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The Doom of Super Mario
July 15, 2008 5:43 AM   Subscribe

I didn't think this would be cool but after seeing the video I am converted. Experience the original Super Mario in 3d... with a shotgun?
posted by ignorantguru (35 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well that was good.
And now, Simpsons Quake III
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:51 AM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


That was interesting. I remember when I first played Mario64 that I was very frustrated by the camera. Now, not so much. I thought I just got used to how it works. But watching this video, I now realize the vital difference between 2D and 3D games, which I'm probably the last to notice: In a 2D game, the player has the god-like ability to see everything at once. But in a 3D game, you can only see the image plane in front of you. When I back the camera up as far as it will go, I'm really trying to recreate this omniscient eye of the 2D game world.
posted by DU at 5:54 AM on July 15, 2008


I like totally knew about this before you.
posted by poppo at 6:00 AM on July 15, 2008


Which, now that I think even more about it, is probably one reason why 3D GUIs have never really taken off. Hiding information is a good way to make a puzzle or create tension, but not such a great way to run a computer.

If I could organize my (real life, 3D) workshop so that everything was laid out flat (i.e. visible and not in boxes and drawers) and more-or-less the same distance from my hand, I totally would.
posted by DU at 6:08 AM on July 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


I believe our interaction with 3d spaces is, in large part, why so many 3d desktop of GUI have failed. Trying to convert a 2d screen into a 3d space always leaves you feeling like a character in the environment rather than as if you were actually personally interacting with it. Maybe something like what Johnny Chung Lee is doing (see here and here) would change that.
posted by ignorantguru at 6:17 AM on July 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


Trying to convert a 2d screen into a 3d space always leaves you feeling like a character in the environment rather than as if you were actually personally interacting with it.

I think that's true, but keep in mind our "personally interacting with it" is also a workaround. Part of the reason we have manipulators and can move around is so we can see stuff that's hidden from us by the nature of being 3D in a 3D world. A 4D creature could just sit still and see everything we were rushing around and flipping things over to discover.

So one could argue that the ideal UI is actually 2D, since it presents the most information with the least action.

But then there's the problem that even though it's a workaround, we are optimized for the 3D world. So maybe an immersive 3D environment would be better than what we have now after all.
posted by DU at 6:24 AM on July 15, 2008


See also: Half-Life Mario which faithfully reproduces the environment of World 1-1.
posted by themadjuggler at 6:40 AM on July 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


DU: Have you noticed that you actually live in a 3d environment? Does that cause problems for you?

The main problem with a 3D UI is that we don't actually have 3D displays. You would be interacting with a projection of the 3D space onto a 2D plane, and you'd have to use hints to figure out what the actual dept of objects is. Our brains are pretty good at doing that but not perfect.

And the bigger problem, of course, is that we only have 2d pointers. Since you can only move the mouse in a plane pointing at things at different depths is not very easy.

I don't think it has anything to do with how much information the user gets. In fact, while you can't see 'behind' yourself in 3d, you see a lot farther off into the distance.
posted by delmoi at 6:49 AM on July 15, 2008


Have you noticed that you actually live in a 3d environment? Does that cause problems for you?

Yes, haven't you? When I want to see if there are any monsters crouching outside the door, I have poke my head out. If I want to inspect the inside of a dumpster, I have to get close and open it. I'm never sure if there is an enemy droid on the other side of the shipping container, endlessly circling with me. If I were 4D, or if the world were 2D, I wouldn't have these problems.

I absolutely agree that a real 3D UI would be much easier to use than a 2D projection of one. That's not what I'm talking about.

Imagine two different UIs (on the same hardware, so there's no inherent capability problem) to a workshop. One of the UIs is fully immersive and 3D. The other is basically an infinite plane, like an enormous screen, but you can zip around in front of it. Both workshops are organized so you know where things are.

Now imagine fetching some item. In the 2D UI, you zip over to it and pick it up. In the 3D UI, you in all probability will have to move or reach around some other object. Things have been stacked in the Z dimension. That's great for conveying depth but not great for providing immediate access. (You could object that having to move a long distance vs having to move objects is the same, but I think that's just a problem with my example. I'm having trouble thinking of a better one.)

(Also, before I chose the workshop example, I thought of using a library. But in fact, a library already perfectly illustrates my point: It's a 2D UI. All the books are lined up in an infinite plane, though broken and folded to save space and ladders. A good library doesn't stack books in front of other books on the same shelf, because the Z dimension would be unhelpful here.)
posted by DU at 7:05 AM on July 15, 2008 [5 favorites]


(I'm kind of dominating the thread here and this is somewhat tangential, but...)

I think that's just a problem with my example

Perhaps if I imagined a smaller toolset. If I get out a few tools to work with, I never stack them up on the toolbench (utilizing the third dimension). Instead, I lay them out (in 2D). That way they are all equally visible and accessible without moving anything else. In this case, I've overcome (or avoided) a 3D problem by immersing myself in 2D.
posted by DU at 7:14 AM on July 15, 2008


It's revealing that, to the best of my knowledge, there's no major 3D modeling/animation program that has a 3D interface. If ever there was a field where the programmers were capable of designing, and the users capable of understanding, a 3D interface, it would be this one. But all the UIs I've used in that realm are 2D. It makes for a more intuitive interface. If you have to think about the interface, it's not a good one. 3D organization requires more thought than 2D, so 2D is better for something that's supposed to be a means to an end, not an end in itself.

Theoretically a one-dimensional interface would be even better, but at that point the tradeoff in complexity of information presentable gets too big.
posted by echo target at 7:24 AM on July 15, 2008


Is this the first ever positive thread derailment?
posted by fusinski at 7:32 AM on July 15, 2008


..there's no major 3D modeling/animation program that has a 3D interface.

Excellent point!

Theoretically a one-dimensional interface would be even better...

I think that's only true in your theory about having to "think about" the UI. But I don't think that's the real issue. Why would a 2D UI be more intuitive than a 3D one? If anything, the reverse should be true.
posted by DU at 7:38 AM on July 15, 2008


No, the 'thinking about it' is the entire issue. Simpler things are more intuitive than complex things, even if the complex thing seems somehow more 'natural'. Interfaces do not exist for their own sake, they're a tool for accomplishing something else. One of the great classics of web design stresses the point over and over that an interface should be obivoius and self-evident.

When you're using an interface, you want to be thinking about the thing you're interfacing with, not the means you use to do so. If I'm modeling a character or touching up a photo, I want to be spending my mental effort looking at the thing I'm working out, figuring out why it doesn't look right, and deciding how to correct it.

Complexity goes up exponentially as you add dimensions, and complexity is the opposite of intuitiveness.
posted by echo target at 7:50 AM on July 15, 2008


Whoa, its a good thing it asked me for my age. If I was 17 I bet I wouldnt be able to handle a digitized guy running around with a shotgun shooting cartoon turtles. Thankfully, watching kids abuse turtles on youtube does not require any lying about age.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:56 AM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why would a 2D UI be more intuitive than a 3D one? If anything, the reverse should be true.

I think the issue isn't how intuitive the interface is, it's how usable it is. If you put my grandma in a VR suit and had her walk around a 3D version of her house, she could probably find the telephone and use it easier than she could sit down in front of a standard Windows box and figure out how to use a VOIP client.

The problem is once you know how to use it, anything that makes using it slow or clumsy is going to be extremely annoying. Being able to do hundreds of different things by just flicking the mouse one inch and clicking a button is a big deal. A laptop touchpad is almost exactly the same interface, and yet many experienced users absolutely hate them and will only use a mouse.

My main problem with 3D user interfaces is that most of them involve moving the perspective around, rotating things, etc. That looks cool, but how does it help usability at all? The interface to a car for example is 3D because you actually sit inside of it and use various limbs to interact with it. There's no similar benefit for UIs if you still end up using a mouse (even a 3D one) and keyboard to control it. And even in a car, you don't zoom in and out like most 3D interfaces do. In a 3D UI, they would probably add some zoom in effect to show a closeup of the turn signal level if you wanted to use it, but in real life we do it without even looking. The only thing in a car that really needs to be 3D is the view of the outside, and cars even simplify that by giving you mirrors so that the views from different sides are all visible on a 2D plane.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:09 AM on July 15, 2008


What are you seeing as the difference between 'intuitive' and 'usable'? I don't claim that they're the same, but the difference looks subtle to me.
posted by echo target at 8:21 AM on July 15, 2008


there's no major 3D modeling/animation program that has a 3D interface.

Bryce had an interface that could be characterized as 3D. Though, I don't know if you would consider that a major program.

As to the game, I want to see a multiplayer version with team-speak:

"I'm on level three and there is a huge cache of coins, but I'm pinned down by flying turtles, I need suppressing fire up here NOW!"
posted by quin at 8:30 AM on July 15, 2008


1D interfaces - like the OSX dock?
posted by anthill at 8:32 AM on July 15, 2008


Oh yeah, I forgot about Bryce. All those tools from Kai had those funky interfaces. But it's a good illustration of the point: those interfaces were praised (and reviled) when they were new, but are now more or less forgotten, with no real lasting effect on interface design in general.

I suppose the OSX dock, or the Windows quicklaunch, could be considered a 1D interface. They work fine for what they do, and they're extremely usable - once you see what it is, you don't have to think about how to use it. This is the strength of 1D.

Notice, though, the limited information display available. All you can do is choose from a list; this is the weakness of 1D. You have to go up to 2D to be able to show nestings and relatedness among different items on a list.
posted by echo target at 8:44 AM on July 15, 2008


What are you seeing as the difference between 'intuitive' and 'usable'? I don't claim that they're the same, but the difference looks subtle to me.

For intuitive I mean "Oh, I know how to use this." For usable I mean "Wow, this is easy to use." Good user interfaces are usually both.

Intuitive but not usable: Displaying a keyboard on the screen and having the user click keys with a mouse or stylus. Everyone knows what to do, but it's much less easy to use than a decent-sized physical keyboard.

Usable but not intuitive: Most unix commandline apps. You have to RTFM to have a chance at using them correctly, but once you do they can be more usable than a similar UI based app.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:55 AM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Humans don't have 3D vision. We have 2D vision with partial heuristic depth perception. It's a great achievement for a passive system with only two cameras but it's a far cry from actual 3D information.

I'd like to see a real 2.5D interface. Like a stereoscopic wmii (tiling) window system with depth cues for out-of-band information. Following eye focus for the pointer and fuzzing/dimming/inactive windows would be awesome. Then notification events could be bright both visually (color! focus!) and perceptually (trigger our hardware accelerated motion detectors, like the OSX dock except it could move in the .5 Z axis without overlapping other windows).
posted by Skorgu at 9:00 AM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


The stuff you're talking about, DU, has nothing to do with dimensions, and everything to do with perspective. In the 2d platform games, you have the perspective of someone other than the main character. In a 3d game, you have the perspective of the character him/herself.

If you lived in a 4D universe, enemies could still hide behind dumpsters.
posted by knave at 9:08 AM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


well, maybe. I mean, are they four-dimensional dumpsters?
posted by boo_radley at 9:53 AM on July 15, 2008


In a 4D universe, enemies could hide through the dumpsters.

This was much better than I'd expected. I hated all the Mario Bros. games because I sucked at them. I wish I'd've had a shotgun!
posted by not_on_display at 10:15 AM on July 15, 2008


And now, Simpsons Quake III

WTF. That person is some kind of crazy obsessed.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:30 AM on July 15, 2008


I think in a way folders are a 3d interface approximated on a 2d plane. You have a 2d field of folders and 'behind them' is another 2d field of objects. I think this is a more elegant version of a 3d interface in the same way that a picture of photo realistic image of a desk or toolbox wouldn't be. Using abstract symbols to diagram objects allows for more of the information the user is presented with to be relevant.
posted by I Foody at 10:31 AM on July 15, 2008


In the 2d platform games, you have the perspective of someone other than the main character. In a 3d game, you have the perspective of the character him/herself.

My original comment was going to be about being third vs first person. But that's not actually true--Mario64, my original example, is third-person. The issue is one of dimension, not perspective.

If you lived in a 4D universe, enemies could still hide behind dumpsters.

Agreed. But if I were 4D while everyone else were 3D, they could not. Likewise, while I'm 3D and playing a 2D game, they can't.

Another item possibly not worth mentioning: All this talk has been about spatial dimensions, but that term can be applied to other variables. For instance, color. What if there were a 2D platformer where you could only see one color(-family) at a time? You shift into red and see all the red monsters, but you can't see the blue or green ones. You have to "look behind the dumpter" of greenness to see if you are about to get ambushed from that dimension.

For that matter, you could have a 3D game that also included color, for a total of 4D. You could also have many other dimensions. I guess you'd have to navigate through some kind of parameter space to win?
posted by DU at 11:03 AM on July 15, 2008


you could have a 3D game that also included color,

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess on the Wii makes use of this trick, as did the original Alien vs Predator. (Psychonauts may have as well). It's a neat inclusion into a game.
posted by quin at 11:19 AM on July 15, 2008


Maybe I should play a game more recent than Mario64 before commenting on the state of the art.
posted by DU at 11:24 AM on July 15, 2008


For instance, color. What if there were a 2D platformer where you could only see one color(-family) at a time? You shift into red and see all the red monsters, but you can't see the blue or green ones.

A lot of modern day games do this with light and dark. In Doom 3 for example, in order to see anything in many areas the player needs to switch from holding a gun to holding a flashlight.

Night vision goggles is another common one, especially in realistic military FPS games. The Pitch Black game used night vision as a major gameplay mechanic.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:10 PM on July 15, 2008


burnmp3s: If you put my grandma in a VR suit and had her walk around a 3D version of her house, she could probably find the telephone and use it easier than she could sit down in front of a standard Windows box and figure out how to use a VOIP client.

... You mean if she were walking around blind in her house? Because the thought of modelling & making a realistic, accurate telephone in, say, Second Life, strikes me as a brilliant, hilarious idea.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:14 PM on July 15, 2008


For instance, color. What if there were a 2D platformer where you could only see one color(-family) at a time? You shift into red and see all the red monsters, but you can't see the blue or green ones.

Someone actually just did something rather like that. Although what you can't see generally can't hurt you.
posted by squidlarkin at 12:51 PM on July 15, 2008


Games that do neat things with light and dark? Boktai.
posted by box at 1:44 PM on July 15, 2008


On the subject of games using color. Metroid Prime on the gamecube did this rather well. You had to switch to different types of vision to see certain enemies and interact with the game world. Although there are probably examples of this type of game dynamic that are even older. None come to mind just yet.
posted by Hicksu at 10:22 PM on July 15, 2008


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