Saturday, January 21, 2012

Adventures in Guitar Hero Lag Calibration

So all this time, I've been playing Guitar Hero on an old Commodore 1702 CRT monitor.  I've basically sworn by CRTs for rhythm games for one crucial reason: no lag.  Every LCD, plasma, etc. ever has lag that makes the game unplayable.

Guitar Hero and Rock Band are two of surprisingly few games that include a lag calibration utility.  However, I've never had much luck with it.  Up until last night.

At our usual game night we have on Fridays, I was trying to get GH Van Halen going on a friend's LCD monitor.  I calibrated the lag, it came up with 52ms for video and 0ms for audio.  I go and play a song, and it's still lagged.  Such has generally been the situation for quite a while, that no matter what the video lag calibration setting is set to, it makes no god damn difference.

On a hunch, I set the audio lag calibration setting to 52ms and reset the video to 0ms.  Played a song, and bam, perfect calibration.

Basically, how I think it works, is the video lag calibration setting uselessly adjusts the length of the timing windows to let you hit the notes later.  This is because the audio and the video aren't desynced, they're just shifted so that the notes aren't where they should be relative to the audio.  Setting your calibration this way lets you strum when you hear the note, but the physical representation of the note onscreen will have gone by the line at the bottom by the time this happens.  This is massively disconcerting to me, because I'm used to strumming when the note hits the line.  The other alternative is to strum when the note hits the line.  This places you on the very leading edge of the timing window, essentially, making it very easy to drop notes that you thought you had hit.  It also doesn't feel right, because you strum the note and then you hear it played.

So to summarize that paragraph: video lag calibration is useless.

The audio lag calibration works by shifting the audio so that it's essentially ahead of the note track, so that with the video lag induced by the screen the notes will play when you're supposed to strum them.  This makes a fuckload more sense than simply tacking extra time onto the tail end of the timing windows.

So basically, any GH game without audio lag calibration is unplayable on anything other than a CRT.  This would be GH1, GH2, GH80s, GH3, and possibly GH:A, at least on PS2.  For the internet-supported consoles (360, etc.) the earlier games have the audio lag calibration patched in...

What I'd love to see is a console with a global lag calibration utility that it applies to all games.  Because the lag isn't only there for just rhythm games.

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