Apple ][ Myst Graphics Tradeoffs

I have frequently been asked why I use the Apple II lo-res mode (40x48, 15 colors). Why not use the hi-res (140x192, 6 colors), double lo-res (80x48, 15 colors) or double hi-res (140x192, 15 colors) modes instead?

Yes, the graphics would probably look better in those modes (see later on in this writeup for some comparisons). There are various reasons why I choose to use lo-res:
  1. I am lazy (I have a huge amount of existing copying, decompression, and sprite code for lo-res, not so much for hi-res). Also the graphics modes on the Apple II are all horribly complex and lores is simplest of the bunch.

  2. I want the game to run on my Apple II+ machine. I usually target my games for a 48k Apple II+ with a floppy drive and a color TV monitor. This would have been a very nice but attainable system in 1979 or so, with few real competitors. It's also probably the bare minimum for making a decent video game (in my opinion).

  3. RAM limitations. The more advanced graphics modes take up a lot more RAM, which is in short supply on an 8-bit system. If you no longer fit in RAM you'd have to load data from disk more often which would slow down the gameplay.

    The double graphics modes require 128k of RAM and an Apple IIe, which wasn't released until 1983 and by then there was a lot more competition in the 8-bit world. So for me at least it's a lot less interesting of a challenge (and also a lot harder code-wise, things relatively simple in regular lo-res like copying a screen, drawing a software sprite, and page-flipping get a lot more complex in addition to taking at least twice as much RAM if not more, and have a much slower frame rate).

  4. Disk limitations. I'm trying to fit on as few floppy disks as possible. A game with 10 floppies worth of graphics might look great but it would be a hassle to cart around. In addition, Disk II loading times, while much better than a Commodore 64 with 1541 drive, still get painful when you do a lot of loading.

    You might say, well why not assume a modern SD-card replacement which can hold megabytes of data easily? True, but that's not really the system I am aiming for and also it would be much less of a challenge.

  5. 8-bit systems. The game would probably look amazing on an Apple IIgs but I prefer to work on the 8-bit systems. In any case the hardware in the IIgs is actually not that much worse than you'd find in systems that got official Myst ports so there's not a lot of challenge there.

Graphics Comparison

Here's some comparisons of what Myst might look like in the various graphics modes. I show my hand-traced lo-res version, as well as the other versions made with Bill Buckels' bmp2dhr utility with Floyd-Steinberg dithering. The SHR version was made with the SuperConverter 4.0 utility.

Original Image from the Game
Lo-res Hand Traced Version (40x48 15 colors, ~1kB)
Lo-res Autoconverted (40x48 15 colors, ~1kB)
Double Lo-res Autoconverted (Apple IIe, 80x48 15 colors, ~2kB)
Hi-res Autoconverted (140x192 6 colors, 8kB)
Double Hi-res Autoconverted (Apple IIe, 140x192 15 colors, 16kB)
Super Hi-res Autoconverted (Apple IIgs, 320x200, up to 4096 colors, 32kB)

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