Amiga OS, Workbench and Kickstart, Utilities, Optimizations, Hacks and all things file/usage related
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piper_flatline

by piper_flatline posted Wed Nov 21, 2018 2:07 pm

I'm in the States (NTSC) but I wanted a PAL Amiga 500 so I bought a PAL one from the UK. I've got it set up on a Sony PVM monitor which can handle PAL or NTSC signals. Anyway, I finally got my GOTEK drive set up on it yesterday and I've been trying out a bunch of games I downloaded.

I'm curious if there's some way to know which games are the PAL versions and which are NTSC, though. I notice some of the games don't fill the whole screen vertically. Is that because they are NTSC running on my PAL system? Or will NTSC games just not run on it? Is there any way to tell which version a file is without actually running it? Or does it matter? Or... Or... What's the story?
sugar and spice and everything knife.
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Shot97
Detroit, MI, USA

by Shot97 posted Wed Nov 21, 2018 2:58 pm

Best way is to use your own artistic senses. Do the faces look like normal human shaped faces, or do too many look on the chubby side? Do doors seem a little wide, not as tall as they should be? Compare to real life things, the game has a car? Look up a real picture of the car. There are no extra NTSC/PAL notes in terms of the TOSEC collection, for the most part The only time they would note NTSC/PAL versions were on rare occasions there were completely separate NTSC/PAL releases. Example, Lemmings had a separate NTSC release for those machines, and a PAL release, Pinball Dreams is another... Arkanoid. These were altered versions of the game for those machines. A game could get released in PAL and NTSC, but may not have been altered in any way because they run in both modes. The above examples had issues, I believe, and thus had completely separate versions. Pinball Dreams was a pure PAL designed 320x256 game and had to be altered so you could still see the score in the NTSC version.

But for the most part 99% of NTSC designed games will run in PAL mode, just not at the correct speed/aspect ratio. Opposite is not so true, quite a few PAL designed games simply won't run on an NTSC system, which is why you have an online prevailing (and false) wisdom that would like everyone to believe there were never any NTSC releases. Oh, there were tons of them, and I'll debate anyone on how much better those games are.

Anyway, I do my best to show anything I do in the designed mode. I have a PAL/NTSC switch for my 500, to switch between them. For the most part I can figure out what mode a game is designed for, simply knowing the games overall history and looking at the game. If I have doubts, I'll look up the game on the hall of light Amiga database to see if I can get insights on the games origin countries. Made in America/Canada? NTSC all the way. Was it a port of an original Japanese arcade game? Probably also NTSC, even if the game itself was designed in Europe, because they were likely using the original art assets. Power Drift is an example of that, made in Europe but looks and plays best in NTSC.

What's the genre? Not the greatest playing platformer? Probably a European budget release, meant for PAL mode, even if that game does not fill the entire PAL screen. Sometimes PAL designed games would use NTSC graphics mode hoping for an American release. RPG/Strategy/Simulation? Not guaranteed, but most likely NTSC. Port of a DOS game? NTSC.

Know your companies. Sierra/LucasArts/Cinamaware/Microprose/EA - More than likely NTSC. Look up old reviews from magazines back in the day, who had the 1st look? Mostly just play the game in either mode. The worst thing Amiga fans do is make people afraid of NTSC machines. They don't understand the wealth of not only American games, but in the software category, word processors or whatever, that stuff was overwhelmingly NTSC designed.

A moment of silence for another soul convinced into getting a PAL Amiga they may not have needed. Did they also tell you you'd need weird power converters for the thing? You don't, a regular NTSC power supply works perfectly fine in a PAL Amiga vice-versa. Depending on your motherboard type and Agnus cheap, you may be able to install a switch like I have, or use a software switcher to go between the modes. Kickstart 3.0 and higher have a built in software switch that can be accessed on bootup.

Not filling the entire screen is something that should cause you to think about it all, but does not guarantee it's not PAL. Another World was released in America as Out of This World, separately titled, but the game itself was designed in Europe with 320x200 NTSC graphics mode. It works, and it works well on an NTSC Amiga, but the designer was looking at it all in that weird widescreen black boarder look. In NTSC the doors look way too tall, the characters just a bit too skinny, etc.

Some will tell you to look for objects like circles, they are wrong because often times games were designed in Deluxe Paint, where the circle in NTSC mode was never perfect, not with the circle tool anyway. Could still make them more accurate yourself by using the free form circular tool, but there are a lot of games that might not have perfect circles but are still NTSC.

Look for people and real life objects (not circles) that you have experience with. A big red flag for me is if there are televisions/monitors in the game. Does a 1980's Amiga game look surprisingly ahead of its time by having a television that looks widescreen? Then you're running an NTSC game in PAL mode. Look up the designer/publisher, though that's not always perfect. Port? Look up the original version. When in doubt, switch your Amiga into both modes, feel them out. But no, there are no current notes when it comes to that stuff. If you have a PAL Amiga and come into difficulty actually running software on your Amiga, it's more than likely a crack problem. Try to find a source for games/software with multiple versions, perhaps without a crack. It's unlikely you'll find too many NTSC designed games that simply will not run, most will. Arkanoid I believe is an example of an NTSC designed game that simply will not run in PAL mode, and thus had a separate PAL release, but almost anything designed in NTSC mode, which was graphically 320x200 would easily fit into PAL mode, which was 320x256, hence the black bars making it look widescreen, because 56 pixels are not used on a PAL setup.

Note music tempos if a port. Sierra games and some LucasArts stuff will not only have the graphics look stretched in PAL, the soundtracks can be noticeably slower compared to their original DOS versions, but are correct in NTSC. Chances are great if you're getting a file online that it's probably from a PAL source, AKA a cracking group. I've seen NTSC designed games get a PAL crack and then not run on NTSC machines despite being made in America! This is simply due to the prevalence of pirated European software getting out there, it's not a statement on how many NTSC titles there are. If you see black everywhere, if it looks widescreen, start looking. Seem a little too slow? Faces/objects/etc look a little too wide? Designed by an American company or originally a port from America? Probably NTSC stuff then, though it most likely should run on a PAL Amiga, just not as designed.

Well designed PAL games would hopefully utilize the full PAL resolution of 320x256, and thus be in full screen, but that's not a guarantee, and lots of PAL designed games actually do look and run right in that widescreen black bars look. So unfortunately, while there are tips that should help you in most situations, there's nothing I can point you to that would tell you matter of factly.
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piper_flatline

by piper_flatline posted Wed Nov 21, 2018 3:23 pm

Ok wow, that's a lot. Thanks for the full info. Interesting to dive in and see what's what.

Shot97 wrote:A moment of silence for another soul convinced into getting a PAL Amiga they may not have needed. Did they also tell you you'd need weird power converters for the thing? You don't, a regular NTSC power supply works perfectly fine in a PAL Amiga vice-versa.

Don't waste any tears on me. :)

My original Amiga 500 back in 1992 was an NTSC version, and I plan to get another of those soon, but what I actually wanted was a PAL version this time, because I'm weird like that. I wasn't duped into anything I hadn't already researched. I've been a game developer since 1994, build all of my own PCs, and use computers and game machines (and synths!) from all over the place, and I just kind of do things how I do them. I get your passion, though, and I think that's cool (you're the one with the 'You're doing Amiga videos wrong' YouTube video I checked out if I'm not mistaken).

As far as the power supply, I wanted to use the original one that came with it, so I bought a step-up/down converter for Euro to US, and that did the trick. I've been using a Japanese/US one for my Technics turntables for about a year now and it works great. I know I could have purchased an OEM US power brick, but yeah, I wanted the one that came with it, and I quite like having bits and bobs of various electrical equipment around my studio, with all the lights and sounds and all that. It's all good. :)

Shot97 wrote:Arkanoid I believe is an example of an NTSC designed game that simply will not run in PAL mode, and thus had a separate PAL release...

Arkanoid is actually one of the games I ran last night and noticed it didn't take up the whole screen. Must be the PAL version I have it it actually ran, then.

Again, thanks for your thoughts. Gives me a lot to get into!
sugar and spice and everything knife.
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Shot97
Detroit, MI, USA

by Shot97 posted Wed Nov 21, 2018 3:28 pm

Also quite worthy of discussion these days is the monitor you're using. Amiga's were designed for 4:3 CRT televisions, and should be displayed in PAL mode 320x256 in 4:3, and in NTSC 320x200 in 4:3, which would have filled those televisions and monitors back in the day.

Recently I've been noticing a a few people picking up on NTSC mode, but are using it for questionable reasons. They hook up their Amiga to a widescreen LCD, which could result in black bars on all sides if you've got a PAL designed game which was made in that widescreen look back in the day, only to now be put on a widescreen monitor whichh is technically still outputting 320x256. So it's widescreen inside of widescreen.I've seen people use NTSC mode to fill their entire widescreen LCD, which they're completely missing the point... It's not about filling an entire monitor. Back in the day computer monitors themselves would not fill the entire screen in these modes. They'd fill up most of the screen, but computer monitors often had thoughts about being able to show off overscan mode, which utilized more of the screen in PAL or NTSC. Overscan couldn't usually be seen on a television, but could on actual monitors. Some games used this mode, and if you completely filled your 4:3 display for a low resolution game, when you put in an overscan game you might not get the full picture.

So it's not necessarily about filling the entire screen. It's mostly about seeing the preserved aspect ratio and having it run at the correct speed, I feel like most people with LCD screens are not understanding the term full screen 4:3, they need to mess with their LCD settings to not stretch those images to fit the screen. In a weird way they're actually still seeing some games correctly. If you take a game designed in PAL for that widescreen look, play it in NTSC mode but output it to stretch on a widescreen monitor, then it's still in its original aspect ratio for the most part. But they're completely missing the point if they're trying to go about filling up their entire 16:9 LCD monitor, full screen means filling an entire 4:3 monitor in the Amiga's case. If people are going to use LCDs, well, it'll never look like a CRT, but it should never be completely filling a widescreen LCD monitor, people have to set their newer displays to output the true aspect ratio, not to stretch it.
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Shot97
Detroit, MI, USA

by Shot97 posted Wed Nov 21, 2018 3:35 pm

Yeah, I can account for Arkanoid personally. NTSC version won't work on a PAL machine, and PAL version won't work on an NTSC machine. However; that does not mean the game itself was altered in terms of graphics. Sometimes they were, like my Pinball Dreams example, but I believe Arkanoid is still using 320x200 in both NTSC and PAL, and was designed in America, thus even if you have the PAL version, all that means is the game will run on your machine. It's still going to look wrong on a 320x256 PAL setup at only 320x200 resolution.
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piper_flatline

by piper_flatline posted Wed Nov 21, 2018 3:55 pm

The monitor I'm currently using is a 4:3 (it can also do 16:9 with a button press) Sony PVM20L2 broadcast monitor, which can handle PAL or NTSC signals easily, and switches to the correct mode depending on the signal being received (or should be, at least). I'm using SCART to RGB into the monitor with external sync activated.

As an old school game artist who worked on SNES, Genesis, etc. games, believe me I share your frustration when it comes to people running things in the wrong aspect ratio. It drives me up a wall. :( It's been a while since I've used an Amiga so I want to make sure I get the intended experience with these games I'm running on it.
sugar and spice and everything knife.
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Shot97
Detroit, MI, USA

by Shot97 posted Wed Nov 21, 2018 3:57 pm

Cool! Any titles of yours for those systems you'd like to point to? Got a special corner opposite of the Amiga side of the room with all the old consoles.
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piper_flatline

by piper_flatline posted Wed Nov 21, 2018 4:21 pm

Shot97 wrote:Cool! Any titles of yours for those systems you'd like to point to? Got a special corner opposite of the Amiga side of the room with all the old consoles.

A lot of them were EA Sports games, which I wasn't really into but hey, it was a job in video games! There's a list on my web site in the resume section if you're interested in seeing what they were. Just be aware that I've also worked on some, uhm, risque games over the years, and those are in the list as well. :lol:
sugar and spice and everything knife.
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Shot97
Detroit, MI, USA

by Shot97 posted Wed Nov 21, 2018 4:35 pm

Strip poker?! lol. I think the most odd game I remember playing were several Japanese Adventure games for DOS. Not a genre you'd see on anything but Sega stuff, for the most part, like Snatcher. So it was for DOS, in the style of Snatcher, but they were porn games. Weirdest things ever, but actually artistically rather well drawn.

Sports games may not always age well, but no matter how sophisticated I'd like to believe I am in terms of games these days, I must admit my collections are filled with my fair share of EA Sports titles, happily buying mostly the same exact game with updated rosters, year after year. lol. Always noteworthy to be a part of such highly selling titles.

You wouldn't happen to have any insight on why so many sports games from back then had their game clocks running far faster than real life seconds, would you? Nobody ever talks about that, it always bugs me, I figure it's because the designers felt that if the clocks weren't running so fast the game stats would get way out of hand. Like a way to cheat more realistic game stats into a full legth game. 20 minute hockey periods that were actually only 10 minutes. A 2 minute powerplay but it's really only one because the game clock, NTSC or PAL machines, in so many sports games for so many computers and consoles, so many had those clocks running fast! Drove me crazy!
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piper_flatline

by piper_flatline posted Wed Nov 21, 2018 5:55 pm

Shot97 wrote:Strip poker?! lol.

Haha, nah, but still appealing to those needs, I guess. :)

Shot97 wrote:Sports games may not always age well, but no matter how sophisticated I'd like to believe I am in terms of games these days, I must admit my collections are filled with my fair share of EA Sports titles, happily buying mostly the same exact game with updated rosters, year after year. lol. Always noteworthy to be a part of such highly selling titles.

I'm really happy to have been involved in their creation, but yeah I've just never really been into sports games. Well, maybe Fifa or Sensible Soccer back in the day. Oh yeah I also used to like the NFL Blitz arcade game because I have no idea how American football works but it didn't seem to matter too much in that game lol.

Shot97 wrote:You wouldn't happen to have any insight on why so many sports games from back then had their game clocks running far faster than real life seconds, would you? Nobody ever talks about that, it always bugs me, I figure it's because the designers felt that if the clocks weren't running so fast the game stats would get way out of hand. Like a way to cheat more realistic game stats into a full legth game. 20 minute hockey periods that were actually only 10 minutes. A 2 minute powerplay but it's really only one because the game clock, NTSC or PAL machines, in so many sports games for so many computers and consoles, so many had those clocks running fast! Drove me crazy!

I have no idea about that, sorry. Back then I wasn't doing any game programming, just art and sound. I'd stopped programming when I sold my TRS-80 CoCo to buy the Amiga (1992), and then only started programming again in 2000. I can see where that timing issue would be annoying though!
sugar and spice and everything knife.

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