Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why Light Guns Don't Work on HDTVs

When I was in college, I had one of those terrible months where my car required an $800 repair, my electric bill was $150 more than the previous month, and rent was due.

I had to sell most of my media to pay for everything. I sold my Gamecube, NES, Playstation 2, and about 150 DVDs and 200+ games.

I've slowly been rebuilding my collection now that I make adult wages.

One genre I noticed does not really exist on current platforms was the light gun game. Yes, the Nintendo Wii and Playstation Move have made it possible to have similar games, but there's nothing better than feeling the click on a Nintendo zapper's trigger and killing some ducks.

I wanted to buy Area 51 (again) for the PS1, but could not find a way to have a light gun connect to my PS3 to play it. So I started doing some research and found out that light gun games do not work on modern HD TVs.

I read a ton of technical explanations from computer science and electrical engineering students that I did not understand. I'm more of a visual guy. So the best explanation is to watch a video.

When you are not playing and pay close attention, you'll notice when the trigger is pulled the screen flashes black and the "hit box" around the bird flashes white. That was how light guns determined if it was a hit or not. The gun looked for that white box and if it did not see it, you missed.

If it did not see the black flash because you were pointing the gun off screen, some games would register that as a reload.

Out of all the theories I've read on why this exactly doesn't work, the two reasons that seem most logical are:

  1. Timing issue caused by refresh rate
    • PaRappa the Rapper is supposedly really hard to play on an LCD because of the minor delay between sound systems and the picture on the screen. 
    • I had trouble beating the first level of Space Channel 5 HD for the same reason.
    • Even a new game like Rocksmith is hard to play on a HDTV because of this same delay. 
  2. Brightness / no true black screen on an LCD
I am sure someone will figure this out. I have read a few threads where people claim that their super awesome TVs have a quick enough refresh rate to where it will register hits sometimes. I have a feeling the fix will be on the software side (HD collection for Wii and Move?) but who knows, maybe our televisions will become so crisp and fast that we will not need a software fix. 

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