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Sam & Max Hit the Road - Upscales


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Playing around with ESRGAN a bit, I noticed how cleanly the HTR backgrounds could be upscaled, so I went the extra mile and added stuff like paper textures and brush strokes to them. The results could almost pass for scans of original background paintings (or remastered backgrounds), even though you can also see the limits of this technique on smaller details and stuff that's been meticulously pixeled in (especially text). Still, with a bit of manual work on each background, these could probably work as "Special Edition" backgrounds.

 

A few samples (Note: These aren't aspect ratio-corrected yet):

 

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Edited by Laserschwert
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Amazing stuff! I have to admit I'm not that big a fan of Double Fine's remasters because they are - or at least look like - simple upscales. The extra steps you took with these backgrounds make a world of difference though. You could have fooled me that they are the original paintings, especially the first two.

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Whoa! These look really good! I can see what you mean with the texts, but all and all these look absolutely fantastic!

I'd love to see you try this with the DOTT backgrounds too, (and after that, compare them to the Double Fine remaster.)

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I really like that you have texture on there.

 

Although Double Fine did a good, meticulous job with the DoTT update I did find that sometimes it all just seemed a bit too smooth and perfect — especially where texture that was in the original graphics wasn’t maintained in favour of a fully flat shade style.

 

This is more up my street.

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Posted (edited)
5 minutes ago, Thrik said:

Although Double Fine did a good, meticulous job with the DoTT update I did find that sometimes it all just seemed a bit too smooth and perfect — especially where texture that was in the original graphics wasn’t maintained in favour of a fully flat shade style.

And while the original DOTT background paintings had a lot of texture to them, they were much less detailed than MI2's backgrounds. So DF did right in rebuilding the backgrounds, but I agree that trying to make them look like physical drawings would have improved the look a lot. To be fair, these upscale tools weren't widely popular or available when they worked on the remasters.

 

 

Edited by Laserschwert
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Looking at the sort of results you can get from this stuff, I'm surprised that more don't take this approach now that it's available. Maybe we will see more of it. It certainly improves the prospect of, say, a CMI remaster.

 

But another thing I'm interested in is... how long will it be I wonder until computing power is good enough to achieve this sort of upscaling in real time? I don't know much about the process but I understand that it takes a while and is computationally quite costly, but how true will that be in 10/20 years? Will SCUMMVM be running an auto-upscale algorithm of this quality? 'Cause I'd be into it.

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Wow, this may be the best pixel art upscaling job I've ever seen, truly impressive!

 

I can fully see that the real difference is made by your post-upscaling arts (that paper texture is such a good idea!) but do you care to share the ESRGAN model recipe you used for the initial upscaling step? I'm very interested in these things!

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Posted (edited)

The very first step is a simple 4x upscale with the PixelPerfectV3 model (available HERE, in the Legacy folder - V4 smooths the image too much for my taste) plus some sharpening with ArtClarity. After that, it's only Photoshop work.

 

I wouldn't rule out there being even better models out there, and sometimes a blend of multiple models (at different levels, in different areas of an image) gives the best result. I'll keep investigating.

Edited by Laserschwert
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4 hours ago, Thrik said:

Although Double Fine did a good, meticulous job with the DoTT update I did find that sometimes it all just seemed a bit too smooth and perfect — especially where texture that was in the original graphics wasn’t maintained in favour of a fully flat shade style.

 

And there were a few times the person upscaling them just didn't understand what they were upscaling (especially noticeable in the future era).

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4 hours ago, ThunderPeel2001 said:

 

And there were a few times the person upscaling them just didn't understand what they were upscaling (especially noticeable in the future era).

On a related note: Until the remaster, I actually thought we saw Bernard's eyes whenever he faced left or right. My mind always interpreted one of the pixels of the rim of his glasses as a pupil for some reason. Why my mind never questioned why he was always looking at the ground, I will never know. 😂

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Oh my gosh!! These are so impressive!! And even though there would need to be someone manually touching them up for some minor details, this is like, a huge part of the work already done!! 

Edited by CalisDraws
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This is great though I'm not fond of the brush strokes at all and the paper textures seem to be a bit too prominent and more watercolor paper than proper marker paper which is very smooth.
The thing with the link of Peter Chan's backgrounds for Dott is it shows a lot of texture because the exposure in the scans are way blown out, or it could be that over the years they have faded quite a bit since marker paintings are not good for storing and even less for displaying as the colors will fade really fast, but originally those should have looked much more strong and fairly even looking and the paper texture wouldn't be as noticeable or at all specially if they use layout paper (or paper best suitable for markers which is very smooth).

You might add a little bit of paper texture but that brush stroke just looks terrible to be honest, it reminds me of that cheap gimmick used to turn photos into "paintings" that adds brush strokes everywhere even though real paints don't work or look like that.
If you see Steve Purcell's work you might see there are no noticeable brushstrokes, that is because he uses either acrylic, gouache and/or watercolor paints and neither of those leave noticeable brush marks on the paper, you might see some here and there depending on how dry the brush was while painting but never consistently all over the piece.

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28 minutes ago, GFX said:

This is great though I'm not fond of the brush strokes at all and the paper textures seem to be a bit too prominent and more watercolor paper than proper marker paper which is very smooth.
The thing with the link of Peter Chan's backgrounds for Dott is it shows a lot of texture because the exposure in the scans are way blown out, or it could be that over the years they have faded quite a bit since marker paintings are not good for storing and even less for displaying as the colors will fade really fast, but originally those should have looked much more strong and fairly even looking and the paper texture wouldn't be as noticeable or at all specially if they use layout paper (or paper best suitable for markers which is very smooth).

You might add a little bit of paper texture but that brush stroke just looks terrible to be honest, it reminds me of that cheap gimmick used to turn photos into "paintings" that adds brush strokes everywhere even though real paints don't work or look like that.
If you see Steve Purcell's work you might see there are no noticeable brushstrokes, that is because he uses either acrylic, gouache and/or watercolor paints and neither of those leave noticeable brush marks on the paper, you might see some here and there depending on how dry the brush was while painting but never consistently all over the piece.

 

I think this is a good example of what you're talking about. I still think these upscales look amazing overall, though, and the "brush strokes" aren't as apparent on the other images.

 

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Edited by ThunderPeel2001
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Posted (edited)

I've added a bunch more backgrounds.

 

You're right, the (automatically generated) brush strokes aren't ideal (apart from location, like on the truck above, because those were randomly masked across the image, without much manual placement). Generally, I mostly wanted the brush strokes there to fake a bit more detail. I know that marker or watercolor paintings wouldn't have them, but when placed manually (like in my latest additions), they could at least suggest a bit of texture on stuff like wood or rock. If I took this further, I'd actually use different textures for different parts of the image - basically the hi-def version of the pixel-art paint overs the original backgrounds got. A lot of this stuff on my latest additions was automated in After Effects, including random placement of the paper texture, with manual masking of the paint strokes afterwards.

Edited by Laserschwert
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Ungh, upscales, I hate upsca ... oh wait, these are actually fantastic!

 

These pictures are really approaching what I'd think the original art would look in HD.

 

Only (absolutely only!) point of criticism here: I love texture, a whole lot of it, on almost everything, but the sky doesn't have any.

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Posted (edited)

Yeah, I've already played around with keying out the sky to reduce the texture there. But after all, they are still supposed to be paintings, so even the sky would have texture. Looking at the DOTT marker paintings, I've noticed that texture gets stronger the darker the color is - which makes sense, as the paper gets wetter, it roughens more. I'll incorporate that in my next version.

 

Until then, enjoy some aspect ratio-corrected screens with some hastily upscaled Sam & Max sprites (until someone more capable than me redraws them in HD).

 

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Edited by Laserschwert
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I wouldn't add brushstrokes or textures if they aren't present in the original art.

The paper texture is way too strong and noticeable and is removing a lot of the original textures anyway like the splashes on the walls (you can easily see it in the office), the whole office building lost it's grimy details and you can't even see the oil splashes in the pavement. It also de-saturates the colors quite a bit.

I wouldn't add a texture but If you really want it I would suggest to make it barely seen like an 8% since it shouldn't be as prominent or you will lose actual details.

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