Amiga 500 an underpowered machine?

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ivarf
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Amiga 500 an underpowered machine?

Post by ivarf » Mon Sep 21, 2009 2:17 pm

Ste Pickford, http://www.zee-3.com/pickfordbros/ go to the article about Feud:

We were amazed by the power of the machine at the time. Later we would curse the Amiga for being criminally underpowered - its fabled 'blitter' chip didn't really have the umph needed to push graphics around the screen fast enough to compare with even a lowly NES, but at first it felt like a massive step up from a Spectrum.

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Re: Amiga 500 an underpowered machine?

Post by MattyC64c » Mon Sep 21, 2009 2:36 pm

ivarf wrote:Ste Pickford, http://www.zee-3.com/pickfordbros/ go to the article about Feud:

We were amazed by the power of the machine at the time. Later we would curse the Amiga for being criminally underpowered - its fabled 'blitter' chip didn't really have the umph needed to push graphics around the screen fast enough to compare with even a lowly NES, but at first it felt like a massive step up from a Spectrum.
The Amiga 500 was far more powerfull than the NES and it could push the graphics around if it was programmed right. Some of the poor A500 games can be blamed on the Atari ST. The A500 was much better than ST, problem was developers were idle. Both machines shared the same CPU (Motorola 68000), there were many games that were developed on the Atari ST and simply ported to the A500, it was cheaper and unfortunatly the results were less than stella.

By the early 90's the machine was starting to show its age, but it still had some classic software, some of which was better than the Sega Mega Drive and even the Super Nes.

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Re: Amiga 500 an underpowered machine?

Post by C=Style » Mon Sep 21, 2009 2:57 pm

First time I've heard the Amiga being described as underpowered. You only have to look at some of the games like Frontier: Elite 2 and the experience it gave to see what the Amiga was capable of. The only thing that held it back at the time was the lack of imagination from developers, not it's blitter chip.
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Re: Amiga 500 an underpowered machine?

Post by Matt_B » Mon Sep 21, 2009 3:16 pm

I'd guess the thing is that the NES has a character mapped display that you can update fairly quickly, with the limited processing power of the 6502, whereas the Amiga has up to six bitplanes that take a lot more work even though they give you huge flexibility. Despite the 68000 and the blitter, you almost certainly just couldn't take algorithms straight from one machine to another and merely adapt them for the different screen layouts. That said, I'd like to see an example of a genre where an NES game demonstrably does something that an Amiga 500 can't do, whereas the reverse is going to give you a very long list. You just have to do things a little differently with the Amiga, that's all.

As regards the Atari ST, the main advantage the Amiga has graphically is that it can scroll dual playfields with pixel accuracy at virtually no cost wheras this is a very computationally expensive operation on the ST. The blitter, sprites, HAM mode and everything else make very little difference overall. Of course the PAULA is much more capable than the YM chip too, but that's another story entirely.

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Re: Amiga 500 an underpowered machine?

Post by Doddsy » Tue Sep 22, 2009 10:14 am

Amiga Underpowered Pah! What about that Juggler Demo at the time!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yJNGwIc ... re=related

I guess a bad workman always blames his tools! :wink:

The rubber keyed ZX Spectrum was underpowered in several areas next to its rivals but look at some of the classic and playable games developers made for it!

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Re: Amiga 500 an underpowered machine?

Post by TMR » Tue Sep 22, 2009 11:01 am

MattyC64c wrote:
ivarf wrote:Ste Pickford, http://www.zee-3.com/pickfordbros/ go to the article about Feud:

We were amazed by the power of the machine at the time. Later we would curse the Amiga for being criminally underpowered - its fabled 'blitter' chip didn't really have the umph needed to push graphics around the screen fast enough to compare with even a lowly NES, but at first it felt like a massive step up from a Spectrum.
The Amiga 500 was far more powerfull than the NES and it could push the graphics around if it was programmed right. Some of the poor A500 games can be blamed on the Atari ST.
That's not really relevant though, becase Ste Pickford was talking as a developer rather than a gamer so it's not as though he's just making comparisons between titles and saying "must be the blitter, then", he's speaking from experience of presumably seeing his brother trying to get the blitter to do things that it just wasn't fast enough for. Of course, it's hard to say if that's because John was trying to do something in a suboptimal way (it doesn't even hint at how realistic their expectations were at that point to be honest) or if they really were bouncing off roadblocks and he could be talking about AGA machines where i'm fairly reliably told that the amount of data that needs moving went up but the blitter wasn't beefed up accordingly.
Matt_B wrote:I'd guess the thing is that the NES has a character mapped display that you can update fairly quickly, with the limited processing power of the 6502, whereas the Amiga has up to six bitplanes that take a lot more work even though they give you huge flexibility.
Getting data to and from the screen RAM involved jumping through some hoops on the NES, the processor couldn't see that block of memory directly and had to shuffle bytes through a port; set destination address with two registers, write a string of bytes to a single register, rinse and repeat whenever you moved to writing another block of display RAM. It doesn't help that writing to some video registers can mangle others as well!
Doddsy wrote:Amiga Underpowered Pah! What about that Juggler Demo at the time!
Umm, that'd be a pre-rendered animation and may well just be a case of flipping the screen RAM pointers; if that's the case, the blitter is having a snooze whilst it's running and the processor is close to nodding off. Y'can't run games based on the techniques used here because they have to be rendered on the fly.
Doddsy wrote:I guess a bad workman always blames his tools! :wink:

The rubber keyed ZX Spectrum was underpowered in several areas next to its rivals but look at some of the classic and playable games developers made for it!
The "bad workman" you're talking about helped develop some of those impressive Spectrum games.

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Re: Amiga 500 an underpowered machine?

Post by NorthWay » Tue Sep 22, 2009 1:17 pm

Yes, I actually think the Amiga was underpowered. And _do_ note that I dearly love my Amigas.

I have a funky metric for the power of a machine: How many frames can you redraw per second? The number for the Amiga is not that impressive. Twice the clock or memory width would have lifted it way up.

For all the funkiness of all the wonderful Amiga games you have to resort to using hw sprites, dual playfields, wraparound buffers, raster-chasing redraws, or offscreen background buffers to get up to speed. Even the cpu isn't _that_ amazing compared to something like a Z-80 - you have to use wider datatypes, all specific instructions, more registers, and more complex code constructs to make a big difference. Yes, those cases definitely do exist (and you go out of your way to find them), but simplistic unrolled code is not an order faster.

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Re: Amiga 500 an underpowered machine?

Post by Havantgottaclue » Tue Sep 22, 2009 5:46 pm

NorthWay wrote:you have to resort to using hw sprites, dual playfields, wraparound buffers, raster-chasing redraws, or offscreen background buffers to get up to speed.
In what way does having those facilities support the argument that the Amiga is underpowered? Come to think of it, though, I'm not sure what the argument is anyway - underpowered in comparison to what? It stands to reason that for games it wouldn't be as powerful as, say, the Megadrive, as it wasn't designed exclusively with games in mind, and was on the scene 3 or 4 years earlier. Wasn't the blitter actually designed to move windows quickly around the desktop, not to move bosses around in games? The only comparison I'm seeing here is to the NES, which doesn't make a lot of sense - NES games definitely seem a lot more primitive to me (although playability's another issue altogether). There are some serious background colour constraints when compared to the Amiga and the sprites are smaller than the Amiga's so you have to combine them to make decent sized characters, resulting in the dreaded flickering. And scrolling often seems to judder or glitch or both.

Actually, I think the argument's missing the point here anyway. Again it's about how the games use the hardware. Having played the likes of Project-X and Z-Out at the time, I never realised that in another dimension, Megadrive and SNES owners were enjoying the delights of Bio-Hazard Battle, Gynoug, UN Squadron, R-Type III and the Aleste games. There's no great technical gulf between the Amiga games I mentioned - though maybe a few compromises would have to be made for the really high-powered ones like Thunderforce IV and R-Type III - it's the concepts and execution that fall short.
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Re: Amiga 500 an underpowered machine?

Post by paranoid marvin » Tue Sep 22, 2009 6:27 pm

IMHO the Amiga was only underpowered in that it used a disc-drive to run games. Other than that , it was able to produce tites just as good as those on other 16 bit machines
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Re: Amiga 500 an underpowered machine?

Post by Britnostalgic » Wed Sep 23, 2009 4:45 am

I always thought the Amiga was the best 16-bit computer, the leap from the 8bit to 16-bit graphics blew me away... as powerful as the Megadrive or Snes, i'm not sure - games seem more Colourful on the Amiga though, compared to the Megadrive.

it's not the first time I've heard the NES is better than most at throwing the screen around, I wish they'd elaborate more instead of giving snippets of information. Hard facts are needed here, not subjective comments :wink:

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Re: Amiga 500 an underpowered machine?

Post by killbot » Wed Sep 23, 2009 5:07 am

paranoid marvin wrote:IMHO the Amiga was only underpowered in that it used a disc-drive to run games. Other than that , it was able to produce tites just as good as those on other 16 bit machines
It was a bit behind the Megadrive and SNES, but then they were released several years later.

Certainly it was a vastly more capable machine than the NES. If Ste's issue was with the speed it pushes graphics around then I suggest he plays Superfrog or Vroom, then come back with a list of NES titles that are faster.
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Re: Amiga 500 an underpowered machine?

Post by killbot » Wed Sep 23, 2009 5:09 am

As for the floppy format, whilst slow and often annoying it did mean that (if you didn't mind the disc swapping) there was no limit on the size of games. Try and squeeze Monkey Island 2 onto a SNES cart and you'll come a cropper.
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Re: Amiga 500 an underpowered machine?

Post by ivarf » Wed Sep 23, 2009 5:11 am

Is the C64 better or worse than the NES at throwing graphics around the screen?

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Re: Amiga 500 an underpowered machine?

Post by killbot » Wed Sep 23, 2009 5:18 am

ivarf wrote:Is the C64 better or worse than the NES at throwing graphics around the screen?
I'd guess pretty similar since they shared a CPU.
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Re: Amiga 500 an underpowered machine?

Post by Matt_B » Wed Sep 23, 2009 5:41 am

killbot wrote:
ivarf wrote:Is the C64 better or worse than the NES at throwing graphics around the screen?
I'd guess pretty similar since they shared a CPU.
Yeah, but the one on the NES is clocked at nearly twice the speed. :wink:

That said, the C64 does have direct access to the video RAM which can help a lot in certain circumstances.

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