QUOD INIT EXIT IIm - and C64 VS ZX Spectrum :o

  • saimo 8 Mar 2018 20:34:46 128 posts
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    As a kid I had a C64 (well, I still have one), but I was so isolated that I didn't even know that there was a C64 VS Spectrum war going on - actually, I've discovered that only a few years ago.
    Now I have noticed this article here on Eurogamer, and in the associated comments I've read a few of the usual remarks that belittle the C64 graphics capabilities.
    Now, I don't care about which machine is declared the winner, but that thing about graphics really bugs me every time - basically, because those remarks are false. So, I thought I'd spend a few words about the matter and, at the same time, present a video game of mine that backs up what I'm saying.

    Let's start from a complete roundup of the C64 native screen modes:
    * 320x200, bitmap, 2 colors per 8x8 block, normal pixels;
    * 320x200, characters, 2 colors per 8x8 character, normal pixels;
    * 320x200, characters, 4 colors per 8x8 character, normal pixels;
    * 160x200, bitmap, 4 colors per 4x8 block, wide pixels;
    * 160x200, characters, 4 colors per 4x8 character; wide pixels.

    Then, let's not forget that there are 8 sprites that, indipendently from the screen mode and from one another, can be:
    * 24x21, 1 color, normal pixels;
    * 12x21, 3 colors, wide pixels;
    * scaled 2x horizontally and/or vertically;
    * multiplexed (i.e. reused at a lower Y position after having been drawn on screen, thus allowing for tens or even hundreds of sprites).

    Should the bare information not suffice, as a visual answer to the common "Lego/blocky" pixels remarks, here are a couple of videos:





    (Note: the second is just a preview, as I'm still working on the game.)

    I'd like to add something also about the palette, which is often accused to be washed out.
    The 16 colors of the C64 are all different hue-wise, they all consists of well-balanced mixes of red, green, and blue, and none of them is overly saturated: this gives a lot of freedom to place pixels one next to another without unpleasant contrast, makes it possible to blend colors smoothly and beautifully, permits to build many color ramps, and allows to represent a wide range of styles/scenarios.

    That said, keep on preferring and enjoying whichever machine you want :)

    Edit: the title is probably misleanding, so I'd like to clarify that I didn't intend to start the debate again (all I wanted to do, as expressly stated above, was to debunk the wrong claims about the C64 graphical abilities).

    Edited by saimo at 16:46:26 09-03-2018
  • up_the_ante 8 Mar 2018 20:52:20 625 posts
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    I had a Spectrum 128k and my best friend had a C64. The C64 generally had better graphics in games we both had such as Dizzy. Most of our games were Codemasters games. I don't know if they didn't optimize them as much as they could have or what but I don't remember any C64 games looking as crisp and clean as your game!
    Also I don't know how much difference it would have made for the vast majority of Spectrum games but I only found out later that unless you dictated in the load command how much memory to use it would default to using 48k and not the available 128k I had.
  • saimo 8 Mar 2018 21:07:09 128 posts
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    @up_the_ante

    Indeed the majority of the C64 games used the multicolour modes (which use the wide pixels), and most of the rest the simple hires modes (i.e. modes almost indentical to the Spectrum mode). The mode I used (Extended Background Color Mode) has been unfortunately neglected, but still it's something that the C64 has and that combines multiple colors with high resolution. On top of that, I have used sprites overlaying and multiplexing to obtain high resolution sprites in up to 5 freely selectable colors.
    When comparing the machines, it is necessary to be careful not to mix what the machines can do with what has been done with them.

    Quick note regarding you comment about memory usage: more memory is a benefit if the game is aware of that, and certainly doesn't extend the graphic capabilities of the machine.

    Edited by saimo at 14:31:14 09-03-2018
  • Thorbz 8 Mar 2018 21:38:17 155 posts
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    The Atari 400/800 spanked both. I owned all three, but the Atari mixed-mode graphics were pretty amazing. The SID sound chip, however, is pretty much in a league of it's own.

    All three great machines, though.
  • Dirtbox 8 Mar 2018 21:52:23 90,462 posts
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    Spectrum wins.

  • Dirtbox 8 Mar 2018 21:56:21 90,462 posts
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    up_the_ante wrote:
    I had a Spectrum 128k and my best friend had a C64. The C64 generally had better graphics in games we both had such as Dizzy. Most of our games were Codemasters games. I don't know if they didn't optimize them as much as they could have or what but I don't remember any C64 games looking as crisp and clean as your game!
    Also I don't know how much difference it would have made for the vast majority of Spectrum games but I only found out later that unless you dictated in the load command how much memory to use it would default to using 48k and not the available 128k I had.
    It would have made a lot of difference in some games, most were 48k though. Starglider was amazing with 128k. Most games had 128k music.

    Edited by Dirtbox at 21:58:54 08-03-2018
  • mal 8 Mar 2018 22:10:45 29,326 posts
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    Colecovision pretty much spanks all of the machines we had as kids. Colecovision Adam if you're only considering the home computers.
  • Dirtbox 8 Mar 2018 22:16:47 90,462 posts
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    Shame it couldn't do anything but sprites.
  • wizbob 9 Mar 2018 01:27:09 892 posts
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    Your game looks lovely. Why are all other C64 games brown, grey and pink?

    Also why did every developer insist on using block-o-vision resolution. The Atari 2600 had games that looked higher resolution than the c64.

    That said, Spectrum graphics are definitely an acquired taste.
  • mal 9 Mar 2018 02:08:37 29,326 posts
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    I guess lots of C64 games were brown because a lot of them were inspired by the action movies Commando and Rambo. That and because the Amstrad machines and the Spectrum couldn't do brown, so it was a way of showing off. The BBC micro also couldn't do grey, or a decent pink, but only spods owned those, of course.
  • saimo 9 Mar 2018 14:20:28 128 posts
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    wizbob wrote:Your game looks lovely.
    Thanks :)

    Why are all other C64 games brown, grey and pink?
    Sorry, I can't agree: games were in all colors.

    Also why did every developer insist on using block-o-vision resolution.
    That's because multicolor mode is easy and gives a lot of freedom (including mixing with hires, which was quite common - check this out). And also because of a reason explained in the article I linked to: the RF signal and the CRT TVs didn't handle exactly well the small hires pixels. Monitors were quite good, of course, but they couldn't be considered a standard piece of equipment.
    These days we have good S-Video cables that allow attaching the C64 to LCDs and get a decent/good picture, and also software and hardware emulators, so it makes more sense to go hires.

    Anyway, hires and EBCM have never been exploited as much as they deserved, and that's basically why all my games are entirely hires:
    * QUOD INIT EXIT mixes bitmap hires with EBCM;
    * QUOD INIT EXIT IIm, as mentioned above, uses EBCM;
    * MAH uses characters hires during the game, and bitmap hires in other places.

    Edited by saimo at 14:33:08 09-03-2018
  • wizbob 10 Mar 2018 01:17:41 892 posts
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    Those blended hi-res c64 graphics are amazing and analogous to the hi-colour advances on the Spectrum over the last few years.

    I can't really get past those c64 colours though; even with really good artists working around it, they still look awful to me. Ultimately it is a matter of taste - I just prefer the garish Spectrum colours to the brown/grey/pink palette.

    Manfred Trenz's Enforcer is a good case in point; Hires background, stretchy-pixels in brown/grey/pink in the foreground. 'Mayhem In Monsterland' actually succeeds by avoiding that part of the palette.

    On the other hand, this criticism of the Spectrum from Lemon64 struck a chord with me;
    'Play Robocop on Speccy for example - it's a great game, better than the C64 one - but sometimes you become aware of it. You become aware that this little window is the entire game; the background is moving around you, not the other way round, and that you're controlling the background and just aiming Robocop a bit. That's not all it is but that's one sensory perception I feel when it happens. It's hard to describe but this awareness instantly makes any Spectrum game I'm playing unplayable. Some games make it really obvious really fast, some are good at hiding it (eg the Dizzy games).'

    Without hardware sprites, sometimes you really do get the impression that the Spectrum is barely doing enough to fool your persistence of vision.
  • up_the_ante 10 Mar 2018 02:51:42 625 posts
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    I never knew that the Spectrum couldn't display brown! I just looked at screenshots of Dizzy that had trees and rocks in them I thought were brown and it's just red and black pixels interpolated.

    I did tend to prefer Spectrum games that displayed everything in one colour. They had a lot more detail in the art work. Games like this -

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