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Dikdikvandik
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Was the Genesis ever truly pushed to it limits?

by Dikdikvandik Thu Nov 29, 2018 2:09 am

Some of the Demos on the Everdrive amaze me, FMV without the need for the Sega CD, that Bad Apple music video, plus stuff people pulled off with Sonic Rom Hacks, Everything in Sonic 3D blast, I'm wondering if the Megasis was ever truly pushed to it's limits.

The MSU on the SD2SNES shows that is the case on The SNES. But what about the Phil Collins fronted after Peter Gabriel went Solo band?
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Re: Was the Genesis ever truly pushed to it limits?

by marurun Thu Nov 29, 2018 10:59 am

For all practical intents and purposes, yes, the Genesis was a system that was pushed pretty hard. The 68k processor was widely used in the Japanese industry. Almost every arcade title or platform for almost 3 decades had a 68k in there somewhere, the Mac and Amiga used the chip, and the Sharp 68k did, too. The Sharp was a common development platform for arcade titles. So it's easy to say that, at least from the CPU perspective, the CPU in the Genesis was better understood than any other. The same for Yamaha FM synth. Even the Genesis's graphical capabilities were loosely modeled on Sega's early arcade hardware. Much more than the NES, PCE, or SNES, Japanese developers were more than prepared to extract every last little drop of performance from the Genesis, given proper time and budget. Only so many truly did, but that's probably a testament to competition and the confusing failure of the Genesis to get traction in Japan. Treasure is an obvious candidate, but some European devs also did magnificent technical work on the system. The fact that the Genesis was able to compete so well in the US and EU markets with the SNES is a testament to how far the system was pushed, and how well it was fundamentally designed, despite lacking some of the more modern bling of the SNES (sample-based music, Mode 7).
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Re: Was the Genesis ever truly pushed to it limits?

by Tanooki Thu Nov 29, 2018 11:23 am

Pretty much, and as far as Mode7 went, Genesis did a software copycat of it essentially with that one game from Konami, The Adventures of Batman & Robin. You can see for yourself on youtube. Sega played it safe and smart going with commonly used stuff they had already for their arcade business, and due to arcades many game makers knew well too. The only shame to them was the lower amount of possible and screen displayed colors, and in most cases the audio was fairly halfassed tinny and metallic which confused me since arcade games using the same general Yamaha sound chip were much more rich and smoother. The Genesis definitely got pushed, pushed much more than I would think the SNES was.

The only other ahem 'console' I think that got pushed more than the Genesis, and using the same chip family anyway, was the Neo-Geo. Take a look at 1990 early stuff like Baseball Stars, NAM, Magician Lord, then go later to Neo Turf Masters, Garou Mark of the Wolves, Blazing Star type stuff, or see how even Metal Slug went from 1 to 5 (and same to be said 1-5special with Samurai Shodown.)
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Dikdikvandik
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Re: Was the Genesis ever truly pushed to it limits?

by Dikdikvandik Thu Nov 29, 2018 12:17 pm

I ask because after seeing all those tech demos on my Everdrive, I got to wondering what it could've done if cart memory wasn't the issue. It wasn't getting clear cut CD quality audio but it's compressed audio was impressive for what it was.

I think the DSP chip probably had more life in it than Sega gave it. We could've had Virtua Fighter on the Genesis. Well we did, but it was a 2d mess.

Perhaps the 32X wasn't necessary at all (Lets be honest it wasn't), they could've done everything in the games themselves with special chips...like the SNES did.



No mention of Sonic 3d Blast?

That game had an FMV intro and how they even pulled it off was amazing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IehwV2K60r8
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Re: Was the Genesis ever truly pushed to it limits?

by Tanooki Thu Nov 29, 2018 12:27 pm

Their idea of a special chip was to make a game so prohibitively expensive no one wanted it. SVP = Virtua Racing = $100USD. Starfox came out at $50, no higher pricing shenanigans.
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Re: Was the Genesis ever truly pushed to it limits?

by marurun Thu Nov 29, 2018 2:29 pm

Tanooki wrote:Their idea of a special chip was to make a game so prohibitively expensive no one wanted it. SVP = Virtua Racing = $100USD. Starfox came out at $50, no higher pricing shenanigans.


I believe Starfox came out at $59.99. And the SVP chip in Virtua Racing was actually a bit more powerful than the SuperFX chip. But the SNES was also better designed than the Genesis to work with external chips. More bus lines with better data access on the cartridge connector. Nintendo learned from the NES days. The problem Sega had with the SVP is that the Genesis still couldn't do more than 4 16-color palettes (61 colors on screen total without shadow and highlight modes, which could increase color count but weren't broadly useful or efficient), and as was pretty normal at the time, it didn't have enough VRAM to display a full screen of content without repeating tiles (the SNES and PC Engine also each had 64 kb of VRAM and had the same limitation of requiring repeating tiles).

Tanooki wrote: The only shame to them was the lower amount of possible and screen displayed colors, and in most cases the audio was fairly halfassed tinny and metallic which confused me since arcade games using the same general Yamaha sound chip were much more rich and smoother.)


Yeah, the limit of only 4 16-color palettes for all sprites and tiles was an odd limitation, but the 68k wasn't a cheap CPU at the time, so they were probably forced to use limits like that to cut costs. As for the audio, Yamaha made SO many different variations of various FM synth chips with subtle differences. The FM Towns and the Sega System 32 arcade board both used the chip as well, but the System 32 board used two 2612-derived YM3438s AND a Ricoh 8-channel PCM chip, so none of the digital sampling was done by the FM chip. Many Genesis devs used the FM synth for music and the Master System PSG for sound effects, and the PSG chip has really poor digital sample playback. The FM chip can also do sample playback, but the quality is dependent upon timing issues, and for some reason Sega didn't build in a system timer for the audio. They can sound very good when they need to, but it requires careful programming. Look at the voice samples in Dynamite Headdy. Also, since the system lacks all the filtering and crap the SNES has, you have to use larger samples to make them sound good (though then they don't sound nearly as muffled as on the SNES).

Here's a quote from the Wikipedia article about the YM2612 that relates to the sample playback issues:
Unlike the other OPNs with ADPCM, the YM2612 does not provide any timing or buffering of samples, so all frequency control and buffering must be done in software by the host processor.


Tanooki wrote:The only other ahem 'console' I think that got pushed more than the Genesis, and using the same chip family anyway, was the Neo-Geo.)


Not even a fair comparison. The Neo Geo's CPU was almost twice as fast. The audio chip was a much more advanced and flexible YM2610. It features more limited FM capabilities but dedicated and much improved ADPCM digital sample channels. It actually has a total of 15 sound channels. It also used a higher-quality external DAC. Further, the Neo Geo's graphics hardware is completely custom, and is massive. It doesn't use any scrolling tilemaps (the way most systems of the time generated their background layers). The system is completely dependent upon sprites, and lots of them. And it's made to throw them around with reckless abandon. Oddly, it also has the same base 64k VRAM other systems of the time had (with a little extra for palettes and whatnot), but since it doesn't have both sprites AND tiles to juggle, I imagine it can stretch the RAM a little further.
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Re: Was the Genesis ever truly pushed to it limits?

by Tanooki Sat Dec 01, 2018 12:30 am

I didn't pay that much for it, and I only know it as I used to keep all my receipts with my boxes so the stuff was lying around. And yes I know the SVP was more to it, but still the point driving home was that $100 for a single game on there was unacceptably high. I'm thinking in a 90s perspective, not now where everything is dissected, public, and well known due to the internet. Kids didn't give a crap about tech specs other than how big that "MEGS* comment on the box was to one up the other dude at lunch.

I know the motorola wasn't a cheap chip, and if they had to cut somewhere I wish they could have done something else as it really to me backwatered the system to the point that the older TG16 looked nicer and more colorful. Too bad they didn't if it were possible go with a slower chip at the price of not sacrificing what they did as it would make you wonder.

And yeah there are a lot of Yamaha chips out there, so I get there are variations. You got the whole why there and I agree plenty. They again cut corners on the audio, and while the timing could be worked out it was a task in itself when programming so often it just didn't happen. When it did though the Genesis did sound arcade lovely. The example of the NOW fix vs then of SF2CE on the system is a great finger to point at for what could work vs what people sadly had to pay for listening to the SFX and voices on that one.


I wasn't going for a fair comparison or anything of the sort bringing the Neo-Geo into it. I was speaking just to the fact how far that hardware came long from a 1990 game to a 2000+ release. They never updated the hardware, yet with years of experience they were able to coax so much more out of it to a surprising level.
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Re: Was the Genesis ever truly pushed to it limits?

by Jagosaurus Sat Dec 01, 2018 12:54 am

I think Bloodshot is very impressive FPS for the time on the system:

https://youtu.be/zhc1XTTtQHo

The Genesis homebrew Wolfenstein 3D levels ported show there was plenty of untapped potential:

https://youtu.be/e2wBHfVYf8U

The wolf 3D rom runs fine on an Everdrive and within emus if you want to check it out.

While we're on Genesis FPS kick, Zero Tolerance actually supports linking 2 systems together (through the controller ports). I think this is a noteworthy "system pushing" feature, ahead of its time by a console generation.
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Re: Was the Genesis ever truly pushed to it limits?

by Gunstar Green Sat Dec 01, 2018 11:58 am

You could argue no system was really "pushed to its limits" when it was contemporary. With new programming knowledge and and virtually unlimited amounts of memory pretty much every console can do things with homebrew that just wasn't possible at the time.
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