Graphics and sound review for xbox VOOM, VOOT, and Force

Discuss the Virtual-On series.
Post Reply
User avatar
Porcupine
Virtual-On Positive
Posts: 574
Joined: 19 Jul 2012, 19:07

Graphics and sound review for xbox VOOM, VOOT, and Force

Post by Porcupine » 17 Apr 2015, 17:34

Even though it never went on sale like I was hoping, I just bought VOOM since my japanese microsoft points might have expired in a month. So I'll be talking about VOOM again, but for now I'll just start with my impression on the video and audio quality of its conversion. While I'm at it, I might as well talk about details and gripes we have had with VOOT and Force as well.

VOOM looks a lot better than the xbox store pics make it seem. I actually think it looks better than VOOT, even though the game graphics are themselves of course inferior. In terms of 3D rendering and lighting, the game looks pretty much identical to how it is supposed to look. In terms of video quality, the brightness is the correct level. There is a brightness control that lets you adjust from -5 to +10, but the default of 0 looks perfect to me. The biggest complaint might be that there is no widescreen option. Also by default, the game plays in a smaller window than the full screen, but you can change it to use the full screen and there is no reason you should not do that.

The small window is a stupid idea which was carried over from the PS2 version of VOOM, which was an excellent port. While it had similar resizing options, the PS2 version was reluctant to deviate from the original arcade resolution of VOOM, which was nonstandard, roughly 350 to 400 pixels vertically. The best way to play on the PS2 was therefore to use the small window, in which case the game rendered the arcade pixel-perfect and also in 60 frames progressive scan, a rarity among PS2 games. In the other screen modes of PS2 VOOM, the game might use the full screen but the image would be interlaced and also possibly upscaled, which is bad. (Meanwhile on PC, VOOM was changed to render in 640x480 but at 30 fps, which I heard could be upgraded to 60 fps with some hacks).

Anyway the small window carried over into xbox 360 VOOM for no good reason, as HDTVs have totally different resolutions now. And xbox VOOM is natively 3D rendered in HD which is excellent, with sharp crisp lines and fine pixels. The image will not upscale if you increase the small window to full screen, you'll just get that much more native resolution. Meanwhile, the 2D graphics of VOOM (lock-on target, lifebars, etc) are still at the original 300-ish pixel resolution, and are upscaled (therefore very pixely and also blurry looking). However, it is upscaled in a non-integer multiple of the original no matter whether you use the small window or the large window. Therefore using the large window only provides that much more pixels to work with, and therefore results in a better upscale quality of the 2D images.

In summary, I think xbox VOOM has the following video specs:
game resolution (new xbox-specific menus): 1280x720 ?
3D rendering resolution: 960x720 ?
2D images resolution: original 400x300-ish, upscaled

Now as for music, the game offers a choice between the original arcade tinny music and the arranged version, which is what all console versions of VOOM have always used going way back to the Saturn version. The PS2 version was the first game to offer a choice between the two, and I think I chose arranged when I played it long ago.

However I think there is a bug with the sound effects. They are ultra soft by default, which matters in VO games. Except for when the enemy dies, then suddenly it goes BOOOM BAGA BAGAGA!! as if the world is exploding. I do not recall any of the other versions of VOOM having this issue. The sound effects are supposed to be much louder when fighting, but when you die it is not supposed to go BOOOM BAGA BAGAGA!! I think this problem occurred because they are using sound effects from the original arcade version of VOOM instead of the console versions, and also perhaps it is not emulated correctly with regards to the death explosion. The sound effects sound very tinny. There is no option to switch between different versions of sound effects. There is an option to adjust the sound effect volume but it is useless. If you make the sound any louder, you can hear shots normally while playing but when the enemy dies your speakers may explode. If you adjust the sound to the minimum so that the explosion sounds normal, you will hear absolutely nothing in regards to any other sound effects or voices.

I could be imagining this, but I also think the original arcade tinny music in xbox VOOM does not sound like it is supposed to, either (i.e. the same as on the PS2 version, or in the Force memorial box CD soundtrack, the only other two sources for this music).

Considering all of that, my personal choices for xbox VOOM were to use default original arcade tinny music and default sound effect volume. I think the lousy and possibly improperly reproduced original tinny music somehow works better with the original and possibly improperly reproduced sound effects. This is sad but it is the best sounding balance I can come up with.

There seems to be no way to turn off autosave. You can turn it off in the menus but then there is no way to save that you turned it off, for xbox VOOM is mysteriously missing a manual save option underneath its load option. There is no patch for VOOM, unlike VOOT and Force which both have a patch that goes invisibly into your HD cache.

User avatar
Porcupine
Virtual-On Positive
Posts: 574
Joined: 19 Jul 2012, 19:07

Re: Graphics and sound review for xbox VOOM, VOOT, and Force

Post by Porcupine » 17 Apr 2015, 23:40

For VOOT the only issues are with the video quality. Mainly, the game is significantly darker than it is supposed to be, when compared with the Dreamcast version which looks normal. I suspect this was an issue with mishandling the transition from different signal formats (DVD, and analog SDTV broadcast signals, and some VGA signals such as outputted by the Dreamcast, only support 16-235 color levels, so 220 colors instead of a full 256). There is a Brightness option which can be set to on or off but it does absolutely nothing. There is an option for Enhanced graphics which makes the VRs and their projectile attacks be drawn a lot brighter, with multiple different shading/lighting algorithms applied. (The fundamental shading renderer is changed for VRs, plus the brightness is increased in a separate step for VRs, plus there are glow effects applied to visors, projectiles, and other special effects). Unfortunately the backgrounds remain exactly the same as before in all aspects, both in lighting and in brightness. So the result is an odd mismatch of object brightnesses. Furthermore, the dark areas of VRs are just as dark as with the ordinary graphics, only the highlighted parts get really bright, so it is quite unnatural.

The Brightness option does nothing regardless of whether Enhanced graphics is turned on or off. Supposedly the patch is what enabled the Enhanced graphics to work, but pre-patch the Enhanced graphics option is still there, though I never tested if it works. I think I tested and found that the Brightness option still does nothing pre-patch.

I personally play with the Enhanced graphics turned off in VOOT but there can be some small advantages to turning it on (brighter VRs, though it's not proper brightness so the benefit is not as much as it should be). It is off by default. Much more helpful is to instead turn your TV super bright with the regular graphics, which I do on occasion when I feel like I want an edge to be more competitive. (I also may turn off the music when I feel I want an edge). But this is annoying to do everytime.

As for resolution, there are no in-game options but I think the resolution is not as good as VOOM or Force. (According to Zaarock you can play the game Fullscreen instead of default Widescreen but I think the settings for that are probably controlled outside the game, in your Dashboard settings, though the game apparently adjusts to those settings properly). The game menus and redrawn graphics appear to be in HD, but the 3D rendering looks slightly blurrier and with larger pixels than the other two games, to me. My guess is that the 3D rendering is done in a lower resolution and upscaled to the game resolution (which may in turn be upscaled yet again by your TV or xbox for display). Quite a lot of modern 360 games do this, though I have no idea why VOOT would, as it is an old game with relatively simple graphics. The 2D graphics are either redrawn in HD or in some cases (lock-on target, lifebars, etc) remain at the original 640x480 resolution of the Dreamcast, upscaled.

In summary, I think xbox VOOT has the following video specs:
game resolution (new xbox-specific menus): 1280x720 ?
3D rendering resolution: 1024x576 ? upscaled ?
2D images resolution: some 1280x720, some 640x480 ?

Viper2
Virtual-On Positive
Posts: 124
Joined: 06 Jan 2010, 06:34
Contact:

Re: Graphics and sound review for xbox VOOM, VOOT, and Force

Post by Viper2 » 20 Apr 2015, 12:57

Porcupine wrote: (Meanwhile on PC, VOOM was changed to render in 640x480 but at 30 fps, which I heard could be upgraded to 60 fps with some hacks).
You don't need a hack to do that. There's four different combinations of two options, one of which gets you hi-res and high FPS. The hack with the debug-menu appears to allow you to change the speed the game runs at relative to your computer speed (probably to solve issues with the game running too fast or too slow on some systems).

The small windows are used for VS and internet play mode in PC VOOM.
There seems to be no way to turn off autosave. You can turn it off in the menus but then there is no way to save that you turned it off, for xbox VOOM is mysteriously missing a manual save option underneath its load option. There is no patch for VOOM, unlike VOOT and Force which both have a patch that goes invisibly into your HD cache.
On par with the original. Does it also only save after Bal-Bas-Bow's level (Ruins), with the first five missions not being saved?

User avatar
Porcupine
Virtual-On Positive
Posts: 574
Joined: 19 Jul 2012, 19:07

Re: Graphics and sound review for xbox VOOM, VOOT, and Force

Post by Porcupine » 20 Apr 2015, 18:32

I'm not exactly sure when or what autosave decides to save, because I always turn mine off as soon as possible, as I don't want to save anything unnecessary beyond just my game settings. I have to do this manually every time I boot up the game, and it gets annoying. I think the small windows you are talking about in PC VOOM are not the same ones I am talking about, which are a certain specific size.

Okay, I managed to turn off the autosave in xbox 360 VOOM by editing the save file. :banana: Since the option was actually in the save file that is further evidence this was a careless programming mistake.

User avatar
Porcupine
Virtual-On Positive
Posts: 574
Joined: 19 Jul 2012, 19:07

Re: Graphics and sound review for xbox VOOM, VOOT, and Force

Post by Porcupine » 05 May 2015, 16:55

For me Force is perfect but others like Zaarock have minor issues with its graphic setting options. Just as in VOOT, there is an Enhanced graphics option (which defaults to on in Force) and a Brightness option which does absolutely nothing, regardless of the Enhanced graphics setting. Enhanced graphics off is supposedly like arcade Force. It is a bit dark but not too dark for me, with reasonably complex shading algorithms that are similar to VOOT with Enhanced graphics on (minus the abnormal brightness and glowing). Unfortunately, what drives Zaarock crazy is that VR shadows are just a crappy black oval at their feet. Even VOOM and VOOT have better shadows than that!

Enhanced graphics on makes the game brighter, but not too bright for me, gives the VRs properly shaped shadows, and adds another layer of shading to VRs that is like the waxy glossy effect on cars. The increase in brightness applies to both the backgrounds and VRs evenly. To me this is the perfect setting, I like everything about it, even though I can see why the glossy VRs bother some people. It's like ray-tracing except calculated in a fake way that vaguely simulates reflections on metallic surfaces. Zaarock prefers to turn this setting off even though he has to then suffer from his black ovals.

As for resolution, all images and rendering in Force seem to be in native HD resolution, probably 1280x720.

Among other things, you can customize whether or not to show the distance readout in battle. It is off by default presumably to reduce screen clutter, as Force already has more indicators than the other VO games. However, almost everyone except me turns it on, as it is important and advantageous in battle. My rationale for leaving it off is that I can use the Force radar to replace some of its traditional functions (enemies I can't see) and that I wish to develop the ability to gauge distances with my eyes without relying on the machine. I usually turn on the distance readout for training mode though, as I'm heavy into numbers and testing.

You can also choose between the default Force-style camera, which zooms away from your VR when there is at least one enemy out of view, and the traditional zoomed-in VO camera. The Force camera is more advantageous, but a fair number of players including myself choose the traditional camera. I do so mainly out of a desire for consistency but also because I like to look at Fei-Yen.

Post Reply