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Drsoren24

is the 7800 necessary?

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IIRC, Super Mario Bros. was intended to be the epitome of what the NES hardware could do without any external assistance.

 

I guess the question of any system is - what can it do without assistance? and what can it do with just bankswitching (and maybe enhanced sound, as with the SMS)?

 

I think the 78 could actually kick some serious tail if it were actually pushed, and people are finally doing that.

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3 hours ago, davyK said:

The Asteroids port is the main reason I still have mine - I still play it despite owning a genuine Deluxe cabinet. That's how good that port is.

Sometimes my Harmony Cart doesn't load up when I press the power button, my PAL 7800 then boots up the built in Asteroids instead.

 

Never disappointed when that happens hahaha. 😂

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8 hours ago, TwentySixHundred said:

I always knew the system was impressive for it's time and the more i have been messing around with the 7800 programming side of things im realizing how incredible it really is. If there was no NES and the system came out when first anticipated, along with the pokey chip integrated within the system it would have been the goto console.

Pokey would have been better than the built-in TIA, but I think it really needed something better than Pokey.   Pokey was showing its age mid-80s.

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37 minutes ago, The Usotsuki said:

IIRC, Super Mario Bros. was intended to be the epitome of what the NES hardware could do without any external assistance.

That's true. When comparing the 7800 it's much fairer to compare against the 1983 Famicom as by 1985 it was expected that the disk system and its extra benefits would keep the system going for a few more years, but when that caused a bunch of headaches for Nintendo and the US market was starting to pick up (though not the UK thanks to an expensive and botched release) they dropped the disk system and went with expanding the cartridges.

 

To apply that to a later console war it would be like comparing a SNES to a Megadrive with CD and 32X add-ons which obviously isn't fair.

 

In my opinion the fact that you can have extra RAM on a 7800 cart and arbitrarily address it, and draw graphics directly from it immediately gives it a big advantage the NES doesn't have, even with mappers.

 

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POKEY plus TIA kicks some serious NES Ricoh 2A03 tail.  Here's how:

 

Set up 16 bit mode in POKEY.  You can do square, triangle, or saw waveforms.  Leave the other 2 channels as 8 bit squares.   Use TIA for percussion.   This is more than a match for 2A03

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I was wowed by the original announcement of the 7800 in 1984.  But in retrospect it feels like it was created because Atari hit the panic button on the Colecovision and wanted a Colecovision killer.   They went all-in on sprites, because the 5200 P/M graphics system was kind of weak for sprites at the time,  that was cool and good for the types of games that were being made at the time, but it didn't seem quite ready for the next big thing..  side scrolling platform games.

 

Looking at the 7800 library now,  I do find a lot of it underwhelming.  Sure it's more colorful compared to the 5200/8-bit, but something feels off.   Take Donkey Kong,  the 8-bit port is really good, the 7800 port leaves something to be desired.  It sounds bad, everything looks stretched, I believe it doesn't have the pie level.  There are other games that don't feel like big improvements over their 5200/8-bit counterparts.   One thing that makes me sad is that the 320-mode couldn't have seen more use.   Most games seem stuck in 160, and that makes them look dated and low-res next to an NES.  I've seen some homebrews do amazing things, but the commercial titles BITD weren't doing enough to sell the system

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15 hours ago, Keatah said:

If flash carts and a co-processor cart like melody or harmony come to market, I'll be impressed.

 

I've hung around the 7800 forums for a couple of years now, and I really haven't seen any push for a coprocessor-enhanced cart. If someone made one, I'd be curious as a tech geek to see what could be done with it, but there's really no need or demand for it that I've seen.

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12 hours ago, Greg2600 said:

Prior to Rikki & Vikki, we've not had "special cart hardware" on the system the way the NES did for most of its run, and the Master System to some degree.  Whether that proceeds is another story, because as it's creator has said, he made little on the 7800 release.

It's not so much that we made little on the 7800 release - the cartridge sales have been fine relative to the popularity of the console. Moreso we were dependent upon digital sales to recoup the cost of the game software and fund further development, and in that area we fell flat.

 

I do feel there is an outlook here that designing exotic cartridge hardware is some strange voodoo magic, it is not. While I worked as a hardware designer professionally, most of these skills are self taught and I'd like to encourage more developers to learn them. Or if they don't want to - don't hesitate to reach outside the community here to those who can help.

 

 

Quote

I've been waiting for idk, 6, 7, 8 years for a 7800 flash cart.  Meanwhile the XM is on year what of it's voyage?  I'm not sure we can point to either innovation as all that promising, given the extreme and perhaps homebrew-record setting delays.  TailChao's work has been David Crane level brilliant, but as I said above, it doesn't work very well fiscally so you have to wonder if that's a dead end as well?  Perhaps if it could be coded in a flash cart in some way as DRM? 

I'm confident in @SainT's efforts and believe that while his 7800GD might not be available tomorrow, it will be a significant plus whenever it arrives.

 

Regarding whether developing new mappers and enhancements is a dead end, I hope not - because that's not where the difficulty lies here. A skilled hardware designer can draft a mapper and design a prototype in a few work days. What's expensive is developing the software to utilize this - which is enormously challenging if you want to match the scope of what the better studios were doing in the early 1990s, or what the more successful independent developers are achieving now.

 

It doesn't matter if you're working in DASM and Notepad for the 7800 or using Game Maker for Windows, creating new and original content is the most time consuming step. It's also extremely risky, but that's kind of the idea. I decided to go through with Rikki & Vikki because the unique mechanics and way everything in the game is arranged meant something to me. We developed the new hardware because it would strengthen that, not to run arbitrary technical rings around the existing library. The point was to make a good game that happened to be on the Atari 7800, not a good Atari 7800 game.

 

We also shipped that over a year and a half ago with no preorders or crowdfunding and (at least I hope) relatively little fuss for customers. Whether or not the game is everyone's cup of tea isn't the point. What I wanted to stress was that we could reliably bring you more software on a schedule, would invest in reverse engineering and hardware development that would be given back to the community, and were really listening to feedback. In particular, after the repeated drama with Watermelon's Paprium on the Genesis. The difficulties we had with coverage and vast indifference by most retrogaming communities did more to indicate this relationship isn't worth pursuing than any number of cartridge sales.

 

 

3 hours ago, The Usotsuki said:

I guess the question of any system is - what can it do without assistance? and what can it do with just bankswitching (and maybe enhanced sound, as with the SMS)?

It depends upon what you consider assistance, the mapper in Rare's Battletoads (AxROM) is rougly equivalent to what Scrapyard Dog uses. No EXRAM at all and honestly AxROM's paging setup is even worse. But honestly, I don't care. What matters to me is if the game itself is well crafted rather than what's in the cartridge.

 

 

2 hours ago, zzip said:

Pokey would have been better than the built-in TIA, but I think it really needed something better than Pokey.   Pokey was showing its age mid-80s.

This came up before, but I agree Pokey was vastly outdated by 1984. Atari's best variant on this style of LFSR sound generator was Mikey in the Lynx. Something along those lines built into Maria's silicon would have been nice, but we got what we got.

 

 

43 minutes ago, Karl G said:

I've hung around the 7800 forums for a couple of years now, and I really haven't seen any push for a coprocessor-enhanced cart. If someone made one, I'd be curious as a tech geek to see what could be done with it, but there's really no need or demand for it that I've seen.

It can be done, but yeah - unless there's software which requires it then what's the point?

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4 hours ago, The Usotsuki said:

I guess the question of any system is - what can it do without assistance? and what can it do with just bankswitching (and maybe enhanced sound, as with the SMS)?

The true measure of a system is what it does without assistance. BankSwitching being the most that should be allowed. Adding sound or a co-processor is essentially making a significant change to the schematic. Schematics don't care about crossing over a cartridge slot connector. It'd probably work better if a soundchip (like a video mod) was added internally. No competition with cartridge data.

 

 

 

 

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9 hours ago, TwentySixHundred said:

7800 Commando was another solid release and superior to the NES port IMO, very fun game

Yeah but that released three years after the NES version which sold the daylights out of the 7800 port.

6 hours ago, The Usotsuki said:

IIRC, Super Mario Bros. was intended to be the epitome of what the NES hardware could do without any external assistance.

 

I guess the question of any system is - what can it do without assistance? and what can it do with just bankswitching (and maybe enhanced sound, as with the SMS)?

 

I think the 78 could actually kick some serious tail if it were actually pushed, and people are finally doing that.

Well it's a question I'd love to have more examples in the future to check out to answer, thought I'm not sure about the ass-kicking.  The Master System, granted with better graphical hardware, can perform some tremendous scrolling, while the NES/Famicom was not slouch either.  I don't know if the 7800, even with outside RAM, could pull off Sonic on SMS or Crisis Force on FAMI?

 

1 hour ago, Keatah said:

The true measure of a system is what it does without assistance. BankSwitching being the most that should be allowed. Adding sound or a co-processor is essentially making a significant change to the schematic. Schematics don't care about crossing over a cartridge slot connector. It'd probably work better if a soundchip (like a video mod) was added internally. No competition with cartridge data.

 

Well technically the first console that succeeded without hardware upgrades was I guess the Playstation.  Everything else utilized something, chips on a cart, a plug in RAM expansion, or a full-on extra system on top of it.

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2 hours ago, Keatah said:

The true measure of a system is what it does without assistance. BankSwitching being the most that should be allowed. Adding sound or a co-processor is essentially making a significant change to the schematic

Nonsense. You've posted at length up-thread about how much great stuff is being done on 2600 homebrews, many of which us a Melody board, which basically offers both. If you're going to try to be logical, at least be consistent.

 

And for the 7800, GCC specifically included a Cartridge Audio-In line on the cart port because they intended to sell metric buttloads of GUMBY-equipped game cartridges. So there is no "change to the schematic" at all.

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2 minutes ago, DrVenkman said:

Nonsense. You've posted at length up-thread about how much great stuff is being done on 2600 homebrews, many of which us a Melody board, which basically offers both. If you're going to try to be logical, at least be consistent.

Well maybe not..? It's a gray are that can be swung both ways. Maybe to the point of inconsistency. There's a  thread discussing whether the ARM co-processor makes it into a whole new system. That camp is considers both ends of the spectrum. Lots of room for personal opinion, which is a big part of what these forums are all about.

 

The way I see it is the 2600 is a very simple console. And the Melody add-on packs a sizable punch to the architecture. It offers a significant wow factor. As a system increases in sophistication, to get the same punch, you're going to need something exponentially more powerful to the get the same impression.

 

A 1Mhz 6502 coupled with a 70MHz ARM is going to be impressive. The change from base games to ARM games is going to be impressive. There's this huge gap.

 

Now consider the PlayStation One.

24 minutes ago, Greg2600 said:

Well technically the first console that succeeded without hardware upgrades was I guess the Playstation.  Everything else utilized something, chips on a cart, a plug in RAM expansion, or a full-on extra system on top of it.

Despite the PS1 having 2 expansions ports in the back I don't believe they were ever used. Not in any big popular consumer addon I know of. And the large port was eliminated in later models. Point is Sony probably found it very costly to develop something that would take a MIPS-R3000 to higher levels. You'd need a greater than exponential increase in power (in the add-on) to increase graphics fidelity.

 

As the base technology of a console becomes more sophisticated and capable, the less headroom there's going to be for add-ons.

 

The last console to use co-processors (enhancement chips) to good advantage was the SNES. Nintendo's brilliant engineers and marketing used the concept to good and seamless advantage. More than any other console maker. Not that there was any significant competition at the time.

 

 

 

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I'm OK with sound chips.  Coprocessors...only if they're around the same power or maybe just a little step up, like the SA-1 chip.  I tend to feel like putting an ARM on a 2600 or 7800 cart is kinda cheating.

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29 minutes ago, Keatah said:

Nintendo's brilliant engineers and marketing used the concept to good and seamless advantage.

I'm just going to chime in here to rightfully give credit to Argonaut who don't get enough recognition for the SuperFX and only got an unlubricated shafting from Nintendo for their efforts.

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The great equalizer with all these enhancement chips & coprocessors is that they have to have their output go through the main console's video chip. Keeps them under control so to speak. Sidestep around it and you unquestionably have a new system.

 

And furthermore what determines if something is actually a coprocessor or new system? When the new chip is more powerful than the original processor? Or when it is of comparable (and period correct) performance level?

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1 hour ago, DrVenkman said:

Nonsense. You've posted at length up-thread about how much great stuff is being done on 2600 homebrews, many of which us a Melody board, which basically offers both. If you're going to try to be logical, at least be consistent.

See? What did I tell you guys? Ignore his nonsensical rants, he has no idea what he's talking about.

 

39 minutes ago, The Usotsuki said:

I'm OK with sound chips.  Coprocessors...only if they're around the same power or maybe just a little step up, like the SA-1 chip.  I tend to feel like putting an ARM on a 2600 or 7800 cart is kinda cheating.

It depends on what's done with the coprocessors and how they're used. Ultimately, though, you're going to eventually run into a bottleneck with the system hardware itself, unless the system's video buffer can be exploited like the NES Doom project:

 

 

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Another way of looking at this is that some consoles are easy to assist, and some consoles gain a lot from assistance. These are also forms of power.

 

The 7800’s obvious technical deficiencies are audio and RAM. Had Atari priced it at $200 (still significantly cheaper than the 5200) they could have included POKEY and more RAM. Instead they intentionally designed it to allow cartridges to address those weaknesses. The features were always available. The only question is when you paid for them.

 

(The 2600 was also very enhanceable, even if it was not intended to be.)

 

Some people mentioned POKEY being outdated by 1984. Maybe, but it was still a huge improvement over TIA — and Synthpopalooza has shown they can be combined to excellent effect.

 

If the 7800 had sold better then it might have eventually had games with more-advanced sound chips, GUMBY or otherwise. Rikki & Vikki and hopefully the XM reveal how that alternate reality might have sounded.

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15 minutes ago, bizarrostormy said:

(The 2600 was also very enhanceable, even if it was not intended to be.)

Certainly. And it was a very simple console compared to what was coming. Simple things can be made complex by surrounding them with add-on spiff. Question is what should take center stage? The enhancement? The original console? Both equally?

 

15 minutes ago, bizarrostormy said:

Another way of looking at this is that some consoles are easy to assist, and some consoles gain a lot from assistance. These are also forms of power.

If you take an holistic view of the whole thing - where any enhancement is located doesn't matter. What kind of enhancement it is doesn't matter. As long as it's between the controllers and the display device. Its wired into the system. It is the system. And discussion becomes a matter of how far one wants to drill down. But drilling too far gets those stalwarts agitated. It shouldn't, but it does.

 

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1 hour ago, The Usotsuki said:

I'm OK with sound chips.  Coprocessors...only if they're around the same power or maybe just a little step up, like the SA-1 chip.  I tend to feel like putting an ARM on a 2600 or 7800 cart is kinda cheating.

You could also just clock the ARM very slowly to peg its performance. Personally I draw the line at moving nearly all the game logic onto the coprocessor - at that point it's time to move to the next generation of console hardware. If you have a fast ARM (or DSP) that's just helping with math or rendering with Sally still running the show, that's cool.

 

But in the end I'd rather have more games than not. That's more important than hitting some authenticity metric.

 

 

26 minutes ago, SmittyB said:

I'm just going to chime in here to rightfully give credit to Argonaut who don't get enough recognition for the SuperFX and only got an unlubricated shafting from Nintendo for their efforts.

Yeah, they did a fantastic job on both the SuperFX and the software using it.

 

 

24 minutes ago, Keatah said:

And furthermore what determines if something is actually a coprocessor or new system? When the new chip is more powerful than the original processor? Or when it is of comparable (and period correct) performance level?

Hmm, I think it goes like this...

  • Coprocessor
    Works in tandem with whatever is already in the console.
     
  • Sound Chip
    Makes extravagant new noises which were previously difficult or impossible to generate on the stock hardware like "hhhh", "bbbb", and "gwaghgh".
     
  • Expansion Pack
    Required to play Majora's Mask. Certain third party Expansion Packs may release a faint aroma of burning plastic after extended use.
     
  • Video Passthrough
    Uses the console for controller input and audio/video output exclusively.
     
  • Upgrade Module
    Vastly increases the console's girth and may require one or more additional wall warts. Known to horribly fragment your userbase and are commonly mushroom shaped.
     
  • Miracle Piano
    The future of gaming.
     
  • New System
    Atari Jaguar.
     

 

22 minutes ago, bizarrostormy said:

The 7800’s obvious technical deficiencies are audio and RAM. Had Atari priced it at $200 (still significantly cheaper than the 5200) they could have included POKEY and more RAM. Instead they intentionally designed it to allow cartridges to address those weaknesses. The features were always available. The only question is when you paid for them.

Pretty much, and while what shipped has limitations - it's a well thought out architecture.

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29 minutes ago, TailChao said:

Video Passthrough
Uses the console for controller input and audio/video output exclusively.

So here's an interesting angle for 7800 fans - the original design (and both of my current examples) sport the infamous, never-used Expansion Interface. The only thing ever announced for it (and never released, sadly) was a Laserdisc player so games like Dragon's Lair could be played. To that end, the interface has both audio and composite video in lines. 

 

I suspect Atari/GCC had more in mind for this kind of thing that just cut-scene games like Dragon's Lair - I can imagine they hoped to have dozens of large, colorful sprites playing over full-motion video backgrounds ("Who cares if MARIA sucks at tiled backgrounds when we can have video backgrounds!") all with real instrumental soundtracks playing in the background with TIA fire and explosion sounds. 

 

Too bad that timeline never happened. 

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32 minutes ago, DrVenkman said:

So here's an interesting angle for 7800 fans - the original design (and both of my current examples) sport the infamous, never-used Expansion Interface. The only thing ever announced for it (and never released, sadly) was a Laserdisc player so games like Dragon's Lair could be played. To that end, the interface has both audio and composite video in lines. 

Hear, Hear!  I'm plugging in my Laserdisc player in right now.

 

Btw, I have 2600's, 5200's, 7800's a Lynx and an *ahem* Intellivision II.  Each console/portable has its pros/cons but one thing that they all have in common are the talented developers that are still willing to make/share their creations with our communities. In addition, here's a shout-out to all of the talented people that have provided us with better hardware (joysticks etc.) or helped us maintain and modify our hardware.👍

Expansion.jpg

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, DrVenkman said:

So here's an interesting angle for 7800 fans - the original design (and both of my current examples) sport the infamous, never-used Expansion Interface. The only thing ever announced for it (and never released, sadly) was a Laserdisc player so games like Dragon's Lair could be played. To that end, the interface has both audio and composite video in lines.

 

Those expansion interfaces were seemingly always underutilized back in the day. The early 4-port 5200 had one, don't recall anything using it either.

 

I wonder if they were put there because the engineers thought it would be useful? Or did marketing departments insist on them being there so they could claim the console was ready for the future?

 

On contrasting side, computers like the Atari 400/800, Vic-20, and C64 couldn't get enough ports! Seems anything that started out with a built-in keyboard always made use of every available expansion port. There were even expansions to multiplex in additional slots or run multiple memory modules in one slot.

 

 

Edited by Keatah

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5 hours ago, Greg2600 said:

Well technically the first console that succeeded without hardware upgrades was I guess the Playstation.  Everything else utilized something, chips on a cart, a plug in RAM expansion, or a full-on extra system on top of it.

It probably could've used some expansions, though :) There were quite a few Saturn games that, when equipped with the right RAM cart, performed a lot better than their PSX cousins.

 

5 hours ago, Keatah said:

Despite the PS1 having 2 expansions ports in the back I don't believe they were ever used. Not in any big popular consumer addon I know of.

GameShark, mostly (which was, obviously, unauthorized). There were a few games, like DOOM, where you could serial link two consoles together to play multiplayer.

Dunno if there was anything else.

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