While the main focus of BlizzCon is rightfully on the legendary games that Blizzard has built a cult following around, there were other companies at the con demonstrating some fairly impressive tech. Here are some highlights I found from the show floor.
LG was showing off their D2342P 23 inch monitor that uses a passive 3D technology called Cinema Tech. These monitors do not require a graphics card to run in 3D and even offer their own 2D-3D conversion. The glasses their displays require do not need batteries or to be plugged into the computer. Instead they are the same lightweight glasses you see at movie theaters. (In fact one of the reps from LG said that if you “accidentally” took home a pair of glasses from a theater, they would work with the monitor!)
The 3D glasses were comfortable and fit well over my prescription glasses, but my bespectacled brethren have another option: clip-ons. Yes, if you already are wearing glasses, you can get a set of clip-on 3D shades. With these you don’t feel like you’re wearing 3D glasses, rather, you feel like you are so cool that you wear sunglasses indoors. (Even if they are clip-on sunglasses…)
Also on the show floor was ASUS, who has partnered with NVIDIA to create the VG278H 27-inch 3D monitor. The glasses for these monitors were plugged into the computer and use the active, shuttering technology. The glasses were bigger and a little distracting, although they also fit over my glasses well enough.
The monitor was big enough to double as a bedroom TV, if you wanted to use it that way. They did have stations with three 3D monitors hooked into one computer. While World of Warcraft was actually harder to play like this (the default UI was just not designed for that much screen space) it was undeniably awesome.
[imge_big]center,8,2011-10-23/DSCF6412.JPG,More panoramic 3D[/imge_big]
While movies and TV on your 3D monitor will obviously be enjoyable, games were a bit more hit or miss. Diablo III did not work well in 3D. The characters and environments had depth, but every piece of loot, every health bar and all of the UI elements jumped out of the screen. It was very distracting when my character was surrounded by loot that wasn’t in the same visual plane as she was.
World of Warcraft fared better. The interface around the edges of the screen still popped out, but this provided a portal-like effect, as if you were peering through a window into a another world. Flying through the trees was fun, but didn’t feel like it added anything. I did find a slight problem with the mouse cursor – when it was over terrain or my character, it would seem to be in the distance, but as soon as it hovered over a UI element it would pop back up in the foreground. It took some adjustment and made me yearn for a mouse that could move in 3D instead.
StarCraft II was the exception: It looked fantastic in 3D. The units popped out and looked great, the UI melted into the background and wasn’t distracting and the whole game was easy to use. It was almost as if StarCraft II had been built with 3D in mind – and that’s because it was!
NVIDIA has a 3D driver that interfaced directly with StarCraft II. There are even options within the game to adjust the monitor’s Convergence and Separation in order to get the 3D just right for your eyes.
Moving away from monitors now, SteelSeries had a wicked combo on display: The official Diablo 3 headset and mouse. The headset looked very Diablo, with its glowing red three slash logo and illuminated ear cups. It was lightweight and comfortable, and the leather cups blocked out some sound, but not quite as much as Creative’s World of Warcraft headset. The sound was amazing, with a deep booming bass that is perfect for Diablo or just about any other video game.
The retractable, noise-canceling mic hides so well that I didn’t even know it was there until a rep pulled it out. It connects with a double braided USB cord that does have an inline volume control, but if you’re playing Diablo III, you won’t need to reach for it. The volume controls for the audio and the mic are actually built into the game, allowing you to adjust them from the in-game control panel.
The Diablo III mouse was a big surprise for me. I am not a big fan of SteelSeries‘ World of Warcraft mice. They feel too big for me and require placing your whole hand on the mouse. The Diablo III mouse, however is a more standard 7-button ambidextrous mouse. Its curved shape allows for a lighter, fingertip grip or a heavier, full palm grip. It was comfortable, easy to use, and slid like it was on ice. It also has the red Diablo III slash logo and a molten glow underneath the mouse wheel. It is a corded mouse, if you prefer those, double braided to avoid tangles and guaranteed to 10 million clicks. That ought to last you at least ‘til the first Diablo III expansion!