The Exigent Duality
Phantasy Star Online in Modern Times - 19:43 CST, 1/14/23 (Sniper)
A lot of people on Gab have been playing the modernized Windows port of Phantasy Star Online lately, called "Ephinea". Having quite literally never played PSO in any of its iterations, I decided to install it and give it a shot on my new PC.

To start with, there is a separate setup program which lets you choose between different renderers, resolutions, ways of doing fog, and so forth. What I found is that the Vulkan renderer seems to offer the best performance, but there is no Auto HDR. Yes, you read correctly: you can play what is essentially a Dreamcast game with HDR in Windows 11. Meanwhile, auto HDR works with the DirectX 12 renderer, but performance is poor-- lots of dropped frames.

The DirectX 11 renderer offers good performance and Auto HDR, but vsync doesn't work. The winning combination then: DirectX 11 renderer, Auto HDR enabled, vsync forced for the .exe in the Nvidia control panel. Boom! I even pulled up a PDF of the Dreamcast manual, and set up my controller config to match the original game's. Unfortunately the "L" and "R" actions map to the bumpers not the triggers, but it's still pretty authentic feeling.

Remember, this is a 30 fps title, even on Windows-- so don't expect 144 Hz or even 60: I suspect it's one of those many cases where all of the AI and physics would break. I have a monitoring tool running permanently-- the Open Hardware Monitor widget-- and at native 4K my video card never clocks itself any higher than 850 MHz, in fact it's usually down in the 600s. It's pretty humorous.

But enough yacking, behold! Of course these screenshots don't capture the HDR or how vivid and great it looks on my TV, but at least you get some gist:

This makes me wish I had an equivalent for the whole Dreamcast library. Maybe it's time for me to start messing with some emulators?

But back to PSO: being a game from '99, the balancing makes it pretty difficult to play solo, especially since the single player mode is not implemented in this port. The port does offer a toned down "one player" mode, but you can't play through the game's story that way. Overall though the game is fun because of its simplicity: I love titles of this era, in that you need to "cheese" it to progress-- like getting enemies stuck on geometry, running for the door to get them to walk away from you, interrupting them out of animations, and so forth.

Modern titles are too bloated, feature-heavy, and complex to play. Way too many mechanics, way too many buttons, way too many annoyances like crafting, a zillion side quests, mini-games, and so forth. If game companies would start making "simple" games like this again but with all of the modern graphical bells and whistles, I'd be happy as a lark.