Strife: Graphics

strife-pipesStrife is of course crude by modern standards, coarsely pixellated, made of broad, flat surfaces and low-res bitmaps. One of the first things you see in the game is a bunch of sewage pipes with perfectly square cross-sections, with a texture map that tries and fails to make them look round.

The game plays at a default resolution of 640×480, which is the maximum resolution in the original engine. ZDoom gives you the option of higer resolution, but I haven’t been taking advantage of it — in fact, until I checked for the purpose of this post, the sense of smoothness you get from a higher framerate had me convinced that it was in a higher resolution already. One of those tricks of visual perception, I suppose: once the flow of new data to the brain reaches a certain threshhold, the brain finds it a lot easier to interpolate details that aren’t there. So it lets you interpret the environment with less strain, which helps in unexpected ways. In some places there are doorways with a pale green border, indicating that crossing this threshhold will trigger an alarm and make the guards start shooting you. I don’t remember noticing this mechanism the last time I tried playing, but it seems very clear now, and I think this is mostly because the green border looks better-defined.

Still, the texture maps are coarse no matter how clearly you perceive them, and the enemies and other bitmap objects are even worse. Doom, it strikes me, got away with this better because most of the bitmap objects there were monsters, and for the most part you viewed them from a distance, or tried to. In Strife, you’ve got NPCs, as well as ornamentation like candles set on tables in the tavern — things you see close up and blocky.

But you know something? It still works.

strife-programmerI’ve just got through my first major boss battle, against an entity called the Programmer, one of the key figures in the Order’s hierarchy. He flies around on a little flying saucer with spikes on it and calls down small lightning storms that hurt a lot. He’s small enough and fast enough that you can easily lose track of where he is, and if you ever stop moving for even a second, he will kill you. It’s a very adrenaline-surge-inducing fight, and while it was going on, I absolutely did not care about the blockiness of the graphics. The graphics did their job.

2 Comments so far

  1. nothings on 6 Jul 2008

    Are you sure the green border isn’t some sort of artifact of the ZDoom engine not drawing something else correctly? (Just a random thought, I have no actual knowledge.)

  2. Carl Muckenhoupt on 11 Jul 2008

    Definitely not. The green border I’m talking about is a texture map on the inside of the doorframe.

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