Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Deus Ex: On Newer Better Graphics and Original Text

[I seem to be having some trouble actually getting to talking about playing Deus Ex. I played through training yesterday, took a few pages of notes, and then when I went to type it up today I thought maybe I should just address something else first. Ran out of time, went to class, got home, helped my sister with some things, and worked on translating some Catullus while Australian tennis played in the background. So this is still a preplaying post.]

[I think it might be applicable to the updated versions of the Monkey Island games as well, but that I do not know for sure as I have not played them.]

When I started up the game it came with a couple of surprises.

First, I had a custom launcher open instead of it just doing the whole default thing. This is because have Kentie's custom DeusEx.exe installed, which I had forgotten about. I don't remember exactly why I got it, I think it might have had something to do with my operating system being unhappy. Anyway, it's a quite useful tool because it allows you to do various things and do them easily.

One example is that Deus Ex was designed for a traditional 4:3 aspect ratio and while it could show things in wider aspect ratios without distortion, it did this by, basically, making a 4:3 picture and then cutting off the top and bottom. That's not the best solution and Kentie's thingy will let you actually specify what aspect ratio you want.

The next surprise was that I had New Vision installed. New Vision is a modification that involves enhancing a certain subset of the games graphics. It replaces what are known as the world textures with significantly higher resolution versions. Another way to look at it is that New Vision improves basically everything that HDTP doesn't, and HDTP improves basically everything that New Vision doesn't. Put the two together, (once HDTP is finished) and you've got a graphical overhaul of the entire game.

That said, I'm going to playing through without New Vision for this. There are a couple of reasons. The most basic one is that for this I'm basically trying to look at the original text. Bug fixes I have no problem with, but crappy graphics from more than a decade ago isn't a bug and new awesome graphics isn't a content fix it's a content change. It's not as if there's a magic interpolation function that gives you a definitive high quality high resolution version of a low resolution image. It doesn't work that way.

To make a high resolution version of something information has to be added. Which means that there isn't one definitive higher resolution version of a given thing, there are many. Choosing which to create and use is like choosing what word to use in translation, it cuts down on the possible interpretations and forces your reading onto the text. This is nothing against making graphical improvements, New Vision looks amazing and I think it's great. It is good that it exists and good that I can use it and I wouldn't have had it installed if I didn't think so.

But the detail that it adds is detail that would have otherwise been left to one's imagination, and I think that, since that's how it was in the original, that's how I should view it for this. (It's also worth noting that there was some artistic license beyond that necessary for interpolation used in the creation of the graphics mods. So sometimes the higher resolution texture, if kicked down to lower resolution, still wouldn't look like the original.)

I also feel that someone's first play through should be with the original graphics as well. Deus Ex is a game that calls out to be replayed. So I figure that you can save the graphical awesome for your second time and view it with your own eyes first, and, obviously, if you can't stand the original graphics in your first play-through the enhancements will be there for you to switch to. It's generally easier to go from lower quality than higher quality than the reverse. (Plus seeing the original will give you an appreciation for the work of those who made enhancements.)

A lot of people disagree with that and think you should just skip right to the fan made high resolution textures even if it is your first time.

Ok, so all that text is the primary reason.

A secondary reason is that HDTP isn't done yet. That means that while all sorts of things have these amazing high resolution textures if you're using New Vision, the characters do not. It can be very jarring for me to go from awesome graphic goodness to more or less the opposite. When I play Deus Ex unmodified I don't really notice the graphics that much, but when I have high resolution right next to low resolution the low resolution becomes an unmistakable eyesore.

I get the impression a lot of people don't have that problem.

Anyway, that's pretty much why I'll be turning the awesome graphics off while I'm making these posts.


I have been thinking ahead somewhat.  I've been thinking about Hotelling's Law and children's books and the possible downsides of being a secret master and gender disparities in various character populations and how to respond when you're just trying to grab a soda before escaping from a military base on lock-down when someone has a breakdown and confesses all their crimes to you.  And stuff like that.  Plus the fact that I saw one of the books I linked to in the first post in person today.  Every so often I consider making a Deus Ex reading list, but then I would have to admit that I've read almost none of the books on it.  It's one thing to say that in the abstract, quite another to do it with the actual list.

Anyway, the point is, hopefully this thinking taking place now will improve things down the line.


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