There’s few old console games I genuinely miss playing. Generally speaking they’ve not only aged graphically but in terms of design.

Old graphics bother me in many cases. Usually they’re a mess of terrible 3D models with blurry textures that prevent me from getting into things. The models may be bad but usually the kicker for me is the textures. They didn’t look great at the time and by comparison they end up looking about as good as the paper graphics in Dishonored.

The other issue is the fact that they were usually rendered at 240p, i.e. 320x240. Lovely.

I suppose to some of you these numbers mean nothing of any real value. To be honest I’ve been looking at them for years and they’re second nature to me. In order to remedy that have a diagram:

My monitor is 1080p and as such a 240p image has 27 times fewer pixels than it. Another picture might help put that into perspective: resolution-explanation-2

So why not just upscale it then?

The problem there is that the game wasn’t designed for higher resolutions. In fact the textures were barely good enough for 240p!

Some games suffer more than others. Mario Kart 64 looks surprisingly good, for example. The racers aren’t 3D models, they’re actually sprites. The environments are kept simple to prevent things looking dreadful and for the most part it works.

mariokart64

To me sitting on a sofa playing that upscaled on an old CRT TV back in the day that was fine. I’m not at my TV though – I’m at my desk where the screen is less than a metre from my face.

The above image might look okay on this blog (where most images are only 460 pixels wide) but if it was upscaled to 450% (to fit my screen) it’d look like a bit like this:

upscaled-mk64

Yeah.

The CRT displays found  in old TVs didn’t have a fixed native resolution and so didn’t really upscale things, they just showed them at the resolution provided, up to a maximum threshold. It meant that even four person multiplayer was feasible. Imagine how tiny those little windows would be on a modern 1080p TV!splitscreen

LCD monitors and the like have a fixed number of pixels and attempting to show lower resolution stuff on them involves scaling and interpolation. Generally it gets ugly.

What this boils down to is the fact that the N64 is staying in that drawer in my parents’ place.

What about emulation though?

Well I’m starting to experiment with it for the N64. It’s not my first time playing with one but it’s been a long time. These days I have good enough hardware to render things at my native resolution and run masses of post processing on it to tidy things up as best as possible. There’s also efforts to retexture these old games to make them a lot more presentable.

Here’s Star Fox 64 using Unaided Coder’s texture pack:

unaided-coder-starfox64

Not bad, eh?

More on that tomorrow though.

0 responses to "I’d forgotten how good the searchlights look on the easy track."

Leave a Reply