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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2017 2:07 am 
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I wanted to talk about something that I think about every now and then. It's about how certain systems "feel". Well, what do I mean by "feel"? I mean how a certain video game looks, sounds and behaves.

For example, I recently saw a video on youtube of a NES inspired game. This game didn't run on the NES, but was trying to be a look-a-like so to speak. The thing is, even if I never knew the actual platform that this new game ran on, I could tell right away that it didn't seem like it was running on real NES hardware.

The music seemed like it was produced with a different sound chip, it seemed to have just a tad too many colors, and there were some magnet physics that seemed too smooth. In other words, it just didn't feel like a real NES game.

I'm wanting to know, does anyone else feel the same way about this? Can you spot a fake vs the real deal just by watching a game play video?

I'm also curious about wanting to know if someone could tell the difference between a real NES vs a NES inspired game if the NES inspired game was created with all the NES's limitations in mind. Could you make a game that looks and feels exactly like an NES game, yet doesn't run on real hardware and no one would be able to tell the difference?

I'm just using the NES in the example, but really it could be for any platform.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2017 2:46 am 
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Erockbrox wrote:
I'm wanting to know, does anyone else feel the same way about this? Can you spot a fake vs the real deal just by watching a game play video?

Yes. If you know a system well enough, there are very easy tells.

Erockbrox wrote:
I'm also curious about wanting to know if someone could tell the difference between a real NES vs a NES inspired game if the NES inspired game was created with all the NES's limitations in mind. Could you make a game that looks and feels exactly like an NES game, yet doesn't run on real hardware and no one would be able to tell the difference?

I think you could, but interestingly I think almost nobody wants to do this.

Maybe the best I can think of are Mega Man 9/10. Not entirely perfect, but large parts of them might be considered within NES limitations.

The PC version of my own game should be indistinguishable from an emulated NES version, but it's also an actual NES game so it shouldn't count here.

I think unless you really are trying to target the system, it seems that nobody wants to go to all the trouble of obeying all its limitations. (Why should you have to? Probably there's always a way to make a better game if you could transcend some of the system's problems...)


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2017 11:41 am 
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It's easy to hear whether the audio could be done with the basic sound channels or not. You got the 12.5% duty, 25% duty, and 50% duty square waves, a triangle wave, 16 specific noise frequencies, and a digital sound channel which has a distinctive noisy and lowpassed sound.
If you hear any sine waves, sawtooth waves, or volume envelopes on the triangle channel, you are obviously dealing with something that isn't NES.
(disclaimer, I'm aware of SuperNSF, which is a MOD player for the NES that can circumvent limitations as long as you don't mind 100% CPU usage on playback, it sounds almost like GBA music)

It's also easy to tell whether the graphics can be done on NES or not. If you see the color Yellow, that is a big red flag, since the NES can't display yellow. You can count the colors on sprites, if it exceeds 3, you have lookalike graphics. If you see a secondary background layer scrolling in parallax, that's an obvious tell as well.

If a game actually respected the limitations and capabilities of the NES's graphics and sound, it might be hard to tell them apart. Only way then would be to see if the game is doing something far too complex for the CPU and memory to handle.
Smooth physics are not a tell, you can always find badass programmers who can pull off things like that within the limitations of the system.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2017 12:43 pm 
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Some tells have exceptions.

Audio violations are less of a tell when not combined with large amounts of text. VRC6, for instance, gives two more squares and a saw, and Namco 163 gives TG16-class wavetable synthesis. Even an MP3 player could be soldered onto a cartridge board so long as it's mono. It's just that those chips are exclusive to the Japanese version of the console, and unless a game is in Japanese, players wouldn't have understood long dialogue and the like.

More than three colors per sprite has been around since Mega Man. One. And not all parallax scrolling is cheating; CHR manipulation methods in Battletoads, MetalStorm, and numerous TG16 games allow for repeating patterns.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2017 2:43 pm 
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Dwedit wrote:
If you hear any sine waves, sawtooth waves, or volume envelopes on the triangle channel, you are obviously dealing with something that isn't NES.

Not everyone can identify the individual sounds so easily... I know I can't. I often can't even tell whether a game is using expansion audio... I really suck at this.

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You can count the colors on sprites, if it exceeds 3, you have lookalike graphics. If you see a secondary background layer scrolling in parallax, that's an obvious tell as well.

Like tepples said, these can be faked on the NES to some extent, so they aren't always dead giveaways.

One common way to spot imitations is through the fading animations. A lot of people don't restrict the colors to the NES palette during fade animations, so they look much smoother than they could on a real console. Mega Man 9 and 10 suffer from this, IIRC.

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Only way then would be to see if the game is doing something far too complex for the CPU and memory to handle.

You need a programmer that's familiar with the platform to make that analysis (who could probably make a better analysis of the graphics as well), since the general public isn't very good at judging this kind of complexity. The Sonic games for example had a lot of people fooled into thinking that "Blast Processing" was a thing just because they scrolled really fast, but even the NES can scroll that fast.

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Smooth physics are not a tell, you can always find badass programmers who can pull off things like that within the limitations of the system.

Yes, and you can do a lot of things that aren't really noticeable to players, such as spreading the updating of different things across different frames as opposed to processing everything every frame.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2017 4:52 pm 
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Erockbrox wrote:
I'm also curious about wanting to know if someone could tell the difference between a real NES vs a NES inspired game if the NES inspired game was created with all the NES's limitations in mind. Could you make a game that looks and feels exactly like an NES game, yet doesn't run on real hardware and no one would be able to tell the difference?


That's a qualitative research question for the human sciences department - lol.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2017 5:53 pm 
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Only "feel" I can notice is the ARCADE FEEL of my Turbo Duo. 8-)

Image

:lol:

Nah, outside of graphics I really can't tell the difference between a wannabe and the real deal. And that's not really saying much because it's far too easy to spot a modern game from an NES one just by looking at the graphics (things like aspect ratio, colors, lack of glitches, and really obvious stuff like copious amounts of parallax, scaling, different pixel sizes at the same screen, etc. all make it far too easy to distinguish)

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2017 1:37 pm 
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Dwedit wrote:
If you hear any sine waves, sawtooth waves, or volume envelopes on the triangle channel, you are obviously dealing with something that isn't NES.

Definitely, but it's also possible to make music impossible to play on a NES yet still using two square waves, one triangle and one white noise. For example using a frequency which is not among those the NES can produce (high pitched triangle sounds have to be off-pitch for instance), or having a metallic noise which is not an existing frequency on the NES... Or even having more than 15 levels of volume for the squares or noise... This would be extremely hard to tell just by hearing some chiptune.

The same applies to graphics, too, it's very hard to see the barrier between "possible" and "impossible".


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2017 3:06 pm 
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It's hard to see when they're close to the line, but I find in practice hardly anything is "close". There's almost always some pretty definitive transgressions. I'm really having a hard time trying to think of any game that is retro NES styled but not doing stuff that's obviously out of gamut.

I already mentioned Mega Man 9/10, but they're really the only ones I can think of that hew that close to the bone.

Example of a difficult distinction: what's wrong with this screen in Jewel Man's stage?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmZl6k6mSe8#t=2m50s

Probably pretty easy for an NES Developer to spot the problem, but also pretty easy to not notice or think about it.


That seems to be exceedingly rare, to me, though. Most of the time it's more like Shovel Knight. What about the first level of the game wouldn't work on the NES?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEtkLaY_sdU#t=1m23s

(This second question is rhetorical, no need to make a list. I'm sure anybody here could spot a lot of things.)


My point is that normally it's not very hard to see. I think this has to do with what motivates someone to make an NES style game in the first place.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2017 3:07 pm 
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Another "close" example just occurred to me.

Streemerz:
http://www.kongregate.com/games/mrpodunkian/streemerz

Here a game was made close enough to NES constraints that thefox actually later made a real NES port of it:
https://www.fauxgame.com/


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