After wrapping up my SEGA project, I realized that many of the games I wishlisted for that system might not be able to run on such old hardware. I started thinking about which system could run them, and the Playstation came to mind... I think, because of the Playstation Classic being announced. In a way, the Playstation was one of the next steps for me after the Amiga died, so here I wanted to imagine what a keyboard-Playstation would look like.
It boots up...
Sony YaBiT (with a Japanese "a"), after Yarouze & HiTBiT. Other ideas: PSY. Playstation 1600, Net Yarouze II, Playstation D.
Yes, it's floppydrive-time again. Sony was pretty good with magnetic media and helped to pioneer some of the disk formats. The Playstation did have a floppy drive peripheral, but it was obscure. When launching the PS2 in the EU, Sony bundled YABASIC with it in an attempt to have it classified as a computer. The Playstation Classic won't have a built in CD drive, as the games are likely stored in a flash memory of some sort, and are emulated. I understand there's a market for these Classic/Mini consoles, but the cases and hardware has a bit of a faux smell to me. I connected these thoughts, and conjured up this "Playstation Jumbo". Only $599. Well, I don't know, but it wouldn't be cheap.
The specs are identical to the Playstation, save the extra RAM and VRAM that I imagine came as a later upgrade if this thing had existed back then. It's for games like Quake and Diablo, which suffered a bit on the Playstation. I actually looked in the service manual and a hardware reference, and it's unclear whether a significant memory expansion is feasible or not due to the memory mapping and busses. I also gave it Memory Card slots and an FDD, which is redundant with a HDD inside. However, the FDD is useful for sharing files, and Memory Card slots for old saves. Without those, the case would look really boring. In a parallel universe, maybe it came with one of those 21MB floppy drives for game media.
Anyways, The Playstation was apparently pretty easy to program for, so maybe a BASIC would work here. Imagine doing primitive 3D with just a few lines of code. With a system like this, Ps development might be attractive even today, sort of how like pixel art is accessible due to its limitations.Classic games could be downloaded onto the HDD from a store or come preinstalled. Which games?
Well, I thought about it, and it has to be evergreen games which work with the original joypad. I've excluded a lot of well-known tiles because they have not aged well. Pixel art games and certain low poly stiles still look good. I suspect sports and racing games have much better offerings out there now. The same goes for certain third person horror/shooting games. I think they would satisfy the initial curiosity, but fail to suck you in for extended play. The list of 20:
|My list||Actual list|
(So the product is out and the emulatior/UI is apparently a bit barebones, though I don't mind that. The official list of games is so-so, but I guess everyone will prefer their own selection. I think they made the mistake of including games for the sake of genre representation or history, not considering what's still playable/interesting. Maybe they had licensing issues for some though.)
I'm not sure if it makes sense to put an actual (minimal) OS on this thing, but since I styled it as a computer with some kind of programming language included, it needs an editor at least. The Amiga had a rudimentary ROM-based window manager, whilst Workbench was much more complicated.
And now it's doodle time:
Sony didn't really develop a really strong mascot type game of their own? Lara, Snake etc feels separate, now at least. They were pushing Reiko from Rrrrrrridge Racer pretty hard for some time. Crash was de-edgified for Japan but still looks pretty wonky. Had to draw it like I imagine they'd like.
In a way, the Wipeout ship (Feisar?) feels like Playstation-tan. I don't think they showed the pilots much, if at all. PC-Frontier/Encounters had pretty terrible textures and new ship designs. The Wipeout (Designers Republic) style would've been a nice fit. The specs of the Ps fits the game well too I think. Imagine Elite on a Playstation looking like that.
Maybe that should be Android Battle Arena. Maybe three words is one too many. I remember drawing so many sets of stupid fighting-game characters after seeing the first 3D fighters back then. And seeing so many. Still, 3D was so impressive then, but I just couldn't afford a Playstation until around the time when DoA & MML arrived, as the base package had come down in price.
As a sidenote, I kind of like the lowrez dither effect. It makes the textures feel richer and at the same time it hides some of the ugly texture work too. Many let's play videos use emulation and it looks kind of bad in some cases. Highrez helps the most in racing games though because of the flat visual angle of the road ahead and many important objects are tiny in the distance.
My machines. Sony made some really nice cases for their HitBit MSXes. I borrowed the HB-201 keyboard for my mockup.
I wanted a compact keyboard so I used this one, even omitting the function keys. They would have to be layered onto 0-9. There 12 keys free for programming symbols next to return, but none free on the left. I'd probably make +-*/= primary. A good compiler / dialect is smart enough to not need cluttering separator symbols like ; or : so those should not be primary at least. (IMO, There is no "what if I need to --" edge-case which justifies the amount of damage ; has done.
I managed to find some Playstation service manuals with schematics. On the Playstation, it seems data busses are wide whilst the address busses are narrow.
It made me more confused than it should have. The DRAMs are probably sent the addresses in two parts (sometimes called "multiplexing" afaik). There are about half as many lines needed to fully address the 32-bit (work ram) and 16-bit (sound ram) given their sizes. It might be to conserve pins and make board layout easier. Possibly, the two parts correspond to row and columns in the RAM.
Also, it looks like on the CPU IC, the address pins DA10 and DA8 are not connected. This does not necessarily suggest expandability though. It could have something to do with the "mirrored" work ram which is eating up address space. Whether the system can be expanded might come down to the internals of the GPU and the CPU "Cop0" which handles memory. Ive heard there are versions with 4 or even 8 meg, so maybe it's possible after all. The question is where the extra memory can (safely) go in the memory map. It might cause cache/partition issues. Seen some claims that the system adapts automatically to more RAM, maybe with 8 as a limit.
What about video memory (SGRAM)? Just looking at the schematics, It looks like another 32-bit RAM with 10 address lines connected. It's supposed to be 1MB, or 256KWords in 32-bit. Uh, 2^18, right? Probably uneven amount of rows and columns then.
The GPU itself has 10 (LA0-9) address pins. A 20-bit address should give a theoretical 32Mbit roof in this case. The PSone apparently had 2MB of VRAM without using half because some address pins were not connected, and the GPU would do bounds wrapping...?
In conclusion: Because the various ASICs are now out of production and would have to be remade for this silly project anyways, I guess the memory controllers could be given a mode switch to solve compatibility issues arising from a different memory mapping. Might have to be adapted to more modern DRAM too. During the end of its life, the Playstation was sold for a mere $100 due to the economy of scale. About the price of the new Classic which has considerably less candy inside!
That's enough text, here's another drawing. The Sony's HitBit machines had a similar mecha on some box covers and in promo material. Placeholder for the pilot. Maybe a proper mascot should ride it.
StarWipe... sounds like a sanitary product.
Grim-cute Spyro alt-universe. But what is it about?
Alien life. Most Spyro enemies are just animals or variants of blob-men with cartoon eyes, and that can only be expanded upon so far for a galaxy-wide fauna. I think I saw a Yith creature somewhere so that's interesting.
Starflight ran on a 1986 computer and was fairly complex, but it didn't have elaborate ground environments which is the hard part of space exploration games, procedural or not.
Bots found it the dungeons/ruins on various planets. They drop gems, similar to the Zenny in MML.
I was watching a Mass Effect Andromeda LP. The "Remnant" locations/bots feel a bit too much like a nice and slick, but very tightly colour graded/styled concept art piece which was made into a far too ubiquitous look. There's nothing interesting at new sites.
Also, adhering too strictly to the black theme is... problematic as new bot designs added for variation can blur with the others, creating a difficult to read chaotic situations for the player, unless each site limits the selection.
Comparing the Remnant sites to Megaman Legends' ruins, the latter stayed interesting to me because they were more varied, less sterile, whilst managing to uphold a coherent theme throughout.
That said, I did enjoy the Remnant look. Visually impressive, but repetitive the way it was used... maybe also feeling a bit too artsy. For Spyro Effect, I'm thinking... each lost race (planet) was given a "gift" from the sky people, and it destroyed them. The player has to retrieve all gifts (power cores?) for some reason... to build a weapon against... the big thingy.
The gift and its systems could work like the Alien's Xenomorph, but it transforms tech instead (also does home decoration). Each planet has a main structure where the gift was kept (and maybe worshipped). Once the natives develop technology, the trap springs and the underground complex and subsystems which were built over time, activates. The purpose of the gift could be suppression, and to sample new forms of technology?
Each of the main characters have their own origin theory (and are forced to defend them in dialog). Maybe the robots don't really have a goal or master - it's just some old, self-emergent system that glitched or can't be understood. Because space moss is fairly common, especially on ruin planets, there are unsupported theories that the moss is actually intelligent and uses the robots for terraforming (don't want competing organisms around). Maybe fairytale creatures like Space Imps, or Elder Sponges are behind it? Some sort of primitive ape-people long extinct? And the Rhynocs claim to have been very advanced in the past, so maybe it was them?
The player walks through some narratively interesting ancient sites, then bots wake up. A lot of extra work unless the ruins are kept simple though. Several could be almost completely eroded to ease the burden.
I don't know if the entity which deployed the gifts is still around. Could make a villain (obviously the suppression system has failed here). I feel like keeping it unexplained and a lingering worry is interesting too. It would be fun to give each character their own theory.
Here's a list of "races" adapted from the Spyro games. The races are not monolithic, but all have a variety of sub-factions, political interest groups.
The Pirians are all female dragons. They can't reproduce at all. Instead, they search for egg vaults scattered around their planet. This, along with their humanoid appearance perhaps hints at an artificial origin. They are ageless but still die from accidents, and recently, conflicts. This could be what prompts space exploration. They are dying out, and in their desperate search for vaults they found a old ruins (under the polar cap ) with advanced technology, and clues that egg vaults may exist on other planets. Perhaps a "gift" was once deployed on their planet destroying a much older technological civilisation (a lost race of polar bears who came close to surviving). Gifts were typically deployed some 15000-7500 years ago or erosion would leave nothing. The Pirians appeared after that and it's unlikely that an individual survived for that long. Maybe the big bad big end-game thingy (Fairies?) knows who made the Pirian vaults, but a choice has to be made to destroy it before it can say much more than "Sprites". Are the Pirians another dormant weapon?
After finishing the ME Andromeda LP, I decided to check out the original ME. Writing seems better, with a well balanced level of exposition, and nicely placed plants for future or imminent events. It's important to place these kind of things well, and make them relevant. Maybe a museum would work to explain the bear stuff. The presence of a gem could also foreshadow the existence of a bot dungeon deeper down (which the Pirians never found) - the Pirians only make the connection later on when they find the gems elsewhere.
Maybe the crew eventually finds some very fragmentary remains of an important elder-species, and each crew member end up making their own fanciful reconstruction, revealing something fun about each crew character. The reconstructions are put on display in ship's museum, giving the player a chuckle each time passing by. There's more persistence to this type of narrative method, but it's expensive in terms of assets.
The Byrdoss are small but intelligent flightless birds, similar to penguins. They developed spaceflight early but are a bit lacking in judgement, choosing to uplift the first species they encountered - the aggressive Rhynoc.
The Rhynoc are rhino-like brutes and an early/past antagonist to the Pirians. They may not have discovered spaceflight on their own, but they are persistent, hard workers and not likely to regress. Some are choosing to leave their old ways behind, but other remain aggressive and territorial.
The Fauns were sleeping for millennia onboard their drifting world ships. They actually survived the battle against the gift, but destroyed their homeworld in the process. Only pieces remain aboard each world ship (lush biomes). However, some of the world ships were doomed to become dead, massive hulks. The Fauns become hostile when they are woken up by alien intruders and even more so when they find one of their world ships inhabited by these aliens, who they mistakingly assume raided it. In truth, it was found dead, and is now a home to a plethora of cultures and their central government. It's used as the game's hub-world.
The monkeys are soldiers and mercenaries who after being attacked by the Rhynoc quickly adapted captured technology, and are now an ally of the Pirians. Or are they?
Minor species: The Shades are mysterious and hard to read. What are their motives and can they be trusted? The cheetahmen are represented by a single, eccentric vagabond. A wanderer of the stars? Kangeroos: ninja-assasins? Egg thieves steal eggs the little buggers (perhaps related to the Shades). The Moneybag-men are merchants, but it gradually becomes clear (and worrying) that they are gathering intel and technology for a big takeover, which could be the B-plot of a sequel. Or it could be a joke as they are easily thwarted after a bad investment or freak accident.
If you do the Leafman quest, they'll show up later with a squad of soldiers to help out. Bad-asses, each and every one. Best of the best! Let's do this! However, a gust of wind blows them all away ( ._.) bye Leafmen...
ME1 was pretty good at relegating many events to history and then exposing details via conversations. Maybe the intro should be more about setting the mood:
There's a battle, robots against... silhouetted figures. Maybe victims of a massacre. Dust and smoke. We follow one of the robots, its three round eyes a blazing orange. Victory. The dust settles, and the robot becomes a stationary guardian. Time then passes quickly (camera spins around the robot like a clock). Structures crumble into dust, but the robot endures longer. Finally, the eyes go dark. It sags. Sand moves in, almost buries our robot, washes off, buries it again like waves. Camera stops spinning. Stillness, camera pans to the sky. Nothing there, then a craft appears, descends and lands. Foot in the sand, pan up to full figure. Other figures exit the ship and move off. Camera pans back to half-submerged robot. Focus on the eyes. They flicker but only one lights up. Then there's a distorted robotic "intruder detected"-type call (which will be recognised later by the player).
Cut to some operational centre in space (possibly aboard a round space station so a cheesy shape-to-shape cut can be made). Officers in a conference room are upset that an exploration party (the one we saw) has not reported in. Maybe the player is next in line and has to get briefed.
Eeeh. Actually I think it might be better to not show the past at all, to avoid any sort of trivialisation.
Early game is about exploring the relations of the various races, and assemble a team, and getting the main story arc booted. First mission could be some light exploration of typical ruins. Maybe some Rhynocs are causing trouble too.
Humans can be used to provide a neutral anchor point, but maybe they doesn't quite fit into the fairyland setting/lineup... ... Did you know Casio MSX game boxes had a neat little zig-zag thing going on?
Some questions to answer:
How come the ruins/dungeons have not already been looted? What makes the player special in terms of survivability?
I'm thinking... the player has a unique regenerating shield which blocks the energy blasts from the robots more effectively (powered by the gem cores dropped by the robots, which is why others have troubles building similar shields - a catch-22). This allows the player to get deeper into the dungeons. It could be obvious that others tried but didn't make it very far. This also explains why the lost civilisation didn't stand much of a chance, but the player can just waltz in.
2011 drawing. Unsure if for this project as a "Mako" replacement. I'm not much for slower mecha games. Heavy Gear was faster I think, with the foot-wheel driving. Would be neat to be able to jump-jet over rolling hills and valleys like in Tribes. There is a hover vehicle in ME2 but it looks too floaty and easy to handle, whereas in Tribes understanding the terrain and limited jet-energy is crucial, allowing the player to grow... uh, by leaps and bounds, pun intended? A biped vehicle won't have the self-righting issues that a car/quad vehicle has. Magical self-righting can be hand-waved away by showing little jets though.
Driving was much improved in ME:A it seems. The ME1 vehicle is super floaty and that's aggravated by the monotonously jagged/mountainy terrain. It's very sterile too but I guess that's poly limits, or an intent to make driving easier. I suppose it could make sense for planets to often be barren or icelandic though. Planetary exploration was simpler to make complex in Starflight, due to the abstract graphics.
Vehicles can't physically enter into tight dungeon corridors. Maybe they're also vulnerable to some sort of EMP field around dungeon areas, making them stuttery, garbling controls?
My concept for an alternative N64 cube with a Floptical drive and no cartridge port. The joypad is quite small with a reachable center analog stick... well, by adult hands that is.
So, the N64DD had 64MB disks and came with the 4MB expansion, doubling RAM. Normally ROM was used directly as memory but with floppies the data must be loaded into RAM. I heard that reading from ROM was faster than RAM for textures, so I don't know if the N64DD got around that bottleneck.
My version might need 64KB cache (cuz 64)(up from 4) or use faster main RAM. Cache is kind of expensive. I suspect cache needs more gates per bit, making the die larger, hotter, also lowering production yields due to errors. But maybe 64KB was within the realm of possibility.
I would've gone for a cheaper CPU, stuck with 4MB RAM (expandable) because in my mind FDD loads are not a bad thing :F N64 games were mostly 8-32MB so some intermission loads would be needed from a 21MB Floptical. Expansion RAM could reduce loads (i.e. scalable) like on the Amiga. With better texture mem there's a chance games would be larger I suppose. N64 games often didn't have much in the way of textures because of the memory issues.
The N64 had UMA (Unified Memory Architecture), meaning, RAM was shared between sound, program, graphics, and perhaps this added to latency (contention)? So maybe the tiny GPU cache could've been skipped altogether in favour of larger (and cheaper) adjacent dedicated gfx memory.
A mechanical FDD must surely be quite a bit pricier than a cartridge slot, though it lowers cost per game. Floppy games can't be expanded with special hardware as they're only data. Saving is more convenient however. CDs are the worst of both worlds and back then the extra space wasn't really used for anything critical, just nonsense like FMV and sound tracks.
I think most N64 games aged quite poorly because of the texture issues and the general wonkiness of early 3D. I guess Mario Golf still looks alright due to its style.