ago and now we have the first of three releases coming from Blizzard with StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty.
NVIDIA was kind enough to supply me a copy of the game and after a few regular gaming sessions, I decided to test the game with their GeForce 3D Vision. Now, Blizzard did say they were coming out with a patch to improve 3D gaming when I initially tried it out so I expected an uneven experience using the glasses with StarCraft II.
My test setup included:
4GB of ram
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 480
I’m going to concentrate on the single player campaign as that offers up a few more areas to talk about and this first part is pre-patch. After you get into the game, pretty much everything will be broadcast in 3D; that includes the cut scenes, menus between missions, and the game itself.
Let’s start with the cut scenes. Right off the bat, I had to turn off the 3D effect. Raynor, sitting at the bar, was so close to my face that my eyes hurt just trying to view the screen. The other issue was that I saw a double image of Raynor overlaying each other, which didn’t help the cause. Only small amounts of the various cut scenes were viewable with the GeForce 3D Vision.
As for the game itself, my review of the GeForce 3D Vision mentioned that for any RTS game I tested, I had to turn down the depth in order to be somewhat playable as the cursor hovered over the battlefield too much to be useful. The same issue exists here as well as with the default depth set, the units and map were in planes too far in the screen for the cursor to be accurate with. It’s similar to crosshairs in an FPS game being too close on the screen and not pushed back some. If the cursor was, say, a few inches further back from its current position, then it would be in an optimal distance from the map for accurate selection.
The HUD floated well above the battle field making for a cool effect. Seeing it hover above the playing field was akin to some of the special effects seen in some sci-fi movies. If there’s one thing that really stood out as being well done with 3D before the patch, it’s the HUD.
The animated characters in the windows of the HUD were a hit or miss though. Some just floated way too far above the HUD while others, like when talking with some of the characters. There were also some weird effects when certain objects were casting a light, as if the light’s depth was off compared to where it should be on the object.
So, as expected, playing StarCraft II before the 1.1.0 patch was unplayable. There were some good moments but for the most part, there was no way to finish a game with it on.
Now, patch 1.1.0 has finally come out and this is the patch that NVIDIA and Blizzard has said that offers up true support for GeForce 3D Vision. For this article, I’m on patch 1.1.1, which was just released on September 28th. So how is the experience now? Well, it’s pretty damn good now.
First off, they eliminated the cut scene issue by just removing 3D support from the cut scenes. None of the cut scenes are now rendered in 3D so that makes that issue non-existent. I think I would’ve liked to have seem them do a little work in making the cut scenes better supported in 3D though as I liked watching some of them in games like Resident Evil 5.
Most of the objects seemed to be rendered correctly and at the correct depth now. The issue with buildings or units giving off light and causing the glow to be at a different plane has been fixed so now the lights actually shine from exactly where they should be. I know this was one of the very annoying aspects pre-patch that existed everywhere since many objects emit light.
When I first tried the 3D mode, the view seemed off. The HUD no longer floated on top while the rest of the game world popped out causing some focusing issues. Trees and building were far too close and having the HUD at a plane that’s farther in than the game world made it a focusing nightmare. Using the dial to try and adjust the depth yielded no improvement.
That is, until I turned to a new option screen that now appears in game. A new screen lets you adjust the depth and separation of the 3D effect. Because of this, NVIDIA disabled the controls on the emitter so you would adjust everything in game. The optimal setting I found is also one that NVIDIA recommends, which I have shown below.
After these adjustments, the experience was a lot, lot better. Before playing on default settings, I could only stomach about a 20 minute game before my eyes became fatigued from having to adjust to the various 3D effects. After the adjustment, everything was much easier on the eyes and I was able to last long periods of time playing with the glasses on.
The game world now sits as it originally did pre-patch with the HUD floating above the playing field. The cursor sat farther in the screen at a level that matched the depth of the units and game world. Something really cool is that if you do move your mouse over to the floating HUD, the cursor pops up so that it sits on the same plane as the HUD making it easy to click on elements there. Once you move the mouse cursor back to the playing field, it falls back into a plane that’s optimal for the game.
The units all looked great in full 3D and when you zoom into the battlefield, it’s like you’re looking at miniatures on a game board. The flying units all look really cool as they seem to float out towards you as they moved around the battlefield. Seeing the units explode into pieces in the air and fall to the ground was very satisfying in 3D. The different level of depth in the battlefield is enhanced greatly by the 3D patch making for a richer and realistic depiction of the game world.
Overall, the patch made a great difference in the gaming experience of StarCraft II. It fixed most of the problems that I had and made for a very enjoyable experience once you adjusted the sliders in the new option screen. It’s too bad they removed the 3D from the cut scenes but maybe they’ll find a way to put it back in.
With the new patch, I would most definitely play the game with 3D Vision on for long periods of time. It enhances an already great game and you almost feel like you’re playing a table top game with real miniatures with how it looks. Great job by Blizzard and NVIDIA to make a solid 3D experience with the latest patch.