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Thread: How do I get a more contrasted look?

  1. #1
    New Member
    Registered: Apr 2021

    How do I get a more contrasted look?

    It's one that has eluded me since I started playing Thief with New Dark installed. Obviously I know how to increase and decrease gamma, but what I want I can't really get with gamma: I want a more contrasted look. I can achieve it by doing it "manually" on my monitor's brightness, but it's a chore to do it for reasons of playing the game and then having to revert it back to what it was because my PC is heavily contrasted now. Plus I'm sure it'd look way better if it was the game rendering it and not my monitor options forcing it. Does anyone know?

    edit: Here's how you can get a more contrasted look on Thief if you have NewDark installed (why wouldn't you?). Thanks to vfig for the solution.

    First off, you need to be able to access the console. That's done editing the file "user.bnd" in your thief folder. Then what we're gonna do is bind a key to open the console. I've set it to my P key, so that's the example I'll use: find the line that says

    bind p

    and change it to

    bind p edit_command

    Now you can change the contrast on the fly, with the game open and the level loaded. As you can see down the thread, the contrast depends both on your monitor and the aesthetic style of the mission you're playing. But personally I've found that using 1.5 usually works great for me. Some missions need maybe 1.6 or, rarely, 1.7; some missions need 1.4. It's all down to preference and level design, and you'll need to change it mission to mission.

    How do you do that? Well, opening the console (in my case, pressing P) when the level is loaded, and typing "set_contrast 1.5". You'll see if it's too much or too little. Don't forget to use gamma too: maybe you set it to 1.5 and the blacks are too black, but the contrast is good enough, and in that case it may be better to up the gamma by one or two keystrokes (I have gamma + set to my "+" key, same with gamma -).

    Lastly, if you decide you want to start with a more contrasted look as a baseline, and don't wat to open the console and type the set_contrast command everytime (although it takes two seconds and you'll want to experiment mission to mission anyway), you can set you default contrast higher by default.

    For that, edit the file "cam_ext.cfg" and first off, find the line

    d3d_disp_sw_cc

    and make sure it's enabled.

    Then, you can edit or add (I had to type it down) the line

    d3d_disp_sw_cc_contr

    adding to that the value that you want. I like 1.5 as default, so mine reads "d3d_disp_sw_cc_contr 1.5". Save and close.

    And as vfig mentions down the thread, you can also edit brightness and saturation values. Play around untill you find a baseline that looks good for you.

    Again, thanks so much vfig!
    Last edited by Kubrick; 15th Dec 2021 at 13:59.

  2. #2
    Member
    Registered: Jan 2001
    Location: Constantly losing tug o'war
    I can't see anyhing in cam_ext.cfg (not to say there isn't anything), so try seeing if you have any profiler software for your graphics card which can apply the required settings when Thief is running.

  3. #3
    New Member
    Registered: Apr 2021
    Damn, don't even know how to start doing that. Will check around. It'd be awesome if there was an in-game solution.

  4. #4
    Member
    Registered: Oct 2013
    I found the NecroAge texture pack to have more contrast than either vanilla or the EP2 texture pack. Except underwater, where NecroAge seemed to be noticeably lower contrast than vanilla (can't remember about EP2). Still, 99% of the game is on dry land.

  5. #5
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2011
    if you enable d3d_disp_sw_cc in cam_ext.cfg, you can adjust contrast with the d3d_disp_sw_cc_contr 1.0 setting. 1.0 is the default; you can change the value to be anything above zero. (i havent used it, so i dont know which way to adjust it).

    to try different values without restarting, you need to first enable the console, then you can do set_contrast 1.0 in the console; you will still have to edit cam_ext.cfg to put your final chosen value in.

    in addition to contrast, you can also adjust brightness (d3d_disp_sw_cc_bright 0.0 / set_brightness 0.0) and saturation (d3d_disp_sw_cc_sat 1.0 / set_saturation 1.0)

  6. #6
    Member
    Registered: Aug 2004
    Location: CT, USA
    If your monitor has HDR you could try turning it off. I know with mine things look more sharp/contrasted with it off, although I usually prefer having it on for the more subtle color blending/shading/whatever it's doing. And that's a simple on/off adjustment without changing various monitor settings.

  7. #7
    New Member
    Registered: Apr 2021
    Quote Originally Posted by vfig View Post
    if you enable d3d_disp_sw_cc in cam_ext.cfg, you can adjust contrast with the d3d_disp_sw_cc_contr 1.0 setting. 1.0 is the default; you can change the value to be anything above zero. (i havent used it, so i dont know which way to adjust it).

    to try different values without restarting, you need to first enable the console, then you can do set_contrast 1.0 in the console; you will still have to edit cam_ext.cfg to put your final chosen value in.

    in addition to contrast, you can also adjust brightness (d3d_disp_sw_cc_bright 0.0 / set_brightness 0.0) and saturation (d3d_disp_sw_cc_sat 1.0 / set_saturation 1.0)
    Oh wow, thak you so much, this has been something I've wanted to fix on thief 2 for so long! Thanks!

  8. #8
    Member
    Registered: Jul 2010
    Location: Le Havre (France, 76)
    Maybe one day we will can have real color grading tools ?

  9. #9
    Member
    Registered: Oct 2004
    Location: Ireland/Poland
    You can also install ReShade and play around with different settings. I apply a subtle contrast and a couple of other colour corrections, as I find native rendering in Dark engine quite dull.

    And you can always toggle it on and off with a key, in case it looks wrong with a certain mission.

  10. #10
    New Member
    Registered: Apr 2021
    That's good but my pc is crap so I can't even turn bloom and multisampling on. Binding the console to "p" and then using "set_contrast" to either 1.4 or 1.5 depending on how the mission was made (newer FMs like Random_taffer's are designed with a very modern and already contrasted look) works wonders and it takes two seconds. I'm so glad, ten days later, to have finally got a solution for honestly the only thing that really bothered me graphically about thief. I can absolutely take low polygon models and the like, but dim grey shadows that work as if they were pitch black really always had strained my experience.

  11. #11
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2011
    Quote Originally Posted by Kubrick View Post
    dim grey shadows that work as if they were pitch black really always had strained my experience.
    you should be using gamma adjustment first to get the black levels to roughly where you want them. but bear in mind that the majority of thief levels (originals and fms) have large areas of "pitch black" (only dim ambient lighting) where you are expected to be able to see where you are going and what you are doing (garrett eats his carrots*). so your visually preferred brightness/contrast adjustments might actually hurt your ability to play the game.

    (*yes, carrots giving night vision is a myth, but its a good rhyme)

  12. #12
    New Member
    Registered: Apr 2021
    After a lot of testing this last few days, I disagree. I don't agree starting with gamma, but using it to adjust the last few levels.

    Gamma too low makes the game look horrid, the lights are barely dim when the blacks are the way they should. Gamma too high to make the highlights look nice, and the games looks like filtered through ash, plus the blacks now look like 8 bit caleydoscope. Answer: the problem lies in a contrast too low as default, no matter how much fiddling you do with gamma. Setting contrast to 1.4 or similar and then using the gamma + and - to see if that's not too much or too little contrast (for example, if the blacks are a little too dark but the highlights are fine, upping up one or two points of contrast with the keybinds usually leaves it perfect). Another great way you can use to tell how well you're doing is looking at the compass item. It's yellow and red will look nicer the more contrast you give it, because increasing contrast to an image usually adds more color saturation too.

    You have to do it mission to mission. Life of the party, for example, never looks pitch black unless you utterly destroy the image by using so much contrast that it looks horrible. Random_Taffer's missions are already pretty contrasted and modern-looking so just a little adjustment usually works wonders. Other missions simply don't look good adding too much contrast, liike Hilbert's Highrise Hotel.

  13. #13
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2011
    yeah, tweaking it for each mission sounds like a good idea. there aren't commands for increasing/decreasing constrast settings to make adjusting it easier in game, but you could bind different preset contrast levels to like ctrl+numbers, or to numpad keys by editing user.bnd, e.g. bind 1+ctrl "set_contrast 1.0" or bind keypad_end "set_contrast 1.0".

    if you wanted to have presets that set gamma/brightness/contrast all at once with one hotkey, you could do that by creating a text file in your thief directory, e.g. called high_contrast with one command on each line; and then the bind would be bind keypad_end "run high_contrast".

  14. #14
    New Member
    Registered: Apr 2021
    That's amazing too, vfig. Again, I'm so happy this exists, it's been an issue for me since I first played thief gold about six years ago. I never found anything to solve it, only an unanswered question in a thread in this same section of the forum. How do people play usually? Do they like their game without contrast??? I mean it's not like I play pitch dark or whatever, but I like highlights to be the whitest they can and the darkest tones almost impossible to see... Do people not play like this or was it me that never found the way to increase contrast?

  15. #15
    ZylonBane
    Registered: Sep 2000
    Location: ZylonBane
    Quote Originally Posted by Kubrick View Post
    How do people play usually? Do they like their game without contrast???
    Most people don't have your OCD obsession with contrast. To normal players, there's a perfectly satisfactory level of contrast by default.

  16. #16
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2011
    personally i prioritise being able to comfortably see what i am doing over any concept of how the image looks from a non-gameplay perspective.

    (an added complication is that i record all my fm playing and upload it to youtube, and that adds additional constraints on how dark i can let dark areas be so they will both survive the video encoding and not just look like a flat black screen when viewed online in the inevitable not-full-screen-and-not-in-a-dark-room conditions)

    but these days i am playing on an lcd monitor, and so the dark areas are inevitably washed out from light bleed, and the bright lights dont really look particularly bright. and those are faults of the monitor tech; a post-process adjustment cannot increase the dynamic range, only reduce it, even if it pushes the apparent contrast up.

    thief just isnt a great match for lcds. for most uses i vastly prefer lcds, but thief really benefited from the visual qualities of crts.

  17. #17
    ZylonBane
    Registered: Sep 2000
    Location: ZylonBane
    TN panels may suck for Thief, but I switched from CRT to a Dell IPS display a few years ago, and I had no complaints with how Thief looked on it. Great dynamic range, good brightness, no crushed blacks.

  18. #18
    New Member
    Registered: Apr 2021
    Quote Originally Posted by ZylonBane View Post
    Most people don't have your OCD obsession with contrast. To normal players, there's a perfectly satisfactory level of contrast by default.
    lol

    Quote Originally Posted by vfig View Post
    personally i prioritise being able to comfortably see what i am doing over any concept of how the image looks from a non-gameplay perspective.

    (an added complication is that i record all my fm playing and upload it to youtube, and that adds additional constraints on how dark i can let dark areas be so they will both survive the video encoding and not just look like a flat black screen when viewed online in the inevitable not-full-screen-and-not-in-a-dark-room conditions)

    but these days i am playing on an lcd monitor, and so the dark areas are inevitably washed out from light bleed, and the bright lights dont really look particularly bright. and those are faults of the monitor tech; a post-process adjustment cannot increase the dynamic range, only reduce it, even if it pushes the apparent contrast up.

    thief just isnt a great match for lcds. for most uses i vastly prefer lcds, but thief really benefited from the visual qualities of crts.

    Right, hadn't thought about the game not being designed for LCDs in mind! Unfortunately I was too young to play thief when CRTs were still around. Would be an interesting retrogaming experience to set up. Anyway, happy to have this extra option for people that want it!

  19. #19
    ZylonBane
    Registered: Sep 2000
    Location: ZylonBane
    Quote Originally Posted by Kubrick View Post
    lol
    I wasn't joking.

  20. #20
    New Member
    Registered: Apr 2021
    Quote Originally Posted by ZylonBane View Post
    I wasn't joking.
    I wasn't laughing with you.

    Anyway, I've edited the original post with the info vfig provided. Thanks everyone!

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