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What's the proper way of playing old, low resolution games on modern monitors?

Discussion in 'General Gaming' started by J_C, Mar 28, 2017.

  1. J_C One Bit Studio Patron Developer

    J_C
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    Since there are many intelligent, knowledgeable and polite people on the Codex, I'd like to get your opinion about the best way of playing the game's of old on modern monitors. When you play a game which has a resolution of 640x480 on a monitor with a native resolution of 1080p, things can get a bit messy.

    Do you know any tricks to get the most out of this situation? Maybe there is a way to only scale up to a certain resolution, or there is a preferred way to scale up the image? I dunno, I'm sure you have a trick for this.
     
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  2. Maxwell's Demon Arcane

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    I usually set my monitor's resolution in my graphics card settings to whatever the game is in, and also separately set both the monitor and graphics card to "maintain aspect ratio", black bars and all. I don't know of any more nuanced solution to this.
     
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  3. Hoaxmetal Arcane

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    Black bars are your friend in this situation.
     
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  4. J_C One Bit Studio Patron Developer

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    Does it make a difference for you if you set the low resolution in the graphics settings first, instead of letting the game upscale by default? With using maintain aspect ration of course.
     
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  5. MotherMachinae Arcane

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    I'm into figures and modelling and one of the tools used there help me a lot when dealing with old low res games.
    [​IMG]
    Hope it will help you too...
     
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  6. Maxwell's Demon Arcane

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    Sometimes a game won't start or will glitch so as to be unplayable if you don't set your resolution before running your game, so you should always set the resolution first. Some games read the monitor's native resolution and will glitch anyways if you don't manually set the resolution in their ".ini" settings file.
     
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  7. Jigawatt Arcane

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    DxWnd is the way to go. The main use is just to intercept fullscreen games and run them in a window, but you can also override the window size per profile and it will upscale for you. There's about a million options and the UI is pretty clunky so you might want to google some DxWnd guides, but it's the best I've found besides mods for specific games.
     
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  8. J_C One Bit Studio Patron Developer

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    This seems great, I will definitely try it. Thanks a lot! :)
     
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  9. iZerw Cipher

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    Buy a good CRT.
     
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  10. agris Arcane Patron

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    You've asked a question very close to my neurotic heart, let me see if I can help.

    First, some basics. You probably know all of this, but maybe it'll help someone else. My goals are always full screen, aspect-ratio correct without letterboxing. I always check PCGW and WSGF before I dive into playing these old games, as the best advice is usually already there.

    You want any/all scaling in 2D games to be aspect ratio (AR) correct. Otherwise, UI elements and and the entire game will be skewed, circles become ovals, etc. You also want to minimize sub-pixel rendering in 2D games, if possible. For your 1920x1080 monitor, that means playing games in fullscreen 960x540 perfectly maps 4 of your monitor's pixels to 1 of the games. This keeps text and art looking crisp. This is how I play Fallout 1/2 or Mechcommander Gold, for example.

    All games have different solutions to the above, but dosbox is the most general. I'll cover dosbox, Windows-based 2D games and 3D games.


    1. Games in Dosbox


    Use Dosbox SVN Daum build to get friendly things like resizable windows and better filter options. Because no DOS games natively support widescreen, you have to decide if you want letterboxing or to play in windowed mode. I play in windowed mode, with the game AR-scaled to the largest integer of it's native resolution that will fit on my screen. A lot of old games, like Ultima Underworld, are native 320x200 pixels, so forcing dosbox to render (windowresolution=) at 1600x1000 is the largest integer (5) you can render a window in that fits on your screen. If you think 320x200 is widescreen, it isn't. CRT pixels weren't square, so while 320/200 = 1.6, i.e. widescreen on a digital LCD screen, it was actually 4:3 on an analog CRT. Dosbox will do the heavy lifting on that for you, just keep aspect=true and multiply the game's native resolution by an integer and set that resolution as your dosbox window resolution.

    Some people love adding blurry shit filters to their games making them look like surrealist paintings, but not me. Rather than use any scaler in Dosbox (HQ5x etc), I use the Lanczos.fx pixel shader which takes a slight bit of the harshness off of 320x200 blasting your eyeballs at 1600x1000. I've also found a CRT pixel shader that is appealing, but you might not. You can see the results of some testing I did for UU1 here: http://www.rpgcodex.net/forums/inde...rworld-i-ii-thread.72708/page-36#post-4886579


    2. 2D Windows games

    These are the games that I don't want to play in 1080p because they usually have a lot of character in the art which is completely lost when everything is tiny. This is also where searching ahead of time can really help you, because a lot of these games need .exe hacks, or launchers or injectors to render at higher resolution. I prefer 'perfect' scaling as I mentioned above for the Fallouts, but it isn't always practical. I don't want to play the IE games in 960x540, so I use 1280p or 1440p generally. The text sharpness takes a bit of a hit, but I get to appreciate the art rather than watch ants dance around the screen. Generic wrappers can be useful for these games, I use the 'largest integer' method discussed above to play Diablo 1 in a 1280x960 window, or find hacked EXE's like Mechcommander.


    3. 3D Windows games

    Here you have a lot of options, and the game art generally doesn't lose its appeal when rendered at a higher resolution. Because these 3D games make their graphics calls through Windows APIs, a wrapper like dgvoodoo2 can be used to elegantly render the games in higher resolutions, widescreen, etc. It works for DirectX 7 and up games, and games that used 3DFX's glide system. I've used it to play Omikron at 1080p AR-correct and it it works perfectly. This link has some basic instructions on how to use it, because it isn't intuitive at first. You're generating a custom .dll using voodoo and dropping it in the same folder as the game's .exe. Unfortunately this method doesn't work for all games, like Silent Storm which requires hacking the EXE

    felipepepe might have some suggestions too, good luck.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2018
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  11. Excidium II Self-Ejected

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    Agris do you know how to use cg shaders with dosbox?
     
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  12. agris Arcane Patron

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    Never heard of a cg shader.. is that a proprietary nvidia pixel shader scripting language? i know how to use pixel shaders in dosbox.
     
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  13. felipepepe Prestigious Gentleman Codex's Heretic Patron

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    Agris and the others already said everything, but I really wanna reinforce you should not play 2D games like Fallout or Planescape: Torment in high resolutions, as the art gets too small and you might see more stuff than the designers intended.

    Shit like this is just wrong:

    [​IMG]

    It kills any weight the area has, reducing it to a toybox.
     
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  14. agris Arcane Patron

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  15. J_C One Bit Studio Patron Developer

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    Thanks agris and felipepepe , these really help. I already knew about some of it, but I have never thought about using the same aspect ratio as the native resolution of my monitor (e.g. 960x540 for 1080p). Despite it being so obvious lol.
     
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  16. agris Arcane Patron

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    You have, that's any resolution that is 16:9, but I think you mean playing so that your pixels scale perfectly. If you can avoid 1 game-rendered pixel going to 2.73 real monitor pixels, that will keep your old 2D games looking nice and crisp.

    edit: also, those weird 960x540/600 resolutions require adding to the nvidia or ati driver, fyi.
     
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  17. Mozg Arcane

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    Not to mention that huge expanses of tiny tiled sprites look crappy and are really straining on your eyes.

    That said I like straight widescreen hacks (keeping the pixel density) when feasible.
     
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  18. J_C One Bit Studio Patron Developer

    J_C
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    Umm, what do you mean by this?
     
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  19. agris Arcane Patron

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    this explains it.

    you make video games, eh?
     
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  20. J_C One Bit Studio Patron Developer

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    My only game had only one resolution, 640x480. :D

    But thanks anyways.

    Another quick question:
    Do I get the same result if I don't mess around with the desktop resolution, but I have a mod for a 2D game that puts it to 960x540 resolution. So when I launch the game, and it goes fullscreen, it still keeps the pixel perfect aspect ratio.
     
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  21. agris Arcane Patron

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    hey, not everyone's an engineer. congrats on publishing something, that can't be easy.
     
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  22. J_C One Bit Studio Patron Developer

    J_C
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    Thanks. :)

    Another quick question:
    Do I get the same result if I don't mess around with the desktop resolution, but I have a mod for a 2D game that puts it to 960x540 resolution. So when I launch the game, and it goes fullscreen, it still keeps the pixel perfect aspect ratio.
     
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  23. agris Arcane Patron

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    yes, but that's where telling your display driver that 960x540 is a valid resolution comes into play. maybe some drivers have it built in, my ATI/AMD one does not and I had to add it.

    edit: also, why having the game render at 960x540 but stretched to a 1920x1080 render window is the most elegant solution. it doesn't require the user to add any resolutions. see my earlier links wrt to fallout.
     
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  24. Nekot-The-Brave Prestigious Gentleman Arcane Patron

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    Screen scaling is usually the best option. Most games and dosbox can do that.
     
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  25. Jigawatt Arcane

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    Ah, the Terry Davis school of design
     
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