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Thread: SEGA Saturn a Historical Revisionism

  1. #121
    End of line.. Hero of Algol gamevet's Avatar
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    What you are describing is pretty much what SOJ presented to SOA, before SOA said that it was a bad idea and came up with the 32x.
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    Quote Originally Posted by gamevet View Post
    What you are describing is pretty much what SOJ presented to SOA, before SOA said that it was a bad idea and came up with the 32x.
    Yup and in the long run SOJ was right. The 32X we got was much better technologically but it meant spreading resources very thin. If you start with the idea of enhanced ports you can start putting 32X-specific features into games as soon as the specs are finalized, then when the console launches you have a library of compatible software (you could still make exclusive 3D titles too.)

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    That makes no sense at all. Nobody is going to pay for a console upgrade, just for more colors. I was at least interested in 32X, until information on the Saturn and PlayStation started arriving. I would have much rather had Sega stay the course with enhanced carts for the Genesis, then either choice. It would have been much cooler to have the Saturn launch with an arcade perfect port of Star Wars arcade, along with Space Harrier and Shadow Squadron. Give us a pumped up version of Knuckles Chaotix on Saturn and get North American titles ready for a 1995 launch of the Saturn.
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  4. #124
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg2600 View Post
    The problem was that nearly every 3rd party title came out much later on Saturn than Playstation. Now, were there contracts wherein Sony paid the publisher $$$ to get it earlier? Probably. Bigger reason was that Saturn was a horrid system to develop on, which delayed released beyond PSX and PC, not to mention SNES in some cases.
    I agree with all of your points except this one, Greg2600. The Saturn was not a horrid system to develop for. Developers were used to having to learn the hardware to create games for it, which is the approach SEGA took with the Saturn. However, through the use of C and development libraries, Sony made the PS1 much easier to make games for that developers got used to that method and saw Saturn development as more challenging in comparison. If there's an easier way to do something, humans will take that approach instead. Why spend months learning the Saturn system architecture when you could have created at least one full game and had it released on the PS1 instead? Hence Sony got most games first. If it was just that the hardware was difficult to work with, then both PS2 and PS3 would have been flops because those systems had really strange hardware.

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    Quote Originally Posted by axel View Post
    Yup and in the long run SOJ was right. The 32X we got was much better technologically but it meant spreading resources very thin. If you start with the idea of enhanced ports you can start putting 32X-specific features into games as soon as the specs are finalized, then when the console launches you have a library of compatible software (you could still make exclusive 3D titles too.)
    That's why the Jupiter project was the better idea (well for me) and the one that SEGA America/Europe and Japan should have backed. You have a much cheaper main system and where it doesn't split developer resources or pipelines; it's basically the same system only one with less main Ram and a CD drive. It could have been a lot like the early days of PC-CD ROM on the Dos. You have the CD versions with all the bells and whistles or the cut back floppy version, buts its still same game using the same engine and mostly the same resources
    Like how you had a slightly cut back 15 floppy version of Returns To Zork or the CD Rom version. And anyone who would have bought the Jupiter would have the ability to upgrade when CD-Rom costs came really down and all their games would work on the Saturn. So wouldn't feel so ripped off either. I also felt that with the Mega CD SEGA should have looked into buying CORE design, but foolishly SEGA allowed US Gold to invest in CORE before Edios came along to buy them outright


    I also feel that when SEGA Japan launched the Multi-Tap in Japan when Victory Goal came out. SEGA should have ported Revenge Of Death Adder and Arabian Fight has a double package to show off not only the 2D might but supports the Multi-Tap with 4 player action
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gryson View Post
    Nakayama also never "cut the Genesis off" - he continued to praise the high sales of the Genesis throughout 1995 and 1996 and pledged more support for it.
    Given that SEGA was bleeding money by focusing on and supporting so many systems at once, Nakayama did cut off support for the Genesis and all other SEGA platforms in 1996 so that the company could focus on the Saturn (as outlined in Sam Petus' book). Unfortunately this had the opposite effect Nakayama intended. By cutting off support for all legacy hardware, he cut off all financial income from these still viable sources, and shunned consumers who still played these systems. Look at what Nintendo did: they supported the SNES until 1998. SEGA could have done something similar with the Mega Drive while still cutting support for less profitable systems like the 32X and outdated ones like the Master System. But, since the Saturn was doing so well in Japan, he thought that would be enough to keep the company afloat. Unfortunately, Japan is only a small market in comparison to the US, where the Genesis was still going strong.

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    Quote Originally Posted by axel View Post
    I'm picturing it like if you bought a game for the 32X it might run in 256 colors with gouraud shading, you put the same cart (plus a CD) into your Saturn and now it's thousands of colors, a higher framerate, textures and better audio. That way people could buy the 32X knowing it's going to get lots of new games and there's an upgrade path to the Saturn whenever they want. Obviously both consoles would have had to be redesigned to make this feasible. But that way you can sell to both the high and low end of the market.
    Great idea, axel. That was the kind of thing I thought SEGA were attempting to do during this period, but obviously it turned out differently. It wouldn't have been too hard to implement though, given the 32X and Saturn shared the same VDPs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Heresy Dragon View Post
    Unfortunately this had the opposite effect Nakayama intended. By cutting off support for all legacy hardware, he cut off all financial income from these still viable sources, and shunned consumers who still played these systems. Look at what Nintendo did: they supported the SNES until 1998.
    One needs to bear in mind that the Snes launched 2 years after the Mega Drive and also if not for a year delay for the N64 hardware, Nintendo support for the Snes would have ended sooner. The Mega Drive came out in 88 or 89 in the USA. Come 1996/7 it really time to stop developing on the system more so why you had warehouses full of unsold carts with the 16-bit market oversaturated.

    I think people were more than ready to move on myself
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gryson View Post
    Simply because the 32X was a colossal failure.
    That's not entirely true. I've read that the launch of the 32X and its run into the holiday season of 1994 was considered successful at the time. It was only after the holidays when there was a dearth of games for the system that things began to look grim for the 32X. It's quite possible this prompted Nakayama's decision to launch the Saturn early to, as you say, catch the 32-bit market before it was ceded to Sony.

    Thank you for the insightful post, BTW.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Heresy Dragon View Post
    I agree with all of your points except this one, Greg2600. The Saturn was not a horrid system to develop for. Developers were used to having to learn the hardware to create games for it, which is the approach SEGA took with the Saturn. However, through the use of C and development libraries, Sony made the PS1 much easier to make games for that developers got used to that method and saw Saturn development as more challenging in comparison. If there's an easier way to do something, humans will take that approach instead. Why spend months learning the Saturn system architecture when you could have created at least one full game and had it released on the PS1 instead? Hence Sony got most games first. If it was just that the hardware was difficult to work with, then both PS2 and PS3 would have been flops because those systems had really strange hardware.
    The Saturn was difficult to develop for even if you spent months on "figuring it out", the VDP1/2 combination had a dozen gotchas where turning on one useful mode meant that you had to turn off 3 other necessary functions. Like, you want to put a polygon behind a background - but this requires you to force palette mode sprites which means you have to precalculate the colour of every pixel of every texture, and any shading whatsoever is only possible due to a hardware bug and requires *even more* precalculated pixel colours. Per texture.

    It was an interesting technical challenge to get the best looking graphics given all the limitations, and it did give us some very impressive looking games that only looked the way they did because they took advantage of the Saturns strengths (Panzer Dragoons, Guardian Heroes, Radiant Silvergun). But as a console to develop games for, it sucked.

    Also didn't help that the PSX GPU was up to 6 times faster *and* did not have any limitation on what effects you can do in what mode, except for the memory cost.

    Quote Originally Posted by Heresy Dragon View Post
    Great idea, axel. That was the kind of thing I thought SEGA were attempting to do during this period, but obviously it turned out differently. It wouldn't have been too hard to implement though, given the 32X and Saturn shared the same VDPs.
    The 32x and Saturn VDPs were nothing alike. I think it's kind of a stretch to even call the 32x VDP as a VDP. What could it do, beyond filling rectangular areas with a given byte value?

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    Quote Originally Posted by zyrobs View Post
    The Saturn was difficult to develop for even if you spent months on "figuring it out", the VDP1/2 combination had a dozen gotchas where turning on one useful mode meant that you had to turn off 3 other necessary functions. Like, you want to put a polygon behind a background - but this requires you to force palette mode sprites which means you have to precalculate the colour of every pixel of every texture, and any shading whatsoever is only possible due to a hardware bug and requires *even more* precalculated pixel colours. Per texture.

    It was an interesting technical challenge to get the best looking graphics given all the limitations, and it did give us some very impressive looking games that only looked the way they did because they took advantage of the Saturns strengths (Panzer Dragoons, Guardian Heroes, Radiant Silvergun). But as a console to develop games for, it sucked.

    Also didn't help that the PSX GPU was up to 6 times faster *and* did not have any limitation on what effects you can do in what mode, except for the memory cost.
    How do you know this? Have you developed for the Saturn yourself?

    I only ask because there were many developers out there, such as AM2 and Lobotomy, who created games that were graphically excellent. I don't doubt that the Saturn was challenging to work with, but how come some developers produced what some people call "miracles" while others couldn't? To me, that suggests developers whose games were lacklustre graphically probably didn't put in the time to learn the machine like people such as AM2 and Lobotomy probably did.

    Of course, having good development libraries later on helped developers produce better games later in the system's life, but initially you had to understand how the machine worked at a hardware level to be able to produce something good. And, given the PS2 and PS3 were similar nightmares to program for, how come developers never gave up with those systems but they did with the Saturn? Is this simply because Sony provided better support for their developers?

    Quote Originally Posted by zyrobs View Post
    The 32x and Saturn VDPs were nothing alike. I think it's kind of a stretch to even call the 32x VDP as a VDP. What could it do, beyond filling rectangular areas with a given byte value?
    Sorry, I meant the SH2s.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Team Andromeda View Post
    One needs to bear in mind that the Snes launched 2 years after the Mega Drive and also if not for a year delay for the N64 hardware, Nintendo support for the Snes would have ended sooner. The Mega Drive came out in 88 or 89 in the USA. Come 1996/7 it really time to stop developing on the system more so why you had warehouses full of unsold carts with the 16-bit market oversaturated.

    I think people were more than ready to move on myself
    As Tom Kalinske has said, the Genesis only really started taking off in the West in 1991, which meant that by 94/95 it still had some life and potential left in it. The system still had a strong user base - SEGA could have continued making Genesis games for a few more years while they rolled out the Saturn in Japan and later in the West.

    Moreover, the PS2 came out in 2000 and the last game released for it was in 2014, so there is precedence for consoles surviving beyond the generation they were created as part of.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Heresy Dragon View Post
    How do you know this? Have you developed for the Saturn yourself?

    I only ask because there were many developers out there, such as AM2 and Lobotomy, who created games that were graphically excellent. I don't doubt that the Saturn was challenging to work with, but how come some developers produced what some people call "miracles" while others couldn't? To me, that suggests developers whose games were lacklustre graphically probably didn't put in the time to learn the machine like people such as AM2 and Lobotomy probably did.

    Of course, having good development libraries later on helped developers produce better games later in the system's life, but initially you had to understand how the machine worked at a hardware level to be able to produce something good. And, given the PS2 and PS3 were similar nightmares to program for, how come developers never gave up with those systems but they did with the Saturn? Is this simply because Sony provided better support for their developers?
    Plenty of (official) documentation is available, as well as many devkits, if you want to check how the hardware works. Some hardware problems you have to work around are:
    - VDP1 is slow
    - You can only do transparency or gouraud shading with RGB colour polygons
    - you can only put polygons behind backgrounds, or make them transparent on a background, if you use palette colours (but then you have no sprite transparency or shading)
    - gouraud shading with palettes works through a hardware bug, but limits you to 127 shading steps maximum, and you have to pre-calculate the shaded colours in the palette. With max 2048 colours, this limits what you can put lightning on.
    - any high-res mode forces you to use 8-bit colours, making any shading impractical
    - sprite to background transparency will make every sprite between the two objects disappear (they have been overwritten before)
    - the VDP2 can do many backgrounds, but only two can rotate+scale, only two can scale, the last two can only do 256 colours max, and if you use the 2nd rotating background you cannot use any of the scrolling ones - so it's either 1 rotating + 2 scaling + 2 scrolling BG or 2 rotating BG, total

    So you can use either polygon transparency or background transparency, but not both. If you use polygon transparency, you can only use low-res polygons, and you can't put polygons behind/under backgrounds, the entire framebuffer has 1 priority. Unless you mix RGB and 16-bit palette sprites, but even then you can only put palette sprites behind/under backgrounds, and you can't mix those with transparent polygons - but you can make them transparent to backgrounds, but this will erase any other polygons between the polygon and the background, and you can only use shading with them if you pre-calculate their shaded palette entries (all the shading does is increase the pixel value from -128 to +127, put the shaded colours in those palette entries and you get lightning) If you want to use high-res, even medium res, you then only have 8-bit palette polygons, so 256 colours max, unless you want to put a sprite behind/above a background, or make them transparent - then you have to sacrifice colour fidelity for transparency enable bits or priority bits and now you are talking 128 or 64 colours max... And if you want to make big 3d games, you need as much texture space as possible, so you limit yourself to 4-bit Colour Look-Up Table textures (which is not the same as a palette, the palette is on the VDP2, the CLUTs are VDP1 virtual palettes of a sort...). Oh, gouraud shading needs to be pre-calculated and uploaded as a shading table to VRAM, even if you are in 15-bit mode.

    And you use quads which means you either need to build special optimized models with minimal triangles, and/or convert textures so they look right on quads that have two corners coalesced to make a triangle. Oh and you can't use UV texturing, so every texture has to be separately loaded as a grid of a sort. Also if you make a quad with two sides inverted, you can draw a bowtie, but any shading you use can get screwed up if you start drawing concave quadrilaterals.

    Meanwhile the developer tools include a C compiler for SH2, some basic tools to read the CD, and two books on all the VDP1 functions and VDP2 registers (580 pages total).

    This is not even getting into the CPU sides of either console, which would be just more of the same. Point is, the Saturn was fundamentally limited in what it could output graphically, even if you did as much as you could to push the CPUs to the limit. Developers like Lobotomy and AM2 poured their hearts and souls into it to get the amount of graphics they got, despite the limitations of the hardware - what they pulled out in the limited time they had did amount to nothing short of a miracle.

    Figuring out how to push the system on the CPU side means nothing if your GPU is broken.

  14. #134
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    Quote Originally Posted by gamevet View Post
    It would have been much cooler to have the Saturn launch with an arcade perfect port of Star Wars arcade, along with Space Harrier and Shadow Squadron. Give us a pumped up version of Knuckles Chaotix on Saturn and get North American titles ready for a 1995 launch of the Saturn.
    Just imagine if Sega had known that the Saturn would be selling for $299 right after launch in Oct 1995, or $249 in March 1996, or $200 in May 1996. In the end, the whole concern about price came to nothing. Granted, in early 1994, it was unimaginable that Sega would sell the Saturn for under $400 (launch price in Japan was ~$450).

    Quote Originally Posted by Heresy Dragon View Post
    Given that SEGA was bleeding money by focusing on and supporting so many systems at once, Nakayama did cut off support for the Genesis and all other SEGA platforms in 1996 so that the company could focus on the Saturn (as outlined in Sam Petus' book). Unfortunately this had the opposite effect Nakayama intended. By cutting off support for all legacy hardware, he cut off all financial income from these still viable sources, and shunned consumers who still played these systems.
    Quote Originally Posted by Heresy Dragon View Post
    As Tom Kalinske has said, the Genesis only really started taking off in the West in 1991, which meant that by 94/95 it still had some life and potential left in it. The system still had a strong user base - SEGA could have continued making Genesis games for a few more years while they rolled out the Saturn in Japan and later in the West.
    This isn't supported by the facts. Bear with me. First, Sam Pettus's book is not reliable. He wrote it at a time when not many sources were available and he used almost no Japanese sources. In reality, Nakayama continued to support the Genesis until he stepped down. The evidence of this is plentiful. When the Genesis sold really well during the 1995 holiday season (surprising everybody), he is quoted in a Japanese newspaper as saying that Sega will be putting renewed efforts into the Genesis. In 1996, he is quoted saying he dedicated a Japanese development team to the Genesis, and they ported Virtua Fighter 2, which was released at the start of 1997. SOA continued to publish Genesis titles in 1997. Sega Channel, which was a pet project of Nakayama, continued until the end of 1998 (in 1997 he is quoted as saying that it finally, to his great satisfaction, turned a profit), and the Nomad sold until 1999. Japan developed the Genesis 3 and licensed it to Majesco in 1998. The Genesis sold at least 1 million units in 1997. NPD game sales data from 1995/1996 suggests that even though the SNES had DKC that sold hugely, the Genesis matched it spread out through its (primarily sports) titles.

    None of that fits into an interpretation where Sega cut off support for the Genesis early on. The Genesis was undeniably still recognized as a point of profit for the company.

    SOA even produced more Genesis games in 1996 than Saturn games (where by 'produce' I mean they developed in-house or contracted with a US developer and then published).

    Quote Originally Posted by Heresy Dragon View Post
    That's not entirely true. I've read that the launch of the 32X and its run into the holiday season of 1994 was considered successful at the time. It was only after the holidays when there was a dearth of games for the system that things began to look grim for the 32X. It's quite possible this prompted Nakayama's decision to launch the Saturn early to, as you say, catch the 32-bit market before it was ceded to Sony.

    Thank you for the insightful post, BTW.
    Let me be clear - when I say the 32X was a failure, I don't mean how many units it sold at launch. I mean as a source of profit for the company. Hardware sales ultimately don't mean anything, since the company sold the hardware at cost. Profit was entirely derived from game sales. By the time of the 32X launch, Sega would have likely known that the 32X was not going to be successful, simply because it did not get almost any 3rd party support. The company probably had a good sense of what games would be sold up to a year in advance, and they would have been able to see that the 32X was not going to be able to turn a profit. They could have doubled down on it and put their own development efforts behind it full blast in the hopes that 3rd parties jumped on later, but the writing was on the wall by then.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Heresy Dragon View Post
    As Tom Kalinske has said, the Genesis only really started taking off in the West in 1991, which meant that by 94/95 it still had some life and potential left in it. The system still had a strong user base - SEGA could have continued making Genesis games for a few more years while they rolled out the Saturn in Japan and later in the West.
    Even SEGA Japan was still making software for the Mega Drive in 1995. That still doesn't change the fact that the Snes/Famicom came out nearly 2 years after the Mega Drive and so it should stand to reason that is got 2 more years support after the Mega Drive, more so with a delay to N64 Hardware making Nintendo take out a 2 page add in magazines and how Dinoraurs will fly, after the planned launch date of 1995 had to be put back. The Mega Drive came out in 88 and the Saturn in 94. That's a longer main system life span tham the PS had (given the PS2 came out in 2000 and the PS in 94) and the same life span as the PS2 and even that was because BluRay delayed the PS3 by a year.

    Not that there was much of a market in 1995/6. Despite a huge user base games like Comix Zone, The Ooze just didn't sell in great numbers and even Sonic saw huge declines in sales by the time of S&K. 6 to 7 years is more than enough for any console before you look to release its successor.
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