Monday, October 16, 2006

Sega Saturn History - from Wikipedia

The Sega Saturn (セガサターン, Sega Satān?) is a 32-bit video game console, first released on November 22, 1994 in Japan, April 27, 1995 in North America and July 8, 1995 in Europe. Approximately 170,000 machines were sold the first day of the Japanese launch. 5,000 were sold in the weekend following the United Kingdom launch.
At one time, the Sega Saturn held second place in the console wars, placing it above Nintendo's Super Famicom in Japan and Nintendo's Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) in North America and Europe, but the Saturn slowly lost market share to Sony's PlayStation and, outside Japan, the cartridge-based Nintendo 64.
The Japanese Saturn was rushed to the market, just a few weeks ahead of its rival, Sony's PlayStation. This led to very few games being available at launch.
The system was supported in North America and Europe until late 1998, and in Japan until the end of 2000. The last official game for the system, Yukyu Gensokyoku Perpetual Collection, was released by Mediaworks in December that year. Interestingly, a game called Sega Saturn: Lost & Found VOL #1 was released in the US by Older Games in August of 2004 (although it is not playable with a retail, unmodified Saturn).

Sega's 27-member Away Team, comprising employees from every aspect of hardware engineering, product development and marketing, worked exclusively for two years to ensure the Sega Saturn's hardware and design met the precise needs of both the U.S. and Japanese markets. The Saturn was a powerful machine for the time, but its design, with two CPUs and 6 other processors, made harnessing its power extremely difficult. Rumours suggest that the original plan called for a single processor, but a second one was added late in development to increase potential performance.

One very fast central processor would be preferable. I don't think that all programmers have the ability to program two CPUs - most can only get about one-and-a-half times the speed you can get from one SH-2. I think only one out of 100 programmers is good enough to get that kind of speed out of the Saturn.

Yu Suzuki Regarding the Sega Saturn's complicated architecture.
Third-party development was further hindered by the initial lack of useful software libraries and development tools, requiring developers to write in assembly language to achieve decent performance. Programmers would often utilize only one CPU to simplify development in titles such as Alien Trilogy.
The main disadvantage of the dual CPU architecture was that both processors shared the same bus, and besides 4K of on-chip memory, all data and program code for both CPUs were located in the same shared 2 MB of main memory. This meant that without very careful division of processing, the second CPU would often have to wait while the first CPU was working, reducing its processing ability.
The hardware also lacked light sourcing and hardware video decompression support. Nevertheless, when properly utilized, the dual processors in the Saturn could produce impressive results such as the 1997 ports of Quake and Duke Nukem 3D by Lobotomy Software, and later games like Burning Rangers were able to achieve true transparency effects on hardware that used simple polygon stipples as a replacement for transparency effects in the past.
From a market viewpoint, the architectural design problems of the Saturn meant that it quickly lost third party support to the PlayStation. Unlike the Playstation's use of triangles as its basic geometric primitive, the Saturn rendered quadrilaterals. This proved a hindrance as most industry standard design tools were based around triangles, and multiplatform games were usually developed with triangles and the Playstation's larger market share in mind.
If used correctly the quadrilateral rendering of the Saturn would show less texture distortion than was common on Playstation titles, as demonstrated by several cross-platform titles such as Wipeout and Destruction Derby. The quadrilateral-focussed hardware and a 50% greater amount of video RAM also gave the Saturn an advantage for 2D game engines and attracted many developers of RPGs, arcade games and traditional 2D fighting games. A 4 MB RAM cart, released only in Japan, boosted available memory even further for games such as Capcom's X-Men Vs Street Fighter.

The unreleased Saturn version of Shenmue.
Tomb Raider was originally designed for the Saturn's quadrilateral-based hardware and as a result was incapable of displaying levels containing any triangular parts. This restriction remained in place for most of the 32-bit sequels. On the other hand, the quadrilateral ability allowed the Saturn to render First-person shooter games better than other consoles at the time, games like Quake, Powerslave, Duke Nukem 3D, HeXen. Also, the extra video RAM allowed larger levels than in PlayStation versions.
A true example of the Saturn's capability is widely considered to be the systems version of Shenmue, Yu Suzuki's multi-million dollar project that would eventually find a new home on the Saturn's successor, the Sega Dreamcast. Work on the title is believed to have been fairly complete, and several technical demos and gameplay footage have since been released to the public. The footage displays a system capable of producing fully rendered, entirely 3D locations and characters.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just purchased a Playstation 3 a couple of weeks ago. I got a couple of good games for it too. I wonder what good full games are worthy of downloading from the Playstation store?