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Quick review of ME 0.99b5 latest features

 
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Kaminari
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2002 12:48 am    Post subject: Quick review of ME 0.99b5 latest features Reply with quote

Overall, I really like this release (can't summerize it more). Below are some thoughts about specific features that need some consideration.

== GENERAL ==

* Arcade Card support

Greatly improved since 0.99b3. Art of Fighting has still some major issues with the unusual screen resolution switchings it makes to produce its so-called 'zoom'. (I should start a whole new thread on this game later Smile )

SCD games which are ACD compatible can't be run in ACD mode (yet?).

* Frame delay

Major feature! The progressive desynchronization long-standing problems are over. I set the default value to 16711 to get a perfectly synchronized video and CD audio.

* Internal database disabling

Thanks David, it's definitely an important feature. Now the games can be displayed by their filename and not through the ME internal database. Problem of this internal database is that, being a closed one, it's nearly impossible to help updating it without tremendous efforts - that is, listing every good or bad ROM by keeping track of its checksum and renaming it correctly (GoodPCE reference is far from being perfect and ME database is getting old as far as game names are concerned).

== VIDEO ==

* Custom screen resolutions (TV mode)

Probably the best feature of ME. The best way for your monitor to look like a real TV with a real PC Engine plugged to it.

It has been there for quite some time, but I never gave it a serious try (mainly because PowerStrip didn't work on my old Rage128), until the fullscreen feature appeared in 0.99b5. These are the modes I use on my GeForce2 Titanium - just don't try them if you have not created them beforehand (small tutorial on the way):

;
; fullscreen screen resolutions
; --
; custom screen resolutions to be used for the different
; PC-Engine video modes (256x224, 320x224, and 352x224)
;
; (by default a resolution of 640x480 is used for all the
; video modes)
;

res_256=512,448
res_320=672,448
res_352=672,448

The only PCE mode still missing is 512x224 (Sherlock Holmes).

Should I mention that the use of the above custom screens make the old widescreen option completely obsolete?

* Higher screen resolutions

Yes, now Gunhed can run silk smooth in 1280x1024 Wink

* Screen resolution locking

You have to set it to 'n' if you want your screen modes to switch like on a real console (especially useful with custom screen modes).

* Scanlines

I can't thank David enough. Scanlines 25% with horizontal interpolation are super sexy on my custom screen modes. (IMHO, scanlines are useless in stretch mode, even with very high resolutions.)

* Fullscreen (stretch mode)

Great feature for those who can't get custom resolutions to work. The only drawback (same thing in YAME) is that ME actually stretches every picture in fullscreen - even if the size of the picture is smaller than the size of the PCE screen (Valis, Xanadu, etc). Apparently, David is working on the problem.

By the way... This feature works by stretching pictures, NOT shrinking them. Thus, for the fullscreen to work, the zoom must be set to 2x2 and your screen mode must be at least two times larger than the PCE screen mode you intend to display. Displaying a PCE 256x224 screen on a Win 640x480 in fullscreen works OK (though quite blurry), but a PCE 336x224 will not. You have to choose 800x600 at least.

I should add that, the higher your screen modes, the sharper your fullscreen display will obviously appear (look at the brick's wall in the first level of Legend of Hero Tonma). I suggest you try 1280x1024 first and see how it behaves on your graphic card speed-wise:

;
; fullscreen screen resolutions
; --
; custom screen resolutions to be used for the different
; PC-Engine video modes (256x224, 320x224, and 352x224)
;
; (by default a resolution of 640x480 is used for all the
; video modes)
;

res_256=1280,1024
res_320=1280,1024
res_352=1280,1024

Clever users will have noticed that it's not possible to specify separate resolutions for stretch and TV modes. According to David, this will hopefully change soon.

* Bilinear filtering

Works well on my GF2. Not quite like a real Eagle/2xSAI mode, but no doubt that many people will enjoy it nonetheless.

* Window mode

Really cool, even works with stretch mode (fullscreen must be activated). Requires a 16-bit desktop though. Alt+Enter for switching sur la mouche. I use the following resolutions (use whatever you want, but the point is to keep a 4:3 ratio for every resolution):

;
; windowed screen resolutions
; --
; custom screen resolutions to be used for the different
; PC-Engine video modes (256x224, 320x224, and 352x224)
; in windowed mode
;

win_res_256=336,252
win_res_320=336,252
win_res_352=336,252

* Screen saver disabling

Not officially mentioned, but it seems active by default. My screen saver has never popped up once since I'm using 0.99b5. Can you confirm, David?

== AUDIO ==

* Sound interpolation

Very nice improvement from the previous toggle option. You can choose an interpolation value between 1 and 15, 15 being the old 'heavy' interpolation mode. I personally use 1.

The sound quality gets a really sensible boost, though not quite comparable to YAME. Especially the white noise generator still produces agressive sounds (like NEZplug, actually), whereas they should be much softer on a real machine.

PCM is more stable and benefits greatly from the interpolation; there's less chopping in the streamed samples (Snatcher, Gulliver Boy), but some games still have some serious problems with PCM (Sherlock Holmes 2 can freeze or crash at times).

At this point, I think it will be difficult to enhance the current sound emulation core further. That's why I'm waiting patiently for the overhauled ME 1.0 to appear in a foreseeable future Laughing

* CD Audio

The variable volume control (CD fading in and out when a PSG tune pops up, for example) was brought in last year, but it doesn't seem to work for everyone.

Independently of the progressive video/CD desynchronization problems (nicely fixed by the new frame delay option mentioned above), there's another problem with CD tracks starting a few seconds too soon or too late (in cut scenes, for example) in some games. Mechanical issues were suggested (drive spinning too fast) but after some extensive tests with CD-ROM Tool on two different drives, I can fairly say that it doesn't seem to be the real culprit. The solution must be elsewhere.

That's all folks!
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dmichel
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 14, 2002 4:46 pm    Post subject: Re: Quick review of ME 0.99b5 latest features Reply with quote

Good review. Very Happy

* Arcade Card support

I will probably implement a way to run SCD/ACD games in ACD mode, I don't know yet how it will works, but it's something I want to add.

* Fullscreen (stretch mode)

Yes, I'm working on the aspect ration thing, not a big issue, it will be quickly fixed... and the separate resolution setting for the TV mode has already been implemented. Both will be in the next version.

* Screen saver disabling

Hmm, there's no code to disable the screen saver, but may be I added something that sort of disable it... your screen saver was popping up with previous version?

* Sound interpolation

Yes, 1 give the best result I think, it's what I use too.

About the white noise, actually it's not affected by the interpolation, it's always raw. Do you think it should affected?
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Kaminari
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 15, 2002 12:01 am    Post subject: Re: Quick review of ME 0.99b5 latest features Reply with quote

dmichel wrote:

Hmm, there's no code to disable the screen saver, but may be I added something that sort of disable it... your screen saver was popping up with previous version?


Mmm... Now that you mention it, I'm not so sure about previous versions. But a sure thing is that the screensaver seems to be disabled in 0.99b5. I let ME run for half an hour (my saver is set to 15 mns) without touching anything - no pad, no mouse, no keyboard - and the saver never appeared. This is Magic!

dmichel wrote:

About the white noise, actually it's not affected by the interpolation, it's always raw. Do you think it should affected?


Aah, now things are clearer to me!

Comparing ME to my Duo-R, I ran some tests on games making heavy use of the white noise for their percussions; good candidates were Aero Blasters and Xanadu.

The first thing that you can notice is that the white noise is indeed very softened on a real console. I now understand why the (raw) white noise of ME sounded so agressive. You should definitely apply the interpolation to the white noise too Surprised

The second thing is that the sound level of the white noise is actually way too high in ME compared to the other channels. On nearly every game that uses it, you can tell that the white noise stands above the general sound volume Confused

On a real machine, the volume of the white noise is clearly lower than the PSG instruments and PCM samples. Of course, the aim is not to make it inaudible, but to set its volume noticeably lower than the other channels. Is there something you can do about it?

I can try to illustrate my point with MP3 if that may help you Smile
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Laahel
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 16, 2002 2:27 pm    Post subject: Re: Quick review of ME 0.99b5 latest features Reply with quote

Kaminari wrote:


* Frame delay

Major feature! The progressive desynchronization long-standing problems are over. I set the default value to 16711 to get a perfectly synchronized video and CD audio.



why this value in particular ?? did you try many values and this one was okay, or is this a specific value ????
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Kaminari
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Location: Paris, France

PostPosted: Tue Jul 16, 2002 4:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

16711 Ás roughly corresponds to 59.85 Hz, which is the correct NTSC frequency.

I first tried a value of 16700 (instead of the original 16667 - that is, 60 Hz) and after many runs and errors on countless games, I came to the conclusion that 16711 was the overall best value for a good synchronization between the video and the CD audio.

I didn't even have to resort to the Oracle for this, how cool is that?
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dmichel
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 20, 2002 11:05 pm    Post subject: Re: Quick review of ME 0.99b5 latest features Reply with quote

Kaminari wrote:

On a real machine, the volume of the white noise is clearly lower than the PSG instruments and PCM samples. Of course, the aim is not to make it inaudible, but to set its volume noticeably lower than the other channels. Is there something you can do about it?


Yes, I can easily change the noise volume. I will add an option to let users control that... Smile and I will run some tests with interpolation on too.
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Kaminari
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 20, 2002 11:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm in bliss T_T
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