The way to rediscover "excited spring age"

Old games and modern technology: The path to rediscover "exciting age of spring"

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Have you ever experienced titles again old game, retro game and see a little … thorny eyes? Has the graphic style full of angular, grainy, blurry, lack of detail hit your eyes constantly, making you play and wonder, "What the hell am I to see this beautiful thing in my childhood?" If you answered "Yes!" It is common sense.

The most subjective and understandable reason, we simply see a nice game because in that era, there were no better products. For example if taken Doom (1993) compared to Far Cry 5 For example, then surely Doom will … look like garbage. That's because at the present time, we have experienced many cool titles. But at the time Doom debuted, how many games can cope with it in graphics? Therefore, if you play Doom in particular or titles old game Overall and impressive is because they give us an experience you've never seen before. And the impression of "this beautiful game" keeps following me, until you launch that game 20 years later and compared to modern games …

However, there are other objective reasons other than that memory. In general, when new technology develops, you will expect it to outperform the old technology, especially when the old technology has been away from one or two decades. But there may be something that makes the display of the image old game By old technology other than new technology, and make you feel unattractive.

So join to discover ways to bring inspiration back to old titles!


Today, when thin, light, curved, 4K resolution displays, 1mm edges, HDR support … have taken over the entire market, does anyone still remember the "massive" CRT monitor ?

About how it works, you probably understand that CRT screens have a lot of differences compared to modern "flat screens". And that entails the displayed image as well.

CRT (cathode ray tubes) is a vacuum tube containing at least one electron gun and a phosphorescent screen that is used to display images. CRT tubes can adjust, accelerate and redirect electron beams to control the position of electrons hitting the screen. The flow of electrons fired will hit the screen from left to right, creating a color line, and that's called a scanline. Thus, in term of terminology, scanline is the color line that creates the image when the electron gun sweeps from left to right.

However, referring to scanline in the CRT game, people often refer to black lines, ie lines without color, or rather the lines that the electron gun ignores. For example, the screen is divided into 480 lines, then the electron gun will "shoot" 240 alternating lines, and leave the remaining 240 lines black.

As for why CRT works when it needs to scanline, the article doesn't go deep, because it's quite technical and contains many unrelated issues. But important is the result, and you can see clearly different:

The image is taken from the article on Melding's Reddit.

The left picture is a game that is played on a CRT screen, and the right is the result of playing on a simulator with a modern flat screen. Of course, "beauty is in the eyes of the viewer", so if you see the right picture more beautiful, there is no problem at all. But the point here is that the displayed image will change dramatically on the type of screen you use, and there will be people who feel that scanline brings a smooth, pleasant, smooth, favorable and nostalgic feel. than.

Even later, as CRT technology progressed, some CRT monitors using shadow-mask technology could significantly reduce scanline presence, while CRT monitors could have other characteristics such as bloom or image retention, and CRT screens themselves are also much different in picture quality. To be fair, most of these features are flaws, and the next technology has overcome them, but for games, these "defects" play a rather important role in the player's experience. Furthermore, game developers are aware of these "defects", so they use it more or less to make games that when combined with CRT monitors will produce cool results.

The photo is taken from the video of YouTuber Michael Ferguson.

So if you feel the way the titles are old game Displaying on a flat screen is not what I want, you may have to find a way to add CRT simulation effects when playing games. And the simplest way, to keep the first bee for you to experience old game through CRT prism is to use a certain emulator that supports CRT shading, namely Retroarch.

In the game simulator, Retroarch can be considered a "big sister". This is an open source program, developed on the libretro (libretro API) application interface, allowing you to download different cores, with each core being an emulator for its own system. Therefore, the list of emulator devices that can run on Retroarch is quite large. Speaking of simulations, it is about a sensitive "gray zone" in copyright gaming, but if you have a disc old game and the machine to play the game, Retroarch will help you experience CRT graphics on a modern LCD screen.

This simulator supports many libretro shader tools, and among them there are different CRT shader tools. The best CRT shader tool at present is probably CRT-Royale, which allows you to simulate every aspect of a CRT monitor in detail. However, it is quite complicated, contains many parameters and has some emulation features that require you to have 4K or even 8K screen to make good use of.

The above photos capture the same scene but through different shadow tools (using default parameters). As mentioned, the difference between CRT screens is very large and the concept of goodness or not with CRT depends a lot on your childhood or tastes. Anyway, the next generation will no longer be exposed to the CRT screen, so if you like the smoothness of the details of the pixels rather than the fuzzy black lines of the CRT screen, it's perfectly normal. .

Finally, if you wonder if there is any way to "reverse engineer" the modern CRT-based games, then the answer is yes! Reshade is a software that adds graphics effects to the game, and including scanline effects of CRT monitors. Customizations will not be as detailed as in Retroarch, but if you are good at programming, you can always transform libretro shader tools to Reshade and "help humanity."

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter goes through the CRT lens


While it is intended to provide a better experience for users, if the "CRT" simulator is considered a "bring the image back to the past", AI Upscaling is a move that "brings everything to the future".

To learn about this technology, first of all, we need to know what upscale is.

In graphics, upscale can be understood by increasing the resolution. For example, you have a 1280 × 720 image and you want to "zoom" it up to 1920 × 1080, that's called upscale. Listening through it seems simple, but upscale reality is always a big challenge in the graphics industry, because the nature of upscale is: you are "laying" the pixel.

Take a picture of the 1920 × 1080 resolution and then shrink it 10 times, to 192 × 108. When you enlarge it 10 times up, you'll get the old picture, right? IS NOT. You will get something "fuzzy".

old game

A 1920 × 1080 photo contains more than 2 million pixels (specifically 2,073,600), which means that in that picture there are more than 2 million pieces of information shaped on it. And a 192 × 108 photo has only 20 thousand pieces of similar information. If you start from 2 million pieces of information, you can "throw" 1.98 million pieces away to have 20 thousand pieces. But if it comes from 20 thousand pieces, where do you get the exact information about 1.98 million other pieces to recover the original image? It's easier to understand, give numbers 1, 2, 3, … 10, then tell you to throw 8 numbers away so that 2 numbers are simple. But give you the numbers 2 and 5, then tell you to deduce to add 8 numbers like the answer, what kind of reasoning do you have to figure out?

Of course you can "imagine" in your mind what the original image is like, but computers can't "read your brain" to know what you "imagine". It needs to do its own computational steps to create more pixels, but the most common, traditional and "farmer" calculations are: taking the value of the pixels around then dividing the average. This is the simplest solution, but it is also the result of that approach that causes the opaque phenomenon.

Titles old game also similar. They were originally designed to output at very low resolutions, such as 240p, and when taken to the time of Full HD, 1440p, and 4K screens … they wouldn't be eye catching: vignettes Simple, the image is fuzzy, the colors are unimpressive … To solve this problem, more upscale measures are more complex than average division, and modern technology is brought to us by AI Upscaling.

old game
Upscale by traditional method
old game
Upscale by traditional method (enlarge)

The photos above are taken from the game Final Fantasy IX, PlayStation version, has an original resolution of 400 × 250 and is upscale 4 times. However, the left session is upscale using traditional manual methods, and on the right is upscale with waifu2x, the hugely popular AI Upscaling tool. And as you can see, the results are markedly different.

AI, Intelligent Artificial or artificial intelligence, has the ability to help upscale images more accurately because it not only focuses on a few specific pixels to use the "add-on" method like math Class 1. Instead, the program is "learned", "trained" from a lot of examples, lots of images are available and synthesize individual parameters. Then when you need to upscale something, from the parameters you have learned, the program will look at a large area of ​​the image, analyze what this point is, what color it should be, and how it should be, and from which the best quality photo comes out. Moreover, when not upscale is completed, it will be a "delicious food" photo, but also do the stages such as eliminating color errors, smoothing … and traditional measures are difficult to perform well the complex requirements.

A brief way to distinguish two upscale methods is: the traditional method of doing things based on what it's programmed from humans, and AI Upscaling does the same job based on what it draws. from the data provided. Na na is a party that tends to "learn" from theory, while the other side is "learning" from reality.

If you really want to learn about AI Upscaling, then Reddit GameUpscale is an ideal place to start, and it gives you a list of a lot of good tools like Waifu2x, ESRGAN, A.I. Gigapixel …

Finally, if you know how to advertise high-end TV lines from Samsung or LG, the high availability of AI Upscaling, AI UpScaler, upscale AI … phrases will be mentioned a lot. Those TVs have a resolution of up to 8K, but at the moment there are any movies, which programs broadcast at that resolution? To take advantage of 8K resolution, upscale is required, and traditional upscale to create "fuzzy" images is not a good idea when you want to sell hundreds of millions of TVs. Of course, it is impossible to say that the upscale technology built into the TV is perfect, but the idea is that the value of AI Upscaling doesn't just stop at giving. old game About the present time in particular, which can be applied to the entire field of graphics and images in general.


Similar to AI Upscaling, Ray Tracing can be said to be a technology that serves the future, but unlike AI Upscaling is now being used a lot, Ray Tracing is currently only in the "practice" stage. school game.

Ray Tracing, or ray tracing, is a light source traceability technology, from which algorithms will perform calculations to create reflective, shaded images and create reflective light effects over time. real. The traditional method of rendering graphics for the game is rasterization with shadow shading: converting a graphic represented as a vector to the image represented in pixels, then changing the color, texture, and brightness to export to the last frame.

Simply put, Ray Tracing works based on what is in fact: simulating where the light source comes from, how to hit the object, it will produce the corresponding shading and reflection. And the traditional tower can be interpreted as giving you a pile of objects, and then telling you to go on your own in order to draw more shadow or mirror image depending on the light source. Everything would be simple if there was only one cup and one lamp, but it would be extremely difficult to guess if there were many different light sources and lots of objects like real life. Therefore, most shadow effects or reflection that you see in the game are "guessed", not "simulated". So Ray Tracing is expected one day to completely replace the traditional method in the game. However, "expectation" and "reality" are often quite far apart.

Ray Tracing is not very new technology, because it has been applied in the field of filmmaking for a while. It can bring true, vivid picture quality, enough to make you unable to distinguish the techniques in blockbusters. Because in the film industry, Ray Tracing's "critical" weakness can be minimized. And that weakness is: calculation time.

Create Big Hero 6Disney used a supercomputer with 55,000 CPU cores. Create Monsters University, Pixar uses 2400 computers with 24,000 cores to make 1 frame every 29 hours, ie 104,400 seconds. You must understand the problem here. Personal computers don't have thousands of CPU cores, and no one plays games at 0.000001 FPS.

old game
Traditional shaping method (left) and Ray Tracing (right).
Images taken from Digital Foundry videos.

Therefore, Ray Tracing has only been integrated into recent gaming hardware, with the beginning being Nvidia's RTX series of cards, and since then there are still many shortcomings such as:

  • Ray Tracing in the game is much smaller than in cinema, so the accuracy cannot be equal.
  • The number of integrated Ray Tracing games on the market is counted on the fingers.
  • It is possible to reduce FPS in a bad way, especially if you are not using RTX cards, so many people don't bother to use them.
  • Nvidia monopoly: closed source code, not available on the console, cannot be used to mod games.

Here, you can think of Ray Tracing as a technology with no future … but the truth is that both AMD and Intel are trying to race with this feature.

Ray Tracing is an "obvious" progress of the in-game graphics technology, and Nvidia is one of the leaders. The Ray Tracing product that Nvidia brings to the present is still defective, but it is a prerequisite step for the graphics industry to develop. Hopefully both AMD and Intel will not take too long to catch up, and also hope that the defects of Ray Tracing will be overcome quickly.

So what can Ray Tracing help in "inspiring inspiration" for titles old game? The answer was presented by Nvidia in the trailer Quake II RTX.

Quake II debuted in 1997, and over 20 years later, players will have the opportunity to admire the Ray Tracing version of the title old game This is free if you own the game on Steam. And by being one old game So texture quality (the detail of the surface of objects) of Quake II RTX quite low compared to modern games, it is very suitable to show Ray Tracing's "bright spot" without having to worry about low FPS. At the same time, viewers will have a "transcendental view" of an old product but will be wearing a new color thanks to technology.

Finally, most likely Quake II RTX just the beginning. Once Ray Tracing technology grows, becomes popular, supports many types of hardware and has open source, there will be many titles. old game landed on modern systems with the included Ray Tracing. And maybe, Ray Tracing will bring a new color to the "once-in-a-lifetime" games like Crysis, Far Cry good Half-Life 2 so what.

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