Your Ultimate Machine

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Matt_B
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Re: Your Ultimate Machine

Post by Matt_B » Sun Mar 04, 2018 6:11 pm

I'd like a machine that basically runs everything too, but I'd like mine to come as a handheld that folds up to the size of a DS Lite. Yeah, I don't want much. :D

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outdated_gamer
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Re: Your Ultimate Machine

Post by outdated_gamer » Mon Mar 05, 2018 5:05 pm

Matt_B wrote:
Sat Mar 03, 2018 8:40 pm
Sephiroth81 wrote:
Sat Mar 03, 2018 7:14 am
Plus the Neo Geo seemed to miss a few transparency, translucent and rotation tricks that the SNES had. I've always found it odd that the shadows in Neo Geo games often flicker....for a machine that cost several hundred quid!
It's perhaps odd if you're thinking in terms of the era since the mid 90s where nearly all GPUs have operated on the same principles and can consequently be programmed to do the same things. Back in the 80s though, when both machines were designed, graphics chips had to have all their features hardwired into the design; with larger custom chips costing considerably more than smaller ones, deciding upon what to leave out was as important as what had to go in and you'd very rarely end up with a more expensive machine having a complete superset of the capabilities of a cheaper one, except perhaps when they came from the same manufacturer and backwards compatibility was a feature.

As such, I'd suspect that SNK didn't include things like transparency, rotation and scaling - despite them being relatively cheap in the amount of silicon required - because they didn't have any games in mind that would use them. They did, however, offer a huge number of sprites, far more than the SNES can display and with less restrictions on their size and the amount of graphical data that can be used for them; that's largely what you were paying for.

Regarding transparency, the CRT displays of the time had relatively slow phosphor and flicker never looked anything like as bad on them as it did with modern LCDs. It still wasn't a great look, and games that overused it were rightly criticized, but a little bit here and there wouldn't have raised too many hackles.
Some SNES games have shadow flicker too, Street Fighter Alpha 2 would be an example, a late SNES game that was pushing the system to it's limits.

Might be worth mentioning that many SNES games used extra cartridge chips to help with the processing - some games actually wouldn't be possible on the SNES without that.

The Neo most certainly does have scaling effects, but I did hear that 3D polygon graphics are infact impossible on it due to some reasons, although in theory, the 68000 inside it should suffice for some "Amiga level" polygon 3D stuff.

Apparently the system really was fully designed for 2D graphics.

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Matt_B
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Re: Your Ultimate Machine

Post by Matt_B » Mon Mar 05, 2018 5:51 pm

outdated_gamer wrote:
Mon Mar 05, 2018 5:05 pm
Some SNES games have shadow flicker too, Street Fighter Alpha 2 would be an example, a late SNES game that was pushing the system to it's limits.

Might be worth mentioning that many SNES games used extra cartridge chips to help with the processing - some games actually wouldn't be possible on the SNES without that.

The Neo most certainly does have scaling effects, but I did hear that 3D polygon graphics are infact impossible on it due to some reasons, although in theory, the 68000 inside it should suffice for some "Amiga level" polygon 3D stuff.

Apparently the system really was fully designed for 2D graphics.
Yeah, the Neo Geo was pretty much the ultimate sprite machine in its day. Where most of its contemporaries offer between 8 and 32 per scanline it can do a whopping 96 of them, and it's this that allows it to excel at bullet hell shooters and the fighting games that make up the bulk of the catalogue.

Although sprites can be scaled on it, it can't rotate and scale the background layer like the SNES can, so there's no easy way of pulling off Mode 7 style games. It's also got a solitary background layer, so is reliant upon using spare sprites for things like parallax effects, although having so many of them there's usually going to be a few.

There's absolutely nothing in it to accelerate 3D graphics either though and, despite the expense of the cartridges, there's no easy way to incorporate extra processing into them. Consequently there are only a few 3D demos, roughly at the Amiga 500 level, and no games I can think of that aren't obviously just pre-rendered.

The SNES, although having a relatively weak CPU - that was still perfectly adequate for the vast majority of 2D games - was always designed with this in mind, and the cartridge slot contains extra pins for that express purpose. Mind you, even with the Super FX chip it was far from fantastic at 3D graphics; Doom is probably its finest hour in that department and it's still got some serious limitations in comparison to the game on other machines.

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outdated_gamer
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Re: Your Ultimate Machine

Post by outdated_gamer » Thu Mar 08, 2018 1:38 pm

Yeah, I'd say fast 3D graphics really required a high-end PC (386DX, 486, Pentium), Amiga (A3000, A4000), Atari (Falcon, Jaguar), 3DO, Sega Saturn, PlayStation or N64. The 16-bit consoles and computers just didn't cut it and 3D games were usually a stutter fest.

Super FX did bring dedicated 3D acceleration over to consoles though and it didn't need any add-on things either as it was already in-built into the cartridge. I'd say the PSX design drew some inspiration after it in that it had the "geometry transformation engine" built into the CPU, so it was a little similar in concept.

The most impressive Super FX game is the canned "Comanche FX" imo, it looked and ran almost as good as the 386 PC version, although Doom was indeed quite impressive too, if cut down a tad. Star Fox 2 wasn't shabby either, funnily it took them only the odd 20 years to actually release it.

I read that the SNES CPU actually wasn't as bad as many make it seem to be, they seem to just look at clock speeds and say "half slower", but it's actually comparable in the instructions per second, so this would make it the more efficient chip on a performance-per-clock basis. It's based on the same architecture as the AppleIIGS CPU and the SuperCPU for C=64 and they made an enhanced version called the "SA1" that ran at higher speed and had some other improvements and was included into the Super Mario RPG cart.

The only real downside of the SNES CPU is that it's on a 8-bit bus, which worsens it's real world performance somewhat, a bit like how the 386SX was a cut-down 32-bit CPU with a 16-bit bus compared to the 386DX and it's 32-bit bus and in PC gaming terms, that ment the difference between "it can run Doom playlably in low resolution and shrunken screen size" and "it can run Doom but it will be unplaylable no matter what you do". The N64's CPU was a bit similar here in that it was a 64-bit CPU on a 32-bit bus, which sort of nullified it's supposed code accuracy advantage (besides 32-bit code was still faster in effect).

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Re: Your Ultimate Machine

Post by Matt_B » Thu Mar 08, 2018 7:40 pm

outdated_gamer wrote:
Thu Mar 08, 2018 1:38 pm
The most impressive Super FX game is the canned "Comanche FX" imo, it looked and ran almost as good as the 386 PC version, although Doom was indeed quite impressive too, if cut down a tad. Star Fox 2 wasn't shabby either, funnily it took them only the odd 20 years to actually release it.
I've played Star Fox 2 on the SNES Mini and I'd have to say that it's not a great game, and neither was Comanche on the PC either. Doom, on the other hand, not only managed to look the part but played surprisingly well, so I'd still hold it up as the crowning glory of the Super FX chip

Although the 8 bit bus certainly matters more than the clock speed, there are other downsides to the 65816 in that it's got a relatively small instruction set, few registers and isn't well suited to the sort of calculations required for 3D graphics. Even table look-ups take considerably longer on it than a 68K or x86 CPU. Still, as you say, it's nowhere near as underpowered as the clock speed suggests and there's no discernible disadvantage in having it when it comes to 2D games; the ones that suffer bad slowdowns on the SNES are generally due to bottlenecks elsewhere in its architecture, particularly the need to copy memory around when you want to change the sprite or background tiles.

Anyway, getting back to ultimate machines, I suppose I'm just trying to say that you probably could have a machine that combined the tricks of the SNES with the raw sprite power of the Neo Geo by applying the benefit of hindsight, but it'd cost you an even more absurd amount of money than the latter historically did, and there'd still be plenty that it couldn't do.

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Re: Your Ultimate Machine

Post by outdated_gamer » Sun Mar 11, 2018 7:21 am

Well, both, Star Fox and Comanche were mostly interesting because of their technology/graphics, not so much the gameplay. Star Fox used the Super FX chip and provided relatively fast 3D polygon graphics on the SNES, which seemed like the edge over the Mega Drive, which did have 3D polygon games too, but they ran really sluggish until they also made hardware add-ons, the SVP chip in Virtua Racing and later on the 32X. Comanche was a similar story in that, when it came out, it was the prettiest looking combat flight sim on the PC, looking much better than the bare, textureless polygon 3D fight sims of the time thanks to the use of voxel tech. It wasn't easy on the hardware as a 386 DX class CPU was basically required, but for the time it had amazing visuals possible only with voxels. The canned SNES port looked suprisingly good too, running in a bit lower res than the PC version but at fully playlable framerates and good detail. It was to use the 2nd gen version of the Super FX chip which also powered (or was supposed to power) Star Fox 2 and Doom and ran at higher clock speeds. Getting Doom to run on the SNES at playlable framerates and decent visuals was indeed a big achievement, but it still was the most cut-down version of the game, ran quite sluggish on real hardware and had some issues with unresponsive controls so I'm not so sure if it could really be seen as SFX's "crowning achievement". Maybe in terms of tech but as far as game quality is concerned, I'd vote for Yoshi's Island, which, surprisingly enough, also used the SFX chip.

Yes, the stock SNES was really bad at polygon 3D graphics, Race Drivin' was an example of a 3D SNES game and it was unplaylably slow. This issue is what led to the creation of the Super FX chip, as Argonaut made a deal with Nintendo to design a 3D chip that could do fast polygon 3D on the SNES. The 68K in the Mega Drive (+ Amiga & Atari ST) is certainly better for 3D graphics, but still not enough for fast 3D as I mentioned in the post prior. But as you say, the SNES CPU wasn't as bad for 2D graphics as some people seem to make it be. The extra chips in SNES games were mostly used to help with the Mode 7 style effects or 3D polygon stuff. Even Yoshi's Island uses that chip to help with the 3D stuff like sprite scaling and some polygon objects (falling walls, 3D text when you pause the game, etc). Games like Donkey Kong Country, as amazing as they looked, didn't even use any extra chips and ran fully off stock SNES.

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The Laird
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Re: Your Ultimate Machine

Post by The Laird » Fri Mar 30, 2018 9:37 am

I think the best way to do this is from within a generation.

So for example I will pick a machine based on the 8-bit console generation:

CPU: Atari 7800
Graphics: Sega Master System
Sprites and scrolling: Atari 7800
Controller: Atari 7800
Sound Chip: Atari XE Games System
Games Library: Nintendo NES
Game Boxes: Sega Master System
Game Cartridges: Atari 2600
Peripherals: Nintendo NES
Console Design: Amstrad GX4000

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