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Thread: Sega's SVP Chip: The Road not Taken?

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    Blast processor Melf's Avatar
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    Default Sega's SVP Chip: The Road not Taken?

    Genesis fans were quick to point out the incredible visuals (for the time) of Virtua Racing, they were even quicker to notice the price — $100. The Sega Virtua Processor, designed to counter Nintendo's own FX chip series, was highly powerful but too expensive to maintain in the face of the next hardware generation. It was supplanted by the 32X, a move that could possibly have been avoided. Read our complete article, Sega's SVP Chip: The Road not Taken for all the details on the option Sega decided against, and how it might have actually saved them.
    Last edited by Melf; 09-09-2011 at 09:38 PM.

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    Proud 16-bit War Veteran ESWAT Veteran David J.'s Avatar
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    Haha, I played some Virtua Racing today. Good timing, I guess!

    I look at Virtua Racing being awful as a game, but an amazing port that no one thought could happen.
    The smell of scorched oil hangs in the air as a premonition of danger, while the engine gloriously shouts its war cry...

    Throughout history, suspicion has always bred conflict. The real conflict, though, resides in people's hearts. This conflict has just begun.

    nes x-men nes x-men nes x-men

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    Shining Hero Joe Redifer's Avatar
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    Pretty good article. Virtua Racing is an awesome game, but was poorly ported for the SVP version. The 32X version DESTROYS it (and the Saturn version) in every way. I do take exception to one of the comments in the artcle, though:

    According to a former Genesis programmer, the genesis [sic] had a great deal of limitations on the number of colors it could display onscreen. Programmers were stuck choosing from four palettes of sixty-four colors each, and could only display sprites that used sixteen or fewer of these. Many games used tricks that would allow programmers to switch palettes part of the way through drawing the screen (this is how Sonic the Hedgehog could have a bluish palette underwater coexisting with the brighter colors above) but these kinds of tricks could only do so much.
    That must have been one hell of a poor programmer. What he is basically saying is that the Genesis had a pallette of 256 colors and could put 16 onscreen at once. Bullshit. Complete and utter bullshit. The Genesis had 512 colors, 61 of them could be onscreen at once, but sprites could only be assigned 16 colors per block. Sonic is no technical feat for the Genesis as far as color is concerned, that's for sure.

    However the SVP Virtua Racing looks pretty bad. It is obviously using something similar to a Master System pallete. It is quite obvious that only 16 colors may be onscreen at once and only 64 total colors are even accessible. I blame either the SVP itself or the programmers inability to deal with it... most likely the SVP. The Genesis definitely had far better colors than SVP Virtua Racing displayed, as seen in the very first games released for the system. Also, the sound in that game was pretty bad. If the SVP provided any enhanced sound capabilities, it sure wasn't used in that game. The game also did not scale or rotate any sprites.

    I find it humorous how no emulator (that I know of) can run SVP Virtua Racing. I should do a feature comparing and contrasting this and the 32X version since I have them both. In short, the 32X version blows it away by a factor of about 100.
    Last edited by Joe Redifer; 03-17-2006 at 01:36 AM.

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    That may explain the reason for Sega not using the SVP chip to bring Virtua Fighter to the Genesis.

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    Blast processor Melf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Redifer
    Pretty good article. Virtua Racing is an awesome game, but was poorly ported for the SVP version. The 32X version DESTROYS it (and the Saturn version) in every way. I do take exception to one of the comments in the artcle, though:



    That must have been one hell of a poor programmer. What he is basically saying is that the Genesis had a pallette of 256 colors and could put 16 onscreen at once. Bullshit. Complete and utter bullshit. The Genesis had 512 colors, 61 of them could be onscreen at once, but sprites could only be assigned 16 colors per block. Sonic is no technical feat for the Genesis as far as color is concerned, that's for sure.
    Nope, that's my bad. I misinterpreted what he said. Here's his exact quote:

    The primary limitation was that the Genesis graphics hardware used to access the screen could only hold 64k of graphics data, which wasn't enough to render the whole screen as individual characters. And, of course, the Genesis hardware could only display 512 colors, in 16 color characters, choosing from only 4 color palettes. The SVP may have been able to do some heavy interrupt processing to simulate a true 512 color mode, but it seems unlikely to be used in that fashion.

    I fixed that in the article.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Melf
    Nope, that's my bad. I misinterpreted what he said. Here's his exact quote:

    The primary limitation was that the Genesis graphics hardware used to access the screen could only hold 64k of graphics data, which wasn't enough to render the whole screen as individual characters. And, of course, the Genesis hardware could only display 512 colors, in 16 color characters, choosing from only 4 color palettes. The SVP may have been able to do some heavy interrupt processing to simulate a true 512 color mode, but it seems unlikely to be used in that fashion.

    I fixed that in the article.

    That's some mighty technical stuff right there. Too bad no one has put together a relatively easy to understand sdk otherwise we'd have a bigger network of homebrews comin' out.

    I suspect the majority of the code on the Genny was done in Assembly.
    Mel (aka Tritium)
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    Proud 16-bit War Veteran ESWAT Veteran David J.'s Avatar
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    Actually, no emulator supports Genesis Virtua Racing due to a lack of good emulation on the SVP chip.
    The smell of scorched oil hangs in the air as a premonition of danger, while the engine gloriously shouts its war cry...

    Throughout history, suspicion has always bred conflict. The real conflict, though, resides in people's hearts. This conflict has just begun.

    nes x-men nes x-men nes x-men

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    Devil In A Midnight Mass WCPO Agent Flash1087's Avatar
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    Very well done article here, sirs. Wonder who this 'mystery programmer' was?


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    Blast processor Melf's Avatar
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    Thanks. He's a reliable source, trust me, but wanted to remain nameless due to possible conflicts of interest. He's probably the most knowledgeable person around on the SVP.

    Coicidentally, this is my 100th article for Sega-16, since I had to push back the Data East installment of Lost in the Arcade.

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    Zebbe's Avatar
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    Very informative and well-written article. I guess Virtua Racing doesn't work on the 32X because both the game and the add-on has a SVP.

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    I DON'T LIKE POKEMON Hero of Algol j_factor's Avatar
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    Well-written article, but I disagree with its premise. 32x vs. SVP needn't be an either/or thing. Really, they didn't need either of them. All they did was draw attention away from the stock Genesis and Sega CD games; there was some pretty impressive stuff coming out in that time, and Genesis could've held its own. What would've really saved them is less unfocused marketing, and playing up games like Dynamite Headdy, Red Zone, Ecco 2, Soul Star, etc.


    You just can't handle my jawusumness responces.

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    Master of Shinobi ary incorparated's Avatar
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    Yup J factor is right,Genesis did that by its time,it surpassed snes ehy,vectorman,redzone,Phantasy star 4,Panorama cotton,and yup some sega cd titles for that reason.Batman returns,Batman and robin,silpheed soul star.All running on stock genesis hardware and pallet,so consider snes blown away unnoticed,cause much of those titles are a bit unfamillair to the standart gamer ehy.

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    Sports Talker Ro Nova's Avatar
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    I like what Mr. Hawkins said about the confusing message Sega sent to their customers regarding what hardware to buy. It must have been very difficult to make a decision back then. Should I stay put or go for the upgrade? What factor did some games play in the decision of what Sega consoles you just “had to have”? When the Genesis, 32X and Saturn versions of Virtua Racing were released didn't it mean that each game was in competition with each other to some degree? I'm not sure of years but I am assuming that the three versions were released fairly closely of one another. The Saturn came out in 1995 and according to TRST data (what is that anyway?) 64% of games being sold that year were 16 bit. Did Saturn’s version come out around this time and weren’t the Genesis and 32X versions already on store shelves? I'm going to stop now because my head is going to explode.
    Great article as usual Ken.
    "Tatsumakisenpukyaku!"

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    Blast processor Melf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by j_factor
    Well-written article, but I disagree with its premise. 32x vs. SVP needn't be an either/or thing. Really, they didn't need either of them. All they did was draw attention away from the stock Genesis and Sega CD games; there was some pretty impressive stuff coming out in that time, and Genesis could've held its own. What would've really saved them is less unfocused marketing, and playing up games like Dynamite Headdy, Red Zone, Ecco 2, Soul Star, etc.
    Hmm, I see where you're coming from but don't know if that would have been enough. I mean, if the SNES, which was loaded with all kinds of hardware feauure goodies, was already turning to chips for extra power (other games used them too, like the Mega Man X series and Yoshi's Island), then the stock Genesis would have looked pretty old pretty fast.

    Basically, embracing this chip would have meant that Sega would have followed the same road Nintendo did: keep gamers happy with excellent software (which they did, with the games you mentioned), but at the same time keep them hooked for the next gen by offering a taste of what more powerful consoles could do. Nintendo did this by using the FX chips and sticking with the SNES until '96. It paid off big time for them, and their only real flaw was going with cartridges for the N64.

    Had Sega done the same, they may have maintained enough of their user base to have made the Saturn a true contender in the U.S. I don't think the stock Genesis could have done this all by itself (and we know just how well the hardware features of the Sega CD were being used).

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    Zebbe's Avatar
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    Well said Melf, but Nintendo had another big flaw: the Virtual Boy.

    I'm a little bit against chips, since it's like doping the console. I'm more impressed by seeing for example Sonic top speeding in Sonic 2 than the polygons of Virtua Racing, since it's something the G/MD can do on its own.

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