Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Ask Slashdot: Understanding the SNES?

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the when-you-can-snatch-this-pebble-from-my-hand dept.

Nintendo 157

An anonymous reader writes "As a product of the 90s I grew up loving the classics that kids today know about from Wikipedia and pop-culture references. Games like Super Bomberman, Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country I and III (II was a sellout, come on) are the foundations of my childhood memories. Now, though, as a fourth-year electrical engineering major, I find myself increasingly impressed by the level of technical difficulty embedded in that 16-bit console. I am trying, now, to find a resource that will take me through the technical design of the SNES (memory layout, processor information, cartridge pin layouts/documentation) to get a better understanding of what I naively enjoyed 15 some years ago. I am reaching out to the vast resources available from the minds of the Slashdot community. Any guide/blog series that you know of that walks through some of the technical aspects of the, preferably, SNES (alternatively, NES/Nintendo 64) console would be much appreciated."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

superfamicom.org (5, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905231)

http://wiki.superfamicom.org/ [superfamicom.org] has pretty comprehensive technical documentation of the Super NES.

Re:superfamicom.org (-1, Offtopic)

Immerman (2627577) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906307)

Replying to your sig because I *hate* seeing statistics abused. A 25% likelihood of causation is *not* implied. Yes, one of the four outcomes must be the case, but you don't know the relative probabilities of each. It's like grabbing a marble out of a bag containing red, green, blue, and yellow marbles - there's only four possibilities as to which color your marble is, but for all you know I filled the bag with blue marbles and just threw in a handful of the other colors, in which case it would be preposterous to claim a 25% chance of getting a red one.

Re:superfamicom.org (1)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906459)

Lighten up, Francis!

Re:superfamicom.org (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906615)

Let's discuss this in my journal [slashdot.org] .

take one apart? (5, Informative)

jehan60188 (2535020) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905237)

you're a 4th year EE student, why not just take one apart?

Re:take one apart? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40905305)

especially while you might have access to the schools facilities, if it is a bigger research school you might be able to sweet talk someone into x-raying stuff for you.

Re:take one apart? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40905377)

Probably difficulty of finding one. In my area we have a lovely chain called "Slackers" that sells old consoles, and you might be able to get an SNES for about $40 if they have one in stock. However, stock is very limited and between more and more of the older consoles dying and collectors, the stock is becoming more and more limited. Could be in their area, that the difficulty of finding one makes the chances of finding one to disassemble highly unlikely, especially if they wanted one that was in working order.

Re:take one apart? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40905789)

Probably difficulty of finding one.

There is nothing at all difficult about finding an SNES on eBay.

just buy it. (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906223)

I have 3 I picked up on ebay for cheap. I just kept low bidding until I won as many as I needed. If you're in a hurry you can just bid $60 and get it with controllers and power supply. Most GC/N64 video cables work in the SNES, so don't worry too much about finding that if it doesn't come with one. In a pinch there are a lot of after-market replacement parts on Amazon and ebay for fixing them up.

Re:take one apart? (5, Insightful)

JDG1980 (2438906) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905379)

you're a 4th year EE student, why not just take one apart?

The SNES uses custom chips for most of its functionality. Unless he has access to decapping facilities, taking one apart will provide only limited information.

Re:take one apart? (2)

jehan60188 (2535020) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905417)

you're a 4th year EE student, why not just take one apart?

The SNES uses custom chips for most of its functionality. Unless he has access to decapping facilities, taking one apart will provide only limited information.

I'm an ME, so I don't know much about reverse engineering electronics.
maybe this will help?
http://s3cu14r.wordpress.com/2010/07/15/boiling-chips-in-tree-sap/ [wordpress.com]

Re:take one apart? (3, Interesting)

mk1004 (2488060) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905917)

I'm an ME, so I don't know much about reverse engineering electronics. maybe this will help? http://s3cu14r.wordpress.com/2010/07/15/boiling-chips-in-tree-sap/ [wordpress.com]

I use to occasionally decap 'plastic' ICs, which are typically molded using an epoxy based compound. We always used fuming nitric to open those. We used a dropper to put the heated nitric on the top of the package, the goal being to have the pins intact and the device functional afterwards. Not real safe unless you have the proper equipment and know what you are doing. Later we had commercial equipment that did pretty much the same thing.

I suspect the rosin used in the link only works on some types of non-epoxy based plastics.

Re:take one apart? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40906015)

I think the submitter would be better off perfecting his cooking and customer service skills, to prepare for his upcoming employment at McDonald's or Best Buy. If he's lucky he could start with the Geek Squad, but even then of course he will be fumbling his way though the school of common sense for the first couple years, as all fresh engineering grads do.

And of those, a little less than half will actually graduate said school of common sense; leaving the remainder to burden the rest of us in the industry with poorly written procedures riddled with misspellings and improper apostrophe use, exploding under-engineered boards, inane Rubik's-cube designs made to be put together but never taken apart, all accompanied by obnoxious entitled aspie behavior. Congrats, OP!
 
  -- Ethanol-fueled

Re:take one apart? (5, Insightful)

AdamHaun (43173) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906601)

you're a 4th year EE student, why not just take one apart?

Unfortunately, EE is not like ME. What happens in an electrical circuit is almost always invisible to the naked eye. Monitoring high-speed digital signals takes special (expensive) test equipment, which even a university lab might not have lying around for open use. Even figuring out a schematic can be hard if you're dealing with multi-layer circuit boards and custom integrated circuits. The ICs in a SNES are all surface mount, which means even more specialized equipment and skill to remove them with no easy way to work with them afterward. Do a Google Image search for "SNES mainboard" and you'll see what I mean.

Also, simply being a fourth-year student doesn't necessarily qualify him to reverse engineer a console. Digital electronic systems are orders of magnitude more complex than mechanical ones, and EE coursework tends to focus more on theory than practice. I'm not saying it's impossible, I'm just saying that going solo is probably not the best idea for his first foray.

Re:take one apart? (2)

Annymouse Cowherd (1037080) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907813)

Monitoring high-speed digital signals takes special (expensive) test equipment, which even a university lab might not have lying around for open use.

The SNES does not have high-speed digital signals. The whole thing is clocked at 3.58MHz. This isn't like trying to probe a SATA connection.

Re:take one apart? (1, Funny)

meta-monkey (321000) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906623)

Dear Ask Slashdot,

I need a senior project for EE but don't want to be bothered doing it myself, or even googling for it. Do it for me?

TY,

OP

P.S. I like vidya games, so something like that maybe?

Re:take one apart? (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907185)

A final-year student here produced an implementation of the NES (sadly, except for the sound chip) in Bluespec last year. It runs on an Altera FPGA and is cycle-accurate including the CPU, input, and video. Even with all of the documentation available, this was not a trivial project, and for the SNES or N64 it's even harder. I'm hoping that someone will take the project to implement the sound support this year - it's almost as hard as the whole of the rest of the project, but could be fun...

Re:take one apart? (4, Insightful)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906647)

If you guys keep disassembling Super Nintendos (and PS1s and Atari 2600s and N64s) pretty soon there won't be any left for us to play. It will end-up like the Japanese Zero airplane (only two left). It saddens me to see people destroying an item that is no longer being made & therefore becoming more-and-more rare with each passing day.

Re:take one apart? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40907479)

I doubt the reason there are so few zero's has anything to do with dismantling and reverse engineering. The only zero I know the location of was dismantled, and is presently assembled, and I believe operable, in the National Museum of Naval Aviation. I think far war were lost performing their primary roll.

Check out Byuu's stuff from BSNES. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40905239)

http://byuu.org/articles/

Byuu is the guy who wrote bsnes, which is a 100% accurate SNES emulator written specifically to emulate it as close to the hardware layer as possible for the sake of preserving the system.

Re:Check out Byuu's stuff from BSNES. (1)

iampiti (1059688) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905731)

Yeah, I was going to suggest this. This man has to be greteatest experts ever on SNES details.

Re:Check out Byuu's stuff from BSNES. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40905791)

I was going to suggest that the quentioner go look at emulator forums since alot of hte tech documents o nteh custom chips are out there. That's how emulators are written after all, startign with technical documentation. Well tat was true until N64 emulation began. They don't actually try to emulate the 3D graphics.

Re:Check out Byuu's stuff from BSNES. (1)

rcuhljr (1132713) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906231)

I'm a complete convert to Bsnes, it really is a magnificent piece of software and a noble effort.

Re:Check out Byuu's stuff from BSNES. (1)

epyT-R (613989) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906425)

except it doesn't support simple stuff like fullscreen mode changing, which makes vsync, a needed part of accurate emulation, nearly impossible.

vsync is NOT a "needed part of accurate emulation" (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40906991)

vsync might be nice for the user experience, and I'll be the first to admit that bsnes does not have all of the little user conveniences that some older (faster, less accurate) emulators have.

I personally prefer to still use a many-years-old version of ZSNES for actually playing emulated games.

But in terms of accuracy in its emulation of the SNES hardware, BSNES is unbeatable. Byuu-san was always disgruntled about the lazy approach that other emulator authors were taking, towards accuracy--using known-inaccurate techniques and lots of game-specific hacks to cover up any problems--but several years ago he decided to do something about it, and since then he has emerged as one of the most dedicated and careful (and innovative) of the small group of world-class developers reverse-engineering the behaviour of the SNES. Byuu has made literally dozens of unique findings about tiny, obscure behaviours of the SNES hardware--in many cases even things that *no known game even depends on*, but he spent the time and effort to devise theories and write tests and do experiments in order to get a deeper understanding of what was going on. And then incorporating those findings into BSNES in the clearest and most accurate way possible.

The result of this years of super-human effort, is an emulator (BSNES) that is a lot slower than certain other emulators, but also much more accurate in the precise details. It can run every known SNES game (thousands of them) very accurately, with absolutely NO game-specific hacks in it. Which is an amazing accomplishment, and a valuable resource for others to learn about SNES programming (either emulators or games), and I am positive that someday, BSNES will be a key piece of efforts to preserve the history of SNES games so that future generations can learn about them and play them.

Half and half frame != accurate (2)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907061)

vsync might be nice for the user experience

Even if your emulator generates an accurate sequence of bitmap images representing consecutive frames of PPU output, it is not very accurate to send half of one frame and half of another frame to the monitor.

Re:Check out Byuu's stuff from BSNES. (1)

marcomarrero (521557) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906813)

I agree, I also recommend MAME and MESS, I don't know how well they emulate the SNES, but I think its source code is designed for preservation and documentation rather than performance.

Zophar.net (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40905247)

Zophar.net has an AMAZING series of documents on the workings of the SNES on the hardware level. Look specifically for the doucmentation written up by Yoshi! and anything from the various Emulator Teams. (The Dumper, zsKnight, _Demo_, Byuu, Marcus C., etc)

Zophars Domain has been my emulation resources, and the starting point for all of my console research since at least 1999.

Re:Zophar.net (5, Informative)

JDG1980 (2438906) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905403)

Be careful. A lot of that stuff at Zophar's Domain is way out of date. Much of it is based on speculation or trial-and-error emulator testing or is flatly incorrect.

Re:Zophar.net (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40907763)

Correct - at least one document on Zophar's is wildly inaccurate (I know because I wrote it!)

SNES development (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40905263)

http://wiki.superfamicom.org/snes/show/HomePage

And first.

Look at the source for an emulator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40905273)

Plenty of free resources, and emulators aren't that complicated. I wrote an NES emulator just for fun, and to learn the same way you did.

SNES9x source code should help (3, Informative)

Jon Abbott (723) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905299)

The source code to a very good SNES emulator is available here: http://snes9x.ipherswipsite.com/ [ipherswipsite.com]

Re:SNES9x source code should help (1)

Jon Abbott (723) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905315)

You can also find SNES controller, cartridge and video connector pinouts at pinouts.ru [pinouts.ru] .

Re:SNES9x source code should help (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40905357)

My fidelity to your scrumptious ass will never waver! I have no weakness! I'm going to slurp your ass 'till it's drippin'!

The Ultimate Resource for SNES Development (-1, Troll)

chrisG23 (812077) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905309)

http://www.google.com/ [google.com]

Seriously, is this worthy of an article on Slashdot?

Re:The Ultimate Resource for SNES Development (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40905477)

It's not an article. It's ASK SLASHDOT, which you jokers never seem to get through your skulls - it's NOT NEWS.

Re:The Ultimate Resource for SNES Development (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40905633)

So I take it that you have easily come across the information he was seeking and you just want to be a jerk about it, or did you not even check before spouting out bullshit?

Re:The Ultimate Resource for SNES Development (5, Insightful)

sootman (158191) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905673)

Because of things like this. [slashdot.org] Sometimes it's good to have a current, real-time discussion with a range of knowledgable people, rather than searching the entire fucking WWW and figuring out for yourself who got what right and wrong.

Start w/ the NES (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40905319)

Just trust me on this. Once you're done programming a NES game in 6502 assembly you should know all you need to know.

NesDev (2)

L1mewater (557442) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905325)

http://nesdev.com/ [nesdev.com] Formerly nesdev.parodius.com This and Zophar are the who main places to go.

bsnes, the only 100% accurate emulator (4, Informative)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905337)

Even aims for cycle accuracy.

http://byuu.org/bsnes/ [byuu.org]

It's a great design (4, Funny)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905367)

Especially interesting is the special circuitry that eliminated the need to blow air into the cartridges that plagued the original NES.

Re:It's a great design (1)

DaneM (810927) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905579)

Especially interesting is the special circuitry that eliminated the need to blow air into the cartridges that plagued the original NES.

"Golden!"

Re:It's a great design (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40905595)

You just never learned how to press the cartridge in at the perfect grinding angle.

Re:It's a great design (5, Interesting)

JDG1980 (2438906) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905745)

Especially interesting is the special circuitry that eliminated the need to blow air into the cartridges that plagued the original NES.

The need to blow air into cartridges on the original NES was a result of DRM.

No, seriously.

The NES console contained a chip called the CIC [nesdev.com] , which had to perform a handshake with a corresponding CIC on the cartridge, or else the system wouldn't boot (and you'd get that blinking red power LED). The purpose of this was to ensure that no one could manufacture NES cartridges without the approval of Nintendo of America. Unfortunately, it also made the boot process far more finicky; even the slightest amount of dirt would cause the handshake to fail and the system to repeatedly reset. (The fact that Nintendo used a weird ZIF-style connector rather than a standard card edge connector didn't help, either. This was done because they didn't want the NES to look like a standard game console, which had a bad reputation after the 1983 crash.)

CIC failure vs. PRG failure (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905877)

On the NES, only blinking was a result of CIC handshake failure. PRG or CHR connection failure could also cause a game not to boot despite a successful CIC handshake, though CHR connection failure was more likely just to cause vertical lines or a scrambled mess of 8x8 pixel tiles. The Super NES, on the other hand, didn't have the blinking, nor did it have the separate CHR address. Instead, it just held the video chip in reset, and end users couldn't distinguish PRG connection failures (bad instruction) from CIC handshake failures because both resulted in a solid black screen.

Re:CIC failure vs. PRG failure (3, Interesting)

_133MHz (1556101) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907531)

I was able to distinguish between the game not booting and the system reset being held low by the CIC back in the day, apparently no sync is generated during reset or something along those lines because even though you get a black screen you can see it "free-running" and getting torn up horizontally, and newer TVs just blank out the video entirely like an invalid signal. I was even able to hear the difference by 'feeling' if the horizontal oscillator on the TV was free-running or locked. With a successful CIC handshake but bad program execution you get a black screen with proper sync which overrides video blanking on newer TV sets.

Re:It's a great design (1)

HungWeiLo (250320) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905879)

Well, it didn't stop the publishers of Bible Adventures [wikipedia.org] from circumventing it.

Re:It's a great design (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40906143)

Don't you mean Super Noah's Ark 3D [wikipedia.org] ?

How Color Dreams reversed the polarity (2)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906313)

Bible Adventures and other Color Dreams games on the NES used a charge pump circuit to send negative voltage pulses through the CIC's data pins until the CIC froze. Nintendo had improved the input protection on the Super NES version of the CIC, making it harder to defeat by reversing the polarity. So Super Noah's Ark 3D had a connector on the top like a Game Genie so it could pass the CIC signals through to an authentic game.

Re:How Color Dreams reversed the polarity (3, Funny)

jalefkowit (101585) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906943)

Nintendo had improved the input protection on the Super NES version of the CIC, making it harder to defeat by reversing the polarity

That'll show everyone who laughed at Nintendo when they hired Geordi LaForge to work on the SNES...

Re:It's a great design (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905901)

If your NES's power LED blinks when you put in a cartridge, it's a problem with the 10NES copy-protection chip - if the chip doesn't handshake, it continually resets the CPU. If it's not blinking, you've just got a bad connection and your problem is likely with the cartridge connector.

Re:It's a great design (2)

L1mewater (557442) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905933)

The need to blow air into cartridges on the original NES was a result of DRM.

No, seriously.

That's a bit of a stretch. The ZIF connector and dusty contacts are the primary culprits in the "need" to blow on NES carts. Sure, the CIC chip causes problems on occasion, but it's not nearly the culprit people make it out to be. You can't blame the CIC, for example, when you get vertical lines on the edges of all of the on-screen sprites, and most of the blinking-light errors just turn into solid light errors once you disable the lockout chip. I have two NES systems, one with a disabled lockout chip and one without. The primary difference I notice is that disabling the lockout chip meant I no longer have to pull tricks with the reset button to get my pirate famicom multicart to work.

Re:It's a great design (4, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906679)

If anyone has an NES with the blinkies, you can disable the CIC by snipping one pin [imageshack.us] .

Re:It's a great design (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40907157)

No seriously. You're absolutely wrong, where did you ever get this mess?

My man the thing that caused the blinking lights was very very simple and not the result of a lock out chip. The 72-pin connector was always the culprit, and continued to be the culprit, you can google all of this online if you don't believe me. The pins on the connector due to inserting a cartridge bent the pins in the connector. Don't believe me even further, get an old NES, take it apart, and replace the connector and throw a game in. They will work perfectly. Also when Nintendo brought out the NES 2 that had the cartridge stand up right like the SNES carts did and this solved the issue. The famicom (the Japanese NES) also had the same exact problem, and they just replaced the part and sent it back, even though the Famicom had a similar design to the SNES and N64.

  Blowing on the carts really ruined them to no end as it caused oxidation and eventual rusting. This design was also corrected in the other versions of Nintendo's cartridge based systems.

I know you really wanted to sound smart, and are probably going to give me a smarmy answer, but reliably, I have been gaming and fixing these systems for years. Compressed air was always better for these situations

Re:It's a great design (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40905949)

Well, of course. As you know, the information is transmitted over series of tubes.

It doesn't matter how long those tubes are - thousands of miles between Alaska and Washington, DC or inches between chip on the cartridge and chip in the console - you need difference in pressures to push the stuff through them.

Light, 8-bit cartridges didn't need much, but still atmospheric pressure wasn't enough sometimes, especially in older cartridges with worn out casing. Pressure build up from blowing was enough.

SNES had heavier, 16-bit, data, so they had to add special compressor chips [superfamicom.org] to pump it through. It was a major obstacle in emulation of some of heavier games and only recently they were able to create a software version of those.

Dear Slashdot.. (-1, Troll)

ArchieBunker (132337) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905371)

I've never heard of google, how can I find technical information for the SNES console?

Re:Dear Slashdot.. (1)

metrometro (1092237) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905429)

Try it. Warez sites tend to crush useful stuff from the results.

Re:Dear Slashdot.. (1)

mrbester (200927) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907517)

I'm sure there's a torrent available at Demon... Oh wait.

Re:Dear Slashdot.. (0)

strength_of_10_men (967050) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906787)

Up next, Archie tells Meathead to get off his chair and get a real job.

Let me google that for you.... (-1, Troll)

who_stole_my_kidneys (1956012) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905407)

Re:Let me google that for you.... (0)

metrometro (1092237) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906461)

Your snark would be more compelling if THIS VERY DISCUSSION weren't a top five result for the search in question.

SNES (1, Offtopic)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905409)

>> SNES

Gesundheit

Best Ask Slashdot Question (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40905457)

This is probably the best ask ./ question in quite some time...

Re:Best Ask Slashdot Question (0)

BronsCon (927697) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906769)

any the most "just fucking google it" responses I've seen in equally long... WTF?

india-nigger doctor (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40905459)

shut the fuck-up, India nigger

DKC II was the best in the series.. (0)

TheNinjaroach (878876) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905475)

Nothing useful to add here, except that Donkey Kong Country II was the best in the series.

Understanding how the anus stretches (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40905507)

I would like help on how the anal muscles work, specifically how I can become goatse like. I am a neckbeard obese aspie who wastes his time on reddit and 9gag so am to lazy to google it or go the library.

naively enjoyed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40905565)

at the age of 5...

Start out with the Gameboy. (4, Informative)

daid303 (843777) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905577)

Of all systems I looked into, I found the gameboy the easiest to understand. The underlying CPU is quite simple. The LCD display is quite simple to understand, there are not a huge amount of complex registers to understand, and it's not that timing critical. (Unlike the NES, which depends a lot on instruction timing)

Re:Start out with the Gameboy. (2)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905749)

This [imrannazar.com] might be useful.

I would say SNES was the most technically pushed (4, Insightful)

nhat11 (1608159) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905585)

console that I had ever experience in my lifetime. It tried to do the impossible possible at the time. Created pseduo 3-D with mode 7. Created real 3-D polygon games using the FX chip (where the FX2 chip 21 MHz, was 7x faster than the actual cpu!). Created some of the most beloved and classic RPGs and series of the time. Star Ocean, Bahamut Lagoon, Tales of Phantasia (all not released in the US unfortunately) and more. Last gen SNES looked more amazing than most first gen PS1 game, sometimes by a wide margin. 1 or 2 Last gen SNES cartridges were as big as N64 cartridges memory wise. Also can't forget DK that uses "ACM" techniques to create those models in the game.

Re:I would say SNES was the most technically pushe (2)

BenoitRen (998927) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906245)

You can't really say that the SNES was pushed that hard when it used chips contained in the cartridges for the really impressive stuff.

Re:I would say SNES was the most technically pushe (4, Insightful)

nhat11 (1608159) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906637)

I thought that's what the SNES even more impressive that it could use co-processors while keeping the price the same as other games and no add-ons to the actual system. It gave the system a bit more freedom in pushing software and hardware specs around to achieve what the developers had in mind at the time. For example the developers of Star Ocean used the S-DD1 from wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Ocean_(video_game)#Development [wikipedia.org] "S-DD1 chip to to aid in compression of almost all graphics and map data" Even though it was using the 2nd largest cartridge of the time 48 megabits. (There's Metal Slader Glory which I believe is even larger) In fact SNES games were still being develop long after the SNES life has ended in the US and the PS1 and N64 came out until late 2000. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metal_Slader_Glory [wikipedia.org] Here's a pretty solid list of impressive games that were developed SNES during it's life cycle. http://www.racketboy.com/retro/super-nintendo-snes-games-that-pushed-the-limits-graphics-soun [racketboy.com]

Re:I would say SNES was the most technically pushe (1)

nhat11 (1608159) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906715)

*I wish slash had a edit button that lasted for 2 mins after the post like in stackoverflow*

I thought that's what made the SNES*

Re:I would say SNES was the most technically pushe (1)

nhat11 (1608159) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906951)

Also I forgot this one little detail (hopefully last) is that without the SNES, the PS would have *probably* never have existed. Sony and Nintendo developed an add-on to the SNES called SNES-CD http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SNES-CD [wikipedia.org] .

In fact Sony was going to release a system called the "Play Station" (not the playstation) to be compatible with the SNES-CD. As everyone know, because of the disagreement between Sony and Nintendo, we now have our current consoles we have today.

(Fun fact, Sony created the audio system for the SNES and created some SNES games back in the day!)

Dev manual (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40905635)

I have programmed an assembler and written my own games for the SNES. I use this manual quite often:

http://www.romhacking.net/documents/226

It's a leaked dev manual. It doesn't have everything, but it's a great resource.

Not just *NES (1)

pev (2186) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905657)

If you're interested in the process for the craic of the engineering rather than just being a NES fanboy, you could learn a lot from learning the history of the game "Elite" which pushed hardware and software boundaries phenomenally. In fact I'd be curious if anyone could come up with a more impressive game on that front. The best account I've read is in the book Backroom Boys [guardian.co.uk] (abridged but good version of the Elite chapter in the link) which I can heartily recommend not just for the chapter on elite but the rest is fascinating too.

Re:Not just *NES (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906019)

There's also the Sonic games on the Mega Drive, which pushed the boundaries of the technology of the time, especially with respect to speed.

*sits back and waits for the inevitable Sonic haters :)*

Re:Not just *NES (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906719)

I never was a massive Sonic fan, but playing it again now - on a real Megatrive, at that - I'm amazed at how smooth and fast it is. No, actually, amazed isn't the right word. I don't notice how smooth and fast it is. It's just smooth, and fast. The gameplay is so slick and transparent, with no horrible juddery slowdowns.

Jeez I wish modern games played like this. Just one more shot...

SNES has Blast Processing (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907325)

I never was a massive Sonic fan, but playing it again now - on a real Megatrive, at that - I'm amazed at how smooth and fast it is.

You might be tempted to attribute this to some mystical "Blast Processing" capability of the Mega Drive/Genesis chipset. But Blast Processing is just Sega's term for DMA-assisted copies to VRAM during vertical blanking time. The NES doesn't have it. Sega's marketing department made a big deal about the Genesis having it, but the Super NES has it as well.

Re:SNES has Blast Processing (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907435)

Yeah, it's basically a crude blitter. It still looks pretty damn cool.

Re:Not just *NES (1)

jregel (39009) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906805)

I agree that Elite is a technical tour de force, but perhaps a more impressive game is Exile, also on the BBC computer. It could run in 32K RAM and used a procedurally generated landscape, had a decent physics engine, a "realistic" form of AI for the creatures and was absolutely huge.

The most amazing thing (to me) is that problems in the game were solved not by following some pre-programmed rule (put "key A" into "door C"), but by manipulating the environment. So "key A" did fit "door C", but you could also use a sufficiently powerful weapon to blow the door open, or throw an imp through a hole so it goes down and presses a button to open the door. Totally amazing sense of freedom.

There is a play through on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbLndV_f_vo [youtube.com]

And some technical details here: http://exile.acornarcade.com/devel.html [acornarcade.com]

If you've never seen Exile, you owe it to yourself to spend some time just marvelling at what could be achieved in 32K RAM.

If the games industry had managed to put the 16bit and 32bit machines as hard as Elite and Exile pushed the 8bit BBC, games would be far more advanced today.

emulators (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905719)

The information you seek is also quite useful for SNES emulators.

Try going to the snes9x, zsnes, bsnes, and other such sites and lurking.

Re:emulators (1)

MtHuurne (602934) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906157)

Be careful though from drawing conclusions about how the hardware works from emulators: some emulators try to mimic the hardware as closely as is practical, while others only implement the behavior necessary to make the popular games run.

The accurate emulators are more likely to implement the actual hardware behavior, as the behavior-based approach quickly falls apart with a big software library: if you add a hack to fix the behavior of one game, you often break another, while if you emulate the hardware regressions like that are rare. So look for emulators that run obscure titles and especially stuff from the demo scene correctly.

#nesdev on efnet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40905733)

is where all us console hackers hang out. If you aren't a total douchebag this is the best place to ask questions.

Open SDK (1)

noname444 (1182107) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905795)

Not exactly what you asked for but snes-sdk is a tinycc-based C compiler and SDK for the SNES. Pretty cool if you want to write your own games and don't want t write everything in assembly.

http://code.google.com/p/snes-sdk/ [google.com]

Packt's Understanding the SNES (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40905825)

Packt Publishing has a great book called "Understanding the SNES". It got a great review here on Slashdot a few months ago.

First steps in reverse engineering (4, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40905845)

Your first step in reverse engineering aka total mastery of a device should be something a little simpler, like a 2600 or a PDP-8 or if you "demand" something modern, perhaps a very small (pun intended) microcontroller like the pic 10F family. You don't mention any previous experience with reverse engineering so I assume you have none.

Because they scale non-linearily, reverse engineering something simple and something hard doesn't take 200% as long as just reverse engineering something hard, it takes more like 100.1% longer, so the tiny extra investment isn't going to slow down the overall project too much. However the experience you gain figuring out the simpler thing Might dramatically reduce the time taken to figure out the hard thing.

The standard /. car analogy is you probably should start with learning how to change the oil before you try to rebuild the engine.

Its not a hazing thing or making fun of noobs, its just good practical educational advice. Trying something way beyond your level at best results in frustration, at worst in a sorcerers apprentice disaster.

Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40906075)

I just wasted 2 hours in peaceful memory bliss playing through Secret of Mana again.. on this PC using the snes9xw emulator.

there's a book in the works (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906129)

This doesn't much help you now, but I've been told that the MIT Press Platform Studies [platformstudies.com] series, which looks at both technical and cultural/artistic aspects of gaming platforms, and how those aspects impact each other, has an SNES book in the pipeline. May want to look for it later. They just came out with one on the Amiga [amazon.com] that was pretty interesting, so hopefully the SNES one will be good, too.

Re:there's a book in the works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40907069)

To be fair, the Platform Studies series is not really technical. The books contain technical information but it's at a slightly less "advanced" than, say, Scientific American articles. If you know what a byte or an IC is, the PS series is going to be mostly uninteresting because they shy away from the really technical stuff and resort to hand waving more often than I'd like. (Based on reading the Atari 2600 book).

EE student? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40906151)

In North America? You should be spending more time figuring out how you will find work. Yes you're having fun now in school but it's harsh out there.

I/O Pinouts (1)

twistedsymphony (956982) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906311)

Not much for internals but if you're interested in the I/O ports (Controller, AV, Cart Port, etc) and protocols GameSX [gamesx.com] is a great site.

This might make a good addition to whatever you can glean from an emulation discussion since emulators don't typically deal with the external connections.

SNES? (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906331)

Gesundheit [wikipedia.org] . What else is there to know?

Have you picked your phone up to call Nintendo? (1)

Kergan (780543) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907635)

I mean, seriously... Companies in general, and corporate giants in particular, aren't too willing to share information, much less potentially confidential documentation. But I've never heard of any company refusing a wide range of information when called by a student introducing himself as such -- especially on obsolete products. Heck, if activists can make it into poultry farms when presenting themselves as agriculture students, surely you can wiggle yourself into finding a few proud engineers at Nintendo who can recount whatever you want to know first hand. Eg "Hi, I'm compiling data on XYZ as part of my school curriculum and I was wondering if you could forward me to someone in the tech department who could give me the information I could be looking for." Seriously... Try it. People get so much email nowadays that they're more than happy to answer a phone call for a change.

HDMA was awesome sauce (1)

Krokus (88121) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907855)

The SNES had eight HDMA channels, each of which could feed data from a table into a specific display hardware register on every scan line. The first thing I programmed on the SNES was a company logo sequence that used seven HDMA channels (which you can see in the first 12 seconds of this video [youtube.com] if you care.

When I later moved on to the GBA, I was aghast to see that the HDMA channels were gone from the hardware. To me, that was a big step down. :(

By the way, though the SNES is a 16-bit machine, it actually does 24-bit address resolution. You can test this for yourself by setting the bank register to $7F and doing an indexed load from say, $FF80,X where X > $80. It will read from bank $80 and not wrap around within bank $7F

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?