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Games That Push System Limits

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the more-shiny-for-your-dollar dept.

Games 107

Retro Gaming with racketboy has a look at games that pushed the limits of gaming systems. At the end of every console's life, the last few games released for the system are (generally) the shiniest examples the hardware has to offer. The article's author starts with the Atari. From the piece: "I'm by no means a 2600 expert, but Solaris is definitely one game that comes up quite frequently in terms of innovative 2600 games. Considering the 2600 wasn't originally intended to do much more than play Pong variants, Solaris is a technical masterpiece with its sophisticated gameplay and relatively high resolution graphics. Although the game played much like a first-person space shooter, you can always see your ship at the bottom of the screen. The graphics for Solaris were first-rate as the multi-colored aliens are flicker-free and glide along smoothly, even when attacking in groups."

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107 comments

Black and White did it for me (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 8 years ago | (#14719783)

And even on my new system it locks up.

But to properly pay Sims 2, I had to:

1. upgrade my RAM to 708MB
2. turn off all other programs
3. use /AboveNormal in a script to push the game into high-use mode
4. turn my monitor to a lower display resolution.

Luckily, it was worth it.

Re:Black and White did it for me (1)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 8 years ago | (#14719853)

A few of my "forced" upgrades:

Wolfenstein 3D: sound card
Doom: 486/66
Quake: Diamond Monster 3D
Half-Life: pretty much everything
Half-Life 2: again, pretty much everything

Re:Black and White did it for me (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 8 years ago | (#14719891)

Now if I could only upgrade the video card on my eMachines AMD 2600 laptop ...

Re:Black and White did it for me (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720040)

Wolfenstein 3D: sound card

You added a sound card for Wolfenstein 3D? That's hardly a game that required sound. Now Wing Commander...

(Got my first Sound Blaster for $89 just so I could hear the cool sound and music in WC that everyone was raving about.)

Doom: 486/66

For most people I think it was memory. 4MB was not all that common except in brand new machines. I actually called up Id (I think they were a bit annoyed about this) to ask them if 4MB meant a total of 4MB or 640K + 3MB XMS. Thankfully, it was the latter and I grabbed a copy of shareware Doom. A few months later the shareware magazines started printing "640K + 3MB XMS". Guess I wasn't the only one annoying them. :)

Quake: Diamond Monster 3D

??? What did you have before that? I ran Quake on an S3 (not virge) and got excellent performance. Or are you referring to GL Quake?

Re:Black and White did it for me (1)

carninja (792514) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720842)

i think he's saying he didn't have a sound card at all. Most people back then didn't. And yes, the sound in Wolf3D actually helped keep you safe from nazi ambushes.

Re:Black and White did it for me (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 8 years ago | (#14723672)

I don't know if anybody else figure this one out, but there was a way to change some config file in Wolfenstein such that it would play the voices through the PC speaker. Just about any change would do, as far as I could figure. The sounds effects weren't that good, but it was a lot better then hearing the beeps you were accustomed to on the PC Speaker.

Re:Black and White did it for me (1)

Some_Llama (763766) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726213)

"What did you have before that? I ran Quake on an S3 (not virge) and got excellent performance. Or are you referring to GL Quake?"

I bought the same card at the time, there was a huge difference with playing the game with no onboard memeory and one with 2-4MB of onboard memory, which the Diamond card had. This is in software mode...

Re:Black and White did it for me (1)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720121)

And don't forget...

Nethack: 10-key numeric sidepad

Re:Black and White did it for me (1)

Yer Mom (78107) | more than 8 years ago | (#14723258)

Numeric pad? For Nethack?

Obviously not a vi user :)

Re:Black and White did it for me (1)

garrett714 (841216) | more than 8 years ago | (#14719876)

1. upgrade my RAM to 708MB

Not to be a troll, but I think you meant 768mb :-P

Re:Black and White did it for me (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 8 years ago | (#14719955)

Oops, my faulty memory.

I just did the math, you're right. Three 128mb RAM chips, one is in external port, swap out 1-128 and replace with 1-512mb and you get 768mb.

Same diff.

Re:Black and White did it for me (1)

khellendros1984 (792761) | more than 8 years ago | (#14721815)

Oh darn...I thought maybe you'd found the elusive 196MB DIMM....

Re:Black and White did it for me (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 8 years ago | (#14723681)

Or he could have had 512 + 128 + 64 + 4 ? I'm not sure of any system that accepts both 512 meg chips and 4 meg chips, but surely it's possible.

People who post PC games are missing the point. (1)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 8 years ago | (#14719966)

PC games are all programmed under the assumption that people can upgrade their hardware. There is no limit to push on a PC because of this. This is all about pushing the limit of a known system and not just coding wastefully under the assumption that the "next generation" will be able to handle it. Console programmers know that the current hardware is all that they are going to get.

The only thing that the PC world has that comes close to this is the demoscene.

People who post PC games grok the point. (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720013)

PC games are all programmed under the assumption that people can upgrade their hardware.

I've got a laptop. Other than the memory, I can't upgrade the video or sound cards.

On my GameCube, I did upgrade the memory.

My xBox is upgradeable, not that I ever did.

I fail to see how this is different.

Re:People who post PC games grok the point. (1)

RoadDoggFL (876257) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720148)

Because no developers make games for your Gamecube or an upgraded Xbox.

The fact that you're failing to see the difference isn't anyone else's problem.

No, I'm afraid you really don't for two reasons. (3, Insightful)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720163)

1) Developers cannot know what the capabilities of your laptop are. They have to generalize for many, many hardware configurations, and any attempts to push the envelope of systems currently available risks making your system requirements too high for the game to sell. My PC does not equal your PC. My PS2 does equal your PS2.

2) Developers can assume that a laptop sold the year after yours will be more powerful than yours. What is a limit today is not a limit one year from now.

These two things combine to mean that PC developers cannot really push the limit of a PC because defined limits don't exist.

Pushing the limit of a console is truly a feat of wizardry because you're constantly striving to get more and more out of the same hardware instead of just coding for machines that don't yet exist or aren't yet common. On the other hand, there's an incentive to go all out since you are rewarded for hitting the limits of a system by increased sales instead of punished by decreased sales. It's an entirely different way of programming for an entirely different market.

A system with an add-on like a hard drive for an Xbox, a network card and hard drive for a PS2, or a memory pack for an N64 is not the same as an upgrade for a PC. In essence, what you have is an entirely new system. Console games are coded under the expectation that either:

A) You cannot assume that the hardware is there and the game cannot rely on it.
B) The game requires the hardware and will not run without it.

In other words, two systems with or without an added capability are essentially two completely different consoles, and pushing the limits of those systems works completely differently. You'll note that because of lower market penetrations of Console++ over Vanilla Console, most games written for add-on hardware are commercial flops.

Re:No, I'm afraid you really don't for two reasons (1)

level_headed_midwest (888889) | more than 8 years ago | (#14721923)

The fact that the developers don't know exactly what hardware people will try to run a game on also hampers them. If the minimum system requirements say that it will run on a K7 Athlon...then there are no SSE enhancements at all, even though most gamers will have P4s and A64s that support at least SSE2. The same is more or less true with other optimization flags on the compilers as the developers do not want have a game not play on a CPU that could possibly be used to play it AND they don't want to compile and have to distribute separate binaries for different chips. Making a few CDs for each the Athlon K7, Athlon 64 SSE2, Athlon 64 SSE3, Pentium III SSE, Pentium 4 SSE2, Pentium 4 SSE3, Pentium M SSE2, Pentium M/Core SSE3, oh, and let's not forget SMP support for Pentium D and Athlon 64 X2 chips would make for one HUGE retail box. So performance is un-optimized and certain portions of games' processing (particularly anything involving floating-point math) is slower than it could be. I know- I code some C and do a lot of iterative math functions. Optimizing the binary with the -march=pentium4 -msse2 -O3 -ffast-math makes a HUGE (in some cases 2-3x as fast!) difference versus just using the gcc defaults. But in others, it barely makes a difference.

Maybe if everyone simply downloads games instead of buying CDs we will see optimization. I bet that will only happen with a boat load of DRM or if the game is open-source.

Re:No, I'm afraid you really don't for two reasons (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14722901)

You do realize the binary is ~2MB (most of which is anti-copy measures and additional DLLs don't add more than a few megabytes)? All the space intensive stuff (textures, levels, sounds, models, animations) is platform independent, there's even a push for platform independent game logic (e.g. UnrealScript). Ten different build take up maybe 100MB at most, that's nothing. The DVDs games ship on these days hold 47 times that and you can even add compression.

Re:No, I'm afraid you really don't for two reasons (1)

level_headed_midwest (888889) | more than 8 years ago | (#14723662)

Huh, I knew that the binaries were that small, but I thought that the DLLs would be a lot bigger than 2MB. Like another one of the people who responded to my post, then the issue becomes loading the *right* executable for your CPU, not fitting them all on the install media.

Re:No, I'm afraid you really don't for two reasons (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14724004)

There are instructions to find out what the CPU supports, the rest is just choosing different files to install.

Just checked, with Doom 3 the binary is 5MB including copy protection and all of the modding tools (because they're all included in the same file), the gamex86.dll is 2MB and the rest is platform independent data (except maybe for the shader scripts but they aren't CPU dependent). So it's a bit more than I thought but still nothing that would prevent having multiple versions on one DVD. Hell, UT2004 has the Linux and Windows versions on the same DVD, other games may include a Mac version on the same CD as the PC one.

Re:No, I'm afraid you really don't for two reasons (1)

Fred Or Alive (738779) | more than 8 years ago | (#14722969)

You wouldn't need seperate CDs for different programs, they actual program bit of games are reletivley tiny, it's the rest of the game that's huge. As far as I can tell, out of the 5GB Unreal Tournament 2004 takes up on my hard disc, 20MB is taken up with executables (EXEs and DLLs). So, it's not exactly going to fill a DVD having a few different versions of programs.

Of course you would have to take your time testing and verifying several versions of the program. I agree you'd have to be a looney to do versions for every specific processor, if it was done I'd guess they'd go for a more general set, say SSE2, SSE3 and a 64 bit version. You'd also have have to come up with some way of installing the right version (or picking the right one at runtime). So it isn't that simple, but the program size isn't a problem.

Is there any way of optimising for multiprocessor / multicore other than just writing a multithreaded program though?

Re:People who post PC games grok the point. (1)

Kirsha (201264) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720796)

You upgraded your Cubes ram? How, and more importantly, why?

Re:People who post PC games grok the point. (1)

HTL2001 (836298) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720835)

You must be new here.

still waiting for the answer to "how" though

Game that pushed the System Limits ... (4, Funny)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 8 years ago | (#14719808)

I remember back when Microsoft game out with Solitaire ...

My Windows 95 machine could barely handle it ... kept freezing and requiring reboots.
So that's when I upgraded to Windows 98.

A lot easier to push a console in those days (4, Informative)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 8 years ago | (#14719841)

Mainly due to the cartridge system. You could stuff extra RAM and processing units into the cartridge to expand the ability of the base console. Nothing like that in today's optical drives. Theats one of the reasons generations are so much shorter now- we were basicly buying upgrade hardware in each cartridge.

Re:A lot easier to push a console in those days (3, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720172)

You could stuff extra RAM and processing units into the cartridge to expand the ability of the base console. Nothing like that in today's optical drives.

It's not like a modern system needs the extra components, though. They've got so much horsepower that any change would be pretty marginal. Thus you tend to get much more bang for your buck by trying to extract more out of tighter and better optimized code. On the Atari 2600 that wasn't an option since you:

a) Only had 128 bytes of RAM (the SuperChip in some carts added another 128)
b) Had 2-4K of ROM (without bankswitching tricks that later extended the carts)
c) Couldn't fit an entire screen of data in RAM. (That 6K in the SuperCharger really helped here.)
d) Had exactly 1 clock with which to draw to the screen for every three pixels.
e) Had slightly more than 1MHz of processing time to work with.
f) Had to draw the screen since you had no GPU to count on. (The TIA didn't do much more than plot swaths of pixels, I'm afraid.)

Back then you counted clocks for all you were worth. Today you count millions of lines of code for fun. My how times have changed. :)

Re:A lot easier to push a console in those days (1)

LocalH (28506) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720462)

At least for the Genesis, that's primarily not true. The only mentioned Genesis game that used extra hardware was Virtua Racing. All the others just put code in the Genesis' ROM space and perhaps had some save RAM.

Re:A lot easier to push a console in those days (4, Informative)

b1t r0t (216468) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720540)

NES games basically had to do this from the start. It only had 4K of RAM, half being work (CPU) RAM, and half being video RAM. It used a name table/pattern table style graphics chip (a descendant of the TMS-9918, though not based directly upon it like the Sega and MSX video chips), which meant it didn't even have enough RAM for basic graphics! Instead, it relied on the cartridge to put the pattern table into a separate ROM chip, or to have a RAM chip if it just had to have pattern tables in RAM. While NES games didn't go quite as far as having a CPU in the cartridge like SNES FX games did, their mappers got pretty complicated in later games, such as Castlevania 3 as mentioned in TFA.

Atari 2600? Pretty much any game other than Pong and Combat was pushing the system, because of it's 1-D graphics chip that was optimized for those two games. Vertical scrolling was relatively easy, but the limit on what you could put on a scanline made horizontal scrolling hard. The real problem, though, was the 4K cartridge address space. Doing all those tricks took up space, and there aren't a lot of good games that aren't at least 8K bankswitched. (and quite a few bad games that are!) It is still to this day getting pushed to the limit in homebrew games (see atariage.com for examples).

Of the other popular systems of the day, the 5200 definitely didn't get pushed to the limit. Even though it was mostly compatible with the 400/800 line (easy enough to convert if you had source code), the 400/800 line didn't really get pushed until the XE era, after the 5200 died. Intellivision had some nice games in its later days, and I would say that they did in fact push the system. And the Vectrex was too niche and too late to get pushed to the limit.

While the 5200 got only one bankswitched game, the Colecovision died before it could get any. Like the 5200, it had 32K cartridge space. Its 16K VRAM and TMS-9918 graphics were really good for character-cell based games. Its only problems were small work RAM (1K) which could be partially made up for by using extra VRAM as secondary storage, and lack of colors (15 fixed colors, only one or two at a time, and not well-chosen ones like the C64 had). The Sega Master System (an expansion of the Colecovision-like SG-1000) video chip made up for this by doubling the max sprites per line, using 4-bit graphics (16 colors) everywhere, and having 32 palette registers.

Hmm, let's see... here's how much RAM they had, and how much space a game could take before having to use bank switching:

2600 - 128 bytes RAM, 4K cartridge space
INTV - about 1.3K RAM, possibly as much as 48K x 16-bit cartridge space, but with a wonky bus
5200 - 16K RAM, 32K cartridge space
CV - 1K RAM, 16K VRAM, 32K cartridge space
Vec - 1K RAM, at least 40K cartridge space
NES - 2K RAM, 2K VRAM, 40K cartridge space (usually 32K ROM/8K RAM)

Castlevania 3 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14722685)

Ironically, Castlevania 3 didn't actually use any of the special graphics capabilities of the MMC5 that were touted by Nintendo Power. The only games that did were Japan-only releases.

The Japanese version used a Konami custom chip instead of a Nintendo MMC that had better banking capabilities than MMC3 (graphics ROM was banked in eight independently-selectable pages vs. MMC3's six) and some extra sound channels (that wouldn't have worked on a NES anyway; the non-Japanese consoles had no external sound input lines) But it didn't have expanded VRAM, columnscroll, or any of the other unique capabilities of the MMC5. CV3 could have been done on an MMC3 cart with a little refactoring and possibly some minor animation cuts.

RCT3 (1)

T-Bucket (823202) | more than 8 years ago | (#14719844)

Roller Coaster Tycoon 3... All that beautiful 3d scenery and detailed rides, optimized by drunken chimpanzees... I've yet to see a box that can handle even a medium sized park without chugging like a frat boy on a thursday night...

N64 (1)

Masami Eiri (617825) | more than 8 years ago | (#14719857)

Rogue Squadron on the N64.. especially with the V-Wing's seeker cluster missles. If you had the RAM expansion, I assume it would be less of an issue, I didn't have it though. One time I used my Game Shark to get myself unlimited secondary weapons. Bad idea.. I spammed those seeker clusters like no tomorrow, and I locked it up. Fun times.

Re:N64 (1)

HTL2001 (836298) | more than 8 years ago | (#14721215)

I've done that and locked it even with the expantion... forget which level but there were a good load of baddies so that could have contributed

Re:N64 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14723261)

Sin and Punishment for the n64 was one of he games I remember "pushing the envelope". There was one amazing scene where you flew around on a levtating piece of debris above a fleet of aircract carriers, shooting down aircraft. The draw distance was really impressive (especially compared to games like Turok 2 which fogged the hell out of everything) and it ran at a pretty smooth framerate as well.

Re:N64 (1)

engagebot (941678) | more than 8 years ago | (#14723953)

That's funny, this is the exact game i was thinking of. I had the expansion, and it did help, but it mainly just increased the resolution a bit. The framerate didn't really change.

continuing with newer systems... (4, Interesting)

DJ_Duffy (915271) | more than 8 years ago | (#14719914)

I'd say stopping at the SNES is too bad bacuse other more recent systems showed how it pushed the performance of the system:

SNES: Stunt Race FX....which also used the FX chip (2nd game to use it) Sega 32X: Virtua Fighter...worst looking version of the series, but at least you didn't need a Saturn to play it. N64: Perfect Dark...pushed the N64 a little too hard..almost unplayable at some points. N64: Resident Evil 2...huge game for the N64..I'm suprised they managed to fit it all onto a cartridge at all. Playstation: Gran Turismo 2, Metal Gear Solid...both just grabbing all the PSOne had left for performance.

Re:continuing with newer systems... (2, Informative)

RoadDoggFL (876257) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720173)

FTFA:
More to come...
Part 2 of this series will arrive soon -- covering systems from the Atari Jaguar through the Sega Dreamcast.

Good thing you read the whole thing... (1)

Spiffness (941077) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720560)

"Part 1 of 2"

SimCity 2000 on my old PC (2, Interesting)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 8 years ago | (#14719918)

man, that thing ran so slow that it died.

And what really burned me up, was Maxis included all but one of the changes I wanted in the game - wind turbines, hydro dams, etc. - but I couldn't get them running with anything other than a minimal map and few active boxes.

Heh - I was going to say Simcity 4 (1)

aftk2 (556992) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720042)

A game released in 2003, being played on my late-2005, 2.1Ghz iMac G5, with the 128MB Radeon X1600, it runs like ass nearly from the get-go.

Thanks a lot, Maxis - oh, and I'm sure Aspyr didn't really help things out, either. Seriously, was anyone able to play this game at all when it was released, on recommended system hardware.

Re:Heh - I was going to say Simcity 4 (1)

Bradee-oh! (459922) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720626)

Yes - On an Athlon XP 2400+ w/768megs of ram and a Radeon 9700, I was able to play just fine - on the smaller two map sizes. And even the second map size up would start choking frame-by-frame when the city got to a decent (read "interesting") size.

That was RIGHT after it came out and I know after I stopped playing it they released a few patches for performance issues.

Now that I have a Athlon 64 X2 and 3 gigs of ram, I've always wanted to go back and see just how much memory it could choke down and whether or not it was truly multithreaded.

But I can't find my copy =/

Re:Heh - I was going to say Simcity 4 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14723491)

put some RAM in there.

Re:SimCity 2000 on my old PC (1)

level_headed_midwest (888889) | more than 8 years ago | (#14721978)

Heh. I ran that on an old Mac LCII with a whopping 4MB RAM and 33MHz 68030. You learned to save early and often as System 7 tended to lock up very solid when it ran out of RAM. In fact, most any game tended to stretch that old Mac to its limit, but boy, were there some good games out there for it. We had both SimCity 1.4 and 2000, the original Sid Meier's Civilization, Space Invaders, Oregon Trail, a vector-graphics game called Spectre, and several others.

I wish I could find those games again. I am sure that I could get qemu to play them. The games today trade glitz and glamour for the elegant gameplay of those old 8-bit-color games.

Pitfall 2 (2, Interesting)

pyite69 (463042) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720055)

I haven't played Solaris - I'll have to dig up a copy of that one. But I was blown away by Pitfall 2 on the 2600 with its more realistic graphics, better sound (with a musical sound track!).

DKC (3, Interesting)

dreemernj (859414) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720072)

Donkey Kong Country for SNES. Mmmmm that game was too good. And the first SNES game I know of to use the scanline trick to push the max on screen colors from 256 to 4096.

Re:DKC (1)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14722085)

And the first SNES game I know of to use the scanline trick to push the max on screen colors from 256 to 4096.

...said the writer of the article.

Re:DKC (1)

ubrkl (310861) | more than 8 years ago | (#14723794)

Agreed ... and I thought Rare would never die, based on what they produced with the SNES+DKC. I'm playing Mario Power Tennis on the Cube, and they've got a DK level, with the music and the Klaptraps from the original DKC ... really takes you back :)

Elite (2)

madprof (4723) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720082)

Elite for the BBC pushed it a long long way. Split screen with mode 1 at the top and mode 5 (or was it 2?) at the bottom, an impressive sight.
I heard a rumour that they even used up bits of keyboard buffer memory for space. Is this teue?

Re:Elite (4, Interesting)

grahamwest (30174) | more than 8 years ago | (#14721005)

Mode 4 at the top (2 colour, 320 pixels wide) and mode 5 (4 colour, 160 pixels wide) at the bottom. They didn't actually use the full screen width so they took less than 10KB of memory (and correspondingly less resolution). The BBC Master version used mode 1/mode 2 for 4 colour and 8 colour respectively.

Other games had used the trick of changing the video registers partway through the frame (via an interrupt) although only to change the colour palette. Elite was the first to change the bit depth and so on as well, effectively changing the display mode. They also had the timing so rigid that there was no need for a black 'gutter' between the two states, as most other games needed.

I've no idea about the keyboard buffer, but the game used about every trick in the book so it wouldn't surprise me. Elite was so far ahead of its time I think cutting edge graphics and a deeper in-game story (ie. taking all that backstory from the novella and making it count in the game itself) would be enough to make it a viable product today. Convincing the retailers and money-men about a space game is a tougher proposition.

Exile for the BBC micro (1)

Blowfishie (677313) | more than 8 years ago | (#14723119)

The mode splitting of Elite was very clever and Elite was a brilliant game, but for technical excellence, the award has to go to Exile [acornarcade.com] .

Exile is a sideways-scrolling action/puzzle/adventure game which pushed the 8-bit micros and 32K of memory further than anything had ever done and possible has done since. It has great physics, tons of particle effects, great (and varied) graphics, neat sounds, a plot that didn't suck, smooth framerates, trick NPC AI and more. I only recently discovered that every graphic in the game came from a 128 x 113 pixel block in memory - absolutely staggering when you look at screenshots or play the game. The like above has a game development section that is worth a read.

Exile was also squeezed onto the Acorn Electron (the BBC's smaller cousin). This version played inside a window on the screen where the border looked like noise, but was actually game data or code!

Re:Exile for the BBC micro (1)

Yer Mom (78107) | more than 8 years ago | (#14723276)

I remember being extremely annoyed that the expanded version worked with just about every Sideways RAM setup except Solidisk's, which is what I had.

Re:Exile for the BBC micro (1)

Blowfishie (677313) | more than 8 years ago | (#14723341)

Have a read of the development page here [acornarcade.com] - the game used self-modifying code to protect itself based on the code itself, the program counter and the 1MHz timer. The code couldn't be moved, stopped or altered. If anything affected any of those systems then the game would fail to decrypt itself and run. I'm amazed that more hardware add-ons didn't break it (although Solidisk's RAM wasn't the only thing that broke it).

Missing a couple games... (2, Informative)

default luser (529332) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720092)

I'd also nominate:

For NES, The Guardian Legend (Winter 1988) [wikipedia.org] , created by Compile. Innovative mixture of gameplay, extremely fast scrolling, an endearing soundtrack, dozens of enemies on the screen at once, HUGE bosses...lots of fun.

For Genesis, Shining Force 2 (Summer 1994) [wikipedia.org] . An excellent sequel, it included the best cartoon-style graphics ever seen on the Genesis' limited color pallette, and the instrumental soundtrack, with fake reverb and rich sounds, was way beyond anything else ever attempted on the platform (remember, most Genesis games went with a techno or electronica-inspired soundtrack because the FM sound synth was pretty poor).

That's about it. The article was pretty complete considering how many systems it coverd.

Re:Missing a couple games... (1)

william_w_bush (817571) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720578)

Final Fantasy 1 for the NES: Long game with lots of little details and weapons. Played better than most genesis games.

Phantasy Star 4 for the genesis. Not many played it, but it was long, complex, played nearly like an early ps1 game. Decent storyboard cinematics, and best gfx in an rpg for its system.

Final Fantasy 9 for the PS1: plays like a PS2 game for sure.

Ultima Underworld and The Summoning: both played on a 286, UW was a first person doom-dungeon trip, the summoning was a colorful and complex wizardry clone.

These aren't just games that push the systems, these are also games that put design before production, ie. concept above code, with consistency and playability above quick flashy gfx features (remember mode 9?) and uncontrollable cutscenes that are added because they look good in demo videos.

Castlevania:SOTN gets the other side of this award tho, for making the most crazy fun, but technologically backwards game this side of tetris plus.

Re:Missing a couple games... (1)

default luser (529332) | more than 8 years ago | (#14721105)

I've always considered FF1 to be a clunky game. Cheesy black backgrounds in dungeons and battle scenes because they didn't want to bother creating rich enviroments. Agonizingly slow battle system. Enemies with the same 16 colors because the colors of the party members locked them into a single pallette.

Phantasy Star was a much better game, and at least Dragon Warrior (from 2 on up) took greater advantage of the colors available to make their enemies more varied and vivid.

Sure, when they moved the game to the SNES, it looked brilliant, but the FF "format" looked clumsy on limited 8-bit consoles.

Re:Missing a couple games... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14722540)

my copy of ff1 crashed after the fire cave 3 times in a row. i am still so mad about it that i cannot play the rom

Re:Missing a couple games... (1)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 8 years ago | (#14724538)

These aren't just games that push the systems, these are also games that put design before production, ie. concept above code, with consistency and playability above quick flashy gfx features (remember mode 9?)

Which is all well and good, but I thought the point of the article was to give attention to games that offered flashy gfx features above and beyond what it was thought the console hardware could perform -- a celebration of the coder that spent days optimizing interrupt timing in assembly language, not the game planner that spent months charting out storyline on a whiteboard.

Wing Commander and Strike Commander (1)

PoderOmega (677170) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720117)

Wing Commander games have been notorious for demanding system requirements. Not sure if that qualifies as "pushing" a system. But myself and many others I have upgraded thier PCs to play these game in the past. I don't remember the specs off the top of my head but I remember Strike Commander having some very heavy requirements that would not run on half the machines sold at the time it came out.

Re:Wing Commander and Strike Commander (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14725261)

The original wing commander was playable on a 80286 with only 640k ram.

I played it for two years on such a system, with a massive 10MB hard drive and luscious VGA graphics!

That and the original Diablo had to be the most awesome games ever made that would play on very modest machines.

Ultima and Wing Commander (2, Interesting)

Eric_Cartman_South_P (594330) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720132)

I know that my 386 SX 16 went from 1 meg of ram to 2 because of a version of Ultima. Worth the $50 cost of 1 meg of ram I saved up for back then! And the excuse to save up for and move to a 486 DX 75? Wing Commander III of course. Those two games give me so many good memories. Ahhhh... Avatar adventures and fighting the Kilrathi. Good days... good days...

Re:Ultima and Wing Commander (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14722404)

I remember Origin games having a voucher for "cheaper" memory upgrades for their customers. At $50 US per MB of RAM around Ultima VII times there really was no cheap upgrade option. You just had to bite the bullet.

I wonder how much cash Origin would have made if they'd actually gotten a piece of all the system upgrades that their games inspired.

It bears mentioning that Origin games, at the time, were an unparalled experience on the PC. In Origin's golden years nobody even came close to the innovation and fun in their games. It wasn't a question of "Dammit, I've got to upgrade" so much as, "OK, what can I sell/ what overtime can I work/what second job can I get to afford this?"

Driller on the Spectrum (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720165)

Amazing to see full shaded 3d produced on the humble spectrum (and look around some of its billions of individual window views!)

Crash magazine [crashonline.org.uk] gave it 97% the highest rating ever, and it really pushed the boat out.

(I only just remembered about this talking about HL in a previous discussion)

Re:Driller on the Spectrum (1)

dylan_- (1661) | more than 8 years ago | (#14724631)

Yeah, but what about R-Type on the Spectrum? I mean, the whole idea of getting R-Type on that kind of machine was insane. To actually have it work was completely impossible...

It is strange and startling to look at the first copies of magazines like YS or Crash and see the games coming out at the start, and then look at the copies near the end and see those games. Amazing progression.

Let's see... (2, Funny)

slaker (53818) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720166)

Pool of Radiance - upgrade(?) to CGA from Hercules mono and to 3.5" floppy. First time I installed it, onto 360k floppies, it took something like 5 hours.

Tradewars - upgrade from 1200bps modem to 9600bps modem

alt.binaries.pictures.erotica - upgrade from 14" SVGA to 17" SVGA (Mag DX17F, I still have the damned thing), and to 4MB ET4000 video card so I could use truecolor at 1280x1024 and look at the pretty pictures at full size. :D

Quake - I saw it on a 486/100 and decided I needed a better computer. I ended up with a dual Pentium-133 with an unheard-of 128MB RAM. Yup, Quake ran pretty well on that guy.

glQuake - Orchid Farhenheit.

Unreal - Voodoo 3 3000 + Celeron @450MHz, another 128MB RAM

Quake 3 - I first tried a Geforce2 GTS, which was a POS and soured me on nvidia forever. I think I went to an original Radeon after that.

Since then, the pace of my upgrades have exceeded that of any game that's come out. :D

Re:Let's see... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14720606)

If I had mod points, that would be funny. Sadly, I don't, so I guess it's not.

Solaris??? (1)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720487)

How on Earth did they port Solaris [sun.com] to the 2600?

Re:Solaris??? (1)

level_headed_midwest (888889) | more than 8 years ago | (#14722001)

Don't underestimate the will of the *nix guys to port their OS to any architecture. IBM put it on a frigging wristwatch for Christ's sake. And Sun DID port Solaris to the x86 platform, maybe Atari's m68k was next...

Falcon 3.0 (1)

jskiff (746548) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720640)

I remember back when Falcon 3.0 came out, Spectrum Holobyte made a big deal about how much more impressive the flight dynamics were with a 486 rather than at 386 because of the onboard math coprocessor. I never did find out if it actually made a big difference, but that's the first game I can recall that really taxed my system, and actively marketed itself towards higher end systems. As I recall, the specs on the side of the box listed the 80486 processor as "Sh*t Hot."

Re:Falcon 3.0 (1)

Camaro (13996) | more than 8 years ago | (#14721091)

Falcon 4.0 was in the same situation, too. The recommendation was for a P2-450 and I was trying to run it originally on a K6-2 350 originally. I went up to a k6-2 550 and still that wasn't enough. I think my Athlon 1600 finally made it reasonably playable, but by then I had a family and no time to relearn it enough to play it well without getting blown out of the sky. But it is a cool game that probably gets as close to the real jet fighter combat as any other flight sim ever has.

Re:Falcon 3.0 (1)

jskiff (746548) | more than 8 years ago | (#14725422)

Have you tried the latest version, Allied Force? I'm curious how much better it is. I do know that a lot of work has gone into it to bringing it up to date, but I haven't had the time to dive into such a complex sim.

GTA3 (1)

WMD_88 (843388) | more than 8 years ago | (#14720977)

A bit embarrassing I'm sure, but when GTA3 came out, my main machine was a Pentium 3/500 with 256MB RAM, and a Rage Pro Turbo AGP 2x with 8MB VRAM. I had to go out the next day and buy a 32MB Radeon 7000 with what little I had...and I had to get the PCI version, because the machine was a Compaq with a strange form factor for the AGP slot. (I got it used for $245. It was a hell of a deal). And even then, the game only ran at around 10fps. Despite that, I managed to finish the game. No idea how.


The machine is currently my brother's non-gaming Photoshop/Internet computer, and my current desktop plays GTA3 at 45-70fps even in Wine :D

Dragon Warrior 4 is NOT 1MB in size! (1)

Dwedit (232252) | more than 8 years ago | (#14721304)

Dragon Warrior 4 is NOT 1MB in size, it is 512k. I'd love to see this myth die.

The only 1MB version is an overdump which contains each 16k page duplicated somewhere else in the file.

VISTA (1)

Joe123456 (846782) | more than 8 years ago | (#14721583)

Thay missed windows vista Windows vista looks like it will push meny systems and that is JUST FOR THE OS.

Re:Dragon Warrior 4 is NOT 1MB in size! (1)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14722122)

Dragon Warrior 4 is NOT 1MB in size, it is 512k. I'd love to see this myth die.

The cartridge size of an NES game is actually talked about enough to qualify as a myth? Wow, and I thought I was a geek. :)

Commodore 64 games (1)

Neo-Rio-101 (700494) | more than 8 years ago | (#14721646)

Games which were techincal marvels on the Commodore 64 included "Armalyte", "Turrican II" and "Mayhem in Monsterland". I think "Elite" and "The Sentinel" also deserve mentions, but both those games were realsed on the BBC as well.

Perfect Dark (1)

kerplunk1984 (871218) | more than 8 years ago | (#14721869)

i am SO surprised no one has mentioned this yet. It was the only n64 game i knew of which had dynamic lighting, bots in mutiplayer, and high quality textures (for the time), plus loads of other beautiful graphical touches. and all of it on a 90mhz cpu with 8mb ram! i heard rare used all kinds of crazy tricks with the hareware to get it to run at all. i guess even then it only managed 25fps....but what a game!

Re:Perfect Dark (1)

zakaron (954611) | more than 8 years ago | (#14722211)

Actually someone did mention it... briefly. Said it was almost unplayable at times, that's how hard it pushed the system. But I agree, this games is worth mentioning again because of what it did (or tried to do on the hardware available). Rare was good at coming up with unique tricks and optimizations. But I think 25fps is generous in some cases...

Re:Perfect Dark (1)

phil1984 (709709) | more than 8 years ago | (#14723367)

It wasn't that bad. Frame-rate was normally on par with Goldeneye (Good but not Great) untill you started playing multiplayer with 3+ people and multiple sims.

Re:Perfect Dark (1)

engagebot (941678) | more than 8 years ago | (#14723987)

Not quite sure about that. In single player and 4 player deathmatches, the framerates were pretty smooth in goldeneye. I rented perfect dark and turned it off after about 15 minutes. Just couldn't watch it.

I'd have to say... (1)

Joel from Sydney (828208) | more than 8 years ago | (#14721881)

Gran Turismo 4 on the PS2. The graphics in this game are so amazing they look almost as good as Xbox 360 games. Unfortunately, the amount of detail on each car model means the game can only display a handful of them at once (about six from memory). Games like God of War and GTA San Andreas are probably close to the limit of what the PS2 can do.

For PC games, I don't think anything can really top simulation games for processing requirements. Running Simcity 4 on my then-new Athlon 1800XP with 256MB RAM was OK until you got a few thousand people in your city, after that performance just dropped through the floor. Games like Civ 3 and Empire Earth were also very taxing on my previous PC (a PII-400). With PC games though, it's very difficult to tell what's really pushing the limit from the shitty optimising and "just upgrade your PC" mindset that the PC gaming industry is infested with.

3D game on ZX81 (1)

ockegheim (808089) | more than 8 years ago | (#14721892)

Being 11 at time I could only dream of having a ZX81, let alone its 16K expansion. In a magazine I got there was an ad for a 3D maze game, where a tyrannosaurus rex would run at you in full 3D. Did anyone play this? Were you terrified? ;-)

Re:3D game on ZX81 (1)

AndrewHowe (60826) | more than 8 years ago | (#14723067)

3D Monster Maze [wikipedia.org] . Yes. Yes.

Re:3D game on ZX81 (1)

ockegheim (808089) | more than 8 years ago | (#14723512)

Wow, I just fulfulled my ultimate 12 year-old's fantasy and played it. I can see how you could bump your 16k expansion pack. It was a bit terrifying seeing it approach and knowing that your next keystroke only had a one in three chance of doing anything (but that could just have been my emulator).

Re:3D game on ZX81 (2, Informative)

silasthehobbit (626391) | more than 8 years ago | (#14723070)

That would be 3D Monster Maze. Although I recall it being on the 16K ZX Spectrum.

And yes, I did play it.

You could also stop the game by pressing Break or something. I forget - as it was like 1983/4 when this was out.

HTH

--
silas

Re:3D game on ZX81 (1)

silasthehobbit (626391) | more than 8 years ago | (#14723112)

Damn my slow fingers. I was about to post the same link!

I only had it for the ZX Spectrum. I didn't actually know it was out on the ZX81 previously.

--
silas

One word. (1)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14722147)

DOOM

Mode 7 and FF6 (1)

zakaron (954611) | more than 8 years ago | (#14722164)

The article included many great games and some of which I've never seen. But I'm surprised that nothing was mentioned of the "Mode 7" texturing the SNES executed so well for games like Mario Kart and F-Zero to simulate 3D environments without using extra hardware (like FX chip).

Even though FF7 gets all the attention, I still feel FF6 had some of the most beautifully done graphics and sprite animation. Pre-rendered backgrounds were colorful and realistic, characters came to life with expression and animation, transparency effects made spells worth watching, mode 7 airship & chocobo movements gave great depth to the play world, and scrolling backgrounds gave the scene a unique and finished feel (remembering when Celes jumps from the cliff, and when reaching the top of Mt. Koltz). Call me weird, but when I reached the top of Mt. Koltz I used to just walk around watching the scrolling background below and how cool that effect was.

Re:Mode 7 and FF6 (1)

Fred Or Alive (738779) | more than 8 years ago | (#14722959)

Didn't Mario Kart have a chip in it's cartridge so it could do two Mode 7 screens at once? Although it wasn't as powerful as the later chips AFAIK.

Anyway, as for FFIV, whilst the map screens as fine, I have a mostly stylisic gripe about the battles, as in the "why are the enemys in a completley different art style to the heroes, and why aren't they animated?". It's particularly noticable when you're say fighting Kefka, someone who appears to be average height on the maps, but in battles he's about 30ft high.

Re:Mode 7 and FF6 (1)

collar (34531) | more than 8 years ago | (#14723108)

Mode 7 was included in the SNES for exactly that purpose though. While F-Zero did look amazing when the SNES first came out, it wasn't exactly pushing the hardware, it was just using it as it was meant to be used.

Mayhem (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14722252)

Mayhem in Monsterland on the c64 gets my vote.

It was practically the last commercial game released for the c64 (or perhaps Lemmings was, but anyway), and the only game Ive ever seen that scored 100% in a magazine.

It used VSP scrolling though, so it didnt work on very early c64s. But it was fast, colourful (using colour mixing throughout), and extremely playable. Many people called it a 'Sonic beater', which was impressive for 10 year old hardware (at the time).

The Rowland brothers now make games for mobile phones I believe. Alas.

For more recent instances of pushing hardware beyond its limits, check out the alpha builds of Pinball Dreams, again on the c64. Its almost identical to the Amiga version.

No Adventures of Batman and Robin?! (1)

ECMIM (946033) | more than 8 years ago | (#14722428)

Where's The Adventures of Batman and Robin on Sega Genesis? I don't believe there's a single, 16-bit, game on any platform (SNES, Amiga, etc.) that ever did the things this game does, graphically--the sheer volume of graphical effects, tricks, etc. that this game pushes is astonishing.

Re:No Adventures of Batman and Robin?! (1)

apoc06 (853263) | more than 8 years ago | (#14725949)

WOW. i forgot about that game. it was actually pretty solid technically now that i think about it. the game itself wasnt my cup of tea, but the effects were on par with your average treasure game.

now that i think back... subterrania was wildly ahead of its time. the physics of the ship were one of the first times i ever had to deal with "real" physics in a game. the boss and background graphics were quite realistic to me at that time. not the absolute greatest game ever, but definitely surprised me that the genesis could push something like that.

Sonic 3d? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14722481)

What about that last Sonic game for genesis. They mentioned sonic and knuckles but there was one Sonic game that imitated 3d, i though that was really cool.

Tales of Phantasia for the SNES (1)

Meneth (872868) | more than 8 years ago | (#14722940)

Now that's a game. It surpasses FF6 in both graphics and sound, featuring a j-pop song and a kick-ass sound tester with a graphic equalizer.

More recent games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14723260)

It's a shame that the article stops where it does, because we've seen some impressive late-cycle games over the last generation.

On the PS1, I thought that Final Fantasy IX (which was released, if I remember correctly, almost in tandem with the PS2), pushed the system right to its limits. It broke down a little bit in places, where it was obvious that the system couldn't quite handle what it was being asked to (for example, during the summon animations), but the overall effect was great. Although it wasn't quite released at the end of the cycle, Gran Turimso 2 pushed the system well beyond what most other games managed.

During this current cycle (or is it the previous cycle now the 360 is out?), we've also had some very impressive looking games come out right at the end. Ironically, the PS2, which has long been derided as underpowered compared to its competitors, has had some of the best of these. Shadows of the Collossus and Gran Turismo 4 really stand out, while Shadow Hearts 2 is also jaw dropping in places (although the battles are still a bit ugly). On the X-Box, Farcry Instincts actually, to my mind, looks better than Perfect Dark Zero does on the 360.

Thanks for the contributions (1)

racketboynick (460263) | more than 8 years ago | (#14723640)

First of all, I want to thank you all for your contributions, corrections, and suggestions. As I mentioned in the article, this is a bit of work in progress.
I will be adding many of the suggested games -- some of which I was very aware of, but just slipped my mind.
As mentioned by somebody earlier, this was mainly for console games as that is what I am most familiar with and because of their limited and standard resources.
Also, be sure to keep an eye out for part 2 (and possibly 3 & 4). Not only am I planning on continuting with the era between the Jaguar and the Dreamcast, but I am also planning on doing a section on Handhelds such as the Gameboy, and possibly another misc section.
Feel free to subscribe to my feed for updates.
http://feeds.feedburner.com/RetrogamingWithRacketb oy [feedburner.com]
Keep the contributions flowing! :)

glquake (1)

saboola (655522) | more than 8 years ago | (#14723869)

When the beta of glQuake came out, I had to buy a 3dfx voodoo. It was worth it.

Consoles... (1)

HalAtWork (926717) | more than 8 years ago | (#14723948)

On the Genesis: Gunstar Heroes, Mega Turrican, Batman & Robin, Earnest Evans, and Toy Story to name a few...

On the SNES: Donkey Kong Country 2, Chrono Trigger...

Weird, I don't really see people posting about many games that are technically difficult to pull off such as these.

Soul Reaver: Legacy of Kain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14724966)

This is one of the last games to be released on the original Playstation, but (to the best of my knowledge) the first CD-based game that did not have any in-game loading time/ screens.

n64/ps2 (1)

somebraincells (952540) | more than 8 years ago | (#14725657)

iv gotta say turok 2 or 3 for n64 with high rez (640 x480) turned on with the 4 meg expansion when explosions start to happen all hell breaks loose....
for ps2: shadow of the colossus is pretty intense i can feel the cpu's heat through the ps2 controller
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