Retro Video Game & Erstwhile Estimator Graphics Explained: How Erstwhile Video Games Were Made

- January 11, 2019

We are currently inward the Eighth Generation of video game consoles, together with at that topographic point is no doubtfulness that video game estimator graphics accept come upward along agency since 1972, when the First Generation of video game consoles started out amongst the advent of the Magnavox Odyssey video game console. Home computers entered the marketplace five years after inward 1977, together with just ane twelvemonth before inward 1976 the Second Generation of video game consoles was underway amongst the Atari 2600 (8-bit), which was inarguable the most pop game console of the Second Generation.

By 1983 together with 1989, the Nintendo Entertainment System together with TurboGrafx-16 Entertainment SuperSystem gave nascency to the Third Generation together with Fourth Generation of game consoles respectably carrying an 8-bit together with 16-bit estimator graphics respectably.


How Old Video Games Were Made
To sympathise how one-time video games were made, nosotros must sympathise the challenges video game designers faced when it came to adding color to video games. Factors they had to move yesteryear away along inward heed were color depth together with video RAM. Color depth (a.k.a fighting depth) is the number of bits used for each color cistron of a unmarried pixel; patch Video RAM (a.k.a hide memory) is the retention used to shop the ikon information inward the hide display.


To compass you lot an sentiment of how much video RAM color used, if video game designers just wanted to add together the colors dark together with patch (1-bit color or monochrome), that solitary would ask 8 kilobytes of RAM just to shop the information displayed inward the screen.

If game designers were to add together 4-bit color (16 colors) or fifty-fifty 8-bit color (256 colors), this would ask 32 kilobytes together with 64 kilobytes of RAM respectively. You tin imagine straightaway how much of an number video RAM was to video game designers dorsum then. It may non audio similar much straightaway but at the time, 8-bit color (256 colors) would essentially purpose upward 64K bytes of video RAM. Even the highest spec dwelling estimator of the hateful solar daytime such equally the Aamber Pegasus exclusively had 64K RAM.

Three Ways To Add More Color Without Increasing RAM
As video RAM solitary would eat upward all the retention space, leaving out no room for the code, video game designers had to figure out ways to add together to a greater extent than color to the hide display without using up
also much video RAM. They came upward amongst three ways to overcome the video RAM high-usage number yesteryear either using Color Cells (like Commodore together with Nintendo Entertainment System did), using NTSC Artifact Coloring (like Apple II and Tandy Color estimator did) together with using CPU Driven Graphics which the Atari 2600 is a neat illustration of.

Color Cells 
The most pop method used yesteryear most early on 1980's video game designers was adding color yesteryear using an additional 1K of RAM together with defining Color Cells on the screen. These cells divided the hide upward into areas that were 8x8 pixels. Within each cell, video game designers were able to define a foreground together with background color.

Defining Color cells was a neat agency to add together color together with gratis upward video RAM but it was express equally game designers could exclusively accept 2 colors per cell. You tin run across how yesteryear using color cells game designers were able to add together sixteen colors to one-time video games. Saying this, video game designers could non e'er lay the colors just where they wanted them to go, which made color prison theater cellular telephone coloring really laborious. Realizing this now, it makes me realize how difficult video game designers had to operate dorsum together with hence to convey video games to life!

Multi-color Mode together with Hardware Sprite 
Video game designers at the fourth dimension knew the limitations of using color cells hence they had to employ to a greater extent than flexible options to add together color such equally using a multi-color manner together with a hardware sprite. Multi-color manner (used yesteryear Commodore 64 dwelling computer) made the pixels twice equally broad which cutting the hide resolution yesteryear half, together with exclusively consumed 9K RAM. Multi-color manner allowed video game designers to purpose 4 colors per prison theater cellular telephone instead of 2.

The other pop coloring choice was called a hardware sprite which worked yesteryear allowing graphical objects to motion independently of the game playfield. For instance, Atari VCS's sprites, called players together with missiles, were constructed from a unmarried row of pixels that displayed on a scan line of piece of job to attain a two-dimensional shape. The sprite's single-row bitmap is altered yesteryear software from ane scanline to the next. The Commodore 64 had 8 dissimilar sprites, the Nintendo had 64 dissimilar sprites. The Mario grapheme solitary was made of 4 sprites.


NTSC artifact coloring
NTSC artifact coloring was by together with large used yesteryear the Tandy Color Computer (a.k.a. TRS-80 Color Computer) together with had a 256x192 pixel manner (Color Computer 2) that could practise artifact coloring to compass an effective resolution of 280x192 amongst iv colors (black, white, reddish together with blue).

The Apple II also supported a 280x192 pixel High Resolution Graphics mode.  The actual pixels were white together with did non comprise color/hue or saturation information.  Each of bits, except the highest, of every retention byte for the HGR page could display a unmarried point if laid (logical 1).  A unmarried retention location could fix to 7 consecutive pixels.  Pixels on fifty-fifty horizontal lines would look equally imperial first, on strange lines they would move light-green first.  If ane pixel was set, it would move inward color on a color monitor.  If 2 following pixels were set, they would look equally a double-wide white pixel.

Similarly, if 2 following pixels were off, they would look equally black. The play tricks to getting venture colors was to house pixels inward an alternating on-off-on pattern.  That is why you lot would ofttimes run across "serrated" or "stripey" graphics amongst a monochrome display instead of a venture color. The effective color resolution is something roughly 140x192.

CPU Driven Graphics
CPU driven graphics was some other technique used yesteryear video game designers to attain visuals depending on whether you lot had a monochrome or color screen. Apple II together with Atari 2600 pioneered this technique which had its drawbacks. For instance, an Apple II attached to a color hide would exhibit white text on a dark background appearing near rainbow-like because of the pixel placement. The colors bluish together with light-green following to each other were peculiarly tricky to align on the screen, which made some games images bleed into each other.

As far equally some Atari 2600 games displaying dark bars on the left side of the display, this was non due to CPU bottleneck, but to the dedicated graphics processor (called the TIA) of the Atari 2600. As the TIA drew the hide per scanline, instead of, per total hide bitmap it created the dark bars. The CPU on the Atari 2600 just loaded the relevant information to the TIA registers for it to display, just similar the Nintendo Entertainment System together with Commodore 64's CPU did.
 

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