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 Post subject: Re: Lucky Penguin
PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 12:49 pm 
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Played through the game. Nice simple ice puzzles, pleasant, not too long. I didn't lose any lives, but maybe that's because I've seen this kind of puzzle many times before.

The flicker looks fine on my laptop screen at least (with occasional momentary twitching), though I'll have to put it on my NES + LCD to see if it looks OK when interlaced... To be honest, though, the graphics look perfectly good with flicker off anyway.

One thing I did notice though, is that because I have FCEUX set to randomize RAM on startup, sometimes the arrows at the edge of the field animate and sometimes they do not (varies from power-on to power-on). This suggests to me that you are not initializing the contents of RAM before you start using it-- at least for the arrows but maybe for other things? I would highly recommend just wiping RAM to 0 in your reset routine.
Edit: Never mind this, I think I was completely wrong.


Last edited by rainwarrior on Sat Jul 29, 2017 1:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Lucky Penguin
PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 12:54 pm 
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Another thing at program start is that the gray screen feels more noticable because the music starts right away while the picture is not yet ready. The music is a signal that 'game is on', but the picture is still gray for some while. I think i'd turn it on after all graphics are loaded and in place and the fade in is either done or halfway through. This is being veeeery nitpicky about presentation, though

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 Post subject: Re: Lucky Penguin
PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 12:59 pm 
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The music over grey screen doesn't bother me (kinda reminds me of loading games from disk on my Atari ST: always appreciated music to pass the time) but...

...with a lot of modern TVs there is a loss of picture for a second or two (or more) after reset anyway, so anything that starts playing so early can be easily lost. (Kind of like a modern "safe area" but for time after reset?)


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 Post subject: Re: Lucky Penguin
PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 1:01 pm 
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rainwarrior wrote:
I would highly recommend just wiping RAM to 0 in your reset routine.

I would highly recommend NOT wiping RAM to 0 in your reset routine, at least not until you find out what is causing the observed bug so you can properly fix it instead of assuming crearing RAM once in the beginning will fix everything even long after reset.


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 Post subject: Re: Lucky Penguin
PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 1:03 pm 
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Cool game! The flicker is practically unnoticeable on my LCD monitor when it properly syncs up. The sync stays quite well, albeit not perfect, in FCEUX. I guess some other emulators that pay special attention to vsync might work better here.

rainwarrior wrote:
One thing I did notice though, is that because I have FCEUX set to randomize RAM on startup, sometimes the arrows at the edge of the field animate and sometimes they do not (varies from power-on to power-on). This suggests to me that you are not initializing the contents of RAM before you start using it-- at least for the arrows but maybe for other things? I would highly recommend just wiping RAM to 0 in your reset routine.

Are you sure? I didn't get any notifications about uninitialized accesses in NDX, and the game is written in C (I believe) with neslib, so I figure Shiru's initialization code takes care of clearing memory.

It seems, though, that the arrows do not animate when the flicker mode is turned on, so maybe that threw you off.

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 Post subject: Re: Lucky Penguin
PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 1:04 pm 
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Re: signal detection/channel switching - That's a very good point! I assume they do that to cancel channel/source switching noise/pops and/or take some time to detect a signal in a stable fashion. The silent pause seems a bit exaggerated though just to hide that or to detect a signal so there might be some other reason?

Edit: Come to think of it, many commercial era games begin with some logo and/or legal notice under silence. This way, we don't notice that sound is cut out on modern tv:s/monitors

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 Post subject: Re: Lucky Penguin
PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 1:25 pm 
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tokumaru wrote:
rainwarrior wrote:
I would highly recommend just wiping RAM to 0 in your reset routine.

I would highly recommend NOT wiping RAM to 0 in your reset routine, at least not until you find out what is causing the observed bug so you can properly fix it instead of assuming crearing RAM once in the beginning will fix everything even long after reset.

Well, if anyone is interested in further reading in this debate, tokumaru and I discussed it thoroughly here previously:
https://forums.nesdev.com/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=15394

In any case, thefox appears to be correct that it fully initializes RAM. I think there is code that fully initializes it to 0 anyway (except for one byte at $27 which is initialized as $08... that should probably be considered a bug in NESlib). So... my guess as to the cause was wrong.

thefox wrote:
It seems, though, that the arrows do not animate when the flicker mode is turned on, so maybe that threw you off.

I initially thought it was tied to the flicker mode, but I believe I had them animate and not animate in both modes over several attempts. (Having difficulty reproducing this now though. My observation may have been a mistake...?)


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 Post subject: Re: Lucky Penguin
PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 1:28 pm 
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FrankenGraphics wrote:
Played through! I liked it. Very polished. :)

Thank you! It's always good to read compliments - but it's 10 times better to read compliments from a talented artist like you.


FrankenGraphics wrote:
Here's some thoughts, if you're interested in opinions:

Difficulty: I like that the difficulty shifts significantly with level style and music. This is the proper place to do so, IMO.

Score: The bonus for getting two clovers within a second(?) is a good way to differentiate scores between playthroughs (besides the time bonus). I kind of feel that the time bonus is a bit overshadowed by the massive amount of points you get for clovers, maybe 500 (and 750 when getting one fast) would balance better against time? But if you're fine with the current balance, that's good too.

Complexity: Will additional mechanics be introduced along the way? Depending on how many worlds the total game will be, new mechanics can help maintain interest, beside increasing challenge.

Thanks! I've sent your opinions to Lukasz (he takes care of programming and game rules - while I make graphics and the silly Penguin voice only).


FrankenGraphics wrote:
Sound: It's hard to judge this without a regular tv to plug into, but the pulse (and maybe also noise) channels felt a bit loud? I often find it more relaxing to the ears tone them down a bit relative to the tri wave, which is often used for bass duties - bass frequencies take more energy/pressure to be percieved as 'loud' than hi-mid frequencies, and conversely, the ear is more sensitive to mid-high tones and sounds. Wikipedia article on the subject.

We don't have how to change anything in music, sorry. It was made by Ozzed and used under a Creative Commons license - he's not actually working with us.


FrankenGraphics wrote:
Style: Everything looks adorable! The smooth animation of the character goes well in hand with the "extra" colours.

Thank you very much!


FrankenGraphics wrote:
One thing stood out as slightly less polished than the rest and just perhaps a little bit outside the stylistic direction: the red cross sprite used for showing that flicker is off. Three things on top of my head you could do: a) A black, dark gray or dark blue/teal drop shadow could help a lot. b) and since you know the exact position of the sprite, you can also soften some jagged edges with another colour between the red and the main bg colour. c) To make it more consistent with the theme, you could swap red for pink (the one you use in the checkerboard) altogether.

I did the cross sometime ago - but as far as I remember there was almost zero space left for graphics in the bank. So I've made 1/4 of the cross and mirrored/flipped 3 more copies of these same sprites on screen (that's why it will be impossible to make a shadow there, for instance).

I'll make tests with different colors - but I confess I like the brownish-red. It looks very unpleasant and it's sort of what I wanted (I want brainwash people to use flicker all the time!). :D


FrankenGraphics wrote:
Semantics: More a question than an opinion. Is flicker the best word to describe to a non-technical gamer what the feature is?

Hmm, I don't see problems using this word (even to someone who doesn't know what it means the explanation is just a Google search away). But if you can think a better one feel free to suggest!

I confess I prefer to use a real term instead of creating something like SUPPAGRAFX ON/OFF. :D
In the box art there's a text like "presented in glorious Flick-o-vision" or something - but it's much more a bad joke than anything.


rainwarrior wrote:
Played through the game. Nice simple ice puzzles, pleasant, not too long. I didn't lose any lives, but maybe that's because I've seen this kind of puzzle many times before.

Thanks Brad! Yes, the demo levels are all easy ones.


rainwarrior wrote:
The flicker looks fine on my laptop screen at least (with occasional momentary twitching), though I'll have to put it on my NES + LCD to see if it looks OK when interlaced... To be honest, though, the graphics look perfectly good with flicker off anyway.

Please let me know results of your tests!
And I'm glad you liked regular graphics - I personally can't stand playing the non-flickered version anymore.


rainwarrior wrote:
One thing I did notice though, is that because I have FCEUX set to randomize RAM on startup, sometimes the arrows at the edge of the field animate and sometimes they do not (varies from power-on to power-on). This suggests to me that you are not initializing the contents of RAM before you start using it-- at least for the arrows but maybe for other things? I would highly recommend just wiping RAM to 0 in your reset routine.

I can't give a proper explanation because my technical knowledge is next to zero - but I remember that Lukasz told me that arrows would only move in non-flickered game.


FrankenGraphics wrote:
Another thing at program start is that the gray screen feels more noticable because the music starts right away while the picture is not yet ready. The music is a signal that 'game is on', but the picture is still gray for some while. I think i'd turn it on after all graphics are loaded and in place and the fade in is either done or halfway through. This is being veeeery nitpicky about presentation, though

I'll see what can be done. Does the screen starts grey on NES? I know it happens in FCEUX but not in Nestopia (it starts black) for instance.


thefox wrote:
Cool game! The flicker is practically unnoticeable on my LCD monitor when it properly syncs up. The sync stays quite well, albeit not perfect, in FCEUX. I guess some other emulators that pay special attention to vsync might work better here.

Thanks thefox! If I'm so crazy about flickering it is because of your Nes Image Converter (I still mess A LOT with this program as a hobby to this day).


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 Post subject: Re: Lucky Penguin
PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 1:49 pm 
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Macbee wrote:
rainwarrior wrote:
The flicker looks fine on my laptop screen at least (with occasional momentary twitching), though I'll have to put it on my NES + LCD to see if it looks OK when interlaced... To be honest, though, the graphics look perfectly good with flicker off anyway.

Please let me know results of your tests!

I think the patterns you used combined with interlacing degrade the image quality, unfortunately. Look especially at the ice tiles and how they have a bunch of stripes through them:
Attachment:
lucky_penguin_flicker_interlaced.jpg
lucky_penguin_flicker_interlaced.jpg [ 1.64 MiB | Viewed 433 times ]

Now I'm wondering if there's any emulator that offers a 480i interlacing output (ideally with NTSC filter)... even though it'd be the worst option to play anything it would be good for testing since it is a very common playback case on real TVs.

Macbee wrote:
rainwarrior wrote:
(uninitialized RAM speculation about arrows moving)

I can't give a proper explanation because my technical knowledge is next to zero - but I remember that Lukasz told me that arrows would only move in non-flickered game.

Yeah, I think I just completely misread what was happening, sorry. There's no problem here.

Macbee wrote:
Does the screen starts grey on NES? I know it happens in FCEUX but not in Nestopia (it starts black) for instance.

Grey is the colour you get when your palette is filled with $00, which some emulators initialize the palette RAM to. On a real NES I think the startup colour is "random" (but each machine probably boots to one particular colour most often).

On reset, the pre-title screen is just whatever the last background colour was when I hit reset, so blue or white etc. depending on when I pressed reset.


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 Post subject: Re: Lucky Penguin
PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 2:02 pm 
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rainwarrior wrote:
I think the patterns you used combined with interlacing degrade the image quality, unfortunately. Look especially at the ice tiles and how they have a bunch of stripes through them:
Attachment:
lucky_penguin_flicker_interlaced.jpg

Now I'm wondering if there's any emulator that offers a 480i interlacing output (ideally with NTSC filter)... even though it'd be the worst option to play anything it would be good for testing since it is a very common playback case on real TVs.

Thanks for testing!
Stripes are there because only line-dithering works on NES (without creating those artifacts that looks like diagonal rainbow lines). Checkerboard dithering would result into a much more convincing effect if NES could display it correctly.


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 Post subject: Re: Lucky Penguin
PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 3:23 pm 
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Macbee wrote:
We don't have how to change anything in music, sorry. It was made by Ozzed and used under a Creative Commons license - he's not actually working with us.

I presume this is already known, but according to CC BY-SA 3.0, you can from a legal perspective "remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially.", provided that you "indicate that changes were made" and distribute those contributions under the same license.

So in case you want to experiment with changing the mix, that's at least doable from that standpoint. Are you using the famitracker engine for sound?
Quote:
Hmm, I don't see problems using this word (even to someone who doesn't know what it means the explanation is just a Google search away). But if you can think a better one feel free to suggest!
I think my reasoning here is that "flicker" describes what it does to achieve the effect, but it doesn't necessarily describe what the user will get out of it by enabling/disabling. Flicker is also closely related to sprite priority cycling and your average retro gamer will think of blinking sprites. But i don't feel strongly about this. I'm just wondering what other words there might be to concisely describe this technique; in a game or when talking about something using it. Strobe? Colour Strobe? (too long for the menu, i know). Strobe blend?

Quote:
- but as far as I remember there was almost zero space left for graphics in the bank
I had a peek and it did indeed look snugly tucked in at the end of the pattern table. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Lucky Penguin
PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 7:21 pm 
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Demo plays great. Animation is gorgeous, and although I haven't tried it out on hardware, the flickering effect looks good on my mobile phone.

I would consider taking a more marketable approach than "flicker" when referring to it though, especially since most consumers likely associate flicker with sprite flickering (for scanline usage). Something like "Enhanced Color" and "Standard Color" instead "Flicker" and "X Flicker" could be both more informative and sound more commercial.

Then, somewhere in the documentation, or some "learn more" screen of text explain something along the lines of:

Enhanced Color mode alternates specially chosen patterns at a rapid rate to produce the illusion of more colors on screen. The effectiveness of this mode depends on your game hardware, type of display, and visual sensitivity. If you find the flickering of Enhanced Color mode distracting or uncomfortable, select Standard Color mode.

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 Post subject: Re: Lucky Penguin
PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 9:33 pm 
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I forgot to contrast the version with flicker off, which I think demonstrates something else important:
Attachment:
lucky_penguin_no_flicker_interlaced.jpg
lucky_penguin_no_flicker_interlaced.jpg [ 1015.76 KiB | Viewed 376 times ]


Comparing the ice blocks here to the ones with flicker on, you're actually getting some in-between colours already just from the horizontal halftone patterns VS the NTSC + TV signal degradation.

Just food for thought. I don't think either version looks bad at all, but the no-flicker version is definitely better on this TV in my opinion, and it's not to do with the perception of flickering (non-existent because it's 480i 30fps) but just the problem of interlacing.


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 Post subject: Re: Lucky Penguin
PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2017 6:00 am 
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rainwarrior wrote:

That's an interesting side effect, but it's somewhat agreed that HDTVs are horrible for retro consoles without proper upscaling, I don't think nes devs should care too much about it. When my everdrive arrives I'll test it out on my led tv and see how it looks, but last time I played smb3 on it I almost puked :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Lucky Penguin
PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2017 6:26 am 
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Fun. Looks nice. Haven't tried on hardware yet.

The rolling arrows being on the edges whether you can cross at a given location or not seems like a mistake, though.


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