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Thread: PS2 vs Dreamcast Graphics

  1. #391
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barone View Post
    To be very honest, I don't like the way things have changed since the early 2000s, both in terms of hardware and games. Of course, the actual hardware is more powerful and everything is safer is terms of programming but it just doesn't have that same sort of challenge and a bit of amateurish feeling IMO. Yes, this is a nostalgic point of view but I think it's OK for a Sega-16 member.
    The sort of art direction that I've seen in most of these last two gens is something that push me away from many games. I've a hard time accepting that someone's hair or skin can have mirror-like texture reflections at times or it's sort of glowing all the time in many games - it's a shitty use of technology IMO, to give you a brief example.
    It's why I like using non-photo realistic rendering in my own stuff. I like video games because it's not real life. But the reason why I say fill-rate is the current best indicator of performance is because of the way modern (and PS2) rendering architecture works. As an example, I'm working on a multi-pass toon renderer but it does everything in separate passes, in much the same way as a photo-realistic renderer would do it. It works a little like this;

    1) Renders the models to the depth, colour, normal and material buffers
    2) Renders shadows into the stencil buffer
    3) Performs a light pass using the normal buffer into the light accumulation
    4) Performs edge detection based on the normal and depth buffer into outline buffer
    5) Merges the colour, light, stencil and edge buffers into a final back buffer

    Steps 3 through 5 are full-screen effects. All about fill-rate and how fast I can pull in texture data. So the size and speed of the bus on the GPU side is the most important factor, next to texture cache size, and then the number of SIMD's on the GPU.

    And most, if not all modern renderers work in a similar fashion.


    Quote Originally Posted by Barone View Post

    Please, correct me if I'm wrong:
    - Using MIP maps will also improve the texture rendering performance.
    - On the DC you'd have to create the MIP maps previously (using dev tools) and would use them as part of your materials, uploading the reduced textures to VRAM (usually while loading each stage/part of the game since, on the DC, uploading to VRAM on the fly is slower and much more limited than on the PS2). The use of mipmapping would represent an increase of about 30% in terms of RAM space required for texture usage which is probably why most of the DC developers avoided using it.
    Yeah. If you have three mip levels, you would have to use three different textures. The DC didn't really have to use MIPS because of the way that the PVR2 worked. It didn't texture anything until the scene was presented to the display, because of the way the tile accelerator worked.

    Quote Originally Posted by Barone View Post
    Also, wasn't the GS MIP map generation routine a bit of problematic/poor in terms of the way it calculated the LOD?
    Wasn't the hardware implementation a simplified formula which would be based on how far was a pixel from the camera instead of how fast the texture mapping coordinates changed from pixel to pixel (which usually is considered a better approach)?
    Were you calculating the LOD using the default GS routine or did/could you use a custom implementation somehow?

    AFAIK, most of PS2 games also don't use mipmapping (especially the games developed in Japan) but many do. However, several of those games using mipmapping seem to have a bad/poor LOD while a few ones seem to have found a workaround.
    Yeah, it was something like that but I'm really hazy on the details, because I didn't use it. But the work around worked sort of like what you've described. Umm...from memory, it worked a bit like this; you would calculate the screen-space bounding box of the mesh and depending on the area versus some sort of pre-calculated UV change factor, you would set the mip-map to use by setting the address of the texture via a GIF tag and add it to the DMA chain.


    Quote Originally Posted by Barone View Post
    I guess that this is not enough to have a feasible workaround to that on the DC, right?
    http://home.scarlet.be/~pin10741/ISPexpl.htm
    No, I don't think so. How the PVR worked was completely hidden the programmer. Kamui just took a vertex buffer, an index buffer and passed the polys to the driver which in turn passed them to the PVR, which internally constructed poly lists for each tile.

    Quote Originally Posted by Barone View Post
    Also, talking about poor looking early games and DC-to-PS2 ports:

    ...stuff...

    Any comments about that?
    It's pretty spot on, but the PS2 was not slow. It had a low clock speed but it did a hell of a lot with it. The biggest problem was lack of CPU cache, memory and the bus being kept busy. As an example; you could perform around 32 vector multiplies in the same time it took for a data cache miss to resolve.

    The main trick to the PS2 was having it all run in parallel while keeping stuff off the main bus. To be honest, I had more problems getting physics code on the XBox to run as fast as the code on the PS2.

    Well, VC6's Debugger was actually quite buggy and far from being as easy to use as the stuff we had since VC8 and on. I think people also never think about it.
    Profilers for Visual Studio are common now and do wonders, but back in VC6 times I think there wasn't any of them and you probably couldn't even debug DLLs and stuff like that as you can now.
    So compared to a full-blown profiler which could work with low-level programming, yep, there was a huge gap.
    You could debug DLL's My first task at my first employer was to write a plugin for 3DS Max, and I was using VC5 at first. Plugins were just DLL's and I spent a LOT of time attaching to Max to debug my plugin. As you say, it was buggy, but it did work. Sort of. Well....depending on the alignment of the planets.

  2. #392
    It's that time again! Road Rasher HalfBit's Avatar
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    Glad to have you here, rusty. Its pretty cool to talk to some one who actually used the hardware.
    Tell me when you finish that sandbox game, ill start saving up my money XD

  3. #393
    Hard Road! ESWAT Veteran Barone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rusty View Post
    It's why I like using non-photo realistic rendering in my own stuff. I like video games because it's not real life. But the reason why I say fill-rate is the current best indicator of performance is because of the way modern (and PS2) rendering architecture works. As an example, I'm working on a multi-pass toon renderer but it does everything in separate passes, in much the same way as a photo-realistic renderer would do it. It works a little like this;

    1) Renders the models to the depth, colour, normal and material buffers
    2) Renders shadows into the stencil buffer
    3) Performs a light pass using the normal buffer into the light accumulation
    4) Performs edge detection based on the normal and depth buffer into outline buffer
    5) Merges the colour, light, stencil and edge buffers into a final back buffer

    Steps 3 through 5 are full-screen effects. All about fill-rate and how fast I can pull in texture data. So the size and speed of the bus on the GPU side is the most important factor, next to texture cache size, and then the number of SIMD's on the GPU.

    And most, if not all modern renderers work in a similar fashion.

    Yeah. If you have three mip levels, you would have to use three different textures. The DC didn't really have to use MIPS because of the way that the PVR2 worked. It didn't texture anything until the scene was presented to the display, because of the way the tile accelerator worked.

    Yeah, it was something like that but I'm really hazy on the details, because I didn't use it. But the work around worked sort of like what you've described. Umm...from memory, it worked a bit like this; you would calculate the screen-space bounding box of the mesh and depending on the area versus some sort of pre-calculated UV change factor, you would set the mip-map to use by setting the address of the texture via a GIF tag and add it to the DMA chain.

    No, I don't think so. How the PVR worked was completely hidden the programmer. Kamui just took a vertex buffer, an index buffer and passed the polys to the driver which in turn passed them to the PVR, which internally constructed poly lists for each tile.


    It's pretty spot on, but the PS2 was not slow. It had a low clock speed but it did a hell of a lot with it. The biggest problem was lack of CPU cache, memory and the bus being kept busy. As an example; you could perform around 32 vector multiplies in the same time it took for a data cache miss to resolve.

    The main trick to the PS2 was having it all run in parallel while keeping stuff off the main bus. To be honest, I had more problems getting physics code on the XBox to run as fast as the code on the PS2.

    You could debug DLL's My first task at my first employer was to write a plugin for 3DS Max, and I was using VC5 at first. Plugins were just DLL's and I spent a LOT of time attaching to Max to debug my plugin. As you say, it was buggy, but it did work. Sort of. Well....depending on the alignment of the planets.
    Thanks a lot rusty.
    Sorry for have been pestering you with so many questions but it's not so common to see a developer who have worked in major companies and with platforms like DC and PS2 around here, so I've tried my best to ask you all the pertinent and most recurrent questions in debates like this.
    I'm pretty sure that tons of details weren't covered but I hope I've asked you most of what is important to show people which platform had better graphics capabilities and why.

    Again, thank you very much for all this and I hope you can keep being part of our community; be it for discussions like this, off topic stuff or just for the sake of the hundreds of interesting reviews and articles that the main site has.
    Also, I don't know if you can tell us and maybe it's not cool from my side to ask this (pardon me if it bothers you), but if you could tell us your real name and/or the games and companies you've worked on I'd more than willing to track down several of those games and play them (and I'm pretty sure that other members following this discussion would like to do the same).

  4. #394
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    It's a D9 serial port.
    Might be thinking of something different then, the pictures I've seen of the Cartev box don't have D9, only a very wide d-sub AUX port (probable dc-37), and SCSI port. Also, just checked - it connects to PC via scsi for sure.

    Quote Originally Posted by rusty View Post
    There's this story I heard about how SN systems got started.

    The Sophia units were a bunch of big CPU emulators (possibly with JTAG but that's a guess on my part) all stuck together in a big box. Anyhow one of the founders of SN, possibly Martin Day, visited Sega and they proudly showed him the Sophia system. The story goes that he told them how impressed he was with it, took out his retail system with a PCB in the cart slot and said "this is my version". I think it was possibly with SN's help that they did that, because all the Saturn tools from what I remember, were written by SN.

    I could be completely mixing things up though.
    I don't know about that story, but I did hear that one company made very good development kits for the Megadrive completely independently - so good in fact that Sega later hired them to do the official kits. I don't know if that was Sophia or Cross.

    The Saturn Sophia unit was a gigantic prototype Saturn with an extra board to plug SIMM RAM upgrades to, a virtual CD emulator, a bunch of jumpers to select regions and 50/60hz, and for the main CPU you could either use Hitachi E7000 In-circuit emulators or small pcbs with a functional SH2 on them (that got made later on once the final hitachi silicon was out, I'm guessing). All the ones I've seen predate the final console production by at least half year, but according to the development documents they went through a bunch of revisions for one IC, and a lot of BIOS versions, so I wouldn't be surprised if they started making them even earlier.

    I've seen a screenshot of a Sophia that used a metal-ish packaged IC for one of the main custom chips, the SCU (it's a huge DMA with an onboard DSP). That chip went through 4 revisions before the final version, mostly adding support for extra BIOS commands. It was necessary because..., well, have you seen how many buses and subsystems the Saturn has?


    Oh, that sounds awesome. Do you know if it allows bi-directional coms? Can it be used to send byte streams to the host for logging purposes? Because often, that's all you need and for a long time it's all I had in some situations.
    [/quote]

    I don't know if it can do real time logging, but it can do both read and write for sure - I know that people used it to upload homebrew apps without needing to burn them, and also to dump data from the console (save files, bios, etc).

  5. #395
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barone View Post
    Thanks a lot rusty.
    Sorry for have been pestering you with so many questions but it's not so common to see a developer who have worked in major companies and with platforms like DC and PS2 around here, so I've tried my best to ask you all the pertinent and most recurrent questions in debates like this.
    I'm pretty sure that tons of details weren't covered but I hope I've asked you most of what is important to show people which platform had better graphics capabilities and why.
    It's no problem. I'll just add my own disclaimer and kindly ask that you never, ever take what I say at face value. Always, always question what I write. I wanted to contribute to this thread (in fact, it's why I registered) because I wanted to add a bit of perspective to the discussion. I didn't want to wade in with combat boots and do the "I'm a dev and you all know nothing HAH HAH HAH" act. All of you on here seem to be very knowledgeable and even if you weren't; it would make me a reall ass-hat if I were to do that.

    The Dreamcast and PS2 are two of the best (for differing reasons) platforms that I have worked on. I only ever did one title on the Dreamcast, and it was a game nobody remembers. But still, I'm glad that I got the chance to work on the machine. In fact....I'm sorely tempted to install PS2 Linux on my fat PS2 and write some code for it again. And maybe just install a boot loader to I can use all of the machines resources, using the sdk from ps2dev. I just wish I could do some DC coding again.


    Again, thank you very much for all this and I hope you can keep being part of our community; be it for discussions like this, off topic stuff or just for the sake of the hundreds of interesting reviews and articles that the main site has.
    I've been lurking around Sega-16 for quite some. I'm not going anywhere.

    Quote Originally Posted by Barone View Post
    Also, I don't know if you can tell us and maybe it's not cool from my side to ask this (pardon me if it bothers you), but if you could tell us your real name and/or the games and companies you've worked on I'd more than willing to track down several of those games and play them (and I'm pretty sure that other members following this discussion would like to do the same).
    I've been sort of expecting and dreading this question. It doesn't bother me that you've asked, so don't worry about that. I'd just rather not reveal too much because, well, I'm in a fairly sensitive position at my current employer. When you work for one of the console manufacturers, you're sort of careful about this sort of thing.

  6. #396
    Raging in the Streets Team Andromeda's Avatar
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    Even a youtube video will show that Touring Car has frame rate problems. I do own the game though, and it plays fine if you use the Analog controller.
    Its no the controls that the major issue it's the frame rate. The game frame rate is too fast and far too unstable

    Honestly I have more fun playing it than Sega Rally
    Good . Don't have an issue with that at all.

    VGA Cables say hi.
    And XBox says no

    The XBox didn't support VGA and even if you had a Hi Def TV in most countries MS didn't bring out the High Def components leads .

    And Youtube will show you game borders if the the borders haven't been edited out
    Nope you look a lot of videos of games like RE 4 on the Cune or Wave Race and you would never know they had borders . Also in many Mega Drive videos you don't see the

    Oh, you mean the Cartdev? That thing is nice. Saturn devkits later on were retail Saturns with a rotary region switch, a virtual CD interface, and a NMI cable modded on to them, plus the Cartdev for debugging code (a card that goes into the Saturn, with a huge cable attached to a debugging box that you can hook up to PC). I do believe it needs a PC interface card, at least for the Virtual CD.
    Not sure what interface the Cartdev used though, either SCSI or D9 serial?
    EDGE did a great feature with the then Cross Products . It did need a PC Card to use the Mirage CD emulator . Cross Products also produced their own develoment kit for the Saturn in early 1995 (SNASM2)
    Panzer Dragoon Zwei is
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  7. #397
    Hero of Algol TrekkiesUnite118's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Team Andromeda View Post
    Its no the controls that the major issue it's the frame rate. The game frame rate is too fast and far too unstable )
    How can a frame rate be too high when it barely ever hits 30fps for a port of an arcade game that ran at 60fps?

    And as I said above, you can tell in youtube videos that the game has frame rate issues.

    Quote Originally Posted by Team Andromeda View Post
    And XBox says no

    The XBox didn't support VGA and even if you had a Hi Def TV in most countries MS didn't bring out the High Def components leads .
    Dreamcast and Ps2 had them though, and Xbox and Gamecube both had component that could output progressive scan or higher in the case of the Xbox. And here in the wonderful US the Dreamcast and PS2 had VGA cables, and the PS2, GC, and Xbox all had their component cables released and HDTVs were becoming available. And in Japan they had component and D-Terminal cables and HDTVs were more prevalent. So again I ask, why does it matter what these games look like on a standard def CRT when they can be played in 480p or higher on HDTVs with the proper cables? Saying "You don't know what this looks like on a standard def CRT" holds no fucking water in this argument because that set up is NOT the optimal viewing setup for these systems. It only holds water for games that are running at standard defintition or lower.

    Quote Originally Posted by Team Andromeda View Post
    Nope you look a lot of videos of games like RE 4 on the Cune or Wave Race and you would never know they had borders . Also in many Mega Drive videos you don't see the
    So you're saying if I don't edit them out Youtube is going to magically make them disappear? Then fucking explain this:











    Looks like youtube has no trouble displaying the borders and doesn't edit them out. As I said, they will show up if the user didn't edit them out.

  8. #398
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    Is TA now arguing that based on Youtube videos, PAL games never had borders?

    Can't we just ban him already?

  9. #399
    Raging in the Streets azonicrider's Avatar
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    Its been established that polygon counts don't mean crap

    regardless of that, what is preventing the Dreamcast from reaching high poly counts like 8 million per second? like imagine they used 2-bit textures, interlacing etc.
    Certified F-Zero GX fanboy

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    Quote Originally Posted by azonicrider View Post
    Its been established that polygon counts don't mean crap

    regardless of that, what is preventing the Dreamcast from reaching high poly counts like 8 million per second? like imagine they used 2-bit textures, interlacing etc.
    iirc you just couldn't fit more draw commands into VRAM after a certain limit. I think it was slightly above 5 mill though, more like 6.

    I'm pretty sure the tile based rendering also made it difficult to update the command list mid-frame too. The Saturn could do it, but that was a straightforward sprite plotter, and it couldn't draw anything while doing so (it didn't even have a texture cache!).

  11. #401
    Hard Road! ESWAT Veteran Barone's Avatar
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    Why was this thread moved here? WHY???
    Not enough "Help me to fix my Sega CD" threads in the Sega CD section to move to Tech Aid?
    Not enough "I have ideas" threads to move from Blast Processing?

    Then, out of all of those threads, this one got moved...
    It will be awesome to see what Semmie has to tell us about texture management and mipmapping!

  12. #402
    Raging in the Streets azonicrider's Avatar
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    Yea Semmie can you tell us whats the big deal is about 2-bit textures, PS2 games using a frame buffer thats only half Y resolution?

    Not sure why this thread aint suited for Blast Processing, but whatev


    This is all pretty fascinating rusty. I wish I was old enough to be doing Dreamcast development during 1999-2000, good luck getting an elementary kid to accomplish that.
    Certified F-Zero GX fanboy

  13. #403
    Raging in the Streets Team Andromeda's Avatar
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    Is TA now arguing that based on Youtube videos, PAL games never had borders
    So you're saying if I don't edit them out Youtube is going to magically make them disappear? Then fucking explain this
    Sigh !!!!.


    I'm not on about Pal boarders FFS! . I'm on about how even games like RE 4, Wave Race when played in full NTSC speed they have small border that isn't always displayed on YouTube and they by giving the viewer the false impression then're full screen when they're not .

    How can a frame rate be too high when it barely ever hits 30fps for a port of an arcade game that ran at 60fps
    Who said anything about the framerate being to high ? The speed of the game is too fast in the Saturn version (not the frame rate) and the erratic update makes the games all but unplayable to most . But in most videos the games looks ok (even in the one you posted for added irony)

    Dreamcast and Ps2 had them though
    PS2 ? That is news to me I don't think SONY officially supported that until the re-desgin of the slim and then HDMI support and anyway I was on about the XBox and MS didn't support VGA (even in the great USA) and hell in most countries didn't even bring out the High Def Component leads and that's looking how most people capture cards don't support High Def component inputs for systems like the XBox I'm willing to bet
    Last edited by Team Andromeda; 02-01-2014 at 02:53 AM.
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  14. #404
    Rogue Master of Shinobi Pulstar's Avatar
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    All this talk is immaterial. A tech demo of MGS2 running side-by-side with the PS2 version would have been enough to settle the debate. Alas, Konami never gave the DC a chance. I imagine polycount on DC would suffer considerably, but it might have had a crisper image.

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