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Gryson
05-12-2019, 04:28 PM
It's no secret that the Saturn was more difficult to develop games for. But back in the day, there was a lot written in the media about how the Saturn was under-powered compared to the PlayStation:


Sega knows (although it would never admit it publicly) that of the "big three" (Saturn, PlayStation, Ultra 64), Saturn is the weakest machine -- in terms of system power, at least. Hence at every opportunity, Sega has attempted to divert attention from the technical specifications of its machine and instead focus on the issue of its expertise in producing quality games.

Is there any truth to this statement? Is there a measure of "system power" by which the PlayStation outperformed the Saturn?

I don't know much in regards to this, but I was just reading this comparison on SegaRetro (https://segaretro.org/Sega_Saturn/Hardware_comparison) and it looks like the Saturn outperforms the PlayStation in every way.

Gaming magazines certainly had a hard-on for the PlayStation, and there always seemed to be about 10 rumors floating around about problems with the Saturn. It's interesting to consider these rumors, where they might have been coming from, and if there was any truth in them.

The Saturn had a serious image problem, to say the least.

TrekkiesUnite118
05-12-2019, 05:02 PM
On paper, the Saturn looks better in the CPU and Memory departments. However it's very difficult to use those resources due to numerous limitations, bottlenecks, and just odd design choices.

The real choke point though is VDP1. It's just really slow, and it has so many gotchas and limitations that make it a nightmare to deal with. There's certain things that a developer takes for granted on the N64, PS1, and just about any other 3D console that you just can't do easily on the Saturn. For example texture coordinates. On any other system you can specify what coordinates of the texture you want used for the polygon. You can't do this on the Saturn as the texture IS the polygon. So you have to work around it.

Leynos
05-12-2019, 05:11 PM
Didn't the Saturn use triangles instead of polygons?

TrekkiesUnite118
05-12-2019, 05:15 PM
Didn't the Saturn use triangles instead of polygons?

No. Everyone else used Triangles. Sega's arcade hardware used Quads. The Saturn however doesn't even use Quads really. It instead draws sprites and distorts them. This effectively makes a quad but it's still not your typical Quad/Polygon as you still can't do things like texture coordinates, you have tons of overdraw, transparencies are a nightmare, etc.

EDIT: This should explain it better


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDJgeuoaSvQ


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdD0GvVRSMc

Leynos
05-12-2019, 05:19 PM
Thanks for that. I figured I had it mixed up. Transparencies are one of the things people also seem to always get mixed up on. I know it was possible just not worth taking the time and effort.

Gryson
05-12-2019, 05:23 PM
On paper, the Saturn looks better in the CPU and Memory departments. However it's very difficult to use those resources due to numerous limitations, bottlenecks, and just odd design choices.

The real choke point though is VDP1. It's just really slow, and it has so many gotchas and limitations that make it a nightmare to deal with. There's certain things that a developer takes for granted on the N64, PS1, and just about any other 3D console that you just can't do easily on the Saturn. For example texture coordinates. On any other system you can specify what coordinates of the texture you want used for the polygon. You can't do this on the Saturn as the texture IS the polygon. So you have to work around it.

With that in mind, would you say that the Saturn is a less powerful system than the PS1? I guess it's not clear to me where the distinction lies between "hard to develop for" and the vague "underpowered". Or maybe it's not possible to separate the two.

Leynos
05-12-2019, 05:29 PM
Would a lesser comparison be PS3 vs 360? PS3 on paper was boasted as more powerful in the media but games performed better on 360. PS3 was just more difficult to work with from not just the CPU but also the way PS3 broke up it's RAM.

TrekkiesUnite118
05-12-2019, 05:30 PM
With that in mind, would you say that the Saturn is a less powerful system than the PS1? I guess it's not clear to me where the distinction lies between "hard to develop for" and the vague "underpowered". Or maybe it's not possible to separate the two.

It all depends on what you're trying to do. If you're trying to draw oodles of polygons with lighting and transparency effects then yes, the Saturn is weaker. If you're trying to do some kind of game that can make heavy use of VDP2 effects or a 2D Fighter that needs lots of RAM then the Saturn will do better.

Barone
05-12-2019, 06:25 PM
this comparison on SegaRetro (https://segaretro.org/Sega_Saturn/Hardware_comparison)
Avoid Sega Retro for systems comparisons or specs in general.

Regarding your question, there are several key factors which lead to a significantly inferior performance of the Saturn in 3D games.

I've been to countless discussions related to it, so I'll just cite things I remember but you'd need to check further for specific numbers and whatnot:

Saturn lacks an equivalent to what the GTE does for the PS1. For vector math the GTE is far more efficient and powerful than the SH2.
Saturn texture RAM is only 16-bits wide, so less than 50% the bandwidth of PS1 VRAM for DMA at best.
VDP1's rendering approach restricts the frame buffers size to be power of two. 512 wide frame buffers are used for 320/352 wide video modes and 1024 wide frame buffers for the 640/704 wide video modes.
For the most part the frame buffer RAM will be at least 35.5% wasted.
OTOH, the PS1 had arbitrary-sized frame buffers and far more video modes, including the 512 wide ones the Saturn should have had.
Saturn's RGB rendering doesn't support 8-bit textures like the PS1's; it's either 4-bit or 16-bit. The latter is usually a no-go due to VRAM size constraints; so you're left with the 4-bit option.

Gryson
05-12-2019, 07:02 PM
Avoid Sega Retro for systems comparisons or specs in general.

Was worried that might be the case :shock:


Regarding your question, there are several key factors which lead to a significantly inferior performance of the Saturn in 3D games.

I've been to countless discussions related to it, so I'll just cite things I remember but you'd need to check further for specific numbers and whatnot:

Saturn lacks an equivalent to what the GTE does for the PS1. For vector math the GTE is far more efficient and powerful than the SH2.
Saturn texture RAM is only 16-bits wide, so less than 50% the bandwidth of PS1 VRAM for DMA at best.
VDP1's rendering approach restricts the frame buffers size to be power of two. 512 wide frame buffers are used for 320/352 wide video modes and 1024 wide frame buffers for the 640/704 wide video modes.
For the most part the frame buffer RAM will be at least 35.5% wasted.
OTOH, the PS1 had arbitrary-sized frame buffers and far more video modes, including the 512 wide ones the Saturn should have had.
Saturn's RGB rendering doesn't support 8-bit textures like the PS1's; it's either 4-bit or 16-bit. The latter is usually a no-go due to VRAM size constraints; so you're left with the 4-bit option.


This question might not be answerable, but for those of you who are more knowledgeable about the Saturn specs, do these limitations seem to reflect bad design choices, or was it a case of "doing the best with what we have"?

axel
05-12-2019, 07:11 PM
The one area where the Saturn looks more powerful is running ports of Neo Geo games -- they look almost perfect on the Saturn while the PSX drops half the frames of animation (and sometimes had an odd color palette, though I'm not sure why).

When I look at the design I think it might have made sense in 1993 or whenever they finalized the specs, they had no idea if they next generation would be 2D or 3D games so they built a system that could do both if necessary. Sony realized 3D was going to be huge so they optimized their hardware around that and it paid off.

zyrobs
05-12-2019, 08:41 PM
In pure compute power, the two systems are probably close enough, but that depends on whether you are capable of maxing out both SH2s and the SCU DSP on the Saturn. I'd say that it's unfair to call the Playstation better due to the GTE, since they had 3-4 more years to maximize performance on that (it was around that time when Sony opened the specs on it), while the Saturn did not have that amount of optimization time, having all western support killed and eastern support being mostly 2d games.
Although in easy of use, the PSX is definitely better by a mile, it is extremely well designed to do a specific task: get as many polygons moving on the screen as efficiently as possible.

For VDP1 details, it is pointless to make a list of deficiencies, since the one major issue is the speed. The PSX renderer was 5-6x faster. If the Saturn VDP1 was equally fast, then it could have made up for all the features it lacked, but the speed just wasn't there.

I think the VDP1 could've been saved it they add a 256/512px mode to the VDP2, the ability to use color calculations in double density framebuffer modes on the VDP1, and a 12-bit RGB mode with 4 bits for VDP2 color/priority modes. Of course the speed still wouldn't be there, but then you would at least have a mode where more than just half of the consoles video features are available at any time.

zyrobs
05-12-2019, 08:49 PM
This question might not be answerable, but for those of you who are more knowledgeable about the Saturn specs, do these limitations seem to reflect bad design choices, or was it a case of "doing the best with what we have"?

The one critical error was that the VDP1 side was done by people who had no idea how to do a fast, efficient 3d rasterizer. They used a very basic, simplistic and wasteful sprite rasterizer, from an arcade hardware where it was affordable to offset the inefficiency with brute speed.

That, and the VDP2 side was made to work with backgrounds for paletted sprites, not for free form RGB polygons. So it was almost impossible to use in a 3D setting, unless you HEAVILY limited yourself on the VDP1 side by using palettes (which meant that transparency was impossible and shading was extremely difficult).

Barone
05-12-2019, 09:19 PM
I'd say that it's unfair to call the Playstation better due to the GTE, since they had 3-4 more years to maximize performance on that (it was around that time when Sony opened the specs on it), while the Saturn did not have that amount of optimization time, having all western support killed and eastern support being mostly 2d games.
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 (https://archive.org/stream/NextGeneration30Jun1997/Next_Generation_30_Jun_1997#page/n55/mode/2up):
https://i.imgur.com/K0P9MzX.png
https://i.imgur.com/DCQSA5g.png

That's just 2 years after the US launch.



For VDP1 details, it is pointless to make a list of deficiencies, since the one major issue is the speed. The PSX renderer was 5-6x faster. If the Saturn VDP1 was equally fast, then it could have made up for all the features it lacked, but the speed just wasn't there.
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.

Barone
05-12-2019, 10:11 PM
@Gryson
I think this is also relevant.


The SCSP is a 68000, a DSP, and associated control logic in one chip. The control logic could be set as plain PCM channels, or linked together for FM synthesis. There is no compression supported, except via software decompression by the 68000, or by the SH2 as the data is copied into sound ram.

I think the lack of hardware compression support is what made the Saturn sound for games worse than other consoles for the same game - you NEEDED compression to get all the sounds into sound ram, but then you were stuck doing poor ADPCM with the 68000 on a limited number of channels on the Saturn. By comparison, all 24 channels in the SPU of the PSX automatically handled Sony's XA ADPCM format in hardware. In fact, it's the ONLY format the SPU used for samples stored in the sound ram - you couldn't play uncompressed audio. So if uncompressed samples COULD fit in the sound ram, the Saturn would have sounded better since it plays uncompressed samples, while the PSX doesn't.

The DSP was for effects like reverb or echo or QSound. It was not general-purpose enough for decoding compressed samples.


Technically, the SCSP is the synth chip on its own (which houses a DSP). It is controlled by a 68k, and it has 512k RAM, which is also used for 68k code, DSP code, etc.

You can, however, control the SCSP from the SH2. One of the Lobotomy games did that, either Exhumed or Duke Nukem. Most games using ADPCM or ADX audio did that too, decoded the streams with SH2 + SCU DSP, and sent it decompressed to the 68k/SCSP. I don't know if the SCU DSP could control it, though. That would be something really stupid to do.

The only problem with the Saturn audio hardware was the lack of memory, which prevented the use of high quality samples. The lack of hardware compression exacerbated the problem.

For FM functions, very few games used them because the SCSP was, in practice, a Yamaha keyboard. The dev tools worked in a similar fashion. The musicians played tunes in their keyboards, recorded them as MIDI, then uploaded it to the Saturn with their own sample banks. Maybe set some DSP effects (reverb, echo, etc) to make it sound cooler. But, most games didn't even do that, they just streamed audio either from the CD, or from the data track as prerecorded PCM, ADPCM, ADX, etc... which allowed for more sample space for sound effects, anyway - and that was more important in many cases. FM was seldom used, and mostly just for small menu jingles or the odd pitch bend effect. I think the title that used FM the most was Game Basic, but even that mixed in a lot of pre-defined PCM samples.

The Model 2/3 bypassed the low memory problem by having two complete 68k+SCSP+RAM setups on them. That gave double the channels and double the sample space. Sometimes they, too, just played streaming ADPCM though, and so did the ST-V.

The Dreamcast AICA was effectively a SCSP with double the channel count and no FM functions, with more RAM, and controlled by a much faster ARM cpu that could handle decompression on its own.


The SPU decompresses the samples in the PS1/PS2. The difference is the PS1 allows 24 channels of compressed sound all playing at the same time, and the Saturn maybe 4 channels of compressed sound playing at the same time. If you want to use those 32 channels, most of them MUST be uncompressed samples.

And the reason it matters is the PS1 and Saturn both have 512KB of sound ram, but the PS1 sound ram is equivalent to 2MB of sound ram due to the compression. So the common problem on the Saturn is getting that 4:1 compression, and the most common method is to switch from 16-bit to 8-bit samples (for 2:1) and from 44100 to 22050 Hz sample rates (another 2:1 for a total of 4:1). And that's why many Saturn ports don't sound as good as the PS1 port.


"Kikizo: What was working with the Saturn like? It's notorious for being a difficult system.

Koshiro: Oh, of course. We made Vatlva and Thor for the system. Vatlva was CD redbook audio, but Thor... it was a lot more difficult. The sound in the game is orchestral, and the sound memory was also limited to 512KB. It's bigger than that of the SFC, but for orchestral-style music, its limitations are very strict. It's tough to fit all of the orchestral instrument samples you need into that space. You didn't need the sort of programming skills you did for the SFC and Megadrive, though - you just used a MIDI input sequencer. I used a Mac program called Vision for Thor's sound. Still, the memory limitation was the biggest issue to work around.

Kikizo: The PlayStation was much easier, right?

Koshiro: Yes, it was much better. The memory size for sound was the same, but the compression algorithms were much better than the Saturn. It used the same compression system as their minidiscs did at the time. It allowed us to fit more and better quality music and sound into smaller space."
http://archive.videogamesdaily.com/features/yuzo_koshiro_iv_oct05_p2.asp

zyrobs
05-12-2019, 10:37 PM
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 (https://archive.org/stream/NextGeneration30Jun1997/Next_Generation_30_Jun_1997#page/n55/mode/2up):
https://i.imgur.com/K0P9MzX.png
https://i.imgur.com/DCQSA5g.png

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.

Barone
05-12-2019, 11:11 PM
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.



Lobotomy's programmer mentioned
http://www.gareth.uk/2010/08/07/interview-with-ezra-dreisbach-of-lobotomy-software/

Barone
05-12-2019, 11:25 PM
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.

Team Andromeda
05-13-2019, 03:28 AM
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.

https://i.imgur.com/ePaVEem.jpg

https://i.imgur.com/7JatK0g.jpg

https://i.imgur.com/8eBcBc4.jpg

Blades
05-13-2019, 03:54 AM
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.

Team Andromeda
05-13-2019, 04:51 AM
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.

https://i.imgur.com/3JN1SXG.jpg

https://i.imgur.com/oRTCmaq.jpg


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


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQe1qTCH4Co&t=499s

Leynos
05-13-2019, 04:58 AM
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.

Team Andromeda
05-13-2019, 05:09 AM
@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

Team Andromeda
05-13-2019, 05:33 AM
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

https://i.imgur.com/I606uFN.jpg






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

axel
05-13-2019, 06:10 PM
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.

Leynos
05-13-2019, 08:41 PM
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.

MushaAleste
05-13-2019, 11:22 PM
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...

https://www.wired.com/2012/09/how-virtua-fighter-saved-playstations-bacon/

gamevet
05-14-2019, 12:16 AM
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.



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...

https://www.wired.com/2012/09/how-virtua-fighter-saved-playstations-bacon/

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.

Team Andromeda
05-14-2019, 01:08 AM
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.

Team Andromeda
05-14-2019, 01:23 AM
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.

gamevet
05-14-2019, 01:54 AM
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.

We had all of those 3D games here. There was 4D boxing, A-10 Tank Killer, F1 Grand Prix, Out of this World, F-117 Stealth Bomber and F/A-18, just to name a few.

Team Andromeda
05-14-2019, 10:21 AM
We had all of those 3D games here. There was 4D boxing, A-10 Tank Killer, F1 Grand Prix, Out of this World, F-117 Stealth Bomber and F/A-18, just to name a few.

Like I said I never really knew.I didn't want to come across as arrogant or condensing, but back in those days I never read or cared much for how gaming was in the USA and so never really had any grasp on how big Amiga or ST gaming was in the USA.
All I can say was in the late 80's and every early 90's 3D polygons was a big deal on the Amiga and ST overhere in Pal land


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

Playing VF on my Import Saturn way back in November 25th 1994 was and still remains the most incredible launch game experience I had (for a systems domestic day 1 launch). It wasn't just how that game blew away all other 3D games on any home system (short lived I know) it was for the 1st time in the home, I saw and was playing a game that moved as good as Jackie Chan (the animation was incredible) and the sound was just amazing, not just the stunning CD music, but those bone-crushing sound effects making full use of the Saturn sound chip (to sound better than the Arcade game). Daytona USA was a crushing letdown and disappointment (in Gfx terms) it might have played ace, but it looked and run like crap and should never have been rushed out like that... All that said it made AM#2, after the flack they took over Saturn Daytona USA, they just went into overdrive, mega Blast processing and started to push the Saturn to insane levels and showed the world the Saturn High Res mode off, for the 1st time.

gamevet
05-14-2019, 02:21 PM
Imagine playing Virtua Fighter and Daytona in surround sound. Thatís what I did in May of 1995.

I loved Daytona, despite its frame-rate. It was still better than any racer on the 16-bit consoles.

cleeg
05-14-2019, 03:09 PM
The thing I like best, looking retrospectively, is that the era of consoles being unique was still alive and kicking with the generation in question.

By the time of the PS3 / 360 days each system was basically the same (discounting Nintendo, obvs). It's nice as a collector and enthusiast to see the differences in terms of strengths and weaknesses in each system.

Back at the time though, it was disappointing to see the Saturn's shortcomings, as you typically had one console or another; it's only now that you can own both systems and cherrypick your way through the libraries to get thd most out of each console.

I still like the Saturn most!

gamevet
05-14-2019, 05:05 PM
I had the good fortune of owning all 3 consoles during their prime. It was the last era where Iíd own the big 3 (had Genesis, TG-16 and SNES before) and did not get a Wii during the 360/PS3 era. Each system offered something that the other couldnít, though I feel the N64 was really hampered by carts and the lack of a sound chip.

redsox2013
05-15-2019, 01:44 AM
The best Saturn games easily stand up to the best Playstation games. IMO, Last Bronx is the best looking Saturn fighting game, and I think it has better overall visuals than Tekken 3 (though Tekken 3's character models may be slightly better). I also think the 3D level in Sonic Jam looks as good as any Playstation 3D platformer.

Team Andromeda
05-15-2019, 02:52 AM
Last Bronx is the best looking Saturn fighting game, and I think it has better overall visuals than Tekken 3 (though Tekken 3's character models may be slightly better).

I quite agree and also unlike Tekken 3 its running at a higher screen res, can handle more than one scaling background, features motion blur and is also a conversion of a far more powerful coin up board and it came out eailer too. One can only imagine how far the likes of Treasure and SEGA could have pushed the Saturn, if it had a life span like the PS and games. Out and out 3D games the PS games looked better and when I played games like MGS I would think to myself, this would have been a nightmare to do on the Saturn, but when developers combined the Saturn fab 2D, with its decent 3D and then harnessed the VDP2 was when the Saturn could outclass both the PS and N64.

Team Andromeda
05-15-2019, 03:01 AM
Imagine playing Virtua Fighter and Daytona in surround sound. Thatís what I did in May of 1995.

I loved Daytona, despite its frame-rate. It was still better than any racer on the 16-bit consoles.

At that time, My TV didn't support surround sound and also the way it handled a Japanse NTSC signal, meant I had to use Scart socket, as only the TV Scart sockets accepted a Japanese NTSC signal (otherwise it be in black and white) and the lack of separate audio jacks on the Saturn, meant I couldn't hook it up to my Hi-Fi. Thankfully in 1996 not only did I get a new TV, but also I bought a Scart selector box, that had its own audio jacks. It's a shame mind, so little of SEGA in-house games supported surround sound on both the Saturn and DC.

But like I said VF looked amazing back in November 1994. Those polygons even blew away PC games and the animation was like it was taken from Jackie Chan's Snake In the Eagles shadow, infact I'm convinced Lau in VF, was based on Jung-Lee Hwang character in the film

gamevet
05-15-2019, 07:15 PM
I had Pro-Logic in 1993. Hearing Jackyís round house kick go around the room was amazing. Just the way everything sounded was on another level.

Blades
05-15-2019, 10:27 PM
I wonder what we would've gotten if Sega's talent was applied to PSX quality hardware. Probably a stranglehold on the video game market by Sega and a Sega Jupiter instead of the Playstation 4 lol.

There was no doubt at the time, even at Sony, that the industry's best artistic talent (Nagoshi, Suzuki, Naka, Futatsugi, etc.) were all at Sega.

cleeg
05-16-2019, 04:14 AM
Saturn has surround capability? Which games, I thought it was a stereo only affair?

Team Andromeda
05-16-2019, 04:57 AM
Saturn has surround capability? Which games, I thought it was a stereo only affair?

Mostly the EA Saturn games had surround sound on Saturn, so did the likes of Croc.

Team Andromeda
05-16-2019, 06:07 AM
I wonder what we would've gotten if Sega's talent was applied to PSX quality hardware. Probably a stranglehold on the video game market by Sega and a Sega Jupiter instead of the Playstation 4 lol.

There was no doubt at the time, even at Sony, that the industry's best artistic talent (Nagoshi, Suzuki, Naka, Futatsugi, etc.) were all at Sega.

I dobut it. Many said that with SEGA on the PS 2 and it never happned, I was quite shocked at how reiabylty poor VF 4 and Evo sold on it . SEGA Japan DNA seemed to be with developing on its own Hardware and that's when it teams did their best.
SEGA have never been the same since they went 3rd party, other some magic on the OG Xbox and the odd brilliant title here and there.

I think the big screw up SEGA did was getting rid of its UGA and Smilebit studios, they should have been kept separate. I understand money was a huge issue, but the mergers of the teams could have been handled and done far better

Silanda
05-16-2019, 11:29 AM
Saturn has surround capability? Which games, I thought it was a stereo only affair?

It's Dolby Surround. Basically, a mono surround channel with a maximum frequency of 7KHz is added into the stereo signal with it's phase shifted 90į on the left channel and -90į on the right. This could be done in software, or I suppose specific pre-encoded audio files could have been used specifically for surround effects.

At the time of the Saturn's life, the best Dolby surround decoders were Pro Logic ones, which could take an encoded stereo signal and produce left, right, centre, and surround channels from it. Pro Logic II enabled stereo surround channels as well as front left, right, and centre to be decoded from a stereo signal, but that didn't come until after the Saturn was dead.

gamevet
05-16-2019, 11:33 AM
Saturn has surround capability? Which games, I thought it was a stereo only affair?

Dolby Sound, which was also used on the SNES Star Wars games.Other tricks could be used to enhance a sound effect to give the illusion of surround on a Pro-Logic system. I donít know if the PlayStation version of DOOM used Dolby Sound, but I share myself when Iíd heard a grunt coming from behind me.

cleeg
05-16-2019, 11:53 AM
Thanks for the answers folks, I had no idea about all that. Man, surround sound really confuses me, there are so many variants! So if I were to hook up a console set via a SCART combiner (GSCARTSw) to a surround sound media receiver via an upscaler like the OSSC, would the receiver just 'do the maths' and put the sound through the correct speakers, for each console?

Plug and play would be nice, as I'm planning to eventually have a 5 / 7:1 setup.

gamevet
05-16-2019, 12:29 PM
The older consoles would just connect via RCA and would run in Pro-Logic. Pro-Logic would do simulated surround for any of the older consoles that arenít putting out surround sound. The newer stuff would use DTS through HDMI or optical.

Silanda
05-16-2019, 01:39 PM
It's worth pointing out that any surround activity coming from a soundtrack without surround encoding are just artefacts. There's no real intent behind it, and personally I leave my receiver on dual stereo for my consoles that aren't outputting surround tracks (Mega Drive, etc).

There is the possibility that there could be red book soundtracks that are surround encoded but not advertised as such, but I don't really know if that happened.

cleeg
05-16-2019, 03:03 PM
Man, even more confusing! But still helpful, thank you.

How would it be best to proceed with a setup then? Anything HDMI is straightforward, but anything analogue is still a bit confusing; above all I want to be in complete control... would I be able to tell my receiver to output only stereo where I had the choice of two options?

Or would the system just decide to put out the simulated surround wherever it finds it, outputting stereo in its absence?

gamevet
05-16-2019, 03:15 PM
Anything that isnít Digital surround will default to Pro-Logic. Yeah, all sources can be set to 2 speakers.


It's worth pointing out that any surround activity coming from a soundtrack without surround encoding are just artefacts. There's no real intent behind it, and personally I leave my receiver on dual stereo for my consoles that aren't outputting surround tracks (Mega Drive, etc).

There is the possibility that there could be red book soundtracks that are surround encoded but not advertised as such, but I don't really know if that happened.

Iím not sure if any of them output the music in surround. Itís more about the sound effects. Star Fox has that cool intro where the ship comes at the screen and then you can hear it trail off behind you.

gamevet
05-16-2019, 09:44 PM
It's been forever since I've had the Saturn connected to the surround sound setup, which is in the living room. I was surprised at just how good it looked on the 52" LCD. I was expecting a lot of artifacts, but with component video the image is sharp and clean. I do miss my old Pro-Logic 1 setup though. It sounds so much better than this (DTS 5.1) PL2 receiver, which doesn't push the bass anywhere near the older unit.

http://www.the-nextlevel.com/tnl/attachment.php?attachmentid=81563&d=1558053546


http://www.the-nextlevel.com/tnl/attachment.php?attachmentid=81564&d=1558053546



http://www.the-nextlevel.com/tnl/attachment.php?attachmentid=81565&d=1558053546

Team Andromeda
05-17-2019, 07:07 AM
Thanks for the answers folks, I had no idea about all that. .

Because of Scart and the way my TV (in 1995) handled the Japanese NTSC signal (mean I had to use Scart for my import systems, that changed when i got my new TV in 1996) I had to use Scart for my Japanese Saturn, but given the Mega CD had separate audio jacks I could use Scart and also hook it up to Amp and the 1st Surround Sound I heard on a SEGA system was in Fifa on the Mega CD. My 1st real use of Surround sound, where I could hear sound effects happening behind me was with Road Rash on the 3DO, it was around the same time (94) that I had some fun with surround sound on the Snes, with King Arthur's World.

The big sea change came for me when I got an import OG Xbox with HALO and just couldn't believe how amazing 5.1 digital Surround sound was in games; That was great era because some many films were coming on on DVD with 5.1 support too