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VGA games with only 16 colors

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Reply 60 of 82, by digger

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The 256-color VGA editions of later Sierra SCI adventure games, as well as Monkey Island 2 from LucasArts, supported EGA at 640x200 in 16-color mode, to provide some level of 256-color 320x200 emulation through dithering.

Reply 61 of 82, by VileR

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Jo22 wrote on 2020-09-16, 21:11:

But isn't that true for EGA altogether ? 😕
When I was very young in the 90s, I pretty much associated EGA as a sub mode of VGA.
Just like that 256c MCGA mode of 320x200 pels..

Yeah, it's true that EGA's "reign" was brief... around a couple of years, starting ca. 1987 in the US, probably a little later elsewhere.
IBM did introduce the EGA in late '84, shortly after the AT; but it actually took a year or more for the 3rd parties to develop compatible chipsets, which drastically reduced component counts (and therefore prices) compared to IBM's discrete-logic monstrosity. IIRC Chips & Technologies was the first one out with an EGA chipset.

Of course, the same companies learned pretty soon to do the same with VGA, so EGA wasn't long for the market. When it comes to the home market specifically, it's easy to date by looking at video support in games (not business software): EGA support started cropping up around 1987, but only two years later VGA support was already becoming pretty common (sometimes in the guise of "MCGA").
 

Jo22 wrote on 2020-09-16, 21:11:
VileR wrote on 2020-09-16, 20:29:

By the time EGA became commonplace, it was mostly compact chipset-based clone cards, and almost all of those had 256K on board from the get go.

It did ? 😳 Or was this more of an overseas thing (USA, Canada) ? I heard that the IBM PC was very popular there and wiped the homecomputer market pretty soon.
I ask, becaue I'm from Western Europe and I have never seen an EGA clone at flea markets in the last 20 years.

As far as I know, even in the US/Canada it was mostly the clones that did it. IBM's prices throughout the 1980s were never modest enough to do well in the home.
Here, in Israel, my dad upgraded our XT clone from monochrome CGA to color EGA in 1990 or so. I don't know what make and model (was too young to care), but it was one of the short clone cards, and definitely 256K from what the VBIOS reported on every boot. 😉

As a "time capsule" sort of thing, here's a comparison of some EGA boards available in the US ca. late 1986: https://archive.org/details/PC_Tech_Journal_v … ge/n85/mode/2up
A couple of things are immediately noticeable in that table: 1) - every single EGA card except IBM's comes with 256K on board; 2) - the non-IBM cards are much, *much* cheaper. And these are all full-sized boards - laters one were shorter, with more tightly integrated components, which helped prices go down even further.
 

By the way, speaking of non-PC platforms, this reminds me of the Sharp AX line of Personal Computers. It had JEGA, Japanese EGA.
In EGA mode, it ran either in IBM mode (640x350 pels) or in its native mode (640×480 pels).

Yeah, back then the Japanese always seemed to get hi-res before everyone else, chiefly because of text requirements. IBM itself had the Japanese version of the JX, with an optional board supporting 720x512... and then the PS/55 (Japanese version of the PS/2), with a 1024x768 display adapter.

IIRC, the "AX" thing was a Microsoft-led attempt at a standard for Japanese text display, but IBM Japan stuck to their PS/55 ways and later made it into their own generic standard with PC-DOS/V, and MS ended up jumping on that bandwagon.

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Reply 62 of 82, by VileR

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digger wrote on 2020-09-16, 23:26:

The 256-color VGA editions of later Sierra SCI adventure games, as well as Monkey Island 2 from LucasArts, supported EGA at 640x200 in 16-color mode, to provide some level of 256-color 320x200 emulation through dithering.

That wasn't always very well done... but I can think of Star Trek 25th Anniversary as one of the better examples.

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Reply 63 of 82, by dr.zeissler

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These later 256color SCI games all suffer from the same problem that they used handdrawn graphics and scanned them and downgraded them to 256colors. I don't like that. If the images are drawn on pc with less colors they are way better, more detailed, crisp and sharp. I think 256color version of indy3 and indy4 as well as monkey1 were computer-generated and not scanned from drawings...but I could be wrong here. Bad example is rise of the dragon. these scanned images are mostly reduced to 16colors...but not 256colors. whould be a great thing if these images were redone...

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Reply 64 of 82, by digger

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dr.zeissler wrote on 2020-09-17, 09:58:

These later 256color SCI games all suffer from the same problem that they used handdrawn graphics and scanned them and downgraded them to 256colors. I don't like that. If the images are drawn on pc with less colors they are way better, more detailed, crisp and sharp. I think 256color version of indy3 and indy4 as well as monkey1 were computer-generated and not scanned from drawings...but I could be wrong here. Bad example is rise of the dragon. these scanned images are mostly reduced to 16colors...but not 256colors. whould be a great thing if these images were redone...

The advantage on the other hand is the possibility of developing high-color/high-res remakes of such games years later, if the original artwork is still available. Not unlike how even very old movies look better when remastered in 4K, by using the original film reels.

Reply 65 of 82, by digger

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VileR wrote on 2020-09-17, 08:37:
digger wrote on 2020-09-16, 23:26:

The 256-color VGA editions of later Sierra SCI adventure games, as well as Monkey Island 2 from LucasArts, supported EGA at 640x200 in 16-color mode, to provide some level of 256-color 320x200 emulation through dithering.

That wasn't always very well done... but I can think of Star Trek 25th Anniversary as one of the better examples.

That looks pretty good indeed. I guess it would only work well if the artists would at least tweak the graphics for such modes somewhat, instead of completely relying on an automated dithering algorithm.

Reply 66 of 82, by VileR

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digger wrote on 2020-09-17, 14:15:

I guess it would only work well if the artists would at least tweak the graphics for such modes somewhat, instead of completely relying on an automated dithering algorithm.

True, but I find that to be a more or less universal rule, regardless of which resolutions/color depths are involved. 😀

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Reply 67 of 82, by pan069

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VileR wrote on 2020-09-16, 20:29:
I think it wasn't a lack of video memory. The original IBM EGA only shipped with 64K, but it was also an expensive and slow beh […]
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I think it wasn't a lack of video memory. The original IBM EGA only shipped with 64K, but it was also an expensive and slow behemoth that didn't catch on in the home market. By the time EGA became commonplace, it was mostly compact chipset-based clone cards, and almost all of those had 256K on board from the get go.

It was probably two other reasons that accounted for most games sticking with 320x200:

  1. Speed - far less stuff to move around video memory than with 640x350 (or 640x200).
  2. Graphical portability - you could support multiple standards (CGA, Tandy, EGA, whatever) by keeping the resolution and just re-coloring the artwork, instead of redrawing it completely. There were also non-PC platforms to think about, and 320x200 provided common ground with a lot of them. Remember that in the EGA era the PC still wasn't the primary platform for the great majority of commercial games.

If I'm not mistaken, EGA was an 8 bit device, at least, I don't think I've ever seen a 16 bit EGA card. Higher resolution means more data to move around and if your data pipe isn't that wide it will most certainly limit what you can do visually. But it depends on the application of course, i.e. puzzle game, high res and action game, low res.

Reply 68 of 82, by Jo22

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pan069 wrote on 2020-09-17, 19:38:
VileR wrote on 2020-09-16, 20:29:
I think it wasn't a lack of video memory. The original IBM EGA only shipped with 64K, but it was also an expensive and slow beh […]
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I think it wasn't a lack of video memory. The original IBM EGA only shipped with 64K, but it was also an expensive and slow behemoth that didn't catch on in the home market. By the time EGA became commonplace, it was mostly compact chipset-based clone cards, and almost all of those had 256K on board from the get go.

It was probably two other reasons that accounted for most games sticking with 320x200:

  1. Speed - far less stuff to move around video memory than with 640x350 (or 640x200).
  2. Graphical portability - you could support multiple standards (CGA, Tandy, EGA, whatever) by keeping the resolution and just re-coloring the artwork, instead of redrawing it completely. There were also non-PC platforms to think about, and 320x200 provided common ground with a lot of them. Remember that in the EGA era the PC still wasn't the primary platform for the great majority of commercial games.

If I'm not mistaken, EGA was an 8 bit device, at least, I don't think I've ever seen a 16 bit EGA card. Higher resolution means more data to move around and if your data pipe isn't that wide it will most certainly limit what you can do visually. But it depends on the application of course, i.e. puzzle game, high res and action game, low res.

Now that I tbink of it, my Schneider Tower AT 220 has a super set of EGA, due to its multi mode graphics chip (video type can be set in BIOS) .
But because it'an on-board chip I don't know if it has a 16-Bit interface. 🙁

I suppose that Super EGA chips were similiar to Super VGA chips or these older "multi-mode" chips (CGA/Hercules/Olivetti/Plantronics).

Except for analogue output and their primary mode, they supported other modes, too.
For example, some Super EGA cards could emulate VGA mode 12h (640x480@16) on a digital multi-sync monitor. 😎

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Reply 69 of 82, by dr.zeissler

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I tested my TowerAT (EGA Onboard) on Nec Multisync3D in 800x600@16colors. It worked.

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Reply 70 of 82, by Cyberdyne

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In reality SuperEGA is AnalogVGA, if i understand it correctly.

I am aroused about any X86 motherboard that has full functional ISA slot. I think i have problem. Not really into that original (Turbo) XT,286,386 and CGA/EGA stuff. So just a DOS nut.

Reply 72 of 82, by Cyberdyne

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Well yes, that 16 colors is so limiting and fixed pallette, but in reality 256 active colors from 262144(16777216) and pallette animations and tricks can make some really good output. Bare in mind Sega Genesis had only 61 active colors from a 512 color pallette, and those games look amazing.

I am aroused about any X86 motherboard that has full functional ISA slot. I think i have problem. Not really into that original (Turbo) XT,286,386 and CGA/EGA stuff. So just a DOS nut.

Reply 73 of 82, by VileR

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"Limiting" isn't necessarily a bad thing. A good artist's reaction is "challenge accepted". 😉

Anyone who was BBSing in the early '90s probably remembers browsing the Games section, and seeing FILE_ID.DIZ descriptions proudly proclaiming "VGA!!!" as a selling point.
I quickly learned to curb my expectations, because more often than not, that meant:

1) hi-res 640x480, but with the most rudimentary and crude Borland BGI graphics
2) actual 256 colors, but the artist(s) didn't necessarily have the slightest idea what to do with them.

The example I always bring up is Overkill vs. Kiloblaster. Same genre, same publisher, same year even. One is fixed-palette EGA, the other is 256-color VGA. But which one was better-looking graphically?

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Reply 74 of 82, by Jo22

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Right, that 's why I was into Windows 3.x game at the time.
It gave me the best of two worlds, so to say.
640x480 pels and 16/256c graphics.. 😁

If only that experimental palletized 640x480x16c driver from Windows 3.0 MME was made available for free.. *sigh*
It would have allowed for so many amazing palettes-cycling effects on machines with plain VGA.

Speaking of palettes, WinGIF was interesting.
It used the 16 standard colours for drawing 4-Bit grayscale graphics on monochrome monitors. It basically chose colours to approximately match the grayscale tones.

Edit: This is slightly off-topic, but Easel picture viewer for Windows 2.x draws nicely using the Standard EGA palette.. The DOS picture viewer "PV" also can use EGA palette.

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In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

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Reply 75 of 82, by Jo22

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Cyberdyne wrote on 2020-09-18, 08:22:

Bare in mind Sega Genesis had only 61 active colors from a 512 color pallette, and those games look amazing.

Yes, indeed. It looked best via RF, I think.
And ok via Composite Video, which also supported the dithering effects still.
NES had ~54 colours, I believe (3c per sprite).
Super Game Boy had 12c or so..

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

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Reply 76 of 82, by Mr_Blastman

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Jo22 wrote on 2020-09-18, 17:51:
Yes, indeed. It looked best via RF, I think. And ok via Composite Video, which also supported the dithering effects still. NES […]
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Cyberdyne wrote on 2020-09-18, 08:22:

Bare in mind Sega Genesis had only 61 active colors from a 512 color pallette, and those games look amazing.

Yes, indeed. It looked best via RF, I think.
And ok via Composite Video, which also supported the dithering effects still.
NES had ~54 colours, I believe (3c per sprite).
Super Game Boy had 12c or so..

The NES could display 25 colors onscreen max at any time from a palette of 54 colors, without using hacks. Of those 25 colors, only 3 could be on a sprite at any given time. Still, 25 colors is a huge improvement over the standard EGA/TGA 16 colors from the bland 16 color palette we were accustomed to on DOS machines.

Reply 77 of 82, by Jo22

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Mr_Blastman wrote on 2020-09-18, 18:57:
Jo22 wrote on 2020-09-18, 17:51:
Yes, indeed. It looked best via RF, I think. And ok via Composite Video, which also supported the dithering effects still. NES […]
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Cyberdyne wrote on 2020-09-18, 08:22:

Bare in mind Sega Genesis had only 61 active colors from a 512 color pallette, and those games look amazing.

Yes, indeed. It looked best via RF, I think.
And ok via Composite Video, which also supported the dithering effects still.
NES had ~54 colours, I believe (3c per sprite).
Super Game Boy had 12c or so..

The NES could display 25 colors onscreen max at any time from a palette of 54 colors, without using hacks. Of those 25 colors, only 3 could be on a sprite at any given time. Still, 25 colors is a huge improvement over the standard EGA/TGA 16 colors from the bland 16 color palette we were accustomed to on DOS machines.

Cool! Thanks for the information! I wasn't sure about the details. A quick web search simply mentioned 54 colours..
By coincidence, the full Windows 3.x GUI palette requires 20 colours. So the NES was capable of providing them, even.
Considering that there also was a 320x200@256c driver in Windows 3.0 MME, the NES could really have displayed the Windows GUI.
If there was an ISA video card with the NES PPU (or a compatible NES clone PPU or a modified NOAC).
And if there weren't the limits of the tiles/sprites with 3 colours each.
Because of this limitation, the driver would have needed to draw everyhing as background.
Or use clever techniques as found on the C64, where they arranged blocks of pixels in such a way that the limitation wasn't obvious.
Anyway, these "what if" games are really fun sometimes, I think.. 😁

PS: Sorry for me diving into Windows territorial, but 16c VGA is somewhat tied to 16-Bit Windows.
If not for Windows, VGA would not have been associated with its full resolution of 640x480@16c.
Likewise, Super VGA mode perhaps would not have been famous as 800x600 (Windows 3.1 shipped with an 800x600 "Super VGA driver"),
which often used the same memory plane and 16c colour palette, but varying mode numbers across different chip makers.
(If memory serves, the original SVGA mode was the only mode to have two VESA VBE numbers.)
Edit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_software_palettes

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

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Reply 78 of 82, by Cyberdyne

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Well Commodore 64 had also only 16 colors to choose from, but it had better and more natural colors. Thath IBM/ZX Spectrum RGBI Pallette is not natural for games.

I am aroused about any X86 motherboard that has full functional ISA slot. I think i have problem. Not really into that original (Turbo) XT,286,386 and CGA/EGA stuff. So just a DOS nut.

Reply 79 of 82, by Jo22

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Cyberdyne wrote on 2020-09-21, 05:02:

Well Commodore 64 had also only 16 colors to choose from, but it had better and more natural colors. Thath IBM/ZX Spectrum RGBI Pallette is not natural for games.

Yes, C64 colours looked softer, more pastel also, I think.

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"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

//My video channel//