Why weren't Arcade quality games in homes during the 80's?

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ChipTune
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Why weren't Arcade quality games in homes during the 80's?

Post by ChipTune » Sun Jan 15, 2012 7:08 am

This is just a little something that has always been on my gaming mind..

When arcade games during the 80's and 90's looked like this:

http://ui25.gamefaqs.com/1816/gfs_62773_2_5.jpg

Why did the home versions look like this:

http://ui29.gamefaqs.com/1308/gfs_424_2_5.jpg



Ok so an extreme comparison I know..

this : http://www.gamesdbase.com/Media/SYSTEM/ ... _Atari.jpg

vs

this: http://ui05.gamefaqs.com/2596/gfs_139483_2_3.jpg


:lol:


I'm sure it probably comes down to cost of course.. but why, when the arcade quality graphics were available were home users given some weedy software and pathetic looking games?

Sure a company could have made a home version of the arcade technology for use at home.. Neo Geo did it I know, at great expense.. but would it really have been such a costly exercise to make a home console with the same specs as the arcade machines?

To me it seems like having a toaster that every goes to a place to pay to use to make great toasted bread, but then go home to sticking a chunk of break on a stick and holding it in the fireplace..

or maybe paying to drive a car, then going home to travel around on a horse and cart.
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Re: Why weren't Arcade quality games in homes during the 80'

Post by merman » Sun Jan 15, 2012 7:19 am

Neo Geo was basically the same board that the arcade machine ran only plugged into a home system.

Ironically, a lot of the time it was because the arcade manufacturers did not supply much help to the teams doing the computer conversions. It was only later as test modes became standard and home computers had larger memories was it possible to directly transfer graphics between formats. Even then, technical restrictions might force the computer artist to redraw/recolour what he had been given. (A good example would be Shadow Warriors on the Amiga. Teque moved the original graphics over to the Amiga, but these were retouched by hand - the ninja's arms and legs becoming add-on pieces for animating the moves - and the palette changed to move the graphics around easily. The 8-bit versions by comparison were even trickier graphically.)
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Re: Why weren't Arcade quality games in homes during the 80'

Post by The Laird » Sun Jan 15, 2012 7:27 am

They were, it just depended on the system and / or programmers.

Even in the early days of the early day of the 2600 you had games like Space Invaders, Space War, Pong, Basketball and Combat to name a few that were just like the arcade game.

Then arcade games got more advanced and the systems had to play catch up. The home computers were never geared towards gaming exclusively anyway but there was still some great stuff for them.

The Atari 5200 (1982) and then the 7800 (1984) both had games that were near arcade perfect and then the NES/Famicom came along in 1985 and had very good conversions of early Nintendo coin-ops like Donkey Kong, Mario Bros, Popeye and Baloon Fight.

The PC Engine came along in 1987 and had some amazing arcade conversions like R-Type, Ninja Spirit, Side Arms, Pac-Land and Dragon Spirit. Followed by the Megadrive in 1989 with a multitude of great conversions, the machine was even advertised first of all as being a home arcade machine.

You also had the Atari Lynx in 1989 too which brought arcade quality games to a handheld.

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Re: Why weren't Arcade quality games in homes during the 80'

Post by ChipTune » Sun Jan 15, 2012 7:37 am

I understand there were many excellent conversions, some home versions often bettering the arcde counterparts gameplay / content wise, but I am talking from a purely technical point.. yes the lynx and pc engine and megadrive etc had great home conversions, but they werent as good as the arcade version, graphically.
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Re: Why weren't Arcade quality games in homes during the 80'

Post by The Laird » Sun Jan 15, 2012 7:42 am

R-Type

Image

Arcade Game --------------------------------------------- PC Engine

I would say that is incredibly close. You can look here for more screens - http://www.pcengine.co.uk/HTML_Games/R-Type_I.htm

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Re: Why weren't Arcade quality games in homes during the 80'

Post by ChipTune » Sun Jan 15, 2012 7:56 am

True that is very close, but you can still see a difference, no matter how small.. plus you can't see the movement of it in a still screenshot.. some games would look similar on home systems, but not be able to cope with the amount of sprites or stuff going on etc.. or have content missing, less moves, shorter levels.. that kinf of thing.

Im just looking at it from a perspective of being able to go to an arcade, play a game, then buy the game for a home console that was EXACTLY the same.. even if the game cost £60+ as opposed to a £3 8-bit home computer version, or £40 mega drive / snes cart.

They HAD the technology in the arcades, so that was puzzles me. Growing up with a c64. of course I enjoyed some of the arcade conversions gameplay wise, but even at a young age I knew they looked absolute gubbins next to the arcade versions I would play.
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Re: Why weren't Arcade quality games in homes during the 80'

Post by The Laird » Sun Jan 15, 2012 8:00 am

They were never going to be exactly the same because of screen resolutions and different monitor types, control schemes and most of all the fact arcade machines cost thousands to make.

This is why the Neo Geo was so bloody expensive, which was an actual arcade machine in the home (also released in the 80's)

If all home machines had used the spec of arcade machines nobody would have been able to afford them or any games to buy them. How many people did you know who had a Neo Geo growing up? :wink:

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Re: Why weren't Arcade quality games in homes during the 80'

Post by Nemesis » Sun Jan 15, 2012 9:02 am

Jagfest_UK wrote:They were never going to be exactly the same because of screen resolutions and different monitor types, control schemes and most of all the fact arcade machines cost thousands to make.

This is why the Neo Geo was so bloody expensive, which was an actual arcade machine in the home (also released in the 80's)

If all home machines had used the spec of arcade machines nobody would have been able to afford them or any games to buy them. How many people did you know who had a Neo Geo growing up? :wink:
Yeah, I agree with that. The main & probably the most obvious point, was that arcade tech was much more pricey. Neo Geo being the case in point. As a manufacturer, you are never going to sell to the mass market in huge numbers, particulary when looking at the price of the Neo's carts. Of course that changed with the PSX era when companies such as Namco started to produce arcade games running on hardware pretty close in specs to Sony's baby. One, it was cheaper to produce the boards & two, it was easier to port over to the home console. A win win.
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Re: Why weren't Arcade quality games in homes during the 80'

Post by juice » Sun Jan 15, 2012 9:09 am

I think you've answered your own question there :lol:

It's all down to cost. This forum posting has some indicative numbers, including a link to some of Atari's internal cost breakdowns; the quote for Missile Command is $970 - and this is for the parts only, so doesn't include assembly, shipping, taxes or profit margins. Obviously, a home console wouldn't have had some of those costs (e.g. the monitor and the cabinet), but arcade machines were essentially hand-produced in small runs (thousands, not millions), didn't have any size constraints (an arcade cabinet has a lot of room!), designed to be actively maintained by the buyer and contained a custom, hand-tuned chipset intended to play a single game only. Conversely, a home console has to be relatively small, modular (i.e. you can pop in carts *and* it has to be able to play different games), mass-produced and as close to zero maintenance as possible. So the upfront design costs are huge compared to an arcade machine - the cost of designing the Atari 2600 has been estimated at around $100 million.

Fortunately, we don't actually need to guesstimate the costs of this mythical arcade-console, as we can use the home-computer market to get an indication of prices. The Apple and Amiga machines had hardware which was arguably comparable to the arcades (16 bit, custom chipsets, launched with 256kb of RAM), and it's fairly easy to find pricing information for them:
  • The Apple Lisa was launched in 1983 and cost $9995, or about $26,660 in 2011 (once you take inflation into account)
    The Apple Macintosh was launched in 1984 and cost $2500, or $5440 in 2011
    The Amiga 1000 was launched in 1985 and cost $1295, or $2720 in 2011
    The Amiga 500 was launched in 1986 and cost $695, or $1440 in 2011
The first and most obvious point is that these prices were not acceptable for a home console - the NES launched in the USA in 1985, and (according to Wikipedia; other websites indicate a price range of $200 - $250) cost between $89.99 and $199.99, depending on the bundle; Sega's Master system was launched in 1986 and cost $200. Which indicates that $200 was the highest sustainable price - this is approx. $400 in 2011. Coincidentally, the Xbox 360 launched in 2005 at $399 and the PS3 launched in 2006 at $499; the PS3 in particular had to go through some serious price cuts (and feature removal!) before the market took to it.

The second, more abstract point is that you can extrapolate forwards/backwards from these prices, by applying Moore's law, which (in this context) essentially means that the cost of a given component (e.g. 256kb of ram) halves every 2 years. So the Mac would have cost around $5000 in 1982 and around $10000 in 1980 if the computer industry could have produced components small and reliable enough for use in a home console, which arguably, they couldn't.

Then too, this doesn't include the cost of the ROMs for the games. Again, we can draw inferences from what was available; the initial range of NES cartridges generally had a 64kb ROM (which later went up to 768kb as technology marched on). In 1985, arcade games were using anywhere from 256kb to 1024kb (1mb) of ROM. So the manufacturing costs for the cartridges would increase by at least fourfold; given that NES cartridges retailed from $29.99, this would have meant each game would cost at least $100;a 1mb game such as Bubble Bobble would have cost anywhere up to $450!

And that's pretty much in line with the costs of the Neo Geo, which launched in 1991 at $650; the games (which started at 100 megabits - approx. 12 megabytes) cost $200 apiece - or $332 today. And funnily enough, it never broke through into the mass market...
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Re: Why weren't Arcade quality games in homes during the 80'

Post by juice » Sun Jan 15, 2012 9:48 am

merman wrote:Neo Geo was basically the same board that the arcade machine ran only plugged into a home system.

Ironically, a lot of the time it was because the arcade manufacturers did not supply much help to the teams doing the computer conversions. It was only later as test modes became standard and home computers had larger memories was it possible to directly transfer graphics between formats. Even then, technical restrictions might force the computer artist to redraw/recolour what he had been given. (A good example would be Shadow Warriors on the Amiga. Teque moved the original graphics over to the Amiga, but these were retouched by hand - the ninja's arms and legs becoming add-on pieces for animating the moves - and the palette changed to move the graphics around easily. The 8-bit versions by comparison were even trickier graphically.)
Yus. The other half of the equation is that it would have been technically feasible to get better conversions on the hardware which was available; people have produced excellent homebrew versions of Space Invaders and Pacman for the Atari 2600 for example and Simon Owen has even been able to get the Pacman ROM running natively on the Sam Coupe!

But. It's worth bearing in mind that this was the 1980s; the available technologies were far more limited, both in terms of development resources and end-machine capabilities (e.g. the Spectrum's character-mapped colour scheme, or the Commodore 64's low-resolution multicolour display). Then too, most computers used disks or tapes (i.e. very slow and/or non-seekable access - a tape transfers less than 1kb of data per second and has to be manually rewound/fast-forwarded, unlike a ROM cartridge, where everything is available as soon as it's plugged in) and had very limited amounts of memory. So developers often had to implement "hacks" - in the Spectrum conversion of Renegade, all the characters have the same legs, for example :lol:

Also, many developers were held to ridiculously tight deadlines (Pacman and E.T. being two prime examples; Ghostbusters is another) and as Merman has noted, at least in the UK, technical information for "home computer" porting ranged from little to none, so the game mechanics had to be reverse engineered by observing the arcade game in use. And even this was relatively uncommon; this month's Retrogamer has an article on the development of TMNT; the Spectrum/Amstrad developer had no technical information provided to him and was given just one day to play the arcade game; aside from this, all he had was a video tape of someone else playing the game!
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Re: Why weren't Arcade quality games in homes during the 80'

Post by NorthWay » Sun Jan 15, 2012 10:10 am

ChipTune wrote:I'm sure it probably comes down to cost of course.. but why, when the arcade quality graphics were available were home users given some weedy software and pathetic looking games?
Say what?

Home machines have never been as capable as arcades (Neo-Geo notwithstanding, but that wasn't exactly the most powerful as it was).

2600 1976(1977 release), Apple II 1977, Atari A8 1979, C= 64/ZX Spectrum/BBC 1982, CPC 1984, NES 1984(?). Designed for cost efficiency. Got arcade conversions for ¬10 years running.
Compare that with arcade machines that had custom designed hw, no costs spared, and new tech every 1-2 years. Lots of memory, multiple CPUs, multiple soundchips, multiple buses. Cost was probably several thousand dollars per machine. If it had a supply chain as long as a home item that would probably nearly double.
That the conversions were as good as they were is a miracle.

The interesting thing (which might have been your actual question) is that the arcade quality graphics were _not_ available (in general). Most conversions were $$$ handed over for a rights signature and then "get out of my face". If you were lucky the gfx got ripped out of the arcade ROMs. If not they were "an artists impression". I believe Marble Madness on the Amiga might have had access to source material (but then Atari was a western company, probably with English comments and names). Good conversions for Japanese consoles by the arcade company itself are not all that surprising...

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Re: Why weren't Arcade quality games in homes during the 80'

Post by psj3809 » Sun Jan 15, 2012 10:25 am

ChipTune wrote:I'm sure it probably comes down to cost of course.. but why, when the arcade quality graphics were available were home users given some weedy software and pathetic looking games?
Think it was obvious, arcade games back then were wayyyyyyy ahead technology wise, a feeble little £120 Spectrum would of course in no way be able to emulate a proper arcade game. Nowadays technology has caught up and you get arcade quality games on consoles and PC's, but back in the early 80's home computers were way behind.

But you obviously didnt have a computer in the early 80's but back then kids would also use their imagination, a cassette box featuring a barbarian slaying a dragon looked great, loaded up the game and the dragon was a character 'U' and the fighter might have been an 'X' ! But as kids you used your imagination, computers were new to all of us back then, despite as you put it 'pathetic looking games' and 'weedy software' the playability of these games were superb. Plus in those early years kids imaginations helped

I love Bomb Jack and Commando on the speccy, i'm sure you would slate them to high heaven but of course theres the nostalgic factor as i remember buying/playing those games as a kid and it was the fact you had your own 'arcade' in your bedroom as you had 'light' versions of these epic arcade games on your puny 48k Spectrum. The arcade game was huge, tons of electrics/motherboards etc but here we had this tiny Speccy having is own version.

So for many of us old timers its a bit annoying when youngsters slate the graphics/puny versions etc of a lot of games if they see games created in the 80's, but playability was key. Thats why many of us still play retro games now, the latest X-Box 360 games look stunning, sound great but its down to playability. Can dress up a game with amazing graphics or sound but thats not key, thats one reason why we still come here bleating on about some crappy looking Atari VCS game !

In 20 years time you'll have some X-Box emulator on your super duper laptop and no doubt be playing some of your favourite X-Box games, then you'll have some kid used to incredible technology seeing your 'old' game and thinking 'ha ha thats crap' just because they judged the way it looks.

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Re: Why weren't Arcade quality games in homes during the 80'

Post by pyroxian » Sun Jan 15, 2012 11:14 am

Most arcade machines had different hardware for each game anyway - Neo Geo being an exception. Even games that shared the hardware only had a few games on each iteration. So for home use, people would have had to buy a new console every 4 games or so...

Also, companies made a lot of money from people going to the arcade to play their machines, plus additional money from licensing out naff 8-bit versions :), so they would've been cutting massively into their profits by releasing arcade-perfect versions - this is one of the reasons arcades died once the PS1 etc. came along, as you no longer needed to go to the arcade to play Ridge Racer, Tekken etc.

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Re: Why weren't Arcade quality games in homes during the 80'

Post by paranoid marvin » Sun Jan 15, 2012 12:04 pm

The thing is that arcade boards were specialist pieces of kit; you may be able to change the game slightly, but that was it (eg Star Wars/ESB). Try getting Double Dragon to run using a Space Harrier board - it's highly unlikely you would get an accurate conversion.

Home machines were designed to play lots of different kinds of games. Consoles tended to convert arcade games better, because arcade-style games is what they were primarily designed for, whereas the Speccy/C64 were capable of playing text adventures to home programming as well as arcade-style titles.

Add to that the fact that individual arcade boards cost thousands whilst the Speccy cost £80.

Home conversions - or at least the good ones anyway - were never designed to be straight conversions, because that simply wasn't possible. The good conversions took the general ideas behind the arcade game and translated an experience that one could relate to the arcade parent, whilst also retaining a high level of playability. Don't forget that arcade games were designed for people to chuck a pocketful of 10ps at and give the player 5-10 minutes gaming pleaseure. Home games cost up to £10 (a month's pocket money for most of us) and had to last for a similar period.

For great conversions utilising the best of the home and in some cases expanding on the original, try Enduro Racer , R-Type , Bomb Jack and Green Beret on the Speccy and Buggy Boy, Bubble Bobble, Combat School and Ghosts n Goblins on the C64.
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Re: Why weren't Arcade quality games in homes during the 80'

Post by DreamcastRIP » Sun Jan 15, 2012 12:20 pm

NorthWay wrote:Home machines have never been as capable as arcades (Neo-Geo notwithstanding, but that wasn't exactly the most powerful as it was).
All true but don't underestimate the power of the Neo Geo MVS/AES. The Neo Geo version of the recently released shmup Fast Striker actually features a greater number of sprite animation frames in certain gameplay sequences than the Dreamcast version :o ! This is of course down to the huge capacity/size (and therefore cost) of the game cartridge relative to smaller amount of memory of the Dreamcast.

Caveat: The Dreamcast version does outperform the Neo Geo version in other ways though, e.g. transparency effects, etc...
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