The advancement of Genesis

Discussion in 'Console Technology' started by 2008 IQ is unacceptable, Nov 20, 2008.

  1. 2008 IQ is unacceptable

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    Was wondering how Sega's 16 bit (partially 32 bit, right?) Genesis aged arguably as well as any console ever.

    I think that there's a huge difference between, for example, any game that came out in 1989, then in 1991/92 with Terminator (it's kind of still good fun for a quick playthru or to hear the game over theme, and how silly the game over screen looks for a game over screen; anyway, Dave Perry did some kind of awesome programming trick; what was it?) and then another huge advancement in 94-95 with, say, Vectorman and some really good looking sega cd games in its last year, i.e., 1995 (notably Eternal Champions Challenge from the Dark Side.)

    Was wondering b/c from looking over the Genesis's specs, it doesn't look too programmable (I thought I read the CPU couldn't have any part in graphics, and the VDP doesn't sound very complex) yet it aged as well as any console, imo, a long with the super nes.

    The other question was, why did SoA feel perfectly confident comfortable technically comparing the genesis to the super nes, but they didn't feel right putting the saturn against the PS1 (Tom Kalinske said so; he said it's performance was terrible) ? I know the saturn wasn't all that great at 3D in the hands of most programmers, but at least it had many more HW advantages over the PS1 than the Genesis did over the Super NES, if it's true that the SNES is faster overall. I don't know.
     
  2. ERP

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    About the only significant change in Genesis games over the life span was the cartridge sizes. Which vary in size by an order of magnitude between the first games and the last ones that shipped.

    There weren't really any really clever tricks.
     
  3. ShaidarHaran

    ShaidarHaran hardware monkey
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    WRT the Saturn vs. PS1:
    faster hardware isn't necessarily better, if it's more difficult to extract peak performance from.

    Look at the PS3 vs. the 360. The PS3 technically has more hardware resources and yet games look no better for it than their 360 counterparts with a few minor discrepancies on either side of the fence here, some PS3 games looking slightly better, some slightly worse but nothing really standing out from the crowd.

    Or if you prefer, look at early PS2 games compared to Dreamcast games. While the PS2 was technically superior, it was a new and complex programming model that took a great deal of time to master.
     
  4. 2008 IQ is unacceptable

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    You're right, b/c the highlight/shadow tricks were known about from the very beginning, and i remember strider was the first 1MB cart, and it was much closer to arcade perfect than the 6 or 4 megabit arcade conversions 1 year older, that ran on the same arcade board, iirc.

    The same thing with the nes i think. Kirby's adventure was one of the best looking games and the only one >4megabit, iirc.

    And even the super nes. Super mario world was totally unimpressive [i thought Sonic 1 was better tech-wise, when "sonic made his debut to the world in may 1991" which was 3 months before swm and the super nes launched in the u.s.] and it was only 4 megabit; I would assume castlevania 4 and super ghouls n ghosts were 8 megabit since they looked so much better than smw, but were also released in 91 like smw.
     
  5. taucias

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    The trouble with talking about the Super NES/Famicom is that a lot of the really stand-out titles relied on DSP/RISC/RAM in the carts. The Genesis only used one, in Virtua Racing.

    Of course, the Genesis/Megadrive saw hardware add-ons, but since this topic really refers to the base system advances, I think it excludes these add-ons from the equation.
     
  6. Richard

    Richard Mord's imaginary friend
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    The SNES was overall better than the megadrive except for raw processing speed. There were some minor sound advantages but mostly SNES was plain better. The difference in quality between the early megadrive games and those released right before the system stopped production are basically due to programmer-savvyness.

    There was another game that pushed the megadrive's tech envelope. Ranger X overcame the genesis' original palette and simult. colours on screen limitation (64/16). I don't know if this was in hardware or software but I remember reading about it at the time.
     
  7. Iron Tiger

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    There's some obvious dithering in effect, but the max number of unique colors in any of those screenshots was 46. They may have flicker-swapped palettes to simulate more colors (in which case, those screenshots are doing the game an injustice), but they weren't making the hardware do anything that it should have been thought incapable of.
     
  8. Megadrive1988

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    Looking back on Genesis, I cannot help but to think it would've held up much better against the SNES and other 16-bit systems if Sega had based it directly on the System16B arcade board of 1986. The graphics would've been much nicer than what the actual Genesis' VDP could produce, with System 16's 1536 colors on screen out of a palette of 4096. Instead of 64 out of 512. More sprites (128 instead of 80) and limited hardware scaling/zooming (as seen in the arcade version of Altered Beast).

    A Genesis based on System 16 could've therefore host perfect ports of Shinobi, Altered Beast, Golden Axe, Fantasy Zone, Alien Syndrome, ESWAT and other System 16 games. Hardware/software might've cost a little more, but not as high as NeoGeo. The average game would've been 16-32 meg instead of 4-8 meg.
     
  9. Megadrive1988

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    The smallest game was probably 2 megabit ( like Shove It!) and the largest was 40 megabit (Super Street Fighter II). So yeah, an order of magnitude between the smallest and largest games.
     
    #9 Megadrive1988, Dec 1, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 7, 2008
  10. function

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    A System 16 based console would've been nice, but prohibitively expensive - old arcade hardware has never really made sense in a home system. A larger colour palette would have probably paid off though.

    Given that the MD was two years ahead of the SNES and from a smaller, poorer company, it's amazing that it could frequently match and sometimes better the experience the SNES could provide. Then again, Nintendo have never believed in bleeding edge hardware, and their consistent profitability has shown that this is the way to go.
     
  11. Richard

    Richard Mord's imaginary friend
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    Unfortunately, my recollection comes from a bunch of magazines from that time. After googling I did find this that maintains the game swapped palettes to simulate more colours.
     
  12. Megadrive1988

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    Of course, I am talking about a revision of System 16 with many chips condensed into fewer chips, on a smaller motherboard. Certainly by late 88/early 89 a cheaper version of '86 tech could've been done. It would really be no more advanced for 88/89 than NAOMI/Dreamcast was in 98/99.

    Plus, we're not talking about Sega's high-end multi 68000 'SuperScaler' boards with sprite scaling & rotation technology (used in Outrun, AfterBurner, Galaxy Force. etc) just the midrange standard single 68000 System 16 board, reduced to console size/cost.

    True, and true.
     
  13. ERP

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    Scan line palette swapping was a tricky thing on the Genesis.
    You couldn't really do it in active scan because it caused white noise on the display.
    And there wasn't enough time to swap much of the palette in the HBlank.
    I used it to do color fades in backgrounds on a few games.

    There was a trick which I didn't see until very late in the Genesis' lifetime, but I don't think any game actually used. Which involved turning off the screen and using DMA to write repeatedly to the background color. The net result was you got a bitmapped 16bit color screen in RAM with no borders but it wasn't quite 1 color/pixel, some colors would cover 2 pixels. And like many Atari ST effects it was extremly timing dependant, so getting it working on one hardware rev required slightly different incantations than getting it working on a different rev. I wrote a proof of concept 3D maze game demo using it, but it just wasn't worth it.
     
  14. swaaye

    swaaye Entirely Suboptimal
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    A few years ago I saw the Genesis version of Mortal Kombat for the first time. It was neat to see blood instead of "sweat" but I immediately noticed how awful the Genesis' sound was comparee to the SNES version. SNES may have its problems with slowdown in some games, but the visual and audio quality was really almost a generation ahead.

    Hell, N64 doesn't sound much better than SNES. N64 should've had better audio hardware though so maybe that's not saying much.
     
  15. 2008 IQ is unacceptable

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    To me, it seemed genesis games often had deeper backgrounds (pardon me for being a noob and saying "deeper backgrounds" and much more parallax scrolling. Sonic 1 had it (particularly impressive for 91 in the 1st zone when Super Mario World didn't have any parallax scrolling IIRC.)

    Also, didn't the genesis run at a higher res than super nes usually did?

    I thought the onscreen color limit was 64 and the palette was 512. But I could be wrong.

    Anyway, one more question. I may not understand the answer completely, but what exactly did Dave Perry stumble upon when trying to develop Terminator? I know it was something pretty significant because that game's graphics were a huge advancement for late 91/early 92.

    Dave perry actually made games for the genesis well before he did for the super nes. It's a shame he's kind of what I guess one would call a lapsed programmer, although I think Matrix path of neo would look great on 10 with aa (no one got it to work with aa, did they? If anyone did then pm me because it was a no go with drivers I tried), but no AA ruins a games graphics score from me. Sucks alone in the dark didn't work with AA, and sucks even more that Bionic Commando may not either in 2009.

    N64 games' music sounded like a clearer genesis games' music. Very synthesized, like the genesis, but clearer. Duke nukem 3d for the saturn orchestrized the duke theme song since saturn games mostly used CD music, and made it sound not as good as the n64 versions' synth version of duke nukem's theme (at the main menu.)

    The n64 sounded much worse than the super nes. Castlevania 4 (came out in 91, shortly after the super nes launched. It has some excellent sound fx. and excellent music like most castlevania games do.

    As for mortal kombat on the genesis, it was so odd how it looked nothing like the arcade (the basic art design was the same, but that was it), yet had the same fatalities as the arcade one, while the super nes port of the 1st one looked more like the arcade than the super nes port of 2 and 3, but then when you went to do raidens' (rayden in the console versions) censored finishing move it seemed so weird. And sub-zero's censorsed finishing move was kind of odd too. Nintendo was kind of dick-heady to make sculptured software have to create different fatalities PLUS still charge acclaim more for licensing fees than sega did, who got acclaim more sales thru less work.

    The 1st bgm track you hear on the genesis one wasn't in the arcade, but it was pretty cool.

    Oddly, it was ported by probe after dave perry did terminator with them.

    With mk2, the super nes one wasn't censored, but the pallette was brighter than the arcade, the names were outside of the health bar, and the windows in the dead pool arena were orange instead of black. They were orange in the n64 version of mk trilogy, too.
     
  16. Reznor007

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    Super Mario World used a fair amount of parallax scrolling. Check out the ghost houses, cave levels, forts/castles, etc. It also used transparencies for ghosts and other objects.

    Music on N64 varied in quality alot, mainly because it was up to the CPU to run a MIDI sequencer/MP3 decoder/whatever else. There was no dedicated sound chip. If the CPU was programmed well, it could sound better than CD, programmed poorly and it could sound like an NES.

    For a strong comparison of sound, listen to Doom on Sega 32x, then listen to Doom on SNES...SNES is miles ahead.

    SNES normally ran at 256x224, but also had 512x448 interlaced modes, and a few other variations. Genesis was 320x240 normally, not sure if it had other modes.
     
  17. Richard

    Richard Mord's imaginary friend
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    As Reznor007 mentioned, SMW had Parallax Scrolling right from the get go (i.e. the intro). Also, Super Castlevania IV released in late 91 showed off some spectacular effects (levels 5 through 7 IIRC) that Genesis couldn't hope to touch. Even the 1995 genesis release Street Racer (also for SNES) didn't hold a candle, technically, to the SNES's Mode 7 version used in Mario Kart 3 years before.

    As per Wikipedia:

    Genesis was limited to 320 x 240 (max - PAL version only), SNES could output 512 x 239 (or higher if interlaced).

    Total colours was 512 but total palette colours was 64, each one storing only 16 colours. By comparison the SNES could sample from 32K total colours with palettes of up to 256 (Modes 3, 4 and 7).

    I don't want to get too religious but for me, apart from the raw main CPU speed, SNES was technically superior in every way, which is entirely understandable considering it was released 2 years after the Megadrive.
     
  18. 2008 IQ is unacceptable

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    The transparent ghosts were the graphical highlight of smw, imo, but any scrolling i remember in the backgrounds of any levels doesn't look quite as strong as the water in the 1st sonic, or so I think it.

    Yeah, I agree about the swinging chandleirs [sic] and several other fx that made bloodlines 3 years later very disappointing on the tech side, although in its own right, it looked pretty good. It was the 1st one to have music done by Michiru Yamane. The sound fx in Castlevania 4 were worlds better than any eax fx i ever heard. I always found it kind of dumb that nintendo only included an rf switch w/ the super nes until the 97 redesign. Especially when there were games that weren't the same in mono, castlevania 4 being a prime example.

    Castlevania 4 proved that 2 channels are enough for dynamic sound fx. 2 channels in hd would be a hell of a lot better than dd imo. Despite vista's HD audio standard no pc games are actually in hd res/sampling rate.

    If only there were more remakes of classics today, like castlevania 4 was in 91.

    We never got street racer for the genesis in the states, but i guess that was b/c rayman was 1 year away from being released, so ubi was too small then. Or was it due to the pal mega drive having an advantage over the ntsc with split screen? if the pal mega drive even did have an advantage, i don't know.
     
  19. swaaye

    swaaye Entirely Suboptimal
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    Yeah N64 music varies considerably. On the best games, it's far beyond anything SNES put out. The best games have music composed by very talented MIDI/tracker folks. First party games, Rare releases, and Factor 5 come to mind. Factor 5 had that Musyx system that allowed Dolby Surround even.

    Skipping some sort of dedicated audio processing was really disappointing though.
     
    #19 swaaye, Dec 6, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 6, 2008
  20. Rangers

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    Yes, those were things that made SNES stand out.

    It's funny because before it's release magazines of the time made a big deal of SNES superior scaling and rotation. In practice over time it turned out to be the colors and audio that were actually the big superiority.

    Speaking of MK, when I was a kid I must have went "back and forth" between the two systems three or four times. I'd sell one to get money to buy the other, then decided I wanted the other more. I eventually settled on the SNES. MK was a good example why, though the Genny had blood, I specifically remember being very turned off by the overall quality (sound, lack of colors) of the Genesis version compared to the SNES. In fact I believe that triggered my final "switch" to the SNES.

    Another good example was the SF2 games. Besides the dull color palette of the Gen version, the digitized speech was truly horrible compared to the snes versions..
     
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