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Thread: More Alternate Reality Stuff or Did the 32x Make Sense?

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    Hero of Algol kool kitty89's Avatar
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    Default More Alternate Reality Stuff or Did the 32x Make Sense?

    EDIT:
    A basic TLDR summary:

    Following the teleconference in January 1994 addressing SoJ's proposal for a new, enhanced cart based "interim" console: Instead of the 32x, it would have made much more sense (for a variety of reasons) for Sega to release "Jupiter" (defined for this thread as a cheaper, cart based saturn, with carts playable on full Saturn and an upgrade module to allow Saturn's CD games to run too) OR
    -that Sega should have launched SVP Virtua racing at the same price and time (March 1994) as an SVP module with VR ROM cart bundled, thus introducing a new, low-cost add-on in a relatively simple/fool proof manner. (various uses, polygonal games, added 2D scaling/etc effects, sound processing, streaming data decompression) And, if market response was favorable, possibly integrate the SVP with later MD revisions. (cheap enough that that should have been cost effective -at least it shouldn't have been more costly than the SNES, and they ended up matching prices anyway) Not as powerful as 32x, but much cheaper and easier to market, actually feasible to be used with MCD (without cost overhead of MCD+32x purchase), and less of a conflict with Saturn. (being less powerful, there'd still be a bigger gap between "16-bit" software and the new Saturn)

    Various trade-offs between those 2 scenarios, and other considerations on the MCD, MD, and Saturn in general. (addressed below)





    A whole bunch of stuff came up in Sheath's "alternate realities" thread here:
    http://www.sega-16.com/forum/showthr...realities-here!

    And, among other things (and some other similar discussions), there was a lot of back and forth on suggestions/proposals (even aside from some of the more subjective arguments). I kind of played devil's advocate with myself for much of the discussion and added in a ton of variables and different chains alternatives . . . it was kind of a mess and I changed my mind as things evolved in the discussion too.

    Relatively recently in that thread, we got to a point where there were some more clarified (arguably simplified) points made, specifically what went on here:
    http://www.sega-16.com/forum/showthr...l=1#post467764
    (or pretty much the whole back and forth with Chilly Willy and I on page 20 and 21)

    And, ignoring the supposition about Sega CD alternatives (or anything in that ~1991-93 timeframe), there's this issue specific to the 1994/32x/Saturn context:
    http://www.sega-16.com/forum/showthr...l=1#post468073

    For reasons of keeping this with the 32x subforum topic, and as a general attempt to reduce confusion, I'm only going to address this issue alone. So no changes to the Sega CD, no fundamentally different development paths for the Saturn, but basically everything as it was at the start of 1994 (ie Saturn planned for Release in Japan, nearing final hardware revisions prior to production, etc). Also, that the Saturn was still going to released as it was in 1994 in Japan with plans for a late 1995 release in North America. (from a sensible business standpoint, early enough to be well stocked before Black Friday, and probably late Summer at the absolute earliest --to better focus hype in the holiday season, as is almost always done with console launches)
    I'm going to do my best to stay concise and on-topic for once, and maybe address some of those other "what if" scenarios again elsewhere.

    Finally, before I start the discussion, I'd like to make it clear that all this hypothetical/alternative stuff is just that: playing around with history and interesting technological/game/marketing stuff, and totally separate from any personal like or dislike of the existing 32x. It's a cool little system that certainly has its own charm, and is even technically impressive from a certain perspective (like how it went from a napkin to mass production in half a year) . . . and hey, it's technical problems (including marketing, market situation, management, etc) are also what make it so interesting to talk about.




    OK, so here we go:
    It's January of 1994, the Saturn is in its final design stages in Japan, Genesis and SNES are in the heat of the "16-bit Console Wars," the Sega CD is chugging along in its own way (a moderate sales success, at least in North America), and the winter Consumer Electronics Show is about to start in Las Vegas, where (among other things) Sega will unveil their answer to Super FX and (among other things) the conduit for a fraction of their latest 3D arcade prowess to reach their aging frontline home console with the SVP powered Virtua Racing. (a tech demo for SVP as much as it had been for the Model 1) --For argument's sake, let's also assume that mass production of the actual VR carts hasn't started yet--

    To set the mood, how about some Sega coverage of that show:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHjbJ-Tmakc

    part 1 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NU3goxw0gto


    Then came the phone conference during the CES where Nakayama broached the proposal of an interim Mega Drive upgrade. What the original Japanese concept actually was is unclear, but assuming available accounts are at least vaguely accurate, it was a backwards compatible upgraded Genesis with (if nothing else) an expanded palette --also vague, but it's a fair guess that at least the master palette and subpalettes were increases (perhaps along the lines of the System C). There's no mention of other technical improvements, so there may or may not have been any improvements to added graphical effects (or 3D ability) or sound enhancements.

    Historically, of course, Sega of America (supposedly Joe Miller) suggested an add-on be developed instead, to avoid fracturing existing users.
    However, as most tech-heads around here know, due to the lack of certain VDP expansion (as present in the original MD design) connectivity being linked to external ports on the MD, there was no practical way to directly enhance the MD VDP (the manner I assume SoJ was suggesting), so any color-enhancing add-on would need to be more complex and include its own VDP of some sort along with video DAC and genlock (video mixing) hardware. (which is what ended up happening)

    At this point, let's assume they took a step back to think on this at least a little more. So what were the exact goals of another add-on or similar alternate interim/intermediate platform:
    As I've seen postulated and referenced before we have:

    1. Addressing some of the Genesis's key weaknesses to better compete with the SNES on the mainstream market.
    2. Drum up hype for the company, possible investor interest, and bolster shareholder PR (boosting revenue falls here too)
    3. Stave off the (perceived) threat of the Jaguar and 3DO.
    4. Offer a taste of what the next generation could offer to consumers
    5. allowing developers to test new waters

    And here's my thoughts on these issues:
    1. This was mostly unnecessary as the Genesis (in spite of its age and technical limitations) remained very competitive with the SNES sales and PR wise. It may have been losing ground, but it remained a major mass-market success as a console entering the twilight years as a frontline platform. Good marketing had already helped address this, and further marketing and direction of the MD (and perhaps MCD) alone could have largely addressed this. (including a push on the software end -which, for the most part, was done as well)

    And even so, SoJ's (albeit vague) suggestion with apparent emphasis on color wouldn't really address this issue either. (color is arguably behind a few other technical "problem" areas)
    Plus an all-new console still in the class of Genesis/SNES or a costly add-on (similar or higher than MD/SNES pricing) would fracture a userbase and software base already complicated by the Sega CD.
    The Sega CD itself already addressed an array of MD vs SNES limitations, with color being a major exception, but the cost was an issue -- as such, to really make sense, an alternate add-on would have to be substantially cheaper than the MCD, to cater to a different market segment than the CD already could. (this alone throws the existing 32x out the window too)

    2. This is honestly pretty silly in general, but it's unfortunately all too common in corporate bureaucracies. If anything, this is more a job for the PR guys to handle in general, and just put a positive spin on whatever decisions the management/hardware/software/marketing guys did that corresponded to the best interests of the company's success with its customer base and distributors. (that said, corporate polities screw things up far too often)

    3. In hindsight, this was a complete non-issue. Even at the time, going by the numbers, reviews, and existing software from the few months the Jag and 3DO had been out in the US (technically the Jag was only test-marketed), the Atari was pretty obviously struggling on a number of fronts (though just how bad they were doing internally wasn't so obvious), and the 3DO's massive price point was a big lock-out right there. TBH, I can't really see how SoA's market research could have pointed to either platform as an immediate threat at the very least. (had 3DO announced plans for a drastic price drop, that would have been something to worry about, but there was no indication of that)

    4. The Sega CD already opened up a good chunk of potential next-gen experience with multimedia, with tons of potential for showing refinement in this category. If Sega was looking at contemporary PC developers at all (along with various experiments on their own platform), there was still obvious potential for evolution of this medium and associated gameplay. (by multimedia I don't mean FMV/streaming video alone, but that along with large amounts of voice acting, streaming soundtracks, and various other audio/visual areas opened with multimedia) Even with late gen floppy disk games, you already had some huge, dynamic adventure games and action games with extensive cinematics on PCs, and CD allowed this to be vastly expanded upon (with the FMV "genre" of interactive movies running alongside that). Sega (and other SCD developers) potentially could have been looking at those detailed animated, playable stories (Wing Commander, X-Wing, and loads of adventure games), and looked towards combining that with the new FMV world. This, of course happend with a new wave of multimedia PC adventure games, but also with the release of the outstanding fusion of action space combat and well-written, high-budget interactive cinema that was Wing Commander III in 1994. (too bad Sega had already poured huge budgets into a few, far less deserving, "multimedia experiences" by early 1994 -Tomcat Alley alone was in the millions iirc)

    And, aside from just looking at that PC stuff, there's a bunch of great, compelling games that should have been doable on the Sega CD that Sega could have pushed for too. (Wing Commander did finally arrive . . . very late, and the more deserving sequel did not appear at all, Wolfenstein 3D didn't appear for whatever reason either . . . and games like Doom and X-Wing might have been doable in some regard on the MCD, but probably really tough to do well -X-Wing possibly closer given it already ran in only 1 MB of RAM in DOS and technically could be playable on a 386-16 at greatly reduced detail)

    5. But then we get to the developer's testing the water so to speak: This has very little value for Sega unless the platform is very closely comparable to the actual hardware used in their full next-gen platform. (which the 32x only vaguely was in as far as the dual SH2s) And that's aside from the "new waters" already being explored via the MCD.




    -----Now, looking at the existing technical stuff we have:
    The MD and CD already on the market, the Saturn in final development stages, and the SVP chip which has just been demonstrated for the public at CES.


    With these in mind and all the above issues considered, there's 2 ideas that seem to make the most sense, both of which were supposedly considered by Sega, but both were abandoned. First, there's the using the SVP to help fill the holes mentioned above, best combating Nintendo's SFX, but potentially cutting in on 3DO/Jag to some extent too. This is the lowest cost option with the broadest potential immediate market appeal.
    Given the apparent cost overhead per-cartridge, it would have made much more sense to start production as an add-on from the start with Virtua Racing as the pack-in launch title and SRB basically identical to what VR already was. (from a form-factor standpoint, probably akin to S&K) And this would not only be good for 3D, but anywhere else 128k DRAM and a DSP coprocessor would help. (including other graphical effects -scaling, rotation, etc- and more advanced realtime decompression than the 68k can do alone)
    This would be do-able almost immediately, for a release schedule similar to the existing SVP cart. (so avoiding more of the 32x's problems)

    If they could have added simple DMA sound channels too, that would have pretty much sealed it for a good general purpose low-cost add-on, especially with the potential to drive that sound with the DSP. (without DMA, you could potentially use DSP mixed sound and have the Z80 play it back, but that's limited to 8-bit mono PCM and the same software-dependent pitfalls that plague far too many MD games . . . a Sega standardized sound driver featuring clean, high sample rate playback specific for the SVP would address that though)

    To standardize it, Sega could even have embedded the SVP+RAM into all newer revision MDs, sort of like the Neptune, but with little to no change in the MD's pricing and a much more accessible add-on for existing users. (not to mention accomplished earlier)





    Finally, that second major consideration is the Saturn hardware itself. Anything beyond a simple, basic, low-cost add-on would really need to be a truly worthwhile platform in its own right, with a significant lifespan and sizable market niche. On top of that, with the next-gen hardware target, it would make the most sense to directly derive it from and make it forward compatible with the Saturn itself. A totally independent design would take too much time and R&D resources or end up overly simplified and primitive (and/or cost ineffective) --the 32x ended up the latter. (though I stand by them pulling that off at all -kind of like the Atari ST's design cycle)

    The so-called (rumored) Jupiter concept seems just about right for this: a Saturn stripped of its CD drive and associated subsystem, potentially with a few other cuts to minimze cost, targeting a mass market price point for Sega's mainstay markets while offering a true next-gen 2D/3D gaming experience (sans CD-dependent multimedia) with most of the typical trade-offs of cart media. (fast/no loading times, higher cost/risk manufacturing, practically limited space -large amounts of onboard RAM also favoring heavy compression though) The N64 going all cart in 1996 may have been silly, but in late 1994 there's a much better argument for it.

    Having an identical internal architecture to the Saturn would springboard the software development learning curve and greatly facilitate cross-platform development (and potential hybrid cart/CD games, or CD expansions for cart-only games).
    Hardware forwards compatibility would be achieved with an elegantly configured CD-ROM add-on forming a complete Saturn.


    With that console, they could also have a relatively competitive system that Sony couldn't price match, something following the pricing curve of the Atari Jaguar, but much more capable (for all intents and purposes) and backed by a hugely successful company with great market presence. On top of that, if they amassed a significant userbase of Jupiter owners prior to Sony's launch (outside Japan) at all, then those users would also have an attractive upgrade path at a fraction of the price of buying a PS1 or standalone Saturn.





    As neat as SVP is (in fact the reason I first posted on Sega-16), I think there's far more evidence for the Jupiter across the board. Granted, the 2 aren't mutually exclusive, but there's not a great argument for supporting both; the main one being the budget market segment that the MD was falling into, but a big problem with that is getting software developers really interested in that when there are much better alternatives. Albeit with SVP ready with VR, it probably would have been OK to start with that before running with the Jupiter and maintaining SVP support similarly to MD and SCD based on established market demand/acceptance. (if it proved popular, it might work out OK in the budget market)
    Last edited by kool kitty89; 01-28-2013 at 08:26 PM.
    6 days older than SEGA Genesis
    -------------
    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    Dude it’s the bios that marries the 16 bit and the 8 bit that makes it 24 bit. If SNK released their double speed bios revision SNK would have had the world’s first 48 bit machine, IDK how you keep ignoring this.
    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    the PCE, that system has no extra silicone for music, how many resources are used to make music and it has less sprites than the MD on screen at once but a larger sprite area?

  2. #2
    I remain nonsequitur Shining Hero sheath's Avatar
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    Okay, I'm going to tackle this piecemeal editing my own post until somebody replies. On the introduction, the 32X didn't begin as a color enhanced Genesis, that was Hideki Sato's design. The call from Nakayama was specifically for an answer to the Jaguar. Sato's design wasn't good enough so he supported the design from SoA instead. All of that is in the Retrogamer interview with Scot Bayless and Marty Franz. So, unless we consider the 32X somehow connected conceptually with Sato's color enhanced Genesis design I think it should be considered an answer to the Jaguar primarily. The 32X has more in common with the canceled Jupiter in my opinion, and it directly caused Sato's Jupiter design to be dropped as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    1. Addressing some of the Genesis's key weaknesses to better compete with the SNES on the mainstream market.
    1. This was mostly unnecessary as the Genesis (in spite of its age and technical limitations) remained very competitive with the SNES sales and PR wise. It may have been losing ground, but it remained a major mass-market success as a console entering the twilight years as a frontline platform. Good marketing had already helped address this, and further marketing and direction of the MD (and perhaps MCD) alone could have largely addressed this. (including a push on the software end -which, for the most part, was done as well)

    And even so, SoJ's (albeit vague) suggestion with apparent emphasis on color wouldn't really address this issue either. (color is arguably behind a few other technical "problem" areas)
    Plus an all-new console still in the class of Genesis/SNES or a costly add-on (similar or higher than MD/SNES pricing) would fracture a userbase and software base already complicated by the Sega CD.

    The Sega CD itself already addressed an array of MD vs SNES limitations, with color being a major exception, but the cost was an issue -- as such, to really make sense, an alternate add-on would have to be substantially cheaper than the MCD, to cater to a different market segment than the CD already could. (this alone throws the existing 32x out the window too)
    Even the Sega CD is, according to its creator, more an answer to the PC-Engine CD and Sega's own scaler Arcade boards than it is to the SNES. Given Sega's marketing at the time of the 32X's conception I don't think the company really saw the SNES as something that needed answering with a technological solution. If Mode 7 was a target all they needed was a large enough ROM to have it on the Genesis and, problem solved.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    2. Drum up hype for the company, possible investor interest, and bolster shareholder PR (boosting revenue falls here too)
    2. This is honestly pretty silly in general, but it's unfortunately all too common in corporate bureaucracies. If anything, this is more a job for the PR guys to handle in general, and just put a positive spin on whatever decisions the management/hardware/software/marketing guys did that corresponded to the best interests of the company's success with its customer base and distributors. (that said, corporate polities screw things up far too often)
    It makes sense when the company's image is tied to being cutting edge. Sega, especially back then, wasn't much about conservative profit making. It's chief game designer, Yu Suzuki, had boards developed around his game concepts for most of his tenure with the company. Having not one but two clearly more advanced devices released and ramping up their marketing demanded some kind of response. Sega could have shifted gears from its earlier bullishness and simply promotied "better games", but they would have lost the "cutting edge" perception in the process.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    3. Stave off the (perceived) threat of the Jaguar and 3DO.
    3. In hindsight, this was a complete non-issue. Even at the time, going by the numbers, reviews, and existing software from the few months the Jag and 3DO had been out in the US (technically the Jag was only test-marketed), the Atari was pretty obviously struggling on a number of fronts (though just how bad they were doing internally wasn't so obvious), and the 3DO's massive price point was a big lock-out right there. TBH, I can't really see how SoA's market research could have pointed to either platform as an immediate threat at the very least. (had 3DO announced plans for a drastic price drop, that would have been something to worry about, but there was no indication of that)
    Yeah, this one is such a non-starter today that I almost skipped replying to it. I think the perceived threat of the 3DO and Jaguar was much higher in early-mid 1994 than it was by the end of the year even. Similarly the 32X itself went from being the best new hardware of 1994 to non-existant by Christmas 1995. Based on Usenet discussion the 3DO was considered alongside the Saturn and PS1 in technical comparisons and purchase decisions as late as Summer of 1995, but its own M2 upgrade had a lot to do with that.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    4. Offer a taste of what the next generation could offer to consumers
    4. The Sega CD already opened up a good chunk of potential next-gen experience with multimedia, with tons of potential for showing refinement in this category. If Sega was looking at contemporary PC developers at all (along with various experiments on their own platform), there was still obvious potential for evolution of this medium and associated gameplay. (by multimedia I don't mean FMV/streaming video alone, but that along with large amounts of voice acting, streaming soundtracks, and various other audio/visual areas opened with multimedia) Even with late gen floppy disk games, you already had some huge, dynamic adventure games and action games with extensive cinematics on PCs, and CD allowed this to be vastly expanded upon (with the FMV "genre" of interactive movies running alongside that). Sega (and other SCD developers) potentially could have been looking at those detailed animated, playable stories (Wing Commander, X-Wing, and loads of adventure games), and looked towards combining that with the new FMV world. This, of course happend with a new wave of multimedia PC adventure games, but also with the release of the outstanding fusion of action space combat and well-written, high-budget interactive cinema that was Wing Commander III in 1994. (too bad Sega had already poured huge budgets into a few, far less deserving, "multimedia experiences" by early 1994 -Tomcat Alley alone was in the millions iirc)

    And, aside from just looking at that PC stuff, there's a bunch of great, compelling games that should have been doable on the Sega CD that Sega could have pushed for too. (Wing Commander did finally arrive . . . very late, and the more deserving sequel did not appear at all, Wolfenstein 3D didn't appear for whatever reason either . . . and games like Doom and X-Wing might have been doable in some regard on the MCD, but probably really tough to do well -X-Wing possibly closer given it already ran in only 1 MB of RAM in DOS and technically could be playable on a 386-16 at greatly reduced detail)
    I think the multimedia comparison is apt, and I also think it cannot be overstated how important Sega's efforts in multimedia was. I've said it before that it is a shame CGI was so early at the time, as voice actors would have gone over a lot better than live actors ever did. Mainly what I want to say here is that I don't think we can take a phenominal performance like Wing Commander III and insist that it occurred in a vacuum. They had to be looking around at other types of multimedia presentations and been influenced by them.

    To the point though, interactive media wasn't the new cutting edge anymore, 3D was. 3D was still early enough that the Jaguar and SNES could get away with non-textured, as long as it was 3D it would sell and make for a good PR/Marketing boon.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    5. allowing developers to test new waters
    5. But then we get to the developer's testing the water so to speak: This has very little value for Sega unless the platform is very closely comparable to the actual hardware used in their full next-gen platform. (which the 32x only vaguely was in as far as the dual SH2s) And that's aside from the "new waters" already being explored via the MCD.
    At the very least a 32X that remained as mainstream as it was in 1994 and saw full support from all of the major studios in 1995 would have familiarized them all with SH-2 Assembly for the Saturn. That would have absolutely changed the way some games ended up on Saturn, if not all. I still say what the 32X actually needed was cross compatible 32X CD and Saturn games in the budget range.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    First, there's the using the SVP to help fill the holes mentioned above, best combating Nintendo's SFX, but potentially cutting in on 3DO/Jag to some extent too. This is the lowest cost option with the broadest potential immediate market appeal.
    Why would expensive lower end chipped games be the broadest potential market appeal?

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    Given the apparent cost overhead per-cartridge, it would have made much more sense to start production as an add-on from the start with Virtua Racing as the pack-in launch title and SRB basically identical to what VR already was. (from a form-factor standpoint, probably akin to S&K) And this would not only be good for 3D, but anywhere else 128k DRAM and a DSP coprocessor would help. (including other graphical effects -scaling, rotation, etc- and more advanced realtime decompression than the 68k can do alone)
    This would be do-able almost immediately, for a release schedule similar to the existing SVP cart. (so avoiding more of the 32x's problems)
    I definitely think the SVP should have been interchangable and there should have been more games developed than just one.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    If they could have added simple DMA sound channels too, that would have pretty much sealed it for a good general purpose low-cost add-on, especially with the potential to drive that sound with the DSP. (without DMA, you could potentially use DSP mixed sound and have the Z80 play it back, but that's limited to 8-bit mono PCM and the same software-dependent pitfalls that plague far too many MD games . . . a Sega standardized sound driver featuring clean, high sample rate playback specific for the SVP would address that though)

    To standardize it, Sega could even have embedded the SVP+RAM into all newer revision MDs, sort of like the Neptune, but with little to no change in the MD's pricing and a much more accessible add-on for existing users. (not to mention accomplished earlier)
    This pretty much gets at the heart of the problem for the SVP as a solution. It doesn't really answer the digital audio sample problem or the colors. In fact, judging from Virtua Racing SVP it makes the color problem more pronounced.
    Last edited by sheath; 01-23-2013 at 09:02 AM.
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    "We ... put Sega out of the hardware business ..." Peter Dille senior vice president of marketing at Sony Computer Entertainment

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    ESWAT Veteran Chilly Willy's Avatar
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    The dithered colors on VR wasn't a problem in 94 - most people were still using blurry composite TV input. The SVP was a decent accelerator chip, but the addition of a simple stereo PWM channel to it driving the audio in lines would have helped quite a bit. Also making it lock-on like S&K would have made far more sense... people would buy VR SVP for a slightly higher price, then all future SVP games would have been no more expensive than standard games. But I think the 32X killed SVP as well as Jupiter.

    Sega simply needed to bite the bullet and support the 32X along-side the Saturn. Even if they lost money in the short term, they would have kept the good will of their customers, which would have paid off more in the long term.

    Personally, looking back on it from now, I'd have preferred they went with Jupiter over all other solutions. Then SVP/Lock-On. Then a SCD with 256 color buffer. Then finally 32X.

    One thing that might have helped the 32X - they should have made a small stand the 32X could plug into if you didn't have a Genesis. A CPLD that turned on the 32X, provided controller ports, and generated the video timing would have been pretty easy to make. 32X games would have needed to avoid Genesis video and audio, but I think my Wolf32X port shows that wouldn't have been much of an issue.

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    Hero of Algol kool kitty89's Avatar
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    Minor note before I make any other comments: I'd accidentally said "system 18" in context of a color boosted MD VDP. That was supposed to be (and now is) System C, not 18.


    Quote Originally Posted by Chilly Willy View Post
    The dithered colors on VR wasn't a problem in 94 - most people were still using blurry composite TV input. The SVP was a decent accelerator chip, but the addition of a simple stereo PWM channel to it driving the audio in lines would have helped quite a bit. Also making it lock-on like S&K would have made far more sense... people would buy VR SVP for a slightly higher price, then all future SVP games would have been no more expensive than standard games.
    A good chunk of Super FX games were done with 16 (15) color polygons too, and selecting colors from the SNES's 15-bit palette would be a pretty minor advantage in this context too. The games that did use 256 color modes tended to have small windows and bigger speed problems. (odd that none tried Mode 7 though, with the chunky pixel tile format -or zooming way out and using the 128x128 tilemap grid itself as pixels- would have been interesting and useful as it was with Wolf3D, but that's another topic)

    But I think the 32X killed SVP as well as Jupiter.
    I'm not sure Jupiter was ever planned at all. It's unclear how much was just rumor mill, and any interviews with SoJ staff I've seen only have short and vague responses about it. (some being hard to tell whether they were claiming it was cancelled or never existed)

    And on SVP alone, aside from the 32x, after releasing VR as a standalone cart Sega already weakened the potential of that by missing a decisive launch of a new format. Even with no 32x, switching to a lock-on SVP after VR's release would have been messier. (albeit, had they released it as a bundled game with a lock-on SVP; it certainly would have made sense to offer the vanilla SVP cart once other titles were available)


    Sega simply needed to bite the bullet and support the 32X along-side the Saturn. Even if they lost money in the short term, they would have kept the good will of their customers, which would have paid off more in the long term.
    Yes, after the fact of the whole thing (thinking early 1995 here), they totally screwed up damage control over the whole issue, and that hurt pretty much all of Sega's products (and consumers) in one way or another.

    The bizarre change in launch date for the Saturn in the US and Europe was a big part of that too -- nothing good came from that (for Sega at least ), and I really don't understand how they (whoever in charge) came to the decision that this was a good idea.

    Even from the context of Sega thinking something like "crap, we screwed up with this, so where do we go from here?" (not saying this actually happened), and that they wanted to shift away from the 32x sooner than planned, at very least it would seem more sensible to do something more like:
    Cancel Neptune and reduce priority on 32x production (maybe keep it idling just enough to address any potential demand increases for a while), put a lot of careful PR/marketing work in to minimize losses and maximize sales of stockpiled hardware and software along with continuing outstanding software development.
    On the game developers end, it would have been good to maintain support for added documentation and tools, and facilitate transitioning to the Saturn. This latter part should have included tools specific to facilitating ease of converting 32x projects to Saturn (cross-platform, or total shifts in target platform); not as smooth as Jupiter could have allowed for sure, but a lot better than what happened. (could have meant more and better 32x games as it went end of life, while also bolstering the Saturn's early game lineup)

    --Note, I don't think delaying the Saturn until '96 would have made much sense. Late '95 should have worked fine. (being more tactful with public pricing announcements in effort to avoid a price-war with Sony would have been smart too -like leaving the price vaguely high until near launch at the end of the year, perhaps even letting Sony set their price first)


    It seems like Sega made some similar mistakes with the Saturn later on too: rather than tactful damage control (PR/marketing and software development wise) to adjust to cashflow and market share struggles, the Saturn basically got cut off in 1997, leaving virtually a 2 year gap until the Dreamcast. Not to mention, that shut down in the US and Europe seemingly ended up hurting the Saturn's late-gen market in Japan too . . . plus, European market share hadn't been quite as terrible as the US either. (then again, the US outlook might have been better if broken down into specific regions -- I actually wonder why this isn't done more often given how huge and costly the US market is to look at as a whole . . . that seems like something that Atari might have benefited with the Jaguar)

    Personally, looking back on it from now, I'd have preferred they went with Jupiter over all other solutions. Then SVP/Lock-On. Then a SCD with 256 color buffer. Then finally 32X.
    I was going to save the alternate Sega CD discussion for another topic entirely.


    One thing that might have helped the 32X - they should have made a small stand the 32X could plug into if you didn't have a Genesis. A CPLD that turned on the 32X, provided controller ports, and generated the video timing would have been pretty easy to make. 32X games would have needed to avoid Genesis video and audio, but I think my Wolf32X port shows that wouldn't have been much of an issue.
    If all games avoided using MD/MCD hardware at all, then we're back to leaving it as a standalone system anyway . . . and cutting out the MD interface logic would have reduced some complexity too. (adding dedicated I/O logic would probably be a lot simpler than the work required to smoothly mesh with the MD bus)
    Not to mention, avoiding specific clock generation and bus-width dependencies . . . even with a similarly basic piece of hardware, they could have had the SH2s and RAM running at/near rated speed, among other things. (maybe double the work RAM too, for 512k 32-bits wide . . . or go to the trouble of using cheaper FPM DRAM instead -which the framebuffers already used)

    All that seems moot with the Saturn architecture in the picture though -- where "Jupiter" makes far more sense. (price point would be higher, but in the range of the Jaguar's SRP of the time, and a much better design for the market in the long-run)



    If you look at a different scenario entirely, one that I didn't define for this thread, you could have a situation where Sega didn't go with the Saturn (as it was) and did something else like actually jumping onboard with SGI or an independent design in roughly the same vein as that (or more like the DC or PS1 "clean" in concept, but with ~1995 level target technology . . . or a not so "clean" design that was still beefed up compared to the Saturn). And in such a case, say Sega ran into delays (like Nintendo did) and actually had use for an interim product with the planned next-gen system delayed a couple years.

    Also interesting to not that this is also the sort of situation Atari Corp was in in 1989, and in that context, the gap between 7800 and Jaguar certainly hurt them. Or even more so, since Sega could at least have coasted on the MD+MCD (especially with SVP), while the 7800 was basically dead by 1990, and a relatively low-key success prior to that.
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    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    Dude it’s the bios that marries the 16 bit and the 8 bit that makes it 24 bit. If SNK released their double speed bios revision SNK would have had the world’s first 48 bit machine, IDK how you keep ignoring this.
    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    the PCE, that system has no extra silicone for music, how many resources are used to make music and it has less sprites than the MD on screen at once but a larger sprite area?

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    Quote Originally Posted by sheath View Post
    The 32X has more in common with the canceled Jupiter in my opinion, and it directly caused Sato's Jupiter design to be dropped as well.
    Note that my usage of "Jupiter" in the OP is solely used in the context of a stripped-down cart-only Saturn derivative. Sato's proposed early 1994 design (prior to 32x) is something else . . . perhaps sometimes called Jupiter, though Pettus called it "Mega Drive 2" iirc. (some have also said Gigadrive, but that's really an early rumored name for the Saturn project)

    Even the Sega CD is, according to its creator, more an answer to the PC-Engine CD and Sega's own scaler Arcade boards than it is to the SNES. Given Sega's marketing at the time of the 32X's conception I don't think the company really saw the SNES as something that needed answering with a technological solution. If Mode 7 was a target all they needed was a large enough ROM to have it on the Genesis and, problem solved.
    I'm not talking about what the MCD's design targets may have been, but rather what it ended up being:

    Something that basically matched or beat all the SNES's advantages save for color, and did the same against the PCE Super CD save for color as well.
    Also unintended, but certainly present, was the added grunt (via sub-CPU, RAM, and graphics ASIC) for potential 3D graphics on the level of Super FX or X68000 with greater potential for emphasis on texture mapping too. (actually, the x68000 pulled off some amazing stuff even in the 10 MHz models . . . the fact that Geograph Seal is totally playable on those -though smoother at 16 MHz- is damn impressive . . . but more than a software feat than a hardware one really)

    Edit: One more comment on the whole "according to the creator" context: almost any significantly used/supported computer or game hardware platform (especially old ones) ended up being pushed beyond the intended uses conceived by the original designers and the original design target. The Atari 2600 would be a classic example of this taken to the extreme with the extremely limited hardware being tweaked and hacked in ways far exceeding the original design perception . . . in fact, some of the launch games were already exploiting things not originally considered by the designers. (albeit quite modest compared to later achievements)

    It makes sense when the company's image is tied to being cutting edge. Sega, especially back then, wasn't much about conservative profit making. It's chief game designer, Yu Suzuki, had boards developed around his game concepts for most of his tenure with the company. Having not one but two clearly more advanced devices released and ramping up their marketing demanded some kind of response. Sega could have shifted gears from its earlier bullishness and simply promotied "better games", but they would have lost the "cutting edge" perception in the process.
    You can't mix arcade and home like that, and Sega had done a pretty bang up job with consoles up to that point. The SG-1000 was a rather exreme example being totally off the shelf and overly conservative, but the SMS and MD were great compromises in practicality and performance (sure, we can and have criticized and hypothesized over these too, but they were still good).

    Also, prior to the MD's success in the US and Europe (and still Sega's biggest home console success in Japan to date too), it was absolutely necessary for Sega to continue short turn-arounds on their hardware due to the nature of their struggling market position. The Famicom kicked the crap out of the SG-1000, as did Nintendo's marketing strategies on top of that (fair, legal, or otherwise), and the mediocre performance of the SMS combined with the PC Engine's release meant the MD's design and release in 1988 made tons of sense too. There's more argument against the MCD, but it made at least some sense in its own way too, especially since it was designed and completed prior to the sweeping success of the Genesis in North America. (one could argue they could have pulled a Nintendo and not released it outside Japan, though)


    But 1994 was a different situation entirely, and I pretty much addressed all my arguments necessary here in the OP.


    Yeah, this one is such a non-starter today that I almost skipped replying to it. I think the perceived threat of the 3DO and Jaguar was much higher in early-mid 1994 than it was by the end of the year even. Similarly the 32X itself went from being the best new hardware of 1994 to non-existant by Christmas 1995. Based on Usenet discussion the 3DO was considered alongside the Saturn and PS1 in technical comparisons and purchase decisions as late as Summer of 1995, but its own M2 upgrade had a lot to do with that.
    Short answer: If the 3DO and Jaguar were the primary concerns, then the Jupiter (cart based Saturn) would be the best choice in this context. (same release date as 32x, similar price point to Jaguar, much better graphics and overall system capabilities than either of those others -generally speaking- and also meshing far better with the Saturn's release)

    Long answer:

    I understand this, which is why I bothered addressing it above so substantially. That includes explicitly stating that the thread certainly would have been bigger for the time.
    But, seriously, from the North American perspective at the time, looking at it from a market research perspective: Atari had horrible market PR and brand recognition, stale and basically nonexistent market share. The sales response from their 1993 test markets (and the fact they canceled the European test market entirely) added to this. In fact, Atari in Europe might have been a genuine concern for Sega given the lingering PR from the ST and moderate success of the Lynx in some regions (and the fact that effective marketing in Europe is far less monetarily bound than North America -print ads and viral marketing were far more powerful there), but pulling out the test market there (and further delaying public launch plans) made that moot too.

    The 3DO was a bigger potential threat, but the price point put it in a totally different market segment. If anything, it was competing in the high-end multimedia market along with a segment of PC gaming. (among other issues -actual released sales figures, tangible software quality/quantity) Again, I find it hard to believe that Sega's top marketing research guys would misread this so much as to put it as a top priority to address -- with hardware. (when Sega had consistently managed to turn the tide with tactful and forceful use of marketing)
    If they really felt threatened, then they could have put out some in-your-face ad campaign about how ridiculously high priced the 3DO was. (even compared to buying the MD+MCD combined)

    I think the multimedia comparison is apt, and I also think it cannot be overstated how important Sega's efforts in multimedia was. I've said it before that it is a shame CGI was so early at the time, as voice actors would have gone over a lot better than live actors ever did. Mainly what I want to say here is that I don't think we can take a phenominal performance like Wing Commander III and insist that it occurred in a vacuum. They had to be looking around at other types of multimedia presentations and been influenced by them.
    Look at what many top-tier PC games opted for in the early 90s: a ton of them continued to use traditional (cartoon/drawn) animation for cutscenes, including high-budget high-end games like Wing Commander 2, X-Wing, and Tie Fighter. And, TBH, those lucas arts games probably profited a lot more by avoiding the high cost live action scenes the likes of Wing Commander III (or IV) did . . . as awesome as those games are. (granted, the Star Wars IP was a huge deal too)
    PC developers ran with what the Sega CD (and Digital Pictures) had started too, and ran from both directions with a few good cases of middle ground being hit. (more often with adventure games, and the pinnacle hybrids with Wing Commander III and IV -combining actually good interactive cinematics with compelling stories and engaging core gameplay as a space sim)

    There were a handful of Sega CD games doing that, and even fewer that weren't ports. It really seems like Sega took too much inspiration from Digital Picture's (and, to some extent, old Laserdisc games) rather than working on the vast number of areas that could be improved by multimedia.

    In quite a few cases, it wasn't even the acting or the story that were problematic for live-action FMV rich games, but the gameplay. With Sewer Shark, you've got a campy 80s B movie sci-fi flick quality story with acting and writing fitting for that, but it really only falls apart with the gameplay . . . and even that's excusable as an early attempt (in line with pitfalls seen in 80s LD games). And fast forward to Loadstar, and you've got vastly better video quality, directing, acting, and writing/premise, but it leads in to mediocre gameplay very similar to Sewer Shark. In fact, the only games I can think of that decently got away with the FMV railshooter style is Novastorm (and that's after addressing some of the pitfalls seen in the preceding Microcosm), select parts of Rebel Assault, and maybe Starblade. (shit voice acting there ruins it IMO -but that's the arcade game's fault)
    Silpheed used streaming BG animation, but all seated on more traditional 2D vertical shooter (albeit with tilt PoV -like the 1986 original) enhanced by cutscenes and voice acting to increase immersion. (unlike the immersion-wrecking voices in Starblade)

    To the point though, interactive media wasn't the new cutting edge anymore, 3D was. 3D was still early enough that the Jaguar and SNES could get away with non-textured, as long as it was 3D it would sell and make for a good PR/Marketing boon.
    I highly disagree here. Multimedia was still hitting its first stride by this point, and it wasn't until mid 1994 that it really hit a strong point on any platform.
    Further refinement of multimedia was a massive part of what defined the 5th generation experience, as much or more so than polygonal 3D . . . in fact, that has remained true for every subsequent generation too. (evolution and innovation of multimedia in new and different ways built onto and alongside proven successful applications of multimedia)
    Texture mapped, polygonal 3D graphics were as much a part of Wing Commander III's innovation as was its highly refined use of interactive multimedia. It's really a poster child for what was to come in the following generation.

    On top of that, the Sega CD itself, while being expressly designed for neither, had the potential to reasonably demonstrate both multimedia AND 3D. 3D at least roughly on part with Super FX-1, x68000 and some early 386-class VGA DOS games. (some might actually have been 286 compatible, not sure -if you count Wolf 3D, then yes, but I meant polygons)
    And that's not talking potential added with SVP . . . (X-Wing would have been much more feasible with SVP, but a carefully cut-down, optimized derivative of the 1993 X-Wing design may have been workable too . . . perhaps with the enhanced speech/cutscenes seen in the 1994 CD release)

    However, actually exploiting those possibilities were highly dependent on both management/marketing (and software direction) to actually target those things, and actual programming ability . . . especially with the problematic documentation and somewhat complex architecture of the MCD.

    It's interesting to note that where developers (including SoA) did put lots of effort into things, you got some rather impressive results:
    look at what happened with video codecs on the platform with such strict resource and color restrictions. Better examples ended up faring rather competently against 256 color PC counterparts, usually weaker, but often not in totally different leagues.
    Managing to effectively take advantage of 4 subpalettes on the tilemap and unique palettes per frame were significant to this, along with reasonable use of dithering algorithms. (some better than others) Compared to most PC games using a fixed set of 256 colors per scene (not frame), among other issues . . . including often obvious interfram artifacts. (given MCD codecs tended to use no interframing at all -few exceptions like Rebel Assault- it makes me wonder if contemporary PC games would have benefited too, especially games with scenes actually done with 24 fps film, where 12 FPS without interframing might have worked well)

    They might have even gotten slightly better color/shading if tilemap shadow support had been added to the format.



    Why would expensive lower end chipped games be the broadest potential market appeal?
    Seriously?
    Price point and complexity. With Super FX, you had games marginally above average prices for top-teir games with an idiot-proof (extremely important) plug it and and it works interface. Plus, the advent of Super FX 2 (among other add-on chips) would have made an add-on impractical anyway.

    SVP was apparently a somewhat more costly than SFX, so making it a basic add-on from day 1 made more sense. Less idiot proof than Nintendo's solution, but simple enough that some tactful marketing could explain it . . . in fact the (misleading) "plug it in your genesis" campaign used with the 32x would have been apt, much more so than it had been for the 32x given the added set-up requirements. (a big pain for the non techie, especially if the console was buried in an entertainment system . . . actually a bigger pain than installing a new console if you had a model 1, since the AV or RF cable couldn't be re-used either, on top of the other hook-ups)

    I've already explained the rest in the topic post, but briefly:
    the lower price and installation simplicity, combined with directly displacing Virtua Racing's release ($100 for SVP cart +VR, and probably a $30-40 standalone SVP cart as prices dropped and volumes increased that fall -along with more new games), and also something potentially cheap and simple enough to be integrated with newer MD models as standard.


    I definitely think the SVP should have been interchangable and there should have been more games developed than just one.
    If you mean its own add-on, then that was my whole point: launch an SVP cart pack in with VR instead of standalone VR in early 1994 . . .
    That was my entire premise with the SVP comments. ("Jupiter" aside)

    It doesn't really answer the digital audio sample problem or the colors.
    I made several comments on the PCM sound issue, namely a very basic hardware addition to the SVP (since the cart slot indeed has audio input), or a carefully constructed standardized software workaround using the Z80 for playback and the DSP for advanced compression/mixing/effects. (mix to RAM and have the Z80 read it)
    The latter is far less foolproof, but more open-ended too . . . and GEMS had already taken a step towards this, but that solution (even playback by polling the YM timer) limited playback to around 11 kHz max, maybe a little more if you totally dedicated the Z80 to that (no music rendering) . . . and in the latter case, that simplifies the whole cycle-timed coding issue anyway. (worst case would probably be fairly decent sample rate PCM, but limited to 8-bit mono and possibly meaning disabling of FM and PSG if they couldn't get the coding efficient enough and/or possible distortion if using the 68k to control FM/PSG)
    But seriously, if they really put an intense effort into tight Z80 coding for sound, they probably could have pulled that off. (TBH, I think it was more a problem with lacking interest in investing resources for sound . . . the same reasons you see relatively limited space used for PCM in ROM -like SSFII's actual poorer quality speech and absent percussion samples compared to SCE)

    In fact, judging from Virtua Racing SVP it makes the color problem more pronounced.
    It was just as bad for SNES SFX games (and ST and Amiga for that matter). Use of relatively muted colors can avoid the problem to some extent . . . but then it also looks kind of bland -- this works well for metallic gray stuff like X-Wing and Silpheed though (and Star Fox). The dithering in VR was OK, but some of the gaudy color choices in general were off putting. (a little more work there might have gone a long way)
    limiting the 3D segments to a single set of 15 colors was a common problem for bitmap rendered games, and something seen in numerous ASIC rendered MCD games (most of the "good" ASIC/CPU rendered games), and also an issue with the SNES has the same limit unless using its 256 color (per tile) modes. (which, in that case, has major drawbacks of bitplane manipluation overhead and the strangled DMA bandwidth for VRAM updates - using a mode 7 plane to render to could works around both issues, but only Wolf3D did that AFIK)


    But back to the main topic:
    the point is, if you look at two prominent possibilities for Sega in 1994 to fill their perceived hardware void, then both an SVP cart or a cut-down Jaguar-price-class cart based Saturn (that I'm calling Jupiter) make reasonable sense.
    The 32x was in-between these two, and in many respects the worst of both worlds, neither here nor there. Too weak to really settle in as a new mainstream platform, and too complex and costly to fit as a simple extension of the existing MD architecture. (the latter also plagued the Sega CD . . . and having 2 add-ons in that category exacerbated both)
    Last edited by kool kitty89; 01-24-2013 at 01:28 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    Dude it’s the bios that marries the 16 bit and the 8 bit that makes it 24 bit. If SNK released their double speed bios revision SNK would have had the world’s first 48 bit machine, IDK how you keep ignoring this.
    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    the PCE, that system has no extra silicone for music, how many resources are used to make music and it has less sprites than the MD on screen at once but a larger sprite area?

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    I remain nonsequitur Shining Hero sheath's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    Note that my usage of "Jupiter" in the OP is solely used in the context of a stripped-down cart-only Saturn derivative. Sato's proposed early 1994 design (prior to 32x) is something else . . . perhaps sometimes called Jupiter, though Pettus called it "Mega Drive 2" iirc. (some have also said Gigadrive, but that's really an early rumored name for the Saturn project)
    The Gigadrive and Mega Drive 32 that were rumored in 1990 ended with the Sega CD. Modern speculation has tried to lump those rumors toward the Saturn's development, specifically to support the narrative that the Saturn was originally only a 2D console. Either way, EGM and Gamepro made up the names Gigadrive and Megadrive 32 and both carried that over and ended it with the Sega CD.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    I'm not talking about what the MCD's design targets may have been, but rather what it ended up being:

    Something that basically matched or beat all the SNES's advantages save for color, and did the same against the PCE Super CD save for color as well.
    Also unintended, but certainly present, was the added grunt (via sub-CPU, RAM, and graphics ASIC) for potential 3D graphics on the level of Super FX or X68000 with greater potential for emphasis on texture mapping too. (actually, the x68000 pulled off some amazing stuff even in the 10 MHz models . . . the fact that Geograph Seal is totally playable on those -though smoother at 16 MHz- is damn impressive . . . but more than a software feat than a hardware one really)

    Edit: One more comment on the whole "according to the creator" context: almost any significantly used/supported computer or game hardware platform (especially old ones) ended up being pushed beyond the intended uses conceived by the original designers and the original design target. The Atari 2600 would be a classic example of this taken to the extreme with the extremely limited hardware being tweaked and hacked in ways far exceeding the original design perception . . . in fact, some of the launch games were already exploiting things not originally considered by the designers. (albeit quite modest compared to later achievements)
    Right, I am only pointing out what the designer, in this case Tomio Takami, said the system was targeting. The magazines and reader letters went nuts about scaling and rotation after the SNES launched and so everybody expected it in the Sega CD. Even if the SNES' Mode 7 entered into SoJ's or Takami's mind during the Sega CD's development their target was clearly much higher than that and explicitely influenced by Sega's Arcade boards.

    Of course, we have already speculated why SoJ failed to port more super scaler games to the Sega CD and why the Graphics Co Processor is nothing like Sega's Scaler board.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    You can't mix arcade and home like that, and Sega had done a pretty bang up job with consoles up to that point. The SG-1000 was a rather exreme example being totally off the shelf and overly conservative, but the SMS and MD were great compromises in practicality and performance (sure, we can and have criticized and hypothesized over these too, but they were still good).
    How many Arcade boards had Sega developed in house by the time of the SG-1000? System16.com shows a handful of Z80 boards whose capabilities look somewhere between the SG-1000 and Mark III. I don't see how one can possibly discuss the origins of Sega's console hardware without looking at the Arcades first.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    Also, prior to the MD's success in the US and Europe ..., it was absolutely necessary for Sega to continue short turn-arounds on their hardware due to the nature of their struggling market position. The Famicom kicked the crap out of the SG-1000, as did Nintendo's marketing strategies on top of that ..., and the mediocre performance of the SMS combined with the PC Engine's release meant the MD's design and release in 1988 made tons of sense too. There's more argument against the MCD, but it made at least some sense in its own way too, especially since it was designed and completed prior to the sweeping success of the Genesis in North America. ...

    But 1994 was a different situation entirely, and I pretty much addressed all my arguments necessary here in the OP.
    We have discussed before the prevalence of the market slump in Sega's decision to release the 32X. Dialing back to the Sega CD though, it is impossible to take its presence out of the context of the Super Nintendo's launch and the Genesis' subsequently outselling it. Most predictions at the time had the SNES coming out and handily passing the Genesis in total install base in 1991. Without the Sega CD on the horizon who knows how well the Genesis would have sold when all of the magazines had already pronounced it "aging" hardware.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    Short answer: If the 3DO and Jaguar were the primary concerns, then the Jupiter (cart based Saturn) would be the best choice in this context. (same release date as 32x, similar price point to Jaguar, much better graphics and overall system capabilities than either of those others -generally speaking- and also meshing far better with the Saturn's release)
    Yeah, I wonder why Sato and Nakayama would have even bothered to ask SoA about a solution with the Jupiter supposedly available. I wonder if the full blown original 32X design would have been Jupiter until they wanted the price down to $160. We do know that the original 32X design was stripped of some key components that would have made it more powerful/expensive.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    I understand this, which is why I bothered addressing it above so substantially. That includes explicitly stating that the thread certainly would have been bigger for the time.
    But, seriously, from the North American perspective at the time, looking at it from a market research perspective: Atari had horrible market PR and brand recognition, stale and basically nonexistent market share. The sales response from their 1993 test markets (and the fact they canceled the European test market entirely) added to this. In fact, Atari in Europe might have been a genuine concern for Sega given the lingering PR from the ST and moderate success of the Lynx in some regions (and the fact that effective marketing in Europe is far less monetarily bound than North America -print ads and viral marketing were far more powerful there), but pulling out the test market there (and further delaying public launch plans) made that moot too.
    I think it was the price point of the Jaguar and timing of the call for 32X that mattered more than what we can only speculate companies knew about each other's bottom line back then.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    The 3DO was a bigger potential threat, but the price point put it in a totally different market segment. If anything, it was competing in the high-end multimedia market along with a segment of PC gaming. (among other issues -actual released sales figures, tangible software quality/quantity) Again, I find it hard to believe that Sega's top marketing research guys would misread this so much as to put it as a top priority to address -- with hardware. (when Sega had consistently managed to turn the tide with tactful and forceful use of marketing)
    If they really felt threatened, then they could have put out some in-your-face ad campaign about how ridiculously high priced the 3DO was. (even compared to buying the MD+MCD combined)
    3DO definitely was the bigger threat, but yes in 1994 its price point was still way too high. I think the Genesis and Sega CD combined even in 1993 would have only been $450 or so before the Sega CD 2 and Genesis 2 price drops. I don't think marketing research was where we would like to think it was back then either. After all, the Sega CD was scaled up late in its development because Sega found marketing research that claimed there was a substantial high end market of consumers that would buy expensive equipment.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    Look at what many top-tier PC games opted for in the early 90s: a ton of them continued to use traditional (cartoon/drawn) animation for cutscenes, including high-budget high-end games like Wing Commander 2, X-Wing, and Tie Fighter. And, TBH, those lucas arts games probably profited a lot more by avoiding the high cost live action scenes the likes of Wing Commander III (or IV) did . . . as awesome as those games are. (granted, the Star Wars IP was a huge deal too)
    PC developers ran with what the Sega CD (and Digital Pictures) had started too, and ran from both directions with a few good cases of middle ground being hit. (more often with adventure games, and the pinnacle hybrids with Wing Commander III and IV -combining actually good interactive cinematics with compelling stories and engaging core gameplay as a space sim)
    Exactly, then there is the cost of the "multimedia" studio(s) that Sega of America was responsible for creating or stimulating. Obviously forum conversations tend toward extremes where one company or another tends to get all the blame/credit. That isn't where I am going with this.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    ...I highly disagree here. Multimedia was still hitting its first stride by this point, and it wasn't until mid 1994 that it really hit a strong point on any platform.
    Further refinement of multimedia was a massive part of what defined the 5th generation experience, as much or more so than polygonal 3D . . . in fact, that has remained true for every subsequent generation too. (evolution and innovation of multimedia in new and different ways built onto and alongside proven successful applications of multimedia)
    Texture mapped, polygonal 3D graphics were as much a part of Wing Commander III's innovation as was its highly refined use of interactive multimedia. It's really a poster child for what was to come in the following generation.
    I should have been more clear. By 1994 Multimedia wasn't seen as cutting edge anymore, it wasn't enough on its own to sell a new device to consumers. Obviously it was just getting started technically, but the day of FMV selling consoles was ending/over.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    Seriously?
    Price point and complexity. With Super FX, you had games marginally above average prices for top-teir games with an idiot-proof (extremely important) plug it and and it works interface. Plus, the advent of Super FX 2 (among other add-on chips) would have made an add-on impractical anyway.

    SVP was apparently a somewhat more costly than SFX, so making it a basic add-on from day 1 made more sense. Less idiot proof than Nintendo's solution, but simple enough that some tactful marketing could explain it . . . in fact the (misleading) "plug it in your genesis" campaign used with the 32x would have been apt, much more so than it had been for the 32x given the added set-up requirements. (a big pain for the non techie, especially if the console was buried in an entertainment system . . . actually a bigger pain than installing a new console if you had a model 1, since the AV or RF cable couldn't be re-used either, on top of the other hook-ups)

    I've already explained the rest in the topic post, but briefly:
    the lower price and installation simplicity, combined with directly displacing Virtua Racing's release ($100 for SVP cart +VR, and probably a $30-40 standalone SVP cart as prices dropped and volumes increased that fall -along with more new games), and also something potentially cheap and simple enough to be integrated with newer MD models as standard.
    That's marketability and cost conservative tactics, but I'm not convinced it really answers my question. In a market that, in hindsight, dropped all devices with non-textures 3D as soon as texture mapped 3D consoles (Saturn and PS1) were available, how was more expensive chipped cartridges definitely going to have the broadest market appeal?

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    I made several comments on the PCM sound issue, namely a very basic hardware addition to the SVP (since the cart slot indeed has audio input), or a carefully constructed standardized software workaround using the Z80 for playback and the DSP for advanced compression/mixing/effects. (mix to RAM and have the Z80 read it)
    The latter is far less foolproof, but more open-ended too . . . and GEMS had already taken a step towards this, ...

    But seriously, if they really put an intense effort into tight Z80 coding for sound, they probably could have pulled that off. (TBH, I think it was more a problem with lacking interest in investing resources for sound . . . the same reasons you see relatively limited space used for PCM in ROM -like SSFII's actual poorer quality speech and absent percussion samples compared to SCE)
    Right, obviously with what we know today developers didn't need an on cart audio solution, and even the 32X didn't perfectly solve it during its lifetime due to, once again, poor documentation.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    It was just as bad for SNES SFX games (and ST and Amiga for that matter). Use of relatively muted colors can avoid the problem to some extent . . . but then it also looks kind of bland -- this works well for metallic gray stuff like X-Wing and Silpheed though (and Star Fox). The dithering in VR was OK, but some of the gaudy color choices in general were off putting. (a little more work there might have gone a long way)
    limiting the 3D segments to a single set of 15 colors was a common problem for bitmap rendered games, and something seen in numerous ASIC rendered MCD games (most of the "good" ASIC/CPU rendered games), and also an issue with the SNES has the same limit unless using its 256 color (per tile) modes. (which, in that case, has major drawbacks of bitplane manipluation overhead and the strangled DMA bandwidth for VRAM updates - using a mode 7 plane to render to could works around both issues, but only Wolf3D did that AFIK)
    Considering some polygonal Genesis games look sharper in some ways than VR SVP's models it is obvious they didn't optimize enough for colors. Still, as a premier launch SVP title it barely answers the whining about Genesis games. So there is no precedent for the SVP as an answer to the Jaguar or the Genesis' color/sound limitations.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    But back to the main topic:
    the point is, if you look at two prominent possibilities for Sega in 1994 to fill their perceived hardware void, then both an SVP cart or a cut-down Jaguar-price-class cart based Saturn (that I'm calling Jupiter) make reasonable sense.
    The 32x was in-between these two, and in many respects the worst of both worlds, neither here nor there. Too weak to really settle in as a new mainstream platform, and too complex and costly to fit as a simple extension of the existing MD architecture. (the latter also plagued the Sega CD . . . and having 2 add-ons in that category exacerbated both)
    If they had launched the Neptune alongside the 32X at lower than Jaguar cost would that change your view at all?
    "... If Sony reduced the price of the Playstation, Sega would have to follow suit in order to stay competitive, but Saturn's high manufacturing cost would then translate into huge losses for the company." p170 Revolutionaries at Sony.

    "We ... put Sega out of the hardware business ..." Peter Dille senior vice president of marketing at Sony Computer Entertainment

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    Hero of Algol kool kitty89's Avatar
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    Edit: I wish spoiler tags worked on here . . . makes it a lot easier to "clean up" some of the long areas. (great to hide extended details and leave summaries/key points visible for ease of reading)


    Quote Originally Posted by sheath View Post
    The Gigadrive and Mega Drive 32 that were rumored in 1990 ended with the Sega CD. Modern speculation has tried to lump those rumors toward the Saturn's development, specifically to support the narrative that the Saturn was originally only a 2D console. Either way, EGM and Gamepro made up the names Gigadrive and Megadrive 32 and both carried that over and ended it with the Sega CD.
    It may just be Pettu's article sticking in my mind, but I could have sworn the term "Gigadrive" at least appeared in some period media referring to a next-gen console in the context of relation to (or inspiration from) the System 32 and (later) Model 1 hardware.

    In any case, I'm positive that the "Jupiter" moniker was used by some media at the time in reference to a cartridge-based Saturn . . . and the more important point (in terms of properly interpreting the opening topic post) is that "Jupiter" is used solely to describe a foreward-compatible, expandable, cartridge based Saturn derivative. (basically implying the removal of the CD-ROM interface and peripheral hardware -including SH1+RAM- along with a suitable expansion interface to add that later . . . maybe adjusting main RAM capacity too, but I was trying to avoid specific, detailed technical trade-off discussions here -the point being to reach a realistic mainstream price point for mid/late 1994 in the US with the Saturn chipset)

    Right, I am only pointing out what the designer, in this case Tomio Takami, said the system was targeting. The magazines and reader letters went nuts about scaling and rotation after the SNES launched and so everybody expected it in the Sega CD. Even if the SNES' Mode 7 entered into SoJ's or Takami's mind during the Sega CD's development their target was clearly much higher than that and explicitely influenced by Sega's Arcade boards.
    Yes . . . and on a technical note, which has been discussed to death as well, there's some considerable trade-offs between the MCD and SNES's scaling/rotation capabilities:
    There's the full 256 color palette (with no per-tile restrictions) separate from the other tile layer palettes (unlike other 256 color modes), and the practical use of 30 or 60 FPS rendering of those scaling/rotation effects at or near full-screen. (MCD is restricted by DMA bandwidth, just like any animation on the MD)

    OTOH, the MCD's ASIC is far, far more powerful and flexible than SNES's mode 7 rendering, since it has full freedom to draw an arbitrary number of scaled and/or rotated objects to any/all BG layer or any/all sprite cells (Soul Star is probably the best example of this -this also allows better framerates and color use due to careful mixing sprites and BG . . . Batman and Robin manages to do this with very good color selections and a single 15 color layer for rendering -CORE's earlier engine used in BC Racers and Battle Corps uses 2 BG planes for rendering sprites/objects+BG, and that ended up poorer in color and choppier . . . and undoubtedly used more VRAM to buffer all that).
    Plus, that flexibility also includes the ability to use that texture rendering on 3D polygonal surfaces . . . which was never used as the main feature in a game unfortunately. (both batman games use it sparingly for some on-screen objects)

    I just want to make more more note about Batman and Robin though: Clockwork really did an awesome job optimizing for a single 15 color palette (all cars, buildings, projectiles, objects etc, and the road are on it -just the status overlay and the scrolling far BG are sprites and the 2nd layer). Very well stylized and looks great for 15 colors. (not exactly the same context, but a similar issue would apply to color optimizing for polygonal games . . . be it a dark/gritty shaded set of colors as with B&R, or pastel as with starfox, or Silpheed)
    Virtua Racing didn't really do that (tried to keep the bright, high-contrast color scheme of the arcade), and similarly, a game like Shadow Squadron probably would have looked fine if optimized for a palette more like Silpheed, Starfox, or (for that matter) X-Wing. (or Star Wars Arcade)

    Of course, we have already speculated why SoJ failed to port more super scaler games to the Sega CD and why the Graphics Co Processor is nothing like Sega's Scaler board.
    And after lots of different points of view on this, it seems like this was probably the reason:
    Properly using the scaling hardware on the CD, isn't that trivial, and SoJ (for whatever reason) didn't invest much time/resource/priority/etc into really pushing that (be it unique games or ports). The only JP developer to consistently do so was Game Arts iirc (including Wing Commander).

    As to doing ports of scaler games in general, there's the question of actual consumer demand and interest for those titles, compared to how much programming effort/resources went into them. It may not have been as monetarily costly as what ended up being poured into multimedia projects, but time and number of skilled in-house programmers would have been huge factors. All the art design (optimized redrawn sprites and textures to look good with MCD color and memory limits -not to mention ASIC/VRAM rendering/bandwidth limits -ie, you weren't going to see masses of layer sprites as in Galaxy Force arcade) on top of the programming work going into the game. (and programming and art design meshing for all those limitations)

    So, if they had put more effort into supporting those effects (or polygonal 3D potential, for that matter), it probably wouldn't have been best spent primarily on "ports" as they'd basically involve as much effort as designing an entirely new game (aside from the basic level design and premise/style).

    Arcade ports or no, something Sega really should have put more focus on was development tools and documentation for the MCD. Without that, you either get basic (under) utilization of the hardware and mediocre results, or a handful of hardcore programmers putting the time and effort in to manually address flawed/incomplete documentation, expand on limited tools, and reverse engineer totally undocumented features. (this is more doable with older, more primitive hardware, but it becomes progressively more of a problem as power and complexity increases and the Sega CD is one of the first consols to fall in the latter category -ie Jaguar, N64, and Saturn . . . PSX and 3DO had the separate issue of omitting documentation entirely in favor of APIs, albeit Sony eventually provided more documentation; the SNES's sound module would also fall here to some extent)


    How many Arcade boards had Sega developed in house by the time of the SG-1000? System16.com shows a handful of Z80 boards whose capabilities look somewhere between the SG-1000 and Mark III. I don't see how one can possibly discuss the origins of Sega's console hardware without looking at the Arcades first.
    There was a discussion on which one of those early boards would have been most practical as the basis (at least conceptually) for a console instead of the TMS9918+PSG+Z80 set-up, but I forget which specifically. (might have been G80)

    And, if nothing else, they certainly weren't "flying blind" working forward from just discrete logic based games. (as Atari -and Cyan- had with the VCS's design)

    I might be misinterpreting the point you're trying to make (since, above, I basically implied Sega might have been better off with a custom console chipset instead of a Colecovision clone), but I never meant to imply that Sega's arcade experiences shouldn't have been taken advantage of for the home market.
    Rather, I meant, with the SMS and MD hardware, they managed to take concepts of contemporary (or somewhat older) arcade hardware and carefully work that into a reasonably balanced, cost effective home console design. (not perfect, but hey )
    I could go to point out how the Saturn design itself deviated from this somewhat (not the topic at hand), but the point I'd immediately intended was in regards to their marketing strategies (including hardware design/release cycles/schedules)

    Here, the arcade should not have been a factor at all (or a minor one). As I mentioned, the progression from SG-1000 to Mk.III to MD made perfect sense given the market situations, and even the MCD made a fair deal of sense given the context. However, after the definitive runaway success the Genesis/MD had by late 1991, they entered a new situation entirely, one they hadn't really faced before but others had (namely Nintendo and Atari). The closest thing Sega had to that sort of mainstream, sweeping mass-market presence was with the Master System in Europe (especially UK), and they managed to do a pretty bang-up job managing that alongside the MD too. (albeit, that may not have happened if not for the GG's software support)
    Anyway, with the MD, Sega finally had a real mainstream console on the market that could be focused on a full, long-term lifecycle focused on competition and profit. (the latter more so in the late generation -after install base was mostly established and software sale profits were strongest)

    The Sega CD added something interesting alongside that, for better or worse (and missed potential or no), and SoA put a major twist on that to what they thought made the mode sense (and, to be fair, the Sega CD at least sold best in the US if nothing else), but the 32x really didn't make sense from (what should have been) SoA's or SoJ's business perspectives, at very least with the Saturn ready to go for late 1994 (which was almost definite for SoJ at that point).


    So, again I'll repeat my pain points in a slightly different manner:
    If SoA and/or SoJ wanted to get into the next generation level of hardware and game capabilities (from arcade or PC PoV -sans CD class/multimedia), while still allowing that to meet North American mainstream market requirements for 1994, then a stripped-down Saturn derivative was the design of choice. (a full Saturn being impractical for NA/EU at that point)

    This may sound strange coming from me, but it really is all about the software (hardware is only important in what it can confer to software) and the marketing (advertising, pricing, distribution)


    OTOH, if all that really wanted was something to better combat the SNES's late gen library (including Super FX) in the low-end/mainstream market (different segment than most MCD users), then an SVP add-on made more sense. (especially with added basic PCM capabilities)


    We have discussed before the prevalence of the market slump in Sega's decision to release the 32X. Dialing back to the Sega CD though, it is impossible to take its presence out of the context of the Super Nintendo's launch and the Genesis' subsequently outselling it. Most predictions at the time had the SNES coming out and handily passing the Genesis in total install base in 1991. Without the Sega CD on the horizon who knows how well the Genesis would have sold when all of the magazines had already pronounced it "aging" hardware.
    Maybe for investors, but I highly, HIGHLY doubt that the Sega CD had any impact on the vast majority of Genesis and Mega Drive purchasers. Mike Katz's and Kalnske's management and marketing campaigns combined with the selection of hardware (especially sports and Sonic games) combined with a substantial lead in price point over the SNES were almost certainly the deciding factors. And when I say "marketing" I mean ads, price point, packaging, product placement, and distribution (including Kalinske's getting Walmart to carry Genesis).

    Sega of America had kick-ass advertising at the time, as with Sega of Europe (plus a generation of success with the Master System), and there's virtually no indication (outside of the niche hardcore tech enthusiasts) that the Sega CD was a remotely significant factor in the MD's success.
    For that matter, aside from a select group of hardcore followers, the SNES CD promises (and eventual vaporware status) likely had little effect on the mainstream SNES sales or popularity. (though that vaporware BS certainly pissed off some hardcore fans, as did the N64's use of carts)


    The "aging" hardware this is pretty silly anyway. It's true, but that always the case with consoles, and it's virtually never a compromising factor for sustained market success. A huge part of this is something often ignored by such criticism: software. Ever improving and ever optimized, and in 1991 the MD still had a huge way to go in that manner. (cart platforms have the huge issue of ever increasing ROM sizes as ROM prices drop too, something not the case with disc based systems without RAM expansion to take advantage of the similar price drops in RAM -which, oddly, almost never is a feature)

    The practical fact of the matter was that the MD and SNES hardware were close enough to be very competitive with eachother with a broad set of trade-offs in spite of the SNES's 2 year age advantage. (that also says something about the design trade-offs made with the SNES, but that's a topic for the 4th gen console thread -and one I recently commented on at the top of page 59, as a compilation of conclusions from previous discussions)

    The "software" end of things was also the 3rd alternative to ever releasing the SVP, 32x, or my "Jupiter" . . . instead refocusing on MD+CD support in the time leading up to the Saturn transition (starting late 1995 on the consumer end and early '95 on the developer end -outside Japan). The problem there is that SVP would be far more accessible than MCD due to pricing in 1994. (and other things I already addressed before)

    Yeah, I wonder why Sato and Nakayama would have even bothered to ask SoA about a solution with the Jupiter supposedly available. I wonder if the full blown original 32X design would have been Jupiter until they wanted the price down to $160. We do know that the original 32X design was stripped of some key components that would have made it more powerful/expensive.
    Jupiter (or whatever code name it might have really had) is just a concept, it might not have even been planned by that point, let alone prototyped. However, the premise is simple, and engineering would pretty much extend as far as PCB/case design since it would share the same components as the Saturn, just omitting the CD portion (and maybe some RAM). In that sense, it should have taken less time and resources than the 32x's design, though production (date and volume) would be limited by the Saturn's chipset schedule. (which, historically, paralleled the 32x very closely anyway)

    SoA executives may not have known intimate details about the Saturn's hardware design yet, but they'd probably known enough to understand the Japanese launch schedule as well as it being too costly to immediately launch in the US. So suggesting a cut-down Saturn derivative would have been logical at least. Given the cart based nature of Sato's suggestion (and the 32x), and the fact that the CD drive and subsystem would cut a massive chunk off the retail price (probably cut it in half), then that's also the sensible choice. Making it forward compatible/upgradable to full Saturn spec is also a no-brainer.

    As to price, $250 should have been realistic if they were selling at/near cost (ie very near zero profit/loss) given the approximate $450 equivalent Japanese launch price for the Saturn and $200 (retail) being a realistic reduction from the removal of CD drive mech/controller and interface/subsystem (including SH1+512k SDRAM). Manufacturing cost reduction probably would have been closer to $100 (lacking hard date on Sega's component/assembly costs), but that's a reasonable retail mark-up margin. (mark-up for consoles can be a lot higher than that too -the 7800 is a rather extreme example with typical $80 RP and ~$25-30 for bulk purchase to retailers from Atari)

    And that $250 price point would match Atari's price point as well. (technically, the Jaguar should have been cheaper to manufacture, but given the tiny volumes and Atari's much poorer negotiating position than Sega, it makes sense -ie, Sega probably could have sold the Jag for much less in '94)

    I think it was the price point of the Jaguar and timing of the call for 32X that mattered more than what we can only speculate companies knew about each other's bottom line back then.
    Which is why I spoke from a market research PoV. Look at the actual market impact and consumer perception established by that point, and make reasonable projections from there. (granted, you could argue Sega might have considered that Atari was going to push a massive marketing campaign and a flood of new software by holiday season of '94, but even then there were indications of Atari's limits in those departments -postponing the EU release, existing lacking marketing and distribution, and limited software releases -and limited press releases for software projects in development)

    Even so, with Sega projecting a worst case for 3DO and Atari (let alone Sony), then both of my primary suggestions apply here. Against Jaguar, and 3D-centric 3DO titles, "Jupiter" would kick ass with quality Sega (and standard 3rd party) software support at a price point matching Atari's.
    For multimedia-centric 3DO stuff, you'd still have Sega CD to fill the gap, followed by Saturn (and JupiterCD -which is the same as Saturn) to take the reigns later on with high quality multimedia and next-gen 2D/3D graphics. (late gen Sega CD video quality was poor compared to 3DO -and better 256 color DOS examples- but still acceptable in most cases, and a vast improvement over older Sega CD stuff -and some later stuff using crappy codecs)

    SVP would address this in a lesser manner with a different set of trade-offs: much cheaper (so much so that it could be feasibly standardized inside the late model MD itself) and accessible enough to realistically consider Sega CD-SVP games (unlike 32xCD) for some interesting 3D potential combining ASIC+SVP+CD graphics/sound/multimedia. (albeit no better color for video)
    This is better for expanding on the MD's existing market (and the SNES competition), but worse for transitioning to the full next gen with the Saturn. (including losing programing experiences directly applicable to the Saturn -Jupiter using the same chipset)

    3DO definitely was the bigger threat, but yes in 1994 its price point was still way too high. I think the Genesis and Sega CD combined even in 1993 would have only been $450 or so before the Sega CD 2 and Genesis 2 price drops. I don't think marketing research was where we would like to think it was back then either. After all, the Sega CD was scaled up late in its development because Sega found marketing research that claimed there was a substantial high end market of consumers that would buy expensive equipment.
    You mention a lot here that I want to eventually address in a separate Sega CD topic (separate from the software/programming/management related topics addressing the CD in this thread). Addressing what could have been handled differently for the CD for Sega in '94 onward (pertinent to this thread) is a different issue than a Sega CD "alternate reality" in general. (ie fundamentally different Sega CD being released in '91 . . . or not released at all)

    I should have been more clear. By 1994 Multimedia wasn't seen as cutting edge anymore, it wasn't enough on its own to sell a new device to consumers. Obviously it was just getting started technically, but the day of FMV selling consoles was ending/over.
    True, in as far as cheap, flashy, gimmicky streaming video by itself. However, proper, real, multimedia-rich gameplay experiences with well-playing, well-designed core gameplay and equally well written/designed/directed multimedia elements (cutscenes, synamic in-game speech, etc) were definitely cutting edge and massive selling points (if marketed correctly . . . or, rather, marketed enough to make the public aware of awesome games that could otherwise sell themselves).

    This wasn't being done consistently at all (3DO fared no better), unfortunately, but the potential was there, as was the inspiration.


    That's marketability and cost conservative tactics, but I'm not convinced it really answers my question. In a market that, in hindsight, dropped all devices with non-textures 3D as soon as texture mapped 3D consoles (Saturn and PS1) were available, how was more expensive chipped cartridges definitely going to have the broadest market appeal?
    Again, I didn't recommend chipped carts, but an SVP add-on (doing some of what the 32x could, but far cheaper at the compromise of other features).

    It would have allowed for a good short-term product, basically following the MD (and possibly MCD) in late gen market cycle. It wouldn't compete at all by the time the PSX went mainstream, but it would have a notable purpose of allowing specific types of software not otherwise possible on a mainstream 1994 Sega platform.
    Also, aside from 3D, it would benefit late-gen 2D titles in general with potential for scaling/rotation (and other DSP assisted) effects, realtime decompression more advanced than the 68k could handle (SNES did this with chipped carts to save on ROM), and potential sound enhancements too. (a basic DMA sound circuit really should have been a simple and very worthwhile addition, with a powerful DSP to back that up, but short of that you could still do DSP mixed sound fed to the Z80+DAC for 8-bit mono output . . . and technically the latter could still sound better than much of the PWM on the 32x)
    -----Techie note: I forgot to mention this before, but having the Z80+DAC read pre-mixed samples might not be so "good programming" dependent either, since you'd already sidestep some of the major pitfalls complicating good software PCM on the MD. (you'd be having the Z80 reading from a fixed location in SVP DRAM, so no bank switching, and you'd be streaming a single channel of uncompressed 8-bit PCM at a fixed fairly high sample rate, so no mixing or decoding overhead and less noticeable distortion if timing errors were still present -assuming you could at least manage the high sample rate consistently)

    Finally, the SegaCD+SVP technically could do some pretty heavily texture mapped 3D, but color would be a problem. (and actual ability to use the hardware effectively) SVP Doom would probably be doable, but much harder to make look decent.


    For a number of reasons (especially Sony's impending threat), the Jupiter would have been the more comprehensive and foolproof option. (starting an early transition to the next generation rather than an interim sampling of that) Leave the MD and MCD to hold the fort in their respective market segments during that transition.

    Right, obviously with what we know today developers didn't need an on cart audio solution, and even the 32X didn't perfectly solve it during its lifetime due to, once again, poor documentation.
    Not just today, but what they knew then too . . . just what too few actually implemented. You had 1991 games using 16 kHz PCM samples already (Vapor Trail and Atomic Runner), EA managed to do a 4 channel variable-pitch MOD player of sorts with Skitchin' (with even playback at that -including mixing speech in) at decent sample rate too (at a guess, at least 11 kHz) though not enough samples for that guitar. (strains from being scaled too far beyond its native pitch, you can't get good sound from a wide range of notes with just 1 sample)

    GEMS did a more foolproof workaround (albeit kind of a hack job) polling the YM2612 timers with the Z80, at the expense of heavy Z80 overhead and lower (~11 KHz) max sample rates for only a single channel. (but very even playback)

    Tiido praised Matt Furniss's tracker (Krysalis driver), but I think that was more for the use of a tracker/midi composing interface with good quality instrument patch support and willingness to consistently use good quality PCM samples. (actual PCM playback ends up pretty uneven, very noticeable for the lower sample rate stuff used for most speech -again, exacerbated by the sheer lower sample rate making timing errors more noticeable)
    And there's another problem: most games that DID invest in using high sample rates usually limited that to only instrument samples, leaving speech lower quality (if featured at all) and thus still weak sounding. (mostly due to ROM space constraints) Capcom's examples are the worst of both worlds. (shitty music and speech samples)


    Considering some polygonal Genesis games look sharper in some ways than VR SVP's models it is obvious they didn't optimize enough for colors. Still, as a premier launch SVP title it barely answers the whining about Genesis games. So there is no precedent for the SVP as an answer to the Jaguar or the Genesis' color/sound limitations.
    True, hence my list of trade-offs in the arguments between the "jupiter" and SVP options. (I maintain that either would be more sensible than what the 32x became, but Jupiter would have been better for the long run IMO)


    If they had launched the Neptune alongside the 32X at lower than Jaguar cost would that change your view at all?
    No. That would have addressed a tiny handful of the issues I mentioned. It still would have been far weaker than the "Jupiter" while being almost as expensive to manufacture, equally costly to market/distribute/develop for, would take more R&D resources (Saturn design being a given), and wouldn't have helped the later transition Saturn nearly as much. (and actually would hurt it in several respects)

    Jupiter would basically use the same programming/development work as the Saturn (and with fewer CD-specific format differences than the MD vs MCD due to the greater overall hardware/memory map/etc changes).
    All Jupiter games would run on Saturn and have similar basic sound/graphics capabilities (aside from CD-DA and FMV).
    All Jupiter owners would be able to upgrade to Saturn spec later on at a fraction of the cost of a standalone Saturn (or PS1, etc).
    The Jupiter's hardware was already there (or nearly finished), ready made (as the Saturn), and the only R&D required would (again) be PCB and case design for the cut-down version and its CD add-on.
    Since a Neptune would include all the 32x hardware and MD hardware, you'd end up with a board/case of similar complexity to the Saturn, albeit one needing less power and lower cost components (less RAM, cheaper custom chips), but combined with overall packaging/distribution costs the retail pricing differences probably would have been marginal at best. (roughly speaking, a $200 Neptune in late 1994 would have been a far worse value than a $250 Jupiter, on top of the many other disadvantages)
    You'd have MD compatibility (and MCD ability), but by the same stroke, you'd loose Saturn software/hardware forward compatibility.

    Had they not had the Saturn on the table at all (or a different design only early in development), then yes, that would have made more sense. (ie, it would have made more sense for Nintendo to release such an add-on at the time )



    -One more note on the SVP and Jupiter both released together: if the SVP ended up only being used sparingly (and since VR was already ready to go), it probably wouldn't have been a major conflict/compromise with pushing the Jupiter in the higher-end chunk of the mainstream market either. Still, with Jupiter a better choice for newer 2D and 3D games alike, the advantages of SVP even for late-gen budget titles similar to SNES chips (including sound/effects/compression advantages) would be basically moot.

    However, Sega probably should have considered "chipped" carts sooner with much simpler/cheaper custom options. (very basic DSPs/coprocessors to help with software rendered tasks, compression, etc and/or a simple DMA sound circuit to compensate for the limits of software PCM playback -including getting stereo and all 6 FM channels) They had stereo audio input on the cart slot too, and plenty of signals allowing for interesting expansion connectivity.
    SMS has interesting potential too, though not integrated sound input, hence Tiido's recent project being possible: http://www.sega-16.com/forum/showthr...6502-CPU/page2 (hardware DMA chip allowing SMS animation capacity to be increased several fold over what the Z80 can do in software . . . also adds a bunch of sound channels, which I assume are added via passthrough cable a la MkIII)
    Last edited by kool kitty89; 01-25-2013 at 12:39 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    Dude it’s the bios that marries the 16 bit and the 8 bit that makes it 24 bit. If SNK released their double speed bios revision SNK would have had the world’s first 48 bit machine, IDK how you keep ignoring this.
    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    the PCE, that system has no extra silicone for music, how many resources are used to make music and it has less sprites than the MD on screen at once but a larger sprite area?

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    ESWAT Veteran Chilly Willy's Avatar
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    I think I mentioned this before, but one of my "weird" thought experiments was to merge the Jaguar with the MD... think about it a moment - the MD has space for 2MB of ram, but only uses 64KB of that space. So what if Sega had gotten ahold of Tom & Jerry and stuck then in an updated MD along with filling that 2MB of space with ram. It would be a Jaguar with a slower 68000 and narrower ram bus (unless they preserved the ram width to Tom and Jerry and made it 16 bit for the rest of the system).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chilly Willy View Post
    I think I mentioned this before, but one of my "weird" thought experiments was to merge the Jaguar with the MD... think about it a moment - the MD has space for 2MB of ram, but only uses 64KB of that space. So what if Sega had gotten ahold of Tom & Jerry and stuck then in an updated MD along with filling that 2MB of space with ram. It would be a Jaguar with a slower 68000 and narrower ram bus (unless they preserved the ram width to Tom and Jerry and made it 16 bit for the rest of the system).
    Yeah, that was a back and forth started in Sheath's Alternate Reality thread:
    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Chilly Willy View Post
    The CD32 was extremely poor though . . . it was worse than the MCD in several aspects (though better for multimedia due to the 2x drive and 256 colors). It was a dead-end and obviously worse than the 32x. (technically speaking, the Jaguar chipset was much more cost effective and capable than the 32x -even more so considering a bug-free incarnation facilitated by better funded R&D like Sega could offer- but that obviously fared poorly under the circumstances -and also had a lot of silicon dedicated to wasted features: had they omitted the Object Processor and focused on a higher performance blitter instead, it probably would have been a much better match for the market and probably even better than the OPL for some 2D stuff)
    Which was why one of my half-joking suggestions was for SEGA to license Tom and Jerry and add them to the existing Genesis. It would have a different memory map than the Jaguar, and the 68000 would be slower than the one in the Jaguar. You'd fill the work ram space to its full allotment (2MBytes). The Tom and Jerry would appear at 0x800000 like some of the 32X hardware. The video overlay support in Tom and Jerry would be used to put the video over/under the Genesis video.

    That would have been a killer update compared to the 32X.

    If you wanted it to be an add-on like the 32X, I'd probably cut it to 1MByte of 64-bit ram at 0x800000 and put Tom and Jerry at 0x900000. While the 68000 would be slower than in the Jaguar, it would be better in one respect - the 68000 could run from the 64K work ram and stay off the bus. That's one thing the 32X has over the Jaguar in its design.
    Had Sega not already had the Saturn in the pipeline at the time and had they not been in litigation with Atari Corp at the time, that might have been a very interesting proposal for the 2 companies.

    Even more so, had Atari approached Sega more around 1991/92 (while the Jaguar was still being designed/prototyped), they could have pooled resources for smoother development of the hardware (and maybe a few tweaks to the design to cater to Sega's resource -maybe and SH1 or SH2 in place of the 68k, etc). And in that case, Sega might have foregone the Saturn as we know it, and pushed the Jaguar-derivative out as an early entry for the next generation, though probably with a CD drive. (but also probably at less than 1/2 the launch price of the 3DO. (or if Atari REALLY got Sega interested by 1991, Sega might have even dropped the MCD -or dropped its western release- in favor of focusing on the Jaguar+CD derivative as their main initial entry into the multimedia/CD market -or, if nothing else, they could have designed the Jaguar's CD interface to share many components with the MCD and reduce manufacturing costs)

    And, of course, that would mean an early entry for the successor to that platform too. (ie an earlier "Dreamcast" or an actual release of the Jaguar II -except probably beefed up a bit . . . or at least at a much higher clock speed than the 33 MHz planned for the Jag II)


    Given Atari's position at the time (even by '91/92), that would have been a very smart move that could have greatly benefited both parties. (Atari also probably could have leveraged the legal disputes to gain Sega's interest) Sega had much better software resources and connections by that point, a rapidly growing brand name, strong presence in Japan (enough to give the Jaguar decent market potential there), lots of resources, etc, etc.
    Followed by some other minor comments from you here:
    http://www.sega-16.com/forum/showthr...l=1#post468464 (including stuff about the "jupiter")
    And I followed that up here:
    http://www.sega-16.com/forum/showthr...l=1#post468737 (including some overly-specific scenarios and hardware design possibilities)



    But, actually, running with the Jaguar thing, and the whole backwards compatibility suggestion, and with this timeline in mind:
    http://www.atariage.com/forums/topic.../#entry2244508
    Quote Originally Posted by kskunk
    Jaguar development began in 1990 with the heart of the system, the graphics chip. The design and technical specs of Tom, including all of the Jaguar's graphics capabilities, were set in stone by mid-1991. After that, only small changes were made on the way to mass production in mid-1993.

    Once Tom was working, Jerry, the sound and "DSP" chip, was derived from Tom's design. This happened in late 1992. Because Jerry's design is 95% copied from Tom's, you could say that Jerry was designed in 1990-1991 as well.

    Tom had two silicon revisions. The first "taped out" in late 1991. That means Jaguar dev kits appeared near the beginning of 1992 with real Tom chips.

    At the end of 1992, Tom's second revision and Jerry's first revision taped out. These were the final chips used in Jaguar consoles.

    Here is one source where John Mathieson (developer of the Jaguar) explains the process:
    http://www.landley.n...s/mathieson.htm



    Thus, Atari was involved at day 1 of the design. The business side and funding was ironed out in mid 1990.

    From other interviews, we know that Atari was working on Panther as early as '89, and the Panther chip had just been finished when they funded Flare, in 1990, to develop the Jaguar:
    http://www.konixmult...&content=martin



    Another place to look is the actual source code for Tom and Jerry, which has dates indicating when different systems were actually designed:

    Blitter - November 22, 1990, basic design complete within 2 months
    GPU - January 28, 1991, basic design complete within 2 months
    Last major feature added May 16, 1991: Blitter collision detection

    Small bug fixes added throughout 1991 and 1992.
    Last bug fix added in October 1992: Fix a pipeline hazard in GPU.

    Jerry - finished November 12, 1992

    Hopefully there's something useful in all these dates!

    - KS

    I'm not sure if this discussion really fits the overall target context of this thread (I was trying to limit the scenario to what could have changed starting January 1994), but if you want to look at the possible Atari/Flare Jaguar Sega connection hypothetical.

    First, you could go back to 1988 and look at the ultimately declined offer from Sega for Atari Corp (under Mike Katz -president and head of marketing for the Atari Corp entertainment division) to distribute and market the Mega Drive in North America. (so you could build a scenario around Atari partnering way back then . . . except that would likely lead to Atari cancelling their own console project -later named Panther- and never end up developing the Jaguar)

    Following that event (while Martin Brennan was brought in on the Panther project), Sega decided to go it alone in 1989, Katz had left Atari, been picked up by Sega a few months later, and was heading SoA immediately following the launch of the Genesis. Katz was still president when Atari decided to scrap the Panther and move forward with Jaguar (contracting Flare) in 1990, while the Genesis was picking up steam in the US big time and 7800 sales had virtually died.

    Meanwhile, we have SoJ developing the MCD during this timeframe . . . unclear on the exact development cycle, but it's a fair guess that the hardware was well into prototyping stages by late 1991 (since it had to reach final production revision by around early 1991 -even with some of the short turn-arounds of using gate array logic for custom chips -Jaguar was standard cell- and off the shelf parts).

    So, at this point let me draw another scenario: Atari Corp, seeing Sega's rising success in 1990, with relations presumably reasonable between the two companies (and Katz potentially helping things along -knowing both sides, albeit with Sam Tramiel at the reigns instead of Jack), and Atari sees with Sega becoming a real force in the US (along with Nintendo), it might be better to cut the plans of a long-term world-beating console hardware project and attempt a new partnership.
    Or, slightly different, Atari comes to this decision in mid 1991, after the more obvious/notable stand-out success of the Genesis. At that point, Kalinske had replaced Katz so things were a little different, but it wouldn't have been too unlike SGI approaching Sega later on. (on a side note, it might have been more interesting if Atari had attempted to get Katz back at this point, given the replacements they ended up with -including Bernie Stolar for a short time, but that's another topic)

    I'm going to assume that the Sega CD was locked in for SoJ at this point, so that was primed for release (or already released) by the time Atari would have approached Sega.

    In any case, by this point, Atari not only could see Sega's rising dominance (along with Atari's own internal decline), but they'd have actual first revision TOM chips available to offer Sega, under the right circumstances. Had some sort of partnership been seriously considered at this point, then the issue with possible compatibility with the MD could have been addressed too. The Jaguar was early enough in design that they probably could have made compromises to reasonably mold the MD hardware around it with reasonable cost optimization (MD video hardware mostly/completely vestigial, perhaps putting the VRAM to good use, etc), but putting the MCD hardware on the table would complicate things greatly (absolute necessity for a good chunk of specific hardware, -dual 68ks, specific buses, etc, etc).
    -Note that Sega taking on the Jaguar with Atari as a partner would also mean eliminating Atari as potential competition. (a far more serious a consideration back in '91) There's other possible implications like Lynx vs GG (or cancelling GG in favor of rolling Lynx in with Sega too -but that's more in line with the 1990 thing too)

    So, at that point (late 1991), you'd either have to make the argument to cancel the US/EU MCD releases and greenlight a MD/Jaguar hybrid, or release the MCD anyway and either drop backwards compatibility on the Jaguar, or sacrifice some cost effectiveness and complexity to allow MCD and MD compatibility on the Jaguar.
    Going with the more convoluted option of releasing the MCD internationally and shifting Jaguar development to cater towards being a CD-ROM based system and including MD+MCD hardware, then you'd pretty much certainly be omitting JERRY anyway (the conglomeration of other hardware filling in for sound and I/O)
    It's not really a Jaguar anymore though, but more a modified MCD with TOM ASIC and some interface hardware. (since it's a total system, you could potentially reconfigure some things when not in compatibility mode, and avoid some problems/bottlenecks -and address constraints- on the actual MD+MCD)

    Once it was decided how the "old" hardware might be utilized effectively in the new system, you could get down to how TOM is going to be configured too. (ie adding its own bus+RAM, sharing an existing bus, etc, etc) Also assuming that (since TOM has already reached revision 1 silicon) that most changes to that will be bug fixes and refinements with primary efforts of Flare put on that. (with collaboration where necessary to make sure the "Sega" side of things mesh well)
    In that sense, you've got an obvious bottleneck for texture mapping since Sega's plans for 3D (or bandwidth-taking 2D rotation/warping effects -blitter limited, sine OPL only does zooming), you'd probably want to go with the dual-bank interleave workaround. (configure DRAM with 1 64-bit bank for OPL sprite textures/framebuffer and a second bank -only needs to be 16-bits wide for blitter textel fetch- and considerably improve texture mapping bandwidth . . . having a full 64-bit wide 2nd bank would help more for plain 2D -unscaled- blits though)

    For cost saving, it might make sense to repurpose a bus and/or RAM already present in the MD/MCD for JERRY to work on. Like, maybe add 2 more 64kx16-bit DRAMs and combine that on the word RAM bus as a 64-bit wide 512kB block and add another 256kx16-bit DRAM for blitter textures (unless you wanted to go for dual 64-bit wide banks). -Lots of other options tor RAM- Probably expand MD DRAM (and switch to common DRAM instead of PSRAM) and clock it up (maybe run both 68ks at 16.67 MHz -going off the 50 MHz clock, and since 16 MHz 68ks would be very cheap by release time -it's what the Jag used) and distribute sound/game logic/CD-ROM management tasks between the dual 68ks. (I might be mistaken here, but with other modifications possible, the word RAM bus wouldn't be necessary as the main method for communication anymore -like adding the ability for one 68k to have priority and directly access the other's bus as needed)
    -maybe even lock out the MD VDP/VRAM in "Jaguar" mode and plan to merge some of that hardware later. (like emulating the VRAM bus with added buffering and other RAM already in the system -like what later happened with SDRAM in the model 3 -actually merging the 68k and VDP RAM)
    That, or genlock it internally, and allow occasional use of MD video overlay when useful. (maybe with some low-cost tweaks like expanding the color DAC/palettes and -maybe- adding a little more VRAM)
    And a 2x CD drive, of course. (still could otherwise share the same -or very similar- CD-ROM interface)

    -So, also somewhat going back to your original suggestion for a MD+MCD derived console, except with more superfluous hardware and, after more thought since then, quite possibly better overall cost effectiveness (given flare's design, and the fact that "your" proposal ended up including a bunch of other variables and added constraints specific to building around the old MD VDP architecture)

    Making a TOM based "32x" type system J64 if you will) would still have involved many of the bottlenecks/limitations as the 32x itself (albeit with a kick-ass GPU/blitter/OPL), so still massive trade-offs there compared to an independent (even if backward compatible) system with improvements across the board. (and potentially lower net cost than MD+CD+J64)
    Last edited by kool kitty89; 01-26-2013 at 07:15 AM.
    6 days older than SEGA Genesis
    -------------
    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    Dude it’s the bios that marries the 16 bit and the 8 bit that makes it 24 bit. If SNK released their double speed bios revision SNK would have had the world’s first 48 bit machine, IDK how you keep ignoring this.
    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    the PCE, that system has no extra silicone for music, how many resources are used to make music and it has less sprites than the MD on screen at once but a larger sprite area?

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    I remain nonsequitur Shining Hero sheath's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    Edit: I wish spoiler tags worked on here . . . makes it a lot easier to "clean up" some of the long areas. (great to hide extended details and leave summaries/key points visible for ease of reading)
    Yeah, some kind of expand and contract code would work great.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    It may just be Pettu's article sticking in my mind, but I could have sworn the term "Gigadrive" at least appeared in some period media referring to a next-gen console in the context of relation to (or inspiration from) the System 32 and (later) Model 1 hardware.

    In any case, I'm positive that the "Jupiter" moniker was used by some media at the time in reference to a cartridge-based Saturn . . . and the more important point (in terms of properly interpreting the opening topic post) is that "Jupiter" is used solely to describe a foreward-compatible, expandable, cartridge based Saturn derivative. (basically implying the removal of the CD-ROM interface and peripheral hardware -including SH1+RAM- along with a suitable expansion interface to add that later . . . maybe adjusting main RAM capacity too, but I was trying to avoid specific, detailed technical trade-off discussions here -the point being to reach a realistic mainstream price point for mid/late 1994 in the US with the Saturn chipset)
    Right, I think Pettus is the origin of the journalistic narrative that the "Gigadrive" was Sega's original plan for a Genesis successor console that they then "scrambled" to add 3D capabilities to after Sony's announced PS1 specs. None of that has been substantiated, and the term Gigadrive or Megadrive 32 as far as I have seen originated in 1990 EGM and Gamepro issues respectively. Both magazines trumpeted the Mega/Sega CD as the completion of these "32-bit Sega" projects. I've got all of the specific issues footnoted at the link I provided earlier, but I haven't finished documenting the later issues leading up to the Sega CD's western launch.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    And after lots of different points of view on this, it seems like this was probably the reason:
    Properly using the scaling hardware on the CD, isn't that trivial, and SoJ (for whatever reason) didn't invest much time/resource/priority/etc into really pushing that (be it unique games or ports). The only JP developer to consistently do so was Game Arts iirc (including Wing Commander).

    As to doing ports of scaler games in general, there's the question of actual consumer demand and interest for those titles, compared to how much programming effort/resources went into them. It may not have been as monetarily costly as what ended up being poured into multimedia projects, but time and number of skilled in-house programmers would have been huge factors. All the art design (optimized redrawn sprites and textures to look good with MCD color and memory limits -not to mention ASIC/VRAM rendering/bandwidth limits -ie, you weren't going to see masses of layer sprites as in Galaxy Force arcade) on top of the programming work going into the game. (and programming and art design meshing for all those limitations)

    So, if they had put more effort into supporting those effects (or polygonal 3D potential, for that matter), it probably wouldn't have been best spent primarily on "ports" as they'd basically involve as much effort as designing an entirely new game (aside from the basic level design and premise/style).
    Right, I pretty much agree. Takami's assertion that the Mega CD's scaling and rotation hardware was added to allow for Super Scaler type games is not negated by SoJ's failure to make said games. The situation and market trend had shifted away from such games by the 1992 partially thanks to the mascot platformer craze and the, then, keen interest on FMV CD-ROM games.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    Arcade ports or no, something Sega really should have put more focus on was development tools and documentation for the MCD. Without that, you either get basic (under) utilization of the hardware and mediocre results, or a handful of hardcore programmers putting the time and effort in to manually address flawed/incomplete documentation, expand on limited tools, and reverse engineer totally undocumented features. (this is more doable with older, more primitive hardware, but it becomes progressively more of a problem as power and complexity increases and the Sega CD is one of the first consols to fall in the latter category -ie Jaguar, N64, and Saturn . . . PSX and 3DO had the separate issue of omitting documentation entirely in favor of APIs, albeit Sony eventually provided more documentation; the SNES's sound module would also fall here to some extent)
    First parties holding back documentation is a significant corporate practice back then that can't be "unmade" just because we don't like it in hindsight. I've used both the Genesis + Sega CD's complexity and the state of documentation for both during their lifecycle before to show that what Sega did with the Saturn was neither new nor "hasty". What Sony and 3DO did with their systems was new and out of the ordinary, and developers complained about it limiting their software. To a large extent API based development took away the potential distinctiveness of one developer's software from another's.

    I do think it would have been better if SoJ gave better documentation once they decided not to take advantage of the Graphics Co Processor, but that would have been relatively unprecidented.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    There was a discussion on which one of those early boards would have been most practical as the basis (at least conceptually) for a console instead of the TMS9918+PSG+Z80 set-up, but I forget which specifically. (might have been G80)

    And, if nothing else, they certainly weren't "flying blind" working forward from just discrete logic based games. (as Atari -and Cyan- had with the VCS's design)
    By the time of the SG-1000 they certainly had options. I was wondering out loud whether they used an "off the shelf" design because it was still too early for them to engineer the entire console themselves.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    I might be misinterpreting the point you're trying to make (since, above, I basically implied Sega might have been better off with a custom console chipset instead of a Colecovision clone), but I never meant to imply that Sega's arcade experiences shouldn't have been taken advantage of for the home market.
    Rather, I meant, with the SMS and MD hardware, they managed to take concepts of contemporary (or somewhat older) arcade hardware and carefully work that into a reasonably balanced, cost effective home console design. (not perfect, but hey )
    I could go to point out how the Saturn design itself deviated from this somewhat (not the topic at hand), but the point I'd immediately intended was in regards to their marketing strategies (including hardware design/release cycles/schedules)
    It was just a question that occurred to me. What if the SG-1000 is exemplary of how early such console designs and engineering was for Sega at the time? I also think our previous discussions had ended with you saying the Megadrive design had nothing to do with prior System-16 hardware, so what you said about that just now is different than I expected.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    Here, the arcade should not have been a factor at all (or a minor one). As I mentioned, the progression from SG-1000 to Mk.III to MD made perfect sense given the market situations, and even the MCD made a fair deal of sense given the context. However, after the definitive runaway success the Genesis/MD had by late 1991, they entered a new situation entirely, one they hadn't really faced before but others had (namely Nintendo and Atari). The closest thing Sega had to that sort of mainstream, sweeping mass-market presence was with the Master System in Europe (especially UK), and they managed to do a pretty bang-up job managing that alongside the MD too. (albeit, that may not have happened if not for the GG's software support)
    Anyway, with the MD, Sega finally had a real mainstream console on the market that could be focused on a full, long-term lifecycle focused on competition and profit. (the latter more so in the late generation -after install base was mostly established and software sale profits were strongest)
    On the other hand, if Sega were a more conservative company they might have tried to recreate the Famicom and reap the benefits of cheaper hardware at retail. With the exception of the N64 and Gamecube that is arguably what Nintendo has done each generation (SNES SPC and Mode 7 besides). I just think it is impossible to say Sega could have been both a cutting edge developer and a conservative hardware manufacturer at the same time. There are no other companies that have pulled this off.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    The Sega CD added something interesting alongside that, for better or worse (and missed potential or no), and SoA put a major twist on that to what they thought made the mode sense (and, to be fair, the Sega CD at least sold best in the US if nothing else), but the 32x really didn't make sense from (what should have been) SoA's or SoJ's business perspectives, at very least with the Saturn ready to go for late 1994 (which was almost definite for SoJ at that point).
    If a Jupiter console could have been made in the same time frame the 32X doesn't make sense. As it stands the 32X filled a limited gap for Sega and potentially the market at large and what didn't make sense was canceling it in less than a year. The Saturn being ~$400 cost by mid 1995 and the 32X being ~$100 makes a lot more sense to me than a $400 CD-ROM based system and a $250 Cart based system with basically the same graphics but not. As a Genesis and Sega CD owner, I wanted to see Sega push that hardware for another few years even with the Saturn on the market. If instead I had seen the Sega CD in particular playing fourth fiddle to the Saturn, Jupiter and Genesis lines I probably would have responded the way the media says I should have about the 32X.

    In 1994 if I couldn't buy Sega's fully next generation system I wanted to upgrade what I already had, not replace it entirely. Seeing the 32X CD at least on paper looking just as good as the 3DO was awesome to me in 1994 and gave me a lot of hope for what second generation software would look like. The Neptune would have made this more accessable to late adopters and the high end crowd and still left the Sega CD intact as a main product line. The Jupiter would have created an even worse scenario of Sega not only canceling hardware too soon (or having to support too many lines) but also creating even more add-ons for consumers to buy in the CD-ROM attachment you mentioned.

    So, in real history, I bought a Genesis in 1989, a Sega CD in 1992 and a 32X in 1994 and I played and collected for all three right through the 32-bit generation's slow start. In the Jupiter scenario I essentially would have been asked to buy a Genesis, then a Sega CD, then a Jupiter while selling/trading my Genesis + CD, then a Jupiter CD or sell/trade my Jupiter to upgrade to the Saturn. This seems a lot more messy to me than the two Genesis add-ons. The Jupiter scenario would be more like switching back and forth between the TG16, Genesis and SNES, and I think it would have exacerbated the "split markets" situation that people like to jump up and down about.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    Again, I didn't recommend chipped carts, but an SVP add-on (doing some of what the 32x could, but far cheaper at the compromise of other features).

    It would have allowed for a good short-term product, basically following the MD (and possibly MCD) in late gen market cycle. It wouldn't compete at all by the time the PSX went mainstream, but it would have a notable purpose of allowing specific types of software not otherwise possible on a mainstream 1994 Sega platform.
    Also, aside from 3D, it would benefit late-gen 2D titles in general with potential for scaling/rotation (and other DSP assisted) effects, realtime decompression more advanced than the 68k could handle (SNES did this with chipped carts to save on ROM), and potential sound enhancements too. (a basic DMA sound circuit really should have been a simple and very worthwhile addition, with a powerful DSP to back that up, but short of that you could still do DSP mixed sound fed to the Z80+DAC for 8-bit mono output . . . and technically the latter could still sound better than much of the PWM on the 32x)
    Right, the lock-on SVP solution would have been preferable to the buy it each time model and in the absence of the 32X might have provided enough to keep existing Genesis owners from defecting.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    No. That would have addressed a tiny handful of the issues I mentioned. It still would have been far weaker than the "Jupiter" while being almost as expensive to manufacture, equally costly to market/distribute/develop for, would take more R&D resources (Saturn design being a given), and wouldn't have helped the later transition Saturn nearly as much. (and actually would hurt it in several respects)
    How is two SH-2s plus RAM plus a VDP almost as expensive as 2/3rds of a Saturn? I think in 1995 we would be looking at a Jupiter at least twice the price of the real world 32X.

    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    Jupiter would basically use the same programming/development work as the Saturn (and with fewer CD-specific format differences than the MD vs MCD due to the greater overall hardware/memory map/etc changes).
    All Jupiter games would run on Saturn and have similar basic sound/graphics capabilities (aside from CD-DA and FMV).
    All Jupiter owners would be able to upgrade to Saturn spec later on at a fraction of the cost of a standalone Saturn (or PS1, etc).
    The Jupiter's hardware was already there (or nearly finished), ready made (as the Saturn), and the only R&D required would (again) be PCB and case design for the cut-down version and its CD add-on.
    Since a Neptune would include all the 32x hardware and MD hardware, you'd end up with a board/case of similar complexity to the Saturn, albeit one needing less power and lower cost components (less RAM, cheaper custom chips), but combined with overall packaging/distribution costs the retail pricing differences probably would have been marginal at best. (roughly speaking, a $200 Neptune in late 1994 would have been a far worse value than a $250 Jupiter, on top of the many other disadvantages)
    You'd have MD compatibility (and MCD ability), but by the same stroke, you'd loose Saturn software/hardware forward compatibility.

    Had they not had the Saturn on the table at all (or a different design only early in development), then yes, that would have made more sense. (ie, it would have made more sense for Nintendo to release such an add-on at the time )
    Losing the Genesis and Sega CD in the mix would almost certainly have caused those product lines to be phased out faster than the ideal 32X scenario where software support was maintained into late 1996. Also, since the real world 32X was $100 by may of 1995 there isn't much reason to see a Neptune costing more than $150 at the same time. One of the best things about the 32X is its most expensive component would become cheaper quickly as more Saturns and 32Xs sold, and the base unit Genesis was already as cheap as could be reasonably expected. Jupiter being $250 alongside a $400 Saturn and then $200 alongside a $300 Saturn just doesn't look as tempting to me as a $100 add-on or a $150ish Duo console that was backward compatible with my existing Genesis library and my Sega CD hardware.
    "... If Sony reduced the price of the Playstation, Sega would have to follow suit in order to stay competitive, but Saturn's high manufacturing cost would then translate into huge losses for the company." p170 Revolutionaries at Sony.

    "We ... put Sega out of the hardware business ..." Peter Dille senior vice president of marketing at Sony Computer Entertainment

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    Raging in the Streets A Black Falcon's Avatar
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    I can't even begin to understand why someone would actually say that Sega should have released a full-scale Genesis addon in 1994, or a second major addon to the system period. 32X, Jupiter, it doesn't matter, either one would have been a horrendously bad idea. I mean, looking at the first post, I agree with kool_kitty89 for the most part in the analysis of the five reasons why Sega released the 32X, and why those were mistaken... but finishing the post with an even somewhat positive view of releasing the Jupiter instead of the 32X? What? That's just crazy, and would have been just as bad an idea as the 32X itself was. There's no way that releasing either one of them was a sane idea, for the reasons that you describe.

    As for a stand-alone (lock-on) SVP addon, maybe they could have done that, but it depends on how many SVP games they were planning on releasing. If it was going to be just 3-6 games, then I think that going the Nintendo route and simply charging higher prices for the carts, SNES Super FX game-style, would have been the better path. Sure, it'd cost the customers more overall than buying a lockon and then several cheaper carts, but people are funny... they don't always go with the cheaper overall thing, but with the thing that has the lower initial price. Also, I'm sure that people would have had much lower expectations for a cheap SVP lockon addon than they did with the 32X, but still... Sega's biggest mistake in '94 was assuming that another transition addon was needed, and that the 4th gen consoles as they were needed help (and addons). This was, of course, a flawed, and false, analysis, we now know. Nintendo's Donkey Kong Country ads showing off how this was possible on a regular cart, so why should you go buy that expensive addon (32X), were very effective... yes, the 32X sold well at first anyway, but on the whole, Nintendo very definitely won that argument, and for good reason. Sega should have realized that the Genesis as it was could have done fine for another year or two in the West, had they continued to support it as their main focus, and that no addon was needed. I can understand wanting more powerful hardware, but actually releasing anything beyond more SVP games would be a mistake.

    I know that in Japan NEC got away with a few addons -- the CD drive and Super CD card/drives did well, after all -- but the Arcade Card and SuperGrafx didn't do quite as well, so they had a mixed record on addons, and of course that was all in Japan; there's never been a console addon in the West that succeeded like that. The N64 Expansion Pak and the Kinect are probably the two most successful ones here, but neither one of those was anywhere near the Super CD in success.
    Last edited by A Black Falcon; 01-26-2013 at 04:40 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by A Black Falcon View Post
    The N64 Expansion Pak and the Kinect are probably the two most successful ones here, but neither one of those was anywhere near the Super CD in success.
    I get that you cannot imagine an add-on succeeding. I mean, in the US the mainstream media has this huge myth surrounding them that makes them seem even worse than politicians or hollywood. These views are completely disregarding the success of peripherals that were financially successful. I don't know the complete list of profitable peripherals and neither does anybody here. But...

    20 Million Kinect Adventures says you are wrong. And...

    Owners of Donkey Kong 64, Majora's Mask, Perfect Dark, and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 all say you are wrong.

    Also, every peripheral ever designed, marketed and sold say you_are_wrong.
    "... If Sony reduced the price of the Playstation, Sega would have to follow suit in order to stay competitive, but Saturn's high manufacturing cost would then translate into huge losses for the company." p170 Revolutionaries at Sony.

    "We ... put Sega out of the hardware business ..." Peter Dille senior vice president of marketing at Sony Computer Entertainment

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    Raging in the Streets A Black Falcon's Avatar
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    Kinect Adventures may have sold well, but look at the Kinect's actual game library -- it's very, VERY thin. The camera sold, but there are very few games for the thing, and most of the ones that there are are super low budget casual stuff. The few attempts at even vaguely hardcore stuff mostly either don't work, or are better with a gamepad. Now part of that is because of the limitations of the hardware (I certainly believe that controllers are better for games...), but it's also obvious that people didn't exactly try very hard.

    As for the N64 controller pak, that was packed in with several games, most notably DK64, and that game with the expansion pak cost only slightly more than a normal game, so it was pretty easy to get. And even despite that, and despite 70+ games that support it, a lot of later N64 games don't support it, including some major releases like Banjo-Tooie, Conker, Paper Mario, Pokemon Stadium 2, etc, etc. Games trying to hit the largest market intentionally didn't have expansion pak support because not everyone had one.

    As I said though, I would consider both of those borderline cases, things with did okay enough to maybe call them successes. The same might be said about the Sega CD. However, none succeeded like the TG16/PCE Super CD drive -- that is, none actually replaced the base system, and became the new standard. I know Sega wasn't trying to do that with their 32X/Jupiter/whatever addons, but what they were trying to do was confused (the idea that splitting the market yet again with another addon Sega would struggle to support was actually a good idea was crazy, and at least the "sure to be thin game library on the Genesis, Sega CD, and 32X" element of that certainly should have been seen ahead of time)... and anyway, the mark of a successful addon is a high adoption rate and lots of games for it, right? The N64 Expansion Pak, Kinect, and Sega CD all had that for a while, but then they faded, and by the end of those systems' lives, more games were back to the basics than supported the "successful" addon.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    So, at this point let me draw another scenario: Atari Corp, seeing Sega's rising success in 1990, with relations presumably reasonable between the two companies (and Katz potentially helping things along -knowing both sides, albeit with Sam Tramiel at the reigns instead of Jack), and Atari sees with Sega becoming a real force in the US (along with Nintendo), it might be better to cut the plans of a long-term world-beating console hardware project and attempt a new partnership.
    Or, slightly different, Atari comes to this decision in mid 1991, after the more obvious/notable stand-out success of the Genesis. At that point, Kalinske had replaced Katz so things were a little different, but it wouldn't have been too unlike SGI approaching Sega later on. (on a side note, it might have been more interesting if Atari had attempted to get Katz back at this point, given the replacements they ended up with -including Bernie Stolar for a short time, but that's another topic)

    I'm going to assume that the Sega CD was locked in for SoJ at this point, so that was primed for release (or already released) by the time Atari would have approached Sega.

    In any case, by this point, Atari not only could see Sega's rising dominance (along with Atari's own internal decline), but they'd have actual first revision TOM chips available to offer Sega, under the right circumstances. Had some sort of partnership been seriously considered at this point, then the issue with possible compatibility with the MD could have been addressed too. The Jaguar was early enough in design that they probably could have made compromises to reasonably mold the MD hardware around it with reasonable cost optimization (MD video hardware mostly/completely vestigial, perhaps putting the VRAM to good use, etc), but putting the MCD hardware on the table would complicate things greatly (absolute necessity for a good chunk of specific hardware, -dual 68ks, specific buses, etc, etc).
    -Note that Sega taking on the Jaguar with Atari as a partner would also mean eliminating Atari as potential competition. (a far more serious a consideration back in '91) There's other possible implications like Lynx vs GG (or cancelling GG in favor of rolling Lynx in with Sega too -but that's more in line with the 1990 thing too)

    So, at that point (late 1991), you'd either have to make the argument to cancel the US/EU MCD releases and greenlight a MD/Jaguar hybrid, or release the MCD anyway and either drop backwards compatibility on the Jaguar, or sacrifice some cost effectiveness and complexity to allow MCD and MD compatibility on the Jaguar.
    Going with the more convoluted option of releasing the MCD internationally and shifting Jaguar development to cater towards being a CD-ROM based system and including MD+MCD hardware, then you'd pretty much certainly be omitting JERRY anyway (the conglomeration of other hardware filling in for sound and I/O)
    It's not really a Jaguar anymore though, but more a modified MCD with TOM ASIC and some interface hardware. (since it's a total system, you could potentially reconfigure some things when not in compatibility mode, and avoid some problems/bottlenecks -and address constraints- on the actual MD+MCD)

    Once it was decided how the "old" hardware might be utilized effectively in the new system, you could get down to how TOM is going to be configured too. (ie adding its own bus+RAM, sharing an existing bus, etc, etc) Also assuming that (since TOM has already reached revision 1 silicon) that most changes to that will be bug fixes and refinements with primary efforts of Flare put on that. (with collaboration where necessary to make sure the "Sega" side of things mesh well)
    In that sense, you've got an obvious bottleneck for texture mapping since Sega's plans for 3D (or bandwidth-taking 2D rotation/warping effects -blitter limited, sine OPL only does zooming), you'd probably want to go with the dual-bank interleave workaround. (configure DRAM with 1 64-bit bank for OPL sprite textures/framebuffer and a second bank -only needs to be 16-bits wide for blitter textel fetch- and considerably improve texture mapping bandwidth . . . having a full 64-bit wide 2nd bank would help more for plain 2D -unscaled- blits though)

    For cost saving, it might make sense to repurpose a bus and/or RAM already present in the MD/MCD for JERRY to work on. Like, maybe add 2 more 64kx16-bit DRAMs and combine that on the word RAM bus as a 64-bit wide 512kB block and add another 256kx16-bit DRAM for blitter textures (unless you wanted to go for dual 64-bit wide banks). -Lots of other options tor RAM- Probably expand MD DRAM (and switch to common DRAM instead of PSRAM) and clock it up (maybe run both 68ks at 16.67 MHz -going off the 50 MHz clock, and since 16 MHz 68ks would be very cheap by release time -it's what the Jag used) and distribute sound/game logic/CD-ROM management tasks between the dual 68ks. (I might be mistaken here, but with other modifications possible, the word RAM bus wouldn't be necessary as the main method for communication anymore -like adding the ability for one 68k to have priority and directly access the other's bus as needed)
    -maybe even lock out the MD VDP/VRAM in "Jaguar" mode and plan to merge some of that hardware later. (like emulating the VRAM bus with added buffering and other RAM already in the system -like what later happened with SDRAM in the model 3 -actually merging the 68k and VDP RAM)
    That, or genlock it internally, and allow occasional use of MD video overlay when useful. (maybe with some low-cost tweaks like expanding the color DAC/palettes and -maybe- adding a little more VRAM)
    And a 2x CD drive, of course. (still could otherwise share the same -or very similar- CD-ROM interface)

    -So, also somewhat going back to your original suggestion for a MD+MCD derived console, except with more superfluous hardware and, after more thought since then, quite possibly better overall cost effectiveness (given flare's design, and the fact that "your" proposal ended up including a bunch of other variables and added constraints specific to building around the old MD VDP architecture)

    Making a TOM based "32x" type system J64 if you will) would still have involved many of the bottlenecks/limitations as the 32x itself (albeit with a kick-ass GPU/blitter/OPL), so still massive trade-offs there compared to an independent (even if backward compatible) system with improvements across the board. (and potentially lower net cost than MD+CD+J64)
    Hmm - a Tom-based MCD... that would have been an interesting path. Tom instead of the ASIC, and depending on how development went, Jerry in place of the Ricoh PCM chip. Maybe no extra 68000. Atari getting Sega to work on the custom chips would have probably meant eliminating the bugs and higher volume/cheaper prices since Sega was already heavy into custom hardware.

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    Quote Originally Posted by A Black Falcon View Post
    Kinect Adventures may have sold well, but look at the Kinect's actual game library -- it's very, VERY thin. The camera sold, but there are very few games for the thing, and most of the ones that there are are super low budget casual stuff. The few attempts at even vaguely hardcore stuff mostly either don't work, or are better with a gamepad. Now part of that is because of the limitations of the hardware (I certainly believe that controllers are better for games...), but it's also obvious that people didn't exactly try very hard.

    As for the N64 controller pak, that was packed in with several games, most notably DK64, and that game with the expansion pak cost only slightly more than a normal game, so it was pretty easy to get. And even despite that, and despite 70+ games that support it, a lot of later N64 games don't support it, including some major releases like Banjo-Tooie, Conker, Paper Mario, Pokemon Stadium 2, etc, etc. Games trying to hit the largest market intentionally didn't have expansion pak support because not everyone had one.

    As I said though, I would consider both of those borderline cases, things with did okay enough to maybe call them successes. The same might be said about the Sega CD. However, none succeeded like the TG16/PCE Super CD drive -- that is, none actually replaced the base system, and became the new standard. I know Sega wasn't trying to do that with their 32X/Jupiter/whatever addons, but what they were trying to do was confused (the idea that splitting the market yet again with another addon Sega would struggle to support was actually a good idea was crazy, and at least the "sure to be thin game library on the Genesis, Sega CD, and 32X" element of that certainly should have been seen ahead of time)... and anyway, the mark of a successful addon is a high adoption rate and lots of games for it, right? The N64 Expansion Pak, Kinect, and Sega CD all had that for a while, but then they faded, and by the end of those systems' lives, more games were back to the basics than supported the "successful" addon.
    So, what amount of games need to be made for a peripheral/add-on before it is worth it in your opinion?
    "... If Sony reduced the price of the Playstation, Sega would have to follow suit in order to stay competitive, but Saturn's high manufacturing cost would then translate into huge losses for the company." p170 Revolutionaries at Sony.

    "We ... put Sega out of the hardware business ..." Peter Dille senior vice president of marketing at Sony Computer Entertainment

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