Epic's Mark Rein goes in-depth with Unreal Engine 3's TriOviz 3D

Epic Games and Darkworks might have just captured the 3D gaming market. With the addition of TriOviz 3D technology to the Unreal Engine 3 and its development kit, a massively popular game engine now has built-in 3D integration, for use with either 3D televisions or green/magenta glasses. It stands to increase the number of games implementing 3D dramatically, creating a de facto standard for 3D in the process. Incidentally, it adds an attractive new bullet point to Unreal's feature set.

Epic Games itself, however, somehow has yet to fully jump onto the bandwagon it is now driving. "That's not part of the announcement," Epic VP Mark Rein told Joystiq when asked if this partnership would mean Epic games in TriOviz 3D. "Don't know." The implementation of 3D is certainly not the reason Gears of War 3 was delayed into holiday 2011. For one thing, the companies claim it only takes a week to integrate 3D into a UE3 game. For another, "That was Microsoft's business decision."

Rein got that speculation out of the way as he demonstrated the new TriOviz 3D technology, playing a newly 3D version of the Unreal Development Kit demo (based on Unreal Tournament 3) inside Epic's meeting room at GDC Online. "Oh, we have the Dead Space HUD, hold on," he said at one point, looking through options for a HUD that, like Dead Space's, appeared in a perspective meant to make it look like part of the world. Next month, Unreal Development Kit users will gain the ability to implement 3D in their UE3-based projects. It's built-in, but not free. Developers "still have to license it once they release the game," Grady Hannah, director of business development for TriOviz development partner Darkworks, noted.

"Now you're not just making something for a very small audience of early adopters, which is what 3D is today." - Mark Rein

It's also not a plug-and-play solution. "It's not a panacea," Hannah said. "It integrates like a shader in the engine, but your artists still have to do work on it." And that means technical and design work. "If you want to make a game that's really fun and compelling in 3D," Rein said, "you have to think about 3D. Where the camera is all the time, how big a 3D effect you want. Like any other graphical feature you put in a game, you have to think about how you want to approach it." Occasionally, Rein would point out the dynamic depth effects being created by the TriOviz system. Rather than a flat double image, objects in different locations on screen had varying levels of distance between each eye's view of it, creating the illusion that different on-screen items appeared at different depths. The engine compensated when Rein moved around, changing the 3D effect along with the position of the objects.

"UDK has 3D support in it," Rein added. "But UDK only ships games on PC. So the 3D support is for Nvidia's 3D Vision. So if you want to build a game for PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 that's going to use TriOviz, you can prototype it on PC with Nvidia's 3D Vision, get most of the 3D stuff out of the way, and then you can come and license the engine from us and then license Scaleform and go to town." Rein said he was "sure we'll do more" Make Something Unreal-type competitions, which will help get said licenses into the hands of indies eager to jump on the 3D bandwagon.

As we continued to watch the demo, Rein and Hannah acknowledged the major barrier to 3D adoption: expensive televisions like the one we were staring at. TriOviz sidesteps the issue by supporting both native 3D televisions, and the display of 3D on traditional televisions, with an anaglyph mode that requires TriOviz's magenta and green glasses. "As long as you ship, like [Batman: Arkham Asylum] did, the little colored glasses in with your game, or they can buy them separately online, they can experience 3D no matter what," Rein said. "So the nice thing is now you're not just making something for a very small audience of early adopters, which is what 3D is today. It's a fantastic technology for a very small audience." The proliferation of 3DTV-only PS3 games (which, Rein notes, includes Unreal Engine games like Mortal Kombat) is "just half the deal."

This article was originally published on Joystiq.