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Why did Coleco Scrap the original SGM in favor of the ADAM?

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Well said and exactly what I always thought.
 
If Coleco had survived the videogame crash (their electronics division) and not gone down the road of the ADAM Computer, it would have been interesting to see these two companies go up against one another for videogame supremacy in the mid-80s. Nintendo probably would have lulled Coleco into a false sense of security about not releasing the Famicom in the North American market by using their past working relationship to garner trust and further information about Coleco’s plans for expansion of the CV or details of a possible CV2.
 
I am not forgetting about Atari in the least in the proposed scenario... just don’t care to include them in this “what if” scenario.

By 1983 Atari was a shell marketing and design company. They had little actual development of anything related to video games. Their latest major hardware has been the Atari 800 in 1979. 5200 was just a rebranded Atari 400. Most of their games were being made in Boston by GCC at that point. They didn’t have enough R&D to even put together a new console in 1983/1984, so their two options were supplied by 3rd parties: the 7800 was GCC, and they even considered the Famicom. So yeah, all of that to say they were failing as a video game company crash or not.
So future was bright for Coleco. Or so it seemed...


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Posted (edited)

Between the years 1982 to January 1985+ the ColecoVision/ADAM version of Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Junior was the best of the best with only the original commercial arcade game being better (one cannot take the arcade version home). Now in October of 1985 Nintendo for the United States market came out with a videogame system that had better graphics quality when compared to the ColecoVision/ADAM. However it is my understanding that the Donkey Kong games do not have all the screens on the NES. The ADAM version of Donkey Kong the supergame has all 4 screens but the NES only has 3 game screens. The ADAM version of Donkey Kong Junior has 5 game screens which is one more then the official arcade version (that is the leaked unreleased version from a former Coleco employee, the released version has 4 screens).   

Edited by HDTV1080P

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Between the years 1982 to January 1985+ the ColecoVision/ADAM version of Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Junior was the best of the best with only the original commercial arcade game being better (one cannot take the arcade version home). Now in October of 1985 Nintendo for the United States market came out with a videogame system that had better graphics quality when compared to the ColecoVision/ADAM. However it is my understanding that the Donkey Kong games do not have all the screens. The ADAM version of Donkey Kong the supergame has all 4 screens but the NES only has 3 game screens. The ADAM version of Donkey Kong Junior has 5 game screens which is one more then the official arcade version (that is the leaked unreleased version from a former Coleco employee, the released version has 4 screens).   

Well, technically Famicom DK is from 1983, and it is a far better port. Problem with ColecoVision wasn’t so much the capabilities, but the programming. Most Coleco games were choppy and had low frame rates, and ROM space utilization wasn’t their strongest suit either. I think the BIOS more than the programmers was the culprit.


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Posted (edited)
4 minutes ago, opcode said:


Well, technically Famicom DK is from 1983, and it is a far better port. Problem with ColecoVision wasn’t so much the capabilities, but the programming. Most Coleco games were choppy and had low frame rates, and ROM space utilization wasn’t their strongest suit either. I think the BIOS more than the programmers was the culprit.


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If you are talking about this system it says it was released in 1986 in Japan

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Famicom_Disk_System

Edited by HDTV1080P

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32 minutes ago, HDTV1080P said:

If you are talking about this system it says it was released in 1986 in Japan

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Famicom_Disk_System

Pretty sure he was talking about the Famicom not the disk system that was an add on. That version didn't hit North America though (unless you imported one from Japan) until the Nintendo Entertainment System was released

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If you are talking about this system it says it was released in 1986 in Japan
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Famicom_Disk_System

No, I was referring to Donkey Kong for the Famicom. Released June 1983 with the console. About one year after the ColecoVision version.


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If SGM was a 3 1/2 inch drive instead of magnetic tape?

Too expensive for 1983. Nintendo went with QuickDisk, a poor man’s version of the 3 1/2. Slow and very low capacity, but cheap. However that wasn’t available until 1984.


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On 6/20/2020 at 7:19 PM, mr_me said:

The purpose of the sgm in 1983 was to distribute larger games since magnetic tape was cheaper than rom chips.  Since you can't execute code directly from magnetic media it would have to have sufficient ram for loading that code.  I would think at least 16kB ram maybe 32kB.  You can read about it here.

https://archive.org/details/Electronic_Fun_with_Computer_Games_Vol_01_No_08_1983-06_Fun_Games_Publishing_US

Thanks for posting that link.  It was interesting, but really didn't say anything about what is inside of it. But what is clear is that the tapes were to be up to 128kB (1 megabit).  I would guess it would be a fairly small amount of RAM, maybe 16 or 32k as you say. There were already 256kb cartridges in 1983. Since this expanded space is the only thing mentioned, one assumes that was the big push of it, which means no extra system ram (just cartridge "emulation" ram). This would have lowered their cost, but it really did nothing in terms of giving the system more capabilities (though it does make sense to add frills like animations where you're not paying for that extra space).  One assumes if it was more, they would be pushing that aspect. But it also would add loading times.

I really don't know why they were so wedded to the particular format they chose that they cancelled the project when they were shown to be unreliable. They could have just as easily put a cassette deck in it and used endless loop cassettes (they aren't very long, but they do exist) or even regular cassettes. They could have ran them at double speed or something if they couldn't get the kind of speed they wanted from a cassette.  If it was a big success, it would have paid them back in spades. Charge people more money for the larger games with dirt cheap production costs.

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4 hours ago, HDTV1080P said:

Between the years 1982 to January 1985+ the ColecoVision/ADAM version of Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Junior was the best of the best with only the original commercial arcade game being better (one cannot take the arcade version home). Now in October of 1985 Nintendo for the United States market came out with a videogame system that had better graphics quality when compared to the ColecoVision/ADAM. However it is my understanding that the Donkey Kong games do not have all the screens on the NES. The ADAM version of Donkey Kong the supergame has all 4 screens but the NES only has 3 game screens. The ADAM version of Donkey Kong Junior has 5 game screens which is one more then the official arcade version (that is the leaked unreleased version from a former Coleco employee, the released version has 4 screens).   

 

 

All 4 screens and the proper height. fireballs and barrels are mutlicolor. Though the 64 has the sid, the Adam version certainly sounds more like arcade donkey kong than the C64.  Still, I think the 64 plays better.

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15 minutes ago, christo930 said:

Thanks for posting that link.  It was interesting, but really didn't say anything about what is inside of it. But what is clear is that the tapes were to be up to 128kB (1 megabit).  I would guess it would be a fairly small amount of RAM, maybe 16 or 32k as you say. There were already 256kb cartridges in 1983. Since this expanded space is the only thing mentioned, one assumes that was the big push of it, which means no extra system ram (just cartridge "emulation" ram). This would have lowered their cost, but it really did nothing in terms of giving the system more capabilities (though it does make sense to add frills like animations where you're not paying for that extra space).  One assumes if it was more, they would be pushing that aspect. But it also would add loading times.

I really don't know why they were so wedded to the particular format they chose that they cancelled the project when they were shown to be unreliable. They could have just as easily put a cassette deck in it and used endless loop cassettes (they aren't very long, but they do exist) or even regular cassettes. They could have ran them at double speed or something if they couldn't get the kind of speed they wanted from a cassette.  If it was a big success, it would have paid them back in spades. Charge people more money for the larger games with dirt cheap production costs.

 I read somewhere it was going to be 32kb of ram. With 32kb more in the computer module. And that makes sense, as 16kb may not be enough for current stage plus next stage. 
the added bonus is that those 32kb could have been used as work area, for the same effect as the Opcode SGM. 
But it was still a expensive device, and they were offering basically enhanced arcade ports. I see that working with the hardcore crowd, but not with the average Joe. They are saying, you pay this more for the SGM to play basically the same games, but better. 
And something that the Famicom disk system taught us is that magnetic media can be a success with piracy and in fact that can ruin your system. 
 

IMHO they should have stick with the system as it was and then eventually release a more ambitious expansion module later, with improved graphics and sound or something like that. As we know cartridge space would increase quickly in the following years and any benefit of the SGM would also be lost quickly. 

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16 minutes ago, christo930 said:

 

 

All 4 screens and the proper height. fireballs and barrels are mutlicolor. Though the 64 has the sid, the Adam version certainly sounds more like arcade donkey kong than the C64.  Still, I think the 64 plays better.

Not bad for the time. Slow though. 
And you must deal with the 160 pixels resolution, which isn’t very arcade-ish. 
 

how about this instead: :P

 

 

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15 minutes ago, opcode said:

Not bad for the time. Slow though. 
And you must deal with the 160 pixels resolution, which isn’t very arcade-ish. 
 

how about this instead: :P

 

 

I agree with you about color resolution being cut down to 160. They should have stacked single color sprites and made Mario less wide.

Someone did a recent (2016) remake of Donkey Kong for the C64. Damn near arcade perfect. Sound and resolution much better.

 

 

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36 minutes ago, opcode said:

 I read somewhere it was going to be 32kb of ram. With 32kb more in the computer module. And that makes sense, as 16kb may not be enough for current stage plus next stage. 
the added bonus is that those 32kb could have been used as work area, for the same effect as the Opcode SGM. 
But it was still a expensive device, and they were offering basically enhanced arcade ports. I see that working with the hardcore crowd, but not with the average Joe. They are saying, you pay this more for the SGM to play basically the same games, but better. 
And something that the Famicom disk system taught us is that magnetic media can be a success with piracy and in fact that can ruin your system. 
 

IMHO they should have stick with the system as it was and then eventually release a more ambitious expansion module later, with improved graphics and sound or something like that. As we know cartridge space would increase quickly in the following years and any benefit of the SGM would also be lost quickly. 

Is it possible to upgrade the graphics on the Colecovision's expansion slot? 

The computers showed that as well. Games were often hacked and on BBSs before retail release!  Yet for all the kvetching about losses through piracy (allegedly driving up prices), it's not like they have brought down the price with newer harder to pirate digital releases.

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Posted (edited)

The colecovision was designed to have alternative graphics merged with colecovision graphics through a video input in the expansion slot.  You could blank the colecovision graphics and display only the expansion module graphics; I think that's how the atari 2600 expansion works.  The upgraded yamaha v9938 graphics chip wouldn't have been available for a couple more years anyway.  It still didn't have proper hardware scrolling.

 

9 hours ago, christo930 said:

I really don't know why they were so wedded to the particular format they chose that they cancelled the project when they were shown to be unreliable. They could have just as easily put a cassette deck in it and used endless loop cassettes (they aren't very long, but they do exist) or even regular cassettes. They could have ran them at double speed or something if they couldn't get the kind of speed they wanted from a cassette.  If it was a big success, it would have paid them back in spades. Charge people more money for the larger games with dirt cheap production costs.

Coleco did switch to a type of cassette tape, but they also decided to bundle it with a keyboard and printer.  I guess they thought there wasn't enough value with expanded games alone.

 

8 hours ago, opcode said:

...

But it was still a expensive device, and they were offering basically enhanced arcade ports. I see that working with the hardcore crowd, but not with the average Joe. They are saying, you pay this more for the SGM to play basically the same games, but better. 
And something that the Famicom disk system taught us is that magnetic media can be a success with piracy and in fact that can ruin your system. 
 

IMHO they should have stick with the system as it was and then eventually release a more ambitious expansion module later, with improved graphics and sound or something like that. As we know cartridge space would increase quickly in the following years and any benefit of the SGM would also be lost quickly. 

There was a natural upgrade for them with the backward compatible yamaha graphics chips.  Had they skipped the Adam project, they could have come out with a Colecovision 2 and a compatible expansion module for the legacy system.  Hindsight is 2020; at the time everyone thought computers was the way to go; even nintendo first introduced the nes to north america as a home computer.  Similarly, in 1982/83 they didn't know how quickly rom prices were coming down.  We didn't really see 32kB cartridges until 1984.  By 1985/86 cartridges were still not much bigger than 32kB.  Colecovision Zaxxon was a 24kB cartridge and you had to pay a premium price for it when it came out.  With the low cost and quicker turnaround with magnetic media the execs probably saw higher profits as well.

Edited by mr_me

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I would argue that since the 70s, if you were doing electronics, you should be aware about Moore’s law. Which means it wasn’t a question of “if” but “when” bigger ROMs would show up. And so 1Mbit ROMs were already available in late 85, and by 1986 quite a few companies were already using them for games in Japan. In fact the Disk System, released in early 1986 was made almost instantaneously obsolete that same year. By mid 1986, Konami had the Goemon game out using a 2Mbit cartridge, twice the capacity of a Disk System disk. And btw, true that Zaxxon sold at premium price in 1982, but you are forgetting about all the 24kb games we got in 1983. So prices were going down. 

Finally, we also had advancements in programming. Sky Jaguar, a MSX game that I ported for the CV years ago, a sort of Xevious clone, has only 16Kb. And it put most CV 32Kb games to shame in terms of content/graphics. Antarctic Adventure is another example, only 16Kb.

 
And I know this is an unpopular opinion because it goes against our rose tinted memories of childhood, but most Coleco games were just plain poorly programmed. Coleco has a wonderful internal game design team that was unfortunately underutilized, but surely not the best programmers. Just one example: CV Time Pilot starts to slow down as soon as the first enemy enters the screen, and gets worse with each enemy. I wonder if even a single Coleco game ran at 60Fps, but I can’t think of any except for the Coleco published Konami games. Compare to stuff that Atarisoft did, which is still simple but really well done and smooth. But I digress. 

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Posted (edited)

All ColecoVision cartridges in 1982 had a list price of $29.99 including Zaxxon according to a original price list sheet I had. However when Zaxxon came out all the retail stores were selling the game for around $50. I called Coleco and asked them why the Zaxxon game was selling at retail for $50 when all the other games were $30 and under.  The Coleco employee at the other end of the phone told me that Zaxxon has a larger capacity game cartridge and that is the reason why the game was selling for around $50.

 

Most videogames were around the same quality on the ColecoVsion as the arcade. I agree the Coleco videogame programmers could have spent a few more months on some of the videogames to make them closer to the arcade versions. Sometimes programmers are on a short time schedule to get the videogame released. Also videogames for the CoelcoVision were limited to a maximum of 32kb in the 20th Century on the CoelcoVision (21st Century ColecoVision game cartridges can be up to 8MB in size now thanks to companies like OPCODE). When the expansion module #3 ADAM computer came out in October of 1983 the game capacity size limit went from 32kb to 256kb thanks to the low cost Digital Data Packs (computer tapes were cheaper storage media when compared to rom game cartridges). Many of the games released for the ADAM computer were the same exact titles that were released for the ColecoVision, however the ADAM versions the programmers took more time and there is a big improvement with Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Junior having all the screens (and sometimes more screens then the arcade game) plus all the intermissions of the arcade game. Therefore that extra memory and storage capacity in the ADAM helped Coleco programmers greatly. Thanks to OPCODE the ColecoVision games have never looked so go with the added sound quality improvement in the OPCODE SGM and game cartridges that go up to 8MB in capacity way beyond the Coleco Digital Data Pack 256K and Disk 160K games. The Pacman collection game looks awesome and the coming improved Donkey Kong game should also  be the best version every released on the ColecoVision/ADAM. However the better quality the videogame, the much longer it takes to program the videogame.      

Edited by HDTV1080P

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Considering the amount of games they put out, the design team may have been a decent group of guys/gals, but the problem as always was the budget on the game, which often restricted their time spent on developing it.  That was a major problem for all the game developers of the era.

 

Incidentally, when compared to other games of the era, I think Coleco devs did a fantastic job on Time Pilot.  This was a complex game ... for the time

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1 hour ago, HDTV1080P said:

Most videogames were around the same quality on the ColecoVsion as the arcade.

Ah, no, I don't think you can go that far.  Close, but no. 

 

Don't get me wrong, I sold my 2600 collection to pay for the ColecoVision when it was first released, and they were hard to come by.  This meant calling stores, getting to know employees, trying to find out who was getting them in, how many and when.  This was all by phone of in person, getting driven by the folks or riding my bike. 

 

But that said, the ColecoVision was good, really good, but not arcade perfect.  Arcade like, yes, but not the same quality.

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4 minutes ago, 128Kgames said:

Ah, no, I don't think you can go that far.  Close, but no. 

 

Don't get me wrong, I sold my 2600 collection to pay for the ColecoVision when it was first released, and they were hard to come by.  This meant calling stores, getting to know employees, trying to find out who was getting them in, how many and when.  This was all by phone of in person, getting driven by the folks or riding my bike. 

 

But that said, the ColecoVision was good, really good, but not arcade perfect.  Arcade like, yes, but not the same quality.

And the evidence to support what you just said is that Coleco released many of the most popular ColecoVision games in a ADAM version with some major improvements since even Coleco knew improvements could be made.

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17 minutes ago, HDTV1080P said:

And the evidence to support what you just said is that Coleco released many of the most popular ColecoVision games in a ADAM version with some major improvements since even Coleco knew improvements could be made.

 

Would have been cool though to see what could have been if the original SGM was released, wouldn't it? 

 

I saw the "dummy" SGM "running" at the Coleco booth at a CES like show at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island back in the day (year unknown). 

 

Coleco had the Super Action controllers with Rocky on display, and I don't think they were out yet.  For someone like me who was all about the games, the SGM would have been fantastic. 

 

I can only imagine where the system would have gone from there.

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3 hours ago, mr_me said:

The colecovision was designed to have alternative graphics merged with colecovision graphics through a video input in the expansion slot.  You could blank the colecovision graphics and display only the expansion module graphics; I think that's how the atari 2600 expansion works.  The upgraded yamaha v9938 graphics chip wouldn't have been available for a couple more years anyway.  It still didn't have proper hardware scrolling.

 

Coleco did switch to a type of cassette tape, but they also decided to bundle it with a keyboard and printer.  I guess they thought there wasn't enough value with expanded games alone.

 

There was a natural upgrade for them with the backward compatible yamaha graphics chips.  Had they skipped the Adam project, they could have come out with a Colecovision 2 and a compatible expansion module for the legacy system.  Hindsight is 2020; at the time everyone thought computers was the way to go; even nintendo first introduced the nes to north america as a home computer.  Similarly, in 1982/83 they didn't know how quickly rom prices were coming down.  We didn't really see 32kB cartridges until 1984.  By 1985/86 cartridges were still not much bigger than 32kB.  Colecovision Zaxxon was a 24kB cartridge and you had to pay a premium price for it when it came out.  With the low cost and quicker turnaround with magnetic media the execs probably saw higher profits as well.

According to the file names of ROMs I have, there were a number of 32k games in 1983.

 

They could have used non-standard cassette layout with an endless loop cassette with perhaps 2 full width mono tracks, one for data and the other direction's side (of the tape) being for formatting information. Outside of the head, the mechanism would be standard and thus cheaper.  Would have made copying the cassette impossible. Also, as others have mentioned, they weren't very good at utilizing the space they had.

 

I wonder if the 12 second delay was to get people used to loading times. 12 seconds is an awfully long time just to flash a logo.

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18 minutes ago, 128Kgames said:

Would have been cool though to see what could have been if the original SGM was released, wouldn't it? 

 

I saw the "dummy" SGM "running" at the Coleco booth at a CES like show at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island back in the day (year unknown). 

 

Coleco had the Super Action controllers with Rocky on display, and I don't think they were out yet.  For someone like me who was all about the games, the SGM would have been fantastic. 

 

I can only imagine where the system would have gone from there.

 

Wow, I can only imagine what that may have been or felt like, seeing the SGM first hand... Envy... Did you take pictures? 

 

So let's get some of those improved ports out. This time with much improved frame rate. :)

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2 hours ago, Loafer said:

Considering the amount of games they put out, the design team may have been a decent group of guys/gals, but the problem as always was the budget on the game, which often restricted their time spent on developing it.  That was a major problem for all the game developers of the era.

 

Incidentally, when compared to other games of the era, I think Coleco devs did a fantastic job on Time Pilot.  This was a complex game ... for the time

 

May I offer a not so US centric perspective? Famicom with Dk, DK Jr, and Popeye released in Japan in June 1983. June 1983 was still halfway in the CV lifespan. Now those ports were closer to the arcade originals than anything at that point in a US console. Part of that may be the superior hardware. And part was good coding. I believe Nintendo was assigning a lot of those ports to HAL, which also ported Joust, Millipede, and Stargate in 1983 for the Atari deal that never materialized. 

So no, I don't think it was a matter of budget or tight schedules. And Atarisoft was also doing great stuff for the CV in 1983, all very smooth and polished. Now, if you check who was doing the CV work for Atarisoft, you will find people who was also working in arcade games. It was just a different level of pedigree. 

Again, I was blown away by the CV back in the day like everybody else, which doesn't mean it couldn't have been done better, even back then.

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29 minutes ago, opcode said:

 

Wow, I can only imagine what that may have been or felt like, seeing the SGM first hand... Envy... Did you take pictures? 

 

So let's get some of those improved ports out. This time with much improved frame rate. :)

I wish, back then it meant having a camera, with film, with flash bulbs, and carrying the damn thing!  We have it so easy nowadays! 

 

I think it was the first and only type of show I ever went to back then, so I probably had no idea what to expect let alone think to documents things. 

 

Shoulda, could, woulda.  

 

When you get finished with this years games, start working on a time machine for us.  I have a flux capacitor already you can borrow.

 

Just remember, no stepping on butterflies...

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