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PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2018 7:07 pm 
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Pointless rant.

I have issues with the phrase "8 bit graphics". like, how are we measuring bits?

the NES has 2 bits per pixel. vs SNES max 8 bits per pixel, or 4 bits per pixel standard. by that the NES is 1/4 as good. Technically, gameboy is 2bpp, and it clearly has worse graphics than NES.

Maybe color palette?

NES has 6 bits 0-3f of color to choose from...oh let's say 4 bits of palette 0-f, vs SNES has 15 bits of color on a (what is it ?) 7 bits of palette. that would mean SNES is far more than NES, but NES isn't really 8 bits of graphics...only 6 at most. Gameboy still just the 2 bits of color. That part makes a little sense.

But, some people might refer to Gameboy as 8 bit graphics, I would argue less.

If we're talking CPU bits (I know we are). That would mean Atari 2600 has 8 bit graphics. But it's not even in the same ballpark as NES. Only 40 pixels wide, and severe color limits. And look at TurboGrafx 16. If we're talking CPU bits, it only has 8, but claims to be 16 bit graphics.

Apparently, it's able to display more than 256 colors at once, but only 482...that can fit in 9 bits. If it's "colors at once" then technically NES can only do (without tricks) 25 colors at once, which fits in 5 bits.

NES is really 5 bit graphics.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2018 7:13 pm 
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Brief off-topic pedantry:

dougeff wrote:
If we're talking CPU bits (I know we are). That would mean Atari 2600 has 8 bit graphics. But it's not even in the same ballpark as NES. Only 40 pixels wide, and severe color limits.
160 pixels. The playfield is limited to 40 pixels, but most games don't really quantize much to the playfield because 40 pixels is just too few.

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Apparently, [TG16 is] able to display more than 256 colors at once, but only 482...that can fit in 9 bits.
A total of 32 15-color palettes, plus two shared colors (overscan and backdrop, I think?). But also a R3G3B3 DAC.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2018 7:20 pm 
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I was looking at some CGA technical information, and they refer to that as "4-bit graphics"...having only 16 possible colors.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2018 7:45 pm 
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Game Boy Color has eight 4-color background palettes and eight 3-color sprite palettes, and these are practical to rewrite during horizontal blanking. Each color is 15-bit, just like on Super NES.

Perhaps "8-bit game graphics" means 1-chip VDCs that were common at the same time as 8-bit CPUs in game consoles. Or it could mean graphics that don't require reading more than 8 bits per pixel across all of tilemap, background tile data, and sprite tile data. NES and Game Boy fetch patterns read about 4 bits per pixel; Master System reads about 8.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2018 7:56 pm 
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It means many things.

In some broad usage it just seems to mean "pixellated".

For some it means pixellated, maybe with some weak colour restrictions like SNES or Genesis.

For some it means that it fits the restrictions of a particular set of consoles, especially those that are themselves commonly referred to as "8-bit" (NES, Atari 2600, etc.)

It almost never means 8-bit colour depth, unless someone is specifically talking about an image format in a very technical context.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2018 8:02 pm 
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It's hard to talk about what the CGA was really capable of.

In early games, it almost always used artifact colors, because no-one would spring for a digital monitor. So the resolution was very approximately 16 color and very approximately 320 pixels wide. In practice, because NTSC, every 2 (nominal 320 source pixels) or 4 (nominal 640 source pixels) pixel wide group of pixels would specify its own color.

It later games, almost everyone was using EGA or VGA cards and monitors with legacy compatibility, and so CGA support was your choice of one of six ugly 4 color palettes, not all of which were widely used.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2018 8:25 pm 
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I think it means graphics matching those of the consoles that belonged in the 8-bit category in the console wars era (sega vs nintendo). Forget technical aspects, this is a cultural discussion. The consoles that were known as 8-bit were mainly the NES and the Sega Master System. So 8-bit graphics are graphics that look like (or at least how people remember them to be) the graphics in those console's games.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2018 9:29 pm 
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Yeah, “8-bit” in layman’s terms is a bit of a misnomer. People knew the NES was an 8-bit console, but not fully understanding what that meant, assumed it had to do with the graphics, since as the consumer that’s reall all you’re supposed to know about. It wasn’t until I actually learned what bits were and what color depth was, that I started to make the connection. Though before I got involved in NES development I just assumed the NES had a 256 color palette. :)

For me, 8-bit equates to 256 colors, like mode 13h on DOS. You can’t really change the way people talk, though. It just kinda is what it is.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2018 10:08 pm 
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It's a modern digital art style inspired by old pixel art, with loose restrictions.

This is basically how "normal people" define it knowingly or not, and since it's vague by definition it's pointless to try defining the term on the basis of old computer technical specs al gusto (I know this is Nesdev but still).

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2018 11:36 pm 
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dougeff wrote:
I have issues with the phrase "8 bit graphics". like, how are we measuring bits?

8-bit graphics, to me, refers to:

  • An athesthetic of art or graphic that retains limitations of 8-bit games (in arcade or home console form; may also include certain home computers) of the past, usually 80s to early 90s
  • Tend to have limited palettes, both in colour range/selection, as well as total on-screen colour count. I do not set explicit limits on this, but "in general" it tends to be a maximum of 4096 colours (range), with an on-screen limitation <= 64 (though as I said, there is some wiggle room)
  • Isn't explicitly about CPU register size as much as it is about the graphical capabilities, but there are some exceptions (ex. Atari 2600 which has no actual PPU, IIRC (if I'm wrong, please correct me!))
  • Primarily pixel-based (e.g. bitmap), with the exception of some things (ex. vector arcades, Vectrex)

From this list, I exclude:

  • Demos or "system show-off" ROMs (example: blargg's palette test for NES) -- these are not games, and are intended to show off technical capabilities
  • Some arcade ports -- see "blurry line" below
  • Games which use text modes or general ANSI-like glyphs or layout/style

Valid examples: River Raid (Atari 2600), Dig Dug (Atari 7800), Ice Hockey (NES), Castlevania 3 (NES), Golvellius (SMS), Below the Root (Apple II), Impossible Mission (C64), Super Mario Land (GameBoy), Asteroids (arcade vector), Burger Time (arcade bitmap)

Invalid examples: Neutopia (PC Engine), Super Mario World (SNES), Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis), Black Tiger (arcade bitmap), Street Fighter 2 (arcade bitmap), Dragon Wars (Apple IIGS), Descent (PC DOS), Gauntlet Legends (arcade 3D), Retro City Rampage (PC etc.)[1], Shovel Knight (PC etc.), Cave Story (PC etc.), Undertale (PC etc.)[2], Binding of Isaac (PC etc.), Dwarf Fortress (PC), Fez (PC etc.), Hyper Light Drifter (PC etc.)

I'm really looking forward to cheeky bastards coming along to:

  • Give counterexamples to my classification system (read: I do not care -- OP asked for people's opinions, this is mine. If you disagree, awesome! If you agree, awesome!)
  • Find "holes" in my classification system (again: do not care)
  • Mention popular systems I'm not familiar with (esp. European systems) (read: I'm not ashamed that I lack familiarity with every computer/console in the history of mankind -- I don't have the time or interest to go trying out everything under the sun just to find out if it falls into this classification or not)
  • Mention incredibly obscure systems (like weird bar/pub poker games, weird shit from Hong Kong, etc.)

There is a (pun intended) somewhat blurry line in this type of classification. For example, I consider these to be valid 8-bit graphical games which happen to be arcade ports: Contra (NES; fairly close to the arcade), Bionic Commando (NES; totally different than the arcade), Jackal (NES; fairly close to the arcade), Castlevania (essentially a port of Haunted Castle (arcade)), Space Harrier (SMS; similar to arcade), etc.. I've seen some arcade ports to the Apple II, for example, that I guess would fall under 8-bit graphics, but the ports are really terrible and almost shameful (read: nobody is mimicking this aesthetic; I could say the same of Ikari Warriors NES). It shouldn't come as a surprise that some of the more blurry allowances are all games made by companies who did both home console games *and* arcade games (Konami, Capcom, Sega, etc.).

Likewise, I will mention that it's very hard to remind myself of these limitations due to... well... age and timing. For example: Black Tiger is a System 16 arcade game (PPU is 320x224 with 15-bit colour, w/ 4096 to 6144 colours on-screen total; CPU is 68K; APU is Z80) that came out in 1987 -- so around the time I got my NES. As such, my brain really wants to classify it as "an 8-bit graphical game", even though nearly everything about the system is 16-bit. Sometimes I slip and will say "oh yeah, that's a totally 8-bit game", even though it isn't.

Shovel Knight, BTW, does not fall under the "blurry line" classification: it could be ported to the NES but with some definite decreases in visual quality/experience. Just because Kaufman composed it in Famitracker w/ VRC6 doesn't mean it fits into the 8-bit graphics category -- sorry.

[1] -- This one is is a toughie for me given the extremes Brian went to in attempt to adhere to NES limitations, but in the end couldn't. It deserves special mention though.
[2] -- There are some areas/parts that adhere to the classification, but overall the game does not (it's definitely one to be classified as 16-bit, e.g. SNES-like).


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 07, 2018 12:34 am 
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koitsu wrote:
(ex. Atari 2600 which has no actual PPU, IIRC (if I'm wrong, please correct me!))
I definitely wouldn't claim that Stella is a PPU—it has just enough state to hold one scanline's worth of data—but it is a processor specifically designed to draw single scanlines in the video encoding for the region.

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Games which use text modes or general ANSI-like glyphs or layout/style
I'm curious why you exclude this? Or maybe why you felt a need to call it out?


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 07, 2018 1:15 am 
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For me, it's basically whatever you can do on a computer that happens to have an 8-bit data bus. TG16 is my grayzone, mostly based on feelings and associations.

It kind of makes me cringe a bit when someone is using "8 bit art" to describe anything they've done that happens to be low resolution, low colour depth, or something that simply looks a bit 80/90s gamey. But i guess the point is that the piece is meant to be "in the likeness of 8-bit aesthetics", which is still sort of true. It's just that not enough seem to actually care about the certain degree of likeness as long as it draws on associations of something that feels "retro". I'd prefer to just call it pixel art or computer revisionism, depending on (not all pixel art draws on nostalgia).

re: text/ascii art based games. Yeah, for me text based adventures etc are very much part of the 8-bit experience as (most?) systems of the time weren't really up for the task of action games the way SMS or NES were. I'd much rather play a text adventure than Q*bert on the VIC-20, and that was still a game-centered computer. So many games (most forgotten by now) relied on text based input/output; not just the adventures. Things like moon lander simulators, tactical troop deployment games, etc etc.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 07, 2018 1:35 am 
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People who use the term "8-bit graphics" have no idea what 8 bit means. It's a pet peeve of mine, too. Like when Curse of the Moon was announced and you see all these people going "Why is this an 8-bit game? Why not a 16-bit game?". Why even use those terms when neither apply to what is probably a Unity game or something.

If you mean "looks like an NES game", just say that. Not that COTM really looks like an NES game of course.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 07, 2018 1:42 am 
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koitsu wrote:
Shovel Knight, BTW, does not fall under the "blurry line" classification: it could be ported to the NES but with some definite decreases in visual quality/experience. Just because Kaufman composed it in Famitracker w/ VRC6 doesn't mean it fits into the 8-bit graphics category -- sorry.


Of all the modern games created with a pixelated retro look inspired by 8-bit consoles, Shovel Knight is one of the only ones I can think of (along with games like Mega Man 9, Issyos, and Oniken) that is actually consciously designed with NES limitations in mind.
Maybe not with the object of keeping within those limitations, but respecting it to the point where it thoroughly affects the entire visual (and gameplay) feel of the game. If Shovel Knight doesn't qualify into the common misnomer of "8-bit graphics" used with modern indie games, then no games do.

For contrast, see aforementioned Curse of the Moon which definitely calls back to a bunch of NES aesthetics (especially in terms of it color use), but breaks them whenever it feels like it just doesn't bother, which is almost constantly, and as a result doesn't really feel close to as much as an NES experience as Shovel Knight does.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:08 am 
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I have more of a pet peeve with people who call every chip in a system a "processor" as if you can't just make circuitry that does it's specific job by itself and has to execute code. Nowadays pretty much every chip is a processor of some kind, but back in the 80s and 90s, that wasn't the case.


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