The gritty VGA look: Why do you like it?

TimeOfDeath said:

320x200 gives me eyesores too, yet I'm perfectly happy with 640x480.


This.

I will say though, Doom simply isn't a high-spec game for the most part. Architecture isn't generally detailed; and when it is, it's limited in scope. It doesn't need to look all that, the graphics in general serve a purpose extremely well. The 256-colour palette may not be ideal to some, but it has helped establish that familiar atmosphere -- without the muddy colour-banding fades (like in truecolour screen modes) the feeling of relative blindness isn't there, and some of the tension and fear factor is lost.

Simply put it is what it is and does as it does. Changing that changes the game; in very minute ways, admittedly, but changes it nonetheless.

Why anyone would 'like' the VGA look is because that's what Doom is. You can call that nostalgia if you like, but that's ignoring the fact that it's the spec that Doom was designed to, and as such fits like a glove.

But not in 320x200 because aliasing on walls you're half a foot from is fuckugly no matter who you are. ;)

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I don't like res > 320x200 because repeating texture patterns stand out more (the low-res pixelation hides that stuff pretty well, so it looks more natural to me).

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320x200 has a nice texture to it. I find that higher resolutions tend to make everything look really flat, particularly on Vanilla levels.

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exp(x) said:

320x200 has a nice texture to it.

Really? To me it is a horrible, pixelated, blocky, shimmering, indestinct mess. I can't understand how I was able to play with it for so many years and not feel compelled to shove rusty nails through my eyeballs to prevent me ever seeing it again.

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It doesn't look so bad. PSX Doom/Final Doom is even lower in resolution and it's perfectly playable.

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I require scanlines in my emulators, or some kind of "this looks like a TV" filter, because that's how I played all my console games, and actually I think that games were designed with scanlines in mind; lettering in particular looks messed up without them.

Along the same lines, I think Doom's artwork was largely designed for the technology. I'll contradict myself a little and say that I like 640x400, but I don't like any other mods (interpolation, widescreen, etc.). Hi-Res just looks out of place. For an extreme example of this, take PCSX or ePSXe and turn on super-hi-res sprites. They look completely wrong.

Some things I think can be elegantly added. Y-shearing, while kind of horrible, seems to fit pretty well, and I think _bruce_'s work on truecolor looks amazing. So it's not a hard & fast rule, and while there's certainly a strong element of nostalgia to it, I think it's more "this looks *right*".

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GoatLord said:

It doesn't look so bad. PSX Doom/Final Doom is even lower in resolution and it's perfectly playable.


'Perfectly playable' doesn't imply it looks good.

I have to agree with Enjay: 320x200 was the sole reason I stopped playing Doom in 1996. I only came back when I found the first working source ports offering decent resolutions some 2.5 years later. Doom95 never did it for me. Too buggy.

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The gritty VGA look: Why do you like it?

Like in all appreciated things, habit is involved, and it's one of the many visual things that has come to characterize this old game.

Some people mentioned nostalgia, and it may be their case, but nostalgia is a yearning for something lost that's elicited by an object. I don't feel that. I appreciate the game today like an old friend, not because of how I felt about it in 1995. The people who don't prefer its 256-color rendering anymore may feel nostalgia for it sometimes (with an occasional "ah, back in the day when DOOM was new...") and not those who still use it and like it that way.

Thus, even a younger person who wasn't around when DOOM came out can pick this old game up, grow accustomed to its archaic rendering, and enjoy it as such. It happens.

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Hmm, this is worth quoting:

Dragonsbrethren said:

Why are so many people unaware of the fact that you can disable (bi/tri)linear filtering in GL ports? You can have your pixelation in a hardware renderer and it still looks nothing like software because of the lighting (and sprite clipping, among other things).

I prefer Software because of the lighting style, but it's definitely one of those "I'm just used to it" things, such that if the original game looked like it does in GL then I would probably prefer it that way. :P

But the texture filtering is worth mentioning: I absolutely prefer being able to see sharp pixels on textures and sprites over having them turned into a muddled mess, because at that point it is taking away from Doom's art style by blurring it all up. Doom sprites/textures were made to look good pixelated, much like the 2D games of yore, and any attempt to fudge up that look (excluding of course new projects/graphics/whatnot that actually take advantage of and intend for filtering, if there are any) will definitely burn the Xasereyes. With sharp pixels, it's no longer an "it was meant to look that way" and more of an "it actually looks legitimately better that way", IMO. :P

Resolution's fine at whatever. I'll play vanilla mods in Chocolate sometimes, but have no qualms to switching up to ZDoom or EE at 1280x960. That way you can see more pixels. :D

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Graf Zahl said:

'Perfectly playable' doesn't imply it looks good.

I have to agree with Enjay: 320x200 was the sole reason I stopped playing Doom in 1996. I only came back when I found the first working source ports offering decent resolutions some 2.5 years later. Doom95 never did it for me. Too buggy.


Doesn't look good? I think it looks great. But that's because I love the way huge pixels look. I like grit, aliasing, lack of mip mapping or texture filtering. It's such ancient technology, it tends to look strange to me with filtering and ultra high resolutions. I never have it past 800x600 on the PC.

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Xaser said:

Hmm, this is worth quoting:

I prefer Software because of the lighting style, but it's definitely one of those "I'm just used to it" things, such that if the original game looked like it does in GL then I would probably prefer it that way. :P

Yeah, I definitely agree. Software's lighting method is different than GL, not inherently better, but it was definitely done that way on purpose, and it's how the iwad levels, at the very least, should look in my opinion. The way light diminishes wasn't really a limitation (the colormaps being restricted to the palette, on the other hand, were), unlike a lot of other things in the software renderer. (I doubt anyone could make a serious argument that sector flats are supposed to jump all over the place as you move over the line bordering them, for example.)

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I actually like the 'gritty' look in games other than Doom. For me, it has nothing very little to do with authenticity or nostalgia. And it isn't just VGA:

For instance, in my recent playthroughs of Black Mesa (free Source engine remake (recommended)), Amnesia: the Dark Descent, and STALKER, I turned the resolution down nigh as low as it would go. Then tweaked the other display settings to preference (I found that adding lots of ambient occlusion enhanced the obscured, dark look). STALKER in particular looks amazing when toned-down... In comparison, I went over to my friend's to play it on his triple-monitor, dual-GFX, octo-CPU system, and yeah, it looked incredible! But it wasn't scary anymore. Everything was too crisp, in a way that actually made it look more artificial than my humble setup at home.

Even when Half-Life 1 and STALKER first came out, I played them on higher settings than that, but recently I've found myself enjoying lower resolutions when gaming. I find it more immersive, not being able to see everything crystally-clear. It forces my eyes to fill in some of the missing details with my imagination, and that's my excuse for why I think certain games actually look better at lower resolutions: at very low resolutions, with lots of aliasing, you don't notice things like polygons and textures so much, and you're free to just play and enjoy.

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