VOGONS


First post, by Nicknine

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Flashback runs in an unusual video mode, 256x224, which I believe comes from Mega Drive since that's the platform this game was originally developed for. Oddly, DosBox doesn't aspect correct this mode even with aspect=true and neither do LCD monitors so it appears pillarboxed in a 4:3 frame which leaves me confused about its true aspect ratio.
Has anyone played this game on an authentic DOS machine with a CRT monitor? How does it look there? Is it like the first image or the second one?

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    Pillarboxed (asppears like this on DosBox and LCD monitors)
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Reply 1 of 11, by leileilol

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I haven't played flashback but i've played NESticle at 256x224x8 before on real CRTs some decades back and it looked more like picture 2, probably using 320x240@60's frequencies on a Trio64. (also, unrelated and not the same mode, but the odd pixel aspect 256 mode NESticle had was 256x256 since it'd be squished with no doublescan, and that could be knobbed up for natural scanlines)

apsosig.png

Reply 2 of 11, by Silanda

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This is something I've wondered about too. This kind of thing even causes debate within console fandom about what's the "correct" way to display things, because while it can be demonstrated what aspect ratio was displayed on TVs of the time, there can be the question of what aspect ratio the art in certain games was actually created for. Did the creators of the artwork take into account that the art would be displayed with non-square pixels and would therefore be displayed stretched at 4:3 ratios, or did they create art that looked correct with square pixels but is distorted on actual hardware? Hell, I've bumped into a few games where this is even mixed up because they change res in-game but use the same assets and didn't seem to have considered the difference in aspect ratio (Primal Rage on the Mega Drive/Genesis does this, for example).

Flashback's a good example because at 4:3 ratio the Mega Drive/Genesis version looks like the top picture. The problem is that there are some parts of the art, such as that blue thing around the selected item in the top right corner and some fans in the background of the second level, that look like they should be circular but are stretched into ovals. At 1:1 pixel aspect it looks like the second picture, and the pieces of artwork that appear to depict circles are circular. Emulated I always play Mega Drive Flashback at 1:1 pixel aspect because while it's not what I actually saw when I played it back in the day, the art looks like it was created to look correct that way.

I did play the PC version on a CRT back in the day too, but I can't remember what it looked like and I suspect I would have used the monitor's controls to fit it to the screen anyway.

Reply 3 of 11, by jmarsh

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Silanda wrote on 2020-10-08, 13:12:

Hell, I've bumped into a few games where this is even mixed up because they change res in-game but use the same assets and didn't seem to have considered the difference in aspect ratio (Primal Rage on the Mega Drive/Genesis does this, for example).

Not to mention some games that came with both DOS and Windows versions, ran at different resolutions depending which one you used. For example a game that used 320x200 (4:3) for cutscenes under DOS would play the same video using letterboxed 320x240 (1:1) under windows.

Reply 4 of 11, by Nilex

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After spending considerable time over the years looking into correct aspect ratio (I'm kind of a purist) I came to the realization the 'correct' is what feels best to me. If soldiers in Doom need to look fat so sphere upgrades (among other things) appear spherical then so be it. Easier to aim if nothing else. As Silanda mentioned, even designers had trouble maintaining consistency in own games' art. Early Wing Commanders (or was it Privateer) is a good example: in one ratio planets were spherical; in the other dashboard display instruments were. So how do you choose? Point being what CRT displays isn't necessarily definitive.

In Flashback case the correct way seems to be the bottom example, but top one feels more natural to my eyes. Maybe additional info provided by game's cutscenes would probably convince me one way or the other. Sorry I couldn't be of more help. Best I can offer, going off few decent YT videos I found: all used bottom pillarboxed 4:3. Maybe you could ask some retro gaming dude from YT to send you a screeny of his CRT (probably what I would do as extreme measure). If you ever do find out please post your result, mtf game is on my to-do list.

Reply 6 of 11, by krcroft

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The closer you can get to the original target platform, the better -- because that's likely what the artists tested on.

Late 80s and 90s game companies were like school kids trading pokemon cards in terms of re-licensing and porting successful games to new platforms. Meanwhile the original developers and artists were already working on new projects and watched some other company port their game.

I can only imagine those people stuck with porting games similarly wrestled with these nuances.. with the results being like the Game of Telephone or Chinese Whispers ("Players form a line or circle, and the first player comes up with a message and whispers it to the ear of the second person in the line. The second player repeats the message to the third player, and so on.")

Reply 7 of 11, by jmarsh

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leileilol wrote on 2020-10-10, 00:01:

Don't rely on aspect=true to be true for everything though. The Incredible Machine/Toons games and Jazz were always letterboxed for example

Jazz was letterboxed with a 1:1 pixel aspect ratio. That's the same ratio that DOSBox uses to display it when aspect=true, it just skips displaying the blank areas of the screen (the letterboxing). But if you view it fullscreen on a 4:3 monitor it will have the same vertical padding added to centre the image.
I suspect flashback is likely the same situation.

Reply 8 of 11, by MrFlibble

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Which was the original platform Flashback was developed for? If it's one with square pixels than I guess that would mean the sprites and backgrounds were made for that.

Does Amiga have square pixels?

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Reply 9 of 11, by Hanamichi

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I remember playing Flashback on the Amiga and SNES, both looked like the 2nd picture on a CRT. Except for the cutscenes.

Like this (not my pic)

GcfCUDbkAU1aPgzmGNXEr70HNsT-1HJkaak37KChr6w.jpg?width=640&crop=smart&auto=webp&s=299fabc152be456f1f786802e5d315c2d708b9d2

I think the whole correct aspect ratio topic varies game to game and is influenced by both artists and devs.

Reply 10 of 11, by MrFlibble

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Hanamichi wrote on 2020-11-15, 01:17:

I think the whole correct aspect ratio topic varies game to game and is influenced by both artists and devs.

I completely agree! I just thought that if we solve this on a case-by-case basis, then knowing that the art was originally created for a system with square pixels (and then not altered for non-square pixels when ported to DOS) would help determine the "correct" way of presenting that game.

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Reply 11 of 11, by Nicknine

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MrFlibble wrote on 2020-11-14, 18:29:

Which was the original platform Flashback was developed for? If it's one with square pixels than I guess that would mean the sprites and backgrounds were made for that.

Does Amiga have square pixels?

I've literally explained this in the OP. >_>