The 3D Imager was the first 3D game system accessory to ever be released, predating Sega's LCD goggles by four years.
The 3D Imager was only sold in the U. S. in early 1984 in limited quantities, as production for the Vectrex ended the same year due to the Video Game Crash. It wasn't until about a dozen years later that 3D games and analog control really took off in home consoles. Today the Vectrex 3D Imager is one of the most searched items in the genre of video games for collectors.
A Color Wheel is to be inserted into the 3D Imager before the unit is plugged into the extra controller port of the Vectrex. The Imager is then to be placed on the player's head like they were wearing a pair of safety goggles. When a "3-D cartridge" is played, the Imager requires extra steps in the drawing of objects. From the Vectrex FAQ: "A single object that does not lie on the plane of the monitor (i.e. in front of or into the monitor) is drawn at least twice to provide information for each eye. The distance between the duplicate images and whether the right eye image or the left eye image is drawn first will determine where the object will appear to 'be' in 3-D space. The 3-D illusion is also enhanced by adjusting the brightness of the object (dimming objects in the background)." The 3D Imager worked by spinning a translucent wheel in front of the player's eyes. Half of the Color Wheel was black, the other was colored, so that only one eye at a time would see the screen. The image was drawn twice onscreen with a slight shift: one for each eye to give "depth" to an image.
This design led to some unique problems with the glasses. Sometimes double images were seen due to natural human focus problems. Likewise, the Wheel produced a gyroscopic effect that caused the disk to want to stay put when a person wanted to turn their head.
Games for the 3D-Imager
Homebrew Games for the 3D Imager
Cancelled homebrew games
- 3D Hellhole by FURY
- Star Fury by FURY
- Although print ads and the logo reads "3D Imager", in the instructions it was printed as "3-D Imager".
- Like with the infamous "Vectrex buzz", the instructions noted that the Imager also produced its own hum, which "does not indicate a malfunction".
- 3D Lord of the Robots also included a 2-D playing mode where the 3D Imager was not required.
- FURY canceled two planned 3D Imager games (although 3D Sector-X would be completed and released later) due to programmer George Pelonis's "imager broke and I really don't miss the 3D headaches". The unfinished demo for Star Fury was included with the release of Vector 21. However, the put "on hold" 3D Hellhole would later be slightly reworked, completed and released as Hellhole: Sector-X IV a few years later, running on a regular Vectrex, rather than needing the Imager to work, as the original 3D Hellhole ran too slow.
- There is a way to get 3D Imager games to run without a 3D Imager or modern day equivalent: plug a controller into the second port, start a new game (of a game that requires the Imager) and start repeatedly pressing down on button 4 on the second controller. Doing this long enough (for one to two minutes, although this could work in as little as half a minute) will cause the game to start running, although very slowly. "Every tap on the button will 'flash' one frame on the screen and the sound if playing will advance to the next step."
- Madtronix's homemade 3D Imager page
- Video of 3D Sector-X and homemade modern day 3D Imager equivalent
- Vectrex 3D Imager Price Information at AuctionPriceTracker (English)
- Vectrex 3D Imager Price Information at AuctionPriceTracker (German)
- Vectrex 3D Imager Price Information at AuctionPriceTracker (Italian)
- Vectrex database entry for 3D Hellhole
- E-mail from Pelonis.
- Vectrex FAQ 6.0
This article was featured from February - March, 2013.