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Shooting Old Games

Some time ago, let’s say probably a year or so, someone asked me, “Why do you mostly play and shoot old games?”. It was an interesting question, and one that made me reflect a bit more on why I do actually. I certainly have a lot of love for older games, but there may be more to it than that.


Firstly, it is fair to say that I am not really as inspired by or “into” the type of games that are common at the moment. Maybe I am tired of seeing the same portrait of character X from game Y for the Zth time. Maybe it’s the soul of the game, or rather the lack of one in games that are designed purely to sell in volume. Or maybe I just like to discover things that went under my radar years ago.


What do we even consider as an “old game”? Is it simply defined by age or the generation? I could say that a 5-year-old game is old while others might think that a game is already old after just 2 years – it can be subjective.

Assassin's Creed Black Flag

- AC BLACK FLAG // 2013 -


The straight answer to the question then, is that I don’t entirely know why I shoot “old” games – it’s not just one reason and these are all mixed feelings. One thing that is sure though, is that I like to see how a certain game will look and perform on more modern hardware than it was designed for.


Figuring out whether I can enhance the image quality in one way or another, or even give that game a great look with a few tweaks. This part is my personal favourite; it’s a challenge and one that I like to try!


The fact that hardware can move on a lot even in a couple of years can give a game much more advanced capability than ever before. Combine that with a little knowledge of some of the game engines that are used, it becomes no problem to use this newer hardware to run “older” games at higher resolutions and greater graphic fidelity than they were originally presented with.

Killer Is Dead

- KILLER IS DEAD // 2014 -


We also have tools like Universal Unreal Unlocker (UUU) for Unreal Engine 4 and 5 games, and Cinematic Unity Explorer for Unity games that let you do even more to enhance the experience. Not only do these tools allow free camera control, but they also unlock various post-processing options like depth of field, tint, bloom, lens flare, camera path, and console access for more advanced visual tweaks.


Not to mention the long lists of mods that are available for many games, or ReShade which is a must for most of the PC screenshot community. These are some of the panoply of tools that are available today if you want to get adventurous with shooting video games, but what exactly can you do with them to change the look and feel of the games themselves?


Well, let’s take a look at a few examples…

ReShade & IGCS DOF
"Advances in computer hardware make that practical, and third-party mods and tools make it possible..."

There are probably not many people under the age of 40 who remember The Chronicles of Riddick – the games that is, not the film. I played the first title in the series, Escape from Butcher Bay, on release in 2004 as well as the sequel, Assault on Dark Athena, in 2009. You are probably asking yourself, 'OK, great, you played a cult game. But what about the shots?'.


Well, to put it simply, I saw some shots from these games by -One3rd- and I was drawn in and I wanted to do it too. Whatever it would take. Of course, there is no in-game photo mode in games like this, but I knew there was a cheat table available for the camera and also wanted to see if something more was possible.


I was delighted to find that a modified menu with debug options, a noclip camera, and more had been made for the game in 2021. 12 years after the last game release. Just amazing! This made my life much easier for shooting. Riddick was finally available in 3rd person! Yes!!! I was ready to shoot the games and it was an epic time travel that took me back to the feeling I had with those games well over a decade earlier.

The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena

- RIDDICK: ASSAULT ON DARK ATHENA // 2009 -


Other examples of games that drew me back to shoot them like this are DOOM³ and DOOM 2016. I still don't know why I chose them, but I can tell you that they have some marvellous sound design. OK, so that doesn’t have any bearing on the image, but the scary and creepy sound effects created an atmosphere and ambiance that really inspired me to capture some shots with feeling.


To get a bit more technical, for DOOM³ I decided to use the BFG Edition – a remastered version of the game – and went for the DX12 port by Robert Beckebans. Why this port? Just for the simple reason that it performs so much better and, of course, it works nicely with ReShade too. 


For DOOM 2016, none of the camera tools I used regularly were working correctly, or even at all, but it didn't take long to find emoose’s Doom Legacy Mod that gives you full access to the console, the variables and commands. Add to this the use of upscaled texture mods and I was good to go, capturing the atmosphere of DOOM in better quality than I had ever seen it before.

DOOM³

- DOOM³ // 2012 -

"I got just what I was looking for. A weapon of mass VP!"

In doing things like this, there is no magical recipe like press X for photo mode or free camera. No, no, it's all console driven, and by console I mean the command prompt console and not a PlayStation or Xbox. Does that make it easier? No, absolutely not. It makes it all the more challenging and that's the fun of it, to me at least.


Not only does it mean you can take control of the camera at any time, even during cinematics, with a single command, but you also have full access to many “variables” like shadow quality, anti-aliasing, depth of field override, lens flare, view distance, level of detail, etc.


While that might seem like a lot to take in, I found it quite fun to check the possible effects of each variable and challenging to try to get the best out of them before I even start taking any shots. In DOOM 2016, I think I did this just for the fun of testing how far the modern hardware could push the image before saying ‘oops, I did something wrong’ and the game would crash.

DOOM 2016

- DOOM // 2016 -


The more you do this kind of thing, the easier it becomes and I now go out of my way to find games that can be a challenge. As I am a Batman fan, I’ve played all games from the Batman Arkham series and wanted to shoot them using more than just the available third-party cameras and tools.


There are plenty of textures, skins, ReShade presets etc. to be found on the Nexus Mods community, and even a working debug menu was created in 2020 by someone named drone_3. After I managed to make it fully functional for the 3 first games, I got just what I was looking for. A weapon of mass VP! 


The debug menu is full of little things like level of detail parameters, free, orbital and chase camera modes, God mode, enemy behaviour settings, and so on. Merge the power of these controls with the available filters from the cheat table, some console commands to make these games even more Batman-esque and you are good to go for a wonderful playthrough with some memorable shots.

Batman: Arkham Knight

- BATMAN: ARKHAM KNIGHT // 2015 -


So, why do I shoot old games? Well, there is no doubt that I have a greater affinity for games from the not-so-distant past, but I suppose it is mainly just for the fun of taking them to new levels that go beyond how they originally looked. The joy of bypassing the available settings of a native photo mode, if there even is one, and surpassing the visual fidelity of the original game.


Advances in computer hardware make that practical, and third-party mods and tools make it possible. Not only possible in fact, but actually something that is almost addictive and is certainly my preferred way to photograph games.


Modern games may have their qualities, but for me, they’ve still got a lot of catching up to do!


- Olivier César -

Bayonetta

- BAYONETTA // 2009 -

 
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1 Comment


Guest
4 days ago

Wonderful article, thank you! Also, thanks for the Legacy mod for Doom, I didn't know about it.

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