Do colored borders bother you?

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tepples
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Do colored borders bother you?

Post by tepples » Thu Mar 04, 2021 2:32 pm

I'm the lead programmer for an NES game in development, and the fact that the side borders are not black bothers the person to whom I report. The borders stand out about as much as the blue side borders in the title screen of Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. 2 (pictured).
Photo of an NES game displayed on a television. The center is white text on a blue background, surrounded by an ornate red border, with blue pillarboxing at the far left and right.
Photo of an NES game displayed on a television. The center is white text on a blue background, surrounded by an ornate red border, with blue pillarboxing at the far left and right.
How many other people do these side borders bother? Is it reasonable to downgrade a menu from four colors (none of which is black) to three colors just to make the side borders solid black?

NewRisingSun
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Re: Do colored borders bother you?

Post by NewRisingSun » Thu Mar 04, 2021 2:36 pm

I like colored borders if the borders effectively make them a visual continuation of the graphics next to the border. In the SMB2 example, if the border were red, I would actually prefer the red to the black border. Borders in an entirely different color, as in the actual SMB2 title screen, are ugly to look at on the other hand.

lidnariq
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Re: Do colored borders bother you?

Post by lidnariq » Thu Mar 04, 2021 2:38 pm

To me, that's just one of the compromises you have to make on the NES.

If you can easily make a mockup showing what the trade-off will be, I'd present the options and make it their problem.

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rainwarrior
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Re: Do colored borders bother you?

Post by rainwarrior » Thu Mar 04, 2021 2:46 pm

Yeah, this is a big reason I'd be likely to take black as the background colour even in a blue-sky area of a game.

I do find it rather distracting in cutscenes for Ninja Gaiden or Gimmick!. It's extra jarring on modern TVs where generally there is additional black on the sides to pillarbox.

Like NewRisingSun said, if the background colour is used at the edges, then there's no continuity problem at all, so I wouldn't consider it a problem to use a colour in that case... at least not by itself. The PAL NES black borders also just eliminate the problem entirely... along with a few extra pixels as collateral damage. ;P

There are probably many reasons I might want to accept this issue as a compromise given a specific situation though. Depends on how badly I want to squeeze a few more colours... or if I need to slide sprites behind the background, or other cases like that.

Like I don't care for the sky peeking out at the edges of the ground in Super Mario Bros. but I would probably have taken that trade to make piranha plants easier.

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Re: Do colored borders bother you?

Post by ccovell » Thu Mar 04, 2021 5:41 pm

Well, when designing your graphics, you made a choice as to what colour 0 had to be, right? It had to be the single colour that needed to be in all 4 BG palettes, and that was the most important reason. The borders being that colour are just a follow-on effect from that decision and have to be lived with.

The only alternatives are to rethink the palette design choice, or to put black sprites all down the borders, which is what Clash at Demonhead does.

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rainwarrior
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Re: Do colored borders bother you?

Post by rainwarrior » Thu Mar 04, 2021 9:29 pm

Clash at Demonhead and also TMNT and Alfred Chicken (probably others) all use a column of black sprites on the right side, but I believe it's to hide attribute/nametable scrolling seam glitches when scrolling horizontally with a vertical nametable arrangement. Not really the same problem as colour 0 on the borders?

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tokumaru
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Re: Do colored borders bother you?

Post by tokumaru » Thu Mar 04, 2021 11:18 pm

And Felix the Cat is another one.
rainwarrior wrote:
Thu Mar 04, 2021 9:29 pm
Not really the same problem as colour 0 on the borders?
Yeah, no matter how many sprites you place near the border, they'll still be inside the border.

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Re: Do colored borders bother you?

Post by ccovell » Fri Mar 05, 2021 12:00 am

[Where's the forehead-slapping icon when you need one?]

calima
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Re: Do colored borders bother you?

Post by calima » Fri Mar 05, 2021 12:44 am

Such borders do bother me, hence I always put the darkest color as the bg color. It's not always black, but dark blue etc work decently.

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tokumaru
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Re: Do colored borders bother you?

Post by tokumaru » Fri Mar 05, 2021 4:12 am

I am slightly bothered by these borders when they are as pronounced as in the SMB2 example, but I don't necessarily agree with always making black the background color. Other dark colors work well too, like calima said.

The worst case is when you're trying to represent bright open spaces and you absolutely need a light blue background. Some games are so bent on avoiding light colored borders that they'll include the light blue as an opaque color in most/all background colors, so that black remains assigned to the background color. Games that do this end up looking a little flat, but this is still better than making the entire level completely blocky, without any detailed foreground shapes, because the light blue can't be used everywhere.

stan423321
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Re: Do colored borders bother you?

Post by stan423321 » Fri Mar 05, 2021 4:57 am

I find the colored borders slightly annoying but acceptable. It's not like black ones are that much better if the game scrolls. The preferred solution would be to tune an appropriately shaped display so that pixels fit it (and I was under the impression overscan was and still is more likely than underscan).

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Re: Do colored borders bother you?

Post by tepples » Fri Mar 05, 2021 5:16 am

On 16:9 display, underscan at left and right is common.

Concentration Room suffers from this, as it uses white as the common color for reasons related to limits of my tooling in that era.

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dougeff
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Re: Do colored borders bother you?

Post by dougeff » Fri Mar 05, 2021 7:52 am

I think people just accept it as a part of NES gameplay. Like tiles changing at the edge of the screen as you scroll. It is so common that people don't even think about it.
nesdoug.com -- blog/tutorial on programming for the NES

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tokumaru
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Re: Do colored borders bother you?

Post by tokumaru » Fri Mar 05, 2021 8:35 am

I have been seeing more and more people questioning these things lately than we did back in the day. Every once in a while there's people online after finding their childhood NESs and plugging then in, wondering whether the scrolling artifacts or the dot crawl pattern mean that their console is broken.

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rainwarrior
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Re: Do colored borders bother you?

Post by rainwarrior » Fri Mar 05, 2021 1:26 pm

stan423321 wrote:
Fri Mar 05, 2021 4:57 am
The preferred solution would be to tune an appropriately shaped display so that pixels fit it (and I was under the impression overscan was and still is more likely than underscan).
I think the left and right edges of the picture are at least partially visible on a lot of CRTs that are properly calibrated. I don't really agree that we should prefer tuning our TVs to cut off more of the image.

On modern HD TVs they are more or less universally fully visible when you use a composite input, and it's even less likely to provide a user option to calibrate overscan.

Also, if using the feature that blanks the left 8 pixels, that pushes it well out of overscan areas generally.
tokumaru wrote:
Fri Mar 05, 2021 8:35 am
I have been seeing more and more people questioning these things lately than we did back in the day. Every once in a while there's people online after finding their childhood NESs and plugging then in, wondering whether the scrolling artifacts or the dot crawl pattern mean that their console is broken.
I definitely noticed and questioned these things when I was a kid. I remember my friends commenting on it too. I think these issues have always been noticeable.

You get used to it when you play a lot of NES. You learn that your console isn't broken is when you see that everybody else has the same problem. ...but it's something you have to learn. Same when people see it and think it's an emulation bug, but it's not like it's obvious what is causing it to someone who hasn't had enough experience to know. The only obvious part is that there is a visual error.

.

Now, whether you want to work around it as a developer is up to you. I think in a lot of cases it can be just as desirable to lean in to the defect and enjoy it rather than work hard to avoid it. We have better tools and knowledge now for working around it if you want to... and without the commercial pressure of limited time and resources a lot of people seem to want to work out little details like that.

I think the case of Clash at Demonhead example that ccovell brought up is relevant, even though it's not about the borders, just because cause it proves that even back then some developers hated the scrolling artifacts enough to throw half their sprite budget at eliminating.
Last edited by rainwarrior on Fri Mar 05, 2021 3:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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