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Jul 22, 2006



Are you kidding? Totally! Well, at least it's way more fun. When I was in New Zealand, I had a home theater set-up with a projector and PC... playing MMOs life-sized was such a different experience. There was something incredibly visceral and utterly delightful about flying in CoH, for instance, life-sized. I've been missing it ever since. Sigh. Nate, I'm not so happy that you've reminded me about this. Hard to look at the laptop screen now.



On a similar tangent; I've seen a couple of studies that show that multiple monitors can improve productivity at work, depending on what kinds of tasks you're engaged in. My crew is comprised of writers and art directors (designers), and my designers would keel-haul me if I took away their two-monitor rigs. I don't design much anymore, and, when I've tried the two-monitor set up for short spurts, have found it distracting... but they tell me it takes a couple weeks to get really into it. Their set ups, though, make real sense for them. In Photoshop, one way to work it is to have one entire monitor (the larger one, usually) dedicated to the design pane, and the other monitor used for tool tear-offs and other windows (browser, email, etc.)

Hadn't thought of this in terms of games. But it would be neat in an MMO/VW to have a dual-monitor rig where one was dedicated to "view stuff" and the other to "HUD stuff." Or to have a monitor/projector that's so large and/or high-rez that all the HUD/menu crap could be relegated to a very small (relative) part of the screen geography when desired. I have (new word alert!) screenzophrenia when it comes to games; on the one hand, I love a screen totally devoid of anything but "game view." A clean, nothin-but-world panorama of what my character sees or (3rd person) my avie and the world. On the other hand, I like lots of game data.

Split screens good for split game perzonality?


Andy brings up some interesting points on HUD and menu design; I'm running a dual-monitor setup myself, and in many games I'd kill to be able to switch my eyes from one screen to the other for the purpose of checking stats, inventory, what have you. Usually in a harsh situation like you'll find in a WoW raid, bringing up inventory for a single check can be the difference between life and death; it also breaks the immersion quality.

I do something of the sort for windowed games, too, when supported: on one monitor I might have a few notepad windows open, a chat screen or two. On the other -- pure VW. The issue with this is primarily functionality for games which support neither dual screens or windowed mode...or, as the majority of groups also seem to avoid, a single native-res screen which doesn't cause the other to break down crying.

A good deal of this is illustrated in recent DS games. If you look at menus for certain recent games (Metroid and Castlevania, anyone?) the interface is 'cleaner' than otherwise. Only the most relevant information needs to constantly be displayed on whichever is in use. The distinction between the two screens also seems to allow the player to distinguish data and play more easily...it might just be the brain's sorting mechanism going haywire on my part, though.

Finally, probably the most humerous to me; you have older games with nigh-flawless support for multiple monitors. I'm 95% sure that Half-Life, released in 1998, had it...older games like DOOM 2 might have, but I wouldn't be willing to put money on it. Anyone out there know just how far back it's gone, for a reference point?


I wonder how many people, if they could have one display for synthetic information (direct immersive interaction with the world) and a second display for analytic information (indirect detail about the world -- inventory, stats, XP), would put "world" on the left and "details" on the right?

Might be an interesting test of the left-brain/right-brain theory....


@Bart: Interesting... Merchandising studies show that the majority of the people in the US (even left-handed ones) turn right upon entering a retail establishment, if no other major "factor" (signage, compelling lighting, huge apes with ray guns, etc.) is propelling them to the left. It may be a "we drive on the right" thing. I haven't seen a UK or "left hand driving country" study of the same phenom, but it's one part of merchandising design you have to take into consideration. There's all kinds of quirky UI stuff that I've gotten into with designers in terms of "where do we put the buttons" etc.

My crew usually doesn't have enough desk real estate to completely choose optimal layout; the "big" monitor goes in-front, and the "other" goes "on the side." Which side? Whichever one is available.


Andy, it might be still more entertaining to test that left/right thing in a culture that writes from top to bottom (Asian), or -- even better -- left to right (Arabic).

Another thought: instead of the Wall O' Monitors, would a visor-mounted display produce the same effect described in the OP (for a lot less cost/bulkiness)? The article says: "In a more recent study, Patrick et al. [2000] compared various display technologies, with comparable visual angles, and their effects on the spatial information users acquired by navigating through a VE. They found that while users performed significantly worse in forming cognitive maps and remembering the environment on a desktop monitor, they performed no differently using a headmounted display or a large projection display." I'm not sure what "headmounted display" means, but it might be worth studying whether a dual-lens visor system could deliver results similar to multiple monitors.

And if you put a divider between the lenses, you might even be able to explore more of that left-brain/right-brain thing.



On "Discoveries this Week" last week they had a big, hollow, VR ball you get inside and run around in. Like a hamster ball for gamers. It's on tracks/rollers and monitors your movements, accelerations, jumping, etc. You wear a head-mounted display (wireless) and glove (also wireless).

I want that. I do not have $90,000.

I am hosed.


Wow what an astonishing revelation... Painfully obvious research results aside, there is a more important difference between desktop and mobile games: priority.

Mobile games have be able to take a back seat to other real world events; the arrival of a train, the ringing of a cell phone, etc. Desktop games are a primary occupier of the player's time and as such can be designed to be played uninterrupted.


Wow what an astonishing revelation... Painfully obvious research results aside

Heh, I don't think this is fair in the sense I implied in the post above...

To my crude google-metrics, I count several hundred instances of where the word immersion/ immersive/... has been used on Terra Nova. I guarantee you that noone has a clue what it means when used by someone else, simply because it has taken on so many meanings.

Now my pop theory holds that Tetris can be "immersive", and so can WoW, and so can Second Life, and so can email. But frankly these are pretty useless claims. The point of research is as much about refining and discovering the boundaries of ideas as it is about discovering new meaning.

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