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Thread: Saturn vs. PlayStation tech - Question

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barone View Post
    I'd say it would be factually wrong and uninformative to not mention the GTE, especially since the OP was asking for proper context on to why the Saturn is considered underpowered in comparison.

    This is from June 1997:



    That's just 2 years after the US launch.



    I agree but if you don't cite specifics you're even more likely to be insulted and tagged as Sony fanboy.
    It usually doesn't take long to have people saying stuff like "5-6x faster???? Pfffff. Prove it!" and it usually goes downhill from there.
    I just tried to avoid the same endless loops I've seen before.


    IIRC, Sony did not provide documentation or really expected anyone to use the GTE in any other way than what the devkit could do, but over the years, developers reverse engineered it on their own. It was in 97-98 (from my memory) where they started "opening" it up, releasing the documents and such for devs to program it more freely. Unfortunately I don't have a source for this, I think a former dev mentioned this before.

    For the VDP1 speed claims, we have an equation for calculating the speed it takes to draw a polygon from one of the Sega dev docs. Those figures imply that it takes 3 cycles for the VDP1 to draw a textured pixel, while for the PSX we know it can draw one in 1 cycle, or it can draw two pixels in memory copy mode (useful for 2d sprites with zero effects, no scaling) in 1 cycle. That's a 6x performance difference, not even counting how long it takes to set up the texture drawing on the PSX side, how fast the display lists can be updated, whether you are using the texture cache or not, or the fact that the Saturn wastes a significant amount of its draw time overwriting pixels when you collapse two vertexes so you can draw a triangle. And that the PSX GPU has a bit more cycles (33MHz vs 28.6MHz).
    I don't remember the exact numbers, but last time I punched in the numbers with 16x16 polygons, I ended up with something abysmal, like 4-7 MPixels on the Saturn, while launch date demos for the PSX reached in excess of 20+ MPixels real life performance.

    There's at least one anecdote regarding the difference. Lobotomy's programmer mentioned that they got Quake running at 60fps with framedrops caused by lack of processing power, while the Saturn was 15-20fps and limited by VDP1s speed. That makes the PSX GPU minimum 3-4 times faster - on top of having more colour, better transparency, UV mapping, a texture cache, etc.

    I feel that 5-6x speed difference is a good general statement.

  2. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by zyrobs View Post
    IIRC, Sony did not provide documentation or really expected anyone to use the GTE in any other way than what the devkit could do, but over the years, developers reverse engineered it on their own. It was in 97-98 (from my memory) where they started "opening" it up, releasing the documents and such for devs to program it more freely. Unfortunately I don't have a source for this, I think a former dev mentioned this before.
    It's very likely to be around 1997, since it was the year when SCEE released Porsche Challenge and Rapid Racer.
    Both games were using graphical tricks that would become common in the upcoming high profile PS1 games.


    Quote Originally Posted by zyrobs View Post
    Lobotomy's programmer mentioned
    http://www.gareth.uk/2010/08/07/inte...tomy-software/

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    Quote Originally Posted by zyrobs View Post
    IIRC, Sony did not provide documentation or really expected anyone to use the GTE in any other way than what the devkit could do
    Some companies certainly had access to more stuff though, such as Taito - which was using PS1-based hardware in the arcades (TAITO FX-1A, TAITO FX-1B).
    Both Ray Tracers (January 1997) and Fighter's Impact (April 1997) were using far more advanced lighting and special effects than the other PS1 games up until that point.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barone View Post
    I'd say it would be factually wrong and uninformative to not mention the GTE, especially since the OP was asking for proper context on to why the Saturn is considered underpowered in comparison.

    I agree but if you don't cite specifics you're even more likely to be insulted and tagged as Sony fanboy.
    It usually doesn't take long to have people saying stuff like "5-6x faster???? Pfffff. Prove it!" and it usually goes downhill from there.
    I just tried to avoid the same endless loops I've seen before.
    Ahh.. Good old Next Genl Sister mag to the UK's EDGE and if you were to ask EDGE which system was the better and most powerful between the Snes and Mega Drive, they'll sight the Snes and I'm sure most here would take issue with that assumption.
    That piece was taken in part from EDGE feature on the state of play and you had the PS Ninja Team having to use low level code to try and match Ninja running on the Saturn, which was making full use of the VDP II and there were some in CORE who felt the Saturn was better..
    There was no question for out and out 3D the PS was better, but when one took the time to use the VDP II along with the VDP1 was when the Saturn would shine... Lack of market share, poor tools meant this never really happened and was the biggest issue of the Saturn. I remember for quite a number of years the PS2 was behind that of the DC, untill developers took the time to really bang on the hardware.





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  5. #20
    Raging in the Streets Blades's Avatar
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    This is a very interesting issue that doesn't have an authoritative answer, so the answer must be compiled from bits and pieces here and there.

    Fact 1: the Saturn was more difficult to develop for without question. Quads, two video layers, two CPUs, etc. In the beginning, 3rd parties didn't even have access to good graphics libraries. This didn't change until about 1996 (SGL: Sega Graphics Libraries).

    Fact 2: the Saturn had strong mathematical performance, more so than the PSX, which is where comparisons like Retro's come into play. The dual SH2s outperformed the PSX MIPS core when utilized efficiently.

    Fact 3: The reason Playstation games looked so much better is because of the custom-designed GTE graphics core in the PSX. This chip caught everyone off-guard. Essentially, it traded accuracy for very fast 3D graphics processing (for the time). Even the best CPU wouldn't be able to offset such a strong graphics chip. Essentially mid-90's blast processing.

    These three realizations were why the Saturn was weaker for its intended purpose, video games, than the PSX. It didn't help that the sound hardware wasn't great (again a grab-bag of various things that didn't matter in the mid-90s and on) and that hardware video decompression was optional. Sure, the Saturn could pull off some neat tricks with VDP1/VDP2 interplay but at the end of the day it just couldn't push as many polygons as the PSX could and the neat special effects couldn't offset that.

    This is something heard again and again in developer interviews thorughout the Saturn's lifetime. Later on, it became obvious that the Saturn couldn't compete but in the early days when it was still unclear, lots of developers said things like "both versions are in development, but the Saturn side is progressing a little more slowly and running a little more poorly."

    Examples include Core's Tomb Raider, Interplay's Loaded, Interplay's Descent (never came out due to lackluster performance), and Argonaut's Croc. Almost all of these versions had some kind of Saturn-specific charms (VDP2 background tricks etc.) but overall just couldn't match the PSX versions in terms of framerate and polys.

    The best of the best Saturn software (Panzer Dragoon Saga, Panzer Dragoon Zwei, Sonic R, Burning Rangers) pushed the Saturn as far as it would go. The artistic direction makes these games appear unparalleled in their era, but if one looks closely they all suffer from the same issues all Saturn software does: poor 3D, poor lighting, and poor performance.

    To be fair, Sega didn't know 3D was going to catch on, and if it didn't the PSX's very fast 3D chip would've been a colossal waste of silicon.
    Last edited by Blades; 05-13-2019 at 03:07 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blades View Post
    This is a very interesting issue that doesn't have an authoritative answer, so the answer must be compiled from bits and pieces here and there.
    I think it's clear for nice effects and out and out 3D the PS was better add in too its development environment was also better and cheaper. To be fair to SOA for once (in the 32Bit era) this was one area they looked to correct and looked to use productions Saturn to used for Development kits with its Carts development set up. But even some of the SONY's Wipeout Team never saw the Saturn was as bad as some made out and ask Scanvager and they said the Saturn was more powerful, but with plenlty of issues and bottlenecks. It's when a developer took the time to use the VDP1 and then also make use of the VDP2:where you mixed in the Saturn decent 3D and its awesome 2D hardware support that one got to see the best of the Saturn. Sadly given the market share and the PS was the lead developer platform, not many developers took the time.






    And here's a half decent video of when the Saturn did do 3D games that little better than the PS, thanks to the VDP2

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  7. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blades View Post
    This is a very interesting issue that doesn't have an authoritative answer, so the answer must be compiled from bits and pieces here and there.

    Fact 1: the Saturn was more difficult to develop for without question. Quads, two video layers, two CPUs, etc. In the beginning, 3rd parties didn't even have access to good graphics libraries. This didn't change until about 1996 (SGL: Sega Graphics Libraries).

    Fact 2: the Saturn had strong mathematical performance, more so than the PSX, which is where comparisons like Retro's come into play. The dual SH2s outperformed the PSX MIPS core when utilized efficiently.

    Fact 3: The reason Playstation games looked so much better is because of the custom-designed GTE graphics core in the PSX. This chip caught everyone off-guard. Essentially, it traded accuracy for very fast 3D graphics processing (for the time). Even the best CPU wouldn't be able to offset such a strong graphics chip. Essentially mid-90's blast processing.

    These three realizations were why the Saturn was weaker for its intended purpose, video games, than the PSX. It didn't help that the sound hardware wasn't great (again a grab-bag of various things that didn't matter in the mid-90s and on) and that hardware video decompression was optional. Sure, the Saturn could pull off some neat tricks with VDP1/VDP2 interplay but at the end of the day it just couldn't push as many polygons as the PSX could and the neat special effects couldn't offset that.

    This is something heard again and again in developer interviews thorughout the Saturn's lifetime. Later on, it became obvious that the Saturn couldn't compete but in the early days when it was still unclear, lots of developers said things like "both versions are in development, but the Saturn side is progressing a little more slowly and running a little more poorly."

    Examples include Core's Tomb Raider, Interplay's Loaded, Interplay's Descent (never came out due to lackluster performance), and Argonaut's Croc. Almost all of these versions had some kind of Saturn-specific charms (VDP2 background tricks etc.) but overall just couldn't match the PSX versions in terms of framerate and polys.

    The best of the best Saturn software (Panzer Dragoon Saga, Panzer Dragoon Zwei, Sonic R, Burning Rangers) pushed the Saturn as far as it would go. The artistic direction makes these games appear unparalleled in their era, but if one looks closely they all suffer from the same issues all Saturn software does: poor 3D, poor lighting, and poor performance.

    To be fair, Sega didn't know 3D was going to catch on, and if it didn't the PSX's very fast 3D chip would've been a colossal waste of silicon.
    Can't rep.



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  8. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barone View Post
    @Gryson
    I think this is also relevant.
    Sadly while Ancient was making Thor II they did not have the ADX sound tool. I remember an interview with CORE saying the same thing and how the PS had Hardware compression, which was the reason why most 3rd party PS games sounded better for sound effects. It was an area SEGA IN-Vision sound tools was very keen to fix and worked with CRI (when SEGA was part of CSK) to produce the ADX. Sadly that didn't come online until late 96. It was some serious tech mind, I read it could compressive sound files to 1/4th their size with next to no loss in quality. Grandia sounds better on the Saturn, as does SOUKY and Lunar and the last 2 games just used the standard In-vision sound tools.

    Along with the lack of decent Alpha channel support in the VDP1, the lack of Sound compression hardware inside the Saturn, was a major oversight by SOJ. Sad given how powerful the Sound hardware really was, mind you the PS sound hardware was awesome too. Both could produce some stunning sound effects and chip-based music
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  9. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blades View Post

    Fact 1: the Saturn was more difficult to develop for without question. Quads, two video layers, two CPUs, etc. In the beginning, 3rd parties didn't even have access to good graphics libraries. This didn't change until about 1996 (SGL: Sega Graphics Libraries).
    SEGA sent out the SGL in late 95 to 'select' 3rd parties. I remember the PR from Sega Europe when SEGA Japan was also invested over 4 million quid into Scavenger in 95. I think as part of SEGA's move to attract developers to the Saturn in late 95. SEGA Europe was sending out SGL units along with videos and demos of then in development games like VF II, AMOK. That said, in interviews with the CS Rally Team, Team Andromeda and Climax (Dark Savour) they all said that even the SGL while powerful (and much better, than the early tools) was still too slow and they rather use their own development tools.
    Konami Japan also said that SGL had some bugs and was prone to crash, but SGL 1.1 was much better. I think SGL 1.1 was what AM#2 were using for the Virtual Cop II and Fighting Viper ports.

    Here's what CORE had to say on the tools







    Examples include Core's Tomb Raider, Interplay's Loaded, Interplay's Descent (never came out due to lackluster performance), and Argonaut's Croc. Almost all of these versions had some kind of Saturn-specific charms (VDP2 background tricks etc.) but overall just couldn't match the PSX versions in terms of framerate and polys.
    Loader run just as good as its PS version to be fair, it lacked the transparent effects. Croc didn't run as nice and in a lower res but it did use the VDP II was moving lava and better cloud effects it also used the Midi on the Sound Hardware for some more background sound effects. Tomb Raider was early and rushed out to help please SEGA Europe. The trouble is people will be selective for games. Not many will talk of how Exhumed looks better, so does Duke: both have dynamic lighting, people look over how Street Racer looks and runs better, same for Hexxen, Mass Destruction looks and runs so much better on the Saturn too and only Saturn die-hards will talk of how Treasure dropped the planned port of RSG (due to lacklustre performance) Sure there's not many, but when used, the Saturn could pull off the odd surprise or two

    The best of the best Saturn software (Panzer Dragoon Saga, Panzer Dragoon Zwei, Sonic R, Burning Rangers) pushed the Saturn as far as it would go. The artistic direction makes these games appear unparalleled in their era, but if one looks closely they all suffer from the same issues all Saturn software does: poor 3D, poor lighting, and poor performance.
    Dark Savour, Grandia, Last Bronix, Die Hard Arcade, Raident Silvergun, Sega Rally, Virtual Cop II, Daytona USA EC, Scocher, Bulk Slash, Ninpen, Decathlete really should be counted. Decathlete still amazing to this day; Model 2 style visuals, with a rock soild 60 fps and all at 704x480.


    I will say this much while the PS did 3D better, I liked both the Saturn and PS 3D much better than the N64 3D with its poor frame rates, low res graphics and muddy washed out display
    Last edited by Team Andromeda; 05-13-2019 at 04:49 AM.
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  10. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Team Andromeda View Post
    I will say this much while the PS did 3D better, I liked both the Saturn and PS 3D much better than the N64 3D with its poor frame rates, low res graphics and muddy washed out display
    Hindsight is 20/20... resolution wise I thought they looked fine at the time because that was all I had seen up to that point and all of the TVs were standard definition. It wasn't until the late '90s when PC games were doing much higher resolutions that I could notice a difference.

    I also don't recall the N64 framerate being any worse than the other two, I actually thought it did 3D better than the PSX but with worse textures. I agree the anti-aliasing effect on the N64 looks horrible on a modern display but looked fine on the TVs of the era.

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    Nintendo games had solid framerates. That's still true to this day on their systems but Rare wasn't always that way as Perfect Dark had an atrocious frame rate. Not rare or Nintendo but Turok 2 at times was nearly unplayable. We do know many members of that team would later develop Metroid Prime on GCN. I recall N64 being able to put more on screen at once with larger environments. I also disliked PS1 warping. I don't mind the blurry look of N64 games compared to the heavily pixelated warping effect of PS1 and Saturn. SEGA games looked good to me tho I never liked how Panzer Dragoon looked on it with the opening level. It looks so crunchy. What I did dislike on N64 was muffled sound when it came to speech samples or licensed songs. PS1/Saturn sounded awesome plus those rendered cutscenes.



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    Hedgehog-in-Training Hedgehog-in-TrainingWildside Expert MushaAleste's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blades View Post

    To be fair, Sega didn't know 3D was going to catch on, and if it didn't the PSX's very fast 3D chip would've been a colossal waste of silicon.
    3D was considered a gimmick. The most prominent reason why 3D did catch on at home was because SONY aggressively pushed for that. Because SONY put all their eggs into that basket with their PSX. Interestingly enough, SONY credited SEGA a couple of years ago for "showing" them the future would be 3D...

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    Quote Originally Posted by axel View Post
    Hindsight is 20/20... resolution wise I thought they looked fine at the time because that was all I had seen up to that point and all of the TVs were standard definition. It wasn't until the late '90s when PC games were doing much higher resolutions that I could notice a difference.

    I also don't recall the N64 framerate being any worse than the other two, I actually thought it did 3D better than the PSX but with worse textures. I agree the anti-aliasing effect on the N64 looks horrible on a modern display but looked fine on the TVs of the era.
    No, the N64 always looked blurry. I had my PlayStation, N64 and Saturn hooked up to a 27" 1994 Sony Trinitron. I liked how the graphics looked on the N64, but it always pissed me off that it was so blurry.


    Quote Originally Posted by MushaAleste View Post
    3D was considered a gimmick. The most prominent reason why 3D did catch on at home was because SONY aggressively pushed for that. Because SONY put all their eggs into that basket with their PSX. Interestingly enough, SONY credited SEGA a couple of years ago for "showing" them the future would be 3D...

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    I don't know about you, but I was so hyped when I saw that the Saturn had Daytona USA and Virtua Fighter. And those were the 1st two games I'd played on the console. All of Sega's arcade games after Virtua Racing were 3D.
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  14. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by SegataS View Post
    Nintendo games had solid framerates.
    Not on the N64 they didn't. Wave Rave 64 and Pilotwings 64 have a variable frame rate and it most cases both games could just about handle above the 22 fps mark. The N64 was a poor system for frame rates and screen res tbh.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MushaAleste View Post
    3D was considered a gimmick. .
    3D and polygons were also becoming a factor in home systems, even in the early design for the Saturn, the main reason for the switch from the NEC CPU to the SH-2 CPU was because that CPU handled a 3D world better, then you had the 3D boats in the Jag and 3do, even on the Mega Drive and Snes you had 3D polygons starting to make an impact with VR and Star Fox. I feel at the time it was just so expensive to give your system decent 3D maths than could handle polygons and there was also still a decent size market for 2D style games. What SONY did so well was to go all out for 3D at a very competitive price and that people were ready to move on and pay that little extra for it. Mind you my 1st ever 16-bit system (well other than the Intellivision lol) was the Atari ST and I remember getting that to play F29 Retaliator (which me and my uncle loved) in 89 and a host of other 3D polygon games and I also remember Geoff Crammond Grand Prix 1 and II turning heads with his polygon engines at the time; sadly you needed a mighty and expensive PC to get the best out of the games .

    Not sure in the USA, but in Pal land, there were lots of games and gfx demo's using polygons on the Amiga and ST.
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