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Thread: Sega Saturn, its limitations, the fifth generation and the VDP-2 Factor

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    Default Sega Saturn, its limitations, the fifth generation and the VDP-2 Factor

    I've learned a lot about the Sega Saturn especially from the community. What is the point ? Sega Saturn is not as powerful in the VDP-1, according to David Gamiz's calculation the vdp1 is 37% slower than the competitor's graphics engine.

    but that's not all, vdp1 also has limitations on transparencies and effects (ok I know that VDP1 can handle these effects but in a more expensive way). In short, using the SHx2 and the VDP-1 only what we will find will be nothing less than an inferior PS1. Exactly what we've seen over the course of the fifth generation for the top multiplatform games.

    That said, here's the question: could the VDP-2 put the Sega Saturn ahead or alongside its peers?

    Examples of using the VDP-2 in 3D games for 3d games understand ''games with the camera behind the character'':

    Hellslave (most advanaced Saturn fps ?)
    Fighting Force (not released and the camera was far away)
    Burning Rangers ( despite everything the use of vdp here doesn't seem to be to create a big stage but for effects there was no problem for the other consoles to deal with it I don't know )
    Panzer Dragoon Saga
    Sonic R
    Sonic Jam (honestly as cute as any mascot game an example from early 1997)
    Mass Destruction (the camera is not behind but I put it anyway).

    Would stage and game design using vdp2 be limited in creativity?

    How could vdp2 help a port to one of these games? some would be doable given that they are great games, great graphics. Crash Bandicoot 1, Megaman legend, Soul reaver, shadowman, Spyro the dragon, Tony hawk 1, Tenchu, Tomb raider 4, Rayman 2, Toy story 2, F zero X, ocarina of Time, Banjo , Battle for Naboo. Turok, Jet force Gemini

    Or Saturn should follow another distinct line, another way of making games. But some styles are impossible to avoid: racing games, sports, 3D action and first-person shooters. Would it always be worse in these styles?


    Anyway, I start this topic to talk about the VDP-2 factor
    Brace yourselves

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    Virtua Fighter 2, showed off just how well VDP-2 could be used for 3D backgrounds.
    A Black Falcon: no, computer games and video games are NOT the same thing. Video games are on consoles, computer games are on PC. The two kinds of games are different, and have significantly different design styles, distribution methods, and game genre selections. Computer gaming and console (video) gaming are NOT the same thing."



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    Quote Originally Posted by gamevet View Post
    Virtua Fighter 2, showed off just how well VDP-2 could be used for 3D backgrounds.
    After studying and observing the Saturn fighting games and the arcades where they come from, for me it is clear that I am fully convinced that the Saturn has the primacy in the 3D fighting game. Yes I know that Tekken 3 is a wonderful game, combos, plot, scenes in CGI not even VF3 was so respected but in the technical field I believe that Saturn could have even given us a superior version of Mace the Dark Age (a game of 10 at 30fps) if vdp-2 made a 3d fake like it does amazingly in Last Bronx. I also believe thanks to vdp2 that a version of Soul Calibur similar to the arcade was possible, remembering that the SC arcade is a overclocked PS1 Hardware, the PS1 can't sustain the 60fps in this game, if it tries a port, so 30fps like Soul Blade, although that Soul Edge in the arcade is also 30fps.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gamevet View Post
    Virtua Fighter 2, showed off just how well VDP-2 could be used for 3D backgrounds.
    The backgrounds in VF2 are very basic and look pretty bad. You can clearly see that it's just two flat images scrolling around while the arena is suspended in empty space. It's especially evident after a ring out. Only the arena floor looked good, being a vanilla "mode 7" effect. VF2 could've been made to look better by using the windowing function to create a 2nd level floor around the arena that stretches infinitely (the same trick as what Grandia does). It would've allowed for the arena and a large amount of ground around it. That would've fixed the biggest graphic oddity in the game. And that way they could've made Shun's stage stay as a raft on a river, instead of a riverside arena.

    Best use of the VDP2 for 3d was probably either Sonic R or Radiant Silvergun, from the top of my head. And Burning Rangers for using it in an unorthodox way.

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    Dead or Alive perfected VDP2 backgrounds for fighting games. Everything lines up and feels natural. Even the bridge overhead.

    Last Bronx was also a great example, but the art/style is so bland it wasted.
    Quote Originally Posted by year2kill06
    everyone knows nintendo is far way cooler than sega just face it nintendo has more better games and originals

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    in fact there are limitations on the use of the VDP-2 and I imagine that there are also limitations on the creativity of how to use it, I mean in a way every game uses it for internal matters of the engine or for hud etc.
    It only has value as a differentiator for the Saturn if it is used to create larger worlds or to save polygons

    Having said that, not only in Daytona but also in Sega Rally the use of vpd2 is almost nil, so making a racing game in 3d in it leaves the flat design flat and boring, apart from these games being arcade ports, that is, there was already one concept of the game, it was not a product made directly for the Saturn, the VDP2 cannot make a curve like in tomb raider 2 and other 3d games where the character goes down hills because its ability is in making flat scenarios like Sonic Jam and Sonic R , I think that only in these style of games and others that could be variations of these two is that the VDP would prove to be useful against the GPU of competing consoles, what do I say with that? I say that based on observations, it would not be possible to use VDP2 to make it easier for the Saturn to run games from 1998 onwards, the Saturn would be forced to use Croc's solution which is basically to zoom in on the game and Quake's solution which is to limit the render area using a black bar. So the Saturn games with VDP2 would be very good but it would definitely be other types of games other than the ones mentioned by me in the OP.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Black_Tiger View Post
    Dead or Alive perfected VDP2 backgrounds for fighting games. Everything lines up and feels natural. Even the bridge overhead.

    Last Bronx was also a great example, but the art/style is so bland it wasted.
    Last Bronx appears to be using the same engine as VF2.
    A Black Falcon: no, computer games and video games are NOT the same thing. Video games are on consoles, computer games are on PC. The two kinds of games are different, and have significantly different design styles, distribution methods, and game genre selections. Computer gaming and console (video) gaming are NOT the same thing."



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    Quote Originally Posted by zyrobs View Post
    The backgrounds in VF2 are very basic and look pretty bad. You can clearly see that it's just two flat images scrolling around while the arena is suspended in empty space.
    even if the appearance is not so good what matters is the technology, i mean the ps1 wouldn't be able to handle a port using 2 images, it doesn't have the memory for it and because it is generated in vdp2 so the 512kb destined for it can be used.

    What do you think about Fighter's Destiny and Fighter's Destiny 2 can you imagine a Saturn port? it uses a photo in the background but various lighting and fog effects, and pre-rendered sprites flying in the form of balloons etc. Darkrift N64 is Criticom 2 canceled, Criticom 1 has nice shadows.

    Quote Originally Posted by zyrobs View Post
    Best use of the VDP2 for 3d was probably either Sonic R or Radiant Silvergun, from the top of my head. And Burning Rangers for using it in an unorthodox way.
    I would add to this list Sonic Jam, these 3 Sonic R, Sonic Jam and RSG are examples of games that to be replicated by competitors is difficult they would have to spend many polygons collapsing. Burning Ranger made good use of vdp2 for effects is perhaps the most surprising game on Saturn, but its use of vdp2 was to cover gaps in vdp1 so it wouldn't be hard for competitors to make a version as their GPU is above vdp1.

    That should have been the Saturn's future; many games derived from Sonic R and Sonic Jam. I just can't predict how many games would be possible from these two models.

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    Sonic World simply uses 2 planes of one rotating background, it's the same thing as the Panzer Dragoon games or Last Bronx. The only thing is that it uses a different rotation parameter so the other plane is a skybox, making it look like there are two "mode 7" fields meeting at the horizon. It does nothing else. Sonic R has the blended fog effect, plus it uses multiple background layers with blending, a water effect, and the shimmering on the final level. It doesn't just use a simple ground/skydrop like Sonic World, it does a lot more.

    Quote Originally Posted by Black_Tiger View Post
    Dead or Alive perfected VDP2 backgrounds for fighting games. Everything lines up and feels natural. Even the bridge overhead.

    Last Bronx was also a great example, but the art/style is so bland it wasted.
    DOA uses the same configuration as VF2, one rotating background for the arena, and two zooming/scrolling ones for the backdrop. The artwork just has some perspective baked in like Last Bronx so it looks more natural. However it is also low-res for some reason. It's a very odd choice.

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    But that's the idea, being simple for the Saturn and complex for competing consoles. It's no secret that there are comparisons between Sonic World and Super Mario 64, notoriously Sonic is prettier and more pleasing to the eye. I know that the Saturn would have absolute difficulty in dealing with Mario, if the dev's comment was true, it may be impossible for both the ps1 (and the Saturn by association) to deal with mario 64. But Sonic Jam would be complicated on the PS1 it wouldn't get that draw distance without fog , we're talking about a Spyro pattern here free on vpd2. the N64 would be able to because it has greater capacity in making large polygons but the Vaseline filter would make a hypothetical version of Sonic World inferior I think that's the point, the VDP2 factor.

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    You can actually set up some pretty complex 3D scenery with VDP2 planes, it just takes a lot of effort and knowing what you're doing with the coefficient tables. There's a really good thread about this on NESDEV in concerns to the SNES's Mode 7, but a lot can be carried over to Saturn's VDP2. VDP2 just allows for even larger tables, more planes, and even more complex set ups.

    That all said, when we talk about VDP1's fillrate being significantly lower than PS1's GPU fillrate, we really need to put that into perspective. It boils down to being able to realistically draw about 800 16x16 sprites per frame at 60fps, while PS1 can do ~2000 at the same specs. Which that is a massive difference, VDP1 still has the fillrate to draw the entire 320x240 screen about 3 times per frame at 60fps. Typically you're not going to be doing that every single frame. For your typical game it's enough to handle what you want to throw at it to draw each frame. Where things become problematic and where PS1 will pull ahead and start to flex that higher fillrate is when you get into more expensive kinds of effects. So lots of transparencies, environment mapping, multi-texturing, etc. Typically things that require multiple reads and writes to the frame buffer to get the desired effect.

    In general, VDP1's filllrate really isn't the big issue most of the time with 3D rendering performance save for a few very specific situations. Which means it's generally more of an issue on the CPU side. This could boil down to various things like bad code, poor usage of the dual SH-2s, trying to use the SCU DSP and not realizing how badly it can stall the entire system, etc. We can also see in some cases it's just a bad setup for the engine. SGL is a prime example of this. The engine was pretty much made for Virtua Fighter and it's issues start to show themselves with other types of games. SGL uses a ton of static buffers for dealing with vertices, polygons, etc. to set up and draw the scene. They waste a ton of memory and aren't the most ideal set up. When any of those buffers fill up, all polygon processing stops for that frame and whatever wasn't drawn yet gets dropped and it moves onto the next frame. So in some of these early games like the original Virtua Fighter port, Daytona USA, etc. this is most likely the cause for the poor draw distance, flickering polygons, etc. Part of getting the most out of SGL involves figuring out how to optimize your models and what not to avoid this scenario. Most of your best 3D Saturn games that aren't fighters though typically don't use SGL, but instead their own custom engine.

    Basically the tl;dr for Saturn 3D vs PS1 3D boils down to this:
    1) PS1s GTE will generally outperform the Saturn's Dual SH-2 set up, but it's not as bad some make it out to be. The SH-2s are very good CPUs for the time and if you know what you're doing you can close the gap a bit.
    2) PS1's GPU's fillrate absolutely destroys VDP1's fillrate, but you shouldn't generally be hitting this issue in most situations unless you're trying to do some very specific kind of effect with transparencies, multi-texturing, etc.

    With a well designed engine that's built to work with the system's memory and CPU set up, there's not really a reason the Saturn shouldn't be able to handle games mentioned in the original post.
    Last edited by TrekkiesUnite118; 08-27-2022 at 10:16 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zyrobs View Post
    Sonic World simply uses 2 planes of one rotating background, it's the same thing as the Panzer Dragoon games or Last Bronx. The only thing is that it uses a different rotation parameter so the other plane is a skybox, making it look like there are two "mode 7" fields meeting at the horizon. It does nothing else. Sonic R has the blended fog effect, plus it uses multiple background layers with blending, a water effect, and the shimmering on the final level. It doesn't just use a simple ground/skydrop like Sonic World, it does a lot more.



    DOA uses the same configuration as VF2, one rotating background for the arena, and two zooming/scrolling ones for the backdrop. The artwork just has some perspective baked in like Last Bronx so it looks more natural. However it is also low-res for some reason. It's a very odd choice.
    That's my point, VF2's only weak spot was poor implementation of backgrounds in complex stages.

    DOA in particular proves how good 2D backgrounds can be in fighting games and how much of a waste it would be to use polygons instead.

    Lining up the 2D assets right and scrolling them correctly is all it took.
    Quote Originally Posted by year2kill06
    everyone knows nintendo is far way cooler than sega just face it nintendo has more better games and originals

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    Honestly I think the 3D Fighter that finally got everything just right was Last Bronx.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TrekkiesUnite118 View Post

    Basically the tl;dr for Saturn 3D vs PS1 3D boils down to this:
    1) PS1s GTE will generally outperform the Saturn's Dual SH-2 set up, but it's not as bad some make it out to be. The SH-2s are very good CPUs for the time and if you know what you're doing you can close the gap a bit.
    2) PS1's GPU's fillrate absolutely destroys VDP1's fillrate, but you shouldn't generally be hitting this issue in most situations unless you're trying to do some very specific kind of effect with transparencies, multi-texturing, etc.
    If GTE > Dual SH-2 and
    PS1 GPU >> VDP1
    PS1 has better texture quality too

    Translating this into real games we will have, lower frame rate, less effects and less complex polygonal world on the Sega Saturn. The three main elements that make a game beautiful.

    There are many Sega Saturn fans - different from us, who are also fans - who cannot accept what you wrote, I accept and I think this is the correct understanding but many still support on the internet, those numbers provided by Sega where the Saturn draws more polygons than the ps1 etc that's just not true, Sega probably imagined the amount of polygons needed it could replace using planes and rotation in the VDP2 with the data from the VDP1

    when we look at the data, cross-referenced with the games released, we can understand why real-world games have achieved a lower graphical quality on the Saturn (it's not about sloppiness) So Fifa 98, Tomb Raider, Die hard trilogy, wipeout, Resident evil it wasn't sabotage like these fans think, the games clearly match the spec differences.

    Quote Originally Posted by TrekkiesUnite118 View Post
    With a well designed engine that's built to work with the system's memory and CPU set up, there's not really a reason the Saturn shouldn't be able to handle games mentioned in the original post.
    I don't think so, you know, until last week I believed that the Saturn could do absolutely everything its competitors did, but reading and interpreting the data, I'm not sure anymore.

    For the Saturn to have a higher quality, it would depend on the VDP2 in the exclusive function of saving polygons. But the vdp2 has a limitation, the games would be flat or filmed from above, like gta2 top view

    based on the data posted above it pure and simple has less horses for 3d. these games from the original post are very advanced IMO, illuminated and textured games, ok by force of logic all games that have a version for N64 at least in textures would not be a problem in some way, the problem is in the way the worlds of these games are built, complex and fully polygonal.

    MegaMan Legends: I can imagine a Saturn version
    MDK1: I can imagine a Saturn version same quality or above ps1
    Tony Hawk's: I can imagine a Saturn version, on the condition that the floor is done with vdp2 otherwise not.
    F zero X: I can imagine at least a 30fps port, sounds possible. the other games would be, in my opinion, pretty bad or impossible, due to a hypothetical, too low frame rate.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SegaAMD View Post
    If GTE > Dual SH-2 and
    PS1 GPU >> VDP1
    PS1 has better texture quality too

    Translating this into real games we will have, lower frame rate, less effects and less complex polygonal world on the Sega Saturn. The three main elements that make a game beautiful.
    I think you've completely missed the point of my post. The point was that yes PS1's GPU and GTE will outperform Saturn's Dual SH-2s + VDP1, however this gap will only be most obvious when doing things like tech demos trying to push things to the extreme limit, or in a few very specific cases where you need to do a ton of fillrate heavy effects (tons of transparencies, multi-texturing, etc.). Which those effects while nice, are typically not happening 100% of the time. If you've designed things well, you shouldn't ever be hitting VDP1's fillrate limits in a typical game situation. Again, there's enough fillrate to draw an entire screen's worth of pixels ~3 times at 60fps, or ~6 times at 30fps. You should never be drawing that many pixels worth of polygons per frame if you've done things properly on the CPU side.

    As for the Dual SH-2 vs the GTE, again GTE typically wins here, but it's not as big of a gap as people think. The SH-2s are very powerful CPUs for the time, and they completely smoke the PS1's CPU when it comes to things like multiplication and division, which is something you do a lot of with 3D games. They're powerful enough that the gap between them and the GTE really shouldn't be a major factor most of the time.

    A good thing to look at here is XL2's hellslave. He's getting very good draw distances, nice looking maps, effects, etc. while still maintaining a decent frame rate in the 20-30fps range. When things drop, it's usually when something really extreme like a really massive draw distance with multiple bots. His main limiting factor isn't VDP1's fillrate, it's CPU power as his collision detection code and the bots aren't the most optimized methods out there. But again, we need to put this in perspective. This is his engine running with 32 AI bots in a match:



    He gets about 6-7fps with this stress test. In comparison, Perfect Dark on the N64 hits this level of performance with about 4 bots and 4 players.

    Quote Originally Posted by SegaAMD View Post
    There are many Sega Saturn fans - different from us, who are also fans - who cannot accept what you wrote, I accept and I think this is the correct understanding but many still support on the internet, those numbers provided by Sega where the Saturn draws more polygons than the ps1 etc that's just not true, Sega probably imagined the amount of polygons needed it could replace using planes and rotation in the VDP2 with the data from the VDP1
    You need to think about how those numbers are calculated. VDP1's fillrate when doing textured sprites (not single colored polygons) is about 12.8 Million Pixels per second. So if we wanted to see how many texture mapped sprites we could draw per second, let's do some math with that. If we are drawing 8x8 resolution sprites/textured polygons, each sprite would need about 64 pixels. So if we divide our total amount of pixels per second by 64 pixels per polygon, we get about 200,000 polygons per second, which is exactly what Sega stated.

    Quote Originally Posted by SegaAMD View Post
    when we look at the data, cross-referenced with the games released, we can understand why real-world games have achieved a lower graphical quality on the Saturn (it's not about sloppiness) So Fifa 98, Tomb Raider, Die hard trilogy, wipeout, Resident evil it wasn't sabotage like these fans think, the games clearly match the spec differences.
    Resident Evil doesn't really have a lot of performance issues on Saturn. The team just decided to do texturing instead of gouraud shading for the character models, and the transparencies are dithered. Wipeout is very much just sloppiness. I believe you'll find the port is using SGL and has a lot of the same issues other SGL racing games have. You can actually disable the frame-rate cap and see the game will actually run as high as 60fps in spots, but the performance isn't consistent. I'd imagine with some more time to polish it up they probably could have hit a solid 30fps on Saturn. And Tomb Raider is more due to Sony's better profiling tools. Tomb Raider was running just as poorly on PS1 as it does on Saturn before Sony ran it through their profiler and told Core where their code was having issues and how to better optimize it. The Saturn port never had that kind of help given to it and it was rushed out a few months early.



    Quote Originally Posted by SegaAMD View Post
    For the Saturn to have a higher quality, it would depend on the VDP2 in the exclusive function of saving polygons. But the vdp2 has a limitation, the games would be flat or filmed from above, like gta2 top view
    Again, you can actually set up some pretty complex scenes with VDP2 if you know what you're doing:





    This is an SNES Mode 7 demo. VDP2 is able to do even more complex stuff than this due to it being able to handle even more complex coefficient tables and having more planes to work with:



    Quote Originally Posted by SegaAMD View Post
    based on the data posted above it pure and simple has less horses for 3d. these games from the original post are very advanced IMO, illuminated and textured games, ok by force of logic all games that have a version for N64 at least in textures would not be a problem in some way, the problem is in the way the worlds of these games are built, complex and fully polygonal.

    MegaMan Legends: I can imagine a Saturn version
    MDK1: I can imagine a Saturn version same quality or above ps1
    Tony Hawk's: I can imagine a Saturn version, on the condition that the floor is done with vdp2 otherwise not.
    F zero X: I can imagine at least a 30fps port, sounds possible. the other games would be, in my opinion, pretty bad or impossible, due to a hypothetical, too low frame rate.
    What exactly are those games doing that you don't think the Saturn could handle? Save for maybe F-Zero X I'm not seeing anything that crazy or demanding in those games. Especially when you look at how they run on an actual PS1.

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