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VGA games with only 16 colors

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First post, by Kirben

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What is the best way to tell if older games offer full 256 color VGA support? rather than just 16 colors using an expanded palette. Many older games claim VGA support in their technical specifications, but the screenshots don't look much better than EGA, especially when compared to other ports (32 colors on Amiga).

Are there any game lists available, which make this clear?

Reply 1 of 82, by MusicallyInspired

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I only know of two games (though I'm sure there are more) that use the expanded EGA palette feature and those are Altered Destiny and Les Manley Search For The King. I'd like to see a list of games that support EEGA, actually.

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Reply 2 of 82, by Kirben

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Lemmings was stated as been 16 color VGA only too.

A list of games using EEGA would be perfect, if it exists somewhere. I'm buying more older games lately, and trying to find the best ports available in each case.

Reply 4 of 82, by MusicallyInspired

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Oh wow! Those make sense! There are probably many more that have used EEGA rather than full-on VGA without my realizing it.

EDIT: Back to the original topic, I know that Sierra's games actually had stickers that said "256 colors" and not just "VGA" on the box. At leas they were clear about it. Even some of the screenshots on the back of the boxes would have subtext saying 256 colors (to differentiate from the 16-color alternative versions you could mail away for).

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Reply 5 of 82, by Scali

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The best way to tell is to see how the game initializes the screen mode 😀
For 256 colour, they will use mode 13h, while for 16 colour, they use mode 0Dh (which is the EGA mode).
I always check by running DOSBox in the Visual Studio debugger, and putting a breakpoint inside the int 10h handler (ah=0 is the mode setting, with the requested mode in al).

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Reply 6 of 82, by Kirben

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MusicallyInspired wrote:

Back to the original topic, I know that Sierra's games actually had stickers that said "256 colors" and not just "VGA" on the box. At leas they were clear about it. Even some of the screenshots on the back of the boxes would have subtext saying 256 colors (to differentiate from the 16-color alternative versions you could mail away for).

Thanks for the tip, looks like a few companies mentioned whether 256 colors were offered for VGA on the technical specifications sticker of the box. I notice Strategic Simulations, Inc. lists 256 colors for early VGA support in their titles (Buck Rodgers: Countdown to Doomsday, Dragon Strike) for example.

Sierra seems to be the worse offender, so many of their earlier games were only 16 colors, but stated VGA is supported on the box.

Scali wrote:

The best way to tell is to see how the game initializes the screen mode 😀
For 256 colour, they will use mode 13h, while for 16 colour, they use mode 0Dh (which is the EGA mode).
I always check by running DOSBox in the Visual Studio debugger, and putting a breakpoint inside the int 10h handler (ah=0 is the mode setting, with the requested mode in al).

Easier to just add console output for when video mode is set, if you can compile DOXBox.

That problem is that requires owning the games though, unless a game demo was been offered. Not all game versions are available online, even if I went with try before you buy route.

Reply 7 of 82, by Scali

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At any rate, a lot of early games are 16-colour, for the simple reason that this was the lowest common denominator between VGA, Amiga and Atari ST. So the games could share the artwork between these three platforms.
Also, while VGA and Amiga could do more than 16 colours (256 and 32/64 (EHB) respectively), this came at an extra cost of performance and storage, so that were some other reasons why 16-colour graphics were preferred on these platforms.

I know F29 Retaliator is a good example of a 16-colour game. There's probably lots of others, such as Blues Brothers, Zool, Aladdin etc. But I can't recall all of them 😀

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Reply 8 of 82, by MusicallyInspired

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Actually Sierra is an oddity it seems as they never made a game (to my knowledge) that took advantage of EEGA. Strange as they were always after more colours and went extra lengths to make standard EGA look like many more colours.

Come to think of it, the first Gobliiins game had a 16 colour EEGA version as well as standard EGA and VGA. Just a difference of drivers, though I believe.

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Reply 9 of 82, by Lo Wang

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Kirben wrote:

Many older games claim VGA support in their technical specifications, but the screenshots don't look much better than EGA

I have seen something similar happen with vga games offering vesa support. The thing is, they may not be referring to the number of colors at all but to the fact that these games are also compatible with more advanced video hardware.

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Reply 10 of 82, by robertmo

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Kirben wrote:
Scali wrote:

The best way to tell is to see how the game initializes the screen mode 😀
For 256 colour, they will use mode 13h, while for 16 colour, they use mode 0Dh (which is the EGA mode).
I always check by running DOSBox in the Visual Studio debugger, and putting a breakpoint inside the int 10h handler (ah=0 is the mode setting, with the requested mode in al).

Easier to just add console output for when video mode is set, if you can compile DOXBox.

You can also set
machine=ega
in dosbox's config file

Reply 11 of 82, by kolano

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Kirben wrote:
MusicallyInspired wrote:

Back to the original topic, I know that Sierra's games actually had stickers that said "256 colors" and not just "VGA" on the box. At leas they were clear about it. Even some of the screenshots on the back of the boxes would have subtext saying 256 colors (to differentiate from the 16-color alternative versions you could mail away for).

Thanks for the tip, looks like a few companies mentioned whether 256 colors were offered for VGA on the technical specifications sticker of the box. I notice Strategic Simulations, Inc. lists 256 colors for early VGA support in their titles (Buck Rodgers: Countdown to Doomsday, Dragon Strike) for example.

Don't forget about MCGA, which provided 256 color support prior to VGA.

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Reply 12 of 82, by NewRisingSun

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MCGA came out at the same time as VGA (April 1987). Both were on-board the IBM Personal System/2 line, MCGA on the low-priced Model 30 (and later 25), and VGA on all other models.

Reply 13 of 82, by Scali

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robertmo wrote:

You can also set
machine=ega
in dosbox's config file

But that doesn't work if the software tries to detect a VGA card.
Anyway, I think it's a good idea to have console output for every mode change.

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Reply 14 of 82, by Scali

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NewRisingSun wrote:

MCGA came out at the same time as VGA (April 1987). Both were on-board the IBM Personal System/2 line, MCGA on the low-priced Model 30 (and later 25), and VGA on all other models.

Yea, that's a good point though... MCGA does not have backward compatibility with EGA, so it does not offer a 16-colour mode.
Games that wanted to be compatible with MCGA had to use mode 13h.

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Reply 15 of 82, by Tertz

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Kirben wrote:

What is the best way to tell if older games offer full 256 color VGA support? rather than just 16 colors using an expanded palette.

Make a screenshot, open it in image editor and look at number of colors in the palette. For example, you may do it by saving in 8-bit format file - how many different colors is uses.

especially when compared to other ports (32 colors on Amiga)

Amiga ports in general does not look better than VGA ports.

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Reply 16 of 82, by Spikey

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Very interesting, I would love to know more about this.

Sierra seems to be the worse offender, so many of their earlier games were only 16 colors, but stated VGA is supported on the box.

Did that just refer to compatibility support if you had a new VGA card 'in the day', or was it claiming VGA colours?

Reply 17 of 82, by collector

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Going by the boxes I have that was the system requirements, so yes, it was to indicate it would work on VGA hardware, not to indicate color depth.

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Reply 18 of 82, by MusicallyInspired

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I thought the number of colours were printed on the box regardless whether it said VGA or not.

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Latest release: Heretic Music Pack (12/12/18)