Wickedvision / EyeScream Review

Product: Metabyte Wickedvision H3D glasses. Price: around 100.
Metabyte Wicked 3d Voodoo2 card required.

Wickedvision Box

Introduction

3d spectacles have been around for a while, many people will be familiar with the green / red lens glasses tricking the eyes into seeing stereo images. In each lens of the Wickedvision spectacles is an LCD shutter. This can effectively blank out the vision from each eye. This is synchronised with dual images displayed on the PC monitor, each image being from a slightly different perspective - one image is seen by the left eye, the second image by the right eye. When done at high speeds this produces the 3d stereo effect. This system was developed by H3D and is now being marketed by Metabyte as Wickedvision for use with Wicked 3D cards. Since writing this review Metabyte are re-marketing these specs as 'Eyescream' - now you can use them with any brand of Voodoo 2 card.

Installation

There are three main parts to the Wickedvision package. Firstly, there's a small pass-thru unit which plugs in between the video card output and the monitor, this requires power from a 9v power supply (included). Secondly, attached to the pass-thru box is an infra red sensor unit which sits neatly on the top of your monitor. Finally there's the H3D specs themselves and you've got a fairly good idea where they go.

H3D pass-thru box

Pass-thru unit

H3D infra red transmitter

Infra red sensor

H3D spectacles

H3d specs

The hardware installation is simple and there's no real need to look at the instructions. This is just as well as the instructions supplied are sparse and offer nothing in the way of diagrams. There are a couple of things I'm not keen about though. Because the pass-thru box is active, it means that if its connected then you have to have it powered on whether you want to use H3D or not, not a major problem but it does mean you require another power socket to be in use whenever your PC is turned on. Also the pass-thru box hangs out the back the video card by about 5 inches. This looks rather precarious  when the monitor cable is plugged into it as it tends to droop. I got around this with a spare Voodoo pass-thru cable - by connecting it between the video-out and the pass-thru unit I was able to relieve the strain off my video card. This does have a slight detrimental effect on 2d picture quality though, the extra cable causing some 'ghosting' in Windows.

Power on the machine and we're ready to roll. Enter the Wicked 3D display properties and select the Wickedvision button, then hit the Test button put on the glasses and hey presto. If everything's working ok, the Metabyte logo should be flying around the screen. I found it took a few minutes before I could see any effect, it's necessary to relax and look at the screen naturally. Once my eyes had adjusted, the logo appeared to fly about 4 inches in front of the screen - pretty cool.

At this point the manual does not indicate there is anything else required before getting the H3D system working. In fact there are a few steps that need to be taken. Firstly, under Glide options in the Wicked control panel, stereo needs to be enabled as well as Metabyte's own Glide wrapper. Then I located the stereo.cfg zip file in my Program_Files\Metabyte directory. This .zip file includes specific stereo.cfg files for use with several different 3d titles to get enhanced stereoscopic effects with the specs. Some games require additional settings changed before the effects can be realised, these details are included within readme files in the same zip.

 

How The Games Play

On to trying out some games. First up is Papyrus' excellent Grand Prix Legends. At the moment the stereo.cfg file included is designed for the demo version. The full version refused to acknowledge this file so I wasn't expecting the 3d effect to work well. The menus in-game produce more graphical glitches then normal but its the gameplay I'm interested in. Into the game and the 3d effect is very smart, however the tyres on the car don't look to be in the correct place and the tyre marks on the track are very faint, making it difficult to hit the right braking point. There's also a major glitch where you can see the road through the gap between the driver's legs, hopefully these issues will be fixed with later releases of the drivers and a stereo.cfg that works.

Grand Prix Legends

GL Quake

Next up is GLQuake. This looked fantastic immediately. I sat and watched the demos over and over again. Shortly after Demo1 starts, there's a point where a grunt launches a grenade straight into the camera. It really does feel like it's coming out of the screen, and you can't help trying to move your head out of the way. Also evident is the laser sight, a replacement for the trusty old crosshair - I don't think it will be any more useful, but it does look fairly smart.
Unreal requires a few items turned off in the advanced options before it will work properly. The initial flyby sequence looks unimpressive, though the birds circling around the tower do provide some depth. Opening a level further into the game called 'Trench' and I was much happier. This level has one of those beasts that throws rocks at you. As with the Quake test, Unreal resulted in much head ducking and diving. Text in game is practically unreadable. As I've played it through a couple of times before there is no need for me to read much of the text. For someone trying to play Unreal for the first time they will find it difficult to gauge the storyline without being able to read the translator messages

Unreal

Need for Speed 3

Need for Speed 3 suffers from unreadable text in the menus also. I should add at this point that it is possible to assign a hot-key sequence to turn the Stereo effect off and on. It's therefore possible to toggle the menus so they are readable. In NFS3 this is ok, but it would still be irritating in a First person shooter. The 3d in game is one of the best so far. The in-car viewpoint with dashboard on providing the best visuals. My only problem is with the gamma settings. NFS3 is renowned for being too dark on certain tracks and the brightness being unadjustable. With tinted specs this is even worse.
Motocross Madness was the only Direct 3D title I tested. Apparently all D3D games are supported by the H3D eyewear. I had difficulty getting the Wickedvision driver to kick in despite having it set as the default. In the end I had to resort to the shortcut keys that I set up. Once its working though, this is one of the cleanest looking titles. For once there's no strange flashing artefacts on screen - its just crisp and clear, looking stunning at 1024x768. Supercross in the dome stadium is fantastic. I'd got bored of this title fairly quickly before, now I'm gonna have to start playing it again as it really looks sooo much better.

Motocross Madness by Micro$oft

Quake 2 CTF

Quake2 is probably the title everyone wants to know about. With the multiplayer scene still very much alive, and several Q2 engine games due to be released, this is the big one. First impressions were not good. Using the Metabyte Glide wrapper there seems to be very little stereo vision. After a little web surfing over at Classy Glasses and it's message board I came across an article by someone suggesting the use of the Open GL wrapper. I'm not sure if I did this correctly or not but I copied the opengl32.DLL file from the Metabyte directory into my Quake 2 directory then selected Open GL from the video options menu. It automatically entered stereo mode and I was greeted by some impressive visuals. All this playing about was worth it. The grenades in Quake 2 now looked easily as good, if not better, than those in Quake. The trails left by the railgun dissipate beautifully into the distance. Even the text is perfectly readable. Now for the downside. To get the best of the visuals requires the resolution to be cranked up at 1024x768. On my Celeron @450 with SLI the Open GL version of Quake 2 yields a timedemo result of about 25fps. Fast enough, but when you've been running at the same resolution with Glide at 75fps you feel a little let down. A single Voodoo 2 probably wouldn't be able to provide the power to run Quake2 in high rez and in Stereo with Open GL, you also won't be able to go higher than 800x600.

 

Uppers

3d effects can be impressive. Compatible with a large range of titles, including everything Direct 3D.

Downers

Can be a pain to configure. Text is sometimes hard to read. Pass-thru box has to be powered all the time. Documentation is virtually non existent. Needs a powerful SLI machine to get good stereo Quake2.

 

Conclusion

I've certainly listed more Downers above. This doesn't mean I'm not impressed. When it's working, the 3d effects that are produced can be fantastic. It's just the trouble you have to go through to get there. Each game generally needs a particular tweak performed to get the full impact. What this really needs is the ability to set up shortcuts for each game, then once everything's working there's no need to fiddle with it any more. The other missing item is a 'Killer App'. While the 3d effect in-game is excellent, the Wickedvision test screen still gives the most pronounced view of the 3rd dimension. What's needed is for developers to sit down and integrate H3d at an early stage of production, not just an afterthought. This could be a while, at least until H3d has a sizeable user base. If you've got the means to buy them, then you won't be disappointed, just don't expect it to improve the gameplay on your existing titles.

 

Addendum (updated Nov 18th 1998)

I've just been testing Tomb Raider 3 with Wickedvision and I have to say it's awesome. It's another Direct 3D title which runs flawlessly out of the box - not a glitch in sight. I'm starting to get the impression that D3D software is far better at providing compatability with H3D than Glide.

Tomb Raider 3 by Core Design

 


Useful links

Classy Glasses - Best H3d page I've found so far. Has lots of good tips on running specific titles.
H3D - the pioneers of this technology (now sadly out of business). Web site lists all compatible cards and applications.
XLER8 - Useful page for h3d game configuration.
Wicked 3d Page - Has a small H3d FAQ and lists all titles approved for use with Wickedvision.

General Hardware Reviews

Reviewfinder - If you're looking for a hardware review, this is an excellent place to start


Test system

Celeron 300A overclocked to 450, 128 meg Ram, Matrox Millennium G200, Wicked 3d 12meg in SLI with Orchid 3d II 12 meg, Iiyama Vision Master Pro 400 17" monitor. For more info and benchmarks on this system click here.


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