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Thread: Low resolution mode (like X-Men, etc.): Why?

  1. #16
    Hero of Algol Kamahl's Avatar
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    Yeah the performance boost is really the big difference in the MD case, the other two don't get nearly as big a benefit from the extra VRAM.
    Would the performance boost make a 32k/32k split preferable to a single 64k chip? It should make something like SoulStar run a lot faster at least but I don't know how it would negatively affect regular games.

    The CRAM and PCM issues are the biggest offenders though. PCM in particular is mind boggling, it would be one thing if they didn't put a FIFO/interrupts/whatever but knew a way to program it effectively regardless, but they sucked at it :S.

    For all the other 4th gen systems, the improvements are obvious in hindsight but would require somewhat substantial changes and it's understandable the engineers didn't do so. In the MD case it's more poor wiring than anything else.

  2. #17
    Raging in the Streets Sik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kamahl View Post
    Yeah the performance boost is really the big difference in the MD case, the other two don't get nearly as big a benefit from the extra VRAM.
    Well, mode 7 on SNES would probably benefit a lot… (for starters, split screen mode 7 with large maps becomes feasible because there's enough memory to hold two tilemaps — now you know why most mode 7 racers are single player only and why Mario Kart has to resort to slow cars)

    Quote Originally Posted by Kamahl View Post
    Would the performance boost make a 32k/32k split preferable to a single 64k chip? It should make something like SoulStar run a lot faster at least but I don't know how it would negatively affect regular games.
    The big problem is that the kind of RAM they used only comes in powers of four, so it was either 16K+16K (32K) or 64K+64K (128K), no in-between point. The latter was likely deemed too expensive, and the former was probably seen as too little, hence why they went with a single 64K chip instead, even if that lowered performance (though 8-bit VRAM has the same bandwidth as what SNES uses, so even that isn't as bad).

    (OK nitpick: early systems used two 64Kx4 chips instead of one 64Kx8, but point stands)

    But yeah, it was entirely a combination of cost and that unlucky restriction. Otherwise there's absolutely no reason to avoid it, you can transfer 14KB in a single vblank instead of 7KB (so all those Mega CD games would have been able to achieve faster framerate more easily, or at least with less noticeable tearing), and normal 2D games would be able to stream in more sprite graphics at the same time. And that's assuming there isn't the extra 64KB, which in the former case would allow for double buffering (making it even easier to cope with) and in the latter case would allow for more detailed backgrounds and smoother animations (for the case of games that load all frames into VRAM, usually the stuff that's compressed in ROM).

    Heck, I think it even fixes two of the DMA modes (DMA copy and DMA fill, which I believe become word-based in this mode, which basically fixes all the ugly quirks they have). I still would argue that they're worthless but…

    Quote Originally Posted by Kamahl View Post
    In the MD case it's more poor wiring than anything else.
    Should I mention that in early board revisions they forgot to connect two of the address lines in the expansion slot? (which is why PRG-RAM has to be accessed in 128KB banks on the Mega CD) They fixed that later, but it means those lines can't really be used ever due to compatibility concerns.

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    Hero of Algol Kamahl's Avatar
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    Didn't know about the power of 4 restriction, that explains a lot. Unfortunate situation but I can see how their hands were tied in that regard.
    Doesn't excuse all the other screw ups though, damn it Sega!

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    Quote Originally Posted by McValdemar View Post
    Well, Megadrive has many resolution modes:
    NTSC: 320×224P
    NTSC: 256×224P
    NTSC: 320×448I
    NTSC: 256×448I
    PAL: 320×224P
    PAL: 256×224P
    PAL: 320×240P
    PAL: 256×240P
    PAL: 320×448I
    PAL: 256×448I
    PAL: 320×480I
    PAL: 256×480I
    PAL system has many resolution modes, the NTSC system does not haha.


    I honestly think master palette kinda matters more overall, but the Genesis is like right on the edge.. what's more impactful? 12bit master palette with the same 4 subpalettes, or 8 subpalettes instead of 4?

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    Raging in the Streets Sik's Avatar
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    I mean, the only difference is that PAL lets you pick between 28 or 30 tiles high mode (while NTSC is stuck with 28). Note that 30 tiles high would be useless on NTSC anyway as 28 already barely fits on screen (and picking 30 will reduce vblank time heavily, something that NTSC doesn't have much of but that PAL has a significant excess amount).

    There aren't many games supporting 30 tiles high in PAL tho.

    Quote Originally Posted by turboxray View Post
    I honestly think master palette kinda matters more overall, but the Genesis is like right on the edge.. what's more impactful? 12bit master palette with the same 4 subpalettes, or 8 subpalettes instead of 4?
    8 palettes, trust me. I mean, having 12-bit would be nice too, but the amount of palettes is so low that it has a more significant impact. Just look at PC Engine to see what I mean (which has 32 palettes, but still 9-bit color depth).

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    Quote Originally Posted by turboxray View Post
    PAL system has many resolution modes, the NTSC system does not haha.


    I honestly think master palette kinda matters more overall, but the Genesis is like right on the edge.. what's more impactful? 12bit master palette with the same 4 subpalettes, or 8 subpalettes instead of 4?
    Definitely 8 subpalettes, much more flexible for graphics. With pixel art and 15 colors per tile it's almost unnoticeable whether or not your master palette has 512 or 4096 colors but doubling the number on screen makes a big difference. This would really have helped with some of the arcade ports.

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    Hero of Algol Kamahl's Avatar
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    The palettes are much more important than the master palette, because of what Sik and axel said, porting becomes much easier.

    A better master palette helps to work around a limited amount of colors onscreen since you can select subtler colors that can be applied in multiple places (see Amiga Turrican 3 and BC Kid as good examples), but more colors would have been preferable.

    On the other hand Amiga Mortal Kombat looks much worse than MD Mortal Kombat. While MK is a game that really needs a better master palette, the sheer lack of colors onscreen makes it impossible to make good use of it.

    EDIT: Here's what I mean by reusing subtle colors. This enemy shares a 16 color palette with the background in the Amiga version but has its own palette in the MD version.
    While it shows how a good master palette can be used to work around limited colors onscreen, it forces you to have a more subdued, subtler look.

    Last edited by Kamahl; 05-14-2020 at 05:35 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by axel View Post
    This is the first I'd heard of the Teradrive having extra VRAM. Does it actually do anything with it?

    For the SNES I don't know if the resolution and palettes are necessarily related, it uses the same resolution as the NES because it was originally designed with backwards compatibility (that's the reason it's got a 65C816).
    What's interesting about the SNES is that many of the early titles don't even use that many colors because they used 3 bpp tiles to save on ROM, so games like Super Mario World and Link to the Past often have only about 45 colors onscreen at once.
    But no one ever complains about the lack of colors in these games, because they still look good in spite of the limitations.

    I've never quite understood why Sega limited the MD to only 4 palettes, the PCE was already out and even their earlier arcade titles like Alien Soldier use more than that.
    Well as you referenced, the SNES and Genesis games typically used around the same amount of colors, around 30 or whatever.

    So usually the SNES was not really pushing out greater numbers of colors. The difference was that it was pushing a lot of weird colors that were exclusive, but imo it was in poor taste usually. Link has pink hair for example, and all the colors are generally weird in Link to the Past and Mario World.

    Genesis generally uses better colors imo. I think Sonic 2 really nailed a great palette that was better than most games on both consoles.

    So anyway I don't think its limited colors were really a problem as people think sometimes... It was the Sega CD FMV games that actually really suffered for lack of colors...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aleste View Post
    Both X-Men and Eternal Champions run in high-res, not low-res.
    Well then why do the graphics look so rough and so blocky in both games? EC is definitely rougher, blockier graphics than SFII on Genesis.

    And X-Men I remember someone calling its graphics "like looking through a screen door."

    How does this make sense if they are in hi-res mode?

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    Hedgehog-in-Training Hedgehog-in-TrainingNameless One McValdemar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ecco View Post
    Well as you referenced, the SNES and Genesis games typically used around the same amount of colors, around 30 or whatever.

    So usually the SNES was not really pushing out greater numbers of colors. The difference was that it was pushing a lot of weird colors that were exclusive, but imo it was in poor taste usually. Link has pink hair for example, and all the colors are generally weird in Link to the Past and Mario World.

    Genesis generally uses better colors imo. I think Sonic 2 really nailed a great palette that was better than most games on both consoles.

    So anyway I don't think its limited colors were really a problem as people think sometimes... It was the Sega CD FMV games that actually really suffered for lack of colors...
    Absolutely true. If I could change one "easy" thing on MD would be the palette depth. 512 colors is really too little.
    Anyway, the limitation was obvious only on some kind of games, like the ones relying on digitalizations/FMV.

    So I definitely agree with you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by McValdemar View Post
    Absolutely true. If I could change one "easy" thing on MD would be the palette depth. 512 colors is really too little.
    Anyway, the limitation was obvious only on some kind of games, like the ones relying on digitalizations/FMV.

    So I definitely agree with you.
    Thanks, yeah I think the Genesis games with the best palettes look better than most SNES games' colors, just because they seemed to be pushing out strange colors on purpose that I just didn't appreciate.

    Genesis colors are sort of more classic colors, which I appreciate more, for the most part. And it was really just the SCD FMV that suffered for lack of colors, but the 32x did fix the colors for a couple FMV games.

    So it could have been a lot more high-color Sega CD-32x games, if that really caught on, then we could have gotten a lot of interesting games with great color and video.

    ...

    All these critiques of Genesis hardware and its add-ons... I think essentially the markets changed so drastically, that the Genesis had to die.

    But if the markets had not gone crazy for the next gen 3D consoles, then the Genesis and its add-ons could have lived longer and gotten upgraded versions that incorporated the 32x and SCD. And it could have been awesome.

    So I think basically the big problem was the market changing so chaotically at that point in time. It didn't evolve in a way that supported the Genesis and its add-ons...

    But if the market had actually supported it, the Genesis and its add-ons could have actually worked out really interesting for at least another year or more.


    So I don't think the Genesis hardware was really deficient if you think of it that way, that had the markets supported it, the Genesis could have evolved better, as the all-in-one unit. Instead of it all being abandoned suddenly, as it happened.
    Last edited by Ecco; 05-14-2020 at 07:34 AM.

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    Hero of Algol Kamahl's Avatar
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    Palettes matter more than just number of colors onscreen. As example, imagine porting Trials of Mana (the best or second best action RPG on the SNES) to the Mega Drive.

    In Trials of Mana you control 3 characters at the same time. Each of those characters has a class that improves over time, which is shown by a palette change on the character. That's 3 out of 8 sprite palettes the SNES is dedicating just for the characters and nothing else. It still has 5 other palettes for enemies and spells, plus 8 for the background. If you wanted to port Trials of Mana with this mechanic to the genesis intact, you'd have 1 palette left for backgrounds, enemies and spell effects. It would be impossible.
    You'd have to cut the palette change on class change, meaning all the classes would now look the same.

    There is no way to actually port Trials of Mana to the Genesis without a substantial loss in quality.
    Note that this is less about number of colors but simply being able to change WHICH colors a character uses. I.e. the Atary Lynx, despite only being able to show 16 colors, would be better for this because it has an extra layer of palette indirection, so each sprite can switch each of its colors to other colors from the same 16 color palette.

    Langrisser 2 looks pretty great but the background colors were stretched VERY thin (see the trees+grass in the game vs Der Langrisser), because the game has to waste palettes for the color effect it uses to show the area where the characters can move and affect.

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    Hedgehog-in-Training Hedgehog-in-TrainingWildside Expert Aleste's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ecco View Post
    Well then why do the graphics look so rough and so blocky in both games? EC is definitely rougher, blockier graphics than SFII on Genesis.

    And X-Men I remember someone calling its graphics "like looking through a screen door."

    How does this make sense if they are in hi-res mode?
    With X-Men, I'd say poor artists. With Eternal Champions it's the opposite, the art is very high quality, but to compensate lack of color palette, or maybe just to achieved a certain mood they aimed to, they used a lot of dithering. A technique which has its fans and its detractors. One thing is sure: japanese artists rarely use it and I'm pretty sure you don't find it in Japanese fighting games. That's part of EC charm though.

    By the way I think EC and Samurai Shodown are among the very very rare hires fighting games on genny.

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    Hedgehog-in-Training Hedgehog-in-TrainingWildside Expert Aleste's Avatar
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    It's blatantly obvious that, had the Megadrive been able to pick up colors from a 4096 maximum, exactly as Amiga OCS, it would have been in much, much better position in Its late life. Its attempts at rendered graphics might have given DKC a competition of sorts, instead of dropping the ball altogether. Colors was the game changer.

    Unfortunately, the idea I got is that wider palettes must have been a decisive factor in manufacturing costs. If you look at ST and Amiga, color plays a decisive role again.

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    Hedgehog-in-Training Hedgehog-in-TrainingNameless One McValdemar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aleste View Post
    It's blatantly obvious that, had the Megadrive been able to pick up colors from a 4096 maximum, exactly as Amiga OCS, it would have been in much, much better position in Its late life. Its attempts at rendered graphics might have given DKC a competition of sorts, instead of dropping the ball altogether. Colors was the game changer.

    Unfortunately, the idea I got is that wider palettes must have been a decisive factor in manufacturing costs. If you look at ST and Amiga, color plays a decisive role again.
    Amiga graphic capabilities is a nice comparison because proves how you can extend capabilities and maintain a full backwards compatibility (in terms of graphs).
    Possibly providing more depth to the palette would have been something that could be added to the MDII to preserve compatibility while addressing in a cheap way one of the major complains.

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