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Fun Club Scan Lines - Yea or Nay

Scan lines?

  • Yea!

    Votes: 26 31.0%
  • Nay!

    Votes: 13 15.5%
  • It depends...

    Votes: 45 53.6%

  • Total voters
    84

juuso

Koopa
Two of the biggest indie hits of the year, namely Balatro and Animal Well, have a scan line effect applied by default. I don't know if this is enough to make it a trend, but I do find it interesting that neither of these, despite their pixel graphics, feel like they are going for particularly strong retro aesthetics per se.

How do you feel about scan lines? Does it make pixels prettier? Do you like them, do you turn them on or off if possble, or do your preferences perhaps vary by the type of the game?
 
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Depends on the game. Older games were designed with the TVs/monitors of the time in mind, often using the effects to soften and round the edges of game elements in the perception of the viewer. Thatโ€™s why modern scan line filters can sometimes look great, but sometimes just blurry, itโ€™s all down to art direction rather than being inherently good.
 
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Generally not for me. Mostly they're a lot stronger than the type of effect I actually saw on CRTs back in the day, and they end up just darkening the image.

I turned off the Animal Well one immediately.
 
voted "Nay!" because that's how I feel in almost all cases but I did think it worked for Balatro and I left them on for that
 
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If they're done well, absolutely yay. They're absolutely vital for offering older games how they were meant to be seen, and they're an important factor in making pixel art actually look good.

That being said: if they're badly implemented then don't bother. Ideally the scan line ratio should match the pixel ratio so you've got a clear boundary between where a pixel starts and ends and where your scan line starts and ends. If you're using mismatched ratios and incorrectly overlapping your scan lines on top of the pixel art, then it's going to make the pixel art look worse than if you just left it.
 
Yay! Anything that'll save me from ugly pixelated look of some neo-8-bit games. I have a smart lens in my eye, the games like Celeste give me immense headaches (I had to drop Celeste mid-way). Scanline or CRT filters make them easy on the eye. Or that smoothing thing Capcom does in their collections.
 
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I don't generally enable them, but they work great in Balatro which seems designed around that aesthetic anyway. So I guess it depends on the game for me.
 
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Generally they work best with games with a prerendered background. SNES DKC games for instance look abysmal on modern displays with no filtering. Even bad scanline filters make the game look better and playable but with some of the better ones, the games can still look pretty amazing.
 
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It depends on the game. Anything from back in the day that tries to do 3D stuff or has prerendered backgrounds a la Donkey Kong Country needs them. As far as newer pixel games, I can take it or leave it. I can't play VA-11 Hall-A without them - the art looks perfect with them on - but other games like Celeste look fine without.
 
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Animal Well looks very good, it's clear the art is designed in tandem with the scan lines because they don't just slap lines on top, but ensure the vertical pixel resolution lines up, and there's a slight blur to mimic the CRT, and there's also the phosphor glow.

Balatro I'm less impressed by.

A lot of modern pixel art games aren't designed with scanlines in mind, so I could do with or without. Sometimes the 'filter' is a poorly done overlay.

Raw pixels are an aesthetic on their own, when I grew up they were all I saw on my handhelds (the pixel grid always felt 'invisible' to me). So I have no problem playing with sharp pixels, even retro games.
 
I don't remember any of the CRT TVs I played on back then having scanlines. But I definitely prefer scanlines than raw pixels.
 
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One thing that continues to disappoint me is re-releases of N64/PS1/Saturn games which don't have a scanline option. A lot of first-gen 3D games were designed to work with CRT limitations just as much as 2D games
 
One thing that continues to disappoint me is re-releases of N64/PS1/Saturn games which don't have a scanline option. A lot of first-gen 3D games were designed to work with CRT limitations just as much as 2D games

Yeah or at the very least a way of rendering them at 240p like the recent Quake remake. I really do not like the way these games look when forced to render at 720p+, the assets lose cohesion and the rawness of low poly is exposed instead of being left abstract. Integer scaled 240p + CRT filter is ideal.
 
I voted for โ€œit dependsโ€ but I lean towards using them. If they are well implemented I think they are essential to achieving the look that was intended for classic games when re-released. Some of them are not impactful or in worst cases bad though.

I would really like to see the Retrotink 4Kโ€™s filter in person one day because Iโ€™ve heard that is extremely accurate at recreating the CRT look. A good filter can make all the difference; itโ€™s the only way I can play GBA games on my Analogue Pocket for example.
 
0
Depends greatly on a game by game basis. Donkey Kong Country looks absolutely mind blowing with scanlines, but I see no reason whatsoever for them when playing Panel de Pon. Would love to have the option on N64 games honestly, but alas...
 
I've never really bought the "pixel art was actually designed to be distorted by scanlines in a specific way" argument, and whenever I see a scanline filter it's always just making the game look darker. My only "pixel art" system is a GBA SP, the lines are barely visible. It certainly doesn't look like this. In general I'm always going to prefer maximum clarity anyway, I'm not even that big of a fan of things like lighting effects a lot of the time. Hate HD-2D.

...On the other hand, I do vastly prefer the look of blurry filtered N64 textures to the higher res but very pixelated PS1 textures. I'm not sure what that means.
 
If the filter is good, then yes. If the filter is just scanlines, then no.
I've never really bought the "pixel art was actually designed to be distorted by scanlines in a specific way" argument, and whenever I see a scanline filter it's always just making the game look darker. My only "pixel art" system is a GBA SP, the lines are barely visible. It certainly doesn't look like this.
Well the wide GBA kinda looks like that. NSO has the best GBA filter I've seen though, closer to the look of the later models.
 
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A good scanlines filter on a pretty 2d pixel and on an oled screen always look divine. I'm obsessed.
 
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I've never really bought the "pixel art was actually designed to be distorted by scanlines in a specific way" argument
It's not an argument, it's simply fact.

scanline-lcd-pixel.jpg

FBiFBTq.jpg

 
It's not an argument, it's simply fact.

scanline-lcd-pixel.jpg

FBiFBTq.jpg


Yeah, I've seen those images many times, I don't buy it. Dracula in particular just looks stretched and smeared. The idea that anything you think looks better when blurred by the output of a specific CRT was specifically intended by the artists is incredibly far-fetched to me.
 
Yeah, I've seen those images many times, I don't buy it. Dracula in particular just looks stretched and smeared. The idea that anything you think looks better when blurred by the output of a specific CRT was specifically intended by the artists is incredibly far-fetched to me.
You can just think it looks ugly. That's ok, it's not really about "buying it." This just what games looked like on TVs that were the standard back then. There's nothing at all wrong with preferring raw pixels, I happen to think they look more beautiful that way in certain instances, but the "stretched and smeared" look absolutely had to be intentional since that was the vast majority of what people would see and what developers would be creating games for, up to the late 90s/00s.
 
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I prefer a nice subtle scanline over raw pixels any day of the week. Anything is better than smoothing filters. I genuinely do not understand how anybody can play games like that and think smoothed out pixels looks okay.
 
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You can just think it looks ugly. That's ok, it's not really about "buying it." This just what games looked like on TVs that were the standard back then. There's nothing at all wrong with preferring raw pixels, I happen to think they look more beautiful that way in certain instances, but "stretched and smeared" look absolutely had to be intentional since that was the vast majority of what people would see and what developers would be creating games for, up to the late 90s/00s.
Well only that one particular image looks stretched in the comparison, which is kind of my point. There's no way every CRT had the same output, and these details that get pointed out are frequently way too specific to have come out looking the same on everything with differences in color, sharpness, brightness, etc. I think it's highly unlikely that developers were unaware of this and tried to optimize the look of their games for a specific CRT's image. An effect that worked on one model would just fall flat on another.

I'm a little more willing to entertain the idea that pixel art was made with universal elements of how CRTs handle images in mind, but even that is still pretty difficult to believe, especially the idea of it ever being a widespread practice across the industry when the basic competence of pixel art varied so dramatically and every other artistic technique for making games back then was anything but standardized.

Of course many sprites were made to imply detail, that's just kind of how pixel art works. And that this is easier to read when the individual pixels are unclear to the eye is also just how vision works. But you don't need to rely specifically on CRT output for that, distance does pretty much the same thing. I think it's important to point out that these comparison shots are usually extreme close-ups that don't actually reflect how anyone was seeing these games back then either. A full CRT screen seen from a distance looks... pretty much the same as it would anywhere. It's so much less dramatic.

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I don't actually have anything against the look of CRTs, there's a good chance I would actually end up going to bat for them as the superior format if I ever did an in-person comparison due to all the technical differences in how they work (though I think scanline filters are utterly pointless nostalgia wankery, it's like if you listened to music with a "vinyl filter").

It's just that the claims people make about them with pixel art seem completely ridiculous and impossible. I've never once seen quotes from people who actually made pixel art back then talking about any of this either. It doesn't help that everyone seems to have different claims about the relationship between CRTs and pixel art. The whole thing smells of bullshit.

Some are entirely focused on scanlines as being where the magic happens, some only mention them in passing as a byproduct of how CRTs display images. You have the extreme CRT acolytes who hold opinions like "HD was a mistake, CRT is superior for everything, CRT and pixel art were made for each other", and apparently there are now people who claim there should be separate schools of pixel art for CRT and LCD displays and every indie developer is doing it wrong. (I highly doubt this was a thing back when CRTs and LCD handhelds actually existed side by side...)

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I think it's highly unlikely that developers were unaware of this and tried to optimize the look of their games for a specific CRT's image. An effect that worked on one model would just fall flat on another.
I don't know what to tell you then. It's no different from modern days screens having different manufacturers, with each of them having further different sizes, models, and settings. Obviously, they didn't take one specific CRT and made all pixel art for that one screen, nor was there even just one way to do pixel art. But pixel art displays vastly differently on a CRT made back compared to an LCD or OLED made today. You can choose not to believe it, due to twitter accounts purposefully picking and choosing particularly extreme examples on specific screens with curated settings. You're right in that those pictures shown off are not exactly how many games in that era ended up looking like on average, but it is a fact that seeing raw pixels in that age during normal gameplay was highly, highly unlikely, and the blur effect changed how games looked like then compared to screens now.
 
imo crt mask filters > scanlines

i was able however to kiiiinda get close to a crt filter with hybrid scanlines on my ossc

You can just think it looks ugly. That's ok, it's not really about "buying it." This just what games looked like on TVs that were the standard back then. There's nothing at all wrong with preferring raw pixels, I happen to think they look more beautiful that way in certain instances, but the "stretched and smeared" look absolutely had to be intentional since that was the vast majority of what people would see and what developers would be creating games for, up to the late 90s/00s.
p much

also, i think megaman x looks completely fine running on a flat panel without any scanlines or masks
 
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depends on the game i feel like blasphemous didn't look that great with the filter but animal well feels incomplete without the scanlines
 
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I generally enjoy scanlines, and folks like CRT Pixels do a stellar job in showcasing just how much pixel art can benefit from being filtered through the effect. However, I've been playing Animal Well without them, and the simple reason for that is because I feel as though the game's color vibrancy and environmental legibility are at their best in the absence of scanlines. It's a trade-off, and I'm choosing to eschew vibes and smoother graphics for slightly brighter colors and a sharper look.
 


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